Going the distance for adventure

 

Shown above: Erica Jurus, coordinator for the NC Explorers’ Club.
She’s ridden camels in the Sahara, seen the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Lost Temple of Borobudur. She’s sailed the Nile, Zambezi and the Thames. For Erica Jurus, nothing beats the thrill of travel – except sharing the experience with others.

While many know her as a staff member who works in Niagara College’s IT department, Jurus is also the coordinator of the NC Explorers’ Club. Through this Part-Time Studies program, she has made it her mission to ignite – or rekindle – the spirit of adventure in those who join her quest –ranging from students to retirees, from NC staff members to residents in the community.

Soul-nourishing experiences are always on the itinerary as Jurus leads her groups to new destinations, often venturing off the beaten path.

“I like to have people really experience the culture wherever we’re going. Often, you have to get out of the tourist areas to do that,” she says.

 

Her inspiration

Jurus has had a life-long love for travel. She recalls being inspired by one of her older cousins who taught in countries around the world and sent her postcards from exotic lands.

“I knew from an early age that I wanted to visit those places myself someday,” she says.

After travelling to Egypt with her husband for their 10th anniversary, she was hooked on adventure. Since then, she’s travelled to more than 120 locations in 17 countries. Often taking others with them along the way, she has found joy in looking for special places and creating wonderful journeys. 

The idea of forming an explorer’s club at NC began to percolate when she and her husband returned from an African safari in 2007.

“We heard comments from so many people who said, ‘I’d just love to do something like that but wouldn’t know what to do or where to go,’” says Jurus. “It was such an amazing experience for me and I was looking for something to do with it.”

 

Taking the lead

The club provides a framework for people to step out of their comfort zones for a new adventure – “sometimes, quite far out,” says Jurus. As trip host, Jurus prepares all the trip details, making sure all the ‘I’s are dotted and ‘T’s are crossed before they depart. She organizes the itinerary and hosts orientation sessions in advance. She provides background for the group on their destinations, history, culture, what to pack and medical preparations.

During the trips, she not only leads the group but helps travellers with everything from understanding the conditions within and customs of their destination, to helping with their photography and making sure their dietary requirements are met.

“It’s a great way to travel, especially for those who may not be confident to go on their own,” she says.

The first trip was to Botswana and Victoria Falls in Southern Africa in April 2010, which proved to be a memorable and bonding experience for those who took part.  In February 2011, a trip to Egypt was cancelled  because the day that they were scheduled to depart, president Hosni Mubarak stepped down from office and the revolution was in full swing. That trip was redirected however, to a safari in Kenya and Nairobi.

While culture shock can often present challenges to travelers, Jurus takes pride in helping people

adjust and feel comfortable – whether it’s letting them know what to do when getting swarmed by vendors, offering tips about bartering, or easing their fears about strange animal noises on safari.

And when the unexpected happens – like a hippo almost tipping their boat as it did on an excursion in Botswana trip—Jurus helps the group keep their cool and get through the experience.

It’s all worth it for the experience of travel and being able to capture meaningful moments hearing welcoming words from the local population or catching a glimpse of a pride of lions in the wild.

“Being in Africa is a whole different experience impossible to explain unless you go there and are surrounded by nature,” she says. “It’s freedom, beauty, a real profound experience and a lot of fun too.”

 

Rewards points

For Jurus, the most rewarding part of the experience is witnessing the transformation that takes place in many of the travellers. While many start out by being nervous about the trip, she watches them become more comfortable as the journey continues, and – best of all – gain a better understanding of the destination and its people.

Travel changes people, notes Jurus.

“It’s a huge education to travel to another country. You only hear the bad stuff most of the time, but people all over the world are just like us,” she says. “They want to live their lives, have a family, job and enjoy their lives. It’s important to meet people firsthand and experience that.”

Not only does travel enrich peoples’ lives but Jurus believes that it is a vital component of the human experience. Helping people understand one another is essential to world peace, she says.

“You can’t understand people or a culture until you meet them and experience the way they live,” she says. “When we travel, we are ambassadors for Canada and so much can be accomplished just by meeting other people, having them understand us and to understand them.”

 

What’s next for 2012

The adventures continue in 2012 with two trips planned for the NC Explorers’ Club. The first is a Celtic Spirit Mystical Ireland trip from May 15-26. Jurus is planning to take the group to sites including the Guinness Brewery, Hill of Tara, Newgrange, Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Kerry, Kiss the Blarney Stone and more.

“This is the 111th year since the sinking of the Titanic, so we’re going to see a lot of exhibits and museums on the trip,” she says.  Read about Ireland trip here.

At the end of October, she is planning a trip to Peru and Bolovia where they will explore the mysteries of the Amazon and the Andes. The group will spend time in the Amazon Jungle, Machu Picchu, Nazca’s Geoglyphis, The Altiplano, Lake Titicaca and more. Read about Peru/Bolivia trip here.

There are still spots available on both 2012 trips. For more information vist the NC Explorers’ Club website ncexplorersclub.wordpress.com

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