Local travel renders unexpected results.

Some days we all envision traveling far and wide to unknown reaches of the globe to find that elusive hidden treasure of the like we’ve never encountered before.  Well today was was one of those days.

Members of the staff pulled their resources together and collected warm clothing and small gift cards to local stores and eateries to hand out to the local homeless in and around our immediate neighborhood.  We divvied up the goodies and headed out with the hopes that the loot would serve those less fortunate well in this bitter cold season of giving.

We traveled north and south, east and west and strangely had some difficulty finding those we had intentions of helping.  We searched for blocks and they were simply not to be found.  Eventually we found a few and offered them what we had.  We took the remaining bags to a nearby rectory  where we were told that our timing was perfect.  Tonight they were having a gathering for underprivileged families and the items would be a welcome addition to the event.  So we left knowing our small efforts just might have the warming effect we had originally intended.

Upon returning to the office from our trek, we discovered two remaining gift cards atop one of our desks.  So we decided that one of us would carry them with on their walk to the metro that evening and hope to give those away to someone along the way.

Well I did just that.  As I rounded a corner I noticed a homeless man sitting to the side of the walk.  As I approached him, I reached in my pocket and pulled out one of the eatery gift cards and kindly asked if he could use it.  He slowly looked up at me, smiled graciously and asked my name as he took the card.  I told him as he reached around behind him and grabbed a small ruffled bag.  He then pulled out his pen and a red envelope from the bag and carefully wrote my name on it without saying a word.  He then lifted the envelope up to me and again thanked me graciously for the gift card and wished me a “warm and happy holiday.”  I smiled and walked on, not wanting to open the envelope in front of him.  He was clearly a man of pride.

I walked a block and opened the envelope.  What I saw truly moved me.  It was a simple holiday greeting card that read;

With best wishes
for the holidays
and happiness
in the new year

It wasn’t the words themselves that moved me, but the gesture.  Here was a man who clearly had nothing but the clothes on his back, and yet he took some of his meager  daily collections and bought holiday cards to give to those who gave to him.

As I said, some days we all envision traveling far and wide to unknown reaches of the globe to find that elusive hidden treasure of the like we’ve never encountered before.  Well, during the holidays, sometimes we don’t have to  travel far to find such hidden treasures.

Our best wishes to you too… “John”

Academic Travel Abroad

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Travel to Vienna for with Academic Travel Abroad


Christkindlmarkt (advent market) in front of the town hall of Vienna

Christkindlmarkt (advent market) in front of the town hall of Vienna

Visiting Vienna in December is a way to recapture the feelings and impressions of Christmas I felt as a child.  In December darkness falls quite early, but the sparkling lights and magical objects of the Christkindlmarkts and throughout Vienna itself made my eyes widen in excitement and my heart glow in anticipation.  December offers the pleasure of coming into a warm Viennese coffee house from chilly outdoors to order an elegant pastry or a delicious Apfelstrudel with one of the many coffee selections offered.  Vienna is quite serious about coffee.

It’s so easy to get about the city from the Hotel de France, located right on the Ringstrasse.  You can walk so easily to all the places in Vienna’s first district—or, if you get cold—hop on the streetcar that goes in both directions around the Ring.  One shop well worth a visit is The British Bookshop at Weiburggasse 24; it has a wide range of English language books. 

Vienna streets lined in Christmas lighting.

Vienna streets lined in Christmas lighting.

Vienna is truly a city of music from Hayden’s elegant quartets to Straus’s lovely waltzes.  Mozart is very much present in Vienna—you cannot escape his music or his life story.  This Christmas in Vienna program offers one an opportunity to explore and experience Vienna’s fine art and architecture.

This trip offers a full experience of the romance of Vienna and the celebration of Christmas. 

Susan Parry
Secretary Treasurer,
Academic Travel Abroad 
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Christmas in Canterbury with Academic Travel Abroad

Christmas in Canterbury was my first Christmas away from family, but the tour participants provided excellent conversation and fellowship for this special time of year. They were of a broad age range and from a variety of faith traditions.
Our Smithsonian Expert was Rosalind Hutchinson and her knowledge and guidance were always with us as we visited the various sites in and around Canterbury.
The highlight was visiting Canterbury Cathedral. We were treated to a special tour on our first day and attended services on the afternoon before Christmas and on Christmas morning.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, presided and shook hands with everyone after the services. Day trips to London and parts of southeastern England added excellent variety to the tour.
John Elliott,
ATA Tour Manager
To read more about this tour, CLICK HERE.
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