Monika Leuenberger loves what she does and does what she loves. Her expansive world is all about travel. Having sojourned to more than 20 countries (she has lost count), this Switzerland-born wanderlust, travel advisor and co-owner of Avenues of the World Travel has tips and suggestions for situations you would not dream of happening and back-up support for when they do.
“Several years ago, we traveled to New Zealand via Flagstaff to LA. On our flight back, we landed at the LA airport and our flight was cancelled back to Flagstaff,” said Bob Golub, a retired teacher and non-profit administrator. “Monika had been monitoring our return and saw the Flagstaff airport alert. She called us immediately with three options: schedule a flight back to Phoenix; rent a car and drive; or stay in Los Angeles and she would plan things for us to do.”
Golub said he and his wife decided to drive back from Los Angeles. “Monika suggested she rent us a car equipped with GPS. We told her we didn’t need it, but she insisted. We realized that navigating the freeways there would have been impossible without the GPS! Monika is just fabulous. She has unbelievable experience, plus she’s creative, detailed and has extensive resources. She doesn’t just get you where you want to go, but she helps you get the most out of the experience when you get there.”
Golub has been using Leuenberger’s services for several years. His most memorable excursion was an African safari.
“Traveling gives you a better understanding of humanity and teaches tolerance,” said Leuenberger. “What always strikes me is that regardless of the differences in culture and religion, no matter where you live, we all have the same basic needs and everyone responds to a smile.”
To ensure that her clients have the best traveling experience, Leuenberger maintains contacts worldwide to assist with emergencies. “We have local connections in their time zones, plus we keep up-to-date on issues or changes going on and we have developed strong associations.”
Some of Leuenberger’s popular trips include hiking in the Swiss Alps or on the Inca Trail, or an African safari. She highly suggests multi-generational trips. “This is a fantastic way to create family memories.”
Some emerging destinations are Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Borneo, and travelers, she says, are raving about the Antarctic. “They all offer some very unique experiences.”
She adds that traveling opportunities and choices are more abundant than ever before. “Working with a travel advisor helps avoid missing out on a lot benefits,” explained Leuenberger. “We have special terms with over a thousand hotels worldwide, so we get special rates and upgrades, food and beverage credits and freebies such as breakfast, Wi-Fi, early check-in and check-out and sometimes even spa credits.”
“I’ve been working for Monika for almost 10 years and it’s been the most fun,” said Daniela Harrison, a travel advisor with Avenues of the World Travel. “Monika is very supportive and an amazing role model and inspiration. She’s an active member of several non-profits and is always eager to help out in the community. If we’re having a stressful week, she’ll make sure we don’t forget about self-care and take a break or go home early to enjoy a sunny hike.”
According to Harrison, the most fun part of her job is touching base with clients after their vacation. “We hug, laugh, share pictures and funny tales. This is when we know our hard work has paid off.”
What is your favorite food?
“Unfortunately, I like it all, but have the hardest time resisting Swiss Chocolate!”
What hobby or skill would you like to pursue?
“I am hoping to do some agility with our new puppy, Zorro, this year.”
What is your guilty pleasure?
What character quality do you most admire in others?
“Honesty and perseverance, and passion for what they are doing.”
Where is your favorite place to travel?
“Four places: Switzerland (my home), Peru, New Zealand and South Africa. Love them.” FBN
By Veronica Tierney, FBN