Indra Purmale started working as an Assistant Tour Coordinator at Academic Arrangements Abroad in August 2010. She later became Co-Manager of the entire Tour Coordinator department and then advanced to become Manager of Tour Operations and Development.
Riga, Latvia. I actually just got back from a wonderful vacation there with my friends and family.
I was also able to attend the famous Song & Dance Festival that occurs there every five years. It has taken place since 1873 and is a way for our small nation to develop and strengthen our identity. UNESCO has recognized this unique event as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity!
City you most recommend to friends:
Barcelona, Spain. However, after my recent trip to Colombia I find myself recommending Medellín more and more!
City you would drop everything to see:
Tokyo, Japan. I’m a very detail-orientated person, and the Japanese are all about the details, from their fashion and interior design to their anime and food creations!
Which AAA programs do you enjoy working on the most?
Honestly, I enjoy working on all of them, but I have a special place in my heart for our Baltic programs since I often get to work with our partners in my native Latvia.
I also enjoy all of the South America itineraries I’m currently working on. There always seems to be something new I discover or learn!
My secret Latvian language abilities. I am actively trying to get back to the Spanish fluency I had in college. I’m very involved with the trips we offer to Cuba and other Spanish- speaking destinations, so it is a useful language to have on the job!
Most visited websites:
The New York Times, Facebook, The Sartorialist, Travel + Leisure, Kayak, and Oanda (Currency Converter)
Something about you that surprises people:
I am the Vice President of the American Latvian Youth Association! Or perhaps that’s not so surprising… So I’ll divulge another one: I want to write a book someday.
Three things you can’t travel without:
An iPad mini (movies, magazines, books, news, all in one place!), iPod nano (music is mandatory!), and a comfortable pair of shoes that are also chic (gotta look good while doing lots of sightseeing!).
Number of trips you’ve been on:
I’ve been a Tour Director on several of our firm’s programs, but have been on countless trips throughout my life.
Growing up, I traveled extensively with my family, which inspired me to continue traveling as I entered college and eventually made my career choice, which landed me here at AAA!
As Susan Sontag said: “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”
Who would play you in a movie?:
Ideally one of my best friends because she would be able to portray me best, through her perspective and interpretation of me of course! If asked to choose a celebrity, I would be honored to have Charlize Theron play me in a movie. I think she’s extremely talented AND beautiful!
Anything else you’d like to add?
I love quotes and aphorisms, something I inherited from my late grandmother. Here’s one of my recent favorites to share with you today: “I don’t want to be the one who says life is beautiful. I want to be the one who feels it.” – Marty Rubin
Marisa Swope began working at Academic Arrangements Abroad in September 2007. She started as an assistant tour coordinator before moving into program operations.
“I actually am just about to transition to our Sales Team,” says Marisa. “It’s nice that there’s room for change and growth here.”
Hometown: Winchester, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley. It’s a wonderful small city, though I’m biased!
City I would recommend to friends: I just got back from Tokyo and loved it, so that is at the top of the list now. I also spent several months living in Buenos Aires, which is an amazing city, so that usually is recommended too.
City I would drop everything to see: I’d love to see Budapest, Istanbul, Dubrovnik, Marrakesh, and Lisbon. The list goes on. If I haven’t been, I want to go! (with a few exceptions)
Who would play you in a movie? I’m thinking. Stay tuned!
The ones that I also get to travel on as a tour director! Getting to see a program come to life — so to speak — is very rewarding. We spend a long time developing itineraries and coordinating all of the tour details, so it is satisfying to see the final product. I also love getting to meet our travelers, and of course to see the incredible places included on our programs.
I’m working on them! I’d like to be fluent in Spanish and Italian. I am not yet there in either, but traveling to Cuba for work and weekly Spanish lessons are helping!
Most visited websites:
Something that surprises people: I’m afraid of riding bikes, and I have a major sweet tooth
Three things I can’t travel without: Earplugs, an eye mask and my iPhone
Number of trips: I’ve been a tour director on 14 tours with Academic Arrangements Abroad. I can’t begin to count my independent travels!
If you like these photos of Marisa, please check out other images of staff members on our “Faces of Arrangements Abroad” Pinterest Board.
Ute Keyes started working at Academic Arrangements Abroad in April of 2012. As Manager, Tour Operations & Development, Ute helps to operate and develop exciting new travel programs for the firm. She has an M.A. in art history and previously worked as an administrator at a small but prominent New York museum.
Hometown: Duisburg, Germany
City I would recommend to friends: New York (!), Quebec, Barcelona, Paris, Berlin and Heidelberg (have a sweet spot for the latter…my alma mater)
Who would play you in a movie?: No idea! I guess I wish it would be Meryl Streep…
Special skills: Arts and crafts. I’m also a specialist in turning the smallest places into pretty and usable spaces
Most visited websites: The New York Times, Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Suedwestrundfunk.
Which Academic Arrangements Abroad programs have you enjoyed working on the most?: Currently, I’m enjoying working on “In the Footsteps of St. James: El Camino de Santiago.” It’s a totally new program I have developed and which was suggested by my dear colleague Elizabeth Kester; it brings back a lot of good memories of my medieval art history studies. Also, “Berlin; Tear Down this Wall.” I was in Berlin during the actual fall of the Wall (1989), so it is a program dear and near to my heart!
Something that surprises people: I love to ride my red bike in New York City (and I am not scared).
Three things I can’t travel without: Black dress/skirt, my multi-color pearl necklace, good old-fashioned Moleskine notebook
Number of trips: I guess around 50 (if my extensive travel within the United States counts). Around 35 within Europe, Africa and Asia.
By Anastasia Mills Healy
A September 2 New York Times article on Russia’s Golden Ring — a group of historic, picturesque towns northeast of Moscow — enchants readers with its descriptions of fairy tale-like monasteries, brightly painted cottages and white butterflies flitting through the forest. But much of this story is devoted to how challenging – even for Russian-speaking travelers – it was to make the trip by car.
There were trucks on narrow roads, ubiquitous potholes and “Mostly there were no signs, or they were confusing or of little use, sometimes coming after the turn off.”
No wonder, according to the author, that the Europcar desk at Russia’s second-largest airport only rents 14 cars a week. And that most people who want to get their fill of spectacular onion-domed churches nestled in sleepy villages next to meandering rivers or tranquil lakes, board a riverboat.
June 2013 is our next trip to the fabled Golden Ring, aboard an elegant, five-star riverboat. Begin in Moscow, where we take a backstage tour of the grandly restored Bolshoi Theater prior to an evening performance, see the treasures of the Kremlin before it’s open to the public and enjoy special access to historic artifacts related to Prokofiev, accompanied by a foremost authority on the composer.
We’d say that beats dodging potholes, idling in traffic and constantly stressing about directions.
Learn more about our trip, “Waterways of the Tsars”: http://www.arrangementsabroad.com/trip.php?trip=195
Read the New York Times article “Old Russia, Reclaimed”: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/02/travel/driving-russias-revived-golden-ring.html?_r=1