Tag Archives: Farewell Travels

To Iran, With Love

In a town whose residents have the means and curiosity to travel to unfamiliar places, Sarah Van Riemsdijk stands out.

The Westporter — she moved here in 1982, owned the Camp Atlantic children’s clothing store, then lived abroad and returned “home” a few years ago — has made more than 20 trips to the Middle East.

Some of her most memorable trips were arranged with Susan Farewell. Another longtime native — and, like Sarah, a passionate rower with the Saugatuck Rowing Club — she owns Farewell Travels, a travel design firm that customizes itineraries for people who want more than the same ol’, same ol’.

Sarah Van Riemsdijk, planning her next adventure.

One of the last places Sarah had not gone was Iran. She and Susan planned that journey for winter 2017. But in the aftermath of President Trump’s inauguration and travel ban, Sarah’s visa never came through.

No reason was given, beyond being “frozen in the pipeline.” She never recovered her airfare.

But she tried again. The visa pipeline was unfrozen, and last fall Sarah headed to Iran.

“It was spectacular,” she says. “The beautiful architecture and art, the cuisine, the welcome from the Iranian people — it was one of my favorite trips.”

Sarah hoped to return this fall. But because Trump pulled out of the Iranian nuclear deal — and the Supreme Court then upheld a travel ban that includes Iran — Sarah is doubtful she’ll receive a visa.

“It’s such a shame,” she says. “The Iranians have been so welcoming. Of the countries affected by the ban, Iran is the only one not in an active state of war. This seems strictly punitive.”

A spectacular mosque in Iran. Even more amazingly, in the middle of the ceiling, a peacock was created so the illumination from a window creates his tail. (Photo/Sarah Van Riemsdijk)

Sarah notes that many Americans have misconceptions about the rest of the globe.

After 9/11, she says, tourism from the US dropped drastically. Americans stopped traveling even to Morocco — 2,000 miles from Iraq and Afghanistan. “That would be as if something happened in Florida, and people overseas decided not to see the fall foliage in Vermont.”

Tourists also stopped heading to places Tunisia, Oman and Qatar, which had nothing to do with the attacks on America. Their economies — and our reputations — suffered, Sarah says.

And, she adds, many Americans still don’t know enough about the Middle East.

“That comes from fear — and not looking at maps,” Sarah says. “The Emirates are totally safe. Iran is more than safe.”

Her admiration for Iran is palpable. “The marriage of design and architecture; the mosaics, the textures — it’s a remarkable travel experience,” Sarah says. “I couldn’t take my eyes away.

“The Persian Empire was staggering. Walking through those cities is like being in a museum.”

Susan Farewell (right) and her daughter Justine Sellgson last fall, at an Omani mosque.

Farewell notes, “My clients are sophisticated and intelligent. They want to travel to these places. They want to see as much art, architecture, history and culture as they can. And while they can.”

She cites the example of Syria, where so much rich history has been destroyed, and where Sarah had “a wonderful time.” No one can travel there now.

Yet Susan too hears Americans “lumping many different countries together. They’re fearful. But they miss out on a lot.”

“Anyone can have an opinion on whether our travel ban is good or bad,” Sarah says. “But one of the effects is, it knocks the hell out of the joys of travel.”

She’s undeterred, though. She loves the Middle East — especially Iran.

She plans to return.

Farewell To Great Travel Experiences

Once upon a time, Westport was an artists’ colony. Then we were “the marketing capital of the world.”

Less well known — but also true — is our role in the travel industry. In 1925, Arthur Tauck invented the modern tour model. The Taucks are longtime Westporters; for many years Tauck Tours (now Tauck World Discovery) was headquartered in town.

In 1958, international explorer Lars-Eric Lindblad set up shop here. Lindblad Travel offered trips to then-exotic locales like the Galapagos Islands, Africa and Antarctica.

Susan Farewell

Susan Farewell

Westport is also home to Susan Farewell. A veteran travel writer — she spent 10 years as travel editor for Bride’s magazine, and also contributed to Travel + Leisure, Gourmet and many other publications — she branched out 4 years ago onto the web.

FarewellTravels.com carries her own stories, and those of high-profile journalists, on a variety of topics.

As these things do, it spurred a sideline. Readers often asked Susan to help with their own travel plans. A couple of years ago, she realized she could turn her knowledge and advice into a business of its own.

“With the internet, people can now make their own travel arrangements,” Susan says. “But there’s so much information out there, they can feel overwhelmed.”

Though Susan is a travel agent — she’s got all the certifications — that’s not how she describes herself. Her niche is her ability to drill down past booking airline tickets and hotel rooms.

“I think I bring more of an editorial sense to travel,” she says. “It’s a more hand-crafted approach.”

Thanks to her contacts, Susan connects clients with the best guides in a city. She suggests off-the-beaten-track galleries and restaurants, and steers travelers to places they might never think of going.

As a travel writer, Susan always got the guides and drivers who were assigned to heads of state, rock stars and other celebrities. She developed connections with the most interesting hotels, and discovered the best bakeries around the world.

Susan Farewell knows exactly where to go to see incredible sights like this.

Susan Farewell knows exactly where to go to see incredible sights like this.

“Westporters are very sophisticated travelers,” she says. “They’ve studied abroad, lived or worked abroad. They speak different languages. They want more than basic advice.”

Susan adds, “You can’t just pull that out of a hat. There’s a lot of roll-up-your-sleeves work. What’s the best restaurant on the road to Bilbao for lunch? It’s all about the nuts and bolts of each destination.”

Recently, she arranged for a honeymoon couple to “find” Champagne that had been planted at a secret spot in Iceland. She also organized a private picnic, courtesy of a noted chef.

On the way to safaris — a specialty — she plans wine tastings in South African vineyards.

Organizing travel is high-stress. It’s not for everyone — particularly busy Westporters who already have plenty on their non-travel plates.

That’s why — before traveling — you should say not “au revoir.” Try “farewell.”

As in, Susan Farewell.

Farewell Travels

Farewell Travels seems like an odd name for a website.  Perhaps it is filled with tips on trips to take if you are dumping a partner?  Terminally ill?  Or even your final destination, after you’re gone?

The name becomes easier to understand once you learn its founder and editor is Westport’s Susan Farewell.

Susan Farewell

Farewell — a former travel editor at Condé Nast Publications; freelance writer and editor for “Travel + Leisure,” the New York Times, and in-flight and regional magazines; and travel correspondent for radio and TV programs (among much more) — has launched a “boutique online travel magazine for the discriminating traveler.”  The 3rd edition has just gone live.

The lead story asks “Where is travel going?”  (The answer:  Despite earthquakes, economic woes, security lines and flight delays — pretty well, for reasons ranging from adventure and food to romance.)

There are sections on family travel, health and fitness travel — even “travel fashion tips” by “Queer Eye” star Carson Kressley.  Farewell covers the waterfront — and mountains, deserts and cities — around the globe.

FarewellTravels takes the world as its stage, but many of the stars are from right here in Westport.

Susan’s husband, Tom Seligson, oversees the multimedia productions for the site — animated maps and the like.  The films are edited by Compo Beach resident Charles Gelber.  Even Tom and Susan’s Bedford Middle School daughter, Justine Seligson, gets into the act, writing a teens travel column.

The site — designed by Westporter Miggs Burroughs — includes artwork by Elaine Clayton, who also lives in the Compo Beach neighborhood. Even this month’s video focuses on a local travel adventurer, Richard Wiese.

But the success of the magazine reaches far beyond Westport.  Readership continues to grow, with subscribers in 46 states and 41 countries.

“06880”‘s tagline is “Where Westport meets the world.”  FarewellTravels is doing the same.