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Tripbase Creative Writing Competition – Gambling on a Holiday

October 25, 2009

I thought it would be fun to enter a writing competition open to travel bloggers. It’s done through Tripbase and writers have to write a creative piece revolving round the site’s Destination Finder to plan a holiday.

Gambling on a Holiday

The morning had not gone well. After a frustrating hour on the phone with a travel agent, I was on the verge of cancelling plans for a pre-Christmas vacation. Planning for my trip was not as easy as I had first thought, so I made a coffee and decided to do my own research, and forget about travel agents for a while.

Opting for online information I got on the internet. Hunting through sites online can be like bashing your way through a jungle. It is dense and often tiring. But after a couple of quick searches I found a blog that had an eye capturing button on the right column. It was an award button from a travel company called Tripbase. Curious I clicked and moved into their site. The day had taken a turn for the better.

It wasn’t a complicated site crammed with images and pop-ups, it didn’t have music or bold colours screaming at me. Instead it had a simple window that asked for basic travel information and options that I could include in my trip by using sliders. It was time to test it.

I felt like being at the slot machines, only this time I was gambling on a holiday and not money. Instead of pulling the handle, I clicked my mouse, instead of the clinking and chiming bells there was silence as images of places, cities and beaches popped into the right hand column. It was addictive and I was drawn to it. It called itself The Destination Finder but I had another name — “Dream Finder”.

The Destination Finder was something I could play in the privacy of my home, secretly at my desk or in a café. From the beginning it gave me the freedom to push my imagination to new limits where travel agents hadn’t.  For the first time the fantastical dreams of travelling anywhere and everywhere on a limitless budget were accepted without judgment or questions.  The desire to create a dream vacation was strong; I had nothing to lose and a lot to gain.

After choosing the trip dates, I greedily moved the leisure sliders all the way right because I wanted everything — luxury, all seasons, all continents, all activities including dining and nightlife —  then I clicked the mouse. The Destination Finder spun and images appeared on the screen, pages of them. I scrolled eagerly through the trendsetting European cities of Barcelona, Paris and Milan, looked at the paradises of Costa Rica and the Caribbean  —  yes it was fun  — but my greed made it difficult to choose. Having travelled extensively throughout the world, I was now looking for somewhere “special”. A place I could remember and think about for years to come.

A review was necessary.  I left everything the same but chose only one continent, Asia, and then clicked again. This time a solitary city appeared in Russia  — St Petersburg.  I studied the picture of the turrets and the park, read through the attractions and scanned the hotels.  Was it possible to enjoy this city in winter I wondered?

It was a week before Christmas and snowing heavily in St Petersburg. I was wrapped snuggly in faux fur and Ugg Boots trying to navigate the city’s icy streets using the day’s shopping for balance.  A sleek black limo pulled up to the curb next to me, a man wearing a dark brown woolen coat, with matching hat, got out to greet me. His name was Rostov, my driver for the week, organized by the Hotel Renaissance which I’d chosen from the Destination Finder.

I got into the back of the limo, grateful for the heat and for choosing to go luxury. Images of a hot bath and a brandy laced hot chocolate were running through my mind and were so vivid, that I hadn’t noticed a figure sitting quietly opposite in the corner of the limo.

“Hello,” he said as he stuck his hand out. Surprised I stared at him — he couldn’t be Russian I thought — then I leant forward and put my gloved hand in his and gently shook it. His name was Mitchell, Australian, who was to be my personal tour guide for the next two days. When his face met the light my jaw dropped.  Questions spilled from my mouth: “Who organised this, when, and most importantly, how much?” His answers went unheard as I gazed at him, thanking myself repeatedly for using Tripbase.

The sound of my voice woke me — it was only a dream. Staring out from the screen was St Petersburg’s Cathedral with its onion shaped turrets; sadly there was no Mitchell in the picture.

The curser beckoned me to choose again, but this time I had to be less greedy and more particular. Taking a deep breath I deselected the flight option and chose the drive option instead. I hadn’t really seen much of the US since I’d arrived some months before, now would be a good opportunity to discover the places closer to home and most importantly, spend time with the real man in my life.

Thinking about my options and budget, I slid the price option back to mid-point. I wasn’t into an active nightlife but did enjoy dining out so I left this option alone knowing that it would tell me what bars and restaurants were available in the area.  I still wanted cold weather to replace Florida’s warmth where I was living; and a quieter season than the usual busy peak season. Then I clicked. One by one the images started appearing, ten then twenty, how was I going to choose?

I decided to close my eyes and use the mouse as a guide — Chattanooga Tennessee. A place that had everything I was looking for: cold weather, clear skies and a driving adventure.  Plus there would be other places to visit along the way, locals to meet and regional foods to savour. But most importantly this trip would mean quality time spent with my fiancé.

Without thinking, I called my travel agent and cancelled the trip I’d been planning with them. My day had started off badly but managed to turn itself around. I had a new agent, it was conveniently located online and didn’t have hidden costs nor did it interrupt the conversation with phone calls.  It gave me exactly what I wanted right from the beginning  —a special trip.

Caffeinated Traveller

  1. October 27, 2009 9:32 am

    Nice! I’m a fan of dreaming myself.

  2. November 1, 2009 3:34 am

    Nicely written. hope you win!

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