Iran was nothing like I expected. I have traveled very widely in the Middle East, visiting almost every single country (hoping to visit Syria, my final one this fall). Iran is an entity to itself. It is such a fascinating, beautiful, and misunderstood country. What a privilege it was to visit, finally.
Linda Tabb, Return to Iran May 2023
Wonderful guide in Iran; loved sites that we visited there with sufficient time to explore these sites due to small group. Covered many of world Heritage sites plus people-to-people opportunities. Food was outstanding in lovely restaurants selected by our guide.
Excellent in every sense. Enjoyed the trip to Iran immensely and everything was well organized – many times I wish to go back again…. 4 stars
Pamela Dougherty Ethiopia 2018
Totally unique and special trip. Thanks!!!!
Mary Beth Haselwood in Lutz, Florida 2012:
Thank you, thank you for the fantastic Cuba trip. I appreciate all the time and energy you put into planning such a wonderful trip. It was even better having you travel with us. The guides were great and the group exceptional. I hope to make a return trip at some time. Thank you also for all the info and web sites. Be well.
Kay Shaw Nelson in Bethesda, Maryland 2009:
Dear Gwen: I was happy to receive The Serious Traveler newsletter but sorry about the loss of your mother. It’s been a long time since I took that marvelous Around The World trip  with you, certainly a highlight of my many travels. As I look over your trips I wish I was still signing up for some of them but am mostly writing at home now. My 21st book, THE CLOAK AND DAGGER COOK: A CIA MEMOIR was published by Pelican Publishers in October and I mention the trip in it. Sadly my companion and others I knew who travelled with you have passed on but I think of Mongolia, Siberia and all the great times we had almost every day. Congratulations for your Serious Traveler enterprise and keep up the good work.
With all my best wishes, Kay Shaw Nelson
Charlie and Marge Hogle in Orinda, California:
Thank you, Gwen. The stars must all have been in alignment the day that we learned about you. How lucky can we be that we found a travel expert and a good friend at the same time. Nice memories, but I just wish it could have happened 20 or 30 years earlier when we were able to do the extended travel that we can only dream about when we are in our nineties.
All the best, Charlie and Marge
Marion Kundiger in Sun City Center, Florida:
All 10 of your tours I have been fortunate enough to take were wonderful experiences. I’ll remember and talk about them for the rest of my life. Thank YOU.
Helga Berry in Anchorage, Alaska:
TCI-Gwen, Victoria I thank you wholeheartedly for organizing this trip and making it run so smoothly. Your team did a fantastic job and I cannot wait to be on another one of your tours.
The people on any of the TCI trips I have gone on so far all have been very compatible. The group dynamic was terrific and the team spirit was high. We rolled with the punches, mixed with the crowds and tried everything we could. This trip deserves high marks. I had a superb time!!! I keep looking at TCI’s travel list – Helga Berry Jordan ‘08
Lucille Harrigan in Bethesda, Maryland:
I’d love to travel again with the travelers who travel with you!
From Gerald F. Davis in Agawam, Massachusetts:
Dear Mary Ramniceanu, I am responding to your request for information about TCI posted in International Travel News, December, 2007. My wife Barbara and I have travel three time together and I once with a friend over the last ten years. We have found TCI a delightful and rewarding company to do business with. We are currently have a deposit for TCI’s trip to Georgia, end of August, early September 2008. We have met people who have become friends on these trips and the guides are great. I recommend you take the tour. The trips are always a good value.
Sincerely Jerry and Barbara Davis
From Margaret Stoltzfus in Oskaloosa, Iowa:
What a fabulous trip to Egypt! I’m telling all my friends that if they want a cruise with educational benefit the Nile is the place to go. No storms, constant sunshine, quiet sailing.
I can’t thank you enough for arranging for Bea Ann and me to go on this wonderful trip. Ahmed, the Egyptologist, lived up to all your glowing words about him. Abercrombie and Kent representatives couldn’t have been more helpful. The room with a balcony at the Nile Hilton was terrific. The cruise fulfilled all expectations and more! It was the trip of a lifetime!
Thanks again. Where shall we go next??
From Anne Rayburn Smith in Toronto, Canada:
TCI, its guides, together with fellow travelers, has a unique touch in bringing travel to its fullest. We know we shall join you again on another adventure. Thank you!
Anne Rayburn Smith
From Carol Bhide in Florida:
Thanks so very much for all you do to make our life wonderful and memorable!!! Your trips are the highlight of our humdrum daily lives and we REALLY look forward to them. We have made so many new friends and it is really nice to meet them again and again on these trips. . Your folks (and Phi Mu’s) are special!!
From Karen Freese in Illinois:
Just a quick note to thank-you and Sarah for organizing our wonderful trip to Iran. The experience far exceeded my expectations and ranks as the best group tour I’ve taken. Our advantage was only four women, as it enabled us to see and do more than might be possible with a bus load. And, we women were very compatible together.
Of course, our guide Bahman is a great ambassador for his country, sharing a wealth of information and experiences that gave us women a unique time. He went beyond the usual services, I’m sure in part due to his friendship with you and his wanting to share his country with us. Either way, I’ve traveled to many countries and can’t remember a place where I felt more at home the first day. Perhaps I’ve become a new ambassador for Iran!
Much of the early information you provided on the country and culture has evolved. Even the books I read now seem outdated. You might be surprised how much has changed over the past few years.
I will look forward to joining you on another trip one day.
With Regards, Karen Freese
From Sheila Hale in Texas:
A letter to inquires from Frommer’s travel email:
Check with Travel Concepts International http://www.tci-travel.com/ They have a trip leaving in Sep. that looks great. We went to South America with them, and would go anywhere they offer! Gwen puts together small groups, with lots of activity that members can tailor to their ability and/or interest. Our group of 12 included single women traveling together, as well as couples and individuals of both sexes. Age range was from 30 to 80, but we were all very compatible.
Sheila Skaggs Hale, Texas
From Marta Morse in Maine:
Thank you, Bahman and Travel Concepts International for a most enlightening trip to Iran. The Persian people were delightful and most courteous. Pleased expressions were the reward for saying we were from America…despite the strained political climate.
The young veiled women and girls we met were happy to practice their English albeit with lots of giggles. “Do you approve of my studying Ecology?” was a question asked by one young veiled student I met in the Shahzadeh Gardens.
The weather was cooperative, the companions were harmonious…Bahman has the ability to smooth the way with his ability to anticipate all wishes even before they are issued.
I am editing my slides for an exhibit at the Portland, Maine public library in September, but before that I need to prepare for a talk on the trip at the end of June in Connecticut…extending my voyage with research from my own collection of material and the scanty notes taken on the trip.
Bahman sends the enclosed offering with his love…
P.S. I used the new suitcase locks and Customs said they wish more people would use them as they make the job easier!
Sincerely, Marta Morse
From Patricia Sims in California:
I just wanted to write to let you know what a great time we all had on the trip. It was better than I could have imagined. It was so interesting, the hotels and restaurants were fabulous and the sites and people spectacular. Bahman was so wonderful to us. He is such a nice person and great guide. I can’t imagine the trip without him. Dorothy, my mother, Betty and I all want to go back and visit the Caspian Sea area … maybe next year. I appreciate all your help and patience with us getting this together. I look forward to future trips with you all.
From Fran Richardson of Virginia:
I appreciate more and more what you do – to show other places, cultures and give people a chance to learn them. Keep up the good work.
All best wishes, Fran
From Helga Berry of Alaska:
Egypt is absolutely breathtaking. What an extra ordinary place. The people are so friendly and warm, I enjoy meeting each person. All the arrangements are rolling off like clockwork. You have such a great team of people supporting you, it must be a delight to be working with them. Your connections are truly the best one can experience. Thank you so much for sharing your well established world with us. Larry and I are having a great time. We are savoring every moment.
People like you make the world go around and a better place to live for everyone in this world. May you live a long life and then start setting up travel in space!
From Jo Weiss, LWV Tacoma, Pierce Co., Washington State:
If you are planning a trip this year (2004), take a look at this website for Travel Concepts International, http://www.TCI-travel.com. I think this is one of the best-kept travel secrets around.
I first came across TCI in 1995 when I went with Peace Links to the Women’s Conference in Beijing. It was an extraordinary trip. The conference itself was a once in a lifetime event, and afterwards, we spent about five days traveling through China. Our guide was excellent, and our accommodations and meals were, if not first class, then very close to it. And the price was extremely reasonable; my recollection is that it was about $2,000 for the entire trip, including airfare from San Francisco. A few years later when I decided I’d like to lead groups to Irish sacred places, and needed a travel agent to set it up, TCI was my first choice. Gwen Erwood, founder of TCI, had wanted to include Ireland in her tours, so she agreed. We’ve been to Ireland twice, and are well into the planning for our third tour next spring. And I have come to realize that the trip to China was typical of the way Gwen does business.
Gwen’s motto is Cultural Tours to Better Understand the World and its People. She began her company 18 years ago during the Cold War with tours to Russia, believing that meeting and talking to ‘the enemy’ is a step towards peace. In that same spirit she now sponsors trips to Cuba (yes, it’s legal), Iran and Egypt, and also to many places where what you see is just wonderfully different from here. There are tours to India and Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Guatemala, Holland in tulip time, to mention just a few. All incorporate features that Gwen insists on in her tours:
– Small groups
– Well-informed, personable guides
– Reasonable price
If you are thinking of traveling this year – and why not? – give this a look. Again, the website is http://www.TCI-Travel.com/.
From Susan Johnson, LWV Corvallis, Oregon:
Last July my husband and I joined 13 others on a Travel Concepts International trip to Mongolia with a brief stop in China. This trip was my husband’s idea. I was skeptical. We usually travel independently, not in groups. Besides, why Mongolia?
The trip was great. I loved it. I learned so much about a part of the world of which I was ignorant. The Mongolian Steppes are beautiful in a unique way. Surrounding Ulaan Baatar are layers of green hills. In a near-by national park we saw great rounded rock formations set in the hills. Later, we hiked into a steep valley that ended in a trough of snow an dice left from previous winters.
We met Mongolian people politically active women, a government bureaucrat, and herdsmen families. While visiting a horse herders’ home two felt gers (yurts) perched on a grassy slope we were offered cheese, fermented milk, and other products made from the milk of horses. They also demonstrated how they take down and then set up the ger. It took them 45 minutes.
Our experiences were extremely varied, everything from meeting with the American Ambassador to Mongolia and the Women for Social Progress to attending a wonderful cultural performance, sleeping in a ger (yurt) in the Gobi Desert, and watching the Mongolian children as they reached the finish line of the traditional Naadam horse race.
Our tour was small with intelligent, interesting people and with guides from both China and Mongolia that were knowledgeable, friendly and flexible. When a few of us were disappointed that the tourist viewing point for the Naadam horse races was too far away, our guide took us the next day to the finish line where we experienced the excitement and dust of the final moments of the race.
The accommodations were comfortable, and the food was much better than we had expected. Our brief stay in China, which included a visit to the Great Wall, has whet our appetites to see more of this country. We’ll be going with Travel Concepts to China next year.
Travel Concepts pays the state League of Women Voters $100 for each League member who travels with Travel Concepts; LWVOR sends $50 of that to the member’s local League. So, if you are planning a trip, consider this way of helping the League financially while you enjoy an outstanding vacation.
Here’s what Nancy Neuman, past LWV President, has to say about our tours:
Whenever I dream about exploring a fascinating part of the world, I check the latest Travel Concepts International brochure. I can count on Travel Concepts to arrange a tour that is different from all others. We meet with individuals and groups in the places we visit, a special feature that is very important to me. On my three trips to Russia and one to Scandinavia, Gwen Erwood arranged meetings with local people who are actively involved in promoting democracy and women’s equality. In Kiev under the old Soviet Union, we began a traveling art exchange with a local school that continued for many years. The people on these tours are very compatible, since most of them are members of the League of Women Voters. Thanks to advance preparation and reading materials that Travel Concepts provides, we are able to take full advantage of each meeting, school visit, or museum. The tours are reasonably priced and Travel Concepts guarantees my state League $100 at no additional cost to me.
Nancy M. Neuman
Past National President (1986-90)
League of Women Voters
From Josephine Weiss, Local League Leader in WA:
To Whom It May Concern:
It gives me great pleasure to recommend the services of Travel Concepts International to you.
I have traveled with Mrs. Erwood on 20 trips or more since 1990 as a representative of the League of Women Voters. Those who also travel with us include members of AAUW, UNA, and Peace Links. We welcome families and spouses, too. Often we have three generations of one family on our tour.
The League is a non-partisan organization that encourages active participation by both men and women in government. We influence public policy through education and advocacy.
League members believe that it is appropriate to support the concepts of International Cooperation, Global Interdependence and World Peace. We support the UN. We consider Leaguers ambassadors of good will; we feel that in order to create a feeling of world unity, we must keep on talking and listening to the concerns of other nations.
The League’s Foreign Policy position inspired Mrs. Erwood to offer a trip to meet Soviet women in 1985. Since then, members of her tours meet with governmental officials and groups of women, for example, in Mongolia, Iceland, Korea, and Ireland, to name a few. We visit Mother Theresa’s school in India. We often invite natives we meet to dinner as in Iran. We enjoy a tea party at the home of our guide in Bhutan.
Mrs. Erwood’s cultural trips are affordable, well priced, OFTEN MUCH LOWER than other trips to exotic countries AND THEY OFFER MORE FEATURES. Another attraction is the opportunity to raise funds for League as well as other organizations. Mrs.. Erwood refunds a certain amount to a participant’s respective State League and Local League.
Mrs. Erwood believes that travel is much more than seeing monuments. IT IS THE PEOPLE AND THEIR CULTURE!
Josephine L. Weiss
University Place, WA