about tcs20 Questions: Expedition Leader Ester Pereira

Ester Pereira

A native of PortugalEster Pereira is a key part of our expedition teams and has experience on nearly 50 TCS excursions. Here she tells us about trouble-shooting jet issues in Brazil, going on expeditions in Antarctica, and how she got a dugout canoe from the Amazon rain forest to Florida.

1. The first trip I ever took as a child was to the big capital of Portugal, Lisbon. I was 6 years old, and I still remember my utter amazement and surprise when I saw a Chinese girl, just a year or two older than me—I nearly let go of my mother’s hand to follow the Chinese lady and her daughter. That first encounter with “otherness” might have been the impetus that put me on the road of travel. I grew up in a village of about 100 families—This was a big deal!

2. I got my love of travel from possibly the above, albeit I can’t say for sure. Some two to three years later, listening to my father’s stories from a trip he took to Brazil, definitely gave me wanderlust.

3. On my first TCS expedition, which was our first private jet trip, we had two jets flying in tandem. I was leading one trip and in the middle of the Amazon jungle in Manaus, Brazil, while taxiing, one of the jet’s tires blew out. We had to return to the gate. It took a while to get it fixed. First, we had to wait for the tire to cool off. In that 90-degree heat there were concerns regarding the food. So I was faced with several dilemmas: to further delay the flight and risk the crew running out of hours to get fresh catering and take the risk of missing our landing slot in Easter Island, or to take off and offer the guests peanuts and nuts. I opted for the latter with plenty of liquor flowing. We then had a banquet in Easter Island.

4. My favorite moment or highlight from this travel season has been getting back to the Beagle Channel, which is as close as I have been to Antarctica in some 20 years, Antarctica being my initiation into adventure travel in the 1980s.

5. On our trips, one thing that never ceases to amaze me is how the guests, who have never met each other before, become family. Discovering new places and cultures is truly a bonding experience.

6. I never leave home without my camera. I just love to take pictures and savor those moments later. After all a picture is worth a thousand words, right?

7. A place I thought I’d dislike, but I fell in love with was ...I can’t think of one. I always go with an open mind and ready to learn. In the end, I always find something different and special about it.

8. My absolute favorite place in the world is my garden. This is where I grow my flowers, my vegetables and receive therapy from the weeds I pull. That is, the world is my adventure, but my garden is my haven!

9. One place I haven’t seen yet, which I’m dying to visit is the Mustang Region in Tibet.

10. If I could travel with anyone, dead or alive, it would be my mother. It would be fun to share the excitement of discovery with her. That is, experience the many cultures that make up our world. And discuss how, at the end of the day, Eastern and Western eyes probably see the world the same.

11. And we would definitely go to the Far East or the West, following the sun. Also to Brazil and enjoy Brazilians’ joie de vivre.  And definitely visit the Australian Aboriginals and try to learn from their affinity with the natural world. Then on to the polar regions, truly divine places on earth.

12. My favorite place to shop is Cambodia and Laos. Great artisans, very creative items, interesting displays and the vendors actually enjoy a little haggling without losing their sense of humor.

13. The best thing I’ve ever brought home from a trip was a dugout canoe. It was given to my husband and I when we visited the Ticuna Indians in 1986. I had visited the Ticuna Indians in the Upper Amazon before and knew their chief, Pedro. In 1986, I came with my husband. Immediately, we were presented with a gift—a dugout canoe about 12 feet long. We graciously accepted it and managed to get it shipped to Florida. Somehow it ended up in Jacksonville, about 400 miles north of our home. We picked it up, not without some challenges from the U.S. customs, who took it for an antique. We made good use of it until it fell apart in the salty waters of Florida.

14. Some of my favorite countries to eat in are India. I just love their curries and nan. Brazil for its churrascos and the Middle East for its falafel, hummus and eggplant dishes. I also love my native Portuguese fish dishes—what kind of a Portuguese am I if I don’t even acknowledge that we have the best seafood in the world? Of course, Seattle [TCS World Travel’s home] comes right after.

15. My favorite spa or place to get a massage in the world is the Bodia Spa in Cambodia. 

16. The one moment from my travels that I will never, ever forget…That day in Manaus in 1995!

17. When I get home from a tripthe first thing I do is to check my garden and then the house.

18. Between travel seasonsin my daily life, I look forward to knitting, writing stories, and visiting with family and friends. It is great to share the many adventures I have been exposed to and blessed with.

19. If I hadn’t been an expedition leader, I would have been a dancer or perhaps an historian. Who knows…I might have made it to “Dancing with the Stars!” I like to dance even if that appears insane to those who can’t hear the music. I love history as well because there is so much to learn from the past. After all, whoever said that history repeats itself was so right.

20. My best piece of travel advice is to go out with an open mind. Every culture has a multitude of things we can benefit from. As St. Augustine said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

To see where Ester may travel next season, visit our Trip Finder page to see all our upcoming journeys.