fbpx

Traveling for work: Professional Trainer

For the third installment of the Jobs with Travel Benefits feature, My Travel Stamps chatted with the charismatic go-getter, Karyn Williams-Sykes. A former director of training and development with The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management in Dubai she now runs her own business specializing in learning and development.

Karyn Williams-Sykes, professional trainer and consultant
Karyn Williams-Sykes, professional trainer and consultant

Karyn, I’ve known you for more years than any of us cares to admit publicly and for all that time your jobs have been hospitality and tourism related. What attracted you to the industry?

The simple answer is I genuinely LOVE people. I know it sounds cliché but it’s true. Interacting with, being around, and observing people really tops the list of some of my favourite things to do.

What do you do now? 

I design and deliver customized training programs for companies to help them enhance their customer service delivery and systems. I also host Leadership Workshops as well as consult and train in Food & Beverage service. Most of my clients are in the hospitality industry but I also work in education, banking and government.

 

 

What tasks are the most challenging and which ones are the most rewarding?

My biggest challenge has been branching out on my own because it involves building my clientele and growing my business, both of which take time. The most rewarding aspect of what I do is the actual delivery of training. EVERY single time I deliver a program, I learn, grow, and get to meet new people. It’s a calling that just keeps on giving.

Delivering a Training program
Delivering Wine Training in Sri Lanka

It sounds dynamic and rewarding but here’s the clincher for my readers: does your job involve travel and if so, where have you been?

Yes it does. Either my clients come to me or I go to them. Of course, it is more economical for one person to travel than it is for a group so I have been very fortunate to have benefitted from many all-expense paid trips because of my job.

During my eight years in Dubai, work-related travel has taken me to Sri Lanka, London, Italy, Kiev (Ukraine), Papua New Guinea, India, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, The Maldives and Singapore.

Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea
The Ukraine
The Ukraine

Business travel or longer-term stays based on work opportunities also took me to Jamaica, Barbados, St Lucia, Martinique, Grenada, Turks and Caicos Islands and the Cayman Islands.

Jamaica
Jamaica

What travel perks have you enjoyed because of what you do?

The biggest perk? Business Class travel! My former company booked most of its flights with Emirates Airlines and their Business Class service is phenomenal. It includes a chauffeur for all airport transfers plus access to global lounges where the cabin crew welcomes you by name and remembers your drink.

In addition to that, over the years I earned many frequent flier miles that translate into free upgrades and benefits when I travel for my own pleasure. I’ve also enjoyed staying in numerous 5-star business hotels and resorts for work, as those were my clients.

What has the first-hand knowledge of different cultures, practices and perspectives taught you? 

I’ve learnt that people are all the same in spite of different religions, different foods and different music. People want to feel they belong, they want to have quality time with their friends and family and they want to be safe.

Soaking up some news and culture in Sri Lanka
Soaking up some news and culture in Sri Lanka

I’m curious, did your experiences allow you to appreciate your background more?

Definitely! I learnt to appreciate Trinidad and Tobago’s diversity, our educational opportunities, our freedom and our openness. All these things have made me better at my job and better at getting along with others.

Statue in Trinidad
Hannuman Statue in Trinidad

I’ve seen others struggle with cultural flexibility, sometimes with just being able to talk with others. By contrast, I view meeting ‘strangers’ and going to unfamiliar places as a totally positive experience. I am confident that trait stems from my culture and my upbringing.

Can you share one of your funniest travel stories with us? Knowing you, I am sure there are several.

Living on this side of the Atlantic, I often find that nobody knows where I am from (Trinidad & Tobago). Even people from India, a country we feel we have such strong ties with, have never heard of us. So when I landed at Indira Ghandi International Airport in Delhi for the first time, I had a very memorable experience. The immigration officer looked at my passport, looked at me and looked back at my passport quite baffled.

Dehli, India
Humayun’s Tomb in Dehli, India. This tomb was built by a widow for her dead husband who was an Emperor.

‘Your name is Indira?” he asked.

‘Yes’, I responded. “Indira is my middle name. My father named me after Indira Ghandi”.

“But where is this country? Where are you from”? he asked with increasing bewilderment. Clearly confused, he invited two of his colleagues to help him solve this mystery. By this time, I’ve been living in the UAE for 4 years, so I knew the drill.

Me:      “Do you like cricket?”

Them: “Of course! We are Indian! We love cricket! We ARE cricket!”

Me:      “You know Brian Lara?”

Them: “Of course! Brian Lara is a great cricketer. West Indies!”

Me:      “Well, he is from my country, Trinidad & Tobago.”

Them: “No, no, no… he is from West Indies, in Africa!”

At that point, I took out my tablet with my map app and pointed to ‘The West Indies’ and Trinidad & Tobago. I ended my geography/history lesson with a photo of me and Brian limin’ (hanging out) at his house some years ago during Carnival.

Liming with Brian Lara
Limin’ with Brian Lara

They were so impressed and excited, I got invited to stay in their country for as long as I liked in spite of my one month visa. I also got a Fast Track pass for my departure so I didn’t have to join any queues. In short succession, more of his colleagues were called over to see the photo and meet ‘Brian Lara’s friend’.

That was hilarious. To wrap up this session, let us pretend you are being asked to address a graduating class of college kids who have expressed an interest in jobs with travel potential, what advice would you give to them? You have 90 secs, starting now…

Jump at any opportunity to travel, to see the world, to experience first-hand new cultures, festivals, foods and languages. Even if the job is not your ideal position or if you don’t plan to make it your career, take the job and go as far as you can. The time for ‘settling down’ and ‘planting roots’ will come later….much later. Don’t make excuses for not travelling because you may regret it when you get older.

Leadership Workshop in Kiev, Ukraine
Leadership Workshop in Kiev, Ukraine

I’ve been to school, I’ve studied, I’ve completed degrees and the best education I have had has been from my travels. I hope to continue my life growth with these studies and I encourage you to begin yours today!

_

For training needs assessments and consultations, Karyn can be reached at Karyn.Williamssykes@gmail.com. Her professional profile is here: LinkedIn.

(Photos were contributed by Karyn and her husband, Phil Sykes).

5 postcards from around the Caribbean

I was born and raised in the beautiful island of Jamaica and while I grew up with an appreciation for my country’s lush tropical vegetation, white-sand beaches, rolling hills and scenic roadways,  I sometimes took those assets for granted. Interestingly, as I grew older and travelled to, or lived in other countries I realized how naturally stunning my country and other islands in the Caribbean really are. As islanders we live where people dream of going on vacation and we should pause more often to take it all in.

Below, I’ve compiled a few images from just five Caribbean islands to illustrate my point.

Da Conch Shack, Providenciales
Beach tables at Da Conch Shack, Providenciales (Turks and Caicos)

 

Lush foliage at Goblin HIll Villas at San San in Port Antonio, Jamaica
Lush green foliage at Goblin HIll Villas at San San in Port Antonio (Jamaica)
The Hermitage
Majestic mountain range, enchanting gardens and a traditional Caribbean-styled home at The Hermitage (Nevis)
Colorful kayaks along Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands)
Colorful kayaks along Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands)

 

Elbow Reef lighthouse, The Abacos (Bahamas)
Elbow Reef Lighthouse, The Abacos (Bahamas)

 

The day I got stung by a killer bee in Nevis

A week ago today, I got stung by a killer bee in Nevis. Don’t panic! My condition was not caused by contact with a honeybee or a bumblebee. Nor did it invoke any pain or allergies. In fact, it was quite a heady experience.

Killer Bee from Sunshine's Beach Bar
Killer Bee from Sunshine’s Beach Bar

Oh, how I remember that day clearly! It was near high noon and my travel companions and I sought refuge in the air-conditioned vehicle of our Nevisian host while the sun buttered the narrow road leading to the source of my “liquid affliction”.

That memorable place was Sunshine’s Beach Bar & Grill, a very festive yet unimposing-looking structure on Pinney’s Beach. It is arguably one of the most celebrated parcels of real estate on the island.

Entrance to Sunshine's
Entrance to Sunshine’s
View of the beach at Sunshine's
View of the beach at Sunshine’s

In case you’ve never heard about it, please pay close attention now. You cannot visit Nevis and not go to eat at Sunshine’s or sample their Killer Bee, its world-renown rum punch. The drink gradually creeps up on you but you feel fine as long as you are seated. Stand up quickly and that’s a different story. Believe me, things can get noticeably mellow from there.

Former President Bill Clinton

I am willing to guess that former US President Bill Clinton can tell you all about the fare at Sunshine’s. From all the pictures proudly displayed on its rustic drift wood walls, it is also safe to assume that Oprah, John Travolta, Britney Spears, Ellen DeGeneres, Jay Z, Beyonce and countless other celebrities can do so too.

Ellen DeGeneres standing next to Sunshine's
Ellen DeGeneres standing next to Sunshine’s
Britney Spears and a friend (or fan) at Sunshine's
Britney Spears and a friend (or fan) at Sunshine’s
John Travolta and Oprah
John Travolta and Oprah

A closely guarded recipe that was effortlessly thrown together in response to a 1995 drink competition,  the Killer Bee is now unofficially a Nevis national treasure. According to Sunshine, the basic entry requirement was it had to be “easy and reasonable” to make. A combination of white and dark rum (he won’t divulge which ones), passion fruit, nutmeg and bitters, it is one of the most potent rum punches you’ll sample anywhere.

The food is fantastic too! We had sampler plates of the fresh tuna, grouper, lobster, ribs and one of the most tantalizing garden salads that I’ve ever tasted – mango cutlets included.

Some of the most tender ribs I have ever tasted
Succulent and tender ribs
The lobster at Sunshine's is divine!
The lobster at Sunshine’s is divine!
Fresh grouper
Fresh grouper
Salad at Sunshine's
Salad at Sunshine’s

And nothing can compare to the size and magnetism of Sunshine’s personality. He is the owner after who the bar is named. As soon as we exited the SUV and walked up to the entrance, the legend himself met us on the top step with an effusive smile and firm handshake .

“Hello, I am Sunshine“, were the first words he said. After that, his aura took over and it silently screamed ‘warmth’ and ‘a genuine love of people’.

Sunshine and me
Sunshine and me. Wonder if I’ll ever make his wall? (Giggle)

With that megawatt presence, it’s clear how he got that name. The rest – his business acumen and sustained success in spite of numerous odds –  is now well-documented history.

Go visit with him when you can.

 

Making healthy food choices in airports

Do you struggle with making healthy food choices in airports? I do. In between running to catch a flight or waiting for a connection after flying for hours, the last thing on my mind is eating right. I just need FOOD and usually that means the first edible-looking object in my line of vision. Regrettably, when I am in an airport, numerous non-optimal options abound.

Starbucks
Starbucks

Let us be honest. Who cares about calorie counts and portion sizes when you are hungry? Do   you think about fiber-rich whole grains and lean meats like turkey while you are being cross-examined by a TSA agent or are scrambling to collect your belongings after they pass through the screening area? I don’t.

At my tipping point, I need hot food to vanquish my raging hunger headache and cold sandwiches and wraps don’t do the trick. So when I get close to my gate, convenience is what counts.

20150608_085036

Unfortunately, the greasy, salty, high sugar and fatty menu items from fast food outlets often are more prevalent than their healthy counterparts. Admittedly, I try to resist them and some days I manage to stay disciplined; on others, I simply give up.

Since I’ve had two trips back to back this week, I deliberately snapped pictures of some of my airport meals in order to keep track of what I ate. I’m sharing the pictures below so you can help  me rate my choices.

Bagle
Cheese bagel and cream cheese with Naked orange juice. (I skipped the butter and jam). Grade B-
Cobb salad. Grade A
Cobb salad. Grade A
20150606_133259
Bread pudding with cinnamon topping and soda (Ginger ale). Grade C.
Scrambled eggs and ham with bacon on the side and whole wheat toast. The drink was hot chocolate. Grade C
Scrambled eggs and ham with bacon on the side and whole wheat toast. The drink was hot chocolate. Grade C

So how did I rank? Maybe a C+ or B-?

How do you usually do? Please share any tips that may help and other travelers.

Four great beach bars in the Bahamas Out Islands

The 120-mile long chain of islands and cays scattered in the northern part of the Bahamas could be the reason the Abacos is a boater’s paradise. But just as easily,the blatant lack of hustle and bustle and the sheer luxury of non-existent deadlines could hold the larger appeal.

Whatever the reason, it cannot be denied that where men go beer, rum and other adult beverages often follow. Simply translated that means the area is brimming with great bars; there is one almost at every ferry or dinghy stop.

Now THAT is a rum list!
Now THAT is a rum list! (Cracker P’s)

If you ever have reason to visit the Out Islands of the Bahamas, I recommend that you visit at least one of these four beach bars:

Cracker P’s Bar and Grill on Lubbers Quarters.

Cracker P's
Cracker P’s

You pull up to the dock and walk directly into an indoor/outdoor space that vibrates with positive energy. Perhaps the only thing more expansive than the panoramic views and the bar itself is the owner’s engaging personality. Patrick and his wife, Linda, and their staff make you feel at home from the get-go. The bar has an extensive rum list, a specially crafted hot sauce, and a casual menu chock-full of seafood options. You simply must try the cheesy fish dip! Even my hips will tell you it’s sinfully good. And ask about their legendary Full Moon Parties. I heard they are not to be missed.

Curly Tails in Marsh Harbor.

Curly Tails Beach Bar
Curly Tails Beach Bar

This spot is a great place to unwind, meet up with friends and enjoy some libations and food while you bask in the view or wait for the ferry to Great Guana Cay. It is a casually chic hangout that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and they have a wide selection of fine wines, premium liquors and beers. Try their conch fritters or grouper burger, and look around for the fast-moving curly tail lizards for which the bar got its name.

Nipper’s is the place to be on a Sunday afternoon.

NIpper's Beach Bar
NIpper’s Beach Bar

It is a colorful and vibrant bar in Guana Cay that sits atop a sand cliff, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Locals and visitors converge there for the weekly pig roast and to sip some of the best frozen drinks you’ll find anywhere. If you go on Sunday, expect a crowd and be prepared to have fun. It gets loud, and sometimes a little crazy so no party poopers are allowed.

Snappas Chill and Grill is a great spot for cocktails.

The sunset at Snappas
The sunset at Snappas

It has a relaxing atmosphere and friendly staff, and it’s right on the water. I watched the sunset from there on the second night of my trip and it was simply breathtaking. They offer daily Happy Hour specials from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and live entertainment on Fridays and Saturdays.

Cheers!

Note: A version of this post originally appeared on TravelDudes.org as I am one of the many contributors to the site. Check it out.