Traveling For Work: Guinness World Records Attempt Judge

Tavia Levy
Tavia Levy, marketing executive at Guiness World Records

Meet Tavia Levy, a perky twenty-something marketing executive who was born in Jamaica but is now living in New York City. With her millennial “I can do anything I set out to do” mindset, she already has a built-in formula for fun and career success but when you add an anything-but-routine job at the US headquarters for Guinness World Records to that, a life that’s already good gets noticeably better.

Tavia, please tell my readers what you do.

I work on marketing programs that target businesses and consumers.  So, for example, I promote our services to companies that may want to attempt a record to launch a new product, celebrate a company anniversary or create a once-in-a-life-time customer experience. I also design marketing campaigns to promote the Guinness World Records 2016 annual book and Gamer’s Edition.  

Okay, that sounds like you have an important role to play and clearly there is variety in your tasks but forgive me for being so candid, it also sounds very normal. At a company that verifies records like the Heaviest Weight Lifted by a Tongue and Fastest Half Marathon Pushing a Pram, some days must be extra-ordinary.

(She chuckled and chided me gently about my rush to get to the good stuff).  Well, you didn’t let me finish. Sometimes, I also get to judge world record attempts around the country and overseas.

Outside the Roman coliseum
Pinch me,Is that really the Roman Colloseum?

(Like an animated kid, I started rubbing my hands together in glee.) Yes, tell us about that, please!

My office covers North and South America and the Caribbean but the company only has three full-time judges on staff so their calendars book up quickly. When that happens, other team members get to travel to verify that world record attempts have been performed according to the guidelines.

Where has work-related travel taken you and with the range of records out there, how do you prepare for that?

It’s a steep learning curve. Shortly after I started here, I began working alongside full-time employees who have been judging record attempts for a while. By ‘shadowing’ them I learnt how to carefully review and familiarize myself with similar records. I was later sent to London for a week of intense training where I attended media training and stage presentation classes.

Many focal points in London
The budding jetsetter capturing many focal points in London

After the week, I continued to understudy the full-time judges before I could go solo. A little over a year has passed since then and already I have been to Dallas once and Canada twice to adjudicate events. I’ve also traveled to Las Vegas and San Francisco for conferences.

Enjoying Toronto's harbor front
Enjoying the sights and sounds on the harbor front in Toronto

Tell us about some of the most memorable records you’ve observed and/or officiated at.

After my London trip, I ‘shadowed’ the record for the Longest Dance Relay at MTV here in New York City, an event that lasted 24 hours. That was crazy fun! And perhaps the most unusual record I’ve observed to date, was the Fastest Time To Type A Text Message On A Touch-Screen Mobile Phone. To break the record, you had to type a sentence that had every letter of the alphabet in it.  Brazilian teenager Marcel Fernandes Filho, the guy who held the record for doing it in 26 seconds, did it in 17 instead. He was sponsored by Syntellia, a software company that designed a new Fleksy keyboard you can download to your phone.

He was so fast, it was amazing! I mean, could you type this sentence in 17 seconds? The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human.

London again!
London again!

SURE I could. (Yeah, right.) Days like that sound like so much fun.  Do you get to fit any destination experiences into those trips?

Absolutely! After that trip to London, I took some personal time and extended my trip so I could visit Paris, Rome, Barcelona and Amsterdam – in a whirlwind nine days. Europe was such an amazing experience, I’ve been bitten by the travel bug ever since. In fact, I’m headed to Hong Kong, the Philippines and Thailand soon for vacation.

Do you do anything differently when you are traveling for work versus pleasure?

Well, the truth is, I mix business with pleasure whenever possible but I pack much less for work trips that’s for sure! Everything else is pretty much standard. I troll TripAdvisor for reviews; research restaurants on Yelp!; download DuoLingo if I’ll be in a foreign country ( and sometimes it can be helpful even if the mother tongue of the country I am visiting is English); and I find great map apps.

In front of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
In front of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

What are your top two travel tips?

Become Flightdeal.com obsessed like I am. The site publishes glitch fares and is a great source of daily updates on the best discounts. Plus, sign up for an airline credit card and use it for everything you can, even your rent!

One final question because I know you will soon have to go pack for your next trip.  What would you say to that person who is sitting at home and dreaming of seeing the world but isn’t sure where to begin?

Don’t be overwhelmed; it’s possible! I’ve always wanted to travel – ever since I was little kid – but I didn’t think I could ever afford to do so. Thankfully, I landed a job with travel benefits but I’m also learning how to be resourceful about traveling on my own. Take my word for it, you don’t have to be a millionaire or work in a travel-specific role to see far-flung lands.

Look at me, I have a bachelor of science in journalism! I thought I would be writing newspaper and magazine articles or writing, editing and publishing books. Who knows, the best-seller lists and Pulitzer prizes may come at a later date but right now, I’m snapping pictures, collecting memories and relishing this chapter of my life 100 per cent.


If your company is interested in attempting a world record, you can connect with Tavia on LinkedIn. Or if you want to keep up with her travels, you can follow her on Instagram @taviaxcx. 

To read more travel stories from Jamaican travel blogger Tommie, you can visit her blog here or connect on FaceBook, Twitter or Instagram. Just type in My Travel Stamps.

Unusual country traditions that create visual points of interest

I suspect the June 2015 news of the removal of the famous “love locks” on the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris took a lot of people by surprise. I mean, really, with an estimated total of more than 700,000 locks similar in weight to that of about 20 elephants it means a lot of lovers must have journeyed to that site to etch their names onto specially or hastily bought locks before fastening them to the bridge.

The former Lock Bridge in central Paris, France (photo courtesy of englighcntv.com)
The former Lock Bridge in central Paris, France (photo courtesy of englishcntv.com)

Who knew that such an innocuous practice, believed to have started in Rome after a 2006 Italian novel-turned-film aired would have mushroomed into such a symbolic sign of “ironclad” affection? So great was the movement, it eventually converted a regular bridge into a world-renown point of interest arguably as famous as the Seine River over which it flowed.

I found the concept fascinating. In fact, it spurred me into thinking about other unusual traditions that I’ve seen throughout my travels. At each place, I’ve always paused to wonder about the origin of these unusual practices. Two examples immediately sprung to mind:

Cayman Shoe Tree

Any visitor to Grand Cayman should drive, jog or walk to South Sound Road and witness the spectacle of the Cayman Shoe tree in person. Reportedly the brain child of an expat couple who lived and worked on the island for a few years, it began as a means of them clearing litter from some of the beaches they liked to frequent. Deciding they wanted to do something that would draw attention to the need for recycling, they collected more than 300 discarded shoes on the first night they started rounding up garbage. They then secretly nailed the flip flops and sandals onto a tree over the course of two nights. They were aiming for shock value, so they stopped what they were doing whenever any cars drove by to ensure that early discovery would not spoil their big reveal.

Cayman Shoe Tree on South Sound Road, Grand Cayman
Cayman Shoe Tree on South Sound Road, Grand Cayman

By the time they were finished hammering shoes to the tree, their unusual display was 12 feet high. Since then, people have continued to add to it. The couple have since left the island but either them or someone else was kind enough to leave a hammer and nails in a wooden box at the base for you to leave your own footprint on their initial design.

The Egg Plant in Nevis

I heard covering trees with egg shells used to be a common practice outside traditional households in Nevis but the only evidence of it I witnessed was one small plant on the grounds of a cute little eatery by the waterfront in Charlestown. Nestled among the colorful tables, chairs and foliage at the  popular breakfast and lunch spot called Café de Arts, there sits a small spikey plant covered in brown and white egg shells. The art of properly positioning them lies in the level of skill in the cracking method. You must make a small incision at the tip of the egg shell so that it can be affixed to the prickly and pointed ends of the plant. Most of the shell must remain whole in order to achieve the full peacock-like effect.

I stood there dumbfounded.  I just couldn’t outrun that eerie sense of déjà vu that came over me because I was immediately reminded of the reaction I had when I first saw the flip flop tree in Cayman. Shaking my head to clear it, again I wondered who had started this unusual trend.

Egg plant in Charlestown, Nevis
Egg plant in Charlestown, Nevis

I was with a small group on a walking tour so I couldn’t stay to dig deep into the back story. All I know is that the eggs that patrons order for breakfast are likely to end up on the plant. After I left, I called the restaurant owner to ask about the practice but she was an expat-turned-resident and told me she really didn’t know the origin of it. I’ve made it a point of duty to find out. After all, this popular food spot sits next door to an important part of history – the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton; one of the writers of the United States Constitution and the face on its 10 dollar bill. From farm to table to plant décor, it is only fitting that the history of these eggs must also be told.

Have you ever come across any unusual country traditions that have become visual points of interest? Please tell me about them.


48 hours in Paris

The first time I visited Paris, I was a wide-eyed student on spring break. I had never been to Europe before and in my capacity as self-appointed president of the ‘Budget Travel Association’, I travelled via Eurorail and bus.

On my second trip to the city, my travel IQ was a bit higher and my finances were more liquid, so I flew into Charles de Gaulle and hailed a cab at the airport.

Opera House
Opera House

Paris is a bustling city. Sophisticated and stylish, its monuments, bridges and parks seep that old-world charm and air of decadence that will quickly have you thinking of the usual connotations like gentry and indulgence. And, it would be a major faux pas not to mention the food, the fashion and the inevitable female fawning over the sexy male French accent. Two words: très fantastique!

The Arc De Triomph
The Arc De Triomph

This famous metropolis offers light-hearted moments too. One of the first things I noticed on the ride to the hotel was that almost every shop, restaurant, guesthouse or bed and breakfast within a 30-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower had the word “Eiffel” in its name. Try finding your bearings without a map! Plus, although I did not see it myself, I was warned it is not unusual to see well-dressed tourists dodging dog poop while navigating chic sidewalks in some neighborhoods. Let that visual sink in for a minute…

One of Paris' many elegant buildings
One of Paris’ many elegant buildings

For my first outing (the second time around), my friends and I took a leisurely walk down the famous fashion street, L’Avenue Montaigne – I call it Designer Row. Every designer who is anybody has a store on that strip. Whether your vice is shoes, clothing, handbags or accessories, you can indulge it there. Are you yearning for Chanel, Valentino, Louis Vitton, Jimmy Choo, Christian Dior or Prada? Don’t worry, you WILL find a store with your heartstrings gift-wrapped all over it.

Open Tour Bus
Open Tour Bus

If you have a short time in the city, I think the best way to see it – other than by private car, of course – is on an open tour bus. You can get on and off as often as you wish. Tour check-list essentials such as the Museé de Louvre, Notre Dame, Place de la Concorde, Champs Elysées, Charles De Gaulle-Etoile, Tour Eiffel, Bastille Opera, Gare de Lyon, Arc de Triomphe, Esplanade des Invalides are only a stop or photo snap away.

Here’s another hint. There’s also a Statue of Liberty where you least expect to find it.

I also recommend a visit to Ladurée, a famous tea room and restaurant in an 18th-century mansion on the Champs Elysées. The menu includes light fare like club sandwiches but we went solely for dessert; namely, macarons and chocolate.

Digging in!
Digging in!

Macarons are small, round pastries that are crisp on the outside and soft in the middle. The flavors vary with each season and you could go buck-wild trying them all. When I was there, the options ranged from hazelnut praline, rose petal, raspberry, lemon, salted butter caramel, icy mint, liquorice and more – all capable of spiking your blood sugar with a hearty dose of warm, gooey, happiness after one bite.

We visited the Eiffel Tower on the final day and since nobody talks much about the queues, I will share that little detail with you now. Expect a wait. It took us at least 90 minutes to get from the road to the first elevator. We eventually ascended some 320 meters to the third floor then took another elevator to the top. I was fit to be tied by that point.

My best friend is terrified afraid of heights and her nervous, shaking hands held mine in what could only be described as a death clamp. To make things worse, space in the lift was so cramped I didn’t have to inhale too deeply to guess what some of the other passengers had for lunch.

A bird's eye view from the top
A bird’s eye view from the top

But when I got to the top and looked out, my agitation vanished like mist on a dew-filled morning. The 360° view of the city was breathtaking.

We savored every minute of the experience.

Statues of Liberty outside of New York

Did you know that the Statue of Liberty, that iconic New York landmark that initially served as a beacon of hope and opportunity for immigrants seeking a better life in America, is not the only one that exists?  There are at least seven replicas in France and others in Austria, Germany, Kosovo, Norway, Spain, United Kingdom, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Japan and China.

Lady Liberty in Paris
Lady Liberty in Paris

I ran across a small one in the Jardin du Luxembourg during my second trip to Paris. It was moved in 2012 to the entrance of the Musée d’Orsay and now there is a bronze one in its place. You can find it on the northeast corner of the park near the Rue Guynemer entrance.

It’s a great photo op if you are looking for something a little different to the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower!



For a complete list of statue locations around the world, click here.