Jo Ann Jaacks: Being hooked on travel can be a blast

A stop on the Dark Shadows tour.

Like most people nowadays, I’m not doing a lot of road trips, but I do have my happy memories. I discovered the Vienna Inn in Southbridge, Mass., while searching for local B&Bs and was immediately smitten. The chef/owner was Austrian, roast boar was on the dinner menu, they promised chef-inspired hors d’oeuvres each afternoon and breakfast in bed each morning. Also, the online photo of the Königzimmer Suite had a castle vibe, and they offered a two-night stay for the price of one.

Before booking the deal, I read the reviews on TripAdvisor. The Inn delivered everything promised and more. The owners even introduced my German husband to a charming lady who was lunching with friends in the enchanting inn’s restaurant. She was celebrating her 90th birthday, 50 years after departing Germany. The two of them chatted in German like old friends. Now THAT is gemütlichkeit.

Then I got the first casual email inquiring if I would like to write a review for TripAdvisor, which introduced itself as the “World’s Largest Travel Site” and claimed 10 million followers online. That sounded impressive, so I said yes. It was published with some of the photos I’d taken at the Vienna Inn, and I soon received an email from TripAdvisor asking: “Would you like to write another review?”

“Why yes, I would.”

One of my most memorable trips was a “Dark Shadows” tour around upstate New York with my sister. She was madly absorbed with the original vampire soap opera, especially with the main character Barnabas Collins. We both did some research to include stops at various locations where the soap opera was filmed: Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, New York and the Lockwood—Mathews Mansion in Norwalk, both very creepy and atmospheric locales. I definitely had a lot to write about there.

An email from TripAdvisor said: “You’re just three reviews away from being a Senior Reviewer. Would you like to write another review?”

“Why yes, I would.” I remembered a stay at the stone castle estate in Colebrook called Rock Hall, a unique and lovely B&B, so I dug out those photos and sent off my review.

I received my “Contributor Badge” after the first 11 published reviews and was told that 151 people thought that my reviews were sufficiently useful to comment on them. Then I received the coveted “thumbs-up” compliment from a fellow traveler for one of my photos — my sister Kathy posing on the coastal rocks in front of an historic Rockport inn.

I also got to be a Trailblazer. If TripAdvisor didn’t list the off-the-beaten-track attraction or historic site I discovered, or a brand-new restaurant in my price range and locale where I enjoyed dining, I could recommend that they add it to their data banks, and be the first to review it. The comments on my reviews ultimately ballooned to over 500 (yes, that’s 500 out of 10 million, but that just gave me a goal.)

So yes, I’m a travel geek. And for a while I was a travel geek with a semi-large following on TripAdvisor.

Connecticut Media Group