CHRISTINA COOPER, Founder
I think I got into Travel at primary (grade) school. When sitting through subjects I disliked (I will not mention them), I used to have a novel with a travel theme, on my lap that I read during class. No wonder I flunked a few classes even in primary school. Same at home after we were in bed and the lights were out, I took my novels, all about far off places, under the bed covers and read by flashlight. My first trip to Europe was on a school camping trip to Bavaria at the ripe age of 15, this truly cemented my travel bug and after several more camping trips to Europe, I headed off to the Middle East, India, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) and my final destination Australia where I lived for 3 years before heading out again to complete my Around the World sojourn.
For me Travel is not only a passion, it is a way of life. When visiting unique countries with a different way of life to that in the West, I find it a humbling experience and a reminder that our way of life is not the only way to live life. We can learn so much about living life from less developed areas. I fell into the Travel Industry after marrying John in San Francisco. My background was in marketing and merchandising, and I had no idea where to start looking for a job after moving to the States and SFO. One of John’s good friends was leaving her job with an airline, and told me to apply. I ended up getting the job, and working on the Middle East Airlines Desk out of the Pan Am offices in San Francisco. It was a fascinating time to be in the airline Industry handling the Middle East traffic for companies such as Aramco, Bechtel Corporation.
When we moved to Oregon, the airline industry was small with no job openings so I moved into the Travel Agency side of the Industry, and 6 years later in 1977 opened Willamette Intl. Travel. As many of you know my true passion is taking clients to East & Southern Africa, areas harder to sell, but ones that never cease to amaze clients. Everyone comes away saying it was a “life changing experience”. Maybe my most memorable Africa trip was trekking to see the Gorilla’s in Rwanda, but another wonderful memory I have is of my trip with a group to clients to Antarctica back in 1993 when there were few companies or ships operating. For me Antarctica was similar to Africa, wide open spaces, incredible scenery with time to sit back relax, soak in your surroundings and reflect on life.
JOHN COOPER, Administration
I was born and raised in London and from an early age was enthralled with the thought of travel. I left London in 1962 and moved to Montreal and the following year relocated with my company to San Francisco. That is where I grew up! These were the days of the Military Draft and I served in the US Army and Reserves from 1964 to 1966 and following that I was able to really settle in San Francisco.
There I met Christina in September 1968 and in early 1969 we were married in England. We moved to Portland in 1971 and have enjoyed 45 years of life in Oregon. I was in Sales and Marketing in the Consumer Electronics Industry and traveled extensively but still was able to assist Christina, whenever I could, at Willamette International Travel and join her on many trips and especially safaris!
I joined WIT with a permanent position in October 1996 and have been so proud to be associated with such a great group and have made so many friends while enjoying such an exciting and turbulent industry. My favorite destinations are France and anywhere in Africa, with Kenya being a real special location.
We owe so much to so many for enabling WIT to reach its (her) 40th birthday in 2017. Thank you.
NANCY FOWLER, Agent
I grew up in the country near the Oregon coast, on a dead end road, with few neighbors. Books were my escape to exotic places. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up, so I attended a business school for a travel and accounting course. My first job in a travel agency was in 1978, handwriting Pan Am tickets for their Hawaii tours. Next up was a full time position, selling air tickets (only 3 fares –remember Continental’s Chickenfeed fare?) all done via the phone, as there weren’t computers yet. Soon I was trusted to discuss Hawaii, Mexico, some cruises with clients. My first work trip was Amtrak to San Francisco, followed by a trip to Hawaii. I was hooked!
I’ve been fortunate to have so many wonderful trips over the years, and there hasn’t been a destination that didn’t become my new favorite. Call me fickle! A travel consultant is ALWAYS on the job, so a favorite personal escape is Hawaii. It is exotic, only 5 hours away, and very welcoming. Memories? Galapagos and the crazy marine iguanas! Snorkeling in Fiji, Cook Islands, Tahiti, Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii, Turks and Caicos. Holding a young wombat and rubbing her tummy. Driving in Western Australia while a lizard races me (and wins). Watching cattle dogs work in New Zealand. A cooking class in Vietnam. Getting lost in Provence and missing our train to Paris. A walking tour in Regensburg while on a Xmas Markets cruise with my daughter. Visiting New Orleans post-Katrina. Attending a party on the heli-pad of the Celebrity Eclipse. Fur Rendezvous in Anchorage.
One tip I always tell my clients: Be sure to take your brain and your common sense on every trip, along with an open mind for impromptu new adventures!
BARB BAUMER, Agent
I have been traveling almost all of my life I believe it’s in my DNA! When I was 6 years old I lived in a historic house outside Boston for 6 months, when I was 10 years old I lived in Mexico City for a short time and I lived and went to school in Geneva Switzerland when I was 12 years old, and went to summer school in Geneva while in high school. While living in Switzerland I was lucky enough to travel throughout Europe on the weekends, taking in all the history; learning how to ski, and had the opportunity to travel to Egypt and Lebanon as well. I’ve also spent a lot of time driving across the US. After graduating from Willamette University in Salem, I began my career in travel, working for agencies in in Berkeley and Palo Alto California before coming to Oregon. I have working at Willamette International Travel since June of 1983.
Being in travel has allowed me to take the “trip of a lifetime” every year, it’s hard for me to choose my favorite place, although I am partial to Europe after spending so much time there while growing up. Everywhere I go I enjoy seeing the people and culture as well as history of the area. When I travel I am always reminded how “young” the USA is in comparison to so many countries around the world. As my family reminds me, I have been to every continent except Antarctica, although there are still other places I’d love to visit.
PAM DAVIS, Agent
I think that I’ve always been in travel in one way or another. I inherited wanderlust from my father – my earliest memories are taking road trips across the country, visiting all 48 states and nearly every Canadian province before I was out of grade school. I’ve now had the opportunity to set foot on every continent but Antarctica. My first job in the travel industry was working for a small agency in Walla Walla, Washington starting in 1978, then having the good fortune to be hired by Willamette International Travel when I moved to the Portland area in 1985 where I’ve been ever since.
When people ask me my favorite place, I generally say “the next one.” That’s pretty much true – I love researching and exploring new places. I have wonderful memories of just about every place I’ve been, but the standouts are East Africa and India. I still have lots on my bucket list – Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar are definitely places I’d like to visit, along with some of the Eastern European countries I haven’t yet seen.
RACHEAL MOORE, Agent
Road trips have always been my favorite thing to do. It all started when I was a child; my grandfather worked in the National forests of Oregon and Washington. We would stay for weeks at a time. To pass the time, I would imagine that I was in another land that had never been found. I really loved finding new places that had not been seen by many people. Still to this day my favorite thing to do while on a road trip is watch the landscape change while going to a new destination.
When I was in high school I had a wonderful world history teacher who sparked a great interest in traveling. After hearing her stories, seeing her photos I knew I wanted to be doing that one day! They didn’t offer to many ways to get into the air industry when I was in high school. So I went down another path for a career.
After twenty years in that career I was getting the “itch” to do something different. After looking for a while I thought about finding a way to get into the travel industry. I found a small trade school that would give me the basics for a job in the travel industry. I graduated and immediately started working here at Willamette International Travel. I’ve enjoyed every day since I have joined this extraordinary team and can’t wait to get out and see exciting and great things.
DEBBIE WITT, Agent
When I grew up in Southern California I dreamed of becoming a lifeguard. Not a terribly realistic dream especially when I moved to San Francisco. I fibbed about my typing speed to get my first job in travel typing airline tickets for a Hawaii wholesale travel company. I learned a lot about Hawaii then Mexico working for wholesale companies before realizing there was another whole world out there. Transitioning to the retail end gave me the chance to learn about the world!
I have been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit. I have experienced a lot of Europe and the Caribbean, some of Asia and Australia and a little of South America. Some of my favorite memories are swimming with whale sharks in western Australia. Cruising the Mekong river from Cambodia to Vietnam. Having a beer in a Bier Garden while listening to a local band in Germany. I love to observe the everyday life in different countries and cultures! I have a long list of places that I want to go next, the Galapagos, Croatia, Portugal and I’m sure there is more.
GAVI PIPER, Agent
A Portland native, I grew up in a family that valued global connection and supported my forages abroad throughout my adolescence, college and my early career. I’m an adventurer transfixed by natural history, culture and art: I love visiting places with elements that have been carried forward for hundreds or thousands of years. Experiencing how traditions have adapted to survive in modern times is something I search out as well.
In the last ten years, I’ve lived on five continents. I’ve guided kayaking and rock climbing amongst North Vietnamese fishing villages and taught outdoor education throughout Australia’s southeast coast. I’ve held internships in Kenyan slums and Amazonian research stations and studied microcredit in Nicaragua. I’ve ventured into Tasmanian blizzards and picked my way amongst remote outback ridges and waterholes. I’ve climbed Bornean mountains and stared into East Javan volcanoes as they shook beneath my feet. I’ve wandered architectural time warps in peninsular Malaysia and slept in remote Laotian hilltop villages. I’ve dived amongst sea snakes and mantas in Komodo; hammerhead sharks and friendly sea lions in the Galapagos. I’ve gotten lost in ancient Cambodian and Ethiopian temples, futuristic Singaporean gardens, Hong Kong shopping districts, Andean marketplaces, traditional Japanese indigo museums and lacquer workshops. I’ve fed giraffes in Nairobi, rafted the Ugandan Nile and learned massage from blind men in Chiang Mai. I’ve watched orcas hunt and listened to the hissing crackle of long-compressed air escaping ice bergs as Alaskan glaciers calved in front of me. I’ve tracked jaguars in Belize, slept under the stars in South Africa, been marooned in Mexican fishing villages and learned traditions from Aboriginal elders.
Now it’s my turn to pay forward my happy lot in life: that’s where Willamette clients enter the picture.
CLAUDIA POP, Accounting
Claudia is our bookkeeper/administrative but she would be happy to discuss travel in Romania. I was born and grew up in Romania, at that time an Eastern European communist country. Since I was a child, I always loved traveling–I find it relaxing and exciting. But the law was very restrictive. People could travel abroad only with a special permit and for a really important reason; traveling for pleasure was prohibited. So we spent our vacations inside the country, exploring and discovering new and interesting places. My country has gorgeous places to visit, a rich history, beautiful cities … But my dream was to see other countries, to explore, to discover new places.
Fortunately, after ’89, when the communism failed, the situation changed. I had the great opportunity to travel in a couple of the west European countries. I enjoyed visiting and exploring other “worlds.” But it still wasn’t enough. My biggest dream was to pass the ocean, to explore the world far away. So, in 2013 I moved to the U.S. This was my biggest wish. And here I am! I had the opportunity to visit a couple of wonderful places in Oregon and Washington during the last 3 years. This year I had a road trip to California with my daughter, visiting a couples of beaches, cities and Bay Area. It was more than exciting to see all those places, but we still have a lot to visit in U.S. and not only–my future plans are to travel and explore the world. I don’t really have a favorite place, but I would like to visit all the continents, meet new people and discover other cultures.
WAILANA KALAMA, Roaming Social Media Correspondent
I moved to Saudi Arabia with my family when I was two years old, and ever since then I’ve been traveling. Family trips when I was younger inspired me to hit the road later on my own or with friends, and I’ve been fortunate enough to visit some incredible landscapes and people. To me, travel is a priority of life, and it continues to inspire and humble me.
Highlights over the years include working on a vineyard near Bordeaux, sailing on a ferry down the Mekong River, relaxing in the hammams in Morocco, roadtripping around Iceland. So much is on my bucket list I don’t even know where to start–Greenland, Turkey, Bhutan, Chile, Indonesia, Portugal, Finland.
I worked for three years as an agent with Willamette Intl Travel and now I’m based in Stockholm and serve as the WIT manager of all things social media. This blog is my baby! If you have an idea for the blog, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email! 🙂 email@example.com