Serendipitous Travels (con't)
Coonley’s free spirit has inspired her travel endeavors to exotic destinations
all over the world accompanied by other women.
“My favorite place to travel is honestly where I am at the time,” Coonley
said. “I could be walking in Wyoming or relishing the cuisine in Turkey, but I love to walk wherever I am. When someone walks, it’s easier for all of their
senses to become involved.”
“My children are grown and my husband is so supportive,” Coonley said. “I
tend to unplug when I’m traveling, I like to be where I am, but departures and homecoming also strengthen our relationships.”
She reassures other women traveling with Serendipity Traveler that they are doing the right thing by taking time for themselves.
“We are cheerleaders for women to grow and stretch beyond their comfort zones,” Coonley said. “A lot of women who travel with us have been through tough divorces or their children have just left home. They are reinventing themselves and starting the next chapter in their lives.”
While forming the travel company, Coonley also trained to be a chaplain and opened her ears to other people’s problems. “I’ve learned that there is a lot of pain in the world,” she said. “But traveling can be transforming.”
Travel destinations to Italy and England are some of the more popular places for serendipitous travelers, Coonley said. Sometimes, however, the travel
placements are more based on the woman’s interests or current life situation.
Over the years, Coonley has been privileged to hear and be a part of countless other travel experiences by women. One trip involved traveling to the Island of Dominica.
“It was going to be our last swim in an old fashioned swimming hole, one with a rope people could swing off of,” Coonley said. “One of the women had been going through a tough divorce, and it seemed like it was the first time she had ever taken time for herself.”
One of the goals of this travel program is for women to step out of their comfort zones and experiences things that they never dreamed of doing.
“She looked at the rope, but needed some encouragement to decide to go for it,” Coonley said. “When she jumped off of the rope into the water, her face was full of freedom and independence, but most of all, strength.”
Traveling glitches such as lost train tickets or luggage have at times placed Coonley and the other women in an abundance of undesirable situations, but the resilient nature and willingness to fully immerse themselves in the experience has repeatedly helped the women overcome these circumstances.
Serendipity Travelers also allows women the opportunity to truly connect with their destination by partaking in a concept that Coonley calls Travel Philanthropy.
“The concept of travel philanthropy within our business really began on the first trip to the Island of Dominica,” Coonley said. “I inquired about a local place to give back and was advised to look into the House of Hope.”
House of Hope was a project created by villagers in Delicies to help and house persons with severe mental and physical disabilities in Dominica. Coonley and her group learned about the project and decided to help fund it. After this experience, Coonley tries to incorporate the nature of giving back to the community into every travel itinerary.
“The concept of travel philanthropy allows the women to go beyond the beautiful scenery, the culture, the food and become engaged with the life [at the location] in an authentic way,” Coonley said.
Coonley is abiding by her mantra, “Life is short...travel well,” and continues to grow with the help of the women around her. “My life has been enriched, I feel younger and I continue growing while watching Serendipity Travelers experiences all over the world.”
Lauren Shute is an intern at Time, Inc.