Sometimes even living in paradise can get a little boring. That’s why the Key Biscayne residents you’re about to meet travel as often as their schedules allow to just about any part of the world their hearts desire. Their stories just might inspire you to dig up that dusty passport and take a trip of your own.
Text by Jorge Arauz | July 15, 2018 | Lifestyle

It seems that for Carlos and Marianne Coto, the list of memories they’ve yielded throughout their travels to nearly three-dozen countries is almost as endless as the frequent flyer miles they’ve acquired over the years. From witnessing monks singing Gregorian chants atop Mt. Saint Michel in Paris to horseback riding on the beaches of the Dominican Republic, having a snorkeling adventure in the British Virgin Islands and listening to Russians playing The Star Spangled Banner for a dollar, they say they’ve enjoyed every adventure they’ve shared.
But as much as time may have airbrushed their memories to perfection, there have been quite a few horror stories they haven’t been able to shake. Besides running out of gas in a ghost town in Germany, almost being assaulted by a faux-purse selling Asian merchant in China, and regrettably sitting down to a feast of coagulated blood sausage in Spain, there’s one story in particular that stands out in their mind. “One time we arrived in Zurich thinking that the plane was leaving at midnight but soon discovered it had already left at noon,” recalls the couple. “The charter airline didn’t have a plane until a week later, our credit card was maxed out and we had very little cash left since we were nearing the end of our trip.”
The couple eventually decided to call and wake up their travel agent on Key Biscayne who arranged for them to fly the following morning on a regular airline, at first-class rates. “We ended up spending a couple of months worth of our then-school teacher salaries,” says Carlos. “Needless to say, although today we laugh about it, back hen we were blaming each other for the oversight and bickering for a long time!”

Two years ago, four Key Biscayne families, accompanied by 15 porters, 20 mules, a guide and a cook, trekked along a remote section of the Inca Trail in Peru on their way to the recently excavated Cradle of Gold. They hiked eight hours at day, camped out at night and played soccer with the Quechua Indians whenever they could. “We all knew each other for years,” say Oscar and Claire Ibarra, who organized the adventure and own Los Tres Balcones hostel in the area. “Sleeping in tents at night and watching the kids scare each other with big bugs and horse manure was funny and unforgettable as were the three-foot-tall roosters crowing all night and the bull who visited the girls’ tent one morning.”
If all this is sounding like anything but the typical family vacation, you’re right. Twenty-three-year Key Biscayne resident Maria Erhardt says she and her friend Miriam Mengotti will never forget the trip. “If I had to use one word to describe this experience, it would be ‘uplifting,’” says Erhardt. Mengotti, agrees. “The people there are happy and content even though they barely have their basic needs covered,” she says. “The inexplicable energy of the Andes makes this place magical.”
Another participant says that she, too, was touched by the area. “I remember children peering curiously out of the entrance of their mud-brick homes with their round, ruddy, rosy-cheeked faces to get a peek at the outsiders who enter their village,” says Jacqueline Sanchez-Volny, a Peruvian native who was one of the Key Biscayne residents on the trip. “Some glance shyly at the strangers, others eagerly bolt into the dusty road anticipating a gift of candy or goods.”
“This wasn’t your typical sipping-margaritas-by-the-pool kind of trip,” says Juan Zubillaga who took the trip with his wife and son. “It was a grueling four-day hike up and down the Andes ranging from 7,000 to 12,000 feet in altitude. The experience left us with a high sense of achievement, a few thousand mosquito bites and enough memories to last a lifetime.”

If you imagine India to be the polished perfection you see in some of the Bollywood movies you’ve stumbled upon on Netflix, you’d better think again. Key Biscayne resident Ruth Rosenwasser began organizing deluxe tours to India in 1999 while she was teaching at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. “I had been traveling to India for 13 years and everyone used to say they wanted to join me on my next trip,” she says. “I had 27 people on my first tour and I’ve been taking university and private groups to the country ever since.”
So of all the destinations in the world, why India? “India’s contemporary art scene is really taking off,” says Rosenwasser. “Auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s have shown that prices are going up on the old Indian masters such as Raza, Husain, Hebber and Souza, but there are still reasonably priced works in the galleries by newer artists.” But there’s more to see in India than just the art, this place has become an unofficial shopping mecca in its own right. “Aside from pashina shawls and embroidered shirts, India’s designers are producing styles that cross cultures,” says Rosenwasser. “Names like Rohit Bal, Tarun Talhiliani and Vijay Lakshmi are available in chic boutiques in all of the major cities. Some of my friends say that they don’t know what they wore before going to India!”
And its that sort of personal touch that sets Rosenwasser’s trips apart from all the rest. “What I try to do through my tour lectures is to make people more than just tourists who collect a lot of photos of monuments,” she says. “I bring the group to the outstanding homes of my friends who treat them as special guests,” she says. “The warm reception they receive is a highlight of the tour. Viewing these private art collections and being hosted for dinners in gorgeous surroundings are opportunities that most commercial tour groups miss.”
And, adds Rosenwasser, there are several other worthwhile stops during her deluxe tours to India. “Each city has a special flavor and is selected because of whatever high-interest site is located there,” she says, mentioning that besides the essential stops at the Taj Mahal and other popular tourists areas, her group often arrives to off-the-beaten-path destinations on elephants and have even attended evening prayer sessions at active temples. “What I tell people when they ask me about India is that they have to see it to believe it,” she continues. “I take pride in the fact that I can make this very different country come alive through my knowledge, enthusiasm, personal contacts and love of the country and its people.”