Think you know Paula Twidale, executive v.p. at Collette? Think again. Although Paula has met many celebrities, politicians and culturally diverse people during her life working in the travel industry, she says the most interesting person she’s ever met is the one she met on a beach in Grenada. As the USTOA’s first female chairman, as well as the first woman to serve on Collette’s Executive Committee, Paula has broken quite a few glass ceilings during her illustrious career, but it’s her charming and personable personality that really draws you in. Read on to find out which country Paula, who has a degree in sociology, has eaten her way through. 

Where did you go on your first trip and how old were you?

My first road trip was South Carolina with my mom & dad at age 3. It was memorable because my turtle preserver was slipping off in the pool and Dad jumped in fully clothed to rescue me! Shortly thereafter, I learned how to swim.

What is your most vivid travel memory?

Xian seeing the magnificent terracotta warriors underground. I was in awe!

What was the “Aha” moment that led you into the travel industry?

As a young college grad I realized that I could interact with different people and cultures on a daily basis and utilize my social science skills more than behind a desk. That is when I began my airline career with Eastern Airlines. Tour operation and global travel was a natural fit post airline days. Since then, I have visited 41 countries and five continents.

Paula in Sonoma with her husband Gary.
Paula in Sonoma with her husband Gary.

Where did you go on your honeymoon?

St. Thomas because my husband worked for Cunard Cruise and St. Thomas was like a second home for us and we enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere.

What was your favorite trip you took last year and why?

Croatia was a favorite for me last year. I enjoyed Dubrovnik and Zagreb for the history, cuisine and culture but fell in love with Istria. It is a real gem.

Where would you like to go that you have yet to visit?

South Africa! My schedule has not allowed me to visit yet, but it is top of my list of places to experience.

Do you always buy a souvenir the first time you visit a destination?

I buy small souvenirs for my cabinet only if they are unique and depict the culture of the destination. For example, the ox cart from Costa Rica or the saxophone player from New Orleans.

You can tell us—do you collect magnets from the destinations you’ve visited?

I don’t collect magnets, spoons or anything like that- only pictures and memories! I believe in experiencing a destination with all five senses.

What do you do to pass the time on the plane ride to your destination?

I read, work, and watch movies and sleep. A glass of red wine always works to make the ride more enjoyable.

Who is your favorite travel companion?

My husband, because the destination can be shared with the one I love and it personalizes the experience which lasts a lifetime. My 2nd favorite has to be Dana Santucci, Vice Chair of USTOA. She and I traveled to six countries together with the board of USTOA: Chile, Ecuador & Galapagos, Israel, India, Abu Dhabi & Dubai, and Croatia. She is part of my extended family.

If there were one hotel room in the world you could call home the rest of your life, which would it be?

The Taj Palace in India. The suite was enormous, the service was exceptional and the people were so gracious.

If you were a destination, which would it be and why?

Italy, of course! Everyone would love me for my delicious food, smooth wine, culture, art, history and fantastic shopping. What is not to love about me as Italy!

What is the best food you’ve had on a trip? The strangest?

Best food for me is a “toss up” between various pasta dishes or homemade gelato in Italy (since I ate my way through that country). The strangest was in China because I could not describe some of the dishes or the contents I experienced.

What can’t you travel without?

My soft neck pillow and my hand sanitizer.

Who is the most interesting person you’ve met while traveling?

Even though I met many politicians, movie stars and culturally diverse people in my airline days, I would have to say my husband Gary because I met him on a beach in Grenada and married him a year later.

Tropical beach or snowy mountain?

Tropical beach for sure.

City or countryside?

Countryside—especially where my husband was born in England. It is breathtaking and relaxing traveling through the Cotswold’s.