Featured photos: Left to right, top to bottom: Totems in Ketchikan, Alaska; David Ingram in Alaska; Debbie Ingram in Alaska; kayaking with a beluga whale; Christmas market in Strasbourg, Germany; Castle Hill Lighthouse in Rhode Island; Multnomah Falls in Oregon; whale watching.
By Blake Hicks
“I had never been fishing, but by the end of the day, I was standing there in the river, fly fishing with everyone else,” Debbie Ingram (Chattanooga ’84, Knoxville ’94) says, recalling a last-minute excursion that she and her husband, David Ingram (Knoxville ’77), booked during a UT Alumni Association Alaska cruise in 2019.
After weather cancelled their previous plans, the Ingrams went searching for an adventure. They found an off-the-grid experience through a local Inuit guide and fisherman who taught them how to fly fish, showed them the Alaskan rainforest and shared the history of the region.
An often-overlooked benefit of being a graduate of the University of Tennessee is the opportunity to take a trip of a lifetime through the UT Alumni Association tours and travel program. Offering a world of discoveries, travelers can experience the sights and sounds of international expeditions as well as adventures that lie within the United States.
Travelers can get amazingly close to beluga whales during the Animals of the Arctic expedition and spot polar bears roaming the shoreline of Churchill, Manitoba. Alumni can revel in la dolce vita—the joyful celebration of food, friends and life while touring Northern Italy and join cooking classes with locals who share their families’ histories and recipes. They can explore enchanting holiday markets and stroll through medieval towns in Germany and France on a Rhine River cruise or travel by train to experience the scenery of the Grand Canyon National Park and the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona.
Far from the run-of-the-mill travel packages, UTAA’s travel program provides customized, well-rounded experiences for alumni.
“The tour guides, including the local guides, were excellent, and the hotels were top-notch,” Howard (Knoxville ’69) and Janice Rosser (Knoxville ’70) say of their trip through the Cotswolds, Oxford and Cambridge in England. “We enjoyed staying multiple nights at each location and having free time to explore.”
The Ingrams have experienced a multitude of unusual quests with the UTAA travel program. Their adventurous spirits have led them to Alaska, to a view of the Matterhorn from gondolas in Switzerland, the Amsterdam garden and bedroom that inspired Van Gogh, and the road where the Grand Prix was being set up in Monaco.
Travelers also find a built-in community. While traveling through Western Ireland, Delores Barr (Knoxville ’64) says, “The individuals in this group were friendly, gracious and connected with each other. The eating in a pub one evening was memorable and a good time had by all.”
Others have identified the company as a perk of the travel.
“We like to socialize when we travel, so it’s great knowing that there are like-minded people from UT because you make new friends who you might see again at football games or alumni events, and it’s a great common ground to break the ice,” says Debbie Ingram.
“There was a great team leading the trip and (we were) fortunate to have 39 outstanding travel companions,” says Kenneth Stewart (Health Science Center ’72), recalling his trip through Utah’s national parks. “My favorite stops were Antelope Canyon near Glen Canyon and Zion National Park.”
The Ingrams travel under the belief that confidence is key.
“Utilizing the UTAA program helps with confidence because it’s hard to go into a country where you don’t speak the language or know the way of the land,” Debbie Ingram says. “These trips are already planned, and (the tour companies) have picked the highlight of what you want to see, but you can still branch out on your own.”
“It’s classy, well-organized and no surprises,” David adds.
With a UTAA trip to South Africa on the books, the Ingrams have no plans of slowing down.
When asked what he would say to someone considering going with them, David says, “Just do it because you won’t regret it.”
Traveling with the UTAA tours and travel program creates a sense of connection with UT while exploring the world. When ready to book an adventure, start the journey at utaaconnect.com/tours.