Finding Life Anew,
Under the Santa Fe Sky

Posted by Mary-Frances Walsh on 6/20/2013
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Travel, USA, Food, Solo Travel

What does it take to pull up roots – after 28 years – to move someplace new, all on your own? “Guts,” say some. “Really?” asked others. “Some are impressed, some are surprised and some are envious.” One daughter never believed she’d do it; the other said, “Sounds nice. Why not?”

Meet Jean Liska, a self-proclaimed “Tauckie” who began life afresh after relocating from Albany, New York, to Santa Fe, New Mexico – a city and lifestyle she fell in love with in 2003 on her first Tauck tour. Although long fascinated by Native American culture, she had never been to the Southwest; the tour was her first experience of the “Land of Enchantment.”  

Jean’s interest in travel began to emerge several years after the death of her husband, whose academic career had led to their settling in upstate New York. Newly on her own – her daughters were grown – she took time to put her life and home in order. When she felt ready to pursue new interests, a travel agent suggested a Tauck tour as “the absolute best.”

Santa Fe TravelAlthough “independent by nature,” Jean decided to give Tauck a try based on the agent’s recommendation. When she arrived in New Mexico, she says, “I was in heaven. Some people ask how I could love a landscape that’s ‘all brown,’ but I see New Mexico’s wide-open sky – having come from the land of tall trees.”

Before making her move Jean traveled a second time to New Mexico, and a year after that
rented an apartment for a stay on Santa Fe’s Canyon Road – home to 100+ world-class art galleries within a mile-long stretch. A year later, back in Albany, she sold “everything but a few
of my grandmother’s antiques” and made her move to Santa Fe with a clean slate. “I’ve never looked back.”

Santa Fe TravelWhy Santa Fe? “It’s a cultural mecca: Mexican, Hispanic, Spanish, Native American, Anglo… and it works! There are museums, restaurants, ballet, flamenco, and opera. There’s a year-round farmers markets (offering fresh, locally grown vegetables, fruits and plants); an artisan market with pottery, paintings, jewelry, photography, weaving and more; an annual folk art market that attracts artists from around the world (and where she has volunteered as an assistant to visiting artists from abroad). It’s an incredibly appealing city of 70,000 people, a vibrant place.”

Best of all, for someSanta Fe Travelone who has always loved to cook, is the Santa Fe School of Cooking, which she first discovered on her Tauck tour. Created and nurtured by a local mother and daughter team, the school focuses on the techniques and flavors of Santa Fe regional cuisine with classes taught by some of the best local chefs. Three-hour classes range from introducing classic southwestern dishes like tacos, salsas and red chile to recipes personally inspired by the painter, Georgia O’Keeffe, and a fascinating look at Native American culture and food. Classes are not only entertaining, but include a full meal.

“The school really drew me in,” says Jean, who began taking classes there – “lots of them,” as a way to help with getting settled in Santa Fe. “Because when you get involved in activities that you like, you automatically make friends.” Eventually, she brought her resume in to the school’s owners, hoping to draw upon her experience as a reference librarian and working seasonally creating gourmet food and wine baskets. Today, you might find Jean helping out as the school’s only volunteer, during a Tauck group visit in its “fabulous new space” near the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

Why a “Tauckie?” Jean says that from her very first Tauck tour, “I was blown away by the Tauck style. First, when you talk to a Tauck representative on the phone, they know what they’re talking about. Second, the tours are a matter of precision work from the time you are met at the airport. Third, Tauck Directors are not only extremely knowledgeable but also passionate about what they do. There is simply no other tour company I want to travel with.”

Jean is passionate about Santa Fe and New Mexico and the doors opened to her through travel and volunteering. Moving here has given her family an interesting new place to come for visits; volunteering has meant meeting “all kinds of new people;” and travel has brought new friends – including her simpatico travel companion, Luisa – met on a Tauck tour. In 2014, they’re planning to travel together once again on Yosemite & Sequoia: John Muir’s California, Jean’s seventh Tauck tour.      
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