A 'maven' (from the Yiddish word 'mevyn') is a person with a deep understanding of a particular subject built up through many years of practical experience, unlike an 'expert' who typically has formal training in their field.
Mavens are the people you turn to for advice, whether it relates to cars, fashion, computers, musical instruments or travel. In recent years, the term gained much exposure when Malcolm Gladwell explored it at length in his book 'The Tipping Point'.
Barry Devolin's first passion has always been travel. He made his first trip to Europe when he was 15, and has subsequently visited more than 40 countries (does East Germany still count?), 49 American states and 12 Canadian provinces & territories.
In 2015, Barry and his wife Ursula took their kids George and Molly (13 & 11 at the time) on a six month backpacking tour around the world. They visited 19 countries, took 17 flights and stayed in more than 40 places in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Australia. Barry planned every step and stop and, at the time, believed that trip would be the magnum opus of his travel planning life.
In 2018, after a long and successful career in government and academia, Barry launched a new career in the travel industry. His goal is to share his love of travel with everyone he meets, and to show them that it is possible to have amazing travel experiences at affordable prices.
To this end, most of the tours Barry offers are small group walking tours of Great Cities, usually staying in one hotel in one city for one week, or two hotels in two cities for two weeks. Christmas Markets is a little different, as we explore several smaller cities. Kruger Safari is unique, as we spend all our time in nature’s splendour. During the summer, Barry is also the Brand Manager of the DeLuxe Hiking division of DeNureTours, which specializes in full-service hiking tours across Canada.
BarryTravelMaven is an affiliate of and receives booking services from DeNure Tours, where it is licensed and insured under TICO (Travel Industry Council of Ontario).
We love to spend a whole week in our Great Cities. Rather than rushing past Instagram sites, we enjoy slowing down and savouring these amazing archives of history and harbingers of emerging trends.
We believe that small groups of 6-12 travellers offer the "sweet spot” for walking tours of Great Cities: big enough to have others to share experiences, yet small enough to get personal attention and enjoy flexible plans.
We believe the best way to see Great Cities is on foot. That's why we typically leave our hotel about 9 o'clock with walking shoes and daypacks, ready to explore the streets and fully immerse ourselves in that moment and place.
TravelMaven's combination of flexibility, free time and optional meals makes our small group tours perfect for solo travellers. We keep our Single Room Charge as low as possible, and are also happy to help find roommates.
Packing and unpacking, and moving from hotel to hotel takes time and energy. Nobody likes to be told "bags outside your door at 7 am". That's why we carefully select central hubs and stay longer in as few hotels as possible.
Our tours include “a la carte” days when guests get a chance to do something they may have always dreamed about. Helicopter ride in Cape Town? Jazz club in Paris? Turkish bath in Istanbul? Bike tour in Holland? No problem!
One big advantage of small groups is we can be spontaneous. For example, we can add things (like an unexpected gallery or cafe) at the last moment. There’s also lots of free time to relax at the hotel or hang out in a special place.
We prefer simplicity to complexity, and have found that less is often better than more. That’s why we like to immerse ourselves in Great Cities and savour special moments to the fullest, rather than making a whirlwind tour.
TravelMaven’s offerings fall into the middle of the price range for walking tours, but offer excellent value due to their maximum size of 12 travellers, personalized service and convenient central hotel locations in these Great Cities.
TravelMaven tours are based on the belief that simplicity is better than complexity, that less is often better than more. For example, taking just one flight, going to just one destination, and staying in just one hotel for one week is much simpler (and dare we say more enjoyable) than a whirlwind tour.
For practical reasons, it isn't always possible to limit our tours to one week, one flight or one hotel. However, our goal is always to have fewer rather than more. For example, our one week tours use one or two hotels. Our two week tours use two, or possibly three hotels.
Some of you may remember the 1969 comedy farce "If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium". That film was based on the crazy idea (common at that time) that all of Europe could be seen in just a couple of weeks. ("Visit 7 countries and fly real low over 3 more!") Unfortunately, more than a few tours are still organized in this way.
Today, many experienced travellers are embracing the idea of "slow travel", taking their time and savouring the places they visit. The TravelMaven philosophy is built on this principle, and on the understanding that one or two weeks is plenty of time to explore and experience one or two places.
While we can appreciate why some people take the "we won't be back so we want to see it all" approach, that's not how we organize our tours. TravelMaven doesn’t offer “see a bit of everything” tours. Rather, we prefer to take a deeper dive and experience one or two places really well.
We know we cannot be all things to all people, and if we were to try, it wouldn’t work. For example, while some folks love huge hotels with tons of facilities, we lean towards smaller and often older hotels in walkable areas of historic cities. Hey, in Las Vegas and the Caribbean, we love mega-hotels too, but not in Paris or New York City.
A few years ago, while walking along the street in southern Thailand, I pointed out a restaurant to my son. Their sign said Thai, Chinese, American, Italian & Russian Cuisine. I told George “Try to avoid places like that”, and I think even a 15 year old boy understood why.
Anyway, TravelMaven doesn’t do fast-paced, action-packed vacations (other than our Kruger Safari for families during the March Break). However, we are always happy to direct people towards operators that specialize in other kinds of tours.