When Jacqui Lewis was diagnosed with a rare cancer last year, she took the passion and drive she brought into her career as a successful executive in the travel industry to create a foundation to raise money for cancer research, trials and new treatments. “It’s not true that cancers that are considered rare make up 22 percent of cancers, but only get 3 percent of cancers.” [research] funding,” said Lewis, 55, who has stage 4 cholangiocarcinoma, also known as bile duct cancer. She started a nonprofit foundation called The Rare Initiative (therareinitiative.com) and to date has raised nearly $460,000 — raising more than $1 million — for the Henri and Belinda Termeer Center for Targeted Therapies at Massachusetts General Hospital. Lewis, who started her own travel company selling travel packages for college students as a student at Penn State, went on to found several successful travel companies and is now president and general manager of the US division of UK-based Audley Travel, which specializes in tailor-made itineraries. We spoke to the Philadelphia native, who lives in Marblehead with her two children, Evan, 18, and Anjelica, 16, and their “psychotic” Pomeranian, Cali, to talk about all things travel.
Favorite holiday destination?
Having worked in the travel industry for 35 years, I am fortunate to have traveled extensively and around the world. I would have to say Botswana with my two kids was the best so far. It’s a rare gift to experience something all together for the first time, and great for my kids to learn about the conservation work being done in the country as well as the plight many countries face regarding poaching and hunting. big game, which is clearly something we could never support. Safari is the ultimate age regulator – it doesn’t matter if you’re 15 or 50 and see the “Big Five” [lion, leopard, black rhinoceros, African bush elephant, and the African buffalo] for the first time in the wild, everyone turns into a wide-eyed child.
Favorite food or drink during your vacation?
It depends where I am. All bets are off when it comes to dining on vacation. . . like pasta in Italy, seafood by the sea or shaved ice in Hawaii. I enjoy trying local cuisine – usually accompanied by a glass of Burgundy – in restaurants off the tourist track. Although since the treatment it is more likely that it is celery juice.
Where would you like to travel to, but not yet?
Antarctica because it really is something unique – a once-in-a-lifetime experience; like nothing else on earth. We planned to go last year but canceled due to COVID. I hope to be able to go one day if treatment permits.
An item you can’t live without when you travel?
eye mask. Sleep is life.
Aisle or window?
I prefer the window. I don’t have to worry about one side of me hitting the person next to me or getting kicked when others walk down the aisle. I also find that I can sleep against the window, but I’ve mastered sleep everywhere if I travel pretty well over the years.
Favorite childhood travel memory?
My family did not have the means to travel when I was a child. A great road trip was really fun for us. I remember getting into the car with a paper map, driving for hours, playing random games, and listening to music from a cassette tape in the car. Once we got to our destination, it was about the people we met and the experiences we shared together as a family.
Guilty pleasure on a trip?
I like to book a massage when I first arrive to ease some of the travel fatigue and get me ready for my adventure.