Places I Remember with Lea Lane

Private Jets, Yachts, Backpacking: A Traveler's Extraordinary Adventures Around The World

May 24, 2022 Anabela George is a true traveler -- not a tourist -- and has visited over 75 countries in ways as varied as flying private to riding on top of a train. She's hung out with shoe-shine boys and a U.S. president, and enjoyed it all. Season 1 Episode 59
Places I Remember with Lea Lane
Private Jets, Yachts, Backpacking: A Traveler's Extraordinary Adventures Around The World
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Anabela George, born in Lisbon and living in California, has traveled to over 75 countries. She's one of those bold, passionate travelers we love talking with on Places I Remember.  Anabela has experienced  travels at all levels, from being a yachtie on both sailing and motor yachts, to a backpacker riding the rails on top of a train in Ecuador, to being a corporate flight attendant on a private jet.

Along the way we meet crew members to presidents, and share adventures in places including the Virgin Islands, Galapagos Islands, Peru, New Guinea, Tahiti, Indonesia, Australia and more.

And she ends with a favorite memory.
Anabela George, born in Lisbon, Portugal and living in California, has traveled to over 75 countries. She is an avid traveler, and a former travel consultant, who has enjoyed both luxury and basic experiences around the world.  She enjoys photographing and writing about her personal journeys to inspire others to travel near and far, and seek out the beauty in our world. Her blog:
Podcast host Lea Lane blogs at, has traveled to over 100 countries, written nine books, including Places I Remember, and contributed to many guidebooks.

Contact Lea 
@lealane on Twitter; PlacesIRememberLeaLane on Insta; on  Facebook, it's Places I Remember with Lea Lane. Website:

New episodes drop every other week, on Tuesdays. Please tell your friends, family and colleagues about us, and follow, rate and review this award-winning travel podcast!

Edited for clarity

Lea Lane  0:06  
Hi, I'm Lea Lane, an award winning travel writer and author of Places I Remember: Tales, Truths, Delights  from 100 countries. On this podcast we share conversations with travelers about fascinating destinations and memorable experiences around the world. 

Have you ever dreamed of sailing the world on a private yacht? Or flying in a private jet from country to country wherever and whenever you wanted to go? Or how about traveling the world independently as a backpacker, for months and years at a time from continent to continent. Our guest on this episode did all of these things and we'll be sharing her extraordinary memories. Anabela George, born in Lisbon, Portugal and brought up in California has had a passion for travel since she was a child. And she's traveled to over 75 countries. Welcome Anabela to places I remember.

Anabela George 1:03  
Well, thank you for having me.

Lea Lane  1:06  
We'll start with graduating from university. Your wanderlust compelled you to explore the world as a crew member in the private yachting industry. How did that start?

Anabela George  1:16  
I graduated from college and my roommate and I decided to go to the US Virgin Islands to St. Thomas on vacation. And that  was my introduction to the yachting industry. Coming from the Central Valley of California, I had no idea that this world existed out there. And I was fascinated. I really wanted to number one, learn how to sail. And number two, learn how to dive.

Lea Lane  1:45  
Well that is one way to do it -- from a yacht. Exactly,

Anabela George  1:49  
Exactly. So I became determined to get on one of these sailing yachts and learn how to sail. The diving didn't quite work out. I couldn't equalize the pressure in my ears. But I resigned myself to snorkeling which I still absolutely love. Oh, absolutely.

Lea Lane  2:05  
Yeah, snorkeling is one of the best things you could possibly do when you travel. I've done it all over the world as well. It's wonderful. Let me just ask you, I watch a show called Below Deck Yeah, I see the way the yachties talk about the guests and so forth. And the way it is, you know, relationships tell me what it's like to be a yachtie.

Anabela George  2:27  
Well, this was you know, quite a long time ago. So things were a lot different. A lot of people didn't know about yachting back then. But there are some similarities I have to say. And I worked both in sailing and motor yachts. There are similarities, the drama that goes on. And as a matter of fact it was really tough to find the perfect yacht to work on because you want a great yacht, a great captain, a great itinerary, great crew. And to have all those elements coming together was not easy. I think I finally got that on my last boat that I worked on and we call them boats. We didn't go around saying yacht we just call them boats back then.

Lea Lane  3:13  
How big was the boat? 

Anabela George  3:15  
I initially worked on sailing yachts that were approximately 65 feet.

Lea Lane  3:23  
And were these owned by private people, or were they chartered by people?

Anabela George  3:27  
They were owned by private people.

Lea Lane  3:32  
So you had different guests coming if you have different guests on board?

Anabela George  3:35  
So those were my sailing yacht days, then I moved on to motor yachts, which was different and they're more crew and more drama. Yes, there were relationships on board. And there were strange, strange guests story.

Lea Lane  3:54  
Tell us one. What would the one that you remember?

Anabela George  3:57  
We were in Nantucket, once waiting for a charter guest and his family. He was an owner of a major football team. And we waited and waited. And for three days we were waiting in Nantucket for this gentleman and his family to arrive. Can you imagine you're renting a boat for chartering a boat for 1000s of dollars, and you're not there? Did he ever come? He finally did show up, and his very young wife who was the same age as his daughters. And no judgment. Well, maybe a little bit.

Lea Lane  4:39  
Well, it's his trip to enjoy. Right?

Anabela George  4:43  
Exactly, exactly. But he had this peculiarity in that he did not like any noise whatsoever. No noise; every little noise offended him. And we the crew have to get up earlier than that. So of course to prepare breakfast and you know, wash the boat, do all of the things that crew members on yachts do, and all of that work. It is a lot of work. It's very demanding, physically, emotionally, mentally in every way, and you get very little sleep. But this gentleman did not want us doing anything. And it progressed. Like each day, we started doing less and less, and we have to wait until they woke up to be able to do our chores.

Lea Lane  5:30  
The guests from hell?

Anabela George 5:33  
Yes. And then there was a huge drama between the wife and the daughter. 

Lea Lane  5:39  
This sounds like an episode of. Well, that's enough. I'm sure many of them were not as memorable and we're good. And one of your cruises, you went from Newport to the Caribbean in December. What was that one like?

Anabela George  5:55  
Oh, that was cold. The owners were refurbishing the aft cabin. And there had been a lot of delays. And we had tried departing a week earlier and ran into some really bad weather and had some maintenance issues; we had to return to Newport to get that fixed. So it ended up that we didn't leave until like the second week of December also, which was really cold; there was ice on deck. We had to wear the little heating things that go into your boots and in your hands because it was so cold. And the weather was really bad. We had we saw 20 foot swells. And I tell you Antarctica, when we were in the trough, those swells look like mountains around us. It was spectacular. Scary. But you didn't have time to be scared. You were a crew member. You were trained for that. I think everyone got sick. And I never believe anyone who doesn't who says they never get sick, because I've seen the best of them get sick.

Lea Lane  7:06  
And that kind of weather. Yes. Now you also mentioned about the horse latitudes. What are the horse latitudes? And what's that like to be swimming in the middle of the Atlantic with 1000s of feet of water below you?

Anabela George  7:17  
We were south of Bermuda. And the water was dead calm, dead calm. So we all decided to go swimming. Just jump in the middle of the Atlantic. And of course, one person staying on board because we had heard horror stories of, you know, ever

Lea Lane  7:36  
going overboard. That movie. I remember where people were left, and they literally stuck in the middle of the ....

Anabela George  7:42  
Right. Yeah. And so one person stayed on board, it was just wild to think that there were 1000s of feet underwater, as we were swimming. The other cool thing about the horse latitudes were that at night when we were on watch, you couldn't distinguish the sky from the sea. You could not see the horizon, but it was spectacularly beautiful. And something I'll always remember.

Lea Lane  8:09  
Yeah. Those are the memories -- the scenic things like the Northern Lights. Now how about the Galapagos, you went there. That's one of the places everybody wants to go, what was that like to go on a yacht?

Anabela George  8:21  
That was amazing. That was on the same boat. We did the charter season in the Caribbean. And then we hired two crew members to accompany us for the passage to the Panama Canal, where we picked up our boss, his wife, daughter and nanny. So we had the two crew members. And then so we were actually on an expedition. Our boss had arranged for a lab in Maine, where he had a home to take water samples in the Galapagos. And we ended up hiring an Australian gentleman that we had taken on as crew to take the water samples because he was actually a marine biologist. So we had all these people on this small boat. This was a 52-foot sailing yacht, so not the biggest. So we sailed to the Galapagos and on the way to the Galapagos, we lost our refrigeration, we had to throw all of the perishables away. And I who had been hired as the chef cook on board, I had just learned how to cook. I had like a repertoire of like, 10 different meals that I could actually cook. And now, I was so stressed out because I was going to have to reprovision the boat in Puerto Roya I believe it was called in Santa Cruz Island, and where there was meat hanging from the stalls and so forth. I look back at some of these things. And I think 'How did I manage to do that?'.

Lea Lane  9:54  
We all do that. How did I do that? Well, there was always peanut butter and jelly, but I guess that wouldn't pass right? 

Anabela George 10:02  
What was wonderful about it is because we were on an actual expedition, we were able to cruise on our own boat around the islands, which most couldn't do. And we had a naturalist on board and I as crew member was very grateful that the owners allowed us to go on most of the excursions that we went, you know, basically, all the way around the main islands. I remember climbing up St. Bartholomew, and taking just the magnificent, beautiful landscape. And it was a wondrous trip of a lifetime. Really.

Lea Lane  10:40  
One of the things I always tell people, if they're going to the Galapagos try to get on the smallest boat, you can because you don't want to get on with a lot of people because the animals may not be quite as friendly or it's just a different feeling. And I was with seven people, I was very lucky. But some boats are 80 people. And I think if I were going to go I'd try real hard to get  as few as possible for that project.

Anabela George 11:06  
I completely agree with you. Also, I'm an animal lover, and I would hate the idea of scaring the animals with so many people around, you know, wonderful to see the blue footed boobies and we had, you know, our little small group, you had the males and the females and I can't remember, one of them honked and the other one whistled or something.

Lea Lane  11:27  
I guess they do dance like Fred.

Anabela George  11:30  
Yes, yes. The animals are spectacular. 

Lea Lane  11:35  
You also sailed across the Atlantic twice, you went to the Azores from Bermuda and Antigua, you sailed through islands with a full moon you told me, listening to Pink Floyd, and there were jellyfish floating all around you -- huge numbers of them -- and dolphin swimming toward you. Sounds delightful. But what about motor yachting? That's a little different. Tell us a story about your experiences; What's the difference you feel motor yachting, to sailing,

Anabela George  12:04  
Sailing: you're out there with the elements and you are embracing nature and you're so much closer to literally and figuratively the sea. And that's what I really loved about it. On motor yachts it's a completely different feeling. I mean, you're still  out there with the elements if you're working on deck and so forth. But it's more of like a, hotel feeling. And as far as being a crew member, when you're a crew member on a sailing yacht, you wear all different hats. And when you're a crew member on motor yacht, those of you who watch Below Deck know, there's different departments and you're pretty much stuck with your role. However, I really loved being on deck and the captains with whom I worked, knew that, and knew that I was capable, and gave me a lot of opportunities to work on deck, which I really appreciated.

Lea Lane  13:06  
Well, it sounds fantastic. But later you went from boating to backpacking all over the world. You gave me some notes about some of the things you did. I'll just go over a few of them: You. went from Ecuador to Peru, you sat on the top of the train in Ecuador. How long were you on the top of the train? Was it moving?

Anabela George  13:26  
It was like all day it Oh, yeah, we went from Guayaquil. it wasn't that dangerous just sitting on the top of the train.

Lea Lane  13:34  
Yeah, it was.

Anabela George  13:39  
That's when I was backpacking through South America and many other places; it was on a budget. So I would go from these, you know, five star yachts to being on a quintessential Lonely Planet, backpackers budget shoestring budget. Real travel

Lea Lane  13:59  
And that's what a real traveler can do. Just adapt.

Anabela George 14:03  
Exactly. You have to be very adaptable. And so I had met these other friends staying in Quito, Ecuador, and we decided to take this trip on steam trains. And that's what the locals were doing. They would sit I mean, these were crowded trains of course, and people would sit on top and we thought that's cool. You know, we want to do that. And so we sat on top and all these kids joined us and these shoeshine boys and we had a wonderful time with them and kind of at the end they were like all sleeping like on our laps and cuddling them. And even though I was wearing Tivas, I had them shine my shoes anyway.

Lea Lane  14:46  
I just think about ducking under the tunnel. That's the thing that would scare me. You have to keep ahead, right?

Anabela George  14:53  
That was very concerning. Yep. Yeah, we got down and when we got to our destination, the hotel, the water wasn't working. 

Lea Lane  15:06  
So oh my goodness, this is the opposite of five star. Yeah. Well wait, in Brazil in Rio, there was an attempted robbery with four men and what did you do to stave them off?

Anabela George  15:18  
Okay, so, in Brazil in Rio, they had these buses, I don't know if it's still the same, but they had these buses where you enter through the back, and there's a turnstile that you go through. Now, I wasn't carrying much cash with me. I had a money belt. And then I had a little pocket with money. You know, those little traveler's check holders that we used to have. I had some notes in there in my pocket. Well, there were four men behind me and they were sounding really impatient and stuff. And they thought I was going to be passing the turnstile when they pickpocketed me. And I wasn't, I was mid turnstiles. I was able to go back. And this is probably not the best idea. But I went and fought for my money. And they robbed my little pocket thing. And there was money, like flying everywhere. And he was gathering money. I was gathering money. Now there's four men started coming towards me. And I kicked him with my flat foot where the sun don't shine, right where it counts. And it worked.

Lea Lane  16:34  
Well, you're gutsy, I would say you're ballsy. That's good. Anyway, you got past that one. He was. So you had other experiences there. You went to Southeast Asia, you swim with whale sharks, and whales. I mean, went on to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, and then to Nepal. And India. I mean, you you really had seen the world by then. But how did you get into private aviation to become a flight attendant for a wealthy family?

Anabela George  17:04  
Just how did that happen? Well, it was kind of a natural progression from  private yachting, I had heard of other people who had transitioned from private yachting to private aviation, and not many, but there were a few and it intrigued me because hey, I could get there faster. I've always loved flying. And it was something that would combine my three major interests of travel, flying and food and wine. What happened was, I was in a transition period, I happened to meet a woman who worked for the same family of one of the motor yachts that I had worked for. And we ended up meeting and she interviewed me. And I was basically immediately hired to because she's like, "If you can work for this family, you can work on this airplane, and I'll show you how," and she was my mentor. 

Lea Lane  17:59  
And what did you have to do? What was the difference between being a flight attendant on a private jet and being a commercial flight attendant?

Anabela George  18:06  
Well, thank you for asking that. Because there's such a major difference, being a flight attendant;  most of us know what a flight attendant does on commercial jets. But a flight attendant on a private jet is more like a manager. I don't like using that word, because it's more you're a manager of the interior of the airplane and you do everything from provisioning, to catering to serving to whatever the boss wants you to do. You wear many different hats. You go shopping when they're off the airplane, and you're waiting for them. If there's an emergency, of course, you have to handle the emergency I went to training at the Gulfstream facility on several occasions.

Lea Lane  18:52  
Any emergencies while you were flying?

Anabela George  18:54  
We were just taking off from Doha, Qatar, and at about 30,000 feet when the front left windshield of the cockpit cracked. And fortunately, well, I don't know, fortunately, but we had had a similar situation just a few months back and I had learned not that it's not a big deal. But there's actually two windshields, so we weren't going to decompress at that particular time. However, all regulated. Yeah, exactly. All regulations are that you must land and get that fixed ASAP, of course.

Lea Lane  19:32  
So one of the things is when you fly private, you can go whenever you want, wherever you want. So I'm sure you went went all over the place at a moment's notice. I would gather and that was probably challenging for you, but very exciting. So you got to do wonderful things. 

Anabela George  19:49  
Yes, I did. We did get to do wonderful things. We accompanied the flight attendants, and there were two of us that swapped accompany the airplane for two weeks out of the month. So, not exactly two weeks. It depended on what the logistical situation was. Sometimes we flew to meet the the airplane.

Lea Lane  20:12  
You stayed for a month in Tahiti, can you tell me what what was that like? Yes.

Anabela George  20:16  
So the boss had a yacht. 

Lea Lane  20:20  
Oh my goodness back to yachting. Yeah. 

Anabela George 20:23  
The boss had a yacht. So we used to take his family to meet up with the yacht; they were really into diving. We actually dropped them off in the Marquezas and then repositioned to Tahiti, and they made it to Tahiti. And then they were going in and out of Tahiti to the different islands. And while they were in Tahiti, we would run errands for them and wear different hats. And we also had a lot of fun while we were.

Lea Lane  20:50  
I would guess you did something called Muck diving in Indonesia. What is Muck diving?

Anabela George  20:58  
Right, right mucked up, like diving. And unfortunately, I couldn't dive myself but I did accompany the divers and muck diving, there are these fish at the bottom of the sea that actually they can walk. It's the strangest thing. But it was really interesting. We had actually a National Geographic photographer there where we were staying.

Lea Lane  21:22  
So you also had an interesting and very dangerous situation in Papua New Guinea. While the family was diving off one of the islands, you got an emergency call that the divemaster was suffering from the bends. And you needed to take him to Australia to the nearest decompression chamber. Did you accomplish that?

Anabela George 21:43  
We did we get the call at night, but we could not land on the island at nighttime. So we had to wait till early in the morning to fly out to this place. And we we got the divemaster and we flew at a low altitude to Townsville, Australia. And so he ended up being okay, but yeah, those are the kinds of situations that we ran into once in a while. 

Lea Lane  22:11  
Now I'm sure there were celebrities aboard or one that interested me was a former president George HW Bush and his wife Barbara, can you tell us something about traveling with them?

Anabela George 22:21  
They were just the most gracious people. They were so wonderful. And of course, they came with all of their Secret Service; the Secret Service kind of sat in the back. And it was only me, I mean, taking care of all of these people. But they were gracious and you know, very complimentary of the service and the food that was offered. Barbara, Mrs. Barbara Bush, she was so cute. One time we landed in the Bahamas, and there was a red carpet and all these people waiting for them. And she was the last to leave the airplane. And she looks at me and she says"Do I  look okay? Oh my gosh, you look fantastic. Her humility was heartwarming. 

Lea Lane  23:08  
Nice. Nice to hear that. I know you went to St. Petersburg, Russian; had a request for a lot of caviar. What did the taxi driver think when you  came back with all the caviar? 

Anabela George  23:20  
Oh my gosh, yeah. So that was something. I got this request. As as it happened many times at the last minute the night before, like at one o'clock in the morning. So we had to arrange it in the morning for this taxi driver to take me to get all this caviar. When we got back he says to me, "I have to ask you a question. Is this for President Putin?".

Lea Lane  23:42  
Oh, my, from one type of President to another segue -- I think we'll end on that one. But okay, the name of the podcast, Anabela is Places I Remember. So please share with us one more special memory of your world travels.

Anabela George  24:00  
One of my most special memories is being at Machu Picchu with my husband Ashton. We did watch sunrise from Machu Picchu. And that's one of my most memorable moments.

Lea Lane  24:13  
Very interesting. I've had at least three guests who have mentioned Machu Picchu as a memorable experience. So yes, I hope everyone gets to do that. It's a wonderful thing to do at sunrise. Exactly before the crowds.

Anabela George  24:28  
Yes. And as a photographer, photographing it at the different times as the light was changing was just spectacular. We actually waited for a couple hours and I just kept photographing, and I'll never forget that moment.

Lea Lane  24:41  
Well, I hope you write a book with photos because your stories are amazing, and there are many more of them. And I think your photos are probably amazing too. So we will look for that in the future. But meanwhile, may you keep traveling and finding new adventures for yourself and for others. Sharing your passion for the World, and may we all follow your lead in our own ways, and someday maybe fly private. Thank you.

Anabela George  25:07  
Well, thank you so much for having me. It's been a pleasure to speak with you,

Lea Lane  25:12  
Same here. My book Places I Remember: Tales, Truths Delights from 100 countries is available in print, Kindle, and I read the audio version. You can follow me on where I write five travel posts a month. Please subscribe to this podcast and consider giving us a review. And I'd love to hear from you on any of my links in the episode's show notes or on my website, Until next time, make some travel memories.

Transcribed by

Yachtie Tales, on sailing and motor yachts in the Caribbean, Nantucket, Bermuda, The Panama Canal, The Galapagos, The Azores
Backpacking tales in South America, SE Asia, Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, Nepal and India
Private jet tales -- flight attendant for a wealthy family around the world, including Qatar, Tahiti, Indonesia, New Guinea, Australia, Russia -- and passengers, such as a U.S. president
Final memory -- Machu Picchu