Welcome to our European Experiences website! We’re Kathy and Charley Wood, passionate European travelers and the founders of European Experiences.
For the first part of our careers, we worked in the corporate world. Kathy spent 25+ years as a Human Resources executive, and Charley spent most of his career in sales. We discovered European travel on our honeymoon trip, and it’s changed our lives. In Europe we’ve found everything we enjoy, in the most beautiful places we’d ever imagined. Now we love sharing the special places we’ve discovered in Europe with others. Although we sure didn’t plan it this way, we think our earlier career experiences gave us just the right skills for organizing trips and working with many different kinds of people.
In the past 30 years we’ve made over 60 trips to Europe. One trip was more than a year, and during the last 18 years (until the “pandemic” year) we’ve been able to spend all or most of each summer in Europe. Our travels have taken us to 17 European countries, usually involving the “slow travel” approach of spending a week or more in each place. We’ve especially enjoyed our eleven long-distance walking trips, including a 192-mile walk across England in 2004 and again in 2014. We love the great cities of Europe, but we’re most drawn to the countryside, mountains, and smaller villages… the special places we visit in our European Experiences trips.
After taking a family sabbatical in 2004-2005 to travel and live in Europe for 14 months with our 11-year old daughter, we decided to change direction. We launched our Luberon Experience trips and pursued flexible careers that would enable us to develop and lead trips in Europe several months each year.
At the end of our 2019 season, Charley “mostly” retired from European Experiences; he’s continuing to host our Cornwall and Christmas trips and is involved behind the scenes, but he wanted to spend more time at home to focus on his writing and other projects. He’s now published five books, all available on Amazon in paperback and for the Kindle. His latest book, Struthof: Mountain Hell, is set in Alsace and has a World War II theme. Three of his earlier books are travel mysteries set in places in Europe that we know and love, and areas where we host our groups: A Chateau in Provence, A Villa in Tuscany and A Cottage in the Cotswolds. The Crain Strategy is a political thriller.
After returning from our sabbatical in Europe and in addition to her work with European Experiences, Kathy spent 10 years on the faculty of the business school at the University of Tennessee. She taught international business and human resources. During her time at UT, Kathy developed an expertise in understanding cultural differences and working across cultures. Kathy’s work at UT also enabled her to travel to China and India to learn more about business and culture in these two countries. She took early retirement from UT in June 2016 to focus full-time on European Experiences.
You can learn more about Kathy in these articles:
From Forbes.com: Turning A Passion Into A Boutique Travel Business: Don’t Think, Just Do (October 2022)
Kathy has also been involved on several internet travel sites and taught a popular class in UT’s non-credit program for several years, “Planning Your European Vacation.” You can find a list of Kathy’s online European travel articles and trip reports here.
Our first Luberon Experience trips were in September 2006, and we’ve since welcomed 150+ groups to Provence, Tuscany, the Cotswolds, and other special places in Europe. Our groups have enabled us to get to know wonderful people from all over the world, and we’ve formed many lasting friendships.
Many of our early Luberon travelers asked about the possibility of joining us for a similar experience in other parts of Europe that we love. So in 2009 we expanded to include other trips each year and hosted back-to-back weeks in the Salzkammergut of Austria and the Bavarian Alps of Germany. In 2010 we offered The Cotswolds Experience in England for the first time, and in 2011 we introduced The Chianti Experience in Tuscany. We launched The Périgord Experience in the Dordogne in southwest France in 2013 and The Alsace Experience in northeast France in 2016. In November/December 2017 we hosted two groups for The European Christmas Experience, a 12-night trip during the magical holiday season. And in April 2018 we hosted our first Cornwall Experience trip in southwest England. Kathy welcomed our first groups to Puglia in southern Italy in October 2021 and to Normandy in 2023. And then with the addition of Jennifer Dugdale to our team, we introduced other new destinations to our offerings (Mediterranean Provence, the Riviera Hillsides, Paris, Bath, and soon… Morocco.) It’s always fun to prepare for new trips and to share other treasured places with old and new friends.
Although we weren’t able to offer our trips in 2020 or much of 2021 due to the global pandemic, the unexpected time at home was very positive for us. Kathy formed a strong partnership with Jennifer Dugdale, an American expatriate living in Provence with lots of excellent experience leading small groups. Jennifer developed and led several new trips for us beginning in 2022, with great response from our travelers. Beginning in September 2021, Kathy also developed a series for “Virtual European Experiences,” one-hour programs on Zoom, involving Jennifer, other members of the European Experiences team, and our partners in Europe.
In late 2012 we began a new adventure… another dream come true. We now have our own apartment in the heart of the village of Bonnieux, a place we’ve tried to make very special. We can’t be there most of the time, so it’s available for weekly rentals. See our Bonheur en Bonnieux website for photos and information about our apartment… maybe a vacation rental in Provence is right for you.
This is more than just a business for us! We know the needs, expectation and interests of travelers, because we’re travelers too. We truly love sharing special places with others and creating unique experiences, lasting memories, and “best ever” vacations.