MIR Spotlight: Devin Connolly

MIR Spotlight: Devin Connolly

(Devin Connolly has been with MIR for years, starting in the Seattle office and eventually moving overseas where she has led memorable tours and visited exotic countries, from Mongolia and Iran to Central Asia and Azerbaijan.)

A journey to Russia as a young teenager changed the course of Devin's life <br>Photo credit: Devin Connolly

A journey to Russia as a young teenager changed the course of Devin’s life
Photo credit: Devin Connolly

HELEN: There are often defining moments in our lives that change us forever. What sparked your love for travel?

DEVIN: It was a middle-school trip to Russia in 1993. One of the teachers at my school had spent her Peace Corps stint in the Soviet Union and now that Russia was open to tourists again, she wanted to take a group of kids there. The teacher set up an after school Russian club, which of course I joined (true to form) and she began preparing us for a spring break trip to Russia and Lithuania. We learned a bit of Russian to prepare us for the trip, as well as some Russian songs to sing at an assembly during our visit to a school in St. Petersburg, and at the end of March, off we went to Russia!

Not that long ago, traveling to Russia made 1993 headlines; Devin's in the top row center, wearing white <br>Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Not that long ago, traveling to Russia made 1993 headlines; Devin’s in the top row center, wearing white
Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Old-fashioned grainy photo: Devin with her dad in Moscow on the 1993 middle school trip to Russia <br>Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Old-fashioned grainy photo: Devin with her dad in Moscow on the 1993 middle school trip to Russia
Photo credit: Devin Connolly

To be completely honest, a lot of that trip was lost on me at the time; at the age of 13, I didn’t grasp the greater significance of finally getting to peek behind the Iron Curtain, but something definitely took hold on that trip because as soon as I returned, I knew that I wanted to devote as much time as possible to learning Russian and studying as much as possible about Russian history and culture.

When I got to university, I immediately declared Russian language and literature as my major, and I spent two long stints in St. Petersburg as part of my studies. I’ve had many fleeting interests in my life, but Russia is definitely a permanent obsession!

A Russian friend painted this picture of Devin while she was living and studying in St. Petersburg. Russia <br>Painting credit: Andrei Dubnikov

A Russian friend painted this picture of Devin while she was living and studying in St. Petersburg. Russia
Painting credit: Andrei Dubnikov

Learning LanguagesHELEN: How many languages do you speak?

DEVIN: My best foreign language is Russian, though I spoke Spanish in my youth and could easily get it back if I had the chance to use it regularly again. I am also learning Farsi and I have a basic command of “restaurant Georgian.” I can read Georgian – not an easy feat – and it is the language that is my current top priority.

Devin loves Georgia for its views, language, and food Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Devin loves Georgia for its views, language, and food
Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Devin with Georgian singers who perform at the legendary "Georgian Table" feasts <br>Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Devin with Georgian singers after their performance at a “Georgian Table” feast 
Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Touring the WorldHELEN: Where have you led tours? 

DEVIN: I’ve led tours to the South Caucasus, Iran, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, across Central Asia, Mongolia, and, of course, Russia. I am most often in the South Caucasus, which is an area I have come to call my “professional homeland,” but I also have quite a soft spot for Iran, which is a country I think more Americans should visit. Iran is full of friendly and hospitable people who are genuinely touched that foreigners, and especially Americans, would choose to visit their country.

Devin, dressed in <i>hijab,</i> captures a moment with her Iranian friends <br>Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Devin, dressed in hijab, captures a moment with her Iranian friends
Photo credit: Devin Connolly

What They’re Saying…HELEN: Please don’t be modest! What do MIR clients say about you? 

DEVIN: Clients say that my love of travel and foreign cultures is obvious, and that this passion shines through in my work. I am also known for my singing – I don’t always sing on tours, but in certain monasteries, I have been known to sing some Latin chants or parts of the liturgy in Old Church Slavonic if the acoustics are especially good.


Travel LessonsHELEN: Travel has obviously shaped and defined who you are today. What have learned from seeing so much of the world?

DEVIN: I’ve never considered myself to be especially rigid or judgmental, but travel has taught me a sense of tolerance and open-mindedness that helps me relate to others as I encounter new people and customs on my tours.

I always try to remember that the mores and surroundings I am used to are not objectively “right” in any way, and conversely, when I see people in other countries doing things differently, it certainly doesn’t make their actions “wrong.” This is an extremely basic travel lesson, but it’s one of which I am constantly aware.

A 13-year-old Devin Connolly with her dad in St. Petersburg in 1993, her first trip to Russia Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Not so long ago: A 13-year-old Devin with her dad on the 1993 trip to Russia
Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Now a world traveler, Devin often returns to her travel beginnings: in Russia, in Moscow's Red Square<br>Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Now a world traveler, Devin often returns to her travel beginnings: in Russia, in Moscow’s Red Square
Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Travel to Devin’s Favorite Places with MIRYou can travel on MIR’s scheduled tours to countries Devin deeply loves, such as the South Caucasus and Iran. You can also book a custom private journey.

(Top photo credit: Devin Connolly – Far from her hometown of Edmonds, Washington, Devin Connolly is in Narenjestan, Iran)

PUBLISHED: September 5, 2014

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3 thoughts on “MIR Spotlight: Devin Connolly

  • Fe

    My husband and I loved Devin, our tour director in Iran, 2011(?)

  • Michael Connolly

    A terrific feature story on a beautiful, talented and very special young lady! Oh, did I mention she is my daughter! LOL! Thank you, Helen!

    • Helen Holter

      Michael Connolly, thank you! It was a joy working with your daughter – and so fun seeing those vintage Russian father/daughter photos. My best to you and Devin! — Helen Holter