Member Spotlight: Reniel Killian

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Author: Maibella Rhoiden, April 2016


When it came time to select someone for the Member Spotlight in this, our Armchair Traveler edition of the Tar Valon Times, I knew that Reniel Killian had to be the one. Reniel certainly does more than just armchair traveling. She has been to the USA, Canada, Greece, British Virgin Islands, France, United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland), Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium, Croatia, Romania, Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, Portugal, Korea, and Japan. Pretty impressive in my opinion!

In real life Reniel is a Senior Developer for an online marketing company. Recently she began running the company’s Technical Support for self-use clients. She says it is a “hard job some days but thoroughly rewarding.” Her hobbies include board games, written RPGs, single malt Scotch whisky, and she says “anyone who has spoken with me knows that I've got an insane travel bug and wander lust - so it's safe to say that my biggest hobby is traveling.” Reniel is originally from a suburb of Worcester, Massachusettes in the United States. She moved to London in 2007 and returned to the US in 2008. Her company had an office in London and she constantly begged to be sent there. It finally happened, and she has been happily living in London since 2012.

Quite a few years ago Reniel was convinced by friends from a Star Wars club that the Wheel of Time was something she would enjoy. Unfortunately the bookstore sold her the Big White Book instead of Eye of the World. She soon realized her mistake, got the correct book, and zipped through books 1-6 in no time at all. After that she waited impatiently for 2 years for a new WoT book to be released again, and again, and again. Reniel says “What I fell in love with was the richness of the world and the tremendous journey and arcs that the characters took. It was all very different from the books I had read up until WoT but they influenced choices in what I would read afterwards.”

One of those Star Wars club friends was Cassie Dainar. Cassie Sedai tried to get Reniel to join TarValon.Net on several occasions but it wasn’t until just before attending her first JordanCon in 2010 that Reniel gave in and joined the site. “Some of my first experiences with the group were real life events and that is ultimately what has convinced me to stick around - anything from local to official parties, I love it all,” says Reniel.

When it comes to WoT characters, Moiraine has always been one of Reniel’s favorites: “It's hard to pin-point why anymore but I really connected with the character and her motives throughout the series.” Her least favorite character is Faile, “for more reasons than there is space to comment on in a TVT article...” As a Faile fan, I’m horrified by this but not surprised – I know I’m in the minority when it comes to Faile.

Reniel has held quite a few positions during her six years at TarValon.Net. She has been the External Marketing Coordinator, the Admin Meeting Discussion Moderator, and a Merit Minion, and she has served on the Outreach Activities Team and the Online Events Team. Since 2013 Reniel has served as Mistress of Revels (Britain and Ireland). I asked Reniel about this position and she had quite a bit to say:

“As a member of the site who truly values the real life parties it was a no brainer as to why I volunteered (and continue to do so) for the role of Mistress of Revels. It's absolutely rewarding to throw a party and watch everyone enjoy spending time together and the party as a whole. I've coordinated 2 B&I parties - Seahouses in 2014 and Dublin in 2015. The role of Mistress of Revels is really broad for the B&I parties, and I've taken it a step further by also serving as Local Liaison for both parties. Fundamentally the MoR role is about coordination of the party, ensuring that all deadlines are being met and needs seen to as well as helping to brainstorm fresh ideas for party events and helping in general.”

That is quite a big job, and I am certainly glad we have such an enthusiastic and competent person to handle it!

Reniel has been to quite a few official TarValon.Net events through the years and of course I was curious which event was her favorite. She told me that “each party has been so unique it's been often times difficult to choose. I loved 10th Anni in Charleston because it was my first party and I had no clue what to expect. I walked into this hotel covered with other Wheel of Time fans and into a hotel room where I only knew one other occupant - but discovered two amazing friends in strangers we had agreed to bunk with. It was all so new and exciting (and frankly overwhelming).” I also wanted to know which event location was her favorite, and to that she answered, “I really loved Seahouses and the proximity (and view) of Bamburgh Castle nearby … and the afterparty in Edinburgh!”

Reniel has been so many places! She is the most well-traveled person that I know. What is it about travel that is so appealing to her? In response, Reniel tells me, “I love the experience of something new, seeing something different, and meeting new people (or re-meeting old friends). Every country, city, small village - they all have a special feel and story to discover. I appreciate a small Belgian village as much as I love a lively huge city like Seoul. There will always be more places to be seen whether it's in a new country or one I've been to a half dozen times (looking at you Greece). I can travel solo, or make new friends along the way, but the one lesson I've learned is as fun as those trips can be I always love traveling with friends or visiting friends. And one of the great things about the Tower is that it makes it so easy to make a quick escape to visit a Tower friend in another city or country!” I can certainly identify with that last bit – I’ve been planning hypothetical trips in my head that involve sleeping on the couches of Tower friends around the world for the past several years.

People who travel have differing opinions on repeat visits. Some people want to revisit the same place year after year while others never want to visit a place twice. Reniel falls somewhere in the middle. She visits Greece at least once a year since moving to London because “I'm from Greek-American descent and have quite a few cousins on either side of my family living in the Athens area so they provide a good excuse to return. I love Greece and it often feels like a second home to me - the food is incredible, the people are so friendly, and the culture is unbeatable. Each time I return even if I'm visiting the Acropolis for the n-th time, I discover something new.” Other places that get repeat visits to see family and friends are Paris, France and Brussels, Belgium. However the majority of the places Reniel has been (listed at the start of this article) have been one-time visits.

All travelers know that feeling of having a rough or even disastrous experience while traveling (maybe one day I’ll tell you about my sister getting “arrested” on the French Riviera when she was 15 … ugh!) but more often are those once-in-a-lifetime amazing experiences that you didn’t plan for and didn’t expect but wouldn’t trade for the world. Reniel had that kind of experience when she visited her grandfather’s village in Greece.

“Cousins took me out to the village and introduced me around - I never thought that anyone would even recognize the name. The first gentleman switched to English after my cousins explained I was Nick (Surname)'s daughter. "Which Nick?" They replied. "The lawyer, the bowling alley owner, or the dentist?" They knew my dad and several of his cousins! They regaled me with stories of my father visiting the village back in the 1960s. My cousins showed me our old crumbling family home and the grave of my great-grandfather. We traversed tiny curving Greek village paths and had to stop to let a herd of sheep pass. The entire experience remains unmatched in all of my traveling.”

Wow, what an incredible memory to have!

A consummate traveler like Reniel must surely have tips that make travel easier or cheaper, right? Of course! Regarding money, Reniel says “I tend to book well in advance (though I know others have good luck with last minute deals) and in off seasons. Would I have loved to see the cherry blossoms in Japan? You have no idea ... but I went in an off season and scored incredible deals that made the trip affordable (and cut costs significantly).” Regarding where to go, Reniel says “travel doesn't always have to be an extravagant trip overseas to make it special; heck, you don't even need to cross the state border. Aim to travel as often as you can - even if it's not to Paris, New York, Sydney, or Tokyo. A hike in your neighboring state's forest, or a visit to a nearby museum can be just as eye opening and provide you with a sense of travel (without compromising your budget or bank account). But equally ... don't be shy to dream big! It may not be this year, or even next ... perhaps not for another decade ... but make sure at some point in your life it's a priority to achieve those dreams.” I couldn’t agree more.

Reniel’s most important travel tip is “Don’t judge. Don't judge how anyone else travels, don't judge the local cuisine or customs without trying it with an open mind, don't judge a book by its cover.” This is good advice for any situation, not only for traveling.

At the time of this writing, Reniel is traveling through TarValon.Net (aka Guesting) in search of her home. Any Ajah or Company would be lucky to have her. We at the TVT wish her the best of luck in her Guesting journey and in all her world travels.

We hope that you have enjoyed getting to know Reniel a bit. If you see her around the site be sure to say hi, and if you’ve been to a B&I event be sure to thank her for all her hard work as Mistress of Revels (Britain & Ireland)!