Being a Tour Guide – Why I Do What I Do…

I love my job, yes I know I repeat myself, but it is a fact. However as I have revealed on several occasions here too; it comes at a price. There are many sacrifices that go along with being homeless and seeing friends once a year. There are moments when I question whether it is all worth it…

Have I Made The Right Choice?

Have I Made The Right Choice?

Then, out of the blue, something like this happens…

I receive an email from a former student on one of my trips (I try to stay in touch with them as much as possible). Rachel has just filled in her college application forms and in doing so, has decided to tell how her trip to Europe changed her.

She is an amazing person, whom I am still in contact with and incredibly talented. With her permission (of course) I have reproduced here her application. This is why I do what I do (ok, admittedly here I do come across rather well), but travel really can and does change lives. But let’s leave it to Rachel to explain..

“It was the summer of 2012 and I was 16 years old. I was avidly involved with the community theater and had the opportunity to attend a group trip to London and Paris. I was ecstatic as it was my first trip to a new continent, but I was without my parents. One would think that such a trip would be the life-changing event, however it was the events that ensued which really transformed me as a person. I departed from JFK as a child and returned ten days later as an adult with a brand-new outlook on life.

Paris - Not Bad For a School Trip

Paris – Not Bad For a School Trip

I remember the incident so vividly. It was our first day of touring Paris; my head still foggy from jet-lag. We had just seen Notre Dame and were heading across a busy bridge over the Seine. Tourists flooded the bridge, and scattered among them were young children. The children wandered around looking helpless. Our tour guide, Thomas, informed us that they were gypsies pretending to be handicapped in order to get money from the tourists. He told us to just say “no” and keep moving if we were approached by any kids. It sounded easy enough to me, but I was quickly proven wrong.

As we started our walk across the bridge, I was approached by a small girl who looked no older than ten. She started to babble pleas at me in French and I abruptly answered “no” and kept walking. Next a boy who looked only slightly older approached me. He looked at me with piercing blue eyes and started to speak gibberish similar to the girl, though much more persistent. Again I said “no”, still he clung to my arm and kept begging. I was aware of the pickpockets in Paris so I kept my beloved iPhone clutched in my hand inside my jacket pocket whenever we got into crowded areas like that bridge. At that instant, with the boy clinging to my body like a leech, I instinctively took my hand out of my pocket and tried to push him away.

Learning The Trade...

Learning The Trade…

He clung to me for a few more seconds then took off running. Relieved he was gone, I put my hand back in my pocket. My iPhone was gone.

I immediately started panicking. Thomas made a futile attempt to catch the boy but he was out of sight. My mind was racing. I knew that I would never see my phone again; the thought made me sick. That was my iPhone. My lifeline. My only connection to home. Now it was gone. The child in me began to cry as the feeling of violation resonated with me. My first instinct was to call my mother, so I borrowed a phone. I got some reassurance from hearing her voice but I was still shaken from the theft. Then Thomas sat and had a talk with me that gave me a new perspective. He said I had a choice to make. I could either spend the rest of the trip miserable, letting the gypsies win the best of me, or I could move past the incident and enjoy the trip.

At that moment something within me changed, like a light switch was being flipped on. I was going to stop feeling sorry for myself and forge on, touring Europe with renewed enthusiasm. I no longer felt the need to have constant connection to my parents. I was out exploring the world alone and my new found independence was invigorating. From that day on I realized I was in charge of my life. I could either choose to be a victim of circumstance or I could rise above. Crossing that Parisian bridge was my cross over to adulthood. I began on one end as a child and ended on the other side as a young adult, ready to accept all that life had to offer me.”

The Sign Says It All

The Sign Says It All

Thank you Rachel – thanks for staying in touch and for ‘getting it’. In my most difficult times, I think of you and my other ‘kids’ and how these trips are life changing and it makes me carry on. I know I can at times inspire and make a difference to your lives, kids, but I doubt you know how much you in turn inspire me – Thank You

If You Lose Your Iphone - London to The Rescue... Rachel in a Phonebox

If You Lose Your Iphone – London to The Rescue… Rachel in a Phonebox

Oh and colleges in the US; please accept Rachel, she will do you proud.

~ by 2ndcupoftea on December 18, 2013.

4 Responses to “Being a Tour Guide – Why I Do What I Do…”

  1. Yes, Thomas, you are a born guide. Our trip to Italy in 2012 was so enjoyable because of you. I hope you continue until it is no longer fun.
    Cathy Murphy

    • Hi Cathy. Thank you so much for your kind words. It will always be fun – the costs are others 😉 These kids are wonderful and Rachel’s experience and how it changed her, just so inspiring. Big hug to you in Texas.

  2. Hi Thomas! My name’s Christine, from New York.
    My school travelled with you to Italy in February of 2012, and we still discuss and reminisce about our travels to this day. This being said, we’re preparing to leave again on Thursday (2/13), this time for the Insiders England and France tour. In the weeks before our tour guide was announced, everyone who had gone to Italy joked and kept our fingers crossed that you’d be assigned as our tour guide again! You truly are an amazing tour guide; the ability to leave such an impression on a group of twenty teenagers in the way that you have is a true talent.
    We’re all still extremely excited and nervous to meet our new guide. He has quite a standard to meet after traveling with you.
    – Christine

    • Ciao Christine. Thanks so much for your super kind comment. I am so happy you are travelling again and it seems you have the ‘bug’. I am sure you will have a great time. Sorry it won’t be me looking after you again, but I am sure whomever you have will be as good or better. Certainly the places and destinations you will be visiting will be amazing and that is what it is all about. I look forward to seeing the evidence on Instagram. Travel safe. Hugs T 😉

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