Would you go to Europe with me?
My previous experience with tour guides was to turn and run the other way, snug and smug in my snobbish superiority as a solo traveler. No spoon feeding for moi! No comfy tour buses to take me from place to place without suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous chicanery from touts and hucksters, salesmen and dope dealers.
But after a while, the sinking selfishness of doing things only for and with myself dragged me down. What was the point? I took the normal countermeasures, visiting orphanages, co-operatives, and chasing social justice the way I’d sought bargain dorm rooms and all-you-can-eat buffets. That path is a good one, and I’m sure I’ll return to it, but it’s still a solitary string, holding together pearls of connection and purpose, and if I keep moving, I’m going to keep leaving. I want continuity, to go with my novelty.
So I went back to the classroom. Teaching English to refugees would save me from the privileged malaise of my birth circumstances and demographic lottery win. And every time I see someone learn a new word, laugh in the midst of their incomprehensibly difficult transition, or even just show up with a smile, I do feel a popcorn pop of satisfaction at perhaps paying back a tiny piece of my debt.
I love to teach. I love to travel. I love to meet new people, share something of myself and welcome a piece of them. Is there a job for this? A place where I can combine these loves? Indeed there is. So no longer will I turn and run from tour guides, because now, a tour guide am I.
Somehow I conned the good people at Rick Steves Europe into thinking I could be of service, so this June and July I’ll be roaming Europe as an assistant guide, frantically scribbling notes in a cheap notebook rapidly becoming invaluable, hoping to learn the skills to lead my own tours. In that top notch company I found a philosophy that mirrors my own, where guides are not salesmen but teachers, travel not a means for profit but an avenue for growth and progress, both individual and pan-social. And they’re damn friendly too. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.
So in a bid to escape the tyranny of my incomprehensible blessings…I’ve found another one. But hopefully, if I can learn the skills, I can start to pay it forward, one contagious case of travel-lust at a time.