I realized early on that I would get more out of any trip and learn so much from the trip participants if I keep my mouth shut. No one wants to know every detail about everything we will see in a day.
Sometimes it’s best to have your own head and not try to fill everyone else’s. If I am quiet and watchful I can learn far more from them than they can from me. It is a great by-product of being a tour leader. Any tour leader that just talks to hear their own voice lecturing on fact after endless fact is not going to give you really what you want to know. Any tour leader that is open to answering any question you might have is worth their weight in gold. Find one of those!
The grace of your fellow travelers when they are awed at what they are seeing. They have planned and looked forward to the trip—they have heard of the mystical places that you are now visiting together—maybe even from the time they were children. You are there now. Grace is your day.
Humor is the best source of true relaxation. When things are right and especially when things go wrong, injecting a little humor can go a long way. Try to bring the lightness of humor into a situation that is not going your way. Even if those around you do not ‘get it’ you will feel better. We are lucky that almost all of our trippers have an excellent sense of humor. It seems like the ones that do not, we never travel with them again. It just works out that way.
You will rarely find me in a church. But I received a good lesson on the power of faith during our days on the ‘chicken boat’. Our group was mostly female and devout. Every day they held prayer sessions. We had many things thrown at us on that trip, not the least of floods, missed flights, sleeping in airports, and a ‘biblical tempest’. Every single time something unexpected came our way—they met it with strength, resolve, and humor.
After an eventful but beautiful trip, we offloaded our boat on the island of Samos and boarded our ferry. This was a ferry as large as a cruise ship, big enough to stow a good number of cars and semis in her hold. We had to wait until the bad weather passed; a full eight hours on onboard before our seven-hour crossing. We left Samos for the port of Athens.
It was not too long into the trip when the crew showed up and started to tie the chairs together and stow anything not battened down. It wasn’t a good sign. Luckily, we had booked cabins for our trippers—which meant that they were in first class. As tour leaders we had decided to rough it and found ourselves in second class with no access to the others.
It was disconcerting to be on such a large ship and have it moving so much. Not being able to even walk about easily can unnerve most people. One woman, let’s call her Cee (the one I mentioned earlier who was on her first trip, and has since taken three with us) could miraculously go back and forth between us and the other trippers and would take the time to update us on how everyone was.
Three hours into it, we reached the pinnacle of the bad weather. There is a place near the island of Ikaria in the Aegean Sea well known to Greek sailors. A trough of water that even in calm seas will throw you some good waves. We entered that trough and all the fun started. Cee came to tell us, “Well, the barman just lost his lunch all over the food display in first class.” This was October, he had had six months to get his sea legs. I just curled into a ball.
One more hour passed and our friend Cee returned to tell us that they had gathered into a group and had started on their rosaries. I made my way to first class, by that time the doorkeeper had long since abandoned his post and it was easy for me to get to the group. There they were, resolute and calm-saying their prayers. Twenty minutes later, there was a heaven-sent break in the weather, and the seas calmed.
They were later to miss their flights home and most spent several nights in the Athens and Rome airports waiting for an empty seat to come up. Through it, their calm faith upheld them, and saw them through, and enabled their tour leader to learn a few things!
I have had people over the age of ninety-five on tours. I have had people that have overcome life-threatening illnesses. I have had people that have had huge losses in their lives. I learned their stories slowly, over wine, after a great meal, or on a breathtaking walk. Some even after the trip was over and we met again. People with physical and mental limitations. Each and every one of them showed me how you too can operate. Head up, shoulders back, looking forward, and never looking back. Each and every one of them I thank for their utmost dignity.