Taking a Busman’s Holiday: Tour Directors on Vacation with Odysseys
Posted August 20, 2019
Our tour directors are spread out across the globe, living and working in the countries that they illuminate for our guests on tour. They possess an intimate knowledge of their own country’s history and culture, and take great pride and joy in introducing new traveling companions to their homeland. But sometimes, it’s fun to be on the other side of the microphone!
In the past few months, a number of our tour directors have taken Odysseys trips for their vacations, and we wanted to share their stories. Jacky Paterson, one of the TDs on our Journey through Britain tour, took our Patagonian Frontiers tour in March; and Emma Bonthorne, a TD for both of our Spain and Portugal tours, traveled on the same tour a month earlier. In addition, Philip Mahony, who leads our Enchanting Ireland tour, traveled on Tanzania Adventure in January.
Meet Jacky Paterson, who was born in Kent, UK, and now resides in Cambridge.
When asked what drove her to choose Patagonia, she explained: “A quest for Nature at its most elemental, and a desire long held to go to Chile.” The unspoiled region of Patagonia certainly offers an elemental look at the natural world, and it looks like Jacky found what she had been seeking.
“This tour was different in that we had many more days and trips with local guides,” she says. “Journey through Britain only has three half-day tours led by local guides in the full two-week period, so my work as a TD is considerably different from our TD on Patagonian Frontiers (the lovely Valerie Martin). Thus the guest experience was of more numerous professional guides involved.”
She continues: “Leading a tour is exceptionally different in some ways, in that it is (rightly) a very dedicated and fully engaged work process when on tour. Being a guest and relaxing into non-leadership was great as a holiday experience. As a guest and as a TD, there is camaraderie, fun, trust, discovery – whichever role you are in.”
Even when on vacation, however, Jacky picked up a few ideas and tips on how to better improve the experience for guests on her tours of Britain.
“I learned from the other guests what they like in a tour,” she says, “and found my own responses to being in the position of guest very enlightening. Different ways of disseminating information, holding the welcome meeting, traveling as a group over long journeys, and just the fortunate space to learn from both the guests and our TD, and the local guides, was a really excellent resource for me in fine-tuning my TD leadership.”
Originally from Cairns, Australia, Emma has worked in Spain for the past 12 years and is based in Bilbao, in the Basque country. She leads the Across Spain and Portugal and Paradores & Pousadas tours with Odysseys. Like Jacky, Emma also took our Patagonian Frontiers tour, spending parts of January and February traveling through Argentina and Chile.
“It was INCREDIBLE!” Emma says, “Argentina had been on my travel list for a long time, and the itinerary through the Beagle Channel and then into Chile and Torres del Paine National Park really appealed. The tour hit all the major places that I was hoping to get to.”
Emma truly made the most of her time on tour, and even had the good fortune of meeting some guests who had already signed up for one of our Spain and Portugal trips: “I was hoping to lead that departure, but it didn’t work out! I would love to cross paths with any of the travelers I met in Patagonia, we had an amazing, very close-knit group and had a lot of fun.”
On one of our days in Torres del Paine, I convinced two of the group members to hike to the top of the mountain (about 8 hours). The hike nearly killed us, but it was SO spectacular, and it is now a running joke in our group emails,” she says, laughing at the memory.
Emma with her two hiking companions in Torres Del Paine
Emma says that her TD instincts stayed with her for most of the tour: “I wanted to know every detail of our schedule and what was planned in every moment,” she says. “It took me a while to just relax and enjoy the tour without any responsibilities! By the end, I really enjoyed the element of surprise and it was so nice to be taken to new places and given all the information (and not being the one to have to prepare it all!).”
Additionally, Emma says that her touring in Patagonia gave her a great perspective on how to better pace future trips in Portugal and Spain: “I have become more aware of the importance of down time and giving people a bit more free time to enjoy places. I’ve always been guilty of trying to squeeze in as many activities and sights as possible and sometimes it is important to just enjoy being in a new town or city. After all, that is what travel is about!”
In January, Philip Mahony traveled to the game-filled plains of the Serengeti for our Tanzania Adventure tour. And as you can see, he encountered some animals not often seen on the Emerald Isle!
“We were particularly attracted to the extensive program of game drives in three separate national parks,” Philip says when asked why he chose this tour. “We also wanted some rest and relaxation time at the beach after the safaris, and the Zanzibar portion of the tour fit perfectly with this requirement. In fact, we spend an extra five days visiting other parts of Zanzibar after this tour.”
Our Tanzania tour offers guests the chance to see wildlife in a completely natural state, which gave Philip even more reason to visit: “One of the great things about the Tanzania Adventure tour was the huge variety of animals we saw in their natural environment, as opposed to the protected and stocked “game parks” in other parts of Africa. Our local guide was also hugely knowledgeable about all the animals that we saw as well as their place in the ecosystem.”
When asked about the benefits of taking an Odysseys tour as vacation, Philip mentions two things in particular: “Being absolved of all the responsibilities involved in being a tour director, just being able to relax and let someone else run the show,” and that “…it is always beneficial to see how other colleagues work.”
We thank these tour directors for their input and photos, and hope that our readers have the opportunity to cross paths with a TD on a future Odysseys tour!