I want to thank the Rick Steve's people for the live stream of the events going on in Edmonds today -- you gave us a window into some of what must be one of the most amazing accomplishments for an organization of your size to bring together anywhere in the world.
I had just been remembering a moment from a bistro in Paris where I saw the waiters giving each other a nod to get together and do an especially nice plate placement for a weary middle-aged Englishman sitting with his companion at a table outside the window -- the staff were clearly intent on showing this diner a good time, not because they wanted to get more from his wallet, but because they were proud of their cooking and felt good about making their patrons feel special. The joy on the man's face as they did the Ta-Da of putting down his and his wife's plates and his pleasure at digging in with his cutlery (held at un-American angles) was what they had in mind -- what Rick often calls being treated as part of the party rather than part of the economy -- and it was another bit of evidence that I had found the right bistro for me.
I watched a lot of today's live broadcast knowing that my temperament is that of a solo traveler, but being open to persuasion, especially when it comes from a company whose guidebooks have had many more hits for me than misses. There were several takeaways and moments that struck a chord with me, even though I think that I still have a few years of independent itinerary-making left.
Two items I want to mention: First, I'm very impressed by the amount of activity the tours are able to fit into a day. One reason I have tended to avoid tours is that there is too much waiting for the group for my temperament, but the planning and efficiency of the RS tour designers/conductors looks like it might more than make up for having to allow for 26 people to get through doors rather than one. Second, there was a moment in Rick's closing segment where he says he learned that people couldn't pay attention to what they were seeing in the afternoon if they didn't know where they would be sleeping that night, so his tours now give up some spontaneity in favor of having lodging reservations worked out and made clear from the get-go. I would say that my own temperament is even more anxious -- I can't concentrate on the fun or the enlightening if I'm not sure where I'll be the next day, and it's only after I've put my bag down, made sure the shower and the toilet work, and I know which way to turn the key to get the door to my room to open, that I can turn my attention to conquering the castle.
Should I just learn how not to worry about the basics? How? I don't think I'm unusually clumsy or dense, but a fair number of times I have had to go to the front desk or find a housekeeper who can show me how to operate the key to the door or the handle of the plumbing. If I can't quite translate the instructions for getting back inside the hostel when I return after-hours, I'm less likely to stay out and enjoy the night. If that makes me a worrywart, I'd love to learn to be less so.
I think that's part of what makes Rick and his crew stand out -- they are adventuresome, yet they so clearly put a high priority on thinking things through. I aspire to being able to strike a similar balance. Back in school the teachers told us not to give in to peer pressure, but the presenters at today's Test Drive were all exemplifying the traits that I'd be pleased to be able to imitate.