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Thank You for Test Drive / Irreverent History !

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.
Thanks again!

Posted by
8244 posts

What a nice post! I will have to tell you that I have found that the RS tour members are very energetic and ready to go. In 5 tours only once were tour members late and that was because they had gotten lost in a wooded area near Ashford Castle. No one in the group minded waiting, in fact we were happy to wait for them to find their way with cell phone instructions from the guide!

I am also one to worry about the basics. I do it whether driving in the US or traveling in Europe. It is just my personality. I will say that the plus about the tours is that there are absolutely no worries along those lines. I didn't see Rick's presentation on the history but I can imagine! The guides I have traveled with have been very capable, well informed and want to make everyone have a good time.

No peer pressure here, in fact on this forum most are independent travelers.

Posted by
3580 posts

Well, someone has to worry about all those details! That's the beauty of a tour. Once you have arrived at the beginning of the tour (and that is clearly explained in instructions) the details are taken care of. I've traveled both ways. On my own I do a lot less, partly because I am involved in the logistics of travel, housing, eating, and all the other details. If you are out in the evening, on a tour there is always someone (a Guide or tour member) who can help you get into the hotel and your room. To keep down the worries, pack an alarm clock so you will be places on time, and carry a small notepad to keep track of things. I take both.

Posted by
16860 posts

Focus on the successes you've already had. If you did have to ask the hotel staff for instructions, you can count on the fact that it's their job to be there and do that in the future, as well. Take your time, trust your research, don't be afraid to ask questions, and trust that things will work out. Almost every problem can be solved in a way that doesn't ruin the whole trip, but gives you a story for later. Have I ever taken a wrong turn when driving, or run out of gas, or got on the wrong train, or missed a convent curfew, or ordered tripe soup that I didn't want? Yes, but all those issues resolved themselves, either with the help of others or by being patient with my own mistakes.