Reflections of a tour guide

Corona virus has stopped all travel, and as a tour guide, I rely on travellers for my work. Not being able to go outside the confines of my apartment, and having nowhere to escape, my thoughts went to travel.

After 20 years of working in the Tuscan region on various forms of private tours, I see my role as a professional tour guide, that of creating a bridge between cultures. I unveil to my clients, who usually come from a different cultural background, facets of the history and culture of Florence and the people that shaped it through time. I see the differences, but also recognize what makes us similar.

Brazil, an empty beach in the state of Rio
At the beach, Brazil

Thanks to my father’s work at the UN and my mother’s passion and curiosity, I travelled extensively from a very early age to my late teens, 1969-1983. I lived in beautiful countries, encountered different cultures, learned new languages, and befriended a wide variety of people.

View from our home, Port de Paix, Haiti

Throughout our travels as a family, we were welcomed into all sorts of homes, shared meals, helped one another. We were shot at and risked our lives on more than one occasion. We have seen extreme poverty, hunger and hardship, but have also encountered great resilience, strength and faith.

On the road from Port de Paix to Port au Prince, Haiti

We lived in different countries for 2-3 years at a time starting with Brazil then Haiti. At every opportunity and with every savings my parents had, we explored the country and whenever possible, went beyond. While living in Guatemala in the mid- 70’s, we crossed over to Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and then on to Mexico and the U.S. After Central America, my dad’s next post was Asia, the Philippines and then on to South America, Chile.

Brazil, Capo Frio 1970
Guatemala, market at Chichicastenango

We usually travelled around by car and camped or stayed in hostels or humble lodgings. I remember always being captured by what I saw as I looked out of the window wondering…. what might be behind that hill or that curve; what was happening in that village, in that home; how people lived, their history and their stories; what they did; how they worked, what they built and created; what they ate, where they went…

As an adult, whilst travelling, I still find myself with my nose stuck to the window… looking, watching, observing… taking in differences, contradictions, beauty, variety, colors…. always in awe of the beauty of nature and the actions of people.

My father, sister and I. Capo Frio, Brazil

Although my father is no longer with us to share in new adventures, my mother still remains as curious today as she was at the height of her youth. She still longs to travel, as do I. So every year in March, we take each other somewhere for her birthday. This year we were meant to go to Sicily, but coronavirus interrupted our plans.

My mother, sister and I. Ouro Preto, Brazil

And as we ponder what the future holds for us and all travellers, I realize just how rich my childhood has been and how lucky I am.