By Len Friesen, Tour Leader
“So why would someone (bother to) lead a tour for TourMagination?” I was asked that question on the first day of this trip by someone who has known me for decades (my former high school teacher in fact!). He meant it well, and it made me think of how I might best answer that. For starters, of course, I think that Audrey’s vision for what TourMagination is, and the difference it can make to a travel experience, is one that I share.
But there’s more to it. Three very specific things stand out for me from today alone, though it could apply to almost any day on almost any TourMagination tour that I’ve been privileged to be part of over the years.
The First: I love leading a tour when I see people taking steps that they normally wouldn’t take, like today for instance. It happens when we have free time on Russia’s famed pedestrian mall, the Arbat, and I see people enter shops, cafes, and restaurants to tackle a culture and language that only days ago seemed downright alien. But a few days in Moscow and you can see how quickly people feel at home here, are happy to get off the tourist bus and proud of sitting in a cafe that is otherwise filled with Russians, or shopping themselves for water in a store which foreigners would rarely if ever enter (it’s too far off the beaten track you see). It could happen in South Africa or Switzerland, but I saw this several times today in the heart of Moscow.
The Second: I love leading a tour when I see people’s horizons expanded by people and cultures. I saw that yesterday and today as people worked hard to understand the roots of Russia’s rich Orthodox culture, and ancient religious icons in particular. I saw it as people absorbed spectacular paintings from across the centuries that reveal the history of a proud people, their land, and their history, even if that very history has endured many difficult times. And I saw all of this at the great Tretyakov Gallery of Russian Art which we toured this morning.
The Third: I love leading a tour when I see people encounter a past that they have, till now, only read about in books or seen on the TV screen. That became clear at the Novodevichy Cemetery which we wandered through this afternoon. In a sense we walked through the sweep of Soviet history while there, a history associated with the likes of Chekhov, Yeltsin, Gorbachev and Stalin. Those may all be associated with Russian history but they are no less a part of world history and culture, and today it became much more than mere book learning for those of us on the tour.
So there are so many pluses that can be added together on a day like today (as in past tours) on what it’s like to tour with TourMagination.
Day two is in the books and a rich day it has been. We’ll catch some sleep and return to the heart of Moscow again tomorrow morning.