About the time I was graduating from California Polytechnic University with a degree in Biology, I remember hearing for the first time President John Kennedy speaking “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” I decided and was accepted to join the Peace Corps to teach high school Biology in Africa. Unfortunately, at the same time, the army was calling me to Vietnam. I decided to make my own choice and joined the Marine Corps as an infantry officer. During those life changing 13 months I spent in Vietnam I remember saying to myself, whatever I do the rest of my life had better make sense. When I returned home to the United States my search began to fulfill the promise I made to myself. Not knowing exactly what that was, I decided to spend a year exploring 17 countries in Europe on a 10-speed bicycle. This fueled my love of travel, culture, and history…the joy of just moving.
I believe travel is the greatest university in the world. It is a fulfilling yet humbling experience to explore the cultures and history of our planet.
For the next 7 years I would travel the globe as a Tour Director. When I returned to Europe leading tour groups, I met a whole new breed of professionally trained tour directors and guides. They could talk about art, food, wine, music, history, culture…they were like modern day Renaissance people. I found that most countries in Europe had national guide schools that trained people to be the “face of their country.” In America tour escorting was done mostly by college students as a temporary summer job or by a retired person to obtain a free trip. Starting a school for tour directors in America seemed pre-destined to be a goal that I would pursue. I wanted to ensure that tour directing was a recognized, respected profession and more importantly give others an avenue to pursue their passion for travel. So, in 1976, my friend and colleague Bill Newton and I started the first school in America to train tour directors and guides.
I am proud of each one of the graduates that made the choice to follow their dream to teach, learn, and grow into the role of a Professional Tour Director and ultimately be called Ambassadors of Goodwill throughout the world. Even after all this time I still lead a few tours a year, when I am not instructing at ITMI. Tour Directing is still my passion… besides, I’m not going to let my students have all the fun!