Americas · Culture · Europe · Food · The Great Outdoors · Travel Philosophy · Travel Tips & Skills · USA · Videos

Scenes from a Guide Summit

Name 20 countries from the European Union. Imagine the “typical” citizens of those countries–their features, their demeanors, their gestures, their accents. Now picture a collection of 120 people from those countries who are passionate aficionados on the history, art, culture, politics, and people of those motherlands all descending on a small town just north of Seattle in the middle of winter. If they were all visiting you, what would you share with them about your town, your state, your country? What do think would intrigue you about each of them? 

Rick Steves Tour Guides gather in Edmonds for our annual summit.
Rick Steves Tour Guides gather in Edmonds for our annual summit.

This is what happened in my hometown just last week. 120 of my tour guide colleagues invaded Edmonds for our annual Rick Steves Tour Guide Summit. While we were gathered to work on policies, logistics, and itineraries, we were all secretly (OK, overtly) giddy to just spend quality time together. Non-business time was an endless festival of friendship, camaraderie, and kindred spirits. Yet among the commonalities that bind us–and there are many–it was a delight to make cultural discoveries about one another.

With his Irish charm, Stephen McPhilemy is always surrounded by people clamoring to hear his tales.
With his Irish charm, Stephen McPhilemy is always surrounded by people clamoring to hear his tales.

Stephen McPhilemy has a real gift of gab. With his Irish eyes a-smilin’, his love for his Celtic heritage blends with his ability to poke fun at his own culture, giving us tales that are poignant insights into the Irish way of life.

When our office staff threw an American-style potluck for the guides, lips smacked, mouths watered, and fingers were licked over traditional American dishes like BBQ pork, apple pie, tater tot casserole, and “Tuscan pasta salad”.

During the guide party hosted in our house, we had a cultural show and tell. And the Italians proved that it’s not only Americans who need a cheat sheet to get through the second verse of their national anthem.

Riding the Ducks--120 European tour guides see Seattle from land and sea.
Riding the Ducks–120 European tour guides see Seattle from land and sea. (photo courtesy of Lisa Friend)

To get the guides into the Seattle vibe, three yellow school buses took our guides downtown to ride the Ducks–amphibious vehicles that tour the streets of Seattle and cruise Lake Union. Replete with costume changes, themed music, and corny jokes, the Duck guides taught Seattle history, architecture, and lore. Our guides were all in awe saying that these were among the best tours and best guides they’ve ever had.

When I think of Spain, I think of passionate people, and Federico Garcia lets his passion shine through in his voice. Give this man a microphone and let yourself be serenaded by his tender tenor tones. It’s not just that he can sing–he makes the beauty, tenderness, intensity, pride, and complexity of the Spanish culture come to life through song. Placido Domingo’s got nothing on this Spaniard.

When dining with two of our dear Turkish guides, conscious of their religious dietary restrictions, we ordered rigatoni…with the pancetta on the side for me and Rick.

With only two representatives from Portugal, Cristina and Cristina were among the smallest contingencies of the European guides. But their patriotic pride could fill an entire country with their hearty rendition of their national anthem–a slight dig at us Americans and the US vs. Portugal World Cup match coming up on June 22.

One of our great Brits, Roy Nichols defended the small “mountains” of Britain (what we’d consider large hills) as “quality over quantity”.

Our European guides get a taste of the taco truck phenomenon in our own driveway.
Our European guides get a taste of the taco truck phenomenon in our own driveway.

With a taco truck in our driveway, our European guides devoured traditional Mexican dishes for hours. People just couldn’t get enough. One guide remarked, “Our cuisine has nothing as spicy as this.  I think I’m in love.”

Hearing about our “big box” stores, some of our guides made a b-line for Costco to stock up on treats and souvenirs to take back home to the Czech Republic.

Rick tries to sneak a peak under Colin's kilt.  Naughty, naughty.
Rick tries to sneak a peak under Colin’s kilt. Naughty, naughty.

Not one to hide his pride, Scotsman Colin Mairs flaunted his nation’s traditional attire, prompting Rick to wonder, “Is it true what they say about what Scotsman wear–or don’t wear–under their kilts?”

One of our Seattle-based guides, Ragen Van Sewell, rallies our guides to embrace the spirit of the 12th Man.
One of our Seattle-based guides, Ragen Van Sewell, rallies our guides to embrace the spirit of the 12th Man. (photo courtesy of Stephen McPhilemy)

And in the spirit of embracing the culture you’re visiting, our guides hit the streets of Seattle to tailgate during the NFC Championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks, becoming the newest official members of the 12th Man.  GO HAWKS!

For more insight on the Rick Steves Guide Summit and Tour Reunion, check out Rick Steves’ Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/RickSteves

3 thoughts on “Scenes from a Guide Summit

  1. It is so cool to see how the whole tour group gets together. We started traveling in our early 40’s on our own with the RS guide book, so far we have not felt like we want to go on a tour. But our really great friends who are in their late 60’s early 70 have decided to start traveling, so they are taking a My Way tour to Italy in May. I think this is a good fit for them to explore without being constantly with a group. I can see they will be well taken care of!

    1. Hi, Judy! Tours certainly aren’t for everyone, and it’s great that people can embrace their independent spirit by traveling as you do (with a stellar guide book), or as your friends are about to (on a My Way Tour). If you get a chance, check out this article and share it with your traveling friends. https://thetravelphile.com/2013/08/20/a-new-way-to-travel/
      It’s all about our My Way Tours. I hope you enjoy it…and I hope they have a splendid time on their tour.

      1. Thanks, I did see that article when it came out! I think it is perfect for a lot of people who just need that little bit of confidence. I don’t think I will ever loose the travel bug and I am sure someday I may want someone else to do all this planning for us.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s