A group coordinator tells what's it like to be on the other side of the experience http://www.offbeattravel.com/tour-leader-experience-of-group-travel.html

A Tour of Tribulations

Usually the traveler, this time I was the tour coordinator and the view from the other side was eye-opening. What was expected to be a peaceful 16-day Pilgrimage to Portugal, Spain, France and Italy turned out to be, for me, a tour of tribulations. Looking back it seems so strange that we can laugh about things that was at the time not in the least amusing.

Our New Book

It started when our travel agent called to let me know that she could not accompany us on this trip as she did on the previous Pilgrimage. Since I was the coordinator, it was now up to me to carry out her duties which turned into nothing but a collection of imbroglios.

We were arriving at Fatima on the 99th anniversary of the first apparition of the Blessed Virgin to the three children, it was impossible to get rooms at the same hotel for all 32 of us. Instead we booked two hotels about two blocks from each other. Since it was going to be our first night there, we decided in advance that the 10 of us at one hotel will walk over to the other hotel so that we will all be together for our first dinner as a group.

We arrived at Lisbon Airport, expecting to be greeted by our guide who should be carrying a sign to let us know who she was. But where is this guide I thought, walking around, dragging my suitcase behind me plus coping with my heavy backpack on my back.

I told the others to stay in one place while I looked for her but after a futile search I realized she was just nowhere to be found. I approached a young lady who was helping other arrivals and inquired about our guide but she too could not find our ghost guide. When she heard we were heading to Fatima, she remembered someone telling her that there was a bus waiting outside to take a group there, so off we went to see the driver. They spoke in Portuguese and she confirmed it was the correct bus. I thanked her and headed back inside to collect our group, but when I started talking to the driver to let him know which hotel we needed to go to first it appeared that he did not speak a word of English, whatsoever. My resourceful solution was to call out the names of our hotels and showed him on my fingers, the first one he had to take us to.

What a relief, smooth sailing from now on, right?

Time to move on with our Pilgrimage. I mean, what else could possibly go wrong? I knew from then on we will have only English speaking bus drivers and guides, right? The first night we walked over to the other hotel, had a beautiful dinner and got to know each other better then we headed back to our hotel for a much needed sleep.

A group coordinator tells what's it like to be on the other side of the experience  http://www.offbeattravel.com/tour-leader-experience-of-group-travel.html
Morning came but where were some of our group? Did they go to the other hotel for breakfast? Was I getting forgetful? I was positive I told everyone that we will be having breakfast at the hotels where we slept. Running over to the other hotel, I was just in time to see them finishing their breakfast at the hotel where their breakfast was not paid for. Up to this point nobody bothered to tell me there was a couple with us who did not speak or understand English.

The following morning at breakfast I noticed that this couple who came from Peru was nowhere to be seen. I went to their room and knocked, then knocked louder until I was banging on the door, no answer! I suddenly thought: "Oh my Lord, could they possibly have misunderstood and thought that we were to meet the bus at the other hotel and pulled their luggage over there". Off I ran (and ran I did!) to the other hotel, but wait, what is this, are they really not here? No they weren't so I did a small marathon back to our hotel.

After finding a porter who spoke a little English and trying to explain the situation, I finally urged him to go to their room and open the door to see if they were ok. Well, well, why was I so foolish not to think of this There they were sitting on their beds. I felt to give myself a swift kick for not guessing this only logical answer.

Our new bus pulled up and we started embarking, and our new driver did not speak a word of English. This was the driver who is supposed to drive us from Portugal to Italy for 16 days and he does not speak any English. Well, lucky for us we had God on our side and He saw this problem before we knew about it and He put one of His angels there with us. Napoleon was the only one in our group who spoke Spanish. I will not think about what would have taken place if he was not on this trip. He translated everything to the couple who spoke no English and was constantly running to the front of the bus telling the driver what we wanted, what time to stop for lunch, washroom breaks and the list goes on and on.

There were quite a few other mishaps along the entire trip that I kept from the others. They were there to have an enjoyable trip and that's just what they were going to get. What really amazed me was the fact that these 32 total strangers bonded as one very close family -- joking, laughing, praying, helping each other, singing and doing all that a normal, loving family will do. They were an amazing group of spiritual people who will always remain in my heart as very dear friends and I can't thank God enough for sending us our angel Napoleon.

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Darryl Romeo was born in Trinidad and Tobago and migrated to Canada with his wife and daughter. He and his wife still live in Mississauga, Ontario. Darryl has coordinated two Pilgrimage Tours to Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Medjugorie and has another one coming up.

February 3, 2017

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