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Your Tour Group and You

If a Tahitian trip for two isn't quite your style...and you prefer the idea of safety in numbers, then you might consider a pre-packaged tour group. Just make sure you can go with the flow of personalities. Mary-Jo Pehl went on a tour recently...here's her survival guide.

Your Tour Group and You
by Mary Jo Pehl

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Dear Rudy:

Last fall I went to Egypt on a guided tour. The tour leader assured our group of 24 that by the end of the two-week tour, we would be like family. This made me very nervous. In my family, my brothers wrestle me to the floor and fart on my head.

I've traveled a lot independently and over the past two years, I've also been on four guided tours. I've observed many things and I'd like to share my observations with you so that if you are considering a tour, you'll know what to expect.

First of all, you won't be the only person on the tour. That may seem obvious to some people and perhaps on some level I was aware that there would be other people in the tour group. Still, I was bit taken aback to discover that I would not have the tour guide and the entire country to myself.

A tour group is not like a family. A tour group is like an endless, round-robin blind date. You utter the same information about yourself over and over and over again. And, like dates, you try to keep it fresh and interesting. Soon you'll start making up stuff just to make yourself sound interesting - to yourself.

The only thing that will be the subject of lively discourse will be bowel habits. Don't worry, this will only happen at mealtimes. These perfect strangers will see fit to deliver a vivid report of their bowel patterns. Even the shyest, most reticent member of your group will become an impassioned, podium-pounding orator about his visits to the toilet.

Tour groups travel in lumps: the lump stops when the tour guide stops, the lump moves when the tour guide moves. The lump will not move nor make way for other people, the non-lumps who are not part of the group and happen to be visiting the same historical sight as you.

Get to know the person who has an astute grasp of the country you're visiting, with such trenchant analysis as: "Egypt sure isn't like the United States." There will be at least one person who has an incessant stream of confounding questions for the tour leader, like: "Did Ramses II like chickens?" or "What kind of socks did Nefertiti wear?"

Your tour guide will be pleasant and professional, until, days into the tour, the facade starts to disintegrate. The smile once perfectly pleasant has withered into a terse rictus of annoyance. Don't take it personally. You're just another one of the many, many lumps this man has shepherded through a foreign country.


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