5 humorous short stories from a private travel guide
As a professional guide, one of the things that I like most is not only to show you around our beautiful backyard, but also to meet many different people and ethnicities, so that we can learn from each other. others. There is nothing more gratifying to get a big thank you and a hug at the end of a trip, sometimes leaving as new friends found.
The friendly and down-to-earth people of New Zealand will be one of the things you most cherish during your visit. And for me, I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have met so many warm and interesting people from so many different backgrounds.
I always hope that my visitors will fall in love with New Zealand and take a little piece with them when they return to their country of origin.
A story about how we are much more alike as people, so we think
Years ago I had my first visitors from a country in the Middle East. I prepared the visit and learned the rules; how, for example, I should not shake hands with people of the opposite sex.
This particular group was wealthy Omani with several younger children and as such they were accompanied by a nanny. We traveled the first day for 4 hours to Russell, a small peninsula in the bay of the island north of Auckland. One of the sons was only 3 years old and like many families, he dictated when we started in the morning and when we stopped to rest.
While I was focused on the road, I overhear a conversation between the son and the father. “Dad, can we stop for lunch at McDonald’s?” “No.” Said the Father. A few minutes later. “Dad, why can’t we eat at McDonald’s?” Father: “because we don’t support any business in America. Silence then a cry, “BUT I WANT TO EAT AT MCDONALDS”. Father, the red face turns to me and asks me to stop at the next possible option in an American fast food chain. Lunch was followed by a prayer towards the Kaaba (the big black cube in Mecca) at McDonald’s facilities. I learned a lot from this family and I know they learned from me too. I was rewarded with a big hug from the whole family when we had to leave and say goodbye. I left, I left the family.
How to educate and influence mindsets by being a leader
I had to accompany a small group of family members from India. The group leader had traveled extensively because of his business.
For many of his family members, it was the first time that they had visited another country outside of India. Thus, a speech on their expectations and their differences was delivered to me. They indicated how the operators would leave on time without any exceptions. I was able to share a few ideas about our culture and I mentioned that we welcome most people with a friendly smile and hello, whether a trader or a worker, we are all treated the same, with respect.
I explained that New Zealanders do not like to negotiate and that we are a clean and green country trying to keep the environment as pristine as possible. I thought the news had been well received and so we started the tour. As we are aware of the cultural differences, we apply a departure strategy with earlier departure times, so that we know that we can arrive at the desired destination on time, this compensates for the cultural variations in punctuality.
While I stopped in various cafes for snacks, it was not uncommon for me to collect on the ground the packaging of some of my guests’ lunches. Naturally, this started to upset me. One day, while crossing our virgin forest, I noticed that a passenger had opened the window and threw away the packet of crisps.
I couldn’t hold it anymore and I stopped the van as soon as I could, opened the sliding door and ordered the culprit to walk to find the package and return it to the van. Perhaps I would have mentioned in my anger that I was not going to restart the van until the trash was picked up and made an inspiring speech about the environment around us and the impact of their actions.
You can imagine that the next hour’s ride was very quiet and I thought maybe I was going too far and considering the backlash from my actions. To my immense relief, nothing was mentioned and the journey continued without further impact.
To my surprise, a few weeks later, I received a very detailed letter explaining how impressed the group was with the cleanliness of New Zealand and how we were an example to take care of our country.
The importance of first-hand knowledge and lessons learned
Two years ago, we had a loyal customer from mainland China who came with business friends. He was raving about his last trip to New Zealand and how I had the best local knowledge regarding the best restaurants in our country. He asked me to organize a dinner for everyone, including me, at a good Thai restaurant in Wellington.
Wellington is known for its worldwide fame for good food, coffee and craft beer. Wellington’s food scene is at the heart of New Zealand’s growing confidence as a food destination. I decided this time that I was not going to use some of my known locations and took advantage of the world of online reviews with TripAdvisor.
The place I chose had a 5 * rating, but I didn’t bother to check the restaurant myself. To my incredible disbelief and embarrassment, this restaurant did not deliver what I expected at all. We ended up eating in a messy little restaurant, frequently visited by budget students.
My Chinese guest kept his head high, but I could see in his own way that he was really upset and totally uncomfortable and ashamed, which could lead to a loss of face. Losing face in Chinese culture is much more than being embarrassed. In Chinese culture, you spend your entire life trying to build your social prestige and reputation, while trying to avoid making someone else lose theirs.
After embarrassing our hosts, it was a reality that he would not come back to me for another trip. I never trust other people’s reviews now and always make sure to check the premises before recommending them to our customers.
The stress of a disaster can make the most of people
At 12:51 p.m. Tuesday, February 22, 2011, Christchurch was severely damaged by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake, which killed 185 and injured several thousand. I was traveling with a group of 4 New Yorkers nearby when it happened.
In shock, but we had to continue our journey. We found one of the last petrol stations open and traveled to our next destination at Arthur Pass in the middle of the Southern Alps. A state of national emergency was declared on February 23 and a nation was in mourning. Lots of people were stranded and we had to plan and change routes and flights from New Zealand.
Some of the coach companies managed to leave Christchurch hotels with their travelers unharmed but without their luggage, which was still in the gravel of the hotels in which they stayed. We have encountered many traveling in the same direction, trying to find some normality for our customers in this situation.
Two days later, we left one of the big hotels for our next destination in Queenstown, 5-6 hours away, through some of the most remote areas of the country. Just before arriving in Queenstown, one of my travelers realized that he had forgotten his passport and that of his wife, a good quantity of money and jewelry in one of the safes of the hotel.
There was no way to turn around and, in the event of a national emergency, no post or courier worked. In a typical New Zealand style, the hotel manager convinced one of the coaches leaving the next day to bring the precious package to Queenstown.
In the meantime, we had to go to Dunedin, another 4 hours away. But it was in those moments that I realized how incredible and trustworthy we are in New Zealand. The coach dropped the package off at the Queenstown Hotel. From there, a local limousine company picked up the valuables and detained them overnight, then gave them to a couple they knew would return the next day from the South Island to Auckland.
In Auckland, they brought the passport and the money to the Hilton hotel where, in a few days, my clients would return to return to America. None of the people knew us or the travelers, but everyone jumped up and went out of their way to make sure our groups could fly safely out of New Zealand.
How can we help others go beyond their comfort zones
In 2017, we had a family from California who bought their 15-year-old son and his friend for local adventures on the South Island. It was a huge success and I was told that we organized the trip for the teenagers.
They gave us a score of 10 out of 10. We were rewarded with another visit 3 years later, but this time the teenager was a young man. Her mother was a very elegant, elegant and decent person, not as adventurous as her husband and son.
Anyway, it was a family trip and therefore compromises were made and we booked a fly fishing lodge for the family. Part of the adventure was rafting in a soft rubber raft from the lodge through a spectacularly deep canyon to a remote location for a freestyle barbecue at the edge of a tropical forest.
The day before during dinner, we managed to convince the mother that it was a trip of a lifetime and that she had to join her family. To everyone’s surprise, she agreed, and the next day we fitted her with practical clothes that were not so elegant. She loved this rural trip away from the crowds and landed safely on the banks of the river.
She announced that she had to find a toilet; we had to let her know there was nothing like it and that she had to use the bush. The experienced river guide pointed her in the right direction and after the initial shock, she quietly disappeared. A minute later, we heard her come back with a big smile exclaiming that she had now “peed in the bush”, her face showing a big smile of success!
Travel has a way of connecting people and giving us insight into ourselves. I always invite my guests to get out of their comfort zone, to experience what they may never have the opportunity to do again. In this way, we capture the day and make every moment count.
Veronika Vermeulen is the Director of Aroha New Zealand Tours Ltd. Aroha New Zealand Tours Ltd. has been offering 100% bespoke travel and private guided luxury experiences in New Zealand since 2000.