The China Journals
What Makes a Trip Successful?
Television news today has been full of reports about the Italian Court overturning the murder conviction of American exchange student Amanda Knox, who has been in prison there for four years.
How frightening, I thought, to be in trouble in foreign lands, unable to speak the language, dealing with unfamiliar legal systems.
The second thing I’ve been thinking about is Simon, our affable, talented, and knowledgeable tour guide in Australia. Near the end of our trip, Simon was talking about his version of a successful tour, which differed from ours.
We, of course, thought about hot air ballooning at sunrise in the Outback, riding camels, and Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock. We thought about Christy bungee jumping in Queenstown, New Zealand, to mark her 50th birthday, and the fabulous Sofitel resort in Fiji where we stayed.
|A perfect swan dive for her 50th birthday.|
Simon’s concerns were more prosaic—no weather delays that would necessitate a scramble to find rooms for a large group, no illnesses, and so on.
And then he said, “I didn’t have to get anyone out of jail and there were no international incidents.” I looked at him closely. He wasn’t kidding. Those things had happened before, he said.
While Amanda scurries to get out of Italy, I think of a few instances where tour guides have cautioned about certain things.
In Russia, our guide told us not to ask a group of students about Chechnya. “They are students,” she said, “not politicians.”
In Tibet, our guide sternly warned us against taking photos of the multitude of armed Chinese soldiers that were everywhere. There would be consequences, she said. And, when we visited the Potola Palace, she stressed the importance of our entire group exiting the palace in sixty minutes or less. She would be fined if we went overtime.
But, unlike Simon, I look for other indicies to proclaim a trip successful. In the next three days, I will tell you about the three things that made my trip to China and Tibet a resounding success. Be advised: Those three things are not what you would think.
(to be continued)