We’ve all been on those 40 passenger buses full of tourists (and their selfie sticks or ipads used as cameras). And don’t forget the tour guides with the microphones and flags who spew out all those facts and monotonous spiels you’ll never remember….
So before you jump on the tour bus, here are some reasons (and stories) why you should consider a private guide on your next trip.
When our family visited Bhutan, we had the rare opportunity to visit our guide’s humble home. Him and his wife welcomed us with great hospitality and offered us a delicious, authentic Bhutanese meal as we sat on floor cushions and talked about their daily lives.
In Vietnam, our guide named Happy, led us to a local coffee shop, where we enjoyed his company, learning about his day-to-day life as we drank our coffee the Vietnamese way – sitting on short stools. We even made a trip to a local market to purchase the best coffee for us to bring home.
In 2006, our group of family & friends visited Bali for the first time where we met Iwayan, our private guide. He was so grateful for the generous tip we gave him for his great service, that he continued to stay in touch with me over the years sending holiday greetings and random updates from Bali via email. Nine years later, I returned to Bali with some colleagues and our itinerary was planned by an operator with their own guides, so I reached out to Iwayan and mentioned that although I wouldn’t need his services, it would be nice to meet up at some point during my trip. Him & his son surprised me with flowers and gifts upon arrival at the airport and insisted on driving me to my hotel so we could spend an hour together catching up. He even made a special effort to visit me again during the trip with a basket full of my favorite exotic fruits which he remembered from 2009. And because he couldn’t make it to say goodbye the night before I left, he sent his son and niece to drop off some Balinese peanuts to bring home for my family and friends who he missed seeing again.
On our recent trip to Egypt, we had the opportunity to tour with an Egyptologist. We had access to his incredible knowledge of the tomb inscriptions and temple murals. He even taught us how to read hieroglyphs! And as you can see, the guides always make it fun for all ages.
In Zambia & South Africa, our safari guides and trackers were extremely knowledgeable about the animals and their behaviors, habitats and possible whereabouts. They showed us how they scan the ground for footprints & scat, to identify which animals may have passed by, approximately how long ago, and their possible whereabouts so we could search for them. Our photographer guide even gave us the best tips on taking amazing pictures during our safari. We shared meals daily and met some of their family members as well.
Lending a Hand: The Ability Bhutan Society
ABS supports special-needs children and their families. It provides early and direct intervention and assistance to children with various needs, to help them live independently in Bhutanese society. To learn more, visit http://www.absbhutan.org.
The message on the wall when we entered ABS read, ” If people with disabilities can’t believe in themselves, or if others don’t belive in them, WE will believe in them and hopefully our positivity will spread and encourage more Positivity!
How We Helped
We reached out to ABS in advance of our visit to ask about their needs. They provided a list of items that would be useful but they are unable to source in Bhutan. In partnership with Tarsadia Foundation, Vacations That Matter donated Occupational Therapy kits, several other items and some cash to the organization in person during our visit to Bhutan.
ABS shared a wonderful presentation with us about everything they do, how donor funds are utilized and the lives they have changed.
Each kit had portable equipment and skill-building toys designed for children with special needs, so that the therapists can help children who are housebound, and unable to visit the ABS facility.
We only brought items that would fit in our luggage and could not be sourced locally. The cash donations were used to purchase chairs, tables, and other items that could be purchased locally, in order to support local businesses as well.
It is so nice to see pictures of how ABS is using the items we donated. Seeing the direct impact inspires us to want to do more, so we will continue to support ABS through various travel partners who bring tourism to Bhutan!
Back from Bhutan
Ever told yourself you just “want to escape?” To be surrounded by nature’s beauty, unblemished by our modern world? Such heavenly escape can only be found in Bhutan, the Dragon Kingdom in the valleys of the Himalayas.
Isolated from our fast-paced world, Bhutan is where tradition and culture are immaculately preserved.
Nature and society are one.
Spiritual awareness and practice permeates the land.
It is community that makes the Bhutanese some of the happiest people on earth. Where else can you measure GNP “Gross National Happiness“!
The Bhutanese believe in hospitality; they invite strangers into their humble homes, cook up a storm from the freshest organic produce grown on their farms, and engage in conversation like we are all family and old friends.
Their dedication to humanity is unwavering.
If you’re adventurous and wish to experience spirituality, community, and the ancient culture of the Dragon Kingdom, you will love Exploring Bhutan.
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