On tour: life as a tourist guide abroad

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Dennis Makowetski, who “retired” more than twenty years ago, has published a book about his third career as an overseas tour guide.

When you retire, retire again and retire a third time, after that you become an author, don’t you?

Well, for Chatham’s Dennis Makowetski, that’s how it worked for him.

It took the COVID-19 pandemic to make the retired teacher an author. He wrote “Can you hear me behind the back?” a compilation book on his interesting experiences as an international tourist guide.

But, as mentioned, the tour guide was not Makowetski’s first career. Or second. For 31 years he taught at Chatham Collegiate Institute and Lambton Kent Composite School. He retired for the first time, but continued to teach abroad. He spent a year in England, followed by more than three years teaching in Italy.

And then he retired again… only to become a tour guide with Ellison Travel & Tours in Exeter, Ontario.

For 15 years Makowetski took people of all ages on tours of all kinds, mainly in Europe. He led a few tours in Turkey and another in southern Africa.

And then the pandemic arrived. Very early on, he decided to write a book about his experiences abroad.

“I had a lot of time, with everyone,” he said. “It was my COVID project, besides walking and growing a beard. “

Makowetski said he never went on tours with the idea of ​​writing a book, but the material was there after leading 57 international tours over a 15-year period.

“I hadn’t planned on doing something like this, but when I came back from touring it was my job to write a report,” he said. “After the first tour, I realized that if I didn’t take notes, one day would blend into the next. I got into the habit of taking notes after each day and I stuck to those notes.

Almost half of the tours were aimed at students and were generally of a cultural nature. The rest were adult tours.

Makowetski pointed out that some of the issues he has encountered over the years are generally not the norm.

“Most of the tours were planned so well by the company that they went smoothly,” he said.

The chapters are divided by themes.

We are in a real danger for travelers, theft. And it happened in Makowetski just two days after the start of a big tour. Someone stole his travel bag, which contained his passport, as well as money to pay for access to various sites and events.

“The chapter covers everything from pick-pocketing to passport theft. For me, on the second day of a tour, I lost my bag with everything in it. It contained all the tour equipment and my passport, ”he said.

He said parts of the book relate to problem solving, including when his bag was stolen.

“What to do when you don’t have a passport and money, and you’re in charge of 50 people? I had to get a police report to prove my documents had been stolen, ”he said. “Are you trying to get the money to pay for the tour stuff along the way?” I had photocopies of my ID card and passport, but it’s not good to have you wired. I had to wire it to a friend.

Makowetski said many of the visits were to sites of former battlefields. He devoted a chapter to these stories.

He remembers taking a 96-year-old woman to the grave of her husband, who was killed in 1943 during World War II.

“She had never been there before,” Makowetski said.

In another case, he led a 98-year-old veteran to the site of a particularly difficult clash where an explosion claimed the lives of 16 of his friends in the regiment.

There is a chapter in there on medical emergencies one can encounter while on tour, from ankle sprains to overnight trips to aid stations, and even death while on tour.

He remembers taking a tour member to an infirmary in Zambia in the middle of the night.

“We have the clerk come to the hotel to get us a van, we get an armed guard and we go to the infirmary. I don’t know if the guard was for the van or for us, ”he said.

Makowetski said other chapters focus on hotels – “from terrible to delicious” – to aerial adventures, and a chapter on the people he has met over the years.

“These are the people I have met along the way. Some were just fascinating, ”he said.

Makowetski said moving from a teacher to a tour guide was easy enough for him.

“It’s a link between teaching and guiding. It’s really the same thing, without the expensive part of scoring papers, ”he joked.

“Can you hear me behind my back?” Reflections on 15 Years as a Tour Manager ”is available on Amazon.ca or from Makowetski itself. Contact him either by phone or email at 519-355-7674 or [email protected] to order.

He said the original plan was to make it available in local stores, but the pandemic hasn’t made that an option at this point.

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