Tuesday 9 Oct, 2012

Travel Interview with Tour Director Rob Sweetingham

Time to meet another EF person and learn a little about their life in travel with questions from the Independent newspaper. This time it is Tour Director Rob Sweetingham. One of the greats in an already quite great bunch of Tour Directors, Rob has the following accolade to be adorned on him. My wife, Michelle, retired from being a Tour Director five years ago when she became pregnant with our first daughter. Recently she told me that the one TD she missed bumping into above all was Rob. Of course, she married me and so her judgement has been questioned before. Anyway, Rob is a wonderful guy, if you are ever lucky enough to meet him on tour then make the most of it – here is what he had to say.

EF Tour Director Rob Sweetingham

Tour Director Rob

Tell Us about You!
I grew up in Staines, Middlesex. I abandoned an unpromising career in 1995 to try my luck with EF as a Tour Director and have been doing my “summer” job full time ever since. For the first 13 years I was based out of London and am now based out of Athens.

First holiday memory?
Margate, an English seaside town which I visited when I was very young. I spent long days with my sister building huge sandcastles and then watching the tide slowly sweep them away.

Best holiday?
A camping holiday in the Lake District with my father when I was 11. We drove around in 1960s, 1000cc Morris Minor Traveller and we camped in a marvellous collection of boglands, but I loved every minute of it.

Favorite place in Europe
Iceland, I love it there. Nowhere else in Europe is so totally unspoilt. Take the Gullfoss waterfall for example; massive, impressive and hardly a sign of human life, no tacky souvenir stands spoiling the view, no guardrails, you can walk right into it. Iceland is also the only place in Europe where I have been greeted with “Welcome Mr Bald!” When the man from the hotel pick-up service confused my name with a description he had been given of me.

What have you learnt from your travels?
Firstly, never check luggage unless forced to and never miss an opportunity to eat something new. Also, never forget how small the world is, it is amazing the people you run into. Finally, never forget how beautiful a place was the first time you saw it.

Who would be your ideal travelling companion?
Sancho Panza, Planchet, Passepartout, the Admirable Crichton or any other of the host sidekicks that are so helpful and numerous in fiction but slightly lacking in real life. I have recently been offering the position of “intern” to students on my tours and have convinced several to count the people on the bus before setting off. However, I have still not had my shoes shined or had my newspaper delivered to me.

Greatest travel luxury?
My Kicker Boots, they might be out of fashion but who cares? My feet love them. Oh, and my Aegean Airlines Gold Card.

EF Tour Director Rob SweetinghamWhich EF tour would you choose to take?
Australia and New Zealand, but I would sit at the front of the bus and be annoying!

Better to travel or arrive?
Travel, because I never seem to arrive….

Most amusing travel experience?
Singing the old Soviet national anthem with ex-KGB men in St Petersburg. Alternatively, being hosed down by my driver on a tour in Greece while, unbeknownst to me, my entire group was watching. It’s a long story……(which Paul Mattesini is more than happy to relate at any point)

Favourite Museum or Site?
Site – Delphi, it’s a magic place.
Museum – British Museum. And it is free to enter, like all great collections should be.

Best meal abroad?
Quality – Steak, in Florence of course,
Quantity – Anything from the Cheesecake Factory in Boston.

Dream trip?
China. I have always had a gentle fascination with China ever since I watched the adventure series’ “Monkey” and “The Water Margin” on TV when I was at school.

What do you never travel without?
My Samsung Galaxy Note, It has my books, email, facebook, notes, photos, calendar and everything else in it and fits in my pocket.

Where are you going next?
Island of Crete for a holiday.

Readers, do you have any questions for Rob?

(Editor’s note: Add Paul on Google+ If you have a question about for EF Tour Director Paul Mattesini, or an idea for a blog post topic, you can email Paul here, and he will answer readers’ questions in future blog posts.)