I’ve been a guide at Metropolitan Touring since the early 1980s and the question has come up, of course, what does it mean to be a guide? I guess I could try to answer it with concepts, but I have a story that maybe sums it up in a more poetic, eloquent way. It happened some 25 years ago! I was given instructions to guide a VIP passenger travelling alone. The story begins at the very Quito airport. At that time, guests were "protected" from the street by a metal mesh that seemed a lot like prison, with crowds of people trying to fight their way to the front, in order to look through and seek out their arriving friends and relatives (a situation that often made me think about adding a pair of stilts to my uniform). My VIP guest was not arriving… until I noticed an older man peering from inside the room… he would walked along, as if wanting to leave, and then walked back into the building. He did this several times, and I finally noticed that this older gentleman was, in fact, my guest. He was in his 80s and could hardly see.
Already on the way to Hotel Colón, he told me that he saw only shapes and shadows, and that his wife could not travel. He asked me if I would accept to take care of his belongings until the end of his stay, which I accepted, and then handed his documents over, all his money, his camera and film and vouchers, it was all a mess. I then took the time to organize it all.
During our walking tours, I not only had to tell him about the sites we visited… I had to describe in detail what we were looking at. I described colours and shapes and specificities and textures… he liked the local storys and had an enviable zest for life. I also had to take his pictures for him and use his money to pay for drinks, tips… etc. He was fun to talk to and a very kind person with a great sense of humour.
I found out he was of Scottish royalty and possessed a large estate in the north of the country that was in the family for centuries, and that his dream was to travel to the Galápagos before he died.
We said goodbye at the airport in Quito as he left for the Islands. I was quite moved. I have rarely had the experience of someone who barely knows me to trust me so blindly, even to the point of seeing through my eyes.