Our friend Rick Botts has a favorite joke: “Don’t be a sheep and follow the herd.” [The joke being that sheep flock and cows herd, so if you’re a sheep following the herd, you are by definition a chronic non-conformist.] He told us this after I confessed to spending an hour in a medical encyclopedia searching for the proper term for tour-bus phobia (still searching, in case anyone has a suggestion), an affliction we normally suffer from.
Yet there we were in Ephesus, in outer Turkey, climbing off a bus and feeling sorry for the tour-guiding profession. One massive bomb in Istanbul Airport, one feeble military coup, one bogus crackdown by President Erdogan—and the touring business vanishes. With a 70% drop in revenues, all the guides are going back to school to become English teachers. It almost—but not quite—makes you empathize enough to sign up for the leather, glass, and rug factory tours.
It isn’t as though just anyone can make a living herding sheep around ruins and making up stories to keep them from wandering off and getting lost. Turkey requires months of training along with fluency in English, the universal tourist language. The European Union even has a standard, EN15565, the European Standard for the Training and Qualification of Tourist Guides [Ouch!]. Yet when tourism collides with politics, your career goes poof.
It’s all a gentle reminder of just how precarious life is for the vast majority of global citizens who don’t call themselves Americans or Europeans.