The job of a great Tour Director? To make the coolest destinations even cooler. All of our industry-leading Tour Directors share passions for travel, education and performance. They know their selected cities like the backs of their hands, so getting lost isn’t really an option. Plus they’re ridiculously fun to hang out with.
We had the opportunity to speak with Gil Avin, who’s been a Brightspark Tour Director for two years. Find out what made this personable history buff fall in love with his job.
Tell us about yourself:
I am a Washington, DC resident and Baltimore, MD native; a PoliSci and History undergraduate of the University of Delaware and Public Policy post-graduate of the University of Maryland. In between, I worked for a spell in technology sales and business development in San Francisco, CA. I came to Tour Directing out of my moonlighting gig as a Washington DC-based Tour Guide during my graduate studies.
Why do you love being a Tour Director?
As a self-professed history geek, I am passionate about inspiring students to appreciate the extraordinary history of the United States through the lens of its Capital City. Since Brightspark student tours are part education and part entertainment, a dedicated Tour Director should likewise offer the right balance of both while forging a memorable student experience.
What is your favorite travel destination?
Tough question! Internationally, it’s a three-way tie between Southeast Asia, India, and Israel (although Italy and Greece aren’t far behind). Here in the good ole’ USA, Washington DC is at the top of the list of fascinating destinations, with more sights to see than most can accomplish in a single trip.
What site should not be missed in your favorite travel destination?
In the DC area, Arlington National Cemetery.
What is one site that could be skipped and what would you do instead?
A subjective answer but if one had to skip a site during a student trip to DC, the Spy Museum would probably be it — even though it’s fun and many folks enjoy it. Instead, I’d spend that time across the street at the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum. An added bonus is the exquisite Kogod Courtyard linking the two — a less visited but worthy site to explore.
What advice do you have for a new Tour Sponsor running their first tour?
Like the poster and t-shirt say: keep calm and carry on. Traffic, surprises, and bumps along the road tend to happen on tour. If one can remain flexible, optimistic and focused on the students getting the most from their experience, then almost any tour will be a success.
Give us one tip on how to travel like a pro:
Pack light but don’t skimp on the umbrella or poncho.
What’s taboo on tour?
Constantly asking how long it takes to get from Point X to Point Y in DC. The answer is always, “it depends”!
What’s your favorite way to keep the students engaged on tour?
Spinning tall tales of American history if their attention seems to be flagging. Misdirection like that keeps ‘em honest and on their toes. Throwing some humor into the mix is essential, as an educational tour shouldn’t be a 4-day lecture. Engaging the students in back-and-forth dialogue makes sure everyone is “bought in” and comes away from the experience with more curiosity and better understanding than before.
A far cry from your tattered travel guidebook, Gil projects a contagious enthusiasm that your students are sure to catch.