This introduction to Merve’s background illustrates perfectly why many of us at some stage in our lives regretted not taking our preferred paths to personal fulfilment, for whatever reason? The following personal summary outlines various factors that held my own aspirations back for more years than were necessary.
The first setback to Merve’s background came at that fragile, leaving school time in life when the desire to go to Drama School was stopped quicker than a dream turning into a nightmare. Reason? parents insisted that I “get a proper job”.
Being born in England, just after a catastrophic World War, it was artisans that were in high demand for putting devastated countries back together. It was what it was, and back in the day, one questioned parents at one’s peril.
My first step towards an unknown future was dominated by a decision to take the first of life’s big gambles by sailing away from the country of my birth in August 1970 on the penultimate voyage of the RMS Windsor Castle for a temporary “suss out the scene” visit to Cape Town. Arriving in Table Bay after 12 very hazy but thoroughly enjoyable days and nights onboard, I have remained in Cape Town ever since. The word “temporary” is now under review by compilers of the Oxford English Dictionary ! Merve’s background in South Africa was about to commence.
The first 4 years of single life in Cape Town were a bachelor’s dream, comparable only to the latter UK years spent working in the Soho area of London during the swinging 60’s era. Although if the often quoted “statistic” of there being seven girls to one boy in Cape Town was correct, then some lucky guy had 14!
Armed with an Accounting qualification, and somehow surviving the first 25 years of working life in South Africa it became second nature to rebel against any form of pompous corporate politics, and inflated ego’s. Does that sound familiar or what? No need to record any additional detail of work-life before Tourism as it’s all pretty predictable. Rather leave that part of Merve’s background to the mundane world of Corporate life and watching re-runs of Ricky Gervais’s “The Office” which perceptively says it all.
Then came 1994, a momentous year on two counts. Firstly, Nelson Mandela became President of a democratic South Africa. Secondly, with impeccable timing, it was the proverbial no brainer to take advantage of a generous retrenchment offer made by the then Corporate employer. Merve’s background was about to take a major upheaval.
Now was the time to cast off those golden handcuffs, and start pulling one’s own strings for once. Goodbye “Ricky”, Hello Freedom – at last!
A lesson definitely learnt from incorrect priorities and choices has been the adoption of the wise words contained in The Mantra of Ganesh:-
“I bow to the elephant-faced deity who destroys all obstacles and leads one on the path to wisdom and success”
The simplified version is one that has repeatedly been passed on to my three daughters, and anyone else who will listen, which goes:- “Whatever you choose to do in life the first priority is to enjoy it”
All three offspring have at some stage, developed their own businesses, and this after initially electing for the safe, golden handcuff options. My encouragement and support was mainly in steering them through the essential aspects of developing and running a business, all critical parts of minimising risk. It helped them. It helped me. It could help YOU.
After years of international isolation, Tourism just had to be full of potential for anyone prepared to take the risk of self-employment, and develop a business within a stimulating, and exciting environment.
At this stage in Merve’s background the prime objective was to be a Business Owner, and Tourism ticked all the boxes. Tourist Guiding and Tour Operating seemed to dovetail reasonably well, with the former providing the opportunity to physically travel, and the latter the opportunity for actual business development. The bonus with Tourist Guiding is that it put me right at the coal face of Tourism, enabling interaction with many interesting people whilst simultaneously learning first hand, more about my adopted, and neighbouring countries. A natural spin-off was gaining a greater appreciation of where Tourist Guides fitted into the broader Tourism jigsaw puzzle.
Having successfully qualified as a South African Tourist Guide in late 1994 with the plan that Tourist Guiding would only be yet another “temporary” means to an end on the road to becoming a small business owner running a Tour Operating company, this proved to be not so simple as theoretically planned.
Crossroads and Detours
Ever had any of your own plans not develop in the way that they were supposed to? You would be the rarest of human beings if that were not the case.
This is best highlighted by an uncanny, and unfathomable ability to conjure up involuntary bodily jerks and ticks at the worst possible time. An “affliction” that has often led to finding myself either organising something or worse, being on a Committee !
To say different types of Tourist Guide involvement took up just as much time off the road as on it, is an understatement, particularly during those early pioneering years. Why pioneering ? because at that time in South Africa there was little credible organisational infrastructure, legal framework, formal educational or training standards, all of which I somehow got myself involved with through an inability to control the aforementioned “bodily jerks and ticks” 😳
Tourist Guide Involvement, and then some…..
- Cape Tourist Guides Association
- Founder Member
- Honorary Life Member
- Past Committee Member and Chairman
- Guiding / Leading Tours
- Throughout South Africa
- Namibia & Victoria Falls
- South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA)
- 2-year membership of original Statutory “Generating Standards Body”
- Qualified Tourist Guide Assessor
- 4 years as a Mentor run by Western Cape Tourism Board
Guide to Operator and Business Owner
Following 4 years as a freelance Guide, and still learning what a Tourist Guide actually does, which is a perpetual learning curve. Anyone who says it isn’t reinforces my case for some form of pre-assessment.
Eventually ventured into the world of business ownership, and launched a Tour Operating company during 2002. Apart from the pure business side of development, it didn’t take long for the ongoing experiences of Tourist Guiding to prove even more beneficial than initially thought. The principle that there is no substitute for actually having “done it” rang true in many areas of operation. From the design and logistics of Touring schedules, to understanding the sort of practical issues that confront Guides on a regular basis, were more invaluable than any theoretical training courses could possibly have been.
As a Tour Operator, I somehow managed to develop markets mainly in the UK and USA, although precisely how remains somewhat of a mystery. Never discount that element of “luck”. It certainly played a role in my own business endeavours.
An accidental side market saw me arranging and leading, local South African Senior Citizens tours for many years. The latter was both an eye-opener, and an education in, amongst other things, “101 useless uses for hearing aids”. Even asked by one gentleman if we could find space for his commode. Anything after that is TMI, from which you will be mercifully spared.
Without question, Merve’s background in the financial world proved to be an invaluable bonus when it came to the essential subjects that many wannabe business owners tend to conveniently overlook i.e., business planning, budgeting, costing etc. During the mentoring years, I often asked those whose eyes glazed over when mentioning these dull and boring subjects, “are you not familiar with the principles of facing reality, and minimising risk ?”
Already the new technological concepts being grappled with are constantly threatening my technically challenged comfort zone, but heh, comfort zones breed complacency, and that’s never a good idea. Besides, having a small group of 8 to 12 year-olds on hand to help the pen and quill generation is not the worst strategy ever adopted. Once one starts understanding that acronyms such as FOMO is not an upmarket washing powder, or that PPC is not a reference to a well-known cement company, the world of Social Media starts to have a stimulating attraction all of its own.
Personal Life – summarised and somewhat “censored”:-
What follows is a very small glimpse into the personal side of my background.
Happily married for 39 years before the premature loss of my wife. Her legacy lives on through three daughters, and currently four grandchildren. Owned various pets, mainly dogs, together with canaries, and briefly a budgerigar of indeterminate gender who became a sad fatality during a dizzying attempt to ascertain which way the perch actually swung – RIP “Chirpy”.
No more detail required except to say that the so, so important balance between self-employment and family life was impossible to maintain a lot of the time, particularly in the early years, and without the ongoing support of an all too regularly “abandoned” wife, it most definitely would not have been possible.
For your dedicated, and all too often singular efforts, to rear a stable, well-adjusted family despite some daunting odds, I am eternally grateful to you Lucia XXXXX.
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