Tour Manager Spotlight: Meet Stephen Oldham

Get to know our tour managers, well-traveled and fascinating individuals who make your ACIS educational tour truly unique and unforgettable. Today we’re happy to introduce you to Stephen Oldham.

Hello Stephen! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born in the UK in Derbyshire. I grew up in Staffordshire and still live there now. I have lived in France twice. The first time for a summer when I was 18 or 19 working on campsites all over the country. The second time for a year at University in Montpellier. I was a full time tour manager for 5 years. I worked all over Europe but I spent most of my time in Italy and Greece.

What do you do when you’re not on tour with ACIS?

I am a criminal lawyer by profession. I used to deal with all kinds of offences but now I concentrate just on driving cases. When I’m not working, I play the tuba in a brass band. I also enjoy running—I did my first marathon last October. I only ever intended to do one but my time was 4 hours and 42 seconds so I will have to do another to beat the 4 hour barrier. I hope that I will have enough time to train; my first child Douglas was born on 28th December 2013.

If you traveled as a young child, adolescent or student, where did you go and how did those travel experiences impact your life?

We only ever went on one trip abroad as a family. It was in 1980 when I was 10 years old. My mum, dad, two brothers (then aged 7 and 4) and I all went in our tiny Mini Metro to France for 10 days. It seems crazy now to think of making the journey in such a small car but it seemed quite normal at the time.

I remember getting off the overnight ferry in St Malo early in the morning. We went to a bakers, bought fresh croissants and ate them in a park. The details are as clear in my mind as if it were yesterday. It’s funny how the small things on a trip make the biggest impression. I fell in love with France at that moment (although my mum tells me that she used to sing songs to me in French before I could even talk so maybe she should take some of the credit).

The rest of the trip was equally as exciting. We hadn’t booked any places to stay and we wandered around Brittany in the Mini Metro going from beach to beach and restaurant to restaurant. It’s a beautiful part of the world and I would love to take Douglas there one day.

What’s one thing you wish every young adult/student could experience while traveling?

I am going to cheat and go for two things!

First, get as close to the ground as you can. What do I mean? Walk, walk and walk some more. Experience a new place by pounding the streets, you see so much more. You can see plenty from a bus, taxi or a boat but nothing at all beats walking. Well, maybe one thing, A few years ago I would never have suggested cycling, it was far too dangerous. Things have changed. Better cycle lanes and more courteous drivers mean that getting around on two wheels is the new best way to go.

Second, eat. Eat something new, eat something weird, order something that you have never heard of for lunch. It’s the only way to understand a new country. Don’t be scared. What’s the worst that could happen? Everyone should be allowed to experience butifarra in Barcelona, nero di seppie in Venice, socca in Nice and papoutsakia in Athens. A trip spent hopping from one fast food place to another is a wasted one.

What’s your favorite foreign expression?

Dolce far niente in Italian means sweetly doing nothing or delicious idleness. Every evening in Italy, especially in the summer, you will see everyone going out for a walk or a passegiata. It’s a beautiful thing to see people wandering through the picturesque squares and streets enjoying a stroll before dinner. Are they going somewhere? No. Are they meeting someone? Maybe. Do they have plans? Probably not. What are they doing? Of course the answer is…nothing. Every trip should have some doing nothing time. I always try to make time for some dolce far niente wherever I go, not just Italy.

Thanks Stephen! 

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