Why am I feeling conflicted as a tour guide? On one hand, I absolutely love the work. Not every moment, for sure. But over all, well, I pinch myself that I kind of stumbled into it.
Take this year, I’ve committed to lead tours for every month, except August, from mid-May to end of Oct. Each and every trip I very excited to be leading. My calendar looks like this:
- May: across Canada from Vancouver to Halifax by VIA Rail;
- June: a tour of Alberta’s Badlands, including Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park/ Áísínai’pi, pictured above;
- July: another coach tour, this time in Saskatchewan, taking in both Prince Albert National Park and Batoche National Historic Site;
- August: My wife and driving back to Manitoba, camping along the way in some of our favourite parks;
- Sept: this is a busy month as I’ll be leading two trips: one to Haida Gwaii via the Inside Passage and the other to the Western Arctic via Whitehorse, Dawson City and Inuvik; and
- Oct.: Another busy month with me leading two trips to places and experiences that have been on my bucket list for decades: to the Seal River to witness and photograph the Northern Lights and to Churchill to observe and photograph Polar Bears. In case you’re not familiar with these places, they’re both in Manitoba’s high north.
Note: I’ll provide more details on each of these tours along with links on the calendar page soon.
Not only do I get to see and experience these fabulous places; but I get to travel in a style I could never afford and with interesting, fun-loving people eager to learn. And I’m paid very well for my services. Bonus!
But I’m also acutely aware of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with each of these trips and all the others offered within the travel industry. I suppose it’s the trip to see Polar Bears at Churchill that cause the strongest pangs of guilt. See them before they’re gone, right?
It’s not too late for me to change my mind and let the tour operator to find someone else. I know this would be terribly disappointing for them, particularly for their representative. She and I have formed a really nice working relationship even though we’ve never met. I’ve led other tours for them in the past, pre-COVID. I also know that this tour will go ahead whether I lead it or not. Another important consideration is whether my replacement would have as strong of an environmental perspective as I do.
And yes, I’ll admit I’d really like to see and experience polar bears in their natural habitat. I’ve only seen them in a large tank at the Winnipeg Zoo a number of years ago.
Sure, watching these two individuals roughhousing it under water over my head was a thrilling experience. But it has only fueled my desire to see them on the barren lands around Churchill. Where they are free to roam at will.
And so I arrive back on the horns of my dilemma. Should I go or should I stay?