One can only imagine what it takes to put together a comfort tour for 40+ audacious travellers. With different destinations, different nationalities and different expectations, there is an endless list of things to do. As such, you need someone that knows what they are doing, who is also passionate about travel and people. Luckily for us (and for our Explorers), our main man, Greg Fleming, is exactly that type of ‘someone’.
Greg is based in our London office, was born in New Zealand, and loves drinking espresso the Italian way! As Operations Manager, he is the main man in charge of organising Expat Explore’s exciting tours to Europe, UK, Egypt, Croatia, Turkey and Greece. Greg recently took the time to give us a glimpse into his passion for travel, his day to day responsibilities and his top travel experiences.
You’ve been to over 50 countries – how did your love for travel come about?
The travel bug bit me at an early age. My family’s business was in travel, and as a result, I started travelling from a young age. There was no turning back from there – travel is my passion and I will keep on travelling for as long as I can.
Your favourite destinations in the world?
Italy and New Zealand. Italy, because of the food, arts, amazing scenery and culture (to name a few!) and New Zealand, because its home.
One destination you still want to travel to?
The Balkans are popular at the moment and I would love to further explore the region, including Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro.
You play an important role in the destinations and itineraries of all Expat Explore tours. How do you come up with destinations that you include in tours?
I love to travel and experience new things, and as a result, I spend a lot of my free time travelling to new destinations. While I’m away, I often think about different aspects and features of potential new tours, and wonder whether or not our clients would enjoy these as much as I do.
One of my favourite destinations is the medieval Tuscan Town, San Gimignano. After travelling here on a family vacation, I knew this would be a great place to take our clients. The town, located halfway between Siena and Florence (in Italy), is famous for its fortifications and towers, as well as its wine!
You’ve led tours throughout Europe and you know what it’s like to be a tour leader on the road. Is it really the best job in the world?
(Laughing) Yes, it is. You get to travel all over the world and create lifelong memories with fellow travellers. But it is also a very tough job as you are on hand 24 hours a day and work long hours.
What type of person does it take to be a tour leader for Expat Explore?
You need to be a 100% committed and passionate about travel. We receive hundreds of CV’s every year and only the best make it onto the Expat Explore team.
Expat Explore was founded by two South Africans while travelling the world. You have been working as the Operations Manager for 3 years. What’s the best part of your job?
I always say that we are the United Nations of Coaches, and I really believe that we are. Sometimes we have up to 20 different nationalities on one tour. No matter your age or origin, everyone is welcome, which means the group of tours are always very interesting and dynamic.
There is something special about watching the tour arrive at the final destination on the last day – people hugging, kissing and crying. I have seen two complete strangers go on the same tour and get married!
What does a day in your life look like?
No day is the same in my role. It usually starts off by catching a tube to work, having an espresso to kick start my day, and checking in to see what’s happening on the road. One of my biggest responsibilities is ensuring that all features of a tour itinerary are met, and that everything is going to plan on the road. I also spend a large part of my day managing the operations staff in London, as well as dealing with our suppliers all over Europe and beyond.
What country would you recommend to first time travellers?
Switzerland. It always delights new travellers! No matter what time of the year you go, it is amazing. Scenery, scenery, scenery, and it’s one of the safest countries in the world.
Earlier you mentioned that travelling shaped you as a person. What is driving you to see more of the world, and why is it important to travel?
Travelling changes you as a person, and opens your mind to different cultures and ways of life. You can’t put a price on these experiences and how it changes you.
With regards to coach travel, why is this a good option when travelling to Europe, and why travel in a group?
Coach travel is the best way of seeing multiple countries, and it offers the best value for money. It is safe and easy, with a tour leader and driver to take you to each destination. This takes the hassle out of making all your own arrangements. On a coach, you have the opportunity to make life-long friends, and share experiences. The most memorable part of a tour is usually the things you do not see in the itinerary or brochure. It is going out with a bunch of new friends to try real Italian pizza (try to order it in Italian!), getting lost in Venice and just watching the world pass by in a Parisian cafe.
You are determined to educate everyone on the differences between a ‘coach’ and a ‘bus’… Help us understand?
The main difference between a bus and coach is that a coach has an on-board toilet/ bathroom, air conditioning, reclining seats, seat belts, entertainment systems, and also, all our coaches have names. Buses do not have these facilities.
If you’ve been on tour you will know that we always say – what happens on tour, stays on tour! (Laughing) On one of the the very first Europe tours I led, we were driving into Paris past the Trocadero. I explained to the group that we will see an amazing view any second and they started counting down from ten. Coming around the corner everyone started screaming and clapping as we had a perfect view of the Eiffel tower in all its glory. I could just feed off that energy for days. The excitement in the air was tangible.
You know every Expat Explore tour itinerary by heart. What is your favourite Expat Explore tour?
The Northern Explorer tour is definitely at the top of my list (at the moment). We cover a lot of capital cities around Europe like Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tallinn and Vilnius. The itinerary is also very contrasting and you get to explore regions that are off the beaten path.
The Best of Europe tour is also a big favourite as the itinerary includes some of my favourite places in Europe – Dubrovnik, Budapest and Vienna. It’s the perfect mix of sun and sights.
You witness beginner and experienced travellers from all over the world. What are your Top Travel Tips?
If you want to ask Greg or any other team member at Expat Explore any travel related questions please feel free to leave a comment below! You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a shout on our Facebook or Twitter page.