Ask Tom “TR” Robertson and his wife, Carolyn, how many countries they’ve visited, and they hesitate.
“I’ve lost count,” says Tom Robertson, a retired Carlsbad High School teacher. “There are a lot of them, and many of them we’ve visited twice.”
And some three and four times.
“We’ve been to Italy four times, Greece three times and Australia four times. We love Australia; it’s such a great place. We love the food and the people. We’ve seen the Ayers Rock (also called Uluru) twice. As someone in Australia told us, that’s more than a lot of Australians.”
Traveling has become second nature for this Vista couple — as well as a necessity — because they want “to experience what the world has to offer that is so different than the world we live in,” Robertson explains. “I hate it when people say, ‘This is not what it’s like in America.’ People tend to forget when they travel, especially overseas, it’s going to be different — maybe out of their comfort zone — but that’s what traveling is all about.”
Other countries on their extensive destinations list include more than a dozen in Europe; Egypt; Mexico; Costa Rica; several in South America; Bali; French Polynesia; Thailand; Vietnam; Myanmar; Cambodia; and China. These trips are possible because for more than 20 years, the couple has worked for several tour companies. As tour hosts, the Robertsons organized and escorted many groups of students during Tom’s teaching years, and now that they are retired, they work with groups of adults. (Carolyn was a longtime medical tech for Carlsbad Unified School District).
The responsibilities of being a host are about the same with both age groups, Robertson explains, “but now the accommodations are better. We stay in some gorgeous hotels.”
Pressed to name some of their favorite countries, Robertson says it’s not easy to choose.
“So many of the countries have so much to offer. We really loved Scotland and Ireland. Easter Island stands out as so unusual, as does Peru — not only Machu Picchu but the Nazca Lines. I also loved Egypt when it was safe to travel there, and the ruins of Greece and Turkey are amazing, as are the temples of Myanmar. The list can go on and on.”
As tour hosts, the Robertsons are ultimately responsible for the welfare of their travelers, and sometimes that’s a challenge.
“On one of our student tours many years ago, several students turned the wrong way out of the Vatican when we were in the Sistine Chapel,” Robertson says. “My son, Brian, and I had to take off, back-track and ended up going into rooms we probably weren’t supposed to be in. I ended up … in the Pope’s Garden (Vatican Gardens where visitors are not allowed without an escorted tour).”
On another trip, three teachers missed the ferry back to their ship in the Greek Isles.
“We had to get the ship’s captain to help locate them on the island and get them on another ferry connected to another ship to get them back to our ship.”
Fortunately, Robertson adds, “most of the things that go wrong have been minor.”
The Robertsons will host a tour of no more than 20 on a 15-day trip to Croatia and Slovenia in September. Cost is $4,314 per person. (As of press time, there are eight openings.) Deadline for registering is July 2. For more information, email Carolyn at HYPERLINK “mailto:email@example.com” \t “_blank” firstname.lastname@example.org.
E’Louise Ondash is a veteran, award-winning journalist who was an investigative reporter, feature writer and columnist for the Times Advocate and the North County Times. She has written travel features for The Coast News since 2003.