October 8, 2017 | Stories from the road
One on One: What we learned talking to an Irish guy about Ireland, travel, and Pierce Brosnan.
By Kevin M.
His name is Gavin, and has a charming Irish accent, loves people more than life itself, and he’s been a part of EF Ultimate Break since 2014. We’re also pretty sure he’s addicted to travel.
Gavin is a Tour Director (TD), which basically means he’s part tour guide, part navigator, and total travel expert. He’s directed more than 40 trips with us over the four years, and it’s no secret that our travelers love him. On tour, he gives advice (both trip- and life-related), offers free-time recommendations, and let’s people in on all the Irish secrets he’s learned over the years.
Long story short, Gavin is a pro. And we need people like him to make our trips complete. So we decided to sit down with him and learn more about Ireland, his life as a Tour Director, his love of travel, and his deepest fears. (Kidding about the last one—he was too scared to talk about them.)
Let’s just start from the beginning: Where are you from?
I’m from Navan, which was really small when I was growing up, but now it’s kinda like a commuter town for Dublin. Pierce Brosnan (James Bond) comes from my home town.
I didn’t realize he was Irish…
Haha yeah, he doesn’t sound like it.
"…it’s just seeing their reaction and having them ease into it; showing them how to be a local as opposed to how to be a tourist."
So, what’s your favorite spot on the Grand Tour of Ireland?
You can’t go to Ireland and not visit one of the smaller, quainter towns. And there’s nowhere better than Killarney to visit for that aspect of Ireland.
They cater to such a huge amount of visitors every year. But they somehow manage to keep that small-town vibe and be very welcoming.
Sometimes travelers are nervous leaving Dublin when they’re really into nightlife; they feel like they might miss their chance. But when they hit Killarney, the nightlife goes off the scale.
"Ireland is a very welcoming place."
Why do you enjoy showing EF Ultimate Break travelers your home country?
It’s just seeing peoples’ reactions, you know?
The subtle differences between the way we do things in Ireland versus the way you do things in the States, they’re the ones that give people the biggest shock factor.
So it’s just seeing their reaction and having them ease into it; showing them how to be a local as opposed to how to be a tourist.
How do you do that?
Well, in Ireland, nobody goes to the bar or pub and doesn’t buy a drink.
In the long run, people appreciate the little tips like that given along the way. And I enjoy it, and I enjoy seeing them feel comfortable everywhere we go—feeling like they’re welcome as possible.
”When the rain comes down, there’s always a cozy place with a cozy corner.”
What are other things that Americans tend to find most surprising about Ireland?
I think people are always amazed at how much Irish people know about the American way of life, politics, stuff like that. And everyone wants to get engaged in conversation, no matter where you go.
Also, totally different, but a wrong expectation people have of Ireland is the weather. We get a bad rep, like “oh it’s gonna be raining all the time”. I mean, I don’t know what it was like when you were there, bu—
It was actually sunny the whole week.
EXACTLY! See? So the weather isn’t so bad. I think it’s consistent all year-round in that we don’t know what’s gonna happen.
But when the rain comes down, there’s always a cozy place with a cozy corner. Where you can pull up a chair and get some comfort food, some nice warm stew and a pot of tea (or hot whiskey or Irish coffee). A musician might pull out an instrument and just start playing away.
“There is value no matter what your abilities are, what your skills or interests are—you can bring something to the table, because travel is everything.”
What do you do during your time off?
My favorite kind of recreation is to go swimming or cliff diving or surfing—depending what way the weather goes.
Let’s switch gears a bit. How did you get started directing tours?
A friend from EF just put up a post on Facebook one day, saying his company was looking for more Tour Directors.
I inquired, had an interview in Amsterdam; went through that, passed that, then did my first tour in June of 2014. It was a real challenge, you know? I was terrified. But it was amazing—pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, trying new things, putting your personality out there.
So that’s kinda what got me hooked on it, just having been so afraid, and then doing well, and then saying maybe I found something I’m pretty good at. That’s what kept me going.
“If I’ve hung out with you for a week, I’ve got that week for the rest of my life.”
"Ireland is a very welcoming place."
Looking back, why is the role of Tour Director such a perfect fit for you?
I love people, and I love helping people. Genuinely so. I like to get engaged with every traveler on a personal level, find out about them, what they’re interested in.
It doesn’t matter how many times I travel around Ireland, every time I do it with a new group, it’s different people and a different experience.
What are other ways you personalize the experience?
If people need my help along the way, or my support, I love getting involved in that.
Every time there’s a new tour, there’s a new memory. Not just for the travelers to keep for the rest of their lives, but also memories that I’ll have for the rest of my life too. So, it’s important for me that that’s not the end; that they stay in touch, that if they’re going traveling again they’ll reach out for tips or whatever, recommendations of where to go, that kind of thing.
It’s not just a once-off for me; this in an experience, and it’s a friendship; there’s nothing I can do about it, you know? If I’ve hung out with you for a week, I’ve got that week for the rest of my life.
Well, thanks for taking the time to chat.
Yeah, thank you. It’s been a pleasure.
Gavin was interviewed by our former copywriter Justin Schroeder. Justin thinks Gavin is one of the greatest people ever and had "the most fun" when he was interviewing him; he still blushes when he talks about it.