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6 Months without shoes

Travel memories of a tour guide

As a young woman, I worked for 11 years as a tour guide. At the time it was not as easy as it is now to receive a work permit in many countries, and being a tour guide was one way to do it and learn about other cultures and peoples.

In the winter of 1984/85, I accepted an assignment to work in the Republic of Maldives, and it was my first long distance destination, so far, I had worked mostly around the Mediterranean and in North Africa. This time I was flying further away, and I was very excited about it. I ended up staying for six months on Baros, an island which can be surrounded on foot in 10 minutes. It was such a strange kind of life, I never wore shoes unless I had to go and meet guests at the airport and then it was just flip flops, and whenever I had some free time, I went snorkeling, windsurfing and I even learned how to scuba dive. There was one single telephone on our island, located in the management office, and when I received a call from our agent in Male, someone came to fetch me from the beach, and I took my call in my swimsuit and a towel wrapped around me. Sometimes the agent would read a telex to me on the phone, and I wouldn’t understand a single word because his accent was so strong when he spoke English.

Male, the capital of the Republic of Maldives as well as the airport island Hulhule were an hour away from my island and could only be reached either by speed boat or by Dhoni.  

Trips to Male, airport transfers and all our excursions were made by Dhoni, it was a fun and pleasant way to travel, sometimes accompanied by dolphins and during the night transfers which I had to accompany once a week, shooting starts were guaranteed because it was so dark.

After three months, the authorities wouldn’t renew my visa and I needed a new entry stamp. My company sent me for a few days to Singapore because it was just an easy direct flight away. I needed to put on shoes for the first time and I realized that my feet had expanded, it was quite a job to squeeze them inside my sneakers, but I finally managed and on top of it all, the back of my passport had gone all moldy in the drawer because of the humid air on my tropical island. It all worked out and I came back for the second half of my adventure. It was an amazing experience where I learned to be patient and enjoy the little things because the days were long and contrary to now, there was no internet or any kind of entertainment apart from many good books.

I have never been back to the Maldives since then, I would probably be amazed to see what it is like today.

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