As an independent traveler I have always been a bit snobbish about tour guides.
But when I spent 5 days with Hayley in Churchill I started to realize that they can actually make a travel experience.
Here in Jordan I have spent 10 days with Mahmoud my guide and Rami my driver.
They show me the sites and Mahmoud explains the history but there is so much more.
We’ve become friends.
During the day we have lunch with Rami, who makes me laugh despite the language barrier.
At night Mahmoud and I eat dinner together and talk about everything, our cultural difference, our similiarities, we laugh about people from other countries.
He is patient with all of my many many questions: why do women wear headscarves? why do some show hair and others do not?
What is happening in Syria? What are the wedding traditions of Bedouins? What should I wear? Do I need to cover my shoulders? Do people like tourists? Why do people pray 5 times a day?
We also talk about life, having children, traveling alone, learning other cultures.
He wants to do the full Camino de Santiago which I am too lazy to do. He’d love to have a bed in a van and just travel around like Germans in Turkey.
Within a few days it feels like we are old friends. Mahmoud knows that I drink too much water and have to go to the washroom before I see any site or talk to anyone.
Mahmoud says he doesn’t know everyone in Jordan but I think he does. We are constantly stopped by people who tell me he is the best guide.
I can see he is well respected by everyone.
Sometimes we brush off guides because we are seeking this elusive authentic experience.
But I understand Jordan far better from spending time with Mahmoud than if I tried to do it on my own.
Maybe it isn’t the independent backpacking way to do it but if I hadn’t had a guide and driver I would never have come to love Jordan the way I do.