Part 1–Thoughts on the big Adventure
Many readers are not aware that the Webmaster quit his job as a financial analyst in March 2017 in order to live in France as a freelance tour guide to the American and Verdun battlefields of WW1. He is doing this from 15 May to 15 November, 2017. This is a follow up to his blogposts, “Taking Stock of the First Two Months–Part 1” and “Taking Stock of the First Two Months–Part 2” that appeared in mid July.
- Yes, it really is a team effort; and the Webmaster is thankful to so many people who have supported him in so many ways! This includes Jean-Paul de Vries, whom the Webmaster has known since 2014, and several individuals that are now referring customers to him.
- Yes, getting a 53-year old man out of his comfort zone (in so many ways) has been one of the great outcomes of this adventure.
- Flexibility, creativity, cultural understanding and connections are needed to endure and overcome bumps in the road.
- Four months into the journey, the Webmaster still does not know how it will end. But the ride has been fantastic!
- One thing the Webmaster does know: He loves to share his knowledge of the region with others! Going forward, he wants to incorporate being a part-time tour guide in France with his other career endeavors.
- Some things work better than others: His blog/website only has 63 subscribers; but the Meuse-Argonne.com Facebook group has grown to more than 800 members this month.
- Sometimes a closed door is an opportunity: Several of his first clients were individuals who signed up for the WW1 Historical Association tour that was cancelled because of too few participants.
- The Webmaster has become a big fan of small-group / individual tours because they can be tailored to the audience and because a car can go places a tour bus cannot go.
- In contrast to the more “manicured” battlefields (like Ypres, the Somme and Normandy) the Meuse-Argonne, St. Mihiel and Verdun battlefields still contain a lot of untouched remains. For this reason, the Webmaster likes getting his customers “into the field” and away from just visiting cemeteries, memorials and museums.
- The Webmaster does NOT know everything about American involvement in WW1; but he knows where to look and who to ask for help.
- A corollary to the previous statement: The Webmaster has met many more Europeans and Americans than he would have, had he not started this adventure!
- THE REAL STORY IS ABOUT THE SOLDIERS ON BOTH SIDES, NOT THE WEBMASTER. He was reminded of this years ago when visiting a WW1/WW2 German cemetery in the area. The superintendent told the story of a widow of a WW2 German soldier who would visit her husband’s grave every year on his birthday. On her last visit, she told her husband that she was in too poor health to do this anymore, but that she would be joining him in heavy soon. When visiting battlefield and cemeteries on a regular basis, one can forget or become immune to the human side of war.
Part 2–Customer Feedback
In keeping with the two-month update, some recent customer tour feedback is provided below:
“Oh what a fantastic host. I came here expecting to get a better understanding of the Meuse-Argonne battle and oh how you did surpass yourself. I have travelled the Western Front for 35 years and I know how long it takes to find these places and you have done it! I am always looking for interesting things and new things to spur my interest and you have certainly done that. You gave me a good appreciation in two days, but as you would say, there is so much more.” Rikki Williams, UK
“…We spent a good deal of time going through the field, forests and trenches (as well as a German bunker) which really brought to life what happened during this most important time during WW1. I certainly have the “bug” when it comes to WW1 and WW2 history and while I have read quite a bit over the years, nothing compares to actually going to where the battles happened. Experiencing the Meuse-Argonne landscape (along with Randy’s photos of then and now) had me realize on a deeper level how grateful I am for all those men who fought in WW1. I’m also grateful to Randy as he stepped out in faith and reorganized his (and his family’s) life to make it possible for people like me that have in interest in WW1…” Judy Karkhoff, Jacksonville, Florida
“Dear future traveler, I must warn you that you may be getting more than you had bargained for because Randy kept me busy the whole stay. I saw and visited more than I had expected. He is detail-oriented and totally devoted to his work. I highly recommend him for your tour guide.” Chris Rubincam, West Chester, Pennsylvania