From curious cultural differences to silly sibling pranks, we asked our beloved Travel Director Tod to share some of the funniest moments he’s witnessed in his five years on the road with Trafalgar.
While he grew up in Australia, Tod has returned to the land of his ancestors and is now based in a small Croatian seaside town. His intimate knowledge of both worlds means Tod offers guests a unique view of Balkan culture from both an inside and outsider perspective.
Earlier this year lucky Tod led our special Trafalgar Unlocked Awards trip through the Balkans, taking VIP guests on a 12-day trip across three countries.
Let’s quiz Tod on the funniest moments he’s experienced while leading Trafalgar tours.
Do you have a silly joke or favorite saying that you like to share with guests?
I always quote my Local Specialist from Sarajevo: “Where logic ends the Balkans begins”.
It’s whenever we see anything that makes no sense, for example:
- An intersection near our hotel in Dubrovnik where they have put a roundabout with a traffic signal and four crosswalks
- When a building says it has accessible access and it does… but after the stairs to reach the ramp
So it becomes a game. Whenever we see something not quite right or have an interaction with a local that makes no sense – they just shrug their shoulders and say “the Balkans”.
TAKE A TRIP: Balkan Adventure
What are some funny cultural differences in the Balkans?
I explain to guests that nobody is in a hurry. For example, we don’t do coffee to go and a coffee requires a minimum of 30 minutes, but for locals coffee can go on for hours.
I also tell guests they will never see a person running, even if they are late for work or class so if they do see someone running – take note as it must be an emergency. I say there is one exception – the locals do notice when I run as a Travel Director as it usually means I am missing a guest.
In Croatia we say “polako” or in the coastal areas “pomalo” and it literally means slow down or to go slow. Locals stay firmly in first gear when they walk around their town or go about their day. It’s a nice reminder to enjoy the moment.
What’s the silliest thing a guest has ever done?
Pack their baggage and leave it outside their room on a day we weren’t travelling to another city. He was travelling with his sister, and they were always so animated and had a great sense of humour and banter.
She decided to play a joke and, in the morning, told him he needed to pack his bag quickly as the porter would be coming even though on this day we were going on a full-day trip to Montenegro.
The look on his face when he arrived at the coach and saw no bags was priceless. I asked the hotel to put his bag back in his room and when he told the other guests they found it very funny.
TAKE A TRIP: Highlights of Eastern Europe
What are your top funniest memories from on the road?
We were waiting for the last guest from a roadside café and there were a few coaches lined up near ours and the same colour. Everyone was watching as this guest came running out and she ran to the centre door of the coach next to us. Everyone watched in disbelief but before I could go and get her, she came back off as quickly as she boarded saying “I said sorry for being late – I ran to my seat and found someone else sitting there, and then I realised I didn’t recognise anyone on the coach!” She embarrassingly left the other coach to board ours to a round of applause for finding us.
Another funny memory is how we nearly missed a fast ferry due to heavy traffic. The driver had to drop us in the traffic jam and we walked the last 400 metres. I was running ahead to stop the ferry and also running back to marshal and make sure guests knew where to go. I had convinced the staff at the ferry entry to wait until I came back with the last of the guests.
As I rushed the last two guests, I noticed one of my guests was hunched over the railing of the boarding ramp. Concerned I said “Are you ok?”. He replied: “yes, I faked an injury on the ramp in case they tried to remove it and leave without you”. This guest takes the award for quick thinking and also for applying Balkan logic.
TAKE A TRIP: Balkan Delight
What’s something strange or unexpected about being a Travel Director?
What I have learned about this wonderful role is my guests love when I share personal stories about my family and their life during the different periods of history in Croatia. It turns out a lot of my stories about my grandmother and my parents are pretty funny, and many quests relate to similar experiences with their parents and grandparents.
I like that though sometimes what is a hard life for many people we can laugh also at many good times.
You led the special Trafalgar Unlocked Awards trip to the Balkans. What do you remember of the guests Cassandra and Ashlinn?
Being the Travel Director on this trip was such an honour. From the first minute I met the guests their energy was buzzing and I knew I had a huge 12 days ahead of matching it and keeping that buzz alive. It wasn’t hard because of the way each person embraced each other and the trip.
Cassie – I remember her big smile and big hair, which radiated confidence and humour. I saw her Instagram stories and thought she needs to be a travel reporter because of her style and ability to have fun whilst doing something she loves. She was amazing with our surprise wedding of Craig and Graham and was also one of the groomsmaids. I will always remember the laugh and her partner in crime Kristen, who she brought on the trip with her. They were both so much fun and the group as a whole just beamed off each other. It was so lovely to see.
Ashlinn – with an infectious smile and positive energy, she was the queen behind the camera. I saw the care and attention she took to taking pictures including standing knee-deep in very cold water at Rastoke Falls and I was so looking forward to when she posted them after the trip – and they were amazing. Ed and Ashlinn were awesome guests and added to the whole group’s energy. Ashlinn had the special role of being the celebrant for Craig and Graham’s wedding, which I know was a very special moment for her and something she didn’t think she would be doing on this trip.
What’s the best thing about being a Travel Director with Trafalgar?
The best thing is I have been able to fulfill my dream of working and living in Croatia in my career. I am a first-generation Australian with Croatian heritage, and grew up with Croatian traditions but in Australia.
I visited many times during my childhood and annually in my adult years, but since leaving college I always dreamed one day I would come to live and work in the country I knew so much about but never lived in. After 25 years in the airline industry, the opportunity came as I was looking for a big change in my life and career.
To this day I still can’t believe I get to be an ambassador for the Balkans, particularly Croatia, and give people an experience through my eyes and upbringing. Many of our guests come from Australia or very similar countries so I feel I understand them and their expectations as well as having the local knowledge to help them navigate this part of Europe with ease and with having a fun time.
I feel being a Travel Director is my calling as it brings together 30 years of experience I have with people from my airline and training background and my passion for history and exploring cultures.
Recently I reached my milestone of travelling to 60 countries and I feel every new place teaches you something new and that’s what I want my guests to take away from travelling with Trafalgar.
TAKE A TRIP: Highlights of Austria, Slovenia and Croatia
Any other silly or funny memories you’d like to add?
There was an occasion where the weather was so bad and we were on a day trip in Montenegro. We all had wet feet and had to abandon the walking tour due to lightning and heavy rain.
I decided without the guests knowing to buy everyone a pair of socks, which was not easy to find in Kotor. I presented them whilst wearing a Montenegro sailor’s cap (since it felt like we were sailing on the flooded roads not driving) to them as we drove away.
The reaction was like I had given them all a new car like Oprah. So many laughs and they were so grateful.
The following year was the pandemic and I received so many messages from guests who were staying in touch. They all said I think of you every time I open my sock drawer and see my socks from Montenegro. I also made fun of the situation and gave a lot of the men socks with flowers or pink ones, which everyone took in good humour.
The problem for me came at the border as I didn’t want to put my wet boots on but I had to alight at the border to present the passports. So I placed two small plastic bags over my socks and put on my wet boots.
You could see bits of the bag, which looked like a weird boot lining, so I was just hoping the border police didn’t think I had something hiding in my boots. The guests were all watching as I took their passports to the booth with intrigue and suspense, No one noticed and we left without me – their Travel Director – being told to remove his boots… or worse, more!
TAKE A TRIP: Pearls of the Adriatic
What are your funniest moments from a Trafalgar tour? Share one in the comments below…