Coming out the other side – the inside story
“Each of us has the right and the responsibility to assess the roads which lie ahead, and those over which we have travelled, and if the future road looms ominous and unpromising, and the roads back uninviting, then we need to gather our resolve and, carrying only the necessary baggage, step off that road into another direction.” (Maya Angelou)
It will be strange looking back on 2020. Life can throw up the unexpected at any given time but never for our generation on such a collective scale all at the one time. The road ahead seemed blurred and we felt the absence of those we would normally have alongside. Yet, now as we venture out beyond our safe sanctuaries, many of us are in no rush to return to the way things were. A faint flicker lit up once darkened skies to guide us on our way. Human kindness carried us when we needed it most. To retreat may not be the best option. Better to re-set our bearings so that we begin to track closer to where we now know we need to be.
Like other small companies, Waterford Camino Tours has been thrown upside down since early March, 2020. The tremors were felt out at sea, we knew the wave was coming but there was nowhere to hide. Our small raft was drifting alone in hostile waters at the mercy of forces we were powerless to control. Staring into the unknown is not easy. We tried to stay calm. We knew the mist would lift and that we would find our way home. This time we were all in it together. There were daily reminders of the pain and isolation being felt by many most exposed to the ferocity of the elements. Waterford Camino Tours would survive, neither of us were quite sure how, but right now something far more important was happening around us. The future would have to be put on hold!
So where do you turn when all your plans are thrown into oblivion? Our immediate priority was to check in on the key people who help us do what we do with our tours; our coach operator Brian, our Greenway bike hire agents Garvan and Donal, our boat trip navigator Brendan, our local cafés, especially Jenny and the team at Kiersey’s, Janet and Michael on our marketing and website design. These are more than just business associates. They have become valued friends. We had just waved goodbye to our first American group staying in Lismore Castle when lockdown arrived and we wanted to make sure that everyone on the team was paid in full. Simple rule of how we run our business – do the right thing and it will come back to you in spades. We also tried to save whatever bookings we could, postponing most to the same week in 2021 so that we would have time on our hands to ride out the storm.
There were 2 of us in it, both of us making our livelihood from the one source that was no longer available to us. We bunkered down like everyone else and made a few tweaks to our lifestyle to match our changing circumstances. It was a little scary at first to be honest and there were times when we wondered whether or not our business would still be intact when we re-emerged on the other side. We sought out whatever supports we could so that Waterford Camino Tours would withstand the tumult. Our daily walks became our therapy – our time to process, to see beyond the challenges and start to visualise the solutions. We laughed, chatted, imagined, planned… and trusted in the life force of the universe to see us home. This loop around Tramore, our very own ‘circle of life’, gave us the strength to handle all that the world threw at us. Time in the great outdoors has a way of slowing down the restless stirrings of the mind.
This unexpected ‘time-out’ over the past few months was one we did not want to waste. It was good to rest the mind for a while, to plant some flowers and watch them grow. When you’re not moving at a frantic pace, you begin to see more clearly. We’d been so busy planning, getting our website right, creating a schedule of events for the coming year, pinning down bookings… now we had time to rest up. In moments of upheaval, it pays not to force a quick remedy that could rebound on you just as fast. An unspoken truth guided us… peace of mind matters more than anything. Anchor in at the isle for a while, don’t try to sell tours, vouchers, day trips… anything. Just be. Breathe. And in the space that this creates, be open to new pathways. We vowed to use our social media platform to spread a little calm. The rest… that could come later!
So, what have we learned over the past few months? You can build your very own empire, no matter how small and humble, with the right people by your side. Do not settle for less. It’s better to have people you can trust to deliver for you no matter how small their operation may be than to compromise everything you stand for to placate those who would let you down in an instant. Gravitate to the genuine, those content to work below the radar, and who are true to their word. We’ve great people around us and we’d be lost without them. No matter what the future holds, we know they’ll still be there. Sur that’s everything!
Our trails now seem to take on an added meaning. Our cadence slows to soak in the story of those who have walked this way before. Places come to life when you sense the spirit of the people who once lived there. We always wanted to push out the boundaries of our research that little bit more and we’ve now had the time to do just that. Imprints of old rest in furtive disguise beyond the gaze of the passer-by. Here in Tramore, hallowed reminders of a bygone time lie buried beneath the firmament of sand and sea: the old racecourse and 9-hole links golf course on the Backstrand; faint names chiselled onto a windswept memorial on the Doneraile honouring the 363 lives lost just over 204 years ago when the Seahorse crashed to shore; the towering presence of the prom still offering its unique magic to visitors from near and far more than a century on; the ruins of the old railway station in shaded silhouette as if bowing to its former glory. We who pass this way must do so in homage to times past. They have made us who we are.
As we come out the other side, we all need to be that little bit patient. The new normal is tricky enough to navigate. Within current restrictions, we could only take 8 in a 30-seater coach, the demand for single rooms in accommodation will increase with an added supplement to bear for those who cannot share, we have to ask visitors to sign an indemnity form before walking the trails with us and we can only cater for international visitors when they have first spent 2 weeks in quarantine. Mixing and matching from different inquiries to create a group is something we have decided not to do in the short term to protect the safety of our visitors. It’s a very changed tourism landscape that we are now operating in. We are happy to ease our way back with groups of 8 or more from the same family or same circle of friends. Car convoys will become the norm for a while. This too will pass, but, for now, better to veer on the side of caution.
We are currently doing the logistics for a new signature Camino route that we hope to announce this autumn. We are excited about the opportunity that this time presents and have every intention of arriving on the other side as strong as we possibly can. There are no guarantees in this business but it won’t be for the want of trying if we do not get to where we want to be. We’ve built up a unique offering for tourism in Waterford that we believe can release the potential in our city and county to be a hub for outdoor tourism for years to come. We do not have to invent the product. It already exists, and, crucially, it has the history to go with it. It just needs to be packaged and promoted in ways that entice young and old alike to sample all that this wonderful county of ours has to offer. Let the journey begin… once again.
“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger; for my long walk is not yet ended.” (Nelson Mandela)
From the 29th of June, we will be easing our way back out on our trails with our one day ‘Greenway to the Falls’ being rolled out for the summer and then our 3 day ‘Gentle Camino’ from the autumn, both for groups of 8 or more. For further information, check out our website on waterfordcamino.com or email Phil and Elaine directly at firstname.lastname@example.org