I work as a tour guide in Paris, and make no mistake, I love my job. I may not always be enamored with Parisian drivers when I’m trying to lead bike tours through the city, but I truly do love my job. I love history, I love storytelling, and I love meeting new people. So needless to say, this job fits me like a glove. Since the attacks in Paris last year, I’m often asked what it’s like to be a tour guide in a city that is under threat of terrorism, and whenever I’m asked this, a lot of answers come to mind.
People are understandably wary of traveling to Europe in light of what happened in Paris and Brussels, and tourism is down across all areas of the industry, from hotels and restaurants, to cultural attractions and guided tours. Again, this is understandable, but when you depend on tourists to pay your rent, the unfortunate fact is that the last six months have been very difficult for those in the tourism industry.
The extra security checks get tiresome very quickly. And when I have to adjust my routes on the fly due to security barriers and detours, it can get quite stressful. Of course, I understand that these measures are now the reality of our times, and we all just need to adjust and get on with life. But it can get quite frustrating when you deal with these challenges on a daily basis.
The people on my tours are naturally curious about the attacks and how they have affected life in Paris. While I don’t begrudge people’s curiosity, it’s hard to be constantly reminded of those dark days. When I’m asked to recount my experiences, all of those emotions from the immediate aftermath of the attacks – the fear, the anger, and the sadness – they all come bubbling back up again. What happened in January and November 2015 should never be forgotten. We should honor the lives of those who were killed, injured, or horribly traumatized by living a life of love and compassion instead of resorting to fear and hatred. That’s what I try to do every day when I head off to work.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little apprehensive about what I do for a living in light of the attacks. And when there was an evacuation due to a bomb scare during one of my tours at the Notre Dame cathedral last year, I did briefly consider the idea of changing careers. I would never actually let terrorists keep me from doing the job I love, but the threat of terrorism is a scary thing, no matter which way you look at it.
This may seem like the most improbable answer, but it’s also the most true and the one that I tell people every time I’m asked: “What’s it like to work as a tour guide in a city that is under threat of terrorism?” It’s truly amazing. You see, every day I meet people who are defiant in face of these threats and who tell me that they didn’t for a moment even consider changing their plans to visit this beautiful city.
Every day I meet people from all over the world who have come to revel in Paris’ culture, art, history, and culinary delights, and they’re not about to let a vocal minority deprive them of all that Paris has to offer.
Every day I speak before groups of people with over 20 different countries represented, and they are all getting along and having fun together. I get to watch people of every race, religion, and orientation come together, even if it’s just for a couple of hours, united in a common goal: to hear the stories that make Paris one of the greatest cities in the world. It’s inspiring and empowering to be connected to these people, and every day it gives me hope for the future. No wonder I love my job.