I work for a company that specialises in archaeological holidays- taking interested (and interesting!) people all over the world to pursue their passion for the past. I just got back from leading a group of these lovely folk across the north of England along the line of Hadrian’s Wall, which it would have been cool to write about (and, indeed, I’ll be scribbling my report on the trip for a bit this afternoon..) However, for most of the year, I work as a researcher in the company’s head office.
The biggest part of my role is figuring out where our guests would like to go next. Where is there amazing archaeology, and how can we persuade people they want to explore it? The answer to the first question is easy- almost everywhere. I’m continuously discovering new things and new sites, which is one of my favourite aspects to the job. At the moment, we are working on developing some new itineraries for Christmas, and that’s what I will be doing for a good chunk of this morning. My colleagues and I have identified a group of potential destinations, and we’re now trying to flesh them out, and look at the practicalities of taking a group of 15-25 tourists there. We’re highly conscious of the potential impact of our groups for better or worse, and work hard to contribute as much as we can to local interests- staying in hotels that aren’t part of international chains whenever we can, and supporting community heritage projects with donations and entry fees. So, I’ll be working on finding these hotels and identifying these fascinating places, then putting the two together into a coherent narrative, avoiding long drives and weird zigzags through the archaeological chronology as much as possible. The next stage is writing these up for our beautiful brochures (I know I’m biased, but they are lush to look at), and with lots of new tours coming out in our full brochure this autumn, I will be re-presenting to our guests the archaeological details that made each site worth visiting in our minds- so more research.
Once tours are up and running, it could be easy to get complacent- but they need just as much TLC as anything new. A big part of today will be spent working on what we call tour schedules, documents that go deep into the intricacies of every day of a holiday. These make it easier for our staff on the ground to know exactly what to expect- timings, locations, sudden closures- and if they’re out of date, things can get very stressful very quickly out on the road. I’ll be checking a few of these today, too- making sure that museums are open when they’re meant to be open, and rechecking travel times- hopefully spotting any potential issues before they happen. As I speak Italian, I’m often calling restaurants, hotels, archaeologists and museums in Italy to track down these details, which is great fun.
Between my tour report, the new tours, brochure writing and the detailed schedules, that’s pretty much my day. I love working in this role- it’s the perfect antidote to years of PhD study. Then, I was focused on a single area of archaeology in minute detail, writing obsessively and living in a slightly solitary bubble. Now I get to chat to our lovely guests, discuss and share ideas with colleagues, and learn about amazing sites all over the world. It’s not what I thought I would do in archaeology- but I’m very glad I have the chance to work in such an enjoyable role. I love knowing that our work makes large numbers of people very happy, and gives them a break from the norm, and an insight into another world.