a tourist guide in the city of Ghent
I was not born in Ghent but I was raised there.
Even at the age of 18 I was fascinated by the city. Who used to
live in these houses? What stories can these facades tell us? Why
are the people from Gent called “hangmen”? The Guide
Association just so happened to organise a course and I decided
to take it. I did not actually intend to become a guide but I wanted
an answer to my questions. So for an entire year I took classes
on Saturdays which were followed by another year of “practice”
guiding as a trainee. By then I was definitely hooked.
After two years of training I became a full member
of the Guide Association. I do standard tours but I have also elaborated
my own tour: Women in the City. Getting to know a city with a guide
is a beautiful way of learning. That is the kind of thing I am devoted
to. In fact my hobby is partly situated in the same field as my
job, but without the pressure. The income generated by this hobby
is for my children but it is not really a lot, anyway.
Being a guide is relaxing. I hope it will remain
that way. My working and vacation schedule coincide with the national
holidays so the holiday periods allow me to fully concentrate on
my job as a guide. What strikes me is that many of my fellow-guides
are substantially older than myself. That is, in fact, the beauty
of a real guide - someone who has lived in a city his/her whole
life and knows much more about the city than courses can ever teach.
My ambition lies in the same direction: I hope to continue being
a guide even after my retirement. There is no age limit. The long
walks take care of a guide’s physical health and the constant
repetition of old and new information keeps a guide mentally healthy.
In addition a guide is also socially active. To me it represents
an ideal final stage for my professional life.
Exploring together, that is what provides fulfilment.
People are grateful: their faces glow. I also enjoy the very diverse
reactions from different cultures: Chinese tourists react differently
to jokes than Dutch tourists. A while ago I was asked to show around
a group of two. Later on they transpired to be two Los Angeles Times
reporters. They sent me a copy of their report and the last line
read: ‘If you are looking for a good guide in Ghent, Patrick
Collin is your guy.’ Now that is real fulfilment.
jobat.be supplement, addition to a.o. De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad/De