Manner of Speaking: A Toast to Toastmasters!
A honeymoon to remember.
By Victor Juorio, CC, CL
On November 10, 2008, I was a rookie Toastmaster when I said, “I do.” I knew I had married a travel bug, but little did I realize how that – and my Toastmasters experience –would affect our honeymoon. For more than a year we saved, planned and booked planes, trains and automobiles. Our honeymoon trip around the world included 50 days, 16 countries, two Toastmaster magazines and one backpack each. My Toastmasters experience has felt a lot like our honeymoon adventure – a whirlwind of exploration and excitement.
Our trip circumnavigated the globe from West to East. We enjoyed touring parts of the United States, Europe, Egypt, Thailand and the Philippines. While traveling, I was intrigued by the way people communicated in different countries. My Toastmasters training taught me valuable observation skills. Communication took on a whole new meaning as we crossed time zones and language barriers. Toastmasters gave me the confidence to approach strangers throughout the journey. Interacting with people reminded me of the fears I faced when I first joined. It was a lot like standing up and performing a speech in front of an audience of strangers. Everyday experiences like buying food, finding accommodations or asking for simple directions were challenging.
Egypt left a lasting impression on me. I could only imagine what the great leaders of ancient Egypt were like: What kinds of lessons could I learn from them? How could I turn all this great information into compelling speeches? Our tour guide, Mohammed, compared living in Egypt with living in “Alice in Wonderland” – because so many things were out of the ordinary. The antiquities and pyramids were amazing; yet we also saw poverty, hardship and overcrowding.
One evening we ventured out to the Khan el-Khalili, the local bazaar, to experience Egyptian-style shopping. Stores consisted of small rooms covered floor to ceiling in merchandise. The shops went on for blocks through winding alleyways. Each step we took forward, several people invited us to stop and look. They had no fear or hesitation to speak. It became clear they depended on their communication skills to make a sale, and maybe even to survive. I wish I’d had that confidence when I gave my Ice Breaker speech!
From Egypt we darted over to Thailand and trekked deep into the jungle. Our biggest challenge was Montezuma’s revenge as we hiked for three days in blistering heat and heavy rain. We slept in bamboo huts, rode elephants and rafted down the Ping River. Thailand showed me modesty and simplicity at its best. From there it was off to Bantayan Island, Philippines, where we were introduced to some of the most genuinely friendly people I have ever met.
In Europe I learned about the history of great civilizations, world wars and tragic history, as well as fabulous cuisine and culture. The one place I will never forget is the Ice Hotel in Northern Sweden. Communication in Europe was easy for us, since most people we met spoke English. Sweden was no exception, even as we flew 200 kilometers into the Arctic Circle to Jukkasjärvi. We spent the night in sub-zero temperatures at the Ice Hotel. We had meals on ice plates and drank from ice glasses. We spent hours exploring ice sculpture rooms and playing in this arctic wonderland. It was the perfect setting for a priceless photograph, and a chance to fulfill another part of my Toastmasters journey. I sat down on the ice-lounger and raised a glass of champagne and gave a toast:
“To Toastmasters – what a difference you have made.”
By the end, part of me was happy to be back in Canada; another part of me couldn’t believe it flew by so fast. We saw so much, and yet so little. It was a trip I will never forget. We didn’t have much room in our backpacks for souvenirs, but the best one arrived later, anyway: my photo in the July Toastmaster magazine!
Victor Juorio, CC, CL, is a member of the Telecommunicators Toastmasters club in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.