“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; it is lethal,” once wrote Paulo Coelho. I am always drawn towards proactive people; I love to feed off their energy and ideas. The idea of sitting and waiting for something to fall out of the sky into my lap has never been my style. Passivity is fatal to all of us.
I can judge within a few minutes if a person is “switched on” or “switched off.” Just the other weekend I had a coffee with a very rare breed, an extremely switched on person. Ideas are like uncut diamonds, creativity is the wheel that turns ideas into a 24 carat diamond ring. My coffee partner was a well-known Dubrovnik guide. I half expected to meet another tourist worker who was full of complaints about having not enough work, or even too much work…how wrong I was.
“I am always trying to think of new ideas for tours and excursions, from Game of Thrones to classical tours,” he started. OK, nothing new there I thought, every man, women and dog in Dubrovnik is running some kind of Game of Thrones themed business. “We also have some Star Wars tours starting,” he added. Now my ears pricked up. Star Wars hadn’t even confirmed that they would be coming and already this enterprising young man had dreamed up Star Wars tours. “And one of our biggest hits outside of the summer season are shopping tours,” he continued.
I looked at him with a blank expression, the kind of look that Donald Trump permanently seems to wear. “Sorry I thought you said shopping tours in Dubrovnik,” I confirmed. “That’s right, shopping tours in Dubrovnik,” came the reply. Was I going mad! Where? Who? Why? New York, London, Paris, Milan these are shopping magnets, Dubrovnik is, well, not! I pushed forward, he looked serious, this guide was running shopping tours to Dubrovnik.
“We bring coach loads of tourists from Albania throughout the winter months to go on shopping tours in SUB City,” he added. BOOM! WTF! I can’t actually write what I replied as it would be censored. So he wasn’t talking about shopping tours to Dubrovnik, what he really meant was shopping tours to Zupa. If someone had told me that Dubrovnik would have shopping tours when I first landed on these shores I would have said they were slightly deranged. If they had said the shopping tours would be in Zupa I would have strapped them into a straight jacket and wheeled them down the asylum. “We gave one agency in Albania the idea and they loved it, as soon as they heard there was a H&M and New Yorker in the centre they started organising tours,” he continued. I remembered to close my mouth which had been open, as if catching flies, for the past few minutes.
It turned out that not only Albanians hungry for Muller products were included in these tours, buses from Montenegro and BIH were also flooding here. “We get three or four bus loads of people who spend a day in SUB City, sleep in a Dubrovnik hotel overnight, and then go on a sightseeing tour of the Old City,” said the guide. My mouth dropped open again. I had images of this guide leading groups of Albanians through SUB City. My mind was spinning. Then came one of the daftest questions I have ever asked anyone, “Do you guide these tourists through SUB City.”
As soon as it came out of my mouth I knew it was moronic. My mouth was working faster than my brain. Images of him holding up one of those paddles and pointing out, “and on your left you can see Yamamay, and on the right is Mass shoes, and just round the corner is Tom Tailor.” Of course he greeted my dumb question with a laugh.
“These guests aren’t really interested in the historic tours, if we have 500 people maybe 30 will actually go on the tour of the Old City,” came my answer. I couldn’t help but think of all the local people that had moaned that SUB City was too small, too big, too close to the road, not close enough to the road…passive minds. Whilst this man had seen a business opportunity, had created that 24 carat diamond from an idea. If you approached the average person in the street and said “I want to run shopping tours in Dubrovnik,” I guarantee you that 99 percent would look at you as if you had just suggested putting a man on Mars. But one would have the foresight to stop and think. If we can have shopping tours in Zupa then surely anything is possible. What will you think of next?