How a Passion for Travel Became a Mission for a More Peaceful World
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” Maya Angelou
Ted Bravos, CEO of International Tour Management Institute (ITMI), remembers how inspired he was when he heard President John F. Kennedy say: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Although he was accepted by the Peace Corps and fully intended to teach high school biology in Africa, Ted’s hopes were dashed when he was drafted and sent to Vietnam. During his 13-month tour of duty as marine infantry officer, he made a commitment to dedicate the rest of his life to doing something that made sense and was meaningful.
Upon his return from Vietnam, Bravos indulged his passion for travel by taking a yearlong bicycle trip throughout 17 European countries. This life-changing experience marked the beginning of his career as a tour director and eventually to the founding in 1976 of ITMI, the first state certified tour guide and tour director training school in America.
Having experienced first-hand, the compassion and understanding that is developed when travellers connect with people of other cultures, often forging lifelong friendships, Bravos found the meaningful work that he had sought. What began as a passion for travel has become a mission for a more peaceful world.
Ted Bravos often quotes the late President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was commander of the Allied Forces during World War II. Eisenhower’s slogan for his newly created People to People Program was: “The passport to peace is travel.” Having dedicated his life to training travel professionals, Bravos not only believes that Eisenhower’s remarks are true, he has witnessed it countless times. The thousands of ITMI graduates, who have related their personal stories about the transformational power of travel, speak volumes about the importance of experiencing other cultures and traditions as an instrument of peace.
ITMI carefully selects the students who enter its program to ensure that they have the emotional maturity, intelligence and personal responsibility to become great tour directors. ITMI alumni are often as passionate as Bravos about their roles as ambassadors of goodwill. They take great pride in gaining a deep understanding of the history, culture, traditions and protocols of the countries in which they escort tour groups and in relating this information to tourists. City by city, country by country, they develop an appreciation of and respect for the destinations they visit, infusing their travel groups with an authentic desire to build bridges of understanding.
Among the many things that continue to inspire Bravos, are the stories he hears from former students, who enthusiastically share their experiences and insights. Looking back on his 30-plus years as an impassioned teacher, humanitarian and advocate for a more peaceful world, he finds it difficult to choke back tears, when relating some of the many success stories he has heard from graduates of his program.
Over the past 33 years, thousands of ITMI professional tour directors have collectively led hundreds of thousands of travelers around the world on escorted tours. One can only imagine the impact this has had on the world. In the annals of human history, Ted Bravos is truly an unsung hero, whose legacy will continue well beyond his lifetime. When someone inspires others to touch hearts, not just minds, miracles are destined to occur. To that end, we salute a miracle worker who has ignited hearts and spirits with a desire to contribute to a more peaceful world.