In October, Bruce McPhie clocked up 15 years full-time tour leading with Intrepid, making him the longest-serving Intrepid Group Leader in the world! This means that since 1997, ‘Lemon Juice’ Bruce has led 250 Intrepid trips, and shared the wonders of Vietnam and Cambodia with some 2,484 travellers from all around the world. In his words “I hope I’ve passed the apprenticeship”…
“When I first joined Intrepid I had no idea how long this new adventure would last. Looking back, I am amazed at how quickly the years have passed, how many diverse and interesting people I have met along the way, and how many incredible experiences I have had. It still feels surreal just to be here, still living this amazing life, and I have no wish for it to ever end!
I have had the privilege and opportunity to travel through exotic cultures, tumultuous history and stunningly beautiful landscapes. Every day can still be a learning day, for me and my fellow travellers. There is still so much misinformation and ignorance about Vietnam and Cambodia crying out to be corrected. The whole world can benefit from learning these truths, and discovering the real magic of Indochina.
Many times I have been moved to tears when sharing both the joys and the pains of local people, who so easily become new friends. I have been able to sponsor children through school, relieve friends from crippling debt, assist local charities to help people in genuine need, and help local friends start up small businesses to improve their lives. One cannot be a passive bystander. Such is life in my adopted home of Vietnam.
My previous lives in Australia seem worlds away, as indeed they are. I have been lucky to have been able to follow a somewhat unconventional lifestyle. My first life was in Melbourne where, among other things, I was passionately involved in the peace movement against the war in Vietnam, including resistance to military conscription.
Deciding to ‘drop out’ of teacher training college to work full time for peace, Vietnam obviously made a life-changing impact on my youth. Today, opposing war remains critical for the survival of the planet and the dignity of humanity. This truth is driven home every day when you live and work in a land still suffering from the ongoing effects of past wars.
For my second life, I ‘went bush’ to the beautiful Cassilis Valley in far northeast Victoria for an alternative rural lifestyle experience, where more lifetime friends were made. Vietnam was and is my third life. My fourth life? I have no idea!
Throughout all my lives, I have had an eclectic range of jobs, coincidentally following Uncle Ho’s idea of combining and respecting both mental and physical labour. Sometimes I have worked to live, but mostly I have lived to work, and always I did the things I wanted to do and felt needed to be done.
Fortuitously, this continues in my current life as an Intrepid Group Leader, in a company committed to responsible travel and a better world. For me, there is no real line between work and personal life; it is my lifestyle, and what I do. What a special privilege!
Way back in 1996, I was a novice traveller on Intrepid’s Vietnam Adventure tour, which I thought was just part of my first Asian holiday experience before returning to Australia. However, miraculously, from the moment I arrived in Vietnam I felt completely at home, as if I had been here in some previous life! Less than one year later, I was back in Vietnam with a brand new job – this time working for Intrepid Travel as a Group Leader. Incredibly, Vietnam had dramatically changed my life for a second time!
How much longer? Who knows the future? Hopefully there are many more tours ahead for me with Intrepid, and many more travellers to introduce to ‘my Vietnam’. As they say, time flies when you’re having fun. Or, as a frog might say, time’s fun when you’re having flies!”
* photos of Bruce on one of his 200+ visits to Halong Bay and a party with the Intrepid Vietnam team in Bruce’s honour.
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