Thursday, May 26, 2011

How a Passion for Travel Became a Mission for a More Peaceful World

by Annemarie Osborne

I have always been a proponent of travel as a means of widening one’s horizons, dismantling cultural stereotypes, and sharing what is best about being human on this ever-shrinking planet. These are some of the reasons that inspired my husband Tom and me to launch our travel-planning service Discover Paris! twelve years ago, and they are what motivated me to develop our Entrée to Black Paris walks and activities and to write this blog.

Ted Bravos, co-founder and CEO of the International Tour Management Institute, has an even broader vision—one of travel as an instrument for peace. Read Annemarie Osborne's guest posting below to learn about it.


Maya Angelou
Photo from Wikipedia Commons

“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, in 1976, to the founding of ITMI, the first state-certified tour-guide and tour-director training school in America.

Having experienced first-hand the compassion, understanding, and lifelong friendships that develop when travellers connect with people of other cultures, 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 near the Golden Gate Bridge
Photo courtesy of Annemarie Osborne

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 motto is true, he has also witnessed it countless times. The thousands of ITMI graduates have related personal stories about the transformational power of travel that 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, respect, and appreciation of the history, culture, traditions, and protocols of the countries in which they escort tour groups and in relating this information to them. City by city, country by country, ITMI alumni infuse 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 that 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 Ted Bravos, a man who has ignited hearts and spirits with a desire to contribute to a more peaceful world.

To learn more about ITMI visit


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