Until 2011 I lived, and worked, in South Lincolnshire where in recent years large numbers of migrant workers from Eastern Europe have moved into the area to work on the farms and in the food processing factories and I had been interested to understand what motivates them to do this. I concluded that this could only be satisfactorily achieved by visiting their country to appreciate what drives them to move away and come to England to carry out backbreaking work picking cabbages in cold fenland fields.
My work had brought me into contact with the issues that this migration has generated and I assumed correctly that friends would also be interested in my planned visit to the East so I assembled a tour party of travelling companions from work and ended up with a group of ten. Kim and I of course, right hand man Micky Dawson, Nick, David, Vicky, Mark and Sue and because this was partly a research trip I arranged for our two work colleagues from Latvia and Lithuania, Alona and Drasute to join us and introduce us to the Baltic States and their culture.
When I began I was full of enthusiasm, but organising a trip like this is something I will not be doing again in a hurry. As anyone who has attempted to do the same will know this is not a straightforward undertaking. Accommodating everyone’s preferences and coordinating arrangements proved more stressful than I had anticipated but at least I can now say that I have gained an increased appreciation of the work of travel agents.
First of all booking the accommodation proved to be very difficult and after several unsuccessful attempts I became convinced that the hoteliers probably thought I was arranging a stag party and even when I made contact with them to reassure them that we were on a quasi government mission this still did not make a scrap of difference. Finally I ended up with two hotels which rather unfortunately were at opposite sides of the city, so I decided who would be going to each hotel and put myself in charge of the party destined for the Hotel Albert, which was centrally located and I gave Micky the responsibility of supervising the other half of the team at the Maritim Park on the other side of the River Daugava.
Mark failed to pay up for his trip by the agreed deadline and as the date got closer I worried about being out of pocket so I scratched him off the list and he was replaced by May, which naturally involved flight changes and additional costs. Amazingly although the flights cost only a penny or so, it cost £30 to change the name on a booking and I thought that that was a bit of a steal. Later, when I announced to him that the day of departure was looming up and it was a pity that he wasn’t joining us he looked disgruntled and went off to book his own flight and another hotel; oh well never mind, he never was secretary of my fan club anyway. In addition, Alona announced she would like go on ahead and make some arrangements for us such as travel itineraries, transport and tour guides so changes had to be made to her flights with yet more additional costs, still at least this meant that we would have our own personal tour operator and I was all for that.
Finally on the day before the departure I received an email from Drasute saying that she couldn’t go due to a domestic crisis so we were one down before we had even started. I can personally confirm that trying to arrange a European trip for a group of more than four of five can be a very challenging experience and should not be entered into lightly.