How did you decide to embark on this career as a travel study leader? Where was your first trip as a leader?
It was not something I had ever considered, but when the opportunity presented itself in the early 80’s to lead a trip to China, where I had studied for almost two years, I jumped on the opportunity. The rest is history....

What’s your current country count? And what’s next?
I am not really interested in a country count, but I can tell you that since 1995 I have probably travelled close to 30 times to Cambodia and over 20 times to Vietnam. I would like to explore more of India as its culture influenced so many countries in southeast Asia.

How many languages do you speak and what do you think is the easiest/hardest language to learn?
Growing up in The Netherlands language study was emphasized. In elementary school I started with French, followed by German and English. At university I studied Chinese and Japanese, two unrelated languages. It was hard at first two learn the different tones in Chinese, but the study of the written language was more complicated. We were taught that knowing just 3500 characters would allow us to read newspapers!

As someone who has led so many trips, to your mind, what are the qualities of a great trip leader?
Flexibility, knowing how to serve and listen to your group. It is the unscheduled and unplanned activities and meetings with local people, which really make a trip.

Do you have any advice to share with travellers about the ‘new normal’ in travel?

Don’t be surprised to see fewer crowds at famous sights.

To view all tours led by Paula Swart, click here.