Jim Abbott on Travel
Postcards from Florida
July 9, 2011
I know how this conversation is going to go, but it's always nice to keep your options open.
I'm standing at the information booth at the visitor center of the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers (edisonfordwinterestates.org), mulling over the relative advantages of a guided tour over wandering the grounds unescorted — a lone wolf, a traveling renegade.
Yeah, I like the sound of that — because, hey, I'm a self-guided guy.
Given the choice, and tourists have more and more of them nowadays, I invariably go it alone.
It happened twice on a recent road trip to Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Captiva islands: At the Edison-Ford homes and again at the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel (fws.gov/dingdarling), where I opted for the self-paced, wildlife drive in my own car over the structured 1 hour and 45 minute tram tour.
Not that there haven't been some memorable tours hosted by professionals. Many years ago, I loved the twangy Southern voice of the guide who took me through Elvis Presley's Graceland in Memphis, Tenn., but I still would have gone it alone in exchange for more time in the Jungle Room.
So what does this say about me? Am I some kind of control freak?
No, it's more noble than that. So says Scott Smith, an instructor who specializes in theme parks and attraction management at the University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management.
He's a self-guided guy, too.
"I like to do things at my own pace," Smith says. "On my own, I can focus on the things I'm really interested in. People learn at their own pace and have various ways of gleaning information."
At Edison's home, you can listen to narration by a staffer or receive the same information by punching numbers on a portable phone. Or both.
"I'll take the guided tour, then come back to the things that I'm really interested in," Smith says. "At Edison's home, I just loved his workshop. You know how you can look at people's desks and make assumptions about who they are, their character?"
Um, yeah. I'll try that — once I'm done fretting about what my messy desk says about me.
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