Rex, how did you become a Travel Counselor?
Now that I can look back, it is quite an amusing story. It happened a number of years ago.
As with most young Swiss I had a bad case of Wanderlust and roamed Europe until I stranded myself in London without a penny. After a short stay in a Church Army Hostel I found digs on Mornington Terrace in Camden Town (then a slum; now somewhat gentrified) consisting of a 4th floor garret room with a one ring gas burner, a gas heater in a fake fireplace and a hissing gas lamp - NO electricity at all! When the light started to flicker I made a dash to the meter to deposit two pennies (remember those huge British copper pennies?) to get the gas flowing again. Two floors down was a cold water faucet and on the ground floor, under the stairs, one toilet to serve the entire building. A floor below me lived two quite homely "working ladies" who also ran the lobby bar in a West-End theatre.
Every Saturday morning - whether I needed it or not - I cycled over to the neighborhood bath-house for a good soak. This was the time when England was suffering under the "Austerity" - a dismal, post-war economic depression when most everything was rationed - two eggs and a ½ lb of meat per person per week
. That sort of thing. It was pretty grim.
Soon after my stranding in London I walked into the ticket office of the Swiss Federal Railways, then at 11b Lower Regent Street, and applied for a job - any job. They put me to work in the basement grinding out railway tickets. The resident rat feasted on ticket stubs, upsetting the Swiss Railways' accountants in Berne who, to this day, refuse to believe that a rat would dare devour Swiss Railway documents. My starting salary, you ask? It was 5 British Pounds per week - about what I now tip the doorman at the Four Seasons in London.
A year later I had enough cash to flee back to Switzerland, did a stint with the American Express Company in Zurich and Montreux, and where I experienced my first flight - hurtling down a sloping grass strip of Lausanne Airport in a Swissair DC-3. Again, the Wanderlust bug bit me, and away I sailed in steerage aboard the Queen Mary for this land of milk & honey - so they tell me it was
A Greyhound bus deposited me in Chicago, again, without a penny. I hocked my watch on South State Street for $4, moved into a $1.60 per night cubicle in the YMCA, and gratefully accepted a job at Thos.Cook & Son as junior travel clerk at a munificent $200 per month.
And, as the saying goes: The rest is history!