TED BRAVOS, Founder and CEO
About the time I was graduating from California Polytechnic University with a degree in Biology, I remember hearing for the first time President John Kennedy speaking “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” I decided and was accepted to join the Peace Corps to teach high school Biology in Africa. Unfortunately at the same time, the army was calling me to Vietnam. I decided to make my own choice and joined the Marine Corps as an infantry officer. During those life changing 13 months I spent in Vietnam I remember saying to myself, whatever I do the rest of my life had better make sense. When I returned home to the United States my search began to fulfill the promise I made to myself. Not knowing exactly what that was, I decided to spend a year exploring 17 countries in Europe on a 10 speed bicycle. This fueled my love of travel, culture, and history…the joy of just moving.
I believe travel is the greatest university in the world. It is a fulfilling yet humbling experience to explore the cultures and history of our planet.
For the next 7 years I would travel the globe as a Tour Director. When I returned to Europe leading tour groups, I met a whole new breed of professionally trained tour directors and guides. They could talk about art, food, wine, music, history, culture…they were like modern day Renaissance people. I found that most countries in Europe had national guide schools that trained people to be the “face of their country.” In America tour escorting was done mostly by college students as a temporary summer job or by a retired person to obtain a free trip. Starting a school for tour directors in America seemed pre-destined to be a goal that I would pursue. I wanted to ensure that tour directing was a recognized, respected profession and more importantly give others an avenue to pursue their passion for travel. So, in 1976, my friend and colleague Bill Newton and I started the first school in America to train tour directors and guides.
I am proud of each one of the graduates that made the choice to follow their dream to teach, learn, and grow into the role of a Professional Tour Director and ultimately be called Ambassadors of Goodwill throughout the world. Even after all this time I still lead a few tours a year, when I am not instructing at ITMI. Tour Directing is still my passion… besides, I’m not going to let my students have all the fun!
JOAN KEDDELL, Executive Vice President
Born the youngest of five children, with parents married over 71 years, I can only say that I was blessed with a basic normal childhood in upstate New York. My parents shaped my morals and values while my brothers and sister helped shape my view to the world. The first of my siblings would leave for college by the time I was 3 in the early 60′s. Respect for the environment was instilled in me through my aunt and uncle, considered hermits, known as “The Hermit of Stoney Lonesome.”
Through their eyes and influence I learned about taking care of the environment, humanity, the need for equality, justice, standing up for those that can’t, importance of truth, value of diversity and living life authentically.
With their influence I knew by sixth grade that I wanted to travel, learn cultures, gain understanding of people and their traditions in order to create a better world. Since then I have had the privilege to meet and work with many people in the travel industry for over 30 years. My work has been varied from hotel sales, to operations, as a receptive tour operator, officer on board cruise ships, district cruise sales and as a professional tour director. What I have enjoyed most about the travel industry is that it has allowed me the flexibility to raise a family and do my part in creating a bridge of understanding for the environment while connecting to humanity in ways only travel has the ability to do.
Today, I enjoy my work at ITMI. In this work I am able to be a part of a wonderful transition for people that on the first day come to a school they never thought existed… a place that champions their desire to make a difference in the world. It is a privilege to be a part of creating dreams for individuals to become ambassadors of goodwill for peace as professional tour directors and guides all over the world.
AMY NOBLE, Director of Operations
As a Travel & Hospitality Professional for more than 24 years, I have had the opportunity to wear many hats and learn the intricacies and facets of this industry.
My first foray into travel began with a summer in Europe where, like many of us with the travel bug, I was hopelessly bitten...in Rome. Promising to travel every chance that I had and with every extra dollar I made, I started my career in hospitality during college, working in the special events department. Although I was a horribly uncoordinated member of the banquet staff (I may have spilled more than I actually served), I connected with the heart and joy of this industry.
My first job after college was as a Meeting & Events Planner for Hornblower Cruises & Events, specializing in the Convention & Incentive market. For more than a decade, I worked not only as a meeting planner but also as the Associate Director of Sales, balancing my events along with management of the sales team while fostering a creative & productive environment. Although I loved working with amazing clients and a top notch team, trying to squeeze in the travel that I truly loved and fed my soul, in-between events and sales goals was impossible.
In pursuit to better integrate my travel passion with a career, I sought a way to have a career in travel, which lead me to the International Tour Management Institute. The reputation and integrity of ITMI was well known and highly recommended by many industry leaders. I took the leap, left my meeting planning position, and attended ITMI to become certified as a Tour Guide / Tour Director.
Throughout the years I have worked as a Tour Guide and Tour Director for many wonderful companies, experiencing "once in a lifetime" moments, exploring both exotic and local gems while meeting unforgettable people along the way. Not only did I have the opportunity to travel, but I am able to make a difference in the world. For me, tour guiding is more than just seeing sights…it is opening the eyes of guests, introducing them to new cultures, breaking down stereotypes and watching them wonder at the world all the while sharing my passion for travel with them.
With a focus on balance and my travel cup feeling full, I have the privilege to work with ITMI to help make dreams come true for others. It is my honor to share my experience and knowledge with fellow lovers of travel and those that have been “bitten” as well. I have come full circle in my love for travel and the hospitality industry...isn't it amazing when a passion and a career come together!
ANNEMARIE OSBORNE, Vice President of Marketing
I was born on a farm in a provincial village near Ansbach, Germany. As a young girl I immigrated to St. Paul, Minnesota with my parents. I attended Cathedral School and the University of Minnesota, where I received a B.A. As a newlywed, I moved to West Berlin, where my husband was stationed with the U.S. Army. It was an exciting and sometimes frightening experience to live in Berlin, during the time when it was still a divided city, with the threat of a communist takeover always top-of-mind.
My parents experienced WWII and often related stories about the horrors of war. This undoubtedly shaped my desire to help make this a more peaceful world. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work as a writer and producer on documentaries and educational programs as well as live events for Special Olympics International, Cambridge University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the United Nations Environment Programme.
Through a friend I was introduced to ITMI. After meeting Ted Bravos and witnessing the positive impact ITMI has had upon the lives of its thousands of graduates from around the world, I was “hooked.” The ripple effect is immeasurable!
Ted’s belief that travel is “the best university in the world,” is undoubtedly true. ITMI graduates are an inspiring example of how travel enriches our understanding of the world and of our fellow earthlings. I feel blessed to be a part of the ITMI family and I am excited about the future, as we launch new partnerships and programs to further expand the vision and mission of its founder.
JOANNE CONNORS, Senior Instructor / Graduate Counselor
When I was a little girl, I truly believed I was going to see the world and meet all the people in it. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized how difficult that was going to be.
I got off to a good start by becoming a flight attendant, and saw a lot of airports and a lot of hotels, but very little of the world. Due to airline rules, my flight career ended when I got engaged. While raising my children, I still dreamed of seeing the world. I promised myself when my children were grown I would realize at least part of my lifelong dream. When a couple of my close friends died suddenly I thought I might not see the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon is one of the most awesome sights in the world. But there at the front of the bus was a sight almost as remarkable, a tour director, a woman being paid to travel. I couldn’t believe it. Shortly after returning from the Grand Canyon, I attended a seminar for ITMI and just about levitated. After graduating from ITMI, my dream to see the world came true.
I have been blessed to go on African safaris, climb the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal, walk the Great Wall of China, stand breathless in front of Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes, walk the rice paddies of Bali, float down the Nile on a barge and have been to Europe more times than I can count.
This year, I celebrate my 54th wedding anniversary! Fulfilling my dreams and sharing my life and knowledge as an instructor at ITMI has kept me with the same man for 50 years….I ask you to consider the benefits in creating this kind of life for yourself!
RANDY HELLRUNG, Ambassador
What do you do when you have been an Air Force officer, worked in the corporate world, helped administer a city government but still feel you do not fit in? My answer came in 1978 when I met Ted Bravos and Bill Newton, the founders of ITMI, and decided that traveling the world as a tour director might be the answer. Since graduating from ITMI, I have been leading tours for over 30 years by land, air, cruise and rail both domestically and internationally.
Even though I have traveled to most destinations worldwide, I especially enjoy outdoor adventure tours to places like East Africa, Alaska and the American Southwest. Over the years I have planned tours for major travel companies and coordinated special events for programs such as the Rose Bowl. I still love the opportunity not only to share the joy and excitement of travel but also to help travelers become more open minded and accepting of other people and cultures. In looking back, I realize that I may have become a tour director to see the world, and I have; but then I discovered my true joy is watching the faces of my guests as they see the world.
Today, I could ask for nothing more than to be able to not only travel as a tour director but instruct others with a love for travel at ITMI. It is a joy to passionately share my travel experiences with motivated students and then, someday, meet them somewhere in the world as we both lead tours.
SANDI WENTZEL, Instructor / Graduate Counselor
I am a native Californian, born and raised in Long Beach. My father stressed to my brother and me that we should learn everything we could about where we live. We spent many summer vacations as a family touring our great state, enjoying the natural wonders and learning the rich history.
My wanderlust and curiosity continued as an adult. I was able to travel to many places around the world, but was always grateful to come to my California home.
After raising 3 children, my life changed drastically. In 1998 I divorced and went to work for a friend in her travel agency. During that time, I began taking groups on tour from the agency. It was on one of those tours that I met my wonderful husband, Brad, who was a tour director as well.
In the early spring of 2005, Brad and I attended ITMI. That was when the real adventure of my life began. In the last 7 years I have had the pleasure of seeing the world as a tour director. While I really love the travel and the history of each place I visit, the best part of being a tour director is meeting and getting to know all the people I come in contact with on every trip. Every tour and every person on these tours enrich my life beyond measure. I am indeed a very lucky person to be engaged in such a profession.
I am also fortunate to be a part of the ITMI family as an instructor. It is my pleasure to teach people like me who want to change the direction of their life, step out from the norm, and begin a new way of living life to the fullest.
MIRIAM MEIDAM, Instructor / Graduate Counselor
As a world traveler and adventurer, I turned my passion for exploration into an eighteen-year career, creating memories of a lifetime for visitors to California State Parks. It has been my honor to have had a wide variety of experiences, from leading tours through Hearst Castle to interpreting the history and natural wonders of the West Coast from Baja, Mexico to the gold fields of California, the political hotbed of Sacramento and the majestic redwoods of Northern California.
Today, I now serve as a tour director for a number of student and adult tour operators because I am passionate about bringing American and world history alive for visitors from around the world. The programs I lead are designed for people who want to truly experience the places, not just to see them.
Between tours it is my privilege to serve as a Destination Speaker for several top cruise lines exploring Europe, the South Pacific, Central and South America and beyond. Through these presentations I am able to continue sharing my passion in providing insight into the cultural and natural wonders of the cruise destinations. My husband Fred gets to come along, and we are able to enjoy time together sailing off into the sunset.
As an ITMI instructor it is my great joy and pleasure to teach and support others to realize their dream of becoming a tour director.
KOREY AMRINE, Instructor / Graduate Counselor
I was born in Lodi, California the 5th of 6 children and grew up on my family’s Walnut Farm. We were raised going to Yosemite and the Santa Cruz beaches on the weekend. Those experiences helped me gain my love of the outdoors and water sports. Today, I still help harvest walnuts with my family and enjoy white water rafting as well as surfing in my spare time.
When I was 19, I decided to serve my church community as a full time missionary and went to serve the people of Guatemala. It was here I gained my passion for travel and working with people. In Guatemala I learned to speak fluent Spanish and Quiche. When I returned, I attended Brigham Young University and worked as a river and back country guide in Moab, Utah for 6 years. It was on a river trip to Cataract Canyon that I met a representative for Disney and ended up saving this individual from the water. With that chance meeting, the rest of the world opened for me by being offered a job to work as a Tour Director with Adventures by Disney. For the past nine years I have worked in 10 different countries and over 12 states as a guide. I am also currently licensed as a Washington, D.C. tour guide and am considered an expert in the history of the United States and World History.
My life today allows me to work with not only Adventures by Disney but also other travel companies as a tour director, in tour operations and as an instructor at ITMI. It gives me great pleasure to be able to share my knowledge, my passion for travel, and my love of this planet with new ITMI students.
DIANE RING, Instructor / Graduate Counselor
I was born to travel the world. Though a native of San Francisco, my adventurous parents felt compelled to educate me in international & classical worlds. The Michelin Green Guide was our “bible”, and no historic point of interest was skipped over. I was encouraged to try everything possible at least once, before dismissing it, and to communicate in whatever language I could to learn local tidbits from every corner of the earth.
After exchange programs in both Guatemala and Spain, I knew languages were my forte, and travel my lust. I graduated ITMI in 1978, and enjoyed a decade of exploring the United States with Tauck and the Seven Seas with Royal Viking Line. My friends all lived vicariously through my journeys, while advancing in their own chosen life-paths – and I decided I was having too much fun and not working hard enough, because I wasn’t as stressed out as they were.
Eventually I left tour directing to get a “real job,” graduating from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, recommended by a fellow tour director! I completed graduate school in Germany (European Business School) and eventually landed in Mexico working in international sales.
Decades of stressful “real jobs” had me again reevaluating my choices, and guess what? I landed right back where I began my journey, with ITMI and tour directing! My world is once more full of international tales of adventure and lessons learned from around the globe, and I am thrilled to be a part of the ITMI world.
When not on tour, I enjoy competing and performing with the MacIntosh Bagpipe Band of San Francisco, and love to go birding and kayaking.
MARK ROBERTS, Instructor / Graduate Counselor
Travel has been a part of my life since the moment I was born. Both of my parents were Navy officers. Yes, I was a Navy Brat. Born in Japan and there until almost 4, followed by a couple of school years in Italy, I spent most of my youth growing up in Rhode Island. During college, I took off for Germany to learn German and explore the European continent. Since then, I’ve made every effort to continue to travel and experience the numerous countries, cultures and cuisines of the continent.
After college, I moved to San Francisco, immediately falling in love with the city and the wine country just north. It helps when you’re a wine nut like me. After a stint in advertising and accounting, I discovered high tech, just in time for the Dot Com Boom. I worked first as a contractor and then for the Pacific Stock Exchange, moving up the corporate ladder into management. I had many responsibilities but seemed to have an affinity for Process Management and Project Management. After 8 years, I took off 2 years to study horticulture and landscape design (yeah, that was a big change). Eventually, money needs got me back into high tech again for 2 years in Silicon Valley, and then the big recession hit. With inevitable downsizing, I decided to take a mini-retirement and moved to Barcelona, Spain in order to study Spanish, explore the world and figure out what to do for the second half of my life.
It was while I was exploring Israel and Jordan on an organized tour that I got to know my Tour Director. I was amazed at his job and thought this might be what I was looking for. We quickly became friends and I questioned him extensively about his career and how he got into the tourism industry. After the tour ended I contacted ITMI to get more information and to sign up for a class. I packed up my belongings in Barcelona, moved back to San Francisco and got into the last class before the next Symposium. Since then I’ve taken Ted’s advice and explored many aspects of the industry. I’ve led many types of tours both domestically and internationally, and I find that I am able to incorporate my vast knowledge of horticulture, wine tasting and previous travel experience into my tours. I’ve even discovered I love to hike and bike!! But, what makes me happy at the end of each tour is knowing that I’ve helped my guests achieve an experience that they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives. I never forget that for many of them this is the trip of a lifetime. I finally found my true passion in life.
SHERI TOUSEY, Instructor / Graduate Counselor
At the age of 15, I set off by myself for a study program in France. While in college, I worked in a travel agency, and after college my first job was leading 7-14 day tours of the Canadian Rockies and the Pacific Northwest. Eventually, my wanderlust led me to sailing the high seas, making three full circumnavigations of the globe, numerous transatlantic and transpacific voyages, and 34 transits through the Panama Canal.
After 20 years of constant travel and “working in the field,” I was excited to switch gears and live on land—in one place. Putting my years of experience to work, I joined the corporate ranks of the cruise and travel industry in Product Development for seven years. My focus evolved from guiding people on vacation to training and mentoring others to guide people on vacation. While I loved training and mentoring, I was working in an office, day after day, year after year. I envied my team—they were doing what I wanted to do! So I quit my corporate job and went to ITMI to immerse myself in the part of the business I love—tour directing. Since graduating from ITMI, I’ve started my own business and have been leading local tours and networking with other tour operators to help open doors for fellow ITMI graduates.
I needed a kick-start to get my life back on my right path—ITMI gave me exactly that! Every moment of my time during my ITMI experience was joyful! Ted Bravos is a visionary within this industry. The entire team at ITMI actively works to mentor individuals to transition from living an ordinary existence (office, 9 to 5), to living an exciting and fulfilling life of travel and adventure leading tours. I embrace their goals and am thrilled to be a part of this dynamic instructing team.
MARK KASULEN, Instructor / Graduate Counselor
Born in Pennsylvania in 1960, my childhood was filled with summer camping trips with my family. That was the start of my love for travel and being with people from around the world. Exploring the campgrounds of the Northeast United States and into Canada filled me with wonder.
As a college student, summer road trips across the United States completely hooked me on travel. Upon graduation from college, Japan was my next journey. Five years of living, teaching, and working in an entirely new (and really old) culture showed me that travel, people, culture, and all it entailed was my universe.
A decade of international business, in the world of acoustic guitar manufacturing & design, had me based in Massachusetts as I went from country to country and throughout the USA conducting guitar related events and workshops. Eventually, I landed in Northern California, Sonoma Valley, Glen Ellen specifically. Here now for 15 years, I’ve settled into home.
As a Certified ITMI International Tour Director, I found a world of work and a pallet for my skills and passions that both pay the bills, and provide a rich lifestyle.
My wife, Masako, and I spend our year planning and delivering extraordinary tours for people from around the world. Of course, my specialty is music and Japan, which includes concert tours and business events in Tokyo. Yet, living in the heart of the California Wine Country allows me to deliver daily wine tours in Sonoma & Napa throughout the entire year. I also spend some of my travel year in academic tours where I put on the teacher’s hat and deliver tours specifically from a curriculum-based structure for students of all ages.
The most exciting part of my travel work has involved positions in three Olympics as a part of the Organizing Committee’s Interpreter & Family Services Team as we delivered multiple kinds of service to Olympic participants, from sponsor executives, to competing gold medal athletes.
After a decade of world class Tour Directing and enjoying the magic of travel as a professional Tour Director, I now give a little back to our family of tour directors as an ITMI Instructor. There is something rewarding and magical about coaching my new colleagues-to-be into their own careers as Tour Directors and Travel Professionals.
HALEY WALLESER, Accounts Manager
I have always been a daydreamer. When I was a child my parents would pack all of my family into a minivan and we would hit the road on an adventure. Everyone else in the car except for my Dad and I would be sleeping. I was afraid of missing something. I was always playing pretend...staring out the window or reading books...it was the wonder, a thirst for knowledge, the want to see and experience everything.
Looking back I was developing a sense of adventure, an insatiable curiosity for this beautiful world we live in. My parents didn’t realize it, but they were building cultural bridges, assisting in my development of wanderlust and teaching me to live in the moment.
I have had many amazing opportunities in my life from driving all throughout the United States visiting road side attractions and attending some of the largest cultural events, to studying in Spain, to canyoning in the Azores, to hiking the Grand Canyon in a day, to canoeing with alligators, to visiting the oldest library in the world, to trying delicious and unique food in Peru, to sleeping on the beach...I would not trade my life for anything.
When I first attended ITMI back in 2011, it was a leap of faith. I didn’t know where it would lead or really even what I was doing...my soul was restless. So I dove in headfirst. The next thing I knew I was training to become a Motor Coach Driver in the middle of a snow storm on top of a mountain in Juneau, Alaska...the ultimate frontier! And I started my touring adventure as a driver guide. That first tour I hardly spoke, I was so nervous that my guests would know that it was my first tour…and first time having a group of people on board my motorcoach.
When not visiting family, traveling or Tour Directing I spend time giving back to the ITMI Family that gave me the life I live. After 4 years of volunteering at their annual Symposium and traveling to San Francisco to volunteer in their office, they invited me to join their team. I cannot be more excited to be a part of this amazing Team and help others to live the life they’ve always wanted.
CHRISTINA COTTER, Special Projects Coordinator
I was born and raised in Germany and always loved the idea of coming to the United States when I was older. Ever since I can remember, I enjoyed traveling and learning about new cultures. When I was about 12 years old, I wrote an essay on what my dream job would be after graduating from high school - I chose the career of a flight attendant. Some years later, I realized that I could never work as a flight attendant due to its height requirement. But the dream of traveling the world stayed with me.
After working 20 years in marketing, sales, and advertising in both Germany and the United States, I left the corporate world, and started to travel for about 18 months. Then, one day, I noticed an article in a local Los Angeles newspaper about Tour Guiding and ITMI. I knew that this was my opportunity and I followed my dream!
One month after I completed the ITMI course, I was offered a tour leading a group from Germany throughout the Southwest. Although I was nervous and a bit fearful, I gratefully accepted the tour - and the rest is history! I lead groups from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States to locations like the Pacific Coast, the Southwest, the National Parks, the Northeast, New England Fall Foliage and the South.
When I am not traveling and leading tours, as part of the ITMI team, I am responsible for preparing and coordinating projects for our Tour Guide / Tour Director classes and our annual Symposium & Reunion.
KYRA JACKSON, Social Media Coordinator
My first love was Theatre, but I have always had varied interests, including travel, history, and archaeology.
While working as a receptionist at a hotel in New York City, I came across an ad for Tour Guide training. I attended the Los Angeles ITMI course, which we nicknamed “Bill and Ted’s” excellent adventure. Upon arriving back to the East Coast, I was quickly hired by a company in New Jersey. My first trip was the nine-day New Orleans tour, and I loved it! Eventually, I was hired by Tauck Tours to run Niagara/Ontario.
When I began dating my future husband, I decided to give up life on the road. After a move back to California and a few layoffs in the corporate world, I once again turned my sights to tour directing. I felt that I had returned home.
I now work locally in San Francisco, showing off the incredible City By the Bay, and in Muir Woods, hiking people into the monument from the state park.
When not touring, I enjoy writing about vampires and other dystopian scenarios, as well as beachcombing for agates and other precious stones that can be found on the beautiful beaches of the West Coast.
HANNAH PARSONS, Outreach Coordinator
Travel is the unifying thread of my life! I spent my teen years searching for opportunities to see the world, visiting Thailand on a community service trip and Spain through a language course. I left my hometown in Vermont for good at age 17, departing to attend college at a Swiss & American accredited school in Lugano, Switzerland.
Part of the college curriculum was a program called Academic Travel: students traveling for two weeks in groups of 20 or so with a professor to study a particular discipline. It was on one of these trips that the idea of guiding took hold. While visiting Scotland, we had the pleasure of being led by a remarkable Tour Director who was deeply invested in our experience. He inspired my ambition to travel for both work and pleasure. After graduating college with a degree in International Media Communications & Comparative Literary & Cultural Studies, I returned to the United States, bought a one-way ticket to California, and located ITMI on a lucky Google search.
My experience with ITMI has been such a fantastic whirlwind. I attended class in 2010, worked briefly in the office, and was shortly thereafter hired by Contiki Vacations, a direct result of the Institute’s annual Symposium. I spent the next three years over-the-road, showing international 18-35 year-olds around North America. At the end of 2013, I returned to San Francisco to focus on local touring (Napa & Sonoma wine country, San Francisco city tours, hikes in the redwoods to name a few) and rejoin the team at ITMI. I will happily continue this work remotely when I return to Europe to pursue my Graduate degree in Cultural and Heritage Tourism Management at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland.