WorldStrides is celebrating 50 years as the leader in student travel by sharing the stories that have shaped our company’s past and will propel us into the future. Throughout the year, we will highlight stories from our history, many of the people who have made us what we are today, and some of the special ways travelers have been impacted by their experiences in our blog series, 50 Years of WorldStrides Stories.
Rob Teweles began his time at WorldStrides almost as soon as he received his college degree. He graduated from Mary Washington College on May 8, 1993 and on May 10, he was driving a luggage truck for then Lakeland Tours. He started his career with the company as a “roamer” – now called a Field Specialist – before working as assistant manager and then manager of Tour Central. Since August 1999, he has served as Director of Sightseeing, overseeing the booking of sightseeing coaches for groups traveling on our Discoveries programs.
During his time at Tour Central, Rob became well-versed in all things Washington, D.C. While there is a 24-hour team in place to answer questions and solve travel dilemmas these days, Tour Central was staffed by six people during Rob’s tenure.
“There used to be a picture of me at Tour Central where I had one phone on my shoulder and one phone on either ear,” he says. “I literally would have two or three lines going at one time. I knew that city though. I had phone numbers for hotels and coach companies memorized. I knew how to answer any call that would come in.”
Rob also knew how to work a bit of “magic” when necessary.
“When the group is stranded because of weather or whatever, you’ve got to get them home,” he says. “We talked a lot to airlines back then. We had inside lines for ticketing areas. We had relationships built with people. A few times, I talked an airline into creating a flight simply to get my group home. There was a plane on the tarmac, it was done for the night, and somehow, they found a pilot and a crew and said ‘we’re going to call this flight U.S. Air 1412 and it’s going to go from DCA to Minnesota St. Paul, just for our group of 80. That’s an amazing thing.”
Rob has a lot of great stories from his years with WorldStrides. He keeps a list of all the celebrities he’s spotted at the airport, ranging from the rap group Naughty By Nature to Jesse Jackson, Steven Seagal, MC Hammer, and a number of politicians. He also nearly took the wing off of a U.S. Air plane while backing up a luggage truck. Ultimately though, it’s been the students and the opportunity to be a part of their experience that brings him the greatest joy.
“The product we deliver is pretty incredible,” he says. “When I would see off groups at the airport and we would be waiting to board the plane, I’d ask ‘hey, did you like the trip, what’s your favorite thing?’ A lot of them would say the pool at their hotel, but sometimes they would say something like the laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. You could tell this was a lifelong experience hitting them. You could tell that even though they were a 7th or 8th grader and focused on the pool or whatever, there were ways that we were getting to these kids in an educational way. That’s pretty powerful.”