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Marko Shapiro

Tycker fortfarande att historien nedan är trevlig och den berör Maestro Shapiro:

It is funny from time to time how things come together in strange circumstances and sometimes I guess we have to thank our fathers for their words of wisdom. Even if when we hear them as young lads it might be more words of wisdumb.

My dads name was Lars Andersson and like so many other Scandinavians he had an eager willingness to explore and was a lovely man with a curious mind. But as a Nordic baby-boomer he also made sure to have a solid work-ethic and did the usual corporate world and had many great years running a small paper-mill in the outskirts of the town of Umeå – in the northern parts of Sweden. Me and dad had lots of fun and went places and shared stories and adventures over the years. Together with his wife he gave us kids a great upbringing and skills to stand on our own two feet to face whatever the world throws our direction.

Sadly he passed away very sudden of a stoke a handful of years ago. But like the philosophers say: I have been dead billions of years before I was born so death does not bother me. Despite that I miss the big fellow. There is just a short little story I like to share. It has to do with fishing and getting things done.

I must have been in my early teens this day in May just shortly after the ice had cracked open and the illusive northern pike started to wake up after a long winter. We stood by the early spring-reeds trying to lure that crocodile look-a-like fish and my dad got talking.

You know I like to meet a couple of people that I truly think make a difference

…This one guy I think is Canadian and he has taken his passion of photography and settled in the European Alps. He is making a mark with his masterpieces. They call him The Godfather of powder and Master of light. It must be fascinating to make a difference with a camera and hard work. You should follow your passion my son – just like this photo-rebel is doing daily. I can only imagine what stories he will be able to tell many years from now. He also seems like a man that is very likeable and creates his own fortune and luck. So remember the name Shapiro. Mark Shapiro…

The fish did not bite so we moved a little bit to the next place and while trying to move in the swampy area dad stopped and taught me how to recognize a willow grouse and told me the difference between a poisonous mushroom and a delicious one.

When we had reach the new fishing ground my father yet again started to talk:

…And then there is another fellow that just puts on his backpack and started to explore left and right and center. He is from this area our ancestor went to – just in the outskirts of Seattle. It seems like his wanderlust and passion to teach is above the rest. His name is Steve Ricks or if it is Rick Steves. I am not sure who told me but he drives around Europe in a little van and I might have seen him somewhere in France but I am not sure. If he continues like he does then he will change the world. His values and morals are something to strive for and I wish you and I could tag along and explore with this up and coming journey-man. I can only imagine his drive and people-skills. Keep an eye open for a travelling man in a van. He will go places and go far.

The fish did not bite. That is what I remember the most. These names Shapiro and Steves I tucked away somewhere in the back of my head. That same afternoon we went playing soccer and I guess dad let me score just to make me feel good.

If we fast forward the tape we come to 2003 and I had done a couple of seasons in the Alps and I ran into this girl named Linnea. She told me:

…Well if you like a decent season where you can work hard and ski hard and see the rich and famous and have a good laugh with the bums then give Christer or someone else in Verbier a shout…

So I did. It must have been mid-November and I had ordered a coffee and croissant by one of the little hole-in-the-wall places and was waiting for the first rays of shine to pop up. I went down to the towards the store Mountain Air where I was about to start work – and sat down on a stone bench while I enjoyed the becoming of a new day. A man with a camera was by my side and after having watched him for a while I asked:

…So is the equipment giving you a bit of trouble…

The man glanced up and scratched his 3-day stubble and grunted like a severely injured marmot.

…It has been giving me some headache the last 30 years and I do not that will change in a hurry. I have not seen you around rookie…what might you name be.

…I am a peasant Swede with the name of Mattias Andersson – and yourself.

..The name is Shapiro. Marko Shapiro

We exchanged pleasantries and a couple of laughs. We nodded to each other while we departed our different ways. Mark with solid and focused stride while my knees were buckling a bit after having met the Godfather of Power and Master of light. I could hear my dads voice in the back of my head. It turned out to be a lovely season in Verbier.

10+ years later while guiding in Norway I ran into a noticeboard in one of the hotels. It said something about Ricks Europe. I did not pay much attention at the time since I had a guest that had broken a hipbone and another who had lost a passport and a third that had no clue where she was. But I made mental note and some weeks later I dropped a quick email to some office in the town of Edmonds. A woman named Tara answered and we got corresponding about travelling and the World of Travelling. A few months later I got an invitation to the annual gathering of Guides.

It is always interesting to be part of something new for the first time and that first day in this little Truman-show inspired city I walked up with my new Croatian colleagues Alan to see what was on the agenda. In one of the Conference room we had a coffee and a man was adjusting his glasses and unpacked a box of books. He glanced up with a smile and

…You guys must be part of the new guides and my name is Rick. Now we will have some great days here in Edmonds and I am the first one to welcome you whole heartedly to our little team.

…Well I am Alan from Croatia and this is Mattias from Sweden.

…So then we can talk about international relations and IKEA. You guys have so much to teach me and I can hope I can add some value to you. Give me a shout if you think of something the next 10 days. It will be a bit of a madhouse with lots of things happening but I like you to know you are so welcome and we will get to know each other in between singing and laughing and talking travels and politics.

We sure did have some lovely and inspirational days with Reverend Steves and his team. It was a lovely cool-aid that was being served. Now on June 3rd I have my first scheduled ride along in order to be a fully accepted member of the man and his van like my father told me about all those years ago. I just hope I do not screw up too much – then that illusive northern pike might come back and bite me in the ass.

Seems like sometimes things come full circle. Many times thanks to our fathers. Currently I am sitting in my little new joint in the town of Umeå that I have moved back to after 20 years in exile. On the wall hangs a wonderful photo displaying a sunrise over the Alps by Marko Shapiro. Next to the masterpiece is a dozen of best-selling guidebooks and a few DVDs. Funnily enough signed by this man named Rick Steves.

Thank you guys for making a difference without even knowing it.