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A bond that spans borders

Jun 15, 2017 by Courtney Keller

The freedom to personalize your trip opens up opportunities to pursue your passion. Here’s how one curious traveler has found a connection with local firefighters around the world, from Argentina to Italy.

Growing up in the Bronx, Cliff lived across the street from a fire station. Everything about it fascinated him—the red engine, the bells, and the firefighters themselves. The day he turned seven, one of his heroes invited Cliff inside to explore and gave him a birthday gift: an old helmet. This sparked a lifelong interest in helping others.

During his 40 years working for the Fire Department of New York, Cliff realized that many other people around the globe were drawn to the same type of service. “The fire department is one of those jobs where there’s a brotherhood and sisterhood,” he said. “It doesn’t make any difference where in the world you are—the alarm goes off and you’re all together to help, save, and rescue.”

Traveler Cliff in Uruguay

If there’s one other thing Cliff is as passionate about as his profession, it’s travel. He’s curious about how people from other countries live and work, and uses each tour as an opportunity to connect with like-minded locals. “There’s enough free time built in to Go Ahead trips that I can follow my interests,” he explained. “Everywhere I go in the world, I visit a fire station and take a photo with my brother and sister firefighters.”

“There’s enough free time built in to Go Ahead trips that I can follow my interests. Everywhere I go in the world, I visit a fire station and take a photo with my brother and sister firefighters.”

He’s been able to form these cross-cultural connections while on tour in Argentina, Italy, Portugal, France, Switzerland, Germany, and beyond. No matter where he is, his expert Tour Director has been a go-to resource for help pursuing his interest. “They’ve always pointed out where the nearest fire house is so I could see it,” Cliff recalled. “In Buenos Aires, we passed some of the older, more historic firehouses in La Boca district.”

Traveler Cliff in Buenos Aires

Through all of these visits, Cliff has found that the global firefighting community is tied together by the pledge to protect. “Firefighters share a unique bond; we look out for each other even if it means our lives, regardless of anything else,” he reflected. “I’ve never been anywhere in the world where that hasn’t been the case.”

While this bond rings true everywhere, Cliff did notice some differences in how other countries approach the same profession. “It’s interesting to see how fire stations look all over the world,” he shared. “In Venice, the sliding poles lead to a dock because they use boats instead of fire engines!”

"The Museum of the Bravest"

Between his many trips and years of outreach, Cliff has collected a fire department memento from nearly every country on earth. His display, called “the Museum of the Bravest,” is the fourth-largest international helmet collection in the world. The helmets, uniforms, and hats stretch across 13 glass cases in his home—and visitors have come from as far as Italy, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, and Japan to take a look. Of course, you’ll find the gift from his seventh birthday in there, too. “I still have that helmet—and 600 more,” he shared.

Have you found others who share your interests around the world? We want to hear your story of pursuing your passion on tour! Send us an email at social@goaheadtours.com.

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About the author | Courtney Keller
A lover of travel since studying in France, Courtney strives to inspire others to get out and see the world. When she’s not writing, she’s trying new restaurants, reading, doing yoga, baking, walking her rescue pup, or planning her next trip.

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