Interview with David Willett

David Willett is a popular Greece tour guide who has also enjoyed great success as a guidebook author, having written the Lonely Planet guides to Greece and the Greek Islands. We are delighted to have him leading many of our Heart of Greece tours.

When did you start traveling?
I traveled all over Europe with my parents as a child. We went somewhere different every year. It meant that I've always regarded traveling, and experiencing different cultures, as a normal part of life.

How did you end up Down Under?
I moved to Australia when I was 25, originally with the intention of working for a year to save money for further travels. I could live in many places, but I have chosen northern New South Wales for its wonderful climate and, for rural Australia, an unusually diverse population. I've also lived for extended periods in Nafplio in the Greek Peloponnese, and intend to do so again at some point.

How has being a guidebook author helped you be a tour guide?
It makes me aware of the full range of possibilities for my groups. If rain rules out Plan A, then I can fall back on Plan B, Plan C and so on. Also, I have a long list of friends and contacts from my guidebook days who keep me informed of the latest developments, such as new restaurants...or restaurants that have gone downhill!

Name one thing that you especially enjoy about traveling in Greece.
I love the Greek approach to life: live for today and don't worry too much about tomorrow.

What are the most common misperceptions people have about Greece?
Firstly, most people think Greece is all whitewashed cuboid houses with geraniums in brightly painted pots. They are surprised, sometimes disappointed, when I explain that this style of architecture is found almost exclusively in the Cycladic group of islands, such as Santorini. (I wish that the Greek National Tourist Organization would use some other images to promote Greece!) Secondly, people are surprised to discover how mountainous Greece is. They come here thinking it's flat, and are blown away by the mountains and the winding roads!

What do you like best about our Athens and the Heart of Greece tour itinerary?
The diversity. It offers a great introduction to Greece.

What makes leading a Rick Steves tour different from others?
I enjoy showing people the things that I enjoy. We take time to sit and soak up the atmosphere, while other companies move so fast I'm sure their tour members don't know where they are. The size of our groups means we can stay at smaller hotels and pensions, and eat at little family-run restaurants where people get to experience real Greek hospitality and food.

Do you have a hobby in your spare time?
I have several, starting with gardening and the propagation of Australian native plants. I also keep chickens — which is sometimes at odds with the gardening — and I love to play golf and bridge.

What's the best book you've read recently?
"Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture" by Apostolis Doxiadis. It's about a mathematical genius who goes mad trying to prove an unprovable mathematical conjecture. It's very unusual — a blend of mathematical theory and family drama. It's also beautifully written. Doxiadis, who was born in Melbourne, wrote the book originally in Greek and did the translation into English himself.

What is your favorite film set in Greece?
"For Your Eyes Only" — the James Bond film that uses Meteora as a setting. Meteora has to be one of the funkiest places on this planet, and I hope that Rick will launch a new tour that includes it on the itinerary!