Beata Kowtowska-McCommas was born and raised in Torun, Poland, the city of Nicolaus Copernicus. Ten years ago, while watching an episode of Rick Steves' Europe, Beata decided, "This is the man I would like to work for!" Within a few years she found herself working on Rick's Best of Eastern Europe and Best of Europe tours. She is now raising a family in the US and spending her summers guiding Family Europe tours.
How does your background help you with guiding?
I have a master's in geography, a HUGE love for Europe, and a passion for travel. I think putting this together with my outgoing personality — and being a native European — helps me be successful. I believe that to truly appreciate a place one should be exposed to as many aspects of it as possible: the geography, art, architecture, culture, music, history, politics, food, faith, current events, daily life, and so on. That's a tall order, but a good guide should try to give people an interesting glimpse into each of these things.
What do you like the most about family tours?
I am a mother to a bright and very stubborn 8-year-old with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) whose sole purpose in life, it seems, is to disagree with me and prove me wrong! I think being a mother directly impacts why Rick Steves family tours are my favorite. In today's world, filled with busy schedules and constant distractions, it's easy to forget that our greatest mission is to shape the lives of our children. Family vacations should be fun, but also a reminder of what's most important in life. There is nothing more rewarding for me than to see two or three generations traveling together, discovering common interests, and sharing a wonderful time.
Can you share a favorite family tour memory with us?
My favorite stop is the rural Tuscan agriturismo on our Amsterdam to Rome family tour. One evening we had a group dinner with live music afterwards. A couple of songs into the performance, I looked around the room and saw that everybody was having a good time. That's nice, but I thought, "I want them to have a GREAT time!" One by one I started encouraging our tour members to dance, and before you knew it, the whole group was pulling off their best dance moves together. The musical performance went on much longer than scheduled, and even the owner of the villa joined us. The next morning at breakfast, a woman who was traveling with her high-school-age grandkids came up to thank me for the evening. With tears in her eyes she told me that this was the first time in her life she had danced with her grandkids! This moment alone, she said, was worth every penny spent on the trip.
Here's what Beata won't tell you…but her tour members will:
"Beata was everything you could hope for in a tour guide — smart, funny, organized, and in charge. I felt completely comfortable in her care. She enhanced our travel experience in countless ways!"
— Tammy in San Antonio, TX