I was a history teacher and then became an assistant principal. It was an uncomfortable position for me. We created programs but got to the point where I was just spinning the plates of the programs I created. When I started the last year, I knew I had to find something new. I did a food bus tour while I was attending a conference in Louisville, Kentucky and thought someone should buy a bus and do a food tour in Lafayette. That night I was laying in the hotel bed and my three years of praying about my lost passion and what I was going to do with my life all crashed together and I got the overwhelming knowledge that I would be doing the food tour. I had a panic attack. I had given God a multiple choice list of what I wanted to do with my life and buy a bus was not on there. That was 2011, and I tried hard to pray the idea away and made myself stressed and sick. I had been overlooking one of my deepest passions, my home. I have always been passionate about the past and how it is relevant to us today and the resilience and goodness of the people. 1,000 tours later, I am ten times more passionate now. There is nothing like seeing this place through the eyes of people from all over the world. It has given me an appreciation for things I didn’t know were unique or special at all.
Doing these tours made me realize my life and my home are different. I now love them even more
“I grew up in Bayou DuLarge south of Houma. We had little traps and caught crawfish in ditches. I have two brothers and we took out the boat to go fishing whenever we wanted. One morning, we got in before daylight and daylight never came. We got caught in a bad tropical storm and pulled in a boat slip somewhere to wait it out. When we got back home, the whole community had been looking for us on the bayou. It wasn’t until I started doing this tour that I realized my life was different.
All of my life I said someone should do this, or someone should do that, and they did it. This was the idea meant for me. My college degree was in public relations, I was once managed a restaurant, and then I was a history teacher. Every piece of this tour is love. People from Japan have come on my tour. How does that happen? I have met cool people from all over the world and we start talking and I realize that if they were here we would be friends. But the one downside of this business is that I can’t get to know them well enough to keep in touch because there is always the next tour and more people. I have done over 1,000 tours and they average ten people, that is 10,000 people who have come on my bus. I may not get to keep them as friends, but watching all of these people fall in love with Lafayette never gets old.
I set seats on the bus along the walls where the people sit next to and facing each other. I want them to see and get to know each other. I have watched locals and visitors connect and locals make plans to show them more after the tour. Locals begin to see the magic of where they live and want to share it. Half of my business is local. Many don’t appreciate what they have here and I watch that change on these tours. Some don’t even know the history of Acadia because it is barely covered in the history books. Few people slow down and appreciate the place you live.
We don’t talk about politics and religion in public. That is part of Cajun culture and a reason we all get along so well. We avoid conflict and don’t point out our differences. People talk about racism in the South, but they have never been to a dance here on a Sunday afternoon. Everyone dances with everybody, no matter what your skin color is or if you know them. It has been like that in the dance halls in the fifties. We have more in common than we have differences.
I saw every detail of the bus before I told my husband the idea that had been keeping me up at night for weeks. When I finished he said, ‘I married me some kind of wife.’ I realized later it was a compliment. Half of the tips from the tour go to the homeless. With the abundance of food here comes food waste, and we have a homeless issue in Lafayette and people are going hungry. Having my own business, I now volunteer there once a week. I get a list of what no one donates and buy that. I thought I grew up poor, but working with the homeless made me realize we were rich my whole life. I grew up with food, security, and parents who loved me.
My dream for 2019 is to become fluent in French. I grew up in the generations where the language wasn’t passed down because people were forced to speak English. They were taught to be ashamed of speaking French because outsiders said it meant we were ignorant. I have been taking lessons for three years and want to take an immersion program this year in Nova Scotia. My dream is to pass the language on to my grandchildren that I don’t have yet. Grandchildren are part of my dream, too.”