Kit van Wagner never gets bored. “That’s a good thing,” says van Wagner, Silversea’s Director of Expedition Training and Staff Development. It’s hard to imagine her adventurous life getting boring. When we spoke, she’d just returned from a voyage on the Silver Muse going from Japan to Russia to the Aleutian Islands to Alaska. From marine biology lecturer to expedition leader to her new role training the best and brightest at Silversea, van Wagner shares moments from a maritime life.
What is the cultural sensitivity and environmental training that you conduct?
Kit: It involves how we interact with the various communities that we visit, so that we’re doing it in an appropriate manner, experiencing the culture and appreciating it for what it is. That could be a village in Greenland, Papua New Guinea or Bordeaux in France. We make sure that our staff understand the importance of being good visitors and how to best brief our guests, so that they can also be culturally sensitive. It might be just wearing the right attire covering your knees and your shoulders when you go out in public, because you’re in a country that’s sensitive to that kind of norm. I do environmental sensitivity training when it comes to watching wildlife, making sure that we are not too close, not disturbing wildlife or not seeing any signs of agitation in the birds or the sea lions that we’re enjoying.
Are there certain things travelers are surprised to learn about that they don’t know before an excursion?
Sometimes it’s something as simple as the way that greetings are made. While traveling in Malaysia, I noticed right away that the local people would greet you, shake your hand and then cover their heart with their hand. It’s a sign that they’re welcoming you into their hearts. In part of Indonesia, it’s rude to point with your index finger, so they point with their thumb. There are all kinds of little things like that you pick up along the way, that we would share with the guests during briefings before we get to a site, so they can do their best to comply with the local norms.