OMAHA, Ne. — The old adage that education is the “great equalizer” of men is a classic, but for Chris Bettini, he knows one more thing that can do the trick: beer.
“If you belly up to the bar, the person to the right of you can be making 10 times more money than you, and the person to right can be making 10 times less, but for the price of a beer, you're kind of equal for the next 30 minutes,” said Bettini, as he held a cold pint in his hand at the Crescent Moon Ale House in Omaha, Nebraska.
Bettini observed this for years as a bartender, but it wasn’t until he started his own travel company that he lived it.
“My tours kind of came about out of an unknown love to travel,” said Bettini. “I didn't have my first passport until 2008.”
But after a few trips to Germany and brewing his own beer with European brew masters, he had an idea.
“Why just take a normal vacation if you can take a Beercation?” said Bettini.
That’s just what he did.
“Ended up 18 people wanted to travel with me,” said Bettini of his trip to try one of his collaboration brews he made overseas. “So, I actually went and got my LLC, and a tour operator insurance and officially made it an official company.”
He became a one-man tour company, calling it: Pub Culture Beercations. His first trip was in 2017 to the Netherlands, and the good times took off from there.
“It's kind of a way to explore the world one pint at a time and to do it in a way where you kind of get in with the locals, you get to see more than your normal flashy fancy tourist sites,” said Bettini.
2020 was going to be the first year the bartender turned business owner made a profit.
“Everything changed within 24 hours,” he said of the moment COVID-19 hit the travel industry and the world. “Everything changed.”
The coronavirus stopped his wanderlust in its tracks.
“I had to just start shutting down one after another. There was a trip to Germany in May, and another trip to Germany in June, and a trip to the Czech Republic in October.”
All had to be canceled. Travelers and tour guides alike soon found: undoing weeks of elaborate planning was no easy task from thousands of miles away.
“The hotels had no staff. I would email but there was nobody to reply back,” said Bettini.
Hotels refused to give Bettini refunds, which made it hard to pay back his customers.
“I said to people, ‘Hey I will get you the refund. It might take me you know most of this year to do it, but I'll make it happen,” said Bettini. “I did look into cashing in my for 401K for extra money to help pay for some of that because money was tied up in these deposits in hotels and money with bus companies and everything like that."
He worked for months to keep his word.
“I'm hoping that that will come back to me, and just being a good tour person will eventually help me to provide more tours and more memories and more experiences for other people around the country and the world,” said Bettini of wanting to make sure his customers knew he would take care of them no matter what.
“Now, we're still looking at 18 months, maybe two years later, and we're not 100% sure what will happen,” he said.
But he believes when it’s safe, Beercations will be back.
“I hope people are ready to just say, ‘Yeah I'm no longer putting off five years to take that trip I've always wanted to take.’ I think that once the world is ready to travel again, people are going to want to travel again.”
There’s a German word Chris learned that describes just what his travels mean, a word he wants to be able to say once again.
“In German they say, ‘Gemütlichkeit.’ It loosely translates into ‘the cozy feeling of belonging,’” said Bettini.
Once you’ve tasted that feeling, often packed in a pint sized, ice cold beer, Chris believes you’ll never be able to forget it.
“Because we're sitting around and having a beer and enjoying ourselves, the world just keeps getting smaller, and I think that if we can approach the world that way to make it a smaller place, it maybe ends up also in the long run becoming a little bit more of a place where we all get along,” he said.
He’s hoping that will start happening again soon, and if you’re interested in learning more about taking a Beercation, visit Chris’ site HERE.