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Being an adventure travel guide: Part 1

Posted: Tuesday, April 2, 2013

We're frequently asked how one becomes an adventure travel guide. Less often asked, but at least equally important for anyone who is thinking about it, is what being a guide is actually like.

Everyone assumes that it is the best job in the world. And the reality? It is!! At least it is for some people. But the actuality may be different in some ways than it looks from the outside, so here are some things to consider. (The particulars of the job can vary with the specific trip or type of guiding you do; what I discuss here is most relevant to the trips we do).

  • Hours can be very long. On a recent trip where I was a solo guide and preparing breakfast, lunch, and appetizers, I was working until 11:30 cleaning up and preparing for the next day; and then getting up at 6:30 am to make the coffee. Typically the guide is not only doing everything the participants are doing, but also putting a lot of time in during the trip to make sure everything runs smoothly.

  • As a corollary, the amount of personal time you have is often effectively zero. I have learned how to take personal time while preparing dinner or brushing my teeth, but I'm always aware that it may end at any moment. If you need real personal time every day, guiding may not be a good fit.

  • You should not expect to be physically challenged. Sometimes it happens, but remember that you have to have the energy at the end of the day to do anything that needs to be done - from checking in with everyone to getting the appetizers out. It's not to say that you can't be a little tired, but being exhausted just doesn't work.

  • It's not your trip. Your job is to make sure that everyone is having the trip they want as much as possible, which may not really be the trip you would choose. For example, everyone may want to hike the shorter trail rather than go explore that very cool-looking canyon.

  • You're part of the group but you're often apart from the group. While they're all sitting by the waterfall sharing stories, you're back at camp cooking or planning or cleaning. You may need to leave an interesting conversation because someone ro something else needs your attention.

  • You can't always say what you think; in particular you need to learn what opinions to keep to yourself. The classic example is politics. You may assume that everyone who is interested in the kind of travel you are (especially women's adventure travel) shares certain political beliefs. You would be wrong. It may or may not be possible to facilitate an atmosphere of respectful sharing of diverse viewpoints, but it certainly won't work if you are other than neutral.

The question to ask yourself is whether you want to guide trips or you want to go on trips, because they are two very different experiences. Having a passion for travel and the outdoors is an essential starting point for an adventure travel guide, but it only gets you so far. You also have to have a passion for meeting and working with lots of different kinds of people, enjoy helping people have a great experience, and love sharing your knowledge about different destinations. If that describes you, then being an adventure travel guide may be a great choice.

In Part 2 we'll consider what it takes to become an adventure travel guide. If you are interested in spending a long weekend exploring the ins and outs of guiding, particularly if you are interested in working with Adventures in Good Company, consider joining us for our Leadership Training Workshop December 5 - 8 in Georgia.

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