Everything You Need to Know About…Being a Tour Guide

Leaders, shepherds, mediators, teachers and a little bit of Mum and Dad; tour guides are the people who shoulder the burden of ensuring our safety and enjoyment while travelling. Enter the subject of this Q&A, a delightful acquaintance who was my tour guide in New Zealand.

Q. How long have you been a tour guide?

A. On and off for just over 11 years.

Q. What sort of tours do you guide?

A. I did 18-35’s touring for most of the time. People come from all walks of life, mostly Aussies with Contiki, mostly Americans with ISV (International Student Volunteers). The range of people on ISV was probably the biggest, from students who had everything paid for by their parents to those who busted their ass to fund-raise to get to Australia/NZ.

Q. What’s your favourite place or attraction?

A. Hmmm … I know the worst is the Trojan horse in Turkey … dumbest attraction ever. The best is a hard question, because I love different things for different reasons: Because they remind me of a person I was with when I went there, or because something funny happened, or because it was just what I needed at the time, or because I made a difference when I was there (like cleaning up in Haiti. I would never go back there, but I loved the people I met and what we achieved). My favourite place is probably the Galapagos.

Q. What are the best things about your job?

A. Getting to really know a town, not just swinging by Paris for two days, but actually knowing Paris like I know the suburb where I live. And I actually have never stayed in touch with many people, so when I meet people like you – who we can still have a joke about talking about our feelings – how many years on!? So many tours just run together and honestly I look at photos and just don’t recall some people, like at all. They could have been on tour with me for 45 days and I’m like … hmmm … no idea! So meeting the few really cool ones is awesome. AND I love the other staff. Some of my best friends are people I know from ISV and Contiki.

Q. And the worst?

A. The absolute worst thing for me is passengers that are not accepting of where they are travelling. Nothing irritates me more than someone who is like ‘I’m not eating that’, ‘At home we have …..’ or ‘ In …… we do it this way’. Then go back there and live in a bubble. Don’t leave your house if you can’t appreciate the differences in the world. I’m not saying you have to love to eat crickets, but don’t you dare judge the people that do and don’t you dare turn your nose up unless you’ve tried it!! Grrrr!

Q. What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen on tour?

A. Oh God. How much time do you have … Probably the craziest was being chased by a guy on my tour with a knife. He told me he was going to put me in a body bag. Such a treasure. I had to take him to a psychiatric hospital in Italy and leave him there. That is probably the worst, but there are so many more! The guy who broke into people’s rooms and pooed on their tables, the honeymooners who cheated on each other and broke up and caused drama for everyone, the guy who got picked up by the police for sneaking out of Australia when he was on murder charges …

Q. Do you ever get sick of people?

A. Definitely! There are some people that you just get along with better than others, and some people drain the goddamn life out of you! ISV was hard because some students lived really sheltered lives and have never left home before and it is painful! I’ve been vomited on more times than I can remember from people getting pissed for the first time etc. I was not paid enough! And I love tour leading, but you work 24 hours a day, get paid shit money and spend your entire life making sure everyone else is okay. It’s not even a lie; some people will spend a whole tour with you and never ever ask how you are. They are all about them. It’s exhausting!

Q. Have you had many tour romances?

A. Hahaha. Yip!

Q. What’s your policy on getting involved with someone on your tour?

A. I think it’s unprofessional, not that it stopped me! Ha! No, I do actually think that it’s very hard to not treat people differently if you’re getting involved. Everyone has paid the same amount of money to be on tour, so they should all get a fair share of your time.

Q. Would you recommend your job to others?

A. YES! It has been the best job I’ve ever had. It’s very hard to get back into ‘real’ life after having so much fun for so many years!

Q. Who’s worst: Whingers or know-it-alls?

A. Know-it-alls! Whingers can at least be told to shut the hell up!

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