Ever thought what it’s like to be a tour leader? We got the answers straight from the horse’s mouth by asking some of our tour leaders why they tour lead and what it is about travelling that keeps them on the road. Here’s what they had to say….
As a tour leader, I live for the wow moments. I’ve had passengers that were an amazing inspiration to me – people who have waited their entire life to travel, budgeting, saving, doing everything they can to get out into the world. That feeling when you see travellers burst out in tears because they’re finally seeing something they’ve always wanted to see: the Eiffel Tower, Glencoe, the Swiss Alps. I feel fortunate that these incredible destinations become my daily routine.
And yes, being a tour leader can be stressful. You’re with groups of travellers all the time, which is such an honour, but it also means that you’re the face of the company, the website, and customer service all rolled into one. I often get asked, how do you know you’re a natural tour leader? My answer is: when you get restless after one week at home, and you’re a problem solver and navigator by nature.
I would say I am a ‘full blood’ nomad. I was obsessed with studying maps when I was younger, memorising capital cities and locations of countries. Travel has allowed me to do so many things. I have volunteered as a teacher, trained in yoga, lived in ashrams and learned a third language.
Being a tour leader means you have less time and personal space than you would have in the ‘real world’. You go without free weekends or a home-cooked dinner and a movie at the end of the working day. Is it worth it? Yes! I often reflect on all the experiences and education I’ve gained from travel and will continue to do in coming years
I am good friends with a few other tour leaders. We are constantly in touch during the ‘office season’ and throughout our own travels as well – advising, supporting and recommending. Organising other people’s holidays, introducing them to amazing destinations and showing them fabulous sites is rewarding in so many ways.
I find the reason people choose to take a group tour is often because it is organised, hassle-free, and comes with a professional guide to assist and inform them throughout their journey. It’s our job to give these travellers maximal experiences in a short amount of time. The travellers are from various parts of the world and it’s a great way to meet other people. Recently I was travelling and found myself in bakery in India speaking to a girl I met in Seville 2 years ago. Travel opens up the world like nothing else on earth.
I always equate a group tour to a pizza you have delivered. Yes, of course, you can make your own pizza – research the recipe, go to the supermarket, buy the ingredients, prepare it, wait for it to cook… Or you can call the best take-away pizza restaurant in town and have the best pizza delivered right to your front door.
When a would-be traveller asks you whether they’ll like your tour, it’s like a new pizza recruit waiting for that first bite. This is when you have to set their mind at ease, take them through your ‘ingredients’ and get them to dive face-first into a new adventure.
People often think that we’re on holiday, which is probably one of the biggest misconceptions about being a tour leader. You are on the go 24/7 and the point of contact for up to 50 people at a time. Fortunately, seeing travellers from all over the world have the best time on the road makes up for it. You see friendships or even relationships form – people from different parts of the world with possibly nothing in common coming together to make lifelong friendships. I’ve seen it so many times and it makes it one of the most rewarding jobs in the world.
As a tour leader you fulfill so many roles – problem solver, confidant, accountant. I’m a citizen of the world and it enables me to travel the world. In just three years of being a tour leader, I’ve seen 50 countries. It’s a personal goal I wanted to reach before 30, and I don’t see myself slowing down anytime soon!
Travelling is in my bones! I’ve lived in six countries: Nigeria, Lesotho, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Ireland and Great Britain. Going off the beaten track, trying new things and enjoying new experiences make me tick! I guess that’s why I decided to become a tour leader. My work involves organisation, time keeping and accounts. Travellers depend on me to not only be a travel expert, but also an all-around caretaker.
On tour, you also become aware of people’s needs. You learn how to be empathetic without being patronising. You’re the leader, the friend, the extrovert. But most of all you’re the explorer. It’s the love of travel that makes you a truly successful tour leader. And, of course, it helps if you work for a company that gives your tour participants a whole lotta value for their money!
I’ve been a tour leader for nine years in total – three in Europe and six globally. I would definitely consider myself to be a nomad. But I have strong roots too and absolutely love being home. I love my time between tours and to go home at the end of a busy season. But the wanderlust never subsides – a week at home to recharge and I’m raring to go again. I also find it important to embrace travelling in my free time to keep the passion for the lifestyle alive. I guess life is about balance.
What kind of a person can be a tour leader? It’s all in the name. You need to be a leader! A strong leader can effectively manage a group without condescension and by keeping it fun. You need to think fast under pressure and be a good team player to work well alongside our great drivers. For this reason I think it’s a job that attracts confident people.
The benefits of being a tour leader are truly endless. Bonding with a great group, particularly on the longer tours, is one of the most amazing experiences. I was once give a rendition of the song “Tell Laura I love her” from an entire group. They’d even taken the time to rewrite the lyrics and pass them around without me knowing. I’ve met so many like-minded wanderlusters on the road and they honestly become like family!
I’m a nomad. I spend 10-11 months on the road every a year and I don’t never tire of travelling. To do so, I gave up the ‘normal’ life that my friends have back home: renting a flat, working a 9-to-5 job with your car parked outside and a pet waiting at home. It creates stability and routine, but some people (like me) just function better without it! If you’re bored with your office job, make the change and become a tour leader.
I get to show people the inside of Polish karaoke bars (which are amazing), or dress up in dirndl when our tours depart in Munich to make people think I’m German (I’m not). I live for the reactions on people’s face when they encounter something unexpected, and one of the best places to witness this is on tour.
I believe people who take group tours rather than travelling on their own enjoy the social aspect of traveling, like making friends and exploring with others. The thing I love most about travelling is going where I can see how the locals live. I often find myself taking public transport, wandering to the less touristy destinations, and sitting down to watch the locals go about their business.