Overall being a tour guide is the best job in the world. With a good group on a good trip there is no other work you would want to do. But there are a few things that can a guiding lifestyle into a terrible journey.
Travelling is exhausting and every two days working as an overland tour guide you are in a new city. I often forget where I am, what language I am meant to be speaking and what currency I am meant to be paying. I wake up in a different bed, in a different location and sometimes have to lay there trying to remember where I am. Sleeping on overnight transport is completely different. If you manage to sleep in a roller-coaster bus ride, without a pill induced coma, you will require the intervention of a chiropractor. Travel pillows do not work and your neck/back will always be stiff.
Few people believe they are paid what they are worth, but your average overland tour guide is paid well below any concept of minimal wage. Take into consideration you are on call 24 hours a day for around a month. Does US $40 a day sound unrealistic? It’s not!
Many guidebooks are not only un-researched and inaccurate but always out of date. If you are an independent traveller they may serve the purposes of a city map with an introduction to sights and highlights. If you have paid to join a tour group are you going to trust an untimely book with bad restaurant suggestion or your food loving personal tour guide who has possible tried every dish on every menu in every establishment! Too many passengers begin a sentence with “But my guidebook says…”
Most passengers are well educated, normal human beings but as soon as they step off the plane in a foreign country something odd happens. They regress to being 5 years old. Everyday activities become difficult for them to do and their common sense completely disappears. Typical questions include – “Will I like this food? What should I wear? Should I bring a camera?”
They can still manage to tie their shoe laces but many will have difficulty walking and looking around them at the same time. Just like a kindergarten teacher you need to make constant stops for stragglers, those who are hungry/thirsty and those that need to go to the toilet.
Feedback is the way that the head office knows what is going on with your groups. Your passengers are asked to fill in detailed reports on the trip and your tour guiding. Generally if you put in the effort and do a good job you will deliver a fantastic trip for your group but sometimes there are those personality conflicts that no matter what you do, you know a bad report is going to be sent.
Worse are the feedback that are sent from an individual who said they were having the time of their life and you were doing a fantastic job but their written report says that they had a horrible time and you were terrible. The emotional hurt from these is worse than the please explain email from the boss, a possible call in to the office and a demotion from the fun trips to the dull ones that no-one really wants to guide.
So cross your fingers for a good group who don’t carry guidebooks and are truthful when the say they are having the best holiday ever!