13 Takeaways From a First-Time Tour Guide

Adventurous Kate contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

Group tour El Tunco, El Salvador

If you told me six months ago that I would have run two successful tours by May, I wouldn’t have believed you.

How did this all come together? Leif and I met in Sri Lanka in November, became instant friends, and he told me about his plan to run a tour to El Salvador and Guatemala during the winter. I thought it sounded like a great idea and offered to promote the tour on my Facebook page.

Well, as soon as I did that, Leif was inundated with emails from my readers. Then we looked at each other and said, “Hey, wait a minute…”

And so we decided to run a tour together. To our great delight (and despite my fears), it sold out in a week and we decided to add a second tour. A March tour and an April tour were run with hardly a hiccup.

In short, running these tours is one of the most fun things I have ever done. And I learned quite a bit about tour guiding in the process.

I always love reading snippets about other people’s lives, so I thought it would be interesting to tell you what it’s really like to be a tour guide.

Kate and Leif in Antigua

Having multiple guides is beyond necessary.

Honestly, I don’t know how solo tour guides do it. If I were running a tour on my own, I would be miserable.

When you’re the only guide, you have to literally be “on” at every moment of every day. You need to be responsible for every single aspect of the tour. You can’t relax for a moment; all responsibilities fall to you.

Having two guides, or even being a solo guide and offering a friend a free tour in exchange for helping you out, makes such a difference. When you’re feeling overwhelmed and need a moment to step back and catch your breath, someone can jump in. You can handle the aspects that you do the best and your co-guide can take over the parts you don’t enjoy as much.

You can be in two places at once, essentially. A superhuman.

Leif and I quickly fell into a rhythm – he was the macro guide and I was the micro guide. Both roles were essential. Leif would lead the group at the front, and I would keep an eye on everyone from the back. He would give the tour, and I would gather up the strayers so nobody would be left behind. He would work with vendors and I would spend time with people who needed extra help.

If someone needed to be walked to the ATM, or had nobody to eat with, or was sick and needed help, I would spend time with him or her while Leif handled the whole-group aspects. This way, the tour moved at a smooth pace and everyone got the attention they needed. Plus, Leif is an early bird and I’m a night owl, so one of us was always available.

I honestly think that having two guides is the key to actually enjoying yourself while guiding a tour.

El Tunco Tour 2

You’ll have to spend more money than you think.

No matter what the situation is, you’ll have unexpected expenses crop up, so factor that in even after you calculate the perfect cost for a trip.

We had planned for our dorms at Papaya Lodge to be just fan-cooled, but after the first 85-degree night, our group begged for air conditioning. Of course we paid for it immediately. A few days of air conditioning was absolutely worth it, even though AC is expensive in Central America and it added a dent into our funds.

When the cheap pupuseria closed on the night of our included meal there, we had to move it to a more expensive restaurant. When we found out three girls on the first tour were celebrating their birthdays, we bought them gifts.

And those were just a few of several incidents when we ended up spending more money than we planned. It worked out, though.

Leif, Kate, and Bianka in Pool

Smaller group size is better than huge.

This is nothing meant to disparage our first group of twelve – I had the best time with those girls and at the time I thought that group size was perfect. But after running a second tour of six (plus two guides), I realized that I vastly preferred the latter.

I loved every girl in our first group to pieces and I couldn’t imagine the trip without a single one of them — but I now realize that 12 was a few too many. Lesson learned.

Everything was easier in a group of eight. Dinners out were less of a nightmare for restaurant staff. Our group was able to have a single conversation at once. And keeping track of people was much easier.

I mean, try to keep your eye on 12 different people in Antigua’s central market, making sure none of them get lost in the labyrinth as they buy huge bags of chia seeds and half the group moves onto the next hall. Not easy, and definitely the most stressful part of the trip for me, the guide in the back!

I think the ideal tour size for me would be eight travelers and two guides.

Truck to Panajachel Tour

The developing world will drive you crazy.

If you’re traveling in Latin America, or another developing region, you’ll soon become acquainted with the idiosyncrasies of life here. Food that takes forever to arrive in restaurants and dishes that come out 15 minutes apart. People who schedule things at the last minute. LATENESS.

“I swear to God, my next tour will be in Germany and Switzerland,” I muttered on more than one occasion. “Things work there.”

Every time something went wrong, I felt like I had failed my group and I apologized over and over. “Yes, I know it didn’t say on the menu that it had corn in it and it arrived with corn in it, but that’s Latin America…”

One of the best pieces of advice I got from a friend who runs tours was to create a document called “What to Expect in a Developing Country” and send it out to everyone. I wrote about things like not drinking the water, not flushing toilet paper, keeping small change on you, and expecting cramped public transportation, and I think it gave everyone reasonable expectations about what lay ahead.

You can’t plan for everything, though.

Motorcycle Tour with Leif

When you’re stressed, don’t let it show.

There was one day in Panajachel during the first tour when I got extremely stressed out. Arranging motorcycling and paragliding for 12 different people when the vendors were all very casual and lackadaisical was a nightmare for someone who likes things to be organized.

And I let it show. I was frustrated and griping and shriek-sighing when yet another thing went wrong. It all worked out in the end and everyone in the group had a fantastic day, but it nearly destroyed me in the process.

Then the next day, a few of the girls came up to me with a gift: a bag full of chocolate and booze. “Please don’t be stressed, Kate!” they told me.

I was so touched by their kindness – yet I felt awful. My being stressed out had carried over onto them. This was their special trip, and they shouldn’t have felt anything but joy. I dropped the ball on that one.

For the second tour, if I got stressed, I tried my hardest not to let it show. I plastered a big smile on my face and screamed on the inside (though with a smaller group, things were far less difficult in terms of coordination!).

Lipstick Girls

Food poisoning will hit. Hard.

On the first tour, half the group got food poisoning, mostly in the early days. On the second tour, a few people had it on and off throughout the trip.

When you travel frequently in the developing world, as Leif and I do, I think you can forget what a horror diarrhea can be. We’re used to just brushing it off and letting it pass; for our tour participants, they were freaked out.

Let’s just say that I knew there would be diarrhea at some point — but I was shocked by how many people had it and for how long.

I recommended that everyone see a travel doctor before a trip to the developing world to get a prescription for antibiotics in case of diarrhea that doesn’t clear up. But not everyone did that, and not everyone will do that in the future, so I armed myself with lots of Cipro and Imodium to hand out.

(While I am not a medical professional, several doctors gave the members of our group the same advice: in case diarrhea that doesn’t clear up after two days or so, take 500 mg of Ciprofloxacin twice a day for five days. Cipro is available over the counter in most of the developing world and if you go to a pharmacy, the pharmacist will usually give you the same advice: 500 mg, twice a day for five days. I recommend taking Imodium only when you are scheduled for a long travel day when bathrooms may not be accessible.)

Tour on Bed

Downtime is necessary.

Leading a tour is exhausting. Leading a tour as an introvert, which I indisputably am, is utterly draining. If you don’t take time for yourself to recharge in private, you will lose your mind!

Both times it hit me in Panajachel, one week into the tour. I just had to get away for a few hours. The first time, Leif and I crashed at his apartment down the road from the hotel; the second time, we stayed at the same hotel but I spent a morning not leaving my room. In addition to those days, I gave myself a bit of alone time every day, either reading or surfing Reddit in private.

Downtime is necessary for the group, too. If you’re doing crazy activities every day, you’ll need to balance it with some calmer, lazier days. I think having a leisurely itinerary helped out with that. One of my favorite days in San Pedro was when we literally stayed at the Blue Parrot restaurant all day!

Brittany and Kate Driving Boat

Personalities leading tours have special concerns.

When you are known for being a blogger (or any other kind of personality), you have additional concerns that an unknown tour guide wouldn’t have. People feel like they know you, people have expectations of you before they meet you, and while most people are cool once they meet you, some may have built you or your relationship up to an unrealistic level in their minds.

Some people will assume that because they’re on your tour (or retreat, or seminar, or private online group), you’re automatically going to become their mentor and build them a business so they can travel the world forever. Or you’ll become their new best friend. Or their lover.

A friend I know who runs tours once had to deal with a woman who was convinced she was going to make him her boyfriend. She was hitting on him so often that he took her aside and told her he’d be kicking her off the tour if she didn’t cut it out. She eventually backed off.

Nothing that bad happened with our tours, but there were some incidents that pushed the boundaries.

Jaibalito Dock Atitlan

People need different amounts of attention.

Going along with the last point, people on the tour will have different needs. Most people will stick with the group most of the time, occasionally breaking into pairs or groups when doing different activities.

Some people, however, will be content to drift in and out of the group, spending days largely on their own and waltzing up two minutes before the shuttle leaves. Others, especially those new to backpacking or the developing world, will need more help with finding their way around, going to a restaurant, or buying something at a store.

It’s easy to think that fairness is paying each person an equal amount of attention, but I don’t think that’s entirely accurate; I think it’s best to give people the level of attention that they need.

I did try to have some alone time with every person on our trips, whether it was getting a coffee together, sharing a private meal, having a deep conversation on a walk or in their room, or even sharing a double kayak!

Tour St. Patrick's Day

Don’t let one person’s bad mood take over the group.

I’m the kind of person who automatically takes on the emotions of people around me. I sob my eyes out at funerals for people I didn’t know. I visited a young Somali woman imprisoned in Bangkok’s International Detention Center back in 2010 and I was the one who cried my eyes out over her predicament as she comforted me. How messed up is that?

In short, I’m always hyper-concerned about how other people feel, and if they’re upset or uncomfortable in any way, I’ll feel upset and uncomfortable myself and won’t be able to relax until I can make them feel better. And because I’m one of the guides and I feel this way, that feeling can spread amongst the group and one person can drag everyone down.

I’ve learned that when a member of the group is sick or upset, it’s good to take them aside and help them as much as you can privately as you let the other guide stay with the group. And if isolating a grumpy person isn’t an option, well, all you can do is be extra cheerful.

Tour Salsa Lesson

It’s impossible to please everyone all the time.

While there are lots of things that will be universally enjoyed – Leif’s motorcycling tour to the hot springs on Lake Atitlan got high praise from everyone – there are times when some people won’t enjoy an activity as much as others.

And you know what? There’s nothing you can do about that. So just aim for most people being happy.

Take the accommodation. Some people preferred the communal living of dorms and were upset when we were split into doubles and triples. Others relished every chance for private or semi-private rooms as often as they got.

Another example was the partying. Our first tour was split – most people enjoyed the level of partying but a few people thought it was a bit too much. By contrast, our second group partied to bacchanalian levels and everyone was happily on the same page about that.

Also, when we collected feedback from the first group, several of the tour members said that three nights in the village of Jaibalito was too long. They felt a bit uncomfortable staying overnight in a small village only accessible by boat. Leif and I were shocked to hear this; we both love Jaibalito and it’s home to the luxurious Vulcano Lodge, the best accommodation on the trip.

So for the second tour, we decided to scale Jaibalito back to two nights and do four nights in San Pedro instead. Until we got to Jaibalito on the second trip and our group asked if we could stay there for a third night. They loved it! We reverted back to three nights.

Pizza Booze Cruise Atitlan Tour

We found a great niche with our tours.

I think Leif and I have found something that doesn’t really exist in the market yet – cheap backpacker tours that stay in high-quality budget accommodation and move at a leisurely pace.

Most of the backpacker tours out there emphasize seeing as much as possible in a short time. One night one place, two nights another place, one night somewhere else, a train or bus or day trip or full-day activity every day with maybe one free half day per week.

I’ve done tours like those before, and I found them way too harried for my personal taste. This was so much better. Part of enjoying your travels is not being stressed out, and I get stressed out when I worry that I won’t have enough time to do everything.

It was also a good idea starting with four nights in El Tunco because a few people lost their luggage and had to wait a few days for it to arrive! One bag didn’t even arrive until the day before we left for Guatemala.

If you’ve got two weeks and you want to see as much as humanly possible, this tour probably isn’t for you. But if you come on our tours, you will meet awesome people and have so much fun. And that’s a huge part of why we travel, isn’t it?

Family Tour

It’s all about the people – and the friendships.

I cannot tell you how much I adore the people who came on our tours. They’re brilliant, hilarious, sweet, and incredibly kind.

They’re crazy interesting, too. On our tours we’ve had a girl with psychic abilities, a fashion and costume designer who has met both Presidents Obama and Clinton, one of my favorite travel bloggers, a production designer for concerts across the world, a girl who saw the Notorious B.I.G. live, and not one but two marine biologists!

The first group’s age range was 25-40 and the second’s was 27-36. People came mostly from the United States but we also had an Australian, three Canadians, and two dual Albanian/American citizens.

Another interesting thing was that several of our tour participants told us that they were independent travelers who wouldn’t ordinarily book a tour, but they took this one because it looked fun and cheap and different – and they loved it.

This is really only the first chapter in our friendships. Five of us traveled to Semuc Champey together. Reunion plans are already brewing all over the world. And these friendships are worth far more than any money I’ve earned from leading these trips.

What do you think? Did any of this surprise you?

Get email updates from KateNever miss a post. Unsubscribe anytime!

80 thoughts on “13 Takeaways From a First-Time Tour Guide”

  1. Okay, I’m sold. When’s the next tour?

    Side note: I once had a dream that you and Alex in Wanderland went to Paris with me. I forgot my passport but you were both super nice about it. Some people dream about celebrities, I dream about traveling with my favorite bloggers.

    1. I don’t know when my next one will be, but Leif is leading tours to Southeast Asia this summer and fall! Check out runaway guide.com.

      And that dream is hilarious. I once dreamed that I made out with a married male travel blogger…yikes…

  2. I’m sold too. I thought I was too old (40) to do a tour with possible “young folks” but I think I can hold my own. 😉 Plus, the parties sound FABULOUS!!! I hope you do another tour in the future! If you do, I’m there! 🙂

    PS- I LOVED your honesty!!! There’s nothing worse then hearing someone act like the whole trip was perfect, they were perfect, the travelers were perfect, nothing went wrong. I don’t do hallmark vacations, I like the unexpected. Thats what makes the memories and the great stories you bring back.

    Heather “once was chased down Pigalle Street in Paris by a male prostitute” C. 😉

  3. The idea of a low-cost, backpackers tour is the coolest idea ever. I’ve done a few tours (in high school and college) and never really enjoyed it since you’ve got such strict rules and it isn’t so flexible. I would love to do a tour like this… actually, I would love to GUIDE a tour like this! Let me know if you need help on another one 😉 I spent three months in Central America, so it’s exciting to see places I’ve been in your tour!

    Did you two just promote the tour on your personal blogs? And oh, I feel your frustration. I had my fair share of breakdowns due to slow food, pace of life and trouble booking things in Central America.

  4. As someone who helps organize large meetings an conferences I can relate to some of the things you said above. I’m very Type A and tend to freak out if something doesn’t go as panned, but over the years I’ve learned to just roll with the punches. It sounds like you might have found another calling! SEA tours next year?

  5. Doing a Caribbean tour is logistically too expensive and tiring for this Russia resident (also – not 25 anymore), but if you ever do it somewhere in Europe or North Africa or Turkey (or some such) – I am absolutely game. I have been incredibly envious in the best sense while reading about literally every single part of these tours that you’ve posted so far. And I am not even a tropics and parties kind of girl!

  6. I love hearing what you think about being a tour guide. Honestly, this tour sounds like such an awesome experience and what two better tour guides could you ask for? I have always been interested in the process, so this was a great post. I will have to keep my eye out for future tours. 🙂

  7. I rarely comment as I’m more of a reading lurker but I so enjoyed this post. It was really interesting to read your personal thoughts and feelings on this new experience you embarked on. When traveling with one or two people, it often is a difficult thing since everyone has different tastes, interests, personalities, and yet kudos to you for pulling off not one but two successful tours. Thanks for offering a different kind of read!

  8. This was a really interesting article! I loved hearing the ins and outs of the tours and appreciate your honesty. It’s also fascinating to consider how different two groups of people can be!

    When and where are your next tours? 🙂

  9. Hi Kate, love the fact that even when you do listacles, they are still like nowhere else. Always unique insights. Thank you for your positive energy!

  10. Natalie Bankhead

    Kate! I’m so happy you love Jabilito as much as I did. Cesaer’s church music and the gringo market are endlessly charming. Its great to get hear your feedback. I’m thinking about setting up tours like this in Nicaragua and Costa Rica in the next few months. I know you loved Nica, perhaps we should get in touch

  11. So good to read your perspective of being a tour guide. I totally agree we all need some downtime when traveling. Especially when you travel for a long time, sometimes you need to just watch a movie. It´s so difficult sometime when you travel with a group, Im glad that you maid that happen for your people on the tour. Im sure most of them enjoyed it.

  12. Hello Kate,
    As always, I appreciate your honesty about your experiences. I remember discussing with a tour guide about what his profession is like, and it is much more stressful than most people think. Not only are you responsible for everyone, but there were times when he would leave a tour group and then fly to another airport to pick up another group to start a different tour! Being a tour guide would be incredibly stressful, and it’s not always easy to admit your weaknesses, but it sounds like you learned from them, which is great!

    I also never thought of you as an introvert! You seem very out-going and spontaneous. I also noticed you’re wearing your denim jumpsuit–awesome! You look like you’re having lots of fun as a tour guide. 🙂

  13. I appreciate that you are straight up about some of the pitfalls of leading tours. Having 2 guides that know how to troubleshoot if plans go awry is very helpful, I’m sure! I’m super surprised that a grown ass-adult, who payed to be on a tour would act like such a jerk by making the guide feel uncomfortable. Glad nothing that bad happened on your tours 😉 Do you have dates for other tours in the future??

  14. This is great, Kate! I haven’t seen a down to earth, personal look at doing tours like this before. As a traveling photographer, I’ve been thinking about doing some street photography related travel tours lately, this helps out. Thank you!

  15. I’ve always been more of a solo traveler than a group traveler, but the tours you are doing sound like a lot of fun. It’s great that you’re focusing on quality (not rushing through from one place to another) and you’re keeping the group size relatively small.

  16. I loved following the tours on your Facebook page with the videos. It looked like so much fun!

    I like how honest you are about everything. It’s nice to read about what goes on “behind the scene”, if that makes sense 🙂

  17. I think having two guides would definitely be a good idea. My brother leads 3 week tours of NZ by himself and it sounds pretty full on. You are right that there aren’t many tours that actually give you more than one or two nights a each place which is too rushed for me, the pace you set for your tours sounds a lot more manageable

  18. Did any of this surprise me? Not in the least! You’re a great girl and there was no doubt that your various groups would have the time of their life and so, literally would you! It’s a learning curve as well as any, and equally exciting.

    When I used to live in the Czech Republic, I did a few cultural tours with young British undergraduates or young professionals, going abroad for the first time. Each lot was for 6 weeks. It was scary and exhausting but a hell of a lot of fun as I was in my early 20’s then and they were between 19-22 yrs old so a loooooot of fun. I did so well, that I got an assistant too, who was absolutely invaluable.

    A few years ago, I took a bunch of my German Corporate students for a weekend in London and because they were between 30-50 yrs old, I thought it would be easier. It wasn’t! I remember my American/German boss telling me exactly what you said, that I ought to write a mini guide as to “What to Expect in London” which had details of what to do on the London Underground, security stuff & cultural expectations, etc. Thank goodness, my mobile number was on that sheet as the amount of people who called me ‘cos they got lost, didn’t know where they were on a nightbus, or got thrown out of a club, was surprisingly many! I had a brilliant time though. 🙂

  19. Cynthia Sartor

    Really impressive 1st and 2nd tours for you. I admire and like your honesty and people orientated understanding. Myself, as a solo traveler would sure love to see more of these type of tours available. Keep up the awesome work Ms. Kate.

  20. Kate, I was wondering about photos and model release. I’m always worried about posting photos of people (group shots I am in as well) on my blog as I don’t carry around model releases. Should I even be worried in this day and age, with so many pictures being posted on social media of people, or is it still a legality issue because a blog is considered a publication and thus falls under journalistic legality guidelines? What do you do?

    1. Within the United States, you don’t have to worry. Some countries have rules about it. I’ve never heard of anyone being challenged beyond being asked to take a photo down; most people obliged.

  21. I was a tour guide for over 2 years in Italy, and we ran trips all over the place. It was mainly for study abroad students, whom can be quite difficult to deal with at times, but so much of these points I agree with. It’s definitely hard as a first timer, but once you keep going, you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t. Your trips did look really great!

  22. This is a really interesting post about tour guiding. I have never really considered it before, but in many ways it’s very similar to when I take groups of students away for residentials as part of my boring school teacher job! You have to think about so many things: food, transport, accommodation, sickness – as well as just checking that everybody is having a good time all of the time. You are not left alone, by day or by night – there is always something happening, or somebody knocking at your door in the middle of the night to sort out some kind of emergency. You definitely need more than one guide!

    These trips look so much fun!

  23. Seems weird to lead a tour as a foreigner, without a local guide there. Aren’t you taking jobs from locals by doing this? Did you do the legal requirements for becoming a tour guide in Guatemala or wherever you’re doing this? Local taxes and everything all legit and taken care of?

    1. Seriously? We spent our time at locally run small businesses, hotels, and restaurants, no chains. Some of the fees that we paid locals, like the motorcycle guides, were more than they would earn on their own. This trip gave money to the local community.

  24. Another great post. I did a tour through Vietnam as I heard it was a little more abrasive than other countries in SE Asia. Turns out I would have been just fine, but I’m so glad I did it anyway. Like you’ve already said it’s the people that make it.

    It’s so nice to automatically have a group of people to hang out with and share the funny times with. Some of my favourite memories are in hostels eating western food with new found friends and not feel one bit guilty.

    I echo every comment on here – please do more tours, so we all get the chance to experience tours Adventurous Kate style!

    All the best,


  25. Every time something went wrong, I felt like I had failed my group and I apologized over and over. “Yes, I know it didn’t say on the menu that it had corn in it and it arrived with corn in it, but that’s Latin America…”

    I dunno..learn to speak Spanish? Or try? I’m an American who’s traveled a lot in Central and South America. It saddens me because a lot of the other Americans I meet don’t even attempt to speak Spanish. Then are quick to criticize and remark on problems with communication–always the fault of the host country, not their own shortcomings being that they are in a foreign country that speaks another language.

    1. That wasn’t a Spanish language issue, Maggie. It was an issue of there being a difference between what was listed on the menu and what was served. Which happens frequently in the developing world and is often shocking to people used to North American restaurant service.

      Both Leif and I speak Spanish and so did several of our group members. The ones who didn’t made a good effort.

  26. It all sounds so stressful! It must be tough to be responsible for so many people and like you said, to be “on” all the time. I personally couldn’t do it so kudos to you and Leif. Best of luck to you and all your travels/tours! 🙂

  27. Longtime reader, first time commenter, here. Event planning/management is a huge part of my job and I can definitely relate to this post. 🙂 It’s great that you were able to give people some special attention. Building relationships really does make a difference, no matter how large or small your group is. Best of luck on future tours!

  28. Though I’m sure the intentions of the doctors are good, MANY seem to be unaware that Cipro and other fluoroquinolone antibiotics can be nasty drugs. While a lot of people, my mother included, have taken it and been fine-I have a close friend who has what is considered a “moderate” negative reaction and is still very much in the process of recovering over a year later. It will likely be years before they reach anything resembling normalcy and for severe cases, that may never occur. There were so many complaints and legal cases about this class of antibiotic that the FDA added a black box warning for them in 2008 and expanded it in (I think) 2010. I would not take this class of antibiotic and encourage those close to me to do the same. Pepto Bismol may be slightly less effective or cause constipation for some, but trust me that constipation is worlds better than ripping Achilles tendons or anything else on the laundry list of fluoroquinolone side effects.

  29. I can imagine how hard it would be to actually keep everyone in the group convinced about touring places. At the end of the day, you did a great job, I believe. 🙂
    And your straightforwardness regarding everything, is what that keeps me scrolling through your posts 🙂
    You go, girl! 😉

  30. Really interesting advice! And congrats on running two successful tours. I’m sure there is so much more involved in running tours than most people ever consider, and it sounds like you guys were very prepared. Really interesting about the blogger/personality effect. I can totally see that happening if readers/tour participants feel like they know the leader from their blog.

  31. Thanks for not belittling tour guiding. A lot of people think it is a walk in the park, but you actually need many years experience to develop your style, learn to manage a diverse range of people and problems and to have the patience of a saint. It’s not something you can just walk into lightly!

      1. Yes, i can imagine. I lead women-only tours to exotic places around the globe. It’s like herding cats! ;). And I often get random people applying to me for a guiding job…it’s hard to even begin to tell them what it is really like!

  32. I am older (lots – 68) than your group but have been traveling several times per year for a few years, when I have enough money from my part time teaching. I have been traveling throughout my life on and off but most of the time solo. Europe (in a few weeks England and Scotland) Mexico and Central America, but have not yet been to Asia. Will be going soon. Would LOVE TO Guatemala, Nicaragua. the list goes on and on. The time is coming when I will need to be with a group and wonder what you would suggest. Loved Costa Rica! Flew into Liberia since San Juan is a pit, and when to Samara peninsula, then down to the Osa to a place called Finca Exotica (wonderful wonderful) in a 4×4 and back up to the mountains and then Lake Arenal …luckily I am in good shape physically. I love doing research before I go. Your article did give me loads of insight into being a tour leader and reminded me of being a nursing supervisor for a large hospital, or of my time teaching clinical nursing groups. Facilitating, problem solving, bringing expectations into sync with reality — your maturity and guts – you give me hope for the future kid! People need to understand what your job involves and the boundaries you need to maintain for yourself and your sanity. Good info. If you would ever accept an older bird, I would be interested. Barbara Hill

  33. Sounds like both tours were a success. Needless to say traveling in Latin America nothing is ever on time but that makes it part of the experience.

  34. Love your honesty. I haven’t done a tour as of yet, but if i was ever to do so this would be the type of tour I’d want to go on! You’re doing an awesome job, glad you found something that was as much fun for you, as it was others xx

  35. I think what I liked best about your tour efforts is that you tried to get one-on-one time with each person. That sort of attention would have meant the world to me in a group situation, as someone who get ferklempt trying to figure out who to connect with first. Cheers to you for that.

    Also: Where are you getting your lipsticks? Your lipstick game is strong. Not the point of the post, but had to point it out.

    1. Thanks so much! I did try to get to know everyone well.

      My SIGNATURE red lipstick is Kat Von D’s Bachelorette. I use it in lipstick form and today I got it in liquid form (not so sure if I love it yet — easy to apply but not as saturated). The bright pink one is Revlon Ultra HD in Pink Ruby.

  36. Hey Kate,

    I was a tour guide in Africa for a few months, and I can 100% agree wit EVERYTHING you said! It’s probably one of the best, yet most challenging jobs I’ve ever had! I was on my own though, so the downtime thing was a real issue. I didn’t have any! But, I’d do it again!

    Good luck with your future trips! 🙂


  37. I literally cannot wait to go on one of these tours!! It’s the dream tour for someone like me, who wants to continue backpacking but can’t find the energy for the whole solo- figure it out yourself shazam anymore!

  38. This is so amazing! I just quit my job in the fashion industry to travel indefinitely but have contemplated jobs in travel and tourism, since it’s the only thing I feel this passionately about. Tour guiding was something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but I have no idea how to start without any experience. I would love to run tours like you guys did! Maybe one day 🙂
    Super inspiring.

  39. Thanks for this post. It’s true that people need different levels of attention. Also, photography enthusiasts often need a bit more time than other people when visiting sites of interest, due to the urge to seek out unique angles.

  40. Hello Kate! This was a great post. I guess, like most things, I’d be most worried about liability in case someone was injured or something else horrible happened. How did you work around that or are there company insurance policies for tour groups such as yours? Thanks

  41. That was fun to read!
    It did bring me back to my first trip as a guide. It also made me smile because I can completly understand how many things seemed hard for you but….man…is live as a guide most of the time not 10 times harder!?! 😉
    But everything that was difficult in the beginning is getting easier by the years!

    I think it is great what you did and it is good to see that you enjoyd it. It is also nice to see you write things down that I completly can relate to (people dynamics) but can never write about myself.

    My groups are 20 on average. I do not have a second tourleader and my first trip ever was to parts of a country I had not been to before.
    I have done trips with non pre-organised public transport, I have done trips (flying in with my clients) to countries I had never been to before, I have done trips that where first ones for the touroperator as well (and many things went wrong) and lately I try to tell people all there is to know about lions, rhino’s and termites while on overland campingtrips where I also have to make 3 meals a day for all on a campingstove or campfire.

    I would love to take those breaks you mentioned. And you are right! a human needs them to keep sane. specialy when 20 people want your attention all the time you need some time to your self.
    I would love to have a second guide with me on tour!
    Talking about that….If you ever consider doing this type of trips again or do more guiding….lets team up 😉 😉

  42. Hey Kate!

    I run tours (very similar to these actually) and everything you say here is so so so bloody true! 🙂

    I read this post before I did my first tour a couple of years ago and I’ve just re-read it now as it’s good know other people are in the same boat as you! Thank you for writing this! So spot on!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to the blog: