Bea – “The life of a tour guide”


Like many others on this site, I also fell in love with travel.  I feel in love with it so much that I took that love and passion, and a little luck, and nailed myself a dream job as a tour leader.  I was working for an adventure travel company, being paid to travel the world, sleep in luxury hotels, eat at exclusive restaurants, bike along the world’s most beautiful roads, and hike in mountains so beautiful and extraordinary,  I didn’t even know if they were real.

Although I loved this job so much, I decided I needed to make a change to pursue other interests, take care of my personal life (which had been widely neglected by a life spent on the road), and get to know other areas of the tourism industry.  I accepted a job in Florence, Italy, where I had been living for the last few years, as a tour leader for a much smaller company, doing bus tours.  Yup, I was the girl in the front of the bus with the microphone :)

Never in a million years would I have seen myself in that role.  After experiencing a life as an adventure tour guide, leading bus tours seemed tedious and lame.  But as most travel stories do, I learned somethings about myself.  I learned that I love telling stories as much as I love riding a bike or hiking up a mountain, and entertaining people with fascinating and even funny stories about the wars between Florence and Siena, or about why the wine in Tuscany has certain flavors.  I learned that I absolutely LOVE working for a small company.  I learned that Florence, the city that had enchanted and absorbed me for so long, was really my home and I was actually getting to become a part of it, a real community member, by working in this role and getting to know it more intimately.  Whereas in my previous job leading bike tours, which I loved and still cherish, I was constantly running around, sometimes not getting to know an area as well as I would like because one minute I was in Tuscany and the next in Sicily. Or Amalfi. Or Spain or France. I was able to slow down and take it all in.  I found a new appreciation and new knowledge of my adopted home that I hadn’t had before, and I was loving it. I finally felt like a Tuscan!

I no longer live in Tuscany nor am I working as a guide, but maybe one day I will again.  One thing that stands out in my memory and that I will always cherish is how I felt whenever I took my tour groups to the Piazza del Campo in Siena.  It was always my favorite part of the tour.  The Piazza del Campo in Siena is a huge, open, seashell-shaped and concaved piazza in Siena, an amazing and fascinating medieval city in Tuscany.  There is no main road to enter this piazza.  Instead, you approach the piazza by walking through any number of narrow covered alleyways, almost tunnels, in the dark… and then you walk out into the piazza, and BOOM.  You’re unexpectedly standing in this massive majestic looking square, with the enormous Torre del Mangia towering over you.

My favorite moment was the collective gasp that I would hear from the members of the group.  Some were so amazed that they just stood there, open mouthed, unable to speak or compose themselves.  This seems like such a small, inane thing to some people, but it brought me back to why I liked working as a guide in the first place.  I loved it when people were blown away by something I could show them or tell them.  I loved the innocence of a first-time backpacker making their way through Europe on a short time schedule and even shorter budget, or of the family that had saved and saved money for years to make this trip happen.
I loved the honeymooners taking selfies in the square, and I loved that the members of the group were made up of different ages and nationalities and different types of travelers.  In that moment in the square, no matter how different they all were, they were all experiencing the same thing.  After years of traveling to amazing places day after day, I must have begun to take it for granted.  I had forgotten what this was like, this innocent feeling of being genuinely blown away by something so grand and so beautiful, you couldn’t even imagine it.  It was a little different from leading luxury adventure tours, where many of our clients, who were usually well traveled and a little older, had perhaps already been to a place like this, or had other things on their agenda. In any case, I loved that I experienced these two very different faces of the travel industry.In both jobs, the thing I cherished the most was the same:  When at the end of a tour, people would tell me how much they enjoyed it and how they were different people now for having gone somewhere new, learned something amazing, tasted something phenomenal and drank something unforgettable.  No matter whether you are on a bus, a bike, a donkey or horse, we “tourism workers” know this much:  Travel changes you forever and makes you rich in ways that have nothing to do with money.

To follow Bea’s travel adventure you can go over to her personal blog but clicking here!

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