Maybe you’re tired of your current career path. Maybe you’ve just graduated college and are back from traveling. Maybe you’re ready to try something different for a while.
I’ve heard them all. Between myself and all my colleagues, the first question we ask each other when meeting is, “so what were you doing before this?” separating our current life from our seemingly distant past.
Really though, the question we mean to ask each other is: “what made you also crazy enough to leave a comfortable existence and take up this strange lifestyle?”
If you’re reading this because you’re looking for some vacation from work or some hack on how to travel for free, just close the tab now. And if you’re looking for an inspiring post convincing you to quit your job and change your life, you’re not going to get that here either.
Having just finished my 3rd season on the road with AmeriCan Adventures I have a very strong sense of what this job entails. It’s not for everyone. In fact, I hope to deter most of you. Not because it’s a horrible job or I’m treated poorly– I’m not. Most people just can’t handle this job, end of story.
And that’s okay.
Now that’s out of the way, if you do get through this article are still interested, let me tell you this: get ready to have one of the most challenging and amazing experiences of your life, find your tribe within other tour leaders and learn more in 4 months than you could doing anything else.
What does an adventure tour guide do?
First off, to clarify. While the title reads, ‘tour guide’, I really mean ‘tour leader’. Most people, especially the ones who might be Googling this job, are probably using the word ‘guide’. While we do guide, ‘leading’ is the better, more encompassing term. Below you’ll understand why.
A tour leader for the company I work for, AmeriCan Adventures, wears many hats. For one, we drive up to 13 people in a van with a trailer around the United States on 1-4 week itineraries. These itineraries come from brands like Trek America and Intrepid Travel. People overseas book a tour, fly over and we pick them up and take them to all the places detailed within their itinerary. The majority of tours are in the Southwest, and most of those are camping trips. We also run lodging trips, but they are not as common.
Within that, there is a huge variety within the types of tours and they can run anywhere around the lower 48 states. Sometimes, it could be a student tour organized by another company. Other times, it could be a private family trip. Most times, the passengers are 18-32 from the UK, Australia, Germany and Asia. We rarely run the same itinerary back to back. Each trip you’re given can be very different from the last and totally different from the next.
Along with doing all the driving, we are also responsible for planning activities, making reservations and overall, making sure the trip goes off without a hitch. This mean taking great care when it comes to logistics, driving distances, planning & time management. We also keep track of receipts, are responsible for large amounts of cash and create reports after every trip.
To top it off, we also teach people how to set up camp, delegate and manage how most all meals are cooked. We give thorough historical and cultural information at each location and most importantly keep people safe.
If this hasn’t scared you yet, something is probably wrong with you. It should be fairly intimidating.
The perks of being a tour leader:
- Only work for half the year. (Typically from late-spring to late-summer, longer seasons after first season).
- Ability to see the country and travel to the U.S.’s most beautiful national parks and cities.
- Spend most of your time outdoors.
- Feel like your own boss. Once you know how to lead a group, you make the rules.
- Good money, especially after your first season.
- Don’t have to pay for rent and don’t need your own vehicle (this is how you really save $).
- Amazing co-workers who will most likely become lifelong friends.
- A thorough training and supportive network of office staff.
- Constant excitement and challenges.
- You always sound like a badass when explaining your job.
The downsides of being a tour leader:
- Exhausting, demanding and stressful, especially in the beginning.
- Little time off in-between tours, and in general.
- Little flexibility for important events during the season. Have a few weddings to attend? Good luck.
- Occasional difficult passengers or situations.
- No health or travel insurance included in the contract.
- Rarely stay in one place for more than 2-3 nights at a time.
- It’s only seasonal. (This isn’t actually a con for most as long as you save money, work full seasons and/or have another seasonal job.)
More required reading:
Now after the pros and cons, here are a handle of other articles I’ve written to give you more of an insight into life as a tour leader.
Still interested? The requirement check-list:
- Are you legally able to work in the United States or Canada?
- Are you completely free from sometime in late-spring or early- summer through September 30th?
- Do you have a clean driving record? Please don’t email me and ask me if your record is clean enough. I’m not a driving record expert.
- Do you have strong organizational and communication skills with outstanding attention to detail?
- Can you work effectively within and team and also independently?
If all of those apply to you, you have the basic requirements of what it takes!
How to apply to become a tour leader with American Adventures:
- Fill out an application at AmeriCanAdventures.com/work-for-us after November 1st. Additionally, you can sign up to this mailing list for a special link to apply one week early.
- Mention me, Jessica Wray, in your application. If you do, I also don’t mind answering any questions you may have via email. (Title it: Working for American Adventures).
- Prepare for a Skype interview somewhere down the line.
- Attend a hiring event to meet office staff in person, get a better feel of the job and if it is right for you, and raise your chances of being admitted to training. (They will provide more information on where these are).
- If you’ve passed all those steps, you may be asked to attend a 1 month paid training. This includes in the classroom learning and a two week training trip. This is not for the faint of heart and should be taken by serious applicants only. Once admitted, begin studying a list of assigned topics to prepare.
- Pack up your belongings, tie up any loose ends and head to training in Northern California sometime in spring.
- From then on, prepare to be fully immersed in the best and craziest job of your life until the summer ends.
Like my Facebook page or subscribe by email for my next post titled, “The Comprehensive FAQ Guide to being a Tour Leader with AmeriCan Adventures.” If that article doesn’t answer your questions, or you need answers now, feel free to email me at [email protected] Disclaimer: I don’t always have time to answer. Sorry!