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Dear New Trek Travel Guides: 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Flew to France

14 March 2015

Trek Travel recently wrapped up their New Guide Training in Solvang, CA. There is a whole new group of guides about to set off on what will be an adventure of a lifetime, excited about what’s to come, but with no real idea of what they’re about to walk into. A group of the best guides Trek Travel has to offer took those new guides through the paces, sharing their cumulative years of knowledge and experience. The experienced guides taught the new guides about picnic preparation, bike mechanics, route support, and everything else they need to know to take you on your cycling vacation of a lifetime.

With that as a preface, I have some words of advice for the new guides.

TT Bottle and Timbuk2 Bag

Dear New Trek Travel Guides,

With as much information as Jake and Tony and Rebecca and Greg and Brie and Sean and company threw at you, you might think they thought of everything. The truth is, there are a few things they don’t teach you at New Guide Training. Everything at training is so guest focused, they don’t teach you how to make the most of this incredible adventure you’re headed into. Here are 5 things I wish I had known before I guided my first trip.

  1. Take a moment for yourself every day. – This job is all about the guests, but don’t let that focus mean you lose yourself. Take 30 seconds while you’re sipping coffee in the morning, spend five minutes spinning solo while you’re pedaling ahead to the next group of guests, pause a moment when you’re walking back to your room after dinner. Take that time to just be you, enjoying where you are. Trek Travel will take you to some of the most beautiful places on earth, but it’s easy to get caught up in the work and lose sight of where you are.
  2. Take advantage of time between trips. Most of your guests have had to take a bunch of time off work and lay down a bunch of money for their French/Italian/Spanish/etc vacation. You don’t have to ask for that time off and you’re already in a place that many people dream of being able to take a vacation to. Go see the stuff that isn’t on your trip! You’d never pretend that someone could experience all of a place in six days. You’re doing your best to show your guests the best the area has to offer, but go see some of the other stuff. You never know what you’ll find that you can use that to improve the trip or suggest things for your guests to see if they extend their vacation a few days. You will spend a lot of time creating memories for other people, don’t forget to go create some for yourself.
  3. Find something cool to take back every time you go home. I discovered a love for wine through Trek Travel, and after a couple seasons I made a point of bringing home at least one bottle every time I flew home, stuff I knew I couldn’t find at home and stuff I knew was worth cellaring for a couple years (I wouldn’t see it anyway). Now I have an incredible wine collection from all over the world. If wine isn’t your thing, find something. It doesn’t have to be big, but someday you’ll be thankful for the reminders of your great adventures all over the world.
  4. Travel with something that represents “home.” One of the toughest parts of my first couple years of guiding for me was the loss of a sense of home. I gave up my apartment and put my stuff into storage. I didn’t have a home to go home to. It was liberating at first, but before long it became disorienting and uncomfortable. I finally went back to my storage unit, dug into the boxes marked “kitchen,” and pulled out my favorite ceramic coffee mug. That coffee mug became the routine part of my day that made wherever I was home. I used to joke that “Home is where my toothbrush is,” but really, home was where that coffee mug was.
  5. New friends are everywhere. When it comes down to it, the most valuable things you will create in this job are relationships. Your co-guides will become like a second family. You’ll count on them, you’ll laugh with them, you’ll fight with them, and you’ll be stuck with them for life. Get to know the people who work in the hotels, restaurants, and coffee shops. Having friends you get to see week after week and year after year when you’re traveling makes a new place feel like home. Stay in touch with your favorite guests. Your job is to connect a group quickly, but those connections don’t have to end when your guests get on the bus on Day 6. You’ll have favorite guests, stay in touch with the good ones. I still regularly see many of my guests, including a couple from my first Trek Travel trip in 2005. You’ll meet thousands of new people on the road, slow down enough to get to know them.
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