How to Guide Bicycle Tours at Home and Abroad
By Leslie Walters
A growing adventure travel industry has provided great opportunities for travelers and job seekers alike. Last year, as a recent grad and restless cubicle worker, I set my sights on becoming a guide for a company called Backroads.
Covering regions throughout the world, Backroads provided a way for me to gain leadership experience, meet exciting people, and travel—while at the same time getting a little exercise.
Expect an intense hiring process; it’s all part of the bargain. After a phone interview, an 8-hour hiring day, and a rigorous 3-week training, I was officially hired. After practicing bike maintenance, problem solving,
public speaking, and language learning, my brain was mush and my mouth hurt from smiling. But overwhelming as it was, it was well worth it. If you are the type of person up for a challenge then give it a try.
The opportunity to live in a house abroad, learn about my assigned region, and actually lead a trip finally came over a month after I was hired. I ended up leading trips through northern Tuscany. Meeting subcontractors who
were Italian, living in a quaint Tuscan town, and immersing myself in the culture—finally speaking Italian—were some of the major perks of the job. Not only were the subcontractors Italian, but many of my fellow guides were E.U. members.
While pay is generally low, guides make great tips and have very few personal expenses since housing and most transportation and food are free. Expect to work long hours each day and for several days on end. Trips are usually
a weeklong and a guide might lead two in a row. Housing is a bit cramped, and there is the chance that you will have to share a room with the opposite sex, with up to four people in a room.
Companies are looking for people who have language skills, who are enthusiastic, and who are, quite simply, the type of people with whom others would like to travel (charming, positive, and knowledgeable about a region).
You can expect to have only seasonal work, as the high season for North America is June through August and Europe is April through June then September and October. There is a possibility of getting work in the winter if you have Spanish-speaking
skills because trips run from December through March in Central America, South America, Australia, and New Zealand.
During a typical day on the job, a guide’s responsibilities can range from making a pancake breakfast to racking twenty bikes on top of a van. Other responsibilities may include planning a game to play with a group
of kids, cleaning the road rash of an injured guest, figuring out how to find a missing piece of luggage, or enjoying a five-course dinner with your guests. Along with prepping and learning about the logistics of a trip, there is quite a diverse
set of job tasks in this line of work.
You can check out Backroads career opportunities at www.Backroads.com. Or try these other adventure travel companies that lead trips throughout the world: Butterfield
and Robinson at www.Butterfield.com or Trek Adventure Travel at www.Trektravel.com.