In 1997 I quit my career as a nurse. After taking a year off, going back to school and having fun, I began a search for a new career. A small ad in the local newspaper guided me into a career that continued until I retired. For fourteen years I was a Tour Guide in San Diego and a Tour Director, taking seniors and other ages, on tours throughout the United States, Canada, Alaska, Mexico, and South America. It was a great job and one I was well suited for. Often I was the one who stood at the front of the bus with a microphone in hand, giving tours, maintaining a sense of humor, and guiding everyone to have a good time.
What makes up a good tour guide or director:
- Knowledge. One has to be willing to research often on the places they guide. Guests expect you to know every rock, tree, flower, and more. In San Diego, I took avail of any local tours, refreshing myself on the local facts and lore. I read books and asked lots of questions. When I was planning an outbound tour, I was often busy for up to six weeks before a trip, preparing and refreshing my knowledge.
- Humor. When all else fails a good sense of humor will push one through the roughest of patches.
- Kindness and Caring. What made me so well suited for this job was the fact that I really cared about each person, even the difficult ones, on my trips and tours around San Diego. My goal was to make sure everyone had the best experience possible. I always hoped there might be a “wow” moment for each individual.
- A willingness to lose sleep. Long after my guests were off to dreamland I was up studying for the next day. If someone was ill in the middle of the night, I was up with them.
- Flexibility and no I don’t mean that I can touch my toes. When things go wrong on a trip or tour, a good tour guide or tour director needs to be able to change things on the fly.
- Generally, we need to know how everything works. Where do we meet guests at the airport? Where can the motorcoaches pick up and drop off? How do we register these guests for a conference? What roads do I take to get from point A to point B? The list goes on.
What really made this job worthy of my time, especially on a local level was the sense of community among the local tour guides. Part of work, was meeting up with the other tour guides. I looked forward to seeing everyone I worked with. The tour guides in San Diego are a tight-knit group. We all know each other, we lament with each other, share the joys and gossip, and enjoy hanging out with each other. I love the local tour guides.
A few days ago my beloved road bike was stolen. Sigh. As with almost everything I own, it carries a story with it. It is a fast little red Jamis road bike. Jim, my now deceased husband bought it for me. I loved that bike. I loved riding it with him. After he died I found that riding my bike was the type of sport I still loved the most. When my bike disappeared I was heartbroken and at a bit of loss about what to do.
I immediately discovered grief, again. I know I have to grieve for the loss of this precious bike. Life is about impermanence and this is being taught to me again. Sigh.
I know that I will get a new road bike. I love riding too much to be without one. Until then what was I suppose to do? I went on Facebook (yes I know some of you are not fond of social media) posted on my personal page that I had my bike stolen, and was wondering if anyone had a bike I could borrow until I could buy another bike. Within an hour, yes an hour, a fellow tour guide, Jay, posted on my page that he had a bike that was given to him by another tour guide, Bev, and he wanted to give it to me. I went to his house which is very close to where I am staying, took it for a ride, and came home with a Cannondale M300 mountain bike.
How incredibly cool is this? How kind and caring. The tour guide community in San Diego is strong. Even though I have retired from guiding, I still meet up with guides, catch up on all the gossip, and know that if I need anything at all, I can reach out to most of the guides I know and if they can help, they will. I want to thank Jay for stepping forward and being generous and kind and caring to my need. It is not unusual that people will step forward in a crisis (big or small). It brings out the best in most of us. It certainly brought out the best in Jay and I will be forever grateful for to him and to this blue mountain bike, currently getting tuned up.
In a few days’ time, I will be out on my new bike, learning the ins and outs of a completely different style of bike. It will help me gain new knowledge and skills. I am anxiously waiting to ride it around the bay. I am anxiously waiting for my first ride.
Today and each day I ride that blue Mountain Bike I will be grateful for Jay’s gift to me. I will be thankful for a job that gave me the opportunity to meet and know such fine people. Today and as always I am grateful.
Thank you, Jay. You are the best.