How do I become a guide?

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of January 7 — January 13, 1999
Winter camping in the sunny southwest
Winter adventure trips
How do I become a guide?

How do I become a guide?

By Amy Marr

Question: I’m an avid cyclist, hiker and traveler and would like to spend the next year as a guide. Any advice on how to find a job?

Linda Carrigan
Boston, Massachusetts

Leading a trip requires a love of travel and strong social skills
Adventure Adviser: Having guided myself, I definitely recommend it. One word of warning, however — while you might envision guiding as a way to spend all day cycling or hiking, leading a trip is far more difficult than it seems. Much of your time will be spent conversing with your guests, preparing food, facilitating travel, moving luggage, working out logistics, changing flats and doing whatever else is necessary to make sure the trip runs smoothly. And while you’ll often be on a bike, or a trail, your focus will always be on the clients. I’ve seen lots of people turn to guiding for the wrong reasons only to become discouraged when they realize that having strong social and customer service skills is just as important as possessing an interest in cycling and a love of travel. Given this is a slower hiring time, you may have to sit tight until spring when outfitters staff up for the summer season.

I’d suggest picking a few outfitters you’d like to work for, then inquiring about their hiring process. The sooner you do this the better, as some might require you to have skills like wilderness First Aid/CPR, bicycle maintenance, or a commercial driver’s license. Be forewarned that not all outfitters treat their guides similarly, so really shop around, read through the catalogs, talk to current guides and pick the best match for you. Also consider just what type of trip you envision yourself leading — there’s a huge guiding difference between a 10-day biking camping trip in the Canyons and a week-long hiking excursion in Provence.

Within the industry, Backroads in Berkeley, California is known for its first-rate training and excellent benefits. Each spring, they hire anywhere from 20 to 50 guides through a very extensive screening and hiring process. You can find out all the details on their web site, or by calling 1-800-GO-ACTIVE.

If you’d like to work in Europe and can speak a foreign language, I’d suggest calling Ciclismo Classico (800-866-7314), just down the road from you in Arlington. Though much smaller than Backroads and with fewer destinations and trips, they’re an excellent, well-managed outfitter. Butterfield & Robinson (800-678-1147), Vermont Bicycle Touring, or VBT (800-BIKE-TOUR), and Boston-based Bike Riders Tours (800-473-7040) all warrant a look.

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©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

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