You are passionate about your activities you offer, spending an inordinate amount of time out there doing it. It consumes all your free time in addition to the time you spend guiding others. But does this make you an experienced guide?
No matter how much time we spend honing our technical skills, we will always be able to learn something new, or better equip ourselves to provide what our clients need. Often what they want and need are very different to what we offer.
Take for example simple things like greetings. Many cultures will shake hands as a form of greeting, but there are others that do not. Could you inadvertently upset your client by offering your hand when meeting for the first time? What about foods, dress codes, sacred days etc. There are many different ways we can be ignorant about what our clients expect or are used to.
Yes, they are on a trip away from home in another culture, and we do not want to try to make our country just another version of their own, but understanding their background and framework of understanding will go a long way to help us accommodate their culture, needs and expectations in a way that is positive.
Over the many years we have been training Adventure Guides, one of the biggest failings we see is that guides fail to travel enough themselves outside of what they do daily.
- When last did you take part in an activity that is not one of your guiding scope?
- When last did you travel to someplace you have never been, (local or international), simply to see what is there?
- When last did you book on a guided trip with someone you do not already work with?
- What research have you done on the culture and backgrounds of the clients you regularly work with?
In my own experience a ‘wake up’ came when I had a client book for five days climbing. On the first day of the trip we discovered that his interpretation of ‘climbing’ and mine were very different. To him he wanted to ‘climb some mountains‘, to him that meant ‘walk up them‘. To me it meant harnesses, ropes, carabiners etc and vertical rock faces. It took some very fast negotiation to quickly set up a new itinerary that would serve his needs.
Having traveled a lot world wide, I have a far better understanding of what is considered the norm in many other countries. ‘Wild Camping‘ and ‘Wild Swimming‘ are regarded as the extreme end of the activity to many, whilst it is the norm in South Africa. (TIP: Maybe this is a niche market you could tap into – Wild camping/swimming tours)
Think of the horror on your multi day trek when the clients expecting a heated refuge or at least a ‘Bothy‘ are presented with a tent and sleeping bag, or even worse a rock shelter.
Imagine your predicament when your group of clients strips off for a bit of nude sunbathing on Clifton beach. Quite normal in many places around the world on public beaches, but did you inform them about our local rules, and can you explain why it is still okay to sit watching a local tribal dance group when often the ladies will be topless, but they cannot get a tan themselves?
Even understanding the cost difference of items between your clients home country and your own can be used to your advantage. That easy cappuccino at R27.90 in South Africa, (M&B) is a steal compared to a similar coffee converted to +-R52.00 in the UK (Costa). You can use this information to your advantage.
Travel tends to broaden the scope of reference we all have and allow a Guide to better meet the expectations placed on them by their clients. Not only is it a great way to experience unknown places, cultures and activities, it allows you to observe other guides working and learn from their mistakes and best practice.
Travel is fun and all Guides should make an effort to travel as much as they can outside of their own guiding operations. It does not have to be international if money does not allow it, even just going to explore the next town from where you live, taking part in a new activity, or, hiking an area you do not know will assist you to become a better guide.
Can you think of other reasons to travel more as a Guide? How will it improve your own guiding? Tell us in the comments section below…