When you finish an important era in your life, figuring out the next step is the hardest part. You need to make sure its worth it.
I’ve spent the last 18 months working my dream job. Getting paid to travel, showing young backpackers the best of Europe and getting to explore countries and meet people beyond anything I ever imagined. Trip Leading was and is my perfect job. Not just for the experiences but because it is a cohesive mix of my best abilities; talking in public/performing, learning about history and culture, dealing with people and managing organisatonal logistics, adapting to changing circumstance and encouraging people to enjoy their holiday adventures. Perfect. I think its because I love it so much that I don’t want to do it until I hate it. I don’t want to be a tour guide that is no longer dazzled by the Eiffel Tower, or takes her free time in Florence for granted. I think if I had stuck with my job it may have come to that. Its also exhausting. Physically, mentally and emotionally you have to give your all if you want to be the best and create the best damn trip of someone’s (up to 50-odd someones!!) life. There is no time to take care of yourself and that can take its toll. So, to treasure the job i’m now on hiatus. I don’t want to cut the cord for good as I know something will always lure me back. And I love love love the company I work for – Topdeck really takes their family mentality seriously and provides the best environment for what can be a pretty tough job/industry. So the question is, what does a tour guide do when their not guiding?
In Austria to become an official city tour guide of Vienna you need to complete a specific three year long qualification course (in German) in order to guide any of the huge number of local walking, drive, tram tours available. Fair enough. This is a hugely historic city, filled with a hundred million Hapsburg stories and buildings and artefacts, not to mention a WWI and II legacy and artistic and classical music heritage. There’s a lot going on is what i’m saying. So, with Austrian’s being as uh, rule-orientated as they are I can see why things are done in that way. The frustrating thing is, I have been on walking tours in other cities like Berlin with non-local, entertaining guides who give a fresh perspective on a city to an outsider. Sandeman’s Walking Tours operate brilliant backpacker orientated walking tours of major cities throughout Europe where the guides are (as I understand it) well qualified but not necessarily locals. The tours are often tied in with Pub Crawls and for me, as a 22 year old Aussie backpacker kicking around Europe for 6 months (oh so many moons ago!!), the company ran a reliable service that was well supported by the hostel networks throughout major cities. The advantage, I believe, is that they gave a different perspective. Surely, if each tour guide in this beautiful alluring historic city is learning the same info, with the same parameters and focus, then each tourist is (possibly) getting a dry outlook on what could be a vibrant city. At Topdeck we focussed on bringing your personality into telling the history and culture of a city/country. I can garuntee the best trip leaders out there were the ones who knew their stuff but presented it with their own flair and interpretation. Thats the perfect mix. Knowledge and entertainment. Not magic tricks or anything fancy just good facts delivered to a target audience in an exciting and engaging way. I can’t help but think an homogenised tour guide would be lacking this. But maybe i’m wrong. Its frustrating to wonder about the possibilities.
So, for now, I need to think, re-asses my skills, abilities and where I want to go next. If I can’t be a tour guide here, what’s the next best thing? There’s not often you’re given a window to think clearly and carefully about the next step in your career. For most of my employable life I’ve just taken the opportunities that arose and its worked out pretty well so far. I’m one of the lucky ones. I know many many many people get ‘floated’ into a career they didn’t want, didn’t plan and don’t like. And its miserable. So, seen as I can’t work until my Visa is approved, and Visa processing can take up to 2 months, I have an enforced opportunity to decide my next move. Stay in the travel industry – low in income, high in life experiences – or shift somewhere that my abilities will be needed and i’m challenged enough to enjoy it.
So is moving here worth all this stress and change? Hell yes it is!!