Congratulations, you’ve made it through the most grueling hiring process! You have learned the many, many tasks that are required to be a Trek Travel guide. You’re a mechanic, chef, entertainer, guide, GPS wiz, food and wine expert, driver, leader, cultural interpreter, magician, and so much more. Now the real work begins.
Words by Gabrielle Porter, Trek Travel Guide
Having just finished my first year as a Trek Travel guide, I want to help you prepare for your new reality (yes, despite what your family and friends may say, this is the “real world”). Here are ten highlights from life on the road as a first year guide.
1. Bike grease. Expect it everywhere, all the time. Literally, all the time. You will invent as many ways to hide it as you will to remove it. It will be your most consistent companion in your new life of constant movement. (If only grunge would make a style impact within the chic circles of luxury hospitality!)
2. Michelin food is delicious. It’s impeccable, beautiful, full of story and grace, true art and truly delectable. It is one of the greatest and most unique perks of the job, and all you will want is a salad by the end of the season.
3. There is no greater joy as a guide than seeing that light in the eye and expression of a guest when they connect to the region, country and trip. When something you or your co-guide says on Day 1 turns an average vacation into the experience of a lifetime.
4. The only joy that could possibly compete with the feeling above is watching a guest achieve a lifetime cycling goal. When he decides to ride a road bike for the first time. When she descends a hill rather than jumping in the van. When she crushes her first century and then some. When he summits Mount Ventoux and gives you a big hug at the top. They didn’t think they could do it. They wanted to, and absolutely could, but you helped them get there. You walked them through the details, coached them through technique, paced and supported, and were there every kilometer of the way.
5. Learn to drink wine properly, you scoundrel. It is the quickest and easiest way to impress guests with your sophistication and prove that you belong in this world as well as the one of bike grease (which will inevitably be found beneath your finger nails). It’s also a great attribute back home when trying to impress family, friends, and that special someone.
6. This is a real job. You will work hard. It is not just getting paid to ride bikes in beautiful places. The first person who must realize this is yourself, otherwise it will be a rough transition, you will not be a favorite amongst co-guides, and frankly, will not last long. So buck up, bud. You can sleep in a few weeks.
The second group of people you will need to convince of this is your friends and family. They are absolutely stoked (outdoor colloquial) for you but not exactly sure what “it is”. And lastly, you will need to convince many of your guests, especially first time travelers. Be prepared to answer this question, which will absolutely come up and has been spotted in many forms: “So this is a job?” When do you think you’ll get a real job? Wow, this is a tough job (but someone has to do it). You get paid to do this? Well, this is a nice summer activity. Or my personal favorite, “So what do your parents think about you doing this?” (probably reserved for the younger members of our team).
7. The secret is, you will not fathom this is your job and no matter how many times you respond to those questions you will have profoundly surreal moments. Sometimes they creep up slowly and last a day, other times they slam down on you like an anvil and you’ll gasp as you descend a lovely canyon or taste a new wine or see a guest fall in love with a new corner of the world. You are outside every day. You are moving your body every day. You are experiencing life while working, learning, tasting, listening, smelling and feeling each day. It is a rare and true gift.
8. You have an immense and quick ability to learn, and be assured the learning curve is steep. No matter how confident you are coming out of training, no matter how much you remember, your experienced co-guide will put in much more work than you during the first few trips. You may not realize it, but I promise it’s true. You will learn the “in the field” realities and practicalities. You will learn so much more than you could possibly absorb. Most of all, you will get good at transitioning problems and disasters with a smile on your face.
9. Mysterious ticking noises are just a fun challenge to expand your bike mechanic knowledge. No matter how many hours and obscenities it takes.
10. You work with the most fun, resourceful, talented and entertaining people on earth. Watch. Listen. Learn. Appreciate. And be honored, if not slightly confused, that you may count yourself amongst their number. You got this.