Each year, Trek Travel celebrates one of our guides for his or her tremendous season, exceptional hospitality, and downright awesome attitude. We are proud to announce our 2020 Guide of the Year, Zack Jones!
Winning Guide of the Year is a huge honor. To be nominated for this prestigious award, guides have to earn top-notch evaluations from guests, co-guides, and the office team. The top five guides are then voted on by the Trek Travel management team to determine which guide provided best-in-class hospitality and reflected our company values. The winning guide receives a custom merino jersey with “Guide of the Year” embroidered on it as well as a $1,000 travel credit to anywhere in the world.
This year’s winner, Zack, has been guiding with Trek Travel almost as long as the company has been in existence. He is a fantastic photographer, and you’ll see photos from his adventures across our website and social media channels. We talked to him to learn a little bit more about his experience guiding, how he feels about winning Guide of the Year, and where he is headed in 2021.
Why do you guide?
“Guiding allows me to lead, share knowledge, and expose culture in stunning places with amazing people, incredible food, and luxurious accommodations, all from the seat of a bike. Those are the obvious reasons, and who wouldn’t want a job profile like that? The reality is, there are a lot of aspects to guiding that are not for everyone, and many of those I find incredibly fulfilling. Guiding is a lot of challenging work and long hours. It is not uncommon to be busy with diverse tasks from five am to ten or eleven at night, and most days, I love it! I get to be the co-captain of life-changing experiences for guests, and the spontaneous moments and reactions are always the most epic and rewarding. Guiding is very analog and occurs in the real world. Digital tools assist in being a better guide, but most of what I do as a guide feels like what my mind, body, and hands were created to do. In a world that often feels increasingly disconnected, guiding is uniquely connecting, bringing guests to new cultures, physical accomplishments, sensory experiences, and relating to each other and the world. Perhaps the biggest reason I come back year after year is the connection I get with my colleagues. There is no other way to describe the uniqueness and depth of the relationships that develop over weeks, months, and years than to call them family.”
What are some epic moments or favorite memories from your travels?
“There is not enough space to list them all, but some standouts include: Riding up to Crater Lake Rim in Oregon and hearing a loud gasp of genuine awe from my guests every single time. The pleasant surprise of beer being served to our group at a dinner in a Buddhist monastery in Japan. My WNBA-level co-guide and I getting schooled in basketball by two locals half our height in Guatemala. “Kidnapping” our guests after dinner with a Mapuché family in Chile to take them on an unexpected viewing of an erupting volcano at night. Breaking from the day’s plan to get guests and co-guides to jump into the fjord in Norway on a hot day. And persuading 16 guests from Japan to wear goatees, mustaches, and cowboy hats and sing Happy Birthday at a surprise dinner for Gary Fisher in Moab. Just to name a few.”
Where are you hoping to guide in 2021?
“Anywhere! Travel has been closed for so long that it would be a gift to guide in any destination. Having said that, my wife and I just welcomed a new tiny human into our lives in March, Astoria Lucille Jones. Now that I have achieved “Guide of the Year,” the bar is high, and the only way to top it is to work to be “Dad of the Year.” So it looks like my schedule and my skills will focus on guiding our little girl through the journey of learning to be a human. And who knows, perhaps there will be a trip or two in the fall in Europe that I can join.”
How did you feel about winning guide of the year?
“Wait… WHO??? Another “Zack” is guiding for Trek Travel? WAIT… that’s ME!” I was utterly blown away by the honor as it was so unexpected. The year 2020 has been incredibly challenging for me beyond just the pandemic. There were many moments that I felt I was working hard to be my best self and yet falling short. So when it came time to announce the winner of the Guide of the Year, I found myself mentally scanning the faces and personalities of all of my deserving colleagues/friends and picturing who it would be without ever considering it would be me. I am immensely grateful and proud to carry the torch for 2020. ”
What else are you looking forward to in 2021?
“I am really looking forward to how we rediscover connecting to each other and the world. I hope this unique time has helped us reflect on what is most important in life and filter out the noise that holds us back from a life of meaning and connection. I am looking forward to in-person conversations, noisy restaurants, group rides, hugs, high-fives, travel with my wife, going home, and introducing my little girl to family and friends.”
Zack was also featured in the 2021 Trek Summer Quarterly