“I had traveled to a lot of places by luck, friendship and probably by the power of wishful thinking.”-Maya
My endeavor as a tour guide started out by showing around friends from different countries for free. I met them at an international institution, supporting rice research where I used to work with. One of my friends noticed my fondness of accompanying people to nearby places and advised that I should charge the next time I show people around, as it involves my time. Back then, the reason why I like hanging out with foreigners was that I find it the cheapest way of traveling to another country by getting to know the other person’s culture through their stories and observation.
To young ladies out there who’d like to venture this field, you have to be cool, frank and strong at the same time. The indecent proposal will fall on your face at some point. Remember you are a tour guide and not a prostitute, be frank to say this to your guest. Better yet, pack and leave to teach them what respect is and the concept of ethical boundaries. In the Philippines, traveling alone is not very common. Doubly uncommon if you are a woman, you get questions like “Hindi ka ba natatakot?” (Don’t you get scared) or “Delikado yang ginagawa mo!” (What you do is dangerous!). Even perplexing if you travel with complete strangers and holding a bottle of beer.
Being a tour guide has its perks, you get to see beautiful places for free and get paid for it. One of my favorite trips was with a budget traveler who saw me on facebook through his circle of friends. We started chatting, and after investigating from common friends that he seems to be a nice guy, I allowed him to stay over at a friend’s house while we plan our trip. The plan – there was no plan at all. I haven’t been to San Vicente in Palawan at that time but heard about it, so we decided to go. It was breathtaking to be in a place untouched by civilization. Getting there by plane, van, boat, and motorcycles was an adventure itself. Young ones must experience this for youth is meant for an adventure like this. My guest was finishing his thesis for his Ph.D., started looking for a wifi station in the area, only to get those looks that meant “are you serious?”. Yes! It’s more fun to write your thesis in Palawan! So while he types away on his laptop, I was out enjoying the sun, counting seashells on the seashore and of course counting my blessings too while watching the sun sets in. We were lucky to see San Vicente, Palawan when it was underdeveloped.
Being a tour guide also meant being flexible due to the diversity of the tourists. Guests come in solo, groups, young and old. I like the older crowd due to stories and wisdom they impart. I will never forget my trip with Denise, a Canadian in her early 70’s. No, it wasn’t a trip to a nice beach or a posh place. We just drove around and talked most of the time. She asked me what I like most in life; the answer was quick and fast – being with nature. She shared her life story and her husband’s, how they met, how it was to be a wife to an official of European organization. Mafias and eloping were in the stories. Stories that I thought exists only in the movies. I felt so lucky to be shared with such a meaningful life story full of adventures.
A big hug, a smile, a letter, a tip, friendship, the sun, and the moon. These are the perks of being a tour guide, don’t expect much. If you wish to cross this path just be yourself and follow some tips below.
Work on the details that you will provide to your clients.
1. Research! Information is free on the internet. Read a lot even if you haven’t been to the place yet.
2. Pricing – Be clear in the beginning. – This is the tricky part. You have to include everything in your price like entrance fees and tipping; there are unexpected situations where tricycle drivers, boatman, Superman will keep asking you for more. It’s a white tax, that’s how my friend puts it. If your guest’s volunteer then that’s better.
TAKE NOTE: Your initial charge is final, so if you keep asking for more, your credibility is in question. Tour guiding is word of mouth, so take charge of your credibility, it is hard to earn trust.
3. Safety – backpackers are the adventurous group of young people. Treading the unchartered and the unexplored. If something happens to your guests, you are half responsible for it. Have a handy first aid kit too.
4. Itineraries – Where to go and why is it special, provide a bit of history.
5. Activities – What to do.
6. Organize your contacts – transport, resto, souvenir shops, etc.
7. Flora and Fauna – better if you can identify some plants and animals, we’re not talking about taxonomy here just layman terms for everything.
8. Most foreigners ask about the landscape features how high, how deep and how near or far. If you don’t know the answer, do not pretend you know, just say I’ll figure it out or just plain I don’t know but better yet research before going!
9. Familiarize yourself with cardinal directions even though it is obsolete in the Philippines.
10. Create your travel website or blog.
11. Most of all are yourself, and you need to pack a lot of patience because you are dealing with the most complex being, the humanoids.
I am now involved in organic farming and a strong advocate of growing and providing safe food for our community. I must admit that I miss the adventure of being on the go and basking myself at sunset and sinking my feet into the beach sand. Summer is on! Announcement! I am still open for eco-tours J. For nature loving people visits las Islas Filipinas. Email the farming monkey at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Writer
Maya, real name Malaya, born on Philippine Independence is living life to her name. She quit a 12-year office employment to explore places and eventually fell in love with organic farming. Maya is an advocate of growing and providing safe food for the community. A member of a young group of farmers, the Nu Wave Farmers which started the Community Shared Agriculture in Los Banos.
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