One of our senior guides in Costa Rica recently read my blog My Family Roots in Turkey and was moved to write me his personal sentiments about his own family and how he views Wildland travelers as his own extended family visiting him at home. This is what makes Costa Rica guide, Leo Chaves, such a great Wildland guide.
I like to say that being a good Wildland guide is really easy.
Of course, it requires the requisite study of history, ecology, archaeology, or other areas of expertise, first-aid training, and leadership characteristics are also necessary. But the reason it should also be easy is because ultimately the most important attribute of a guide is to share your Self!
And that's what I really appreciate about Leo's comments:
"Family roots and history are so important. Reading your words about your family brought back memories of many personal moments. My mother past away a year ago, my grandmother 2 years ago, and I recently got divorced, so I miss many, many things."
Leo brings this trait into his guide training courses emphasizing an awareness of family among other local Costa Rica guides he trains:
"A guide is really a friend, the best friend for a guest during their short Costa Rica vacation," he says. "I’m always thankful for the guest that chooses to come to travel to Costa Rica with Wildland Adventures. They can go anywhere with any company, but no, they decide Wildland and Costa Rica, and this is huge for me. Just thinking Wildland and Costa Rica is something that makes me really proud and happy to be a host. I try to pass this sentiment on to my fellow guides too."
And finally Leo concludes his note to me:
"Kurt, reading what you say, I expect all our guides to be more than friends. They can be 'another member of the visiting family', to understand them, and to be the most friendly and caring host."
Having the right guide that creates the ‘Wild Style’ experience is the difference between magic and mediocrity in travel. There are many excellent tour escorts, and knowledgeable naturalists, historians and archaeologists. We seek out native guides like Leo with these requisite skills and character, but above all else they should have a personality that is open to sharing a part of themselves, and their personal beliefs and values. This is what creates an opening that induces heart-to-heart interactions between our travelers and their hosts.
But, I'll be the first to admit that being a good guide isn't really easy. However, it does come more natural for some than others. And when you as a Wildland traveler feel it's easy for the guide, it's probably because everyone traveling together is truly more open and relaxed like family.