Getting After the Wild

6 minutes reading time (1237 words)

If You Really Want to Get to Know a Destination

Traveling with a guide The importance of traveling with a guide
The travel industry as a whole is always marketing "cultural" experiences but what does that really mean? Typically, and sadly enough, that usually means just visiting a cultural spot with no opportunity to connect in a meaningful way and with just a short glimpse into the lives of a handful of people. 

If you really want to get to know a destination and have a real cultural immersion I think there's no better way than having a local guide lead your trip. Think about it, if you just show up to a destination there's no amount of research you can do to replace the knowledge and connections someone has from growing up there. That's what makes having a guide so critical if you want to experience a destination far beyond just visiting. Another key aspect of having a guide is the sheer amount of time you get to spend with them learning the ins and outs of a country. If you're traveling by yourself you might think getting a guide for a certain activity is enough of a value add but it's the downtime with your guide where you get some of the richest experiences. A long drive might turn into a history lesson or you might get a better understanding of daily life for the people in the region. I say all of this from a background of traveling to many countries by myself when I was younger and now having the opportunity to travel with a guide on many of my trips the difference is night and day. On top of that, I also have been a tour guide throughout North America and I can tell you that a guide's job isn't to just get you from point A to point B. Guides are guides because they LOVE sharing their passions for their home and everything that comes with it.

To help drive this point home I want to share three guides that not only made my trip but gave me a way deeper experience than I thought was possible. 

Traveling in Morocco with Kamal
It's been six years since my trip to Morocco where Kamal was my guide and I still get a Christmas letter from him every year. At the time, I believe Kamal had already been a professional guide for more than two decades and his knowledge is on a different level. On top of just being an amazing guide, he shared his Berber and Muslim culture with me in such an articulate and meaningful way. I learned so much from him and in a way that helped connect me to the destination that I couldn't have gotten visiting on my own. 

He introduced to me so many incredible people along the way and even had me over at his Mother's house for a traditional dinner. That wasn't even part of the itinerary but we bonded during our trip and he wanted to share that experience with me. Since my trip, we've received plenty of guest reviews where Kamal was the single reason they had an outstanding trip. His kindness, enthusiasm, and passion for sharing his home is something I will never forget.  


Traveling in Thailand with Kat
On my trip to Thailand, I had the pleasure to have Kat as my guide. Kat is one of those people that the second you see her bright and welcoming smile you know you're not only in good hands but you've got a new friend. Kat was such a blast to be with and her excitement to share everything with us was unbelievable, she definitely took on a motherly role and we felt like family traveling with her. One of the experiences that stood out the most was the surprise almsgiving​ that she took us to in a remote part of northern Thailand. We got to have lunch with the monks, meditate in a temple, and then participate in almsgiving in a place where there is no tourism at all, it was a truly transformational experience. 

Traveling in Egypt with Ronda
There are great guides, there are incredible guides and then there's Ronda aka 'The Queen of Egypt.' When I showed up for my trip to Egypt, our local contact told me our guide was the 'Queen of Egypt' and I thought he was spicing her up a little too much but lo and behold Ronda really is the Queen. Ronda has been a guide for I believe close to 30 years and I'd bet there's a good chance she knows Eygpt better than anyone. Bold statement? Ronda was one of the first official female guides in Eygpt, has been a guide for some leading universities and it seemed like everyone knew her. When I say everyone knew her, we traveled all over Egypt and there wasn't a spot we went where we people didn't know Ronda. Her wealth of knowledge is absolutely insane, the amount of history that Egypt has is almost unfathomable and Ronda knows it all like the back of her hand. One of the best attributes about her knowledge is she's able to break it down in a way that is digestible and to be honest, that was one of my fears traveling to Egypt, that I was going to get burned out just hearing dates and names all day. On top of her knowledge, I've never had a guide look after us like her. Similar to Kat, Ronda took on a mother role and by the end of the trip we were calling her Momma bear because she really looked after us like we were her cubs. When someone at a market tried to rip off my travel partner they awoke the Momma bear and she let them know not to mess with her cubs... it was adorable seeing how much she cared about us.

Along the way, the experiences that stood out the most was hearing her own life story and introducing us to some of her amazing friends. There are too many wonderful memories and connections to share in this blog so I'll keep it to just one and talk about meeting her friend Dina. On our final day in Egypt, we spent the morning at the Great Pyramids and headed over to her friend's house for dinner. Our dinner with Dina was not only the best meal I've had traveling but also the most welcome I've ever felt in a strangers house. Even after seeing a huge chunk of Egypt and spending the morning at one of the most historic spots on the planet, our dinner with Ronda, Dina and Dina's family was by far the highlight of the trip and an experience we would never have had without a guide like Ronda. (Read more: Dinner with Dina - An Egyptian Meal Fit for the Pharaohs).  


I can't stress enough that if you want to experience a destination instead of just visiting than having a local guide is the way to go and don't just take my word for it, check out some of our alumni reviews. By far the number one compliment we get on our trips is the guides and how crucial they are to the success of a trip. For more tips on truly experienceing a country, read 6 Ways to Discover a Culture When Traveling.

Your friendly adventurer, 

Jonathan 
Wildland Marketing Director

PS: It was really hard to narrow this list down to just three guides because I've been so lucky to have met so many incredible ones during my travels. Below is a video of my guide in Jordan, Mahmoud, talking about the Jordan Trail that I think you'll really like. 

How we Design New Adventures | A Closer Look #19
6 Ways to Discover a Culture When Traveling

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