Five lessons from the road


Since arriving back in New Zealand in late April I’ve been working in the tourism industry, in a friend’s limousine company.

Recently the opportunity came up to do some tour guiding.  I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time  and the usual suspects were either busy or on leave, so I was offered the job.  I’ve never guided before but was I going to turn it down – hell no!   Since, I’m all about a life of exploring in every sense of the word, I wasn’t going to pass up this chance to help someone else explore New Zealand.

The trip was to the West Coast of NZ an area known for it’s  rugged beauty , isolation,  rain and ………  did I mention rain??  You get the picture.  The opportunity to show off one of my favourite places in the world was just too tempting – I have a love affair with the place – it’s heart wrenchingly gorgeous, dramatic and wild,it’s where I go to when I need a beach fix, but not of the swimming kind.  West Coast beaches are great for long walks,  fresh air, rock collecting and daydreaming, but swim at your peril.   Lonely Planet has named it one of the top ten coast road trips in the world and it’s certainly a must-do if you come to New Zealand.

Ha!  I thought, this will be a doddle, showing a tourist my fave place, talking about the landscape, the outdoors, plants, bird life, history, all the things I love and know about.  Well,   not quite …….. it was darn hard work, much more so than I’d imagined.  RESPECT to  the tour guides I have met on my travels and all the work that they put in both behind the scenes and on the job to ensure that I as a guest had a great experience.

The trip went brilliantly, the client was happy and we both enjoyed the experience.

Being on the other side of the equation travel-wise gave me some new perspectives on travel both as a guide and as a tourist so I thought I’d share them with you:

  1.  Have a Plan B.    For whatever reasons such as weather, breakdowns, cancellations, Plan A can go AWOL, so  ALWAYS have a Plan B.
  2. Small moments count –  a perfect sunset on a deserted beach, the smell of the forest after rain, an unexpected glimpse through a doorway.
  3. Take every opportunity you can to talk to the locals (the real ones, not the people behind counters at tourist attractions) .  A random conversation with a local  can give a deeper insight into life in that area/country, or can just share the common ground that we all have as human beings on this planet.  For me, when I reflect back on my travels its these moments that often stay with me the longest and are some of the high points of the trips I’ve made.
  4. Following on from 3.  Ask a local what their favourite places and things to do are.  You may get very different answers to what is commonly accepted as the top “tourist attractions”  but you may come across some hidden gems.
  5. Go slow.  Travel is a multi sensory experience to be savoured.  Do less,  immerse yourself in local life as much as you can – eat at local cafes, take detours, get lost, talk to random strangers.  You will leave far the richer for your experiences.