Want to be a European tour asst., but never been to Europe!

Travel Forums General Talk Want to be a European tour asst., but never been to Europe!

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1. Posted by Mapper71 (Budding Member 8 posts) 48w Star this if you like it!

So I am really wavering on this! I have worked for over 5 years at a US based European travel company. I work with about 100 other people and every other person here has been to Europe numerous times (kind of the reason you get hired on!), but I have never been. In fact, I haven’t traveled much at all. I am 47 and only in the past 10 years have I been out of the country. Once to Costa Rica and once to New Zealand. Vancouver, Canada a few times as well, but that’s not really like leaving the US. I just grew up in a family that didn’t travel and my parents never encouraged me to travel. In fact, my mom very much discouraged me from traveling because there were too many what ifs. She didn’t even like me traveling to the other side of town to go to work because 20 minutes was too far. That fear of travelling has been instilled in me and now I think of all the what if’s even though everyone else travels internationally just fine.

So our company has great benefits. One is that you can take on of their tours every year for free except for airfare and your spouse can do the same thing, but for $100/day. So I could take our most expensive 3-week tour at $5300 for free while my husband could pay $2100 for it. We have yet to take advantage of this because he hasn’t had much vacation time and we haven’t had a lot of extra money to pay for airfare (which would amount to about $2500 for both of us, plus an extra $500 or so for spending money). Another way to get to Europe is to become an asst. guide. You get EVERYTHING paid for! Airfare, meals, transportation AND you get $150/day for being a guide! I’d be an asst, so not the main guide, so it really shouldn’t be that hard of a job, but it also wouldn’t be a leisurely vacation. I could go for as little as 7 days or as many as 21 days and get paid to be there! However, I have never been to Europe so it seems odd for me to become an asst guide. I’m not an outgoing person and can get awkward around other people so I don’t think my personality is made to be a chatty, helping kind of person to the people on the tour. I’m sure all of them have been to Europe several times themselves and I’d be freaking out about everything. My husband is pushing me to go and do it and even my manager has hinted that I should do that to at least get me to Europe. However, I would have to do an informal interview with the head of guides and one of the big things they ask you is how many countries in Europe have you been to. Um, none! That would probably blow them away and not to mention they’d put me with a guide who I don’t know who would probably be irritated with me not knowing anything about being in Europe. I just think I should at least take a tour first before becoming a guide so I have SOME experience with being there.

Just wondering if you fellow travelers have any advice for me on whether I should or shouldn’t do this?

2. Posted by leics2 (Travel Guru 1028 posts) 48w 1 Star this if you like it!

First of all, it's important that you understand Europe (a continent) is not like the US. The continent is made up of 44 countries. 28 of those countries are in the European Union, which is too often...and very confusingly...referred to as 'Europe'. The 28 EU countries are not like US states: each is independent, with its own laws, legal, electoral and education systems, culture, behavioural norms, foods and...very often...language/s. EU countries simply do not have an overarching culture in the way US states do.

I say the above because it seems to me that a major reason for not wanting to go to 'Europe' is because you know little about the continent thus making those deep-rooted fears from childhood come to the fore. Basically, it's fear of the unknown. I do know exactly what you mean about all the 'what ifs'. But all those 'what ifs' can be addressed.....and thus your mind greatly set at rest.....by a) taking sensible precautions (e.g.travel health insurance, precautions against pickpocketing) and b) doing proper research (e.g. how to get from airport to hotel, what sort of breakfast foods are served, what time do shops close etc etc).

You have put so many hurdles in front of becoming an assistant guide that I suspect doing that job would cause you a huge amount of stress & anxiety and so remove any enjoyment the trip might bring. I suggest you first take away some of that fear of the unknown by either you, or you & your husband, taking advantage of your job perks. It doesn't have to be a long trip: just go for the shortest 'Europe' tour your company offers. Your husband is happy for you to be an assistant guide so I'm sure he' be equally happy for you to take a 'taster' tour alone. You'd see the reality and you'd get a good idea of the role of an assistant guide.

Once you've actually set foot in a European country or countries you'll realise just how different...but also how easy...everything is. That will give you the confidence to apply to be an assistant guide.

If going on a short tour first really isn't an option at all then only you can decide whether you want to be an assistant guide. But before you even think of applying please do that research properly and find out as much as you can about the country or countries you might visit. The more you know the less the 'what ifs' will intrude.

Good luck! :-)

PS I'm female and first set foot outside the UK...travelling solo, not on a tour or organised holiday....when I was a bit older than you. Since then I've visited 35+ countries, almost always on my own and only once or twice on an organised tour. I usually book flights & hotels by myself and use public transport to get around. Although my mind is excellent at creating 'what ifs' I follow my own advice about research and precautions....and, so far, I've had no bad experiences anywhere I've travelled. It's much, much easier than you think!

[ Edit: Edited on 02-Jan-2019, at 12:16 by leics2 ]

3. Posted by Mapper71 (Budding Member 8 posts) 48w Star this if you like it!

Thank you for your reply. I was a Geography major in college and took several Europe courses and have worked on guide books here for the past 5 years and have learned about all the small places in Europe so I do know Europe in writing and from what I've seen in shows. Our books tell readers how to get to and from places and everything. My problem is just that I've always been shy and quiet and it is very hard for me to be outgoing. I'm the type who cringes at having to talk to a salesperson on the phone and always opt for email if available. So going to Europe where people may not even know English does really freak me out. Having to go up to a stranger who may not know English freaks me out. I know the places we'd be travelling would have English speaking people and once I'm with the tour it would be fine. It's just the taking public transportation from the airport to the hotel would freak me out. I know people visiting internationally do it all the time but I just have these horror scenes in my mind that I will get lost.

I work with several women who are solo travelers and travel all over the world on their own and do just fine. I want to be someone who isn't afraid, but it's just the way I've always been.

[ Edit: Edited on 02-Jan-2019, at 12:30 by Mapper71 ]

4. Posted by leics2 (Travel Guru 1028 posts) 48w 1 Star this if you like it!

> I want to be someone who isn't afraid, but it's just the way I've always been.

Unless you are actively prepared to take steps to change yourself (and I'm not saying you should) you must just accept that is how you are. I do understand: I'm certainly not outgoing myself and could well be regarded as over-cautious in my travels. But it's my choice and it suits me.

You can begin to overcome your travel fears (if you want to do so) by considering each 'what if' and actively planning how you'll deal with it in reality. E.g. public transport from the airport? Even at teeny-tiny airports in non-EU countries there are, for obvious reasons, English-speakers around...or you could just pre-book a private transfer online. Getting lost? Get or print out a map...gestures and smiles go a long way. Speaking to someone who might not know English? Learn some of the relevant language e.g. 'Do you speak English?', 'Thank you', 'Where is...?'...and google translate does a perfectly adequate job (there are phone apps too).

All the things you're worried about aren't really things which require worrying about. All can be easily addressed in advance or at the time. It's your own fear which is making them into worries.

If that all seems too much then maybe you (and your husband, colleagues and bosses) just need to accept who you are...and you need to stop beating yourself up about it.

[ Edit: Edited on 02-Jan-2019, at 13:10 by leics2 ]

5. Posted by Signposts (Budding Member 7 posts) 48w 1 Star this if you like it!

There's really no way to sugar-coat this, but please take it as an attempt to be helpful. Do not try to be an assistant guide until you have some European experience and have actively taken steps to change the way you relate to people.

Let's be honest, what you really want is a holiday and the assistant guide option is just a way of getting it. Rather than thinking about your own well-being on the trip, you might like to consider your responsibilities to the passengers for whom you would be at least partially responsible, and who have paid good money for possibly their "trip of a lifetime". Are you being fair to them? Would you like to go on any holiday abroad with an assistant guide who had zero experience of being a guide or where you were going?

I'm a professional travel journalist and have been on many escorted tours in virtually all European countries, with both excellent and also poor tour leaders. It's not an easy job, and carries heavy responsibilities, especially when many tour members may be older. Frankly, your own description of yourself as shy, introverted and finding it hard to be outgoing is the exact opposite of the qualities required of someone working as a tour (assistant) leader anywhere, let alone in a foreign country where you have no experience and perhaps do not speak the language.

Your job gives you fabulous opportunities that most people don't have. Please take full advantages of them, you won't regret it! But really, don't do it at the expense of causing problems for your clients, and what would undoubtedly be serious issues of stress and anxiety for yourself. It's supposed to be a holiday, after all!

6. Posted by Beausoleil (Travel Guru 1289 posts) 48w 1 Star this if you like it!

From all you've said, I think you would be very uncomfortable as an assistant guide, and as pointed out above, would not be helpful to the people who are paying for your assistance. To me that is a no-go.

However, you are using your fear as an excuse and the only one you are convincing is yourself. You can either face your fear and go on a trip or give in to your fear and never see any of the places you want to see. Leics2 above gave you excellent advice and if you really want to see Europe, you'll follow it.

I would start with the suggested short tour and see how it goes. I still remember the first time we went to Europe and how strange it all seemed. I took Latin in school so language was a problem since nobody speaks Latin any more. I remember about day 3 when we went into a bank, got more money and some change, then to the post office and bought postage stamps and ate lunch at a little café where no one spoke English. We walked out with that wonderful feeling, "Yes! We can do this!"

You will never know if you don't try. The idea that everyone who travels is never afraid is silly. We all have our personal hangups. We just decide we want to see a place or a people so we face down our fears and go ahead and do it. Sometimes it works out well and sometimes it doesn't. Every travel experience isn't a great one, but you do learn something from every experience. If you learn nothing else, you will learn that fear is a very limiting emotion. You will never be sorry if you go; you will always be sorry if you don't. BTW, take your husband. It's always easier to be brave when you have someone with you.

It's okay to be scared. It's not okay to let it rule your life.

7. Posted by ToonSarah (Travel Guru 1066 posts) 48w 1 Star this if you like it!

I agree with all the other respondents. It doesn't seem that you're cut out to be an assistant guide, at present at least, and I think you recognise that or you wouldn't be seeking advice. I would try as best you can to find the money for a tour, even if it means going without some other things, because only by actually coming to Europe can you get at least that hurdle out of the way. At least then you'd be able to answer 'yes' to any questions relating to personal experience of travelling here, and you'd also be able to watch the assistant on your tour to assess properly if it's a role you could take on in the future.

I would also suggest you choose destinations where either English is the first language, i.e. the UK, or where it is widely spoken, e.g. Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Denmark), the Netherlands or perhaps Iceland. The downside is that, with the exception of the Netherlands, those tend to be among the dearer countries to visit. Of course, travelling with a guide on a tour makes speaking the local language less of a concern, but you might feel more comfortable if you could interact with people and it would also be valuable experience to put you at ease.

Lastly, on the question of your own nature. I am pretty outgoing (my friends might interpret that as talking far too much!) but I do tend to be a 'what if' type and a bit of a worrier. But I love to travel so happily put my worries aside in order to get where I want to go, and once I'm there almost always totally forget them! Also, I mostly travel with my husband who is much more laid back about potential problems - if yours is the same and you're travelling with him as you propose doing, listen to him when he points out that your worries are probably needless! And likewise your guide, who will know what they are doing :)

[ Edit: Edited on 03-Jan-2019, at 02:19 by ToonSarah ]

8. Posted by Andrew Mack (Travel Guru 1037 posts) 48w Star this if you like it!

Like others, I think the 'working' option could turn into litigious nightmare. You could try it in a few years time after actually visiting some of Europe, but even then it could be difficult unless you learn to be a bit more outgoing personality-wise.
My suggestion is that you take one of the less expensive and short/limited countries tours to see if you enjoy it.
Take the first little step and then you can decide how big you want any future steps to be.

9. Posted by goodfish (Full Member 177 posts) 48w 1 Star this if you like it!

Very good advice above!

It seems that there are two completely different issues here. The first is changing occupation just to get to Europe as cheaply as possible, and the second is fear of traveling to Europe at all.

Addressing the first, no amount of $$ saved is worth considering a change of job you may currently enjoy and are well suited for in exchange for one you may hate. I do mean this very kindly but I don’t get the feeling you have a passion for travel to begin with or have greatly enjoyed even the trips you’ve taken so far? You didn’t express a love for it in your two previous posts, anyway, so correct me if that’s not the case. I also wouldn’t be too sure that being an assistant guide wouldn’t be "that hard of a job". Lifting this from a piece written by a former assistant at a U.S. company, very possibly the one you work for:

...many of the logistical responsibilities fell to me like confirming hotel reservations, picking up metro tickets, running ahead to set up dinner etc.”

That individual also had had a lot of European travel under his belt before taking on the job. If "just the taking public transportation from the airport to the hotel would freak me out”, it doesn’t sound like managing logistics for an entire group abroad would be something you’d enjoy? Specific communication skills are also necessary, such being comfortable talking to/directing a group as well as with staff at local businesses, attractions, transport stations, etc. It involves the ability to appear calm, collected and in charge when things don’t go according to plan. It happens. The tall and short of it is that traveling as a guide is work, and work that often has to occur behind the scenes so that things flow seamlessly as possible. You also would likely be away from home - without The Husband - for long-ish periods.

So the question is, could you love such a job?

Addressing the second issue is much easier: the best way to try and conquer fear of the Unknown is to go see what it’s about! Given your anxiety, I’d say signing up for one of the tours is an excellent place to start. You’d not only be reasonably ‘cocooned’ inside of an English-speaking group and have most logistics taken care of, you’d be able to observe, firsthand, what lead guides and assistants are responsible for and how they operate. Let them know that you’re particularly interested in any information they may be able to share on the side during the trip.

I have an inkling who your employer may be and, if I’m right, you are indeed surrounded by experienced travelers with loads of knowledge to draw from. You also have the books your company publishes for other newbies to Europe. Make good use of BOTH as well as forums such as this one. Do you need to start with the longest, most expensive tour? No. Starting with a shorter one that doesn’t cover as much ground maybe won’t look as overwhelming. Maybe choose just one country - or even one city - you are especially interested in. As you’d be fairly insulated within a support system, I’d also choose one which was NOT English-speaking. See how comfortable you might be going it solo next time; it would likely be less stressful once you know how things work. Maybe tack on a few days to sightsee on your own at the end of the tour.

I’m not nearly as well traveled as Leics2 and Toonsarah - both of whom I’ve had the VERY great pleasure of meeting and traveling a bit with - but what my husband and I have done of Europe so far has been largely on our own, and neither of us speak a 2nd language. Have I had moments of anxiety? Heavens yes, but they’ve been small compared to enormous joy of exploring the fascinating places we have more than virtually. Just do it!

Editing to add, a wave to Beausoleil, whom I have known virtually for a long time but haven't had the pleasure to meet in the flesh yet!

[ Edit: Edited on 03-Jan-2019, at 05:36 by goodfish ]

10. Posted by Mapper71 (Budding Member 8 posts) 48w Star this if you like it!

Thank you for your reply goodfish. However, I do need to clarify that I wouldn't be "changing jobs". Being a tour guide or asst. tour guide with this company is just a perk of the job. Anybody who works here can apply to do it. They assign you to a tour or two and you are out of the office for a few weeks, but then you come back and resume your usual job. And you are also wrong on that I don't enjoy travelling. I LOVE to travel when I do it. I was a geography major who was always looking at what countries I wanted to visit by going through our encyclopedias growing up and was always looking at maps. I love to just drive around where I live and see where it takes me. I dreamed of travelling so much as a child. The problem is, I was held back from doing it growing up because it freaked my mom out who doesn't travel at all and barely goes 5 miles beyond her own home. She never encouraged travel and just about lost her mind when I drove halfway across the country to move. She could only think that the car would break down or I'd get lost or something bad would happen. If I had grown up in a household that traveled and encouraged travel then I would probably be a totally different person. She didn't even want me going to Mexico with my friends for Spring Break because she literally said "What are you going to do down there? Sit on a beach and burn? You don't need to do that".

My coworkers have told me "You're too nice. You need to be more assertive in your opinions". I have a coworker who will come over and ask if I have time to look at something with him and I'll happily say "Sure". He'll go "Are you sure because you look like you're busy with something else and I can come back". It is not a problem for me to drop something to go over something with someone but he makes me feel like I SHOULD tell him no. I know lot of people get irritated with others when they are in the middle of something, but I don't. I'm a happy person in general. My husband keeps pushing me to assist and I tell him "But I'm not outgoing" and he agrees I'm not the most outgoing person but he says "You are such a nice and helpful person though and that's what the tour members will love". Yes I'm a nice person but that doesn't mean I'll give them the right advice!

[ Edit: Edited on 03-Jan-2019, at 08:04 by Mapper71 ]