Tour Guiding: A Summary

I know, I know. All I’ve done so far is recap my many months on the road. But don’t worry! I have a slew of tour guide posts coming up for you. But in the meantime, let’s reflect. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have already seen a brief version of this.

It hasn’t even been a week since completely finishing up for the summer and I’m already feeling so nostalgic of all the ups and downs I’ve experienced. Two days since I’ve been back home and I’ve been scrambling around trying to find things to do.

So far, it’s been a lot of staring and trying to motivate myself to workout. I swear, it takes 3 times the amount of time for me to reach peak motivation than it is to work out.

It’s going to sum up the summer in one post but I’m going to try!


Let’s take a look at the breakdown, shall we?

  • Rescue trip: Santa Rosa -> Glacier National Park -> Yosemite -> Tahoe -> Santa Rosa (6 days)
  • Santa Rosa, CA -> Wharton, NJ to pick up passengers (6 days)
  • NYC -> New Orleans (1 week)
  • New Orleans -> Las Vegas (11 days)
  • Las Vegas -> San Francisco (1 week)
  • San Francisco -> San Francisco (3 days)
  • LA -> LA (2 weeks)
  • LA -> San Francisco (2 weeks)

Unforgettable Experiences

  • Rode a helicopter into the Grand Canyon
  • Swamp tour in New Orleans
  • Countless sunset cruises under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
  • Went to a free Martin Garrix concert in Las Vegas
  • Lost my wallet + everything in it
  • Drove 14,000 miles
  • Saw 21/48 states
  • 7 trips
  • Slept under stars in Monument Valley x 2
  • Met countless new friends

My favorite trip in terms of itinerary was definitely the one that ran along the south of the U.S. I just feel like the scenery there and the culture is particularly strong. And I particularly enjoyed experiencing Nashville, New Orleans, and Memphis for the first time!  IMG_8924


Before I started, I had a huge list of concerns and doubts about me and this job. At the forefront of my worries was the concern that I wouldn’t be able to handle being with people basically 24/7. In Austin, I was in a different mindset. Most of it was my fault—I didn’t push myself to interact with my environment.

However, now that I had a job that forced me to not only have people with me at all times but to make sure everything was ok for them, to befriend them, to be there for them. And, not only did I not retreat to hole up in my own little room when I was finished with a trip, but I sought out other leaders to hang out with in my off time.

I was also afraid at the time that people wouldn’t like me. And to past-me, I say: who cares? I know this sounds completely cliché, but I think that it’s only something that you yourself can unlock. Some people just won’t click with your personality. But you know what? For every person that doesn’t, there are at least 3 others that love you. And those are the people that you do it for.

Now that I’m done, I can honestly say that yes, it is a challenge at times, but I can do it.


Personal Growth

Anyways, within these last 3 months, I feel like I’ve grown so much as a person. My real-life friends will roll their eyes at what I’m about to say because I’ve been talking too much about this summer already. Good thing I have you guys, right?


I feel like I’ve grown mostly in confidence—only because all my passengers thought I was 29 so I think I hit peak maturity. Not only do I have more confidence in myself and my abilities, but I also can portray confidence better. It takes a lot of nerves to head out on your first trip. Despite the best training program ever, there’s no way of ever knowing how you handle yourself on the road. It’s not quite something that you can ever really train for. You need to be able to portray a level of confidence that leaves no doubt in their mind that you are completely capable of doing the job. After all, you are driver, tour guide, and friend all in one bundle! There you are, 13 faces peering at you in the mirror, looking to you for direction, safety, information, and entertainment. 12088535_10153684332584704_1981041631681998053_n

Admittedly, I was not exactly there yet on my first trip. I was worried the entire time, stressed every single day that I might not be able to pull off yet another successful day. After a good streak though, you realize that what will happen will happen and that there’s no use in stressing about what hasn’t happened yet until it does. Still follow?

I’ve also been able to care less about what people think about me personally. It’s difficult when your personality is so closely linked to your job; and even more so when you get the occasional negative feedback to not blame yourself and wonder how you could’ve changed yourself to please them more. Sometimes, you just don’t click with people and the best you can do is mutually respect each other. IMG_8772

Leadership Skills

Surprise, surprise. Being a “tour leader” gives you leadership skills, right? I thought I was an ok leader to begin with—in the sense where I had the capability to do so but would rather just cruise. This, of course, was not an option on the job.

I really had to overcome the mindset that I had no authority, especially when I was the youngest one in the van. It was hard for me at first to imagine myself guiding a bunch of people who were older than me. But my last trip, I had three 50-year-old Estonian couples that were under my wing and it went fine!

As a leader, you’re expected to make decisions after considering what the group wants. Sometimes you ask verbally, other times it’s intuitive. Would the group like if I followed through with a surprise that I’ve been planning? Would they rather skip it and go do the BBQ instead? I’ve made plenty of mistakes on the job misreading the group vibe but like anything, you get better at it the more you practice.

All it really came down to is being capable of learning on the go and forgiving yourself for little mistakes that they may not even have noticed. Oh, and resilience. Lots and lots of resilience.

What was the job that pushed you the most to grow?

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  • Jessi @2feet1world

    Great post! I love all these insights you’re giving into the tour guiding life and can’t wait to read more. It’s something I’ve always wondered whether I could/would do myself – sounds like a lot of highs and lows but overall an incredible experience!

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Thanks, Jessi! A lot more is coming, no worries ;) If you’ve always wondered about it, I say give it a try! The worst thing that can happen is that it doesn’t work out.

  • Van @ Snow in Tromso

    I can totally imagine how you were scared at first! I was too on my first tour around Tromso as a tourist guide…. and the second one :D but it definitely gets better and you get so much more comfortable talking to groups of people which helps in sooo many other jobs too!

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      AH! I didn’t know you were a tour guide, Van! I was amazed at how much better it gets in time :)

  • Marcella ~ WhatAWonderfulWorld

    Oh wow, all of these trips sound incredible – you really got to see so so much!! I would have been so nervous at first too but it sounds like you really settled into it :)

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Thanks, Marcella! It was a great experience. Haha, yeah I found my footing eventually.. it just took a lot of stress and practice! :) Hopefully I don’t forget anything during the off-season.

  • Holly Hollyson

    I can totally imagine how this job would help you to grow in those ways. I feel as though teaching has helped me to grow in very similar ways, just without the pretty views! Confidence and leadership skills – tick – thanks to teaching! Great photos.

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Oh, man. Teaching. I don’t know how you guys do it! And now we’ll all be confident mofos rocking the world! ;)

  • Lani

    Good for you, Michelle. You will probably feel the effects of having taken this leap of faith and risk for years and years to come until you’ve intergrated it completely into you. I worked at an adventure summer camp for kids and while I wasn’t a camp counselor, I saw the effect it had on them – leading children through the woods, teaching them (and often themselves about survival and camp life) and learning to get along with others in a new environment.

    Waldorf teaching changed me, but at first in bad and good ways. It’s not a typical teaching experience and ultimately I was fired – that really shakes up your identity and confidence, let me tell you! But that was ages ago and I’m grateful for my past experiences that forced me to grow up. Hugs from Cambo!

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Hahaha thanks, Lani :) Yeah, in some ways it is definitely like being a camp counselor! Hopefully this helps me down the road in life ;)

      Oh man! I’m sorry that happened to you. And yeah, for some reason, any professional blow I take quite personally, so I can imagine how much it must’ve shaken you up! We’re all stronger people from having lived through experiences like that :) xo

      • Lani

        Yes, you get it. And now you get to relax and process everything. Looking forward to hearing what your next gig will be :P No pressure though.

        • Michelle @ Mishfish13

          THANKS A LOT MOM. Just kidding. That’s actually what I’m currently stressing over since I’ve been splurging like no other for a straight month…

          TALK ME DOWN. AH.

  • Kerri

    It sounds like such an exciting job and definitely one that’s full of personal growth. You should be very proud of yourself for accomplishing it all! I’ve never done something quite as adventurous, but moving abroad has brought some of the same things. Sometimes it’s good to grow :)

    I’m with you on the whole people not liking you thing. There’s always some people but there’s always a few more that actually like me haha.

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Thanks, Kerri! The experience is hard to beat… as I sit here in my suburban home binge watching some Netflix shows. Haha, exactly! And we are lovable badasses ;)

  • Anna | slightly astray

    Michelle, this sounds INCREDIBLE!! I can’t wait to read more about your tour guide experiences. I can’t even imagine how good you must feel about yourself that you did this! I feel the same way about myself as you did before your trip… that I have no authority and that nobody would listen to me, and that I”m not outgoing enough so people wouldn’t like me. I’m so proud of you to challenge yourself and take on this job! This sounds like such a good personal growing experience!

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Thanks so much, Anna! And for sharing it on Twitter :) It was a sharp learning curve, but I’m excited to see what being on the road again next year brings! I’ve heard the second year is way different than the first year. It sounds like you’ve had a similar life/perspective-changing experience too and I’m so happy for you!

      Have anything you’d be particularly interested in reading? Haha, I’m trying to see what I could possibly write about :)