In one way, being a really good Wildland guide is a relatively easy job! Of course, it requires the requisite study of history, ecology, archaeology, or other areas of expertise, and first-aid training with leadership skills are all requisites. But the most important characteristic for a Wildland guide is to be, and to share, your Self! If Wildland travelers are the “Initiates” who want to connect with the people and the places we visit, then our guides are their “Wizards”, or at least their best friends who take them down new pathways by encouraging, sharing and supporting the traveler to be open-hearted and open-minded to new experiences.
Our goal is to share a real world without artifice, that craves our understanding and compassion rather than our judgment; a world that seeks to welcome us rather than entertain us. And to accomplish this, above all other factors, it’s the guides: guides are the catalyst between travelers and their experience.
Having the right guide that creates the ‘Wild Style’ experience is the difference between magic and mediocrity in travel. There are many trained naturalists, excellent tour escorts, and knowledgeable historians and archaeologists, but we seek native guides with the requisite wide range of skills and character: a sufficient command of multiple languages, the knowledge and the skill to impart the information, the experience to lead; but above all else a personality that is open to sharing a part of themselves, and their personal beliefs and values, which creates an opening that induces heart-to-heart interactions between travelers and their hosts.
With guides like this, who bring with them a smile and good-natured sense of humor, our initiates go farther in their journey to know a place deeper, to discover themselves better, and to develop closer emotional ties to others they meet along the way. Therefore, it’s not just about the ability to transmit information succinctly and quickly to the traveler, but more importantly to create experiences unwritten in a published itinerary that often become the most memorable simply because they are real, unplanned and meaningful.
As my friend, Michael Kaye, President of Costa Rica Expeditions once said, "The criteria for excellence in guiding have changed from knowing the place to facilitating the most profound and meaningful experiences that travel can provide. This is only accomplished by knowing the individual traveler; not only from knowing what the individual traveler wants, but knowing the kinds of experiences they can really get beyond what they say they want, and how to deliver it well."