Gavin is an awesome Tour Director. If you ask the travelers on any of the 40-ish tours he’s led in the last four years alone, they would wholeheartedly agree.
In Part 1, we heard about Gavin’s life in Ireland. Now, learn what he loves about travel, how he turned that love into a career, and some tricks of the trade for those who want to do the same.
So, how did you get started directing tours?
Well, when I was finishing up my Master’s at NUA Galway [MA in Public Advocacy and Activism], I started to work in the nonprofit sector during the time of the global recession.
When I got out, I joined a similar organization to EF working in development education, with people who were volunteering overseas in developing countries, and encouraging others to become active citizens and involved in their communities.
When that work finished up, a friend from EF just put up a post on Facebook one day, saying his company was looking for more Tour Directors.
I inquired, had an interview in Amsterdam; went through that, passed that, then did my first tour in June of 2014 with 35 high-schoolers from California. It was a real challenge, you know? I was terrified. But it was amazing—pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, trying new things, putting your personality out there.
So that’s kinda what got me hooked on it, just having been so afraid, and then doing well, and then saying maybe I found something I’m pretty good at. That’s what kept me going.
“There is value no matter what your abilities are, what your skills or interests are—you can bring something to the table, because travel is everything.”
What’s your advice for someone with the travel bug who wants to make a career out of it?
I love traveling. I’ve done it throughout my young adult life. I never really set my mind to getting into the travel industry as a career; it just sort of happened to me. And I guess it happens to people who have an interest in traveling.
It’s maybe not something you should force upon yourself, because there are disadvantages, too. You’re away from home a lot, and if you want to have any sort of personal life, if you think you’re going to miss your friends, family, boyfriend, girlfriend—don’t do it. Because you will miss them. A lot.
But if you’re willing to travel and all that, it’s a great career. You meet lots of people who are doing the same thing and become your support and friends down the road. There are lots of other avenues you can take as well. Everyone’s got something to bring to the table, everybody’s got their own background story and skill set. There is value no matter what your abilities are, what your skills or interests are—you can bring something to the table, because travel is everything, so it doesn’t matter.
Do you have to be fluent in a ton of different languages?
English is a great language to have, but it’s always nice to make an effort to learn the [other] language.
I speak French, English and Irish. I find myself having conversations with [French] locals. I’ll talk to them in French, but they’ll talk back to me in English just because my French is so bad. So we end up having this dynamic and weird conversation where we both understand each other. So it’s important that you try it, and force yourself to keep trying it.
“If I’ve hung out with you for a week, I’ve got that week for the rest of my life.”
Looking back, why is the role of Tour Director such a perfect fit for you?
I love people, and I love helping people. Genuinely so. I like to get engaged with every traveler on a personal level, find out about them, what they’re interested in. I guess that kinda helps me a lot.
It doesn’t matter how many times I travel around Ireland, every time I do it with a new group, it’s different people and a different experience.
What are other ways you personalize the experience?
If people need my help along the way, or my support, I love getting involved in that. I try to make sure that they know that the first thing they need to do in order to have a good time on their trip is to share [problems] with me so I can help them straight away. And not to let any time pass, because time is of the essence when you’re on these trips. And to keep having fun.
Every time there’s a new tour, there’s a new memory. Not just for the travelers to keep for the rest of their lives, but also memories that I’ll have for the rest of my life too. So, it’s important for me that that’s not the end; that they stay in touch, that if they’re going traveling again they’ll reach out for tips or whatever, recommendations of where to go, that kind of thing.
It’s not just a once-off for me; this in an experience, and it’s friendships; there’s nothing I can do about it, you know? If I’ve hung out with you for a week, I’ve got that week for the rest of my life.
Interested in the travel industry? Check out EF’s career page for more information.
You just might travel with Gavin if you join us on The Grand Tour of Ireland, London and Scotland Escape, London and Paris Escape, Amsterdam, Paris & London, and European Road Trip…but mostly Grand Tour of Ireland.