Tour Leader Tales: Buffalo wings, soundtracks and the best kind of groups

It's true - all of us at TrekAmerica really do believe that our tours are the best in the world. And a huge part of that is down to our tour leaders - these guys are out on the road every day, getting to know our lovely passengers and showing them THE best time.

But what's life like as a TrekAmerica leader? We had a chat to Jessica Wray, a seasoned guide (and owner of one of our fave Instagram accounts), to find out...

Now tour season is getting back in swing, what are you most excited about when it comes to getting back on the road?

I'm probably most excited about getting things really dialed in and providing a really special experience for passengers. With each season on the road, things tend to get easier and we can really get into the grove of things. Being my third season, there are a lot of new places I'd like to take my groups and a lot of new surprises and strategies I'd like to implement.

While even new tour leaders can lead a memorable and once and a lifetime trip for passengers, a seasoned tour leader gets to lead without as much stress and can rely on knowledge and confidence.

Utah by Jessica Wray

Where are you from, and how did you end up being a TrekAmerica tour leader?

I'm from San Diego, California, and after a handful of years traveling and teaching English in various places I was ready to explore my own country. I also had always wanted to try guiding, since I love showing people around and planning activities. I made a friend in Thailand who told me about the job, and the rest was history!

What are the best parts of the job?

While it's always enjoyable to travel the country and see so many beautiful places, it's certain groups that make the job as rewarding as it is. Nothing is better than when a group of people meshes together, appreciates the work you do for them, the information you give and is excited to see as much as they can on the trip they are on. 

I often notice that these groups are the ones that reminisce often on Facebook and always catch up with each other on the year and two year anniversary of the trip. With groups like this, it doesn't matter how tired I am, and all the hard work and planning is worth it.

New Orleans by Jessica Wray

Are there any particular places you just love taking your groups to?

Any trip in the west is an exciting and rewarding experience for me. The scenery is out of this world and the drives are much more enjoyable than in the east. When it comes to the east, I love taking groups to New Orleans. From the food, the culture and the nightlife, it's impossible to not be excited when heading to NOLA.

Could you tell us some of the strangest questions you've ever been asked as a guide?

I once almost convinced a group of younger girls that Niagara Falls was dug out by Native Americans. When I then told them that Buffalo wings (invented near Niagara in the town of Buffalo) used to be made from the wings of extinct buffalo, they caught on!

Overall though, I get questions about everything and anything. I find it the strangest when it's about something I clearly would have no idea about, like for example, "why is there a fence there?" in the distance on a random stretch of highway!

Jessica Wray

What do you like to get up to on your days off when your group goes exploring?

Honestly, I usually sleep, do paperwork and catch up on errands and things I've had to put off. On other occasions when I have a lot of energy and nothing hanging over me on my to-do list, I go on hikes I've yet to do or check out restaurants I've had on my list. Most times there's another guide in the same location and we go and explore together.

Is there an experience that really stands out to you while you've been on the road?

There are too many to count! Seeing grizzlies close up in Banff, hiking in New England in the fall and seeing Monument Valley after a snow storm are all memorable experiences. Interestingly though, I usually think of my favorite groups and the laughs we had together on the road more than the beautiful sights.

Austin by Jessica Wray

The roads are pretty long in the US – what's your current driving soundtrack?

My playlist is constantly changing. Also, most times I try and make the music match the location we are in. When in the desert I usually play American 70s music, when on Route 66 it's a lot of 50s classics and in Texas and the south I blast country. When I'm tired of music I put on podcasts. Not all groups like podcasts, but when they do it's a great way to pass the time.

What would you say to someone considering taking a TrekAmerica trip for the first time?

Keep an open mind, be flexible and challenge yourself! The people who enjoy their trips the most are the ones who put down their phones, make friends in the group and are open and excited about having new experiences.

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