Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tour Leader Talk

Almost all Travel Light small group adventure tours are fully escorted by a Tour Leader. These intrepid leaders are available to the group 24 / 7 and not only facilitate a great trip but are there to advise on free time activities, prices the locals pay, what to eat and equally important what not to eat, local customs, getting you away from the crowds, choosing good restaurants, know where the nearest internet cafe is at any point in your trip, teaching you a few choice words in the local language plus so much more. Below is an interview from Bridging the Gap with one of GAP Adventure's tour leaders Juliana Loaiza:

Tour Leader Talk: Juliana Loaiza

A number of years ago, a G.A.P Adventures tour leader was born in Colombia and her name is Juliana! A former Engineer, find out what 'The Plops' are and how she followed her dreams to do what she loves - travel!

bridging the gap: What interested you about becoming a tour leader?

JL: When I got my degree as a Mechatronics Engineer, I realized I didn't like Engineering. I tried and I got a job as an Engineer, but I didn't accept it and lucky me, because at that moment I knew about G.A.P Adventures. I decided to become a tour leader because what I like the most is to travel, but at the same time it's great when you can travel in your own continent showing people from all around the world how amazing it is here in South America.

bridging the gap: From an Engineer to a Tour Leader is a big change, what tips do you have for anyone else changing jobs?

JL: I have this advice: You should do what you really like. If you don't 'love' your job then you should try and find something different that you can really enjoy, something that makes you happy and feel good with yourself.

bridging the gap: What do you love most about being a tour leader?

JL: What I love about leading is to share with people from everywhere and the good feelings and good energy that it brings back to you. It's great when you help your passengers and in the end they smile and say: "thank you, you made my trip awesome". I love the contrast of South America, one day you are in a very cold place but next day you are travelling to a very hot one. I love the irregularity of the landscape, you see high mountains but then you have flat deserts. And of course the people because they are always friendly, they always help you.

bridging the gap: Tell us about your experience in the Ccaccaccollo community.

JL: I did a volunteer trip in Peru. I lived for 3 days in the community of Ccaccaccollo, one of the Planeterra projects. I stayed with the family of one of the leaders of the community, he has two little girls that literally touched my heart. That family, and the community in general, made me realize how simple life could be and how lucky I am to have all that I've got. That is an experience I will never forget and that family is always in my heart because they treated me like one of them and showed me how important it is to have a family and to look after them no matter how far away you are.

bridging the gap: Any favourite or strange food and drink experience to share?

JL: I have 2 favorite drinks, one is Gin and Tonic and the other one is San Mateo. But so far the only country where I can find San Mateo is Bolivia. The strangest food I've had was on the way to Uyuni from Potosi (Bolivia again). It's a challenging trip, as the road is terrible and you stop in small towns in the middle of nowhere. In one of those towns I had a choclo (corn) soup but, It was horrible! It was very greasy and it had a very strange taste but, I was sooo hungry that I didn't have any more options and besides it was super cheap, like 3 bolivianos.

bridging the gap: What was the first trip you guided as a Tour Leader?

JL: My first G.A.P Adventures trip was PLT (Peru Uncovered). I started and finished in Lima. It was a 10 days trip with 15 people of different ages. It was a great trip, I had to deal with a strike in Puno, but in the end everything worked out very well.

bridging the gap: Ok. Your emails say 'Future coach of the rugby team The Plops!' Who are 'the Plops?

JL: Well, when I was in Colombia I wanted to have a rock band called "Ju and The Plops" (Ju is my nickname). I couldn't find any musician interested in my band so I gave up. Then I saw the light and I decided study to become a rugby coach in New Zealand and have my own rugby team: The Plops! I hope this is going to happen in my future. I have had this goal since 2000.

Vitals on Juliana Loaiza:
Nationality - Colombian
Hometown - Bogota
Languages spoken - Spanish, English and a little bit of Italian
Hobbies - Astronomy, Kung-fu, Dance irish music...
Favourite TV show -The X files
Book You're Currently Reading - El Tesoro Secreto de los Templarios
#1 Travel / Packing Tip - Don't forget sunblock
Countries Visited - USA, Dominican Republic, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Colombia of course.