This month’s crop of fascinating tour guide jobs

 ‘I made sure Italian tourists didn’t wander into the House of Lords’

John Kearns, former Houses of Parliament tour guide. Photograph: Edward Moore

John Kearns spent four years working at the Houses of Parliament, “assisting visitors, giving tours and making sure an Italian tourist didn’t wander into the House of Lords”. He had one golden rule when applying for jobs: “Would it be a thrill to walk around the building alone after work, when it’s all shut up?” So, as well as parliament, there were jobs at the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum.

After Kearns won best newcomer at the 2013 Edinburgh fringe, he became a full-time comedian and starred in the BBC3 slapstick sitcom Top Coppers. But by quitting his day job, Kearns also gave up the framework that had enabled him to write standup. “I regret leaving work as quickly as I did,” he says. “For eight hours a day, I didn’t worry about comedy, whereas now it’s all I worry about. When I had a day job, I just wrote when it came to me because I was busy during the day. Now, I walk around thinking, ‘It will come.’ Relying on ‘It will come’ to pay the rent, that’s not always creatively freeing.”

Kearns’s tour-guide experience began to shape his comedy. “I’ve always had jobs where I wore a uniform, where I clocked in and out,” he says. “There was a clear line between when work started and stopped. So when I wear a wig and false teeth on stage, it’s almost like my uniform for comedy.”

As much as Kearns struggles with the uncertainty of being a professional comedian, he realises he’s in a privileged position: hundreds of amateur comics would kill to reach his level. “When you’ve got a job, your worst-case scenario is losing your job. My worst-case scenario is I have to get a job. And that’s not a bad position to be in.”

Tour Guide-Poole, Dorset

Volunteering as a member of the RNLI College Tour Team means playing an important role within the charity as we aim to save the lives of people of all age groups through our tours programme.  A message given today could mean a life saved tomorrow.

In this role you will give inspiring guided walking tours of RNLI College which last for 90 minutes to groups, promoting the work of the RNLI to motivate the next generation of RNLI supporters. The role covers tours throughout the year but as we carry out more tours during the summer months we particularly welcome interest from people available to carry out tours at least once a week from April to October. This will reduce over the winter months.  Tours take place mornings, afternoons, evenings and weekends.

In this role you will have the opportunity to meet lots of new people and play in important role in raising awareness of the RNLI’s vital lifesaving work.  Ideally you will have experience of presenting information, have great communication skills and possess strong team working skills.  If you possess these qualities we would love to hear from you.

Just as we give all our Lifeboat crews the right training and equipment to carry out their lifesaving work, we provide all of our volunteers with the necessary training and support to carry out their role effectively.  RNLI volunteers have access to a range of online learning materials, as well as opportunities for one to one support from fellow volunteers and RNLI specialists.

How a 28-year-old lawyer quit her job to become a full-time tour guide travelling the world for free

Koehne-Drube spent a Christmas in a surprisingly snowy Cyprus.Tamina Koehne-Drube

Tamina Koehne-Drube was a solicitor at King & Wood Mallesons in Canberra and Hong Kong. She had graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Laws from Australian National University and had all the makings of a high-earning lawyer.

But Koehne-Drube gave it all up at the end of 2014 to become a tour guide, travelling the world for free.

She told Business Insider she wasn’t passionate enough about law to sustain a life-long career.

“I felt very strongly that I wanted to work more closely and meaningfully with people from all walks of life and in a more creative environment,” she said.

When she was working late in the office one evening, she started to type all of the things she liked doing into Google alongside the word “job.”

“One of the first hits was an advertisement for Topdeck Travel calling for European Road Crew,” she said. “As applications had just opened I thought ‘why not?’ and submitted my application that night.”

The one thing Koehne-Drube misses about her job as a lawyer? “The collection of suits!”Tamina Koehne-Drube

Koehne-Drube spent two seasons as a European Trip Leader for Topdeck, the tour operator known for organising trips for people aged 18 to 30. The job involved taking groups around the continent, all expenses paid, along with a wage.

“I was on the road for two summer seasons, travelling from May to September,” she said. “During that time trips could be as short as 11 days or as long as 49.”

But her Topdeck experience didn’t stop there.

“For many people, applying to be a trip leader seems like a short-term opportunity, travelling for a few years and gaining new experiences,” she said. “While that was of course also a motivation, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to turn this opportunity into a new career.”

Now, Koehne-Drube is a people connect leader for the on-road crew, which involves training and hiring global staff. She’s travelled to over 20 countries with the company, and, despite being based in the London head office, is constantly on the go.

“There really is no average day working for Topdeck,” she said. “On the road plans feel like they change every few minutes and every day or two you are in a new country.”

“Even in the office, each day is different. In my role I still get to travel a lot, whether it’s attending staff or crew conferences in Venice, Paris or Amsterdam, visiting our Australian or North American offices, or delivering training to our crew around the world, including Egypt, Morocco, and the UAE in 2017.”

Tamina Koehne-Drube

“The big bucket-list cities are always exciting, but by far my favourite moments are taking people to places they may never have thought of (or sometimes even heard of) and watch them fall in love with the unexpected,” she said.

She added that the leaders can be asked to take charge of any trips in the company’s brochure at any time, “meaning you may find yourself staying in hostels, hotels, campsites, sailing boats, castles or bungalows.”

While she said life on the road doesn’t equal a lawyer’s salary, she said “the lifestyle allows you to live very comfortably.”

Tamina Koehne-Drube

“One of the biggest lessons I learned through starting with Topdeck was how easy it is to ‘declutter’ your life,” she said. “At the legal firm ‘work/life balance’ was a constant topic of conversation and on the road it is as well, but for different reasons. Rather than work becoming your life, your life becomes your work.”

She added that knowing she’s playing a part in someone’s experience of seeing the world makes it all worth it.

“The letters, emails, Facebook messages, photos and even wedding invites I get from past passengers is really special.”





Franklin Township: Sisters in Training for Life (STFL) Travel to Belize


July 4, 2017 at 12:12 PM

STFL recently made its presence felt thousands of miles away from home.

Two days after Franklin High School’s (FHS) graduation ceremony, five members of STFL along with FHS Students Assistant Coordinator, Stacy Hale, an STFL Advisor and a parent chaperone flew to Belize.

The trip to Belize was completed through an Education First Educational Tours program (EF). Over the course of the trip, the group was able to explore Belizean culture, participate in adventurous activities, and give back to the community.

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“One experience that was tough for me was most definitely hiking because hiking through all the mud, rain, and bugs was pretty difficult,” FHS Sophmore Kimani Thomas said. “Seeing my group and the leaders and our EF Tour leader push through it and go through the same thing I was going through encouraged me to keep going. At the end of the day, it was really fun.”

The group had the pleasure of being able to travel to multiple locations such as Belize City, San Ignacio, and Ambergris Caye. The seven-day trip was absolutely incredible, allowing the group to immerse themselves in the wonders of a terrain that is contrastingly unlike their day to day lives.

“What I like about EF Tours is that they provide you with a tour guide that stays with you the entirety of your trip, which is very helpful,” FHS 2017 Graduate, Aniyah Outler said. “The Tour Guide’s passion can be felt as they participate and interact with you to make you feel comfortable. They also provide water to make sure everyone is hydrated.”

FHS Students Assistant Coordinator and STFL Advisor Stacy Hale said. “EF Tours really takes care of you. They plan out your day by the minute, so we’re constantly doing excursions and learning while still having fun. If I had the opportunity to do this again, I definitely would. I definitely 100% would go with EF Tours because I know they do take care of you. Safety is number one, they feed you, and place you in hotels that are very accommodating. The next place we may be going is Costa Rica or Africa. Parents are more than welcome to come on any STFL EF Tour!”
Although the Belize trip was full of experiences like hiking, zip lining, a trip to the Chaa Creek Natural History Museum, and the Belize Zoo. There was also time to visit a local school in San Ignacio called San Jose Succotz, Roman Catholic School. During the visit, the girls were able to dedicate some of their time to learn more about the institution and spending time with the children. The visit to San Jose Succotz served as a humbling one that allowed the girls to be more appreciative.

“Belize impacted my perspective on life because the people are so happy,” FHS Sophmore Amira Shumate said. “The children get excited if you give them little things, such as a toy, but in America, there’s so much crime and hatred. Out here, all they know how to do is love you, so it makes you more kind hearted towards things. It makes you look at things a lot differently.”

Considering that the values of STFL include missions to promote education and humanitarian efforts. STFL has decided to fundraise money for San Jose Succotz, Roman Catholic School at the start of the next school year. Through various fundraising efforts, STFL aims to help raise money for the school to help improve their facilities. They would like to upgrade and expand their outdoor meeting area to host more programs for the children, parent programs, and graduation ceremonies.

The cost to upgrade is $8000 Belizean money equaling $4,000 US dollars. Hopefully, with the support of Franklin Township and STFL’s fundraisers, San Jose Succotz will be able to get the renovations they need and deserve.

The purpose of Education First Educational Tours program is to empower students through learning by experiencing different cultures first hand. Bridging the gap between cultures creates a deeper level of understanding for students to connect to. Immersing oneself in a new culture further supports the idea that global awareness is essential to cultural richness. The Tour program equips groups with a tour guide to lead the group through their daily itinerary. EF Tours provide language immersion tours, service learning tours, and custom-designed tours catered specifically towards the curriculum your students are studying. More information about the EF Tours and planning may be found here.


Add to travel packing list


Here’s some invaluable additions to my Travelling at 60+ post, with grateful thanks to Helen from Dordogne!

Mints or some sort of sweets when flying

Dried fruit (a dried banana is invaluable, lasts for years too!)

Sea bands (instead of, or as well as, Travel sickness pills)

Driving Licence (in Europe you can use it as identity, which saves handing over your invaluable passport)

How to avoid hassle and frustration when travelling aged 60 or over.


Travel at 60+

  • Write things down
  • Make checklists
  • Make copies of everything
  • Enlist support: share reference numbers, reminders, itineraries, booking details
  • Packing list of essentials (passport, credit cards, medications, boarding passes, insurance policy emergency number, bank telephone number)
  • Pack well in advance
  • Put on flight socks before leaving home
  • Take medications on board with you. Remember liquids in 100ml plastic bottles only
  • Pacemaker card if applicable; medical ID band
  • Mobile phone fully charged (write down key for switching on after landing)
  • If you use a nasal protector spray, keep on you to use just before boarding. Also travel sickness pills
  • Take on board: book/Kindle, water bottle, tissues, wet wipes, deodorant wipes, moisturiser
  • Make a packing checklist (example below) 


List of prescribed medications, signed by your doctor

Phone charger

Multiple adapter plug

Underwear, footwear (comfortable)


Toiletries & personal hygiene, pain relief, sleeping aids, laxatives

Medical equipment (e.g. inhalers)

Discount cards

Travel cards (e.g. Oyster, airport lounges, airmiles membership)

Season tickets

Cultural cards (museums, sites, etc)

Spare spectacles & or contact lenses; sunglasses; false teeth, hearing aids and batteries

Nail clippers, emery boards/files

Comfort aids e.g. Tenapads, corn plasters, denture fixative, haemorrhoid relief cream

Mints or some sort of sweets when flying

Dried fruit (a dried banana is invaluable, lasts for years too!)

Sea bands (instead of, or as well as, Travel sickness pills)

Driving Licence (in Europe you can use it as identity, which saves handing over your invaluable passport)


You may not yet need all of the above, but you most likely will, one day!






Interview with retired walk leaders in the Dordogne area, France

As part of my new focus on mature travellers, I asked David and Helen about their experience of leading walking tours in France.

Why did you choose to move to France?

. . . We were looking for a different way to earn a living, and the space, and the climate appealed to us too.

What are the challenges of leading walking tours in France?

. . .This is not a third world country, obviously, and Americans especially don’t appreciate that. . .If you want luggage moved, picnics provided etc. you have to do it yourselves or you have a very expensive tour.

Do you lead walks for mixed nationalities?

. . . We didn’t lead many walks, just one tour for groups of Americans, most of our walks were self-guided.

 How do you manage cultural differences?

. . . Walkers are mostly a self-reliant lot, we had a few Australians who thought the soup was too watery ( it didn’t have stock-cubes added ), and a few Americans who moaned, but mostly it wasn’t an issue.

 Did you speak French before you went there to live? How did you learn the language?

. . . Yes, up to a point. Then we learnt as we went along

How many tours a year do you lead?

. . . We are retired now, we did lead up to 5 a year.

 Do you do your own marketing, or pay an agency? If so, why?

. . . After the first few years we decided we couldn’t both be the people on the ground and do the selling, so from then on we either sold via Tour Operators, or managed T O’s walks for them.

 What have been your biggest successes?

. . . Self-guided  walks in Correze / Lot and Guided Walking in the Dordogne for Country Walkers

 And what breakdowns have you experienced?

. . . If something went wrong, once it was a car accident a couple had as they drove to the first hotel,  . . . . .then the whole trip would go wrong thereafter.

 How do you get the supplies you need for your campsite?

. . . We didn’t operate walks from a campsite but between hotels.

. . .We operated rafting from campsites, and bought our equipment beforehand, and shopped in the local town.

 What safety equipment do you advise your guests to bring?

. . .Serious walking shoes, suncream, sunglasses, hats, long-sleeved shirts, raingear.

Do you lead only groups? Or singles/couples/families?

. . . Occasionally, not often.

 How do you advertise and market your walking tours?

. . . After the first few years, we let the Tour Operators we worked with do the advertising.

 What is your favourite walk?

. . . the GR480 in Correze and Lot.

 What was your best travel experience?

. . . Meeting 2 teenagers on a Greek island, we gave them a lift and they showed us proudly round their village, it was Greek National Day, by chance, too.

Where do you go on holiday?

. . . Once we retired we went in a campervan, through Europe and North Africa. We mostly holiday in winter as we live in France.

 Have you ever had emergencies to deal with? How did you cope with them?

. . . Not too many. The local French are great, helpful if you need something.  The most traumatic was the group of Americans we had at the time of the 9/11 attack on the twin towers.  One lady had her office in one of the towers so was very distressed.  Flights were suspended for some days following so they were delayed getting home.  However, all adults and they coped although we did need to supply quite a bit of extra back-up.

 What happens when the weather turns nasty?

. .  . It varies. The Dutch, Scots and Northern Irish get out packs of cards. Some people find fault with everything though.

 Has anyone ever gone off on their own and got into trouble? What would you do if so?

. . . No. You just cope as best you can. Don’t flap.  The occasional Australian who got lost as the sun was in the wrong place!

 What advice would you give to a tour guide coming to work in your area?

. . . A sense of humour is the best thing to bring.

Do you ever employ a tour guide? If so, how would you advise an aspiring guide to make contact with you?

. . . No, We are retired now anyway.

Please add any other comments you think a tour guide would be interested in.

. . . It must be a great way to see the world ! You need to be young, enthusiastic, self-reliant, but you know all that !





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Useful tip

Tip from an experienced traveller:

It can be a good idea, if you are in a hurry, to put your bag in the nearest overhead locker to the exit door (if you can, find out from the cabin crew which door they’ll be using)

Then you won’t have to hang around waiting for other passengers to sort out their bags, but can slip past them to the front, collect your bag, and deplane!


Coming up soon: travelling in later life: some insights and advice

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