International Tour Management Institute (ITMI)

The Premier Training Institute for Tour & Travel Professionals Since 1976

Making the World a Better Place Through Travel

Jimena Gereda

Hometown: El Paso, Texas

ITMI graduation year: 2015

Travel bucket list: For the moment: Rajasthan, India; Galapagos Islands, but the list will never end

Tour essentials: Sense of humor, comfortable shoes & endless curiosity

It’s amazing to see the world and have your eyes opened by travel...but to get to be that gateway for someone else is truly magical.
Working with Tauck
Nordic Adventures
tour guiding with group leader
retirement travel jobs

What or who inspired you to become a tour director?

I was an art history and anthropology student in Texas. A friend that I studied abroad with in college introduced me to ITMI at a time in my life when I was very apprehensive about my future. College was ending and the field I had worked towards was in decline. Everything was up in the air, and then Alexandra told me about ITMI. Frankly, hearing her talk about tour directing ignited something inside of me. Everything clicked. My love of history, art, people, and travel suddenly came together into this magical career that I thought couldn’t possibly exist - but it does!

How do you balance your personal life with your travel career?

Maybe it sounds silly, but with the Snapchat app I’m constantly sending little video clips of places I’m touring to my friends and family back home. I send pictures of the art and architecture and small clips of my tour commentary. It gives them a little insight into my day and my career, and they can send me little snippets of their lives from back home so that I don’t feel like I’m missing out on everything.  In my personal time, you can find me reading historical fiction, painting, and spending time laughing with my friends.

What qualities do you feel make for a good tour director?

Adaptability! There are always going to be hiccups in your plans, but good tour directors can adapt easily, think on their feet, and execute their back-up plan.

What advice would you give to a first-time traveler?

Don’t overbook. It’s really tempting to fill every moment of your trip with to museums, tours, restaurant reservations, etc. It’s great to get some of the big things locked in, but leave some room in your day to just soak in where you are. Walk around, sit at a cafe and people watch, or do something unexpected. Make sure there’s some flexibility so that you can take in unexpected opportunities as they present themselves.                                                Don’t try to see everything. I’ve made that mistake a few times. Seven cities, 10 days sounds crazy fun, but you end up with foggy, sleep-deprived memories of the places. You don’t want to spend more time getting to and from locations than you do actually there enjoying them. Go through your phone or camera before you leave. Back-up your photos and delete them! You don’t want to be standing in front of a magical moment worth capturing on film only to be given that pesky, “Not enough storage available” message.                                                         A smile goes a long way. Especially when you don’t speak the language. Don’t be afraid to smile and say hello to everyone.

What destinations are on your travel bucket list?

My travel bucket list seems to grow by the minute. The more I see of the world, the more I want to see. The list will never end! For the moment, I’m aching to visit Rajasthan, India and the Galapagos Islands.

What are three things you must always take with you?

A sense of humor, comfortable shoes & endless curiosity

What are some of your favorite tours or places you have visited as a Tour Director? Did you have a "dream location" or something on your "bucket list" that you got to do?"

My absolute favorite place to give tours is Rome, Italy. I studied Roman History intensely in school and it was always my dream to share my knowledge of the layers of Rome. I have a blast taking people around the ruins and exploring the layers upon layers of history with my guests, especially beyond the typical tourist sites. A bucket list tour to give would be to my family. I can’t wait for the day that I get to share the Eternal City with my parents, who instilled a love of Roman History in me from a young age.    

Do you have a moment or story you would like to share about something that has particularly touched you on a tour, a "once in a lifetime" moment or something memorable with a guest or tour group?

I was recently privileged to lead a tour group through the Vatican Museums with some family members including middle-school and high-school-age cousins. I was prepared to rush through, as I didn’t anticipate my younger cousins tolerating the daunting nine miles of museum. I am in love with Roman art and sculpture and even I get overwhelmed in those hallways. Long story short, my cousins loved the Vatican Museums. It warmed my heart to see them asking questions and opening up to the myths and stories behind classical sculptures and paintings. I couldn’t have been prouder as a tour guide.

How has tour directing impacted your perspective of the world?

I think being a tour director has made me see the world in a completely different light. I see much more good in the world than I did before.  

What advice would you give someone if they wanted to become a tour director or guide?

One Life, Live Free. There’s such a big world out there. You’re not going to experience it from a cubicle. It’s amazing to see the world and have your eyes opened by travel...but to get to be that gateway for someone else is truly magical. There’s no better feeling than seeing someone’s eyes light up and heart open to a wondrous place.