DO IT! Your life will change in ways you never expected.
— Marianne Saralegui

Hometown: Signal Hill, California

ITMI graduation year: 2011

Travel bucket list: Mt. Everest, Trans-Siberian Rail Tour and anywhere in Croatia

Tour essentials: phone and charger, pictures of my dogs (and the rest of my family), and energy bars

What or who inspired you to become a tour director?

I was running a Marathon on Antarctica and the tour company had runner / tour directors getting us around. I spent hours (as we crossed the Drake for 3 days) speaking with one of the tour directors and by the end of the trip; I knew I had found my calling.

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

It can be tough. I call or email home at least once a day, I send pictures and make sure that the people I love know that I’m working and not just on vacation enjoying life without them. It’s important to stay connected with the people who are important to you. Sometimes, it seems almost impossible especially at the end of a long difficult day, but it has to be a priority.

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

Listen, listen, listen. I have found that people want to tell you all of the places that they’ve been, they love traveling and want to share all their experiences, both good and bad. If I’m listening, then I understand what they need, want or expect to make their tour the best it can be. Sometimes people are frightened or apprehensive traveling in a foreign place. If I listen to them, I know this and can reassure them or give them a little extra attention to put them at ease. But of course, the other necessary component is organization and knowing your stuff before you ever start a tour…be prepared for anything!

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

Make sure you have all your necessary documents ie; passport, drivers license, emergency contact information.  Then, enjoy yourself, experience everything, food, drinks, music, culture. Talk to people; let them show you their world!

What destinations are on your travel bucket list?

Mt. Everest, Trans-Siberian Rail Tour and anywhere in Croatia.

What are three things you must always take with you?

Phone and charger, pictures of my dogs (and the rest of my family), and energy bars.

If you could design your own customized tour to reflect your passions, what would it look like?

Start out hiking or walking, eating somewhere with authentic regional food, meandering thru the town, then ending up at the beach for a quick dip or snorkel and then a relaxing group dinner on the beach with local musicians.

Name someone famous you’d like to travel with and where you’d like to take them.

Earnest Shackelton, I’d have him take me to Antarctica and try to absorb some of his fearlessness. Or David Beckham to Signal Hill, CA, where I live ☺.

How has tour directing impacted your perspective of the world?

The world is much more generous than I thought, people are kinder and want to share their world.     

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

DO IT!  Your life will change in ways you never expected.        

Do you agree that a tour director is actually an ambassador of goodwill? If so, why?

Absolutely! We meet new people every day; we represent so much more than ourselves. We represent our country, culture and our experiences. We impact other people’s lives in ways we will never know. It is our responsibility to be kind.