The ITMI faculty and staff are here to answer your questions and guide you along your path to becoming a tour professional. The ITMI faculty provide you with experience-based, hands-on, practical applications in both the classroom and in the field. You’ll receive individual mentoring and coaching from leaders who are active tour directors. Learn more about them here.
About the time I was graduating from California Polytechnic University with a degree in Biology, I remember hearing for the first time President John Kennedy speaking “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” I decided and was accepted to join the Peace Corps to teach high school Biology in Africa. Unfortunately, at the same time, the army was calling me to Vietnam. I decided to make my own choice and joined the Marine Corps as an infantry officer. During those life changing 13 months I spent in Vietnam I remember saying to myself, whatever I do the rest of my life had better make sense. When I returned home to the United States my search began to fulfill the promise I made to myself. Not knowing exactly what that was, I decided to spend a year exploring 17 countries in Europe on a 10-speed bicycle. This fueled my love of travel, culture, and history…the joy of just moving.
I believe travel is the greatest university in the world. It is a fulfilling yet humbling experience to explore the cultures and history of our planet.
For the next 7 years I would travel the globe as a Tour Director. When I returned to Europe leading tour groups, I met a whole new breed of professionally trained tour directors and guides. They could talk about art, food, wine, music, history, culture…they were like modern day Renaissance people. I found that most countries in Europe had national guide schools that trained people to be the “face of their country.” In America tour escorting was done mostly by college students as a temporary summer job or by a retired person to obtain a free trip. Starting a school for tour directors in America seemed pre-destined to be a goal that I would pursue. I wanted to ensure that tour directing was a recognized, respected profession and more importantly give others an avenue to pursue their passion for travel. So, in 1976, my friend and colleague Bill Newton and I started the first school in America to train tour directors and guides.
I am proud of each one of the graduates that made the choice to follow their dream to teach, learn, and grow into the role of a Professional Tour Director and ultimately be called Ambassadors of Goodwill throughout the world. Even after all this time I still lead a few tours a year, when I am not instructing at ITMI. Tour Directing is still my passion… besides, I’m not going to let my students have all the fun!
Born the youngest of five children, with parents married over 72 years, I can only say that I was blessed with a basic normal childhood in upstate New York. My parents shaped my morals and values while my brothers and sister helped shape my view to the world. The first of my siblings would leave for college by the time I was 3 in the early 60′s. Respect for the environment was instilled in me through my aunt and uncle, considered hermits, known as “The Hermit of Stoney Lonesome.”
Through their eyes and influence I learned about taking care of the environment, humanity, the need for equality, justice, standing up for those that can’t, importance of truth, value of diversity and living life authentically.
With their influence I knew by sixth grade that I wanted to travel, learn cultures, gain understanding of people and their traditions in order to create a better world. Since then I have had the privilege to meet and work with many people in the travel industry for over 30 years. My work has been varied from hotel sales, to operations, as a receptive tour operator, officer on board cruise ships, district cruise sales and as a professional tour director. What I have enjoyed most about the travel industry is that it has allowed me the flexibility to raise a family and do my part in creating a bridge of understanding for the environment while connecting to humanity in ways only travel has the ability to do.
Today, I enjoy my work at ITMI. In this work I am able to be a part of a wonderful transition for people that on the first day come to a school they never thought existed… a place that champions their desire to make a difference in the world. It is a privilege to be a part of creating dreams for individuals to become ambassadors of goodwill for peace as professional tour directors and guides all over the world.
As a Travel & Hospitality Professional for more than 25 years, I have had the opportunity to wear many hats and learn the intricacies and facets of this industry.
My first foray into travel began with a summer in Europe where, like many of us with the travel bug, I was hopelessly bitten...in Rome. Promising to travel every chance that I had and with every extra dollar I made, I started my career in hospitality during college, working in the special events department. Although I was a horribly uncoordinated member of the banquet staff (I may have spilled more than I actually served), I connected with the heart and joy of this industry.
My first job after college was as a Meeting & Events Planner for Hornblower Cruises & Events, specializing in the Convention & Incentive market. For more than a decade, I worked not only as a meeting planner but also as the Associate Director of Sales, balancing my events along with management of the sales team while fostering a creative & productive environment. Although I loved working with amazing clients and a top notch team, trying to squeeze in the travel that I truly loved and fed my soul, in-between events and sales goals was impossible.
In pursuit to better integrate my travel passion with a career, I sought a way to have a career in travel, which lead me to the International Tour Management Institute. The reputation and integrity of ITMI was well known and highly recommended by many industry leaders. I took the leap, left my meeting planning position, and attended ITMI to become certified as a Tour Guide / Tour Director.
Throughout the years I have worked as a Tour Guide and Tour Director for many wonderful companies, experiencing "once in a lifetime" moments, exploring both exotic and local gems while meeting unforgettable people along the way. Not only did I have the opportunity to travel, but I am able to make a difference in the world. For me, tour guiding is more than just seeing sights…it is opening the eyes of guests, introducing them to new cultures, breaking down stereotypes and watching them wonder at the world all the while sharing my passion for travel with them.
With a focus on balance and my travel cup feeling full, I have the privilege to work with ITMI to help make dreams come true for others. It is my honor to share my experience and knowledge with fellow lovers of travel and those that have been “bitten” as well. I have come full circle in my love for travel and the hospitality industry...isn't it amazing when a passion and a career come together!
JOANNE CONNORS, ADMISSIONS CounseLor
When I was a little girl, I truly believed I was going to see the world and meet all the people in it. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized how difficult that was going to be.
I got off to a good start by becoming a flight attendant, and saw a lot of airports and a lot of hotels, but very little of the world. Due to airline rules, my flight career ended when I got engaged. While raising my children, I still dreamed of seeing the world. I promised myself when my children were grown I would realize at least part of my lifelong dream. When a couple of my close friends died suddenly I thought I might not see the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon is one of the most awesome sights in the world. But there at the front of the bus was a sight almost as remarkable, a tour director, a woman being paid to travel. I couldn’t believe it. Shortly after returning from the Grand Canyon, I attended a seminar for ITMI and just about levitated. After graduating from ITMI, my dream to see the world came true.
I have been blessed to go on African safaris, climb the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal, walk the Great Wall of China, stand breathless in front of Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes, walk the rice paddies of Bali, float down the Nile on a barge and have been to Europe more times than I can count.
This year, I celebrate my 54th wedding anniversary! Fulfilling my dreams and sharing my life and knowledge as an instructor at ITMI has kept me with the same man for 50 years….I ask you to consider the benefits in creating this kind of life for yourself!
SHERI TOUSEY, Lead Instructor / Graduate Counselor
At the age of 15, I set off by myself for a study program in France. While in college, I worked in a travel agency, and after college my first job was leading 7-14 day tours of the Canadian Rockies and the Pacific Northwest. Eventually, my wanderlust led me to sailing the high seas, making three full circumnavigations of the globe, numerous transatlantic and transpacific voyages, and 34 transits through the Panama Canal.
After 20 years of constant travel and “working in the field,” I was excited to switch gears and live on land—in one place. Putting my years of experience to work, I joined the corporate ranks of the cruise and travel industry in Product Development for seven years. My focus evolved from guiding people on vacation to training and mentoring others to guide people on vacation. While I loved training and mentoring, I was working in an office, day after day, year after year. I envied my team—they were doing what I wanted to do! So I quit my corporate job and went to ITMI to immerse myself in the part of the business I love—tour directing. Since graduating from ITMI, I’ve started my own business and have been leading local tours and networking with other tour operators to help open doors for fellow ITMI graduates.
I needed a kick-start to get my life back on my right path—ITMI gave me exactly that! Every moment of my time during my ITMI experience was joyful! Ted Bravos is a visionary within this industry. The entire team at ITMI actively works to mentor individuals to transition from living an ordinary existence (office, 9 to 5), to living an exciting and fulfilling life of travel and adventure leading tours. I embrace their goals and am thrilled to be a part of this dynamic instructing team.
KOREY AMRINE, Lead Instructor / Graduate Counselor
I was born in Lodi, California the 5th of 6 children and grew up on my family’s Walnut Farm. We were raised going to Yosemite and the Santa Cruz beaches on the weekend. Those experiences helped me gain my love of the outdoors and water sports. Today, I still help harvest walnuts with my family and enjoy white water rafting as well as surfing in my spare time.
When I was 19, I decided to serve my church community as a full time missionary and went to serve the people of Guatemala. It was here I gained my passion for travel and working with people. In Guatemala I learned to speak fluent Spanish and Quiche. When I returned, I attended Brigham Young University and worked as a river and back country guide in Moab, Utah for 6 years. It was on a river trip to Cataract Canyon that I met a representative for Disney and ended up saving this individual from the water. With that chance meeting, the rest of the world opened for me by being offered a job to work as a Tour Director with Adventures by Disney. For the past nine years I have worked in 10 different countries and over 12 states as a guide. I am also currently licensed as a Washington, D.C. tour guide and am considered an expert in the history of the United States and World History.
My life today allows me to work with not only Adventures by Disney but also other travel companies as a tour director, in tour operations and as an instructor at ITMI. It gives me great pleasure to be able to share my knowledge, my passion for travel, and my love of this planet with new ITMI students.
Carol Kendrick, Lead Instructor / Graduate Counselor
As a fan of puzzles, it's appropriate for me to compare my journey into tour directing to putting together a jigsaw puzzle without the photo on the box. Being a tour director was something I was destined to be, but I didn’t know it. All of the pieces of my life, my careers, and my skills came together in this profession.
Exploring the world was a natural part of my family and my upbringing. You could say it’s in our blood. From my grandfather’s travels in Europe, courtesy of the US Calvary in WWI, my mother’s high school student abroad experience in the 1930’s, to having my own high school student exchange in South America in the 1970’s, my bones are itching to explore and experience other cultures and countries.
My 32-year career as a teacher, and as a high school and middle school administrator, were ideal platforms to change the lives of hundreds of young people through travel both domestically and abroad. Providing opportunities to broaden their horizons beyond their own backyard and lives, to show them new places and new cultures, and watch each person evolve, was pure joy for me. I became known as the “traveling principal” and our public school developed a waiting list of eager families from outside the attendance area and district. Parents wanted a school experience where what was learned in school was applied out of school in the world.
It was through one of these school trips that I became acquainted with ITMI. Our tour director on our school’s trip to Washington, D.C. was a graduate and introduced me to the next phase of my life. In hindsight, the skills necessary to run a classroom and a school have come in handy and provided the framework for my jigsaw puzzle. The researching, the scheduling of a day, putting together how to present a topic, meeting the unique and diverse needs of 50 people day after day, mastering multi-tasking, learning win/win problem solving, maintaining a calm demeanor when confronted by upset people, and eating lunch in about 5 minutes, are all skills which have come in handy in the travel industry! For me, the jigsaw puzzle pieces are fitting together quite nicely, and I still don’t know what the finished piece will look like!
My time as a student at ITMI was magical. I met people just like me – my tribe! I am so thankful for my ITMI experience. My instructors each brought a new and different perspective to the program. ITMI doesn’t produce a single product. ITMI gives you to skills to develop your own product!
My career as a Tour Director has led me to work for numerous companies for both student and adult audiences, from basic to luxury tours. Like anything new my learning curve was steep! With hard work, a few tears, and a willingness to constantly improve, I became the 2017 Insight Vacation’s North American Tour Director of the Year! To be honored by a company comprised of truly exceptional colleagues, I was, and still am, humbled and honored at this recognition.
It is my pleasure to instruct at ITMI. I am proud of the hundreds of former “students” who are out there doing great work in our field. It gives me great pride when we cross paths “out on the road”. In my own guests, I get the biggest kick out of watching them having a joyous time experiencing a historical, cultural, and/or breathtakingly beautiful scene, and seeing their mouth form the word, “Wow!” It makes me smile from ear to ear!
I hope our paths cross on your journey.
Annette Morejon, instructor / graduate counselor
Annette is passionate about travel, particularly to places she loves. She has been in the industry for over 18 years, starting off as a tour director in Italy and France for Collette, and then moving on to work for them as a Product Manager where she planned, contracted, and created itineraries as well as oversaw all operations for the countries she was in charge of.
Her strong connections to Italy, led her to move there from the US, where she spent 11 years exploring every corner, experiencing the culture and history, and sampling all of the delicious foods and wines the country is known for. Annette then became Director of Operations for Cuba Travel Services, where she assisted many US Tour Operators in developing their people-to-people programs to Cuba and managed the operations of all travel-related programs for the company. Annette keeps busy these days overseeing two companies from her home-base in Miami yet still manages to sneak in local guiding and overseas tour directing whenever she can.
Annette is the managing partner of the North America division of Whisper System, a company that provides radio guide systems for guided group tours, and managing partner of Daiquiri Tours, where she organizes travel programs to Cuba, Italy, Costa Rica, France and other parts of Europe. She also helps to develop and oversee the operations of food tours and activities in the Miami area for Savor Our City, a South Florida company that offers food tours and experiences.
SANDI WENTZEL, Instructor / Graduate Counselor
I am a native Californian, born and raised in Long Beach. My father stressed to my brother and me that we should learn everything we could about where we live. We spent many summer vacations as a family touring our great state, enjoying the natural wonders and learning the rich history.
My wanderlust and curiosity continued as an adult. I was able to travel to many places around the world, but was always grateful to come to my California home.
After raising 3 children, my life changed drastically. In 1998 I divorced and went to work for a friend in her travel agency. During that time, I began taking groups on tour from the agency. It was on one of those tours that I met my wonderful husband, Brad, who was a tour director as well.
In the early spring of 2005, Brad and I attended ITMI. That was when the real adventure of my life began. In the last 7 years I have had the pleasure of seeing the world as a tour director. While I really love the travel and the history of each place I visit, the best part of being a tour director is meeting and getting to know all the people I come in contact with on every trip. Every tour and every person on these tours enrich my life beyond measure. I am indeed a very lucky person to be engaged in such a profession.
I am also fortunate to be a part of the ITMI family as an instructor. It is my pleasure to teach people like me who want to change the direction of their life, step out from the norm, and begin a new way of living life to the fullest.
Josh Adams, InsTRUCTOR / graduate counselor
Josh Adams is a 40 year industry veteran who started his career when he saw an ad in his university newspaper that exclaimed “Be Paid to Travel”. That ad led to the International Tour Management Institute where he was enrolled in Class #11.
After 10 years of successful tour management with one of the leading travel U.S. tour operators, Josh was lured to corporate event management at a time when corporate meetings and corporate incentive events were booming in the Silicon Valley. Skills honed from tour directing translated easily and often into a progressive career path encompassing roles as a travel director, Event Staff Manager (managing over 250 event staff on payroll), client account management, Director of Operations, and most recently the role of Vice President, Sales and Industry Relations Strategist for a Northern California events management agency.
MARK KASULEN, Instructor / Graduate Counselor
Born in Pennsylvania in 1960, my childhood was filled with summer camping trips with my family. That was the start of my love for travel and being with people from around the world. Exploring the campgrounds of the Northeast United States and into Canada filled me with wonder.
As a college student, summer road trips across the United States completely hooked me on travel. Upon graduation from college, Japan was my next journey. Five years of living, teaching, and working in an entirely new (and really old) culture showed me that travel, people, culture, and all it entailed was my universe.
A decade of international business, in the world of acoustic guitar manufacturing & design, had me based in Massachusetts as I went from country to country and throughout the USA conducting guitar related events and workshops. Eventually, I landed in Northern California, Sonoma Valley, Glen Ellen specifically. Here now for 15 years, I’ve settled into home.
As a Certified ITMI International Tour Director, I found a world of work and a pallet for my skills and passions that both pay the bills, and provide a rich lifestyle.
My wife, Masako, and I spend our year planning and delivering extraordinary tours for people from around the world. Of course, my specialty is music and Japan, which includes concert tours and business events in Tokyo. Yet, living in the heart of the California Wine Country allows me to deliver daily wine tours in Sonoma & Napa throughout the entire year. I also spend some of my travel year in academic tours where I put on the teacher’s hat and deliver tours specifically from a curriculum-based structure for students of all ages.
The most exciting part of my travel work has involved positions in three Olympics as a part of the Organizing Committee’s Interpreter & Family Services Team as we delivered multiple kinds of service to Olympic participants, from sponsor executives, to competing gold medal athletes.
After a decade of world class Tour Directing and enjoying the magic of travel as a professional Tour Director, I now give a little back to our family of tour directors as an ITMI Instructor. There is something rewarding and magical about coaching my new colleagues-to-be into their own careers as Tour Directors and Travel Professionals.
MIRIAM MEIDAM, Instructor / Graduate CounseLor
As a world traveler and adventurer, I turned my passion for exploration into an eighteen-year career, creating memories of a lifetime for visitors to California State Parks. It has been my honor to have had a wide variety of experiences, from leading tours through Hearst Castle to interpreting the history and natural wonders of the West Coast from Baja, Mexico to the gold fields of California, the political hotbed of Sacramento and the majestic redwoods of Northern California.
Today, I now serve as a tour director for a number of student and adult tour operators because I am passionate about bringing American and world history alive for visitors from around the world. The programs I lead are designed for people who want to truly experience the places, not just to see them.
Between tours it is my privilege to serve as a Destination Speaker for several top cruise lines exploring Europe, the South Pacific, Central and South America and beyond. Through these presentations I am able to continue sharing my passion in providing insight into the cultural and natural wonders of the cruise destinations. My husband Fred gets to come along, and we are able to enjoy time together sailing off into the sunset.
As an ITMI instructor it is my great joy and pleasure to teach and support others to realize their dream of becoming a tour director.
Mike Ruggieri, Instructor / Graduate Counselor
After graduating from college, I received a phone call saying "how would you like to work on the U.S. Space Program and live in Southern California?" This was a dream come true for me! First, I wanted to be an astronaut since I saw "I Dream of Jeannie" as a kid and second, I loved the West. Born and raised in New York, I developed a love of travel in my teens while visiting family out West and down South. During college breaks, my friends and I would spend weeks exploring State and National Parks from Oregon to Mexico and from California to Colorado. Many times our travels coincided with concerts or music festivals (I'm still convinced the Grateful Dead were following ME). By 30 years old, I had been to about half of the 61 National Parks.
During my previous career in Information Technology, I worked in various industries (aerospace, telecommunications, public safety, and manufacturing) and in a variety of positions (systems analysis, network and software engineering, project management (PM)). A lot of the project management skills from my technology career were transferable to working as a tour director. While on my first guided tour (as a guest, before I became a TD), I kept pointing to the TD and saying to my wife, “How do I get THAT job? I manage a multi-million dollar software project, I can manage a bus full of people on vacation!” Of course, I know it’s much more than that, but I feel like my PM experience is being put to good use in my new career.
So, several years ago, I decided that 28 years of sitting in a dark room and talking about software was getting old. I wanted to pursue a career that would get me out of the cubicle and allow me to meet fun and interesting people. This led me directly to ITMI and tour directing. Soon after graduating, I found myself leading a tour from the Grand Canyon to Mount Rushmore, and I've never looked back! I've been working as a Tour Director in the National Parks as well as leading student tours on the East Coast for several years now and not a day goes by when you won't hear me say: Best. Job. Ever.
Leading student tours also provides me with a joy I didn't expect. It's something that teachers experience and is extremely rewarding - when the student 'gets it' and the light bulb goes off on their head - there's nothing quite like it. I love sharing these wonderful places with students, and seeing them anew through their eyes. I instilled a love of travel in my own children, because I believe that experiencing new places and cultures is the world’s best classroom.
Teaching at ITMI has allowed me to continue this wonderful journey and share my experiences with others who have made the same choice as me - to get out of the cubicle and start doing something you love. There's really nothing quite like it.
I also love working with ITMI grads, helping them navigate their new careers. It’s a real joy to see their successes.
When I'm not traveling, I'm usually pursuing my other passions: spending time with family, finding the best pizza or going to see my favorite band. That's me in a nutshell. Family, food, music and travel. I'll see you down the road....
Russ Marcason, instructor / graduate counselor
I was born in northern New Jersey in a little town called Northvale. New York State line was our northern border and Hudson River was our eastern border. Our town was tucked up in the eastern corner of New Jersey. Being so close to New York City gave me the opportunity to visit the most exciting city in the United States. High school and College visits to Washington Square started my quest for all things different from my suburban life Northvale.
I attended College of Emporia and Emporia State University in Kansas. There I immersed my time in Music Education. By Junior year I realized my passion was teaching not teaching music. From that moment in Kansas I poured my attention to getting a Major in Elementary Education and Minor in Spanish. Feeling the needed to travel and not return to the east coast I settled with my new wife Wendy in the Chicago suburbs. There I spent 34 years teaching K-6 traditional classes, resource learning center, multi-age classes. My final degree was a Masters in Psycho-educational Diagnostics.
I still had that wanderlust in me and was ready to retire. Talking to a friend from the travel industry she said you need to attend ITMI to get the best travel training. So, without missing a beat I went to ITMI right after retiring from teaching. What a great fit. I was a talker and informer. I fit this new kind of job. What I needed was a solid understanding of the Tour Management aspect of the industry. Guess what? I found it at ITMI. I also found a cadre of travel people that were like me.
My travel now has filled my bucket almost to the top. My most wow experience was something only a former music performer would find amazing. Last year during a job with a student marching band there was a “show biz” moment when the marching band director needed a person to march with him to help with any emergency that may come up on parade. Stepping off at the whistle at a Bowl Game Parade was a highlight of my travel career. Right place right time for this former Drum Major.
That moment said I am so grateful for the companies that have hired me to take their clients through the National Parks and Canyons of the west, cross-country NYC to LA., Hawaiian Islands, Australia and New Zealand. Student travel has taken me to every major city in the United States and Canada. Cruising with groups have taken me to the Baltic, Mediterranean, British Isles, Africa, Tahitian island. Pinch me, someone pays me to travel.
In the beginning of my new career it wasn’t easy for me to accept rejection from companies that didn’t want me. Did you hear that “want” me. The word I changed was ‘need‘. At that point in time the companies’ needs did not include me. They still may want you, but not need you at that moment. That changed my whole outlook for looking for a job.
Skye Maclean, Instructor / Graduate Counselor
I grew up in a small town in Vermont where my parents raised me to ride bikes and go exploring in the woods. The urge to discover my surroundings and see what the world had to offer me catapulted me into sports, music and a love for history.
College to me was an opportunity to see what other states had to offer (even though my love for Vermont is something I express at every passing moment). My parents always told me that even though I loved Vermont, who knew, that maybe I would love other places more. So I went off to Virginia and studied history. I quickly became passionate about what my professors taught me about including different backgrounds and cultures of other countries and states.
I studied abroad which launched my wanderlust gene. While I was in Germany I took every weekend to go see a new town or try a new food. I felt myself falling in love with castles, kabobs and beer. I quickly realized that Germany was the tip of the travel iceberg and quickly moved to Rome for a summer.
After I graduated college I realized I wanted to keep traveling but also needed an income so I moved to Hungary and taught English as a foreign language. I made lifelong friends and found a new family who taught me how to cook, speak Hungarian and made sure I ate plenty of pastries. This is where I discovered that I loved working with young minds. I returned to Vermont and ran a residential group home for children with emotional disabilities. I continued to enjoy working with younger children but missed traveling.
I went to ITMI and launched myself full time into the tour world, taking on any tour that come my way, from local driving tours to multi generational tours even hosting internationally. I found my place in student tours and took as many tours as I could, working with 8th graders from all over the United States, China, and Europe.
My adult tours reminded me how adults turn into big kids when on vacation and started discovering the United States more, running tours in Texas, Florida, New England and National Parks. The world is a beautiful thing, filled with phenomenal people and touring truly brought all my passions together.
MARK ROBERTS, Instructor / Graduate Counselor
Travel has been a part of my life since the moment I was born. Both of my parents were Navy officers. Yes, I was a Navy Brat. Born in Japan and there until almost 4, followed by a couple of school years in Italy, I spent most of my youth growing up in Rhode Island. During college, I took off for Germany to learn German and explore the European continent. Since then, I’ve made every effort to continue to travel and experience the numerous countries, cultures and cuisines of the continent.
After college, I moved to San Francisco, immediately falling in love with the city and the wine country just north. It helps when you’re a wine nut like me. After a stint in advertising and accounting, I discovered high tech, just in time for the Dot Com Boom. I worked first as a contractor and then for the Pacific Stock Exchange, moving up the corporate ladder into management. I had many responsibilities but seemed to have an affinity for Process Management and Project Management. After 8 years, I took off 2 years to study horticulture and landscape design (yeah, that was a big change). Eventually, money needs got me back into high tech again for 2 years in Silicon Valley, and then the big recession hit. With inevitable downsizing, I decided to take a mini-retirement and moved to Barcelona, Spain in order to study Spanish, explore the world and figure out what to do for the second half of my life.
It was while I was exploring Israel and Jordan on an organized tour that I got to know my Tour Director. I was amazed at his job and thought this might be what I was looking for. We quickly became friends and I questioned him extensively about his career and how he got into the tourism industry. After the tour ended I contacted ITMI to get more information and to sign up for a class. I packed up my belongings in Barcelona, moved back to San Francisco and got into the last class before the next Symposium. Since then I’ve taken Ted’s advice and explored many aspects of the industry. I’ve led many types of tours both domestically and internationally, and I find that I am able to incorporate my vast knowledge of horticulture, wine tasting and previous travel experience into my tours. I’ve even discovered I love to hike and bike!! But, what makes me happy at the end of each tour is knowing that I’ve helped my guests achieve an experience that they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives. I never forget that for many of them this is the trip of a lifetime. I finally found my true passion in life.
Kira Butler, Instructor / Graduate counselor
Travel is transformative. I truly believe in the power of temporarily leaving your day-to-day reality and seeing that not everybody lives just like you do. And for me, nothing is more fun than a day spent exploring, whether it be a city, museum, or hiking trail. My favorite part of tour directing is sharing that sense of adventure and discovery when my guests ease out of their comfort zones to try something new.
I grew up in Cincinnati, but I have felt comfortable being away from home since I was little. That is because when I was growing up my family spent every summer living in Nottingham, England. In fact, I don’t get home sick; I get “roam sick!” College brought me to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where I majored in theatre and stage managed a number of productions. For six summers during and after college I worked at a summer camp in northern Minnesota, leading girls on backpacking and canoeing trips across the US and Canada. I still love spending time outside, and when I take my own vacations I often can be found backpacking through the mountains.
Tour directing and ITMI combined many of my passions, such as travel, connecting with people, learning, and constant exploring. To date, I have guided tours for adults, families, and students in Los Angeles, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Italy, Australia, South Africa, Greece, Costa Rica, Norway, and more. Now, as an ITMI instructor, I am privileged to pass on knowledge to new tour directors as they embark on their own personal journeys to follow their dreams! Can you get paid to travel? Yes, you can! Is it hard work? Yes, it is! But is it incredibly rewarding and fun and challenging in the best way? YES!
Ulla Salafrio, SPECIAL PROJECTS
My first love for travel came at an early age with my first experience at 11 years old moving to the United States from Sweden with my parents on board a cruise ship. Now, looking back at over 40 years in the travel industry, I have had the privilege to sail on 43 cruises and to have lead a variety of tour groups as a certified professional tour director. It is important to me today, to utilize my extensive knowledge in a meaningful way. By helping fellow travellers find ways to expand travel horizons at SilverLining, I am able contribute in helping to create meaningful change to social and environmental non-profits.
I first started in the travel industry right after school, working for major airlines in the areas of reservations and passenger service from Manhattan to Kennedy Airports. From there I taught for the New York State vocational travel program. Later I moved with my family to Florida and worked for a startup company heading up the training department that became one of the largest tour companies in the U.S. I have been fortunate to have travelled extensively by land and sea in the United States, Central and South America as well as Europe.
KYRA JACKSON, Special Projects
My first love was Theatre, but I have always had varied interests, including travel, history, and archaeology.
While working as a receptionist at a hotel in New York City, I came across an ad for Tour Guide training. I attended the Los Angeles ITMI course, which we nicknamed “Bill and Ted’s” excellent adventure. Upon arriving back to the East Coast, I was quickly hired by a company in New Jersey. My first trip was the nine-day New Orleans tour, and I loved it! Eventually, I was hired by Tauck Tours to run Niagara/Ontario.
When I began dating my future husband, I decided to give up life on the road. After a move back to California and a few layoffs in the corporate world, I once again turned my sights to tour directing. I felt that I had returned home.
I now work locally in San Francisco, showing off the incredible City By the Bay, and in Muir Woods, hiking people into the monument from the state park.
When not touring, I enjoy writing about vampires and other dystopian scenarios, as well as beachcombing for agates and other precious stones that can be found on the beautiful beaches of the West Coast.
Mari Steeno, SPECIAL PROJECTS
Prior to becoming an ITMI Certified Tour Director/Guide in 2016, I had two previous careers. One was as a Registered Nurse and the second as a Certified Yoga Instructor. An early retirement allowed me to travel to many countries and volunteer with numerous organizations.
With the many skills and experience I gained from my previous careers, I was searching for a way to continue teaching, inspiring and exploring while having adventures. The day I met my neighbor, Ted Bravos and learned of ITMI, I knew my third career had been found.
It is now my extreme pleasure to be a part of the ITMI family and observe firsthand their “Cornerstone of Commitment to: Education, Partnership, Community and Outreach”.
After graduation, I was fortunate to be employed by a variety of Tour Companies. Gaining confidence and knowledge to join my guests on their travels, has expanded my world and continues to bring much joy.
When not traveling, I feel I’m on vacation every day in the beautiful hamlet of Sausalito on my Floating Home. You may find me in a kayak on Richardson Bay, hiking on Mt. Tamalpais or caring for the seals at the Marine Mammal Center or just relaxing on my deck.
YASMIN NGUYEN, ITMI Filmaker
As an ITMI graduate, filmmaker, and Joy Ambassador, Yasmin Nguyen, travels around the world to discover, share, and inspire joy.
During this time of negativity, stress, and suffering in our world, he packed up his car to drive across America and Canada for an 18-month journey to discover, document, and share stories of real people, beautiful places and heart-opening experiences that bring us joy.
Yasmin created the Joyful Living Project as a way to reconnect people, ignite positive change, and remind us of all the beauty and good around us.
He believes that we don’t have to wait for circumstances to change to begin our healing. He believes that the catalyst for positive change lies within our simple daily experiences. He believes that meaningful connection, generosity, gratitude, and adventure are the antidote to suffering. He believes that we can leave a legacy of hope, possibilities, and inspiration for our children and generations to come.
And he believes that it starts with the gift of JOY.
On this joyful journey, he will meet people and learn about their lives, their challenges, and their path to finding their joy. He will organize experiences that invite us to share kindness. He will shine the spotlight on all the beauty, stories and richness around us.
With a full basket of joy, he plans to write a book, create a documentary film and share his insights on stages across the world.
Join him in becoming a Joy Ambassador and be a part of the Joyful Living Movement to inspire shifts in the way we live, the way we connect, and the way we make a difference.
Joyful Living Project Video: https://youtu.be/KTJYDJRBGGc