Today, 21st of February, we have the annual celebration of tourist guiding worldwide with International Tourist Guide Day. And although we, as Blue Badge Tourist Guides, might not be able to do much actual guiding at the moment we can still celebrate the day by sharing stories of new and experienced guides around the UK. They have been bringing stories back to life and helping people to live unforgettable experiences, and we look forward to being back doing the work we love.
So to celebrate today, we share the words of Tess Pike, an experient Blue Badge Tourist Guide for Cumbria, Yorkshire and Liverpool, and Fran, currently a student in the Blue Badge Training Programme. Enjoy!
“Why wouldn’t you?!”
You’re 20-something, you want a job that’ll take you places, you love interacting with people. Read on to find out why training as a Blue Badge Guide can be a perfect springboard for a career that can lead you anywhere.
Fran is that 20-something year old… born and bred in the northeast of England, she’s spent the last ten years travelling the world. She clocked up a double Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne in French and Russian languages and then spent several years working as a Trip Leader for Top Deck Travel. Now she’s back living in rural County Durham, and in the final stages of training to become a Blue Badge Guide for the Northeast – a natural progression from tour managing.
In Fran’s words, here are several very good reasons why she can’t wait to sit her exams and how she sees that shiny Blue Badge:
A useful marketing tool
“I think the Blue Badge is a really good tool to advertise yourself and shout from the rooftops that you’re good, and that you’ve reached a certain standard. I’ve been gallivanting around Europe for too long, so I want to focus more on the UK. I think it’s good to build up your portfolio.”
“Every time I drive down the dale, I ask myself why it’s not more popular – it’s so gorgeous. I think there’s just so much opportunity for guides in the Northeast and Cumbria in comparison to, say, London, where guide training courses are run more frequently. I think where the north is concerned, there’s a lot of unexplored potential.
And I can see the potential for me personally because I’m happy to do overnight stays with groups. It seems funny to me that there are guides out there who aren’t keen to do extended tours and fully engage with their visitors’ experience.”
A challenge that opens a door to an exciting new world
“Training as a Blue Badge Guide sparked my interest in so many areas. After I’d started the course, I realised I knew absolutely nothing about where I live. It was embarrassing because I could talk about French history, or take you on a driving tour of Barcelona, but I couldn’t say a word about the northeast of England. The course was so stressful for me because I had so much to learn. I remember glancing through past papers for the written exams to see how many questions I could answer, and at the start – not even joking – it was two… literally two questions. But I studied hard, and when I sat the written papers, I actually managed it… I managed to pass!”
An amazing job
“When people hear what I do for a living, so many people say, “I’d love to do that; it sounds awesome”. My answer is “Well, why don’t you?”
If you want to do it in the slightest, then just do it. Up here in northern England now’s the chance, because you’re not going to get another opportunity for goodness knows how long. There’s a difference being 28 or 38, and it’s a massive difference – over that 10-year period think of all of the opportunities you would miss out on, all of the guiding you could have been doing.
The courses are hard work, but really good if you want to get into tourist guiding, which obviously everyone should… in my opinion…”
25 years later I still love my job
I’ve been guiding for 25 years. I trained in Cumbria when I was round about Fran’s age and have since qualified for Liverpool City Region and Yorkshire. Like Fran, I’m now waiting for the lockdown to end so that I can sit the Northeast exams.
I can genuinely say that I’ve enjoyed every job I’ve ever guided. Not every minute of every job, I must confess – there are certainly challenges, but something guides learn pretty quickly is to rise to those challenges, and then overcome them. The most rewarding thing at the end of the day, besides earning a living doing a job I love, is knowing that I’ve made a positive difference to someone’s day.
I feel so lucky to have a career that has given me so many opportunities – I’ve met people from all over the world and enjoyed so many unique experiences. One of my earliest was being invited to a Japanese tea drinking ceremony by a group staying in Keswick. A more recent one was hosting the families of the Bayern Munich football team and guiding them around Liverpool when they played at Anfield in the Champions League a couple of years ago. Imagine my excitement when I was treated to a prime seat with my clients at the football match!
When I was chatting to Fran, she spoke about the opportunities that being a Blue Badge Guide gives you – my rich career has been full of experiences that I would never have had if I hadn’t bitten the bullet and signed up for that training course all those years ago.
A ladder to other careers
For Fran, the Blue Badge was the natural progression from being a Trip Leader and travelling the world, but for many people, it can work the other way round: the Blue Badge can be the start of a natural progression into working as a tour manager, with, for instance, groups exploring the world on luxury cruise liners, or passengers travelling on the most famous and iconic rail journeys in the world. With Blue Badge training behind you, the world really is your oyster…
About the author:
Tess Pike is qualified for Cumbria, Yorkshire, and the Liverpool City Region, and she guides in English and German. Born and bred in London, she moved to Cumbria in 1993 and is passionate about guiding visitors around Northern England by vehicle and on foot. She lives in a small market town on the edge of the tranquil Yorkshire Dales, an easy journey away from the bustling Lake District and cosmopolitan northern cities. Tess is Course Director of the 2021-2022 Cumbria Blue Badge Guide Training Programme and welcomes enquiries about training as a Blue Badge Guide. She can be contacted by email at Tess.Pike@btinternet.com, on Instagram tessbluebadgeguide or Facebook Tess Pike Blue Badge Tourist Guide. She also guides virtual tours – you can see her tours here!