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On The Road: Tour Leader Micaela Hobbs

Britain
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Marianne Lampon

Marianne is the Content Assistant at Topdeck. She writes the copy for anything and everything and also manages The Collective. Originally from Cambridge, she's officially caught the travel bug and loves her movies and fitness.

26th October 2017

1. How did you first hear about Back-Roads?

France last summer. Being a travel writer, she had been asked to write an article on a new tour and I felt privileged to go along with her.

It turned out to be an amazing trip full of laughter with wonderful authentic local experiences that I would never have done or found as a solo traveller.
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2. What made you want to become a Tour Leader?

One evening during our cruise, I was chatting to our driver about the bike tours I had run in Thailand. I realised how much I missed travelling and interacting with clients. She encouraged me to apply to Back-Roads to work as a Tour Leader.

Describing the Back-Roads philosophy as “organised independence” and experiencing this firsthand for myself, the position really appealed to me. I went ahead and applied!

3. What’s the most rewarding part of being a Tour Leader?

Sharing my passion with others for the culture, history and spectacular scenery of the places we visit. It’s also great to meet the local people and gain an insight into their lives.

Receiving enthusiastic and appreciative feedback is also extremely rewarding. Here’s one that made me smile: “Thank you, thank you, thank you for a most wonderful trip around Ireland. We enjoyed every moment. A fabulous experience thanks to your friendliness, knowledge and willingness to go the extra mile.” Maybe I do have the best job in the world...

4. What have you carried over from your previous jobs into your role as a Tour Leader?

Small group touring allows for a much more personal and flexible approach than large group tours and encourages a strong group bond. In my experience, this leads to fun tours, many wonderful memories and friendships which are made on the way.

“Be part of a group not a crowd” was my motto in my previous role running road bike tours. I feel like the same definitely applies to being a Tour Leader for Back-Roads.
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5. What’s one thing you pack every time you head out on the road?

My camera, albeit only on my iPhone these days. There is something special about the memories and emotions a photograph can evoke. For me, they are some of the best souvenirs from my travels.

They are personal and often tell a story. Capturing those candid shots of my passengers helps connect us all and hopefully sends them home with snapshots of themselves enjoying their journey.

6. Where have you been on tour that’s genuinely taken your breath away?

The west coast of Ireland: through Sligo, Connemara, the Burren and on to Dingle. We travel along some of the most spectacular coastline and landscapes I have ever seen.

Each corner takes your breath away and I always enjoy the “oohs and aahs” from the back of the coach. Due to the ever-changing weather systems, the light changes constantly and can be dramatic and beautiful. There is a rugged beauty and most definitely 50 shades of green with the wild, Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop.
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7. What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learnt from being on the road?

Patience! Whether it’s answering the same question numerous times or managing time schedules while remaining flexible and unhurried. It’s important to do all of this while keeping a sense of humour and a smile.

Careful preparation is crucial to good organisational skills: planning ahead, timings, etc. This all makes for a smoother, more enjoyable ride.

8. What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten on one of your tours?

The ‘oldest’ pub in Dingle always offers us a warm welcome and a table in their beautiful conservatory. All their food is delicious. However, the best fish I’ve ever eaten was the fresh (from the sea that afternoon) grilled herb crusted fillet of hake.

I usually avoid desserts but in this restaurant, I leave my willpower firmly locked in my hotel room! The apple crumble is just divine.

9. If you could lead groups in just one location, where would it be and why?

Ireland and the Irish captivate my imagination. Its ancient myths and folklore of ‘little people’, giants and the characters from the ‘other world’ are fascinating. Plus, its Celtic traditions of storytelling, music and a fierce sense of independence make Ireland all the more interesting.

My Irish heritage has always been an important part of me. Sharing this with my passengers, along with the most breathtaking scenery, ancient history and the warm hospitality of the Irish people is what it’s all about. What can be better than getting the chance to live and work your passion?
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10. What’s an unexpected thing that’s happened to you on the road?

Arriving in Dingle during the Beltane, or May Day, celebrations. The origins of the festival go back to the earliest Gaelic mythology and celebrate fertility and harvest. In Dingle, we enjoyed an evening of bonfires, poetry, music and of course a Guinness or two!

Mummers, or traditional actors, wearing straw conical hats covering their faces and skirts put on a play, sang, danced and encouraged audience participation. The party atmosphere and traditional celebrations were a welcome and unexpected surprise.