Ciara Kenny

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Living the dream: Guiding tours around Central America

Antony Wolfe has just finished his fifth 49-day trip bringing tourists from Mexico to Panama

Wed, Oct 29, 2014, 12:04


Antony Wolfe

I have just completed my fifth 49-day trip bringing groups of tourists around Central America. I was interviewed for an article for Generation Emigration just after finishing my first tour with a company called Tucan Travel last February, but I’ve learned a lot since then and wanted to offer a more rounded perspective of my job after several tours.

I love my work but it is an undeniably tough challenge. As a tour guide, you are responsible for organising all logistics and managing group dynamics, and regularly face unforeseen problems which have to be solved on the spot.

Some days, tour leading feels like the hardest job in the world, and on others it is like working in paradise; either way, you end up with good stories, which I’ve been collecting on my blog.

We start our grand tour of Central America in Mexico City. Mexico is a diverse country, with an unfair reputation for drug violence. The ruins of many ancient civilisations, such as the half-excavated Palenque jungle ruins (pictured above), are a sight to behold. I would recommend avoiding the big cities in the Yucatan peninsula like Cancun – if you venture down to submerged caves called “cenotes”, you will discover the real beauty of Mexico lies underground.

In Belize, these caves have been left untouched, with the surprises of sacrificed Mayan skeletons awaiting you in the famous Actun Tunichil Muknal caves (pictured above). Caye Caulker takes the chilled-out Caribbean island stereotype to a whole new level.

Guatemala is often perceived as a dangerous country, but it is also the most alluring in the region for Irish expats. Antigua (pictured above), the former capital, is a beautiful colonial city where I could happily live, though the roads around the country are not the safest.

Honduras has the well-documented highest homicide rate worldwide, but outside the cities, it has numerous adventure activities, Mayan ruins, and stunning landscapes. Roatan in the Bay Islands is one of the cheapest places in the world for scuba diving.

If I had to sum up Nicaragua in one word, it would be volcanoes. Visitors can climb more than a dozen summits, admire the sunset from their peaks, and even sandboard down their slopes.

Costa Rica can claim to be the adventure sports capital of the world. It’s like an adult’s Disneyland. Attractions include unspoilt beaches, nature reserves, abundant wildlife, rafting, canyoneering, and ziplining. Plus it’s officially the happiest country in the world, according to the latest Happy Planet Index report.

Panama’s colourful Bocas del Toro archipelago, with its laid-back Caribbean vibe and cheap prices, rivals the activities on offer just over the border in Costa Rica. Panama City’s financial hub and the world-famous Panama Canal makes it the most advanced city in the region.

But I won’t be seeing these unforgettable places for a while. I have been chosen to lead a completely different tour further south, so I’m off on a new adventure on the ultimate tour of South America. “El Circuito” starts on November 8th and I will lead a group through nine countries over a period of 171 days.

It was sad to leave Central America. Working there has been an experience I’ll never forget. I will forever remember the kindness of the people, especially in the early days when I was finding my feet.

This new tour is huge. I am well up for the challenge and I’m currently back home in Dublin researching all the upcoming tour destinations, so I provide the best possible tour to our clients. It’s a bit like studying for a test, except this test will last each day for over five months. I’m just thankful my superiors trust me enough to give me this fantastic opportunity.

Arriving back in Dublin, the overwhelming feeling is that I am in the right place; that this is my home. But for the moment, there are better opportunities abroad, not just for myself but for the 33,500 other young people who emigrated this year.

I intend to come home home in the future, given the right economic conditions. I can only hope those thousands of other emigrants also share my desire to come back too.

Read Antony Wolfe’s original article for Generation Emigration: The grand tour of Central America