‘Imagine a job that lets you constantly travel and discover new places?’
Frank Wall runs an alternative travel company on Mexico’s Caribbean coast
Frank Wall’s tour company specialises in offering visitors unusual experiences that make the most of Mexico’s scenery and cultural diversity
Frank Wall was born in Saggart and moved to Brussels with his family when he was eight. He has been living in Mexico for the past 10 years. Having worked as a tour guide, specialising in the history and culture of the country and its Mayan archaeological sites, he now runs his own business. His travel company promotes active travel and cultural exchange between visitors and local communities.
What brought you to Mexico?
When I finished college in UCD, I wanted to travel, so I moved to Barcelona to learn Spanish and work in a new environment. I had planned on travelling to Asia after that. But I fell in love with a Mexican girl, so I ended up heading there instead. That was in 2006. Our relationship lasted a few years after I came here, but I had fallen in love with the country by the time we split up and so I stayed on.
Tell us about your work.
I run an alternative travel company in Tulum, which is located on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, in the Yucatan Peninsula. I created the company two years ago after having worked as a guide in the archaeological sites and nature reserves of Mexico for 10 years.
I initially got into it because I thought it was the best job I could get in the country – imagine a job that lets you constantly travel and discover new places, always be outdoors and engaging with local communities who have an incredibly rich culture and heritage.
The social aspect of sharing my experience and knowledge with people who have an interest in culture and history was also a big part of making a career for myself in tourism.
When my partner became pregnant with our little boy (now two), I knew it was time to strike out on my own and create the experiences that I wanted to share with travellers – activities that stood out from the usual things on offer and allowed people a chance to actively engage with nature and with the local people.
I still work as a guide, but most of my work now involves creating the experiences, putting together routes, organising logistics, dealing with customers, reservations and trying to generate more interest in what we do. We are now working on multi-day tours, based around active travel and cultural exchange, which we hope to launch next month. You can see what we currently have on offer at tulumbiketours.com.
It sounds like the dream job. Are there any downsides?
It is always hard to work for yourself, there is always something to be done. It’s not like you can say ‘Oh, it’s five o’clock, I’ll just leave what I’m doing until tomorrow.’ In my case, the administration and finance side has cost me a lot of time and a few grey hairs. There are some things that have to get done no matter how late it is, otherwise things won’t run smoothly on the following day’s tour.
But the more you do it, the easier it becomes. We work very hard during our high season, which is from December to May, so I will often work 14-hour days and have little time to myself or to spend with the family. The upside of that is, if we have a good season, the year is more or less covered and there is a low season of two months when I can take time off to travel, come home to Ireland and spend time with the family.
What advice would you give to others who are looking to embark on a similarly adventurous career?
I would say, just go for it. Anyone who has the choice to go out and do what they are passionate about, to create something from their heart, no matter how little financial benefit would appear to be the outcome, is an exceptionally privileged person. If you can think of it, it is possible. The other options, the safer options, they will always be there. So take the risk. The world needs people like you to do what you are dreaming about.
Where is your favourite place in Mexico?
My favourite place in Mexico is Oaxaca. It is a state on the Pacific coast that has great natural and cultural diversity, amazing food and great surf. It has wonderful beaches, beautiful colonial cities, one of the most important cultures in Mesoamerican history, cloud forests, tropical forests, Mezcal, incredible textiles, crafts and gastronomy.
It is an area that has been badly hit by the recent earthquakes, so travellers to the area are even more welcome than ever as the locals are striving to rebuild their lives and the economy. Plus the infrastructure for tourism is excellent, and still is after recent events.
Where do you see your future?
The dream is to spend half the year in Mexico and the other half in west Kerry, where I spent my childhood summers. Now that I have a family, the great identity we have as Irish people has come to the fore and I feel the need to bestow that culture on my children: the love of fresh air, music and dance, the sense of freedom and adventure that we have, and of course, the craic. I have spent only a third of my own life in Ireland, but wherever I go, it always comes back to me: you can’t beat the Irish.
If you work in an interesting job overseas and would like to share your experiences, email firstname.lastname@example.org with a little information about yourself and what you do.