I have begun my 5th year working for in Alaska. When I started, I had taken a leave of absence from my previous job so I would have a safety net in case I didn’t like being a driver/guide. After 3 weeks I called and said I was not going back! I found a job that is fun, allows my personality to come out, meet people from all over the world, and get the opportunity to show-off all the natural beauty throughout the state. That’s not to say it is always easy, most days there is a lot of hard work that has to be done before the guests arrive and after they leave, but by far the fun aspect out weighs the “work”.
I started working in Ketchikan; I was there for two seasons. It was a great time! I met friends that I am sure will be my friends for many years to come. The most important thing I learned in Ketchikan was how to give a good tour. I made mistakes, but since the tours coincided with the ships, I might give 2 tours a day, so I could make adjustments quickly if I found I needed too. Then, three years ago, I started working In Fairbanks. Boy, was that a change. Since there are no ships it is a 24/7 operation. It was a bit strange the first time I had to be at work at 3:00am to pick people up from the airport and I was wearing my sunglasses because the sun was still shining! I did the multi-day highway tours for folks that book the land tours either before or after their cruise. That is when my experience in Ketchikan played a huge role. I knew what it took to make a good tour. I did my homework about the mountains, vegetation, rivers, glaciers, roads, and lakes that we would be seeing. I knew from my own experience in taking tours that a driver/guide with a good personality can make or break a tour, but more importantly the information needed to be accurate, and MOST importantly I had to be a good, safe driver. I always want guests to feel safe while I am driving.
When I came to Fairbanks to work, I also started working as a trainer. I teach new employees how to drive our motorcoaches. This can be a pretty stressful job. But I believe it is so important to teach new drivers what it takes to be safe drivers. There have been many days when I was out in our parking lot setting up cones for people to drive around at 20 below zero, and I am cold and miserable, but in the long run they always become better drivers because of the time all the trainers put in to teach good driving skills. For me it is also a good chance to get to know a lot of the new drivers. These are going to be my co-workers, people I will look for to help with luggage or share a good laugh while waiting for the riverboat to come in.
I have had the opportunity to do every highway tour that the companies offer. I love doing them all for different reasons, they each are unique and test me in different ways. This summer I came back because I wanted to do tours to Prudhoe Bay. It is one of the remote places in Alaska that tours on motorcoaches are done. The challenges in doing this tour are huge, but I feel that I have risen to the occasion because of my training and the support of the management team when problems do come up. In my years, I have seen moose, bears, eagles, glaciers, whales, willow ptarmigan, musk ox, the Arctic Ocean, Denali Mountain, and Beluga whales. I have driven the Denali highway, the top of the world highway, the Taylor, the Dalton, the parks, the Seward, the glen, and the Alaska Highway. I have met people from just about every state, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, Great Britain, hungry, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, Sweden, Argentina, Japan, Thailand, South Africa, and France. These are experiences and people I would have never have met working in laboratory in southern California.
Jill – Driver Guide – Fairbanks, Alaska