What’s it like to be a female tour leader?

In celebration of strong, badass women this International Women’s Day, we speak to veteran leader Heather, who’s been showing off the incredible sights of the Canadian Rockies for six seasons. Her inspiring words share her journey to becoming a TrekAmerica tour leader, the struggles she’s faced, and the advice she’d give to anyone dreaming of a career in an industry that’s stereotypically seen as male-dominated.

Working for TrekAmerica is amazing. It’s so hard to describe: the memories you make, the people you meet, the experiences you have are indescribable, surreal, and momentous.

Growing up, we would spend every second summer driving across Canada with my family. My mom would cram my five sisters, myself, our dog and our luggage into the van, and off we would set on our trek across the country. I have always had a passion for the outdoors and knew I wanted to work in a field of teaching people about the beauty of nature.

As I read more about the TrekAmerica job description and the day to day tasks, I thought it was way too good to be true: to explore my own backyard, to hike new trails, to travel and meet like-minded people and to top it off, get paid? Sounds like a dream job to me!

Overall, I have found our base and our company is very supportive and acknowledges that it can be harder for women. We also have stronger women on the top - I’ve trained our leaders the last three seasons and our boss is female too. We’ve implemented a section in our training modules about how it is harder as a female to be a tour leader. Unfortunately, statistics show that comparatively, women in tour guiding roles are reviewed harder, judged quicker, doubted and made to feel like they’re not good enough.

There were moments, especially in my first couple seasons, where I would struggle. I felt I wasn’t meeting the expectation of a ‘strong, confident, trustworthy tour leader’ - because why should they trust a 23-year-old female to fend off the bears, build fires, or reverse a trailer? Fortunately, I am more confident now to have open communication and talk about how I am fully capable, I am strong, I am knowledgeable. 

The things I have learned about myself, others and mother nature has attributed so much to this job as a TrekAmerica tour leader. You can try to be whoever you want but what I have learnt was, what’s the point? Be yourself. Woman and all.

My manager, Alia, is one of my strongest female role models during my time at TrekAmerica but also one of my best friends. She is one of the strongest female presences I have in my life. Similar to being a good tour leader, she knows when to ask questions, she knows when to listen and support. Most importantly, she pushes me to always be a better version of myself, on or off the road.

Growing up with five sisters and a single mother, I’ve always had a strong push to motivate, encourage and support other women. It is extremely important to lift each other up, whether that be helping your friend to stand up for herself, to be proud of her opinions, or to push equality all across the board, in and out of the office! I think it is important to challenge yourself and/or your ladies to do the hard stuff, push their comfort levels and speak their minds. But most importantly, let’s all stick together and be proud of who we are!

What was your dream career as a child, before you started getting affected by sexism or insecurities? Whatever that job was, change that image to a woman, and be that woman. Make your younger you, proud of you! You want to be a mechanic, a doctor, a firefighter, a police officer? Do it. Do what you dream of and aspire to be because in the end, you only live one life. Looking back, it frustrates me how I gave in to those feelings of doubt, insecurity and shame because I’m a woman. Now… NO WAY. I dare anyone to challenge me on being a woman. There are no limits.

 

 

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