Tour Guide & Winner of the “Best Job in the World” Contest

Greg Snell is one of the luckiest people on the planet. Not only has he worked as a tour guide in South America taking groups of excited people on fantastic adventures around Brazil, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina, but currently he’s doing the Best Job in the World. Literally. Part of a marketing campaign by Tourism Australia, last year’s “Best Job in the World” competition had 600,000 applicants from 96 countries vie for six dream jobs. And sure enough, Greg (a native of Ontario, Canada) won a spot as Wildlife Caretaker living on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. He’s been doing his new “job” since last December and we caught up with him in South Australia to ask how this new gig compares to being a tour guide.


Tell us a bit about your past as a tour guide?

I worked as a CEO (Chief Experience Officer) for G Adventures for two and a half years. My primary region was the Southern Cone of South America, from La Paz to Ushuaia, to Rio, Santiago, and everything in between.

I ran 8-19 day overland adventure tours with groups ranging between 6 and 15 people from everywhere and anywhere. It was an incredible life experience and one I wouldn’t trade for the world (and I’m a traveller).

What was the best part of that job?

The atmosphere. Your job is someone else’s vacation. As serious and demanding as it is, when it comes down to it you are managing the experience of someone’s vacation.  It can be as awesome as you decide to make it. I alsways focused on making every day as amazing as it possibly could be and better.

The best part of the job was seeing the experience of the travellers first hand and knowing you played a major part in their life changing journey.

Greg (right) and a group in an elevator at Iguazu Falls on the Brazilian side

In your view, what makes a good tour guide?

Someone who is patient and a good listener. It is incredibly important to really listen to your travellers and act on their concerns or wants and needs. It’s amazing the response you’l get in return. There are all of the given traits like fun, outgoing, organized, punctual, independent, etc. etc. But it really comes down to having patience and being invested in the experience of your travellers.

Did you have a certain style of guiding, or did you just run with it according to the day?

Yes absolutely, my style was (and is) my personality. You can only ever be yourself and people can relate to that. I used to say that the passengers/travellers on my tours were a part of my life and I theirs for however long we were spending together. Why not make the absolute most of it? My style was to make the most of every day and every experience and still is even though I’m not guiding right now.

What’s the oddest request you had from a traveller/client?

To blow up a watermelon with dynamite in the Bolivian Salt Flats. There are a few others that I probably shouldn’t mention in this interview.

This photo of Greg was taken while he was guiding in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile.

What was the key factor in you winning the “Best job in the world” contest?

That’s a tough question. I don’t think there was ‘one’ key factor in winning this position. The hiring process lasted almost eight months and I was eventually chosen out of 48,000 other applicants. During the finals of the ‘Best Jobs in the World’ there were three of us flown to Australia to compete for the coveted spot of Wildlife Caretaker. The finals consisted of 12 days of interviews and challenges. I think that 12 day stint was to get to know us as people, who we really were, not how we were portrayed in social media. I think a big factor for me winning the job was bringing the tour guide/leader personality to the competition. After years of guiding you can immediately get along with pretty much anybody and everybody from anywhere, and lucky for me Australians and Canadians happen to get along really well.

Tell us about your daily life now versus when you were a guide.

Wow, not that much is different actually. I still travel every couple days, I have been exploring the entire state of South Australia for the last six months with no home base. I still take photos daily and answer emails managing a travel itinerary. I still write and document my experiences through videography and a travel blog (plug: I guess the only real difference is that I just don’t have the group. We used to joke as tour guides that sometimes the ‘Best Job in the World’ would be being a guide but without the group. This was of course a joke, but funnily enough it seems I have found something very similar to that idea.

Being a guide helped prepare me for the ‘Best Jobs’ gig by helping me understand the demands of being productive and accountable as an independent often travelling for months at a time in very remote locations.

How did being a guide prepare you for your new role?

Being a guide helped prepare me for the ‘Best Jobs’ gig by helping me understand the demands of being productive and accountable as an independent often travelling for months at a time in very remote locations. Being able to stay organized and deliver quality content and results in short periods of time. Dealing with all sorts of issues and being able to view problems as opportunities to change things for the better.

What’s the best part of your job now?

The best part of the ‘Best Job in the World’ is having the opportunity to share the wonderful experiences possible in the State of South Australia. It is my job to help grow tourism to the state, and honestly the best part is doing exactly that. I have the freedom to travel and document everything I do and see. I can make that as awesome as I wish, and I do.

Are there any aspects of your job now that you’re not keen on? How about when you were a guide?

Ahha, I’m not keen on managing and making changes to my personal website. I am not the most tech savvy person and have been battling the backstage of wordpress for many years. When I was tour guiding there were always things you could whinge about, but at the end of the day your job is like a vacation and it’s awesome, so take a table spoon of cement and harden up.

The Bolivia Salt Flats in 2011 with one of Greg's guided groups

In your view, what makes a good tour guide?

Someone who is fun, accepting, open, ambitious, ridiculously good looking, spontaneous, energetic, patient, independent, and overall a very good listener. As stated above it is incredibly important to put the travellers first always. It is their trip, their vacation, their potential life changing experience. It is your job to make that happen. Passion and Purpose makes a good tour guide.

As an experienced guide yourself, can you explain to our readers what the benefits of hiring a guide are?

Right away the benefits are local knowledge. Often guides will show you stuff you wouldn’t find on your own, or if you did find them you may not fully understand the significance. Guides may often have certain qualifications which may be necessary for visiting a certain location, for example the Galapagos or climbing Kilimanjaro. I think hiring a guide is a personal decision that many travellers understand in the moment. I have always benefitted and often will hire a guide, especially if I do not speak the local language.

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