June 6, 2023


Think about what you want your life to look like once your family has grown, or whenever you feel like you need a change. What are you passionate about? Back in your younger days what floated your boat? Your answers will help decide if a career change into tourism is for you.

Tell us how you spend your days. What do you do?

I work for two fabulous employers and although I am a tour guide for both, they offer very different experiences for both the guides as well as our guests.

The first is Adventurous Women, which is adventure style tourism with backpacking, kayaking, trekking and travelling with small groups all around Perth and WA, as well as elsewhere around Australia and even overseas. Yes, I get paid to travel! I really enjoy sharing amazing adventures in magnificent places with like-minded women, often assisting them to achieve what they never thought was possible. This is where I first started out as a tour guide 15 years ago and I still love it today.

My second job is with Pinnacle Travel Group as a driver/guide, providing commentary while driving all size coaches. Most of our tours are day trips in and around Perth, including down to Margaret River, up to the Pinnacles, or over to Wave Rock. We also do multi-day tours where I take groups on extended tours down through the Southwest or up north as far as Darwin.

Did you always plan to work in this industry?

The short answer is no! Working as a tour guide never occurred to me – I just kind of fell into it when an opportunity presented itself, and it’s most definitely the best career change I’ve ever made! I actually graduated university with a degree in Computer Science and mostly worked in a corporate setting until I made this change.

How did you get into tourism and hospitality?

I was working in an office environment, as I had done for many years, but began to feel unfulfilled and restless. My kids were deciding where they wanted to go with their careers, and it dawned on me that being happy in your career is so important. While I was working through this with them, I wasn’t happy in my own job. I decided I deserved to be happy too. It got me thinking, If I could do anything, what would it be, what makes me happy? I reflected on my passion for the outdoors and being active, I remembered how I used to love hiking, paddling, and camping in the great outdoors.

So, I began kayaking the beautiful waterways around Perth, and hiking sections of the Bibbulmun Track with a friend. We had no idea what we were doing, had all the wrong equipment, but we loved it nevertheless. We then spent an amazing month hiking, camping and kayaking in Alaska. We walked one of the pilgrimages across Spain – the Camino de Santiago de Compostella. When I returned to Perth a dear friend of mine had just started Adventurous Women.  She asked me if I had any other adventures planned, I said the next big thing I’d like to do is climb Mt Kilimanjaro, as this was the type of experience she envisioned for Adventurous Women she asked if I’d consider hosting a group tour there. Without hesitation I said “sure”, then after a brief pause asked, “what does that mean?” Basically, it meant I was to be the mama duck, to look after everyone and liaise with our local guides. Off we went up Kilimanjaro and I was so incredibly proud when all six of us summitted! This was amazing because it is definitely not easy! We were no spring chickens, just regular Mums all around the age of 50, out challenging ourselves, together. There were a lot of other people, mostly younger than us, not able to reach the summit but we all did. It’s amazing what women can do when they support each other.

So, that’s how I got into tour guiding. From there I started doing it a lot more while still juggling with an office job. After receiving great advice from a career wellness counsellor, I summoned up the courage to quit my corporate job and move into tour guiding full time. I’ve never looked back!

How would you describe yourself?

I’m just a regular Mum and Nanna, following my passion and living my dream. I am a people-person who loves to share my love of travel and adventure. I am truly blessed as I have a perfect work-life balance.

What do you love most about the industry?

When I discovered tourism and found out I could actually get paid to travel, my Dad’s words rang in my ears. He said to me once a long time ago “Sue, the luckiest people in the world are those that find something they’re passionate about and then find someone to pay them to do it”. It took me a long time, but I’m finally there Dad! I love it. I love travel, I love people, I love challenging myself with adventurous activities and I get paid to do it. Let’s face it, my office is now the great outdoors, and I spend every day working with people who are on holidays!

I love nothing more than travelling somewhere, anywhere, even if I’ve been there many times before, for example up to the Pinnacles. Friends have asked me “don’t you get bored going up to the Pinnacles so often?”  But I say “look at the office I’m working in!”. It’s not a bad office is it, and it changes all the time. Besides that, I spend all day with people who are on holidays. I’m getting paid for it, but they’re on holidays – they pay to be here. Besides when I take them up there, they’ve never seen it before, so I get to re-live the excitement I had when I first saw it. I just love seeing people have fun. What better way to spend your day than with people who are on holidays?

What’s the best part of your job?

I love helping people achieve things that they never thought they could. For example, I am not a qualified abseiling instructor so we partner with companies that are qualified to take our ladies.  Often, they’ll say to me that it’s something they’ve always wanted to do but never thought they could. But in the environment of like-minded supported supportive women, without competition, it’s a very different dynamic. I’ve helped many women, often I’ll go down beside them and when we get all the way to the bottom, they burst into tears because they never, ever thought they could do it! In my own way I’ve helped them do something that they never thought they could. It is extremely rewarding.

The coach tours are very different, but also very rewarding. I love nothing more throughout the tour than to see all the smiling faces of people enjoying themselves, in places that I love taking them, and teaching them a little something along the way. I’m confident that when they return home, they’ll look back with fond memories of a great experience they’ve had in our magnificent state.

What’s your best advice for anyone starting out?

Think about what you want your life to look like once your family has grown, or whenever you feel like you need a change. What are you passionate about? Back in your younger days what floated your boat? Your answers will help decide if a career change into tourism is for you. Do you love spending time with people? Do you love Perth and WA? Are you eager to learn and share what you know? If you answered “yes” then you’ll love working in the tourism industry, perhaps as a guide and/or driver like me. That’s really all you need!

If you’re unsure about giving up that secure job and trying something completely new and are not sure if it will work out just like I was, perhaps this little piece of advice from my counsellor 15 years ago might help, as it did for me. He asked me one simple question: “In your entire working life any time you’ve wanted a job, you have found one?” For me, the answer was yes, so he continued with: “so what’s holding you back now?” In other words, trust yourself, it will work out! It’s worked out in every situation you’ve had up until now and it will work out again. Just one step at a time, and if it’s something you really want to try, go for it! It’ll be the best change you’ve ever made.

What’s next for you?

One of the additional benefits for tour driving and guiding is that most work is casual. That means you can take as much or as little work as you want. For me that means as I get older and have more beautiful grandchildren to spoil, I can simply take less work and enjoy more time with them! I can’t see myself retiring any time soon. I’ll be continuing as a tour driver and guide for as long as I keep loving it!

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