My Tour Guide Career

My tour guide career was short lived, but I learned a lot. I started this role when I was living in Washington DC in 2017. I had just gotten back to the US after doing the Peace Corps in Nicaragua.  My goal was to get a full time government job, but that didn’t work out. I was repeatedly told I needed a master’s degree for the roles I wanted. I had bills to pay, so I started doing bike tours on the National Mall.

I’m a history nerd and enjoyed reading and learning about all the history and monuments in DC. It was interesting to learn about things like the Japanese Internment Memorial and the white slave owner histories of Thomas Jefferson and Ulysses S. Grant. It was fun showing visitors around DC and sharing these historical tidbits.

then I took my tour guide career to the next level and began doing cross country tours

I trained to drive a 15 passenger van and would take groups of tourists across the United States. An example of one tour I did was taking a group of British people all the way from New York to Los Angeles. I drove them and was their tour guide during the three week camping journey.  

The job was tough and exhausting. Some days I would drive up to 10 hours a day, nearly falling asleep at the wheel. It was very intense. But I got to see so many parts of the US that I never would’ve otherwise because it’s very expensive to travel the US.

The plus side of my tour guide career was that I did receive tips. It was so interesting that I was getting tipped for doing my job. A job that didn’t require any higher education and where I had self-taught myself everything. This was the complete opposite to when I was teaching English with the Peace Corps and math & science as a public school teacher in Boston. As a teacher I was exploited, underpaid, and sure as hell never got a tip for helping raise people’s children. This says a lot about the public education system.

I first learned about credit card points hacking during my tour guiding days

The white male cis mail tour guides that worked with me would constantly talk about credit cards. And of course, they would try to refer me to their credit cards.  I was skeptical to say the least.

But once they explained how credit card bonus offers work and the fact that we can rack up points because we’re always handling tons of cash and getting reimbursed, it was a no brainer. All I had to do was understand how it actually worked for me to feel bought in and safe to use this new passive income strategy.

I hopped on all the bonus intro offers. I have always had a decent credit score because I’ve always paid my cards in full on time, so it was easy to open new credit cards. Even though I was making a nominal salary, I was able to make reimbursable purchases that racked up thousands of dollars in points, while still paying off my credit card in full every month. Read this post to learn more about leveraging credit card points!

I eventually realized i couldn’t live the tour guide life forever and called it quits because:
  1.  I wasn’t even fully vested in my 401(k). This meant that if I quit before five years, the company would get back half of what they matched toward my 401(k).
  2. I wasn’t properly compensated for the amount of labor I was doing. I didn’t even have basic perks, like health insurance, just worker’s compensation if I got injured.
  3. This lifestyle of working all summer and traveling all winter wasn’t financially sustainable. It led to a push pull cycle with my money. I wanted to be earning money all year without depending on an employer. This tour company ended up shutting down during COVID, and I never wanted to worry about losing my job again.

My stint as a tour guide helped me travel around the U.S., but I didn’t want to depend on credit card points and budgeting to fund my life. I wanted to learn how to invest, make passive income, and become financially independent. This led me to becoming a stock broker and then starting my own money coaching business for LGBT/BIPOC!

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