Ever Considered Being a Guide?
By Sheryl Kayne
When I lived and worked in Denali National Park, Alaska for a summer, I created a Nature Trail along the Nanana River. I had never before in my life done anything like that and needed others to teach me about all of the native fauna and how to read animal tracks. Guiding guests along my very own nature trail was a highlight of my summer living and working in Denali. The first time I had actual park rangers from Rocky Mountain National Park visiting and taking my tour, I was quite nervous, but they enjoyed it and shared a few tricks of the trade I incorporated into my presentation.
I love trying new things, far away and close up. I’m always amazed when I find something relatively close by and available that I just never really thought about before. Maybe that’s happened to you too? In the New York area there are two great programs that are always looking for volunteers: Sprout Vacations and Big Apple Greeters.
Sprout Vacation programs started in 1979. They offer local excursions, and international and domestic travel programs dedicated to providing safe travel experiences for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. You can consider being a leader or perhaps know someone who would benefit from making new friends and experiencing new places. It is a lot of fun seeing the sights as a volunteer co-leader for small groups of adults on three- to seven-day vacations in groups, most often with three leaders and about 11 participants. There are multiple Sprout Vacation Programs of music and film festivals, trips to New York City, Niagara Falls, Lake George, the Catskills, Cape Cod, Virginia Beach, Washington, D.C., and many more locations. The time commitment is for a weekend or longer. Group leaders must be 21 and proficient in English.
If you love New York City, and happen to live there too, then you can help visitors from around the world, or even a connecting state, like Connecticut or New Jersey, to enjoy very special parts of New York City. Big Apple Greeters are some of the coolest people on the planet. There’s nothing better than meeting people from around the world and sharing your favorite places and stories.
Tourists come from all over to see New York City but it can be rather large and intimidating. What better way to learn all about it than to figure it out with someone who knows the ropes? Learning particular neighborhoods by someone who lives there makes it truly an experience to remember. What is really nice is to deliberately visit one small part of the city and get to know it. Park Slope is one of my favorites. Borough by borough, the big city has all of the charm, comforts and warmth of a small town. This is what immersion travel is all about: not just visiting but getting to know the community with people who live there, doing what they do and going where they go. Some visitors request to see specific neighborhoods they would like to see or sometimes leave the choice up to the Greeter.
Any adult can be a greeter. There’s an online application followed by an interview and an orientation session. Greeters highlight the culture and diversity of NYC by sharing neighborhoods, area attractions, and events that make neighborhoods and communities unique. The average neighborhood walking tours take about four hours and public transportation is used. The tours are free and there’s no tipping. Oh, the places you’ll go, the people you will meet, and the fun you will have.
Sprout Vacation Programs 893 Amsterdam Ave., New York, NY 10025; 1-888-222-9575; 212-222-9575; fax 212-222-9768; www.gosprout.org; Vacations@gosprout.org