As a new guide, I had the usual new job nerves heightened by temporarily relocating to Greece, a country I'd never been to before. With excitement far-outweighing nerves I traveled first to Brighton to meet the SwimTrek team before heading to Alonissos, the little Island of the Sporades which I would call home for the next five weeks. And a second home it certainly came to feel like, warm smiles and greetings extended by friendly faces who soon became familiar. My last trip was a week in Paleochora, Crete; a bustling seaside town refusing to end it's season.
I'd finished a two year contract in Dubai and after two months of Clare's beautiful coast, I was itching to start guiding. I love the sea, swimming, travelling, boats, and to fit neatly into the stereotype, chatting to anyone who will listen. The culmination of all these passions into a job description seemed too good to be true. That said, it took me a week or two to relax into my new role; the swimmers, boat tasks and overall safety taking precedence over taking time out to chat and fully engage with the array of interesting guests, each with their own compelling tale of what had brought them to a SwimTrek.
I was so lucky to get to work with SwimTrek guides Ricky and Trish for my first season. Both were an enormous influence in encouraging, helping to shape me to be a better assistant guide. They bring much more than experience to the daily tasks; sharing work tips, anecdotes, warmth and humour. Not only that but a wonderment that what we get to be immersed in what we love in amazing settings and sharing that with others, be they fellow guides, captains or SwimTrekkers.
Now at the end of my season, reconnecting with family and friends at home, a common question is whether I'm glad to be finished work after six trips in a row. The honest answer is no, not at all. When you're lucky enough to be doing a job that challenges you in areas you have a genuine excitement for, it does not feel like work in the traditional sense or a daily grind. Every day and week are different whether it be location of swims and tasks or watching the development of friendships with people who's sometimes single common denominator is open water swimming. The role of a SwimTrek guide is constantly evolving challenging and multifaceted, but never boring.
As someone who has only recently started travelling, I would often peruse trip advisor "must see" cliched lists in search of my next adventure. SwimTrek locations always surpass the obvious choices, encouraging you to explore places as equally charming and awe inspiring with their own gems. Shipwrecks, cliffs, caves, gorges and local secrets waiting to be explored contain their own special magic and value.
One of my favourite memories was stopping in a small bay after a morning's crossing which had always been to rough to explore before. The small bay was full of magnificent caves, the water a cooling iridescent blue. When the captain spotted a monachus monachus (monk seal) behind my boat and I got the chance to swim in these same waters, I knew I'd experienced something special. Not only that glorious evening swim but in my tenure as a guide. Bring on next season!