Tour guiding is not a job for the meek or half-hearted. To excel requires an immense amount of knowledge, top-notch communication skills, and a real passion for one's work and the subject at hand. Hundreds of happy tour alums would agree that Madrid-based guide Federico Garcia Barroso fits that bill. He recently took a few moments to share with us his thoughts on what makes a great guide tick...
In addition to leading several different Rick Steves tours around Spain, you are also listed in Rick's guidebooks as a local guide for hire. How does one kind of guiding differ from the other?
Leading a Rick Steves tour group requires that I know "enough about much." Working as a local guide requires that I know "much about enough."
Is there a secret to what makes an exceptional tour guide?
Any professional guide must be excellent in three ways: technically, culturally, and humanly. And if a guide has motivation, the traveler gets satisfaction.
Has tour guiding been in your blood for a long time?
Yes, ever since high school I knew I wanted to be a guide. So it's always been my vocation, never a hobby.
As a guide, you travel a lot, but you also bring other travelers to your home town. Do you have a preference?
On the one hand I will never stop traveling. Working as a Rick Steves tour guide leading Barcelona & Madrid and Basque Country of Spain & France groups, I just love to travel with new friends and share experiences all over Spain. On another hand, it is really satisfying to become a local expert and show the cultural legacy of my city to Americans and Canadians. I love Madrid — and I love to show you that.
We hear that you can sing opera like a professional. Tell us about that. Did you once have a career singing?
Never! It is just a natural talent. Since I was a kid I've always had a very good ear for languages and music. Later, I realized that I also had a good tenor voice. Guiding is my profession, but music is my passion. Classical music is simply the greatest art work ever done by mankind. It is a very, very important part of my life. I even think it can make someone a better person!
You came to Rick Steves' annual guides' workshop and tour member reunion in January. Having been there before, what do you find most helpful?
It is one of the most interesting and enjoyable experiences that I know. I've worked with many different travel agencies and tour operators as a free-lance tour guide, and Rick Steves' company is the only one that I know that gives EVERYBODY this unique opportunity: guides, tour members, Rick's office staff, and spontaneous friends are all coming together at once to share comments and experiences. I honestly appreciate what it means to be invited to this. It is good promotion — and it is good for everybody!