Casey Walton Interview
9:51PM Feb 4, 2021
I'm super excited. Okay, so let's start this right off. So tell me a little bit about prior to ITMI. A little bit of like, what were you doing? Like what was your career life situation like?
So after I graduated college, I spent two years in the Dominican Republic, I worked working with an international relief organization there. And then I worked for two years as a Production Director for a show in South Carolina. And then I was a recruiter for university while I worked on my master's degree. And while I was a recruiter right after I finished my master's, I had a person, a teacher who came in and asked me to help them lead a trip to New York, which was my first taste of tour directing. But basically, I had shifted around every two years, I would change directions into something else. So I love the organization side of things. I like to organize things, but that gets boring. And then I love the creative side. But if I'm 100%, creative, I'm up until three every morning. And so I would go back and forth between those kind of jobs before I found directing, which meets both of them.
Can you tell me a little bit about more when you were in the Dominican Republic, what that job was, was like,
yeah, so I was working with an organization that had just been founded, a woman just visited her son who was on a trip to Haiti and had a heart for the kids. So she wanted to do something for kids. And she ended up doing it just across the border in the Dominican where it was just a little easier to get, get some permits and things. So I was working with a village of that lived off the dump there in Santo Domingo. And so the idea was to basically do an inventory of how many people live there and kind of a census, and the needs that they had, so that we could match sponsors, with, with the kids that were were there and then work to bring groups there as as well to do different building projects.
Were you specifically looking looking for something like service oriented when you selected or what what drew you What drew you to wanting to work in that position?
So I had already been into the Dominican Republic several times in college, to do different relief work things. And so yeah, I've always been drawn to the kind of the service industry in that sense. And I wasn't a plan to do it necessarily long term. It's not like that was my goal. But that was what I had done many times before. And it just so happened that this was one of my good friends, mom who started the organization. So I kind of got in that way.
As you were thinking, at that age, kind of planning, your career forward, was it important to you to have something where you knew you're going to have an impact on people? Or you were going to make a difference in the world? Was that something that? Was that a box that you needed to tick?
Absolutely, I I find very little value and kind of doing things that don't have an impact. I mean, I enjoy the finished product of something. Like whether it's manual labor, building something, and I did construction work up here as well. But to me, my heart has always been to impact people, whether that is doing that through a building project or something like that, but but to me that the human element is is a big draw to me.
Do you find that that's one of the boxes that ticks for you as a as a tour director and guide?
Absolutely. Yeah, I think, for me, some of the unexpected things of being a tour director come in those moments where you don't even realize the impact that you're having on people. So for me, I think at the end of the tour, when you have people that are are crying and thanking you for something and you're like this was a two day tour, like we just crossed one state line, but for them, it was very impactful for whatever reason, whether it was a bucket list, or whether they had just lost their spouse and this was their first travel and you made it comfortable or they were nervous. So there's a lot of ways that I didn't expect I expected to have an impact on the big trips that were like bucket list, and knowing that people had saved all their lives for them, but to see how vulnerable people are when they travel, whether it's because they're nervous or just because they're open to new experiences. It's there's a lot more impact in tourism than I thought I thought it was just kind of going to be you know, just keep them happy sort of thing but it's it's much deeper than that.
You work with both adult groups and student groups is it is the amount Packed different, does it come in a different form? With those two, you know, with eighth graders versus, you know, seniors?
Yeah, I get the question a lot, whether I like students or seniors more, and I genuinely I know sounds like a political answer, but I genuinely like them equally. Because with the students, you can see kind of the impact directly, like you can see on their face, like, especially, you know, as they get a little older, they can hide things better. But the younger kids, you can see it immediately, like you just blew their mind, or you just took them to a new experience, or they're, they understand something in a new way they didn't before. And with seniors, sometimes you get that sometimes you have those amazing moments where you can tell it's life changing for them. But with the adults, like they come with that experience already. So you can build off that instead of you're building their experiences, you're just giving them a different side to an experience they had before. And so I recently, or the last tour that I had, we were talking some history stuff, and it had to do with basically what was used to be taught in schools of how this was but how it really was. And sometimes that's difficult with with those who have already been through a school because they think that you're changing history, or you're, you know, just being politically correct. But I had a woman probably in her 60s, and she, after I kind of gave the talk, she said, You know, I've been thinking a lot, you know, it's easy for us to say they're changing history. But I've been wondering recently, what if we were taught wrong? What if it's just as likely that we were taught wrong is that the are teaching wrong? And she's like, so I need to look into that more. And so with with seniors, it's neat to, to see that. And then the same with I mean, when you go to the Vietnam Memorial, and you're taking students and trying to have them understand the the impact that Vietnam had on our nation and on the soldiers verse, bringing people who actually fought in Vietnam to the memorial is, of course, a totally different story. So, to me, it's they're both very rewarding.
Those are some kind of amazing aha moments. I would, I would think. Yeah. So let me take you back as we were talking about kind of these different positions. So tell me tell me a little bit about the one where you guys were starting to you had your first kind of taste of tour directing, are you first viewed viewed that from a different lens?
Yeah. So when I basically I was a recruiter for the college and university that I was I was going to, and I had a teacher friend who came in, and she was coming into my office, pretty much every day, just as I was getting off and asking me advice for a trip. She was done in New York City. She knew I Love New York City. And it was her first time leading a group there. And so she was nervous, hadn't really done a lot there. And so I was helping her plan the trip. And then probably about a week into this happening every day she came in and she was extra flustered. And she said, Look, I've done the math, if you will just plan and leave this thing. I will pay for you to go. And I follow a free trip to New York City. Absolutely. And so I went on the tour, I planned it. And I led it, it was just one bus of students. And some of the chaperones were like you have the coolest job ever. And you're talking about they're like a tour director. And that's, that's not a real job. So this isn't my job. And is it No, it is a real job. I have a friend who went to the school in San Francisco, and they toured racks now that's what they do for a living. And they gave me her information. And so I held on to that information. But then that next year came around, I was asked to lead that same trip, but with two buses, and had a great time. And I had parents who, once again were like, Oh, you're so amazing at your job. And I was like as a recruiter How do you know? And they're like, no, is the door director. And once again, I was like, I'm not a tour director. And so then I met with that person who had gone to it mine. And she gave kind of the rundown of what it's like and what it's like to get a job and what it's like to be a tour director. And since I had already had a taste of what it was and really enjoyed that. It it really solidified. talking to somebody who had actually gone through it and was working as a tour director, I really solidified for me that I wanted to get ITMI
as she's telling you about kind of the what it's like, you know, the day to day what it's like to work is there. What do you remember some of the things that you were like? Yes, yes, yes. remember some of the things that were really attractive about that position?
I think for me, the biggest part Is the variety like, not just in the sites that you see, but you have a different group of people every time, it's like getting all new co workers every couple of weeks, which can be a good thing, or it can be a difficult thing. But I love the variety of it, I love that there was a lot of thinking on your feet involved. That's something that I enjoy doing. And at the time, I was doing a nine to five job in a cubicle. And for me, personally like a nine to five job, I would rather work a 1213 hour day on the road like I do now, versus a nine to five job, there's something about just going in that same. That just is really draining for me as a person. So the freedom with it also the flexibility of having kind of tour seasons versus slower seasons, that was really appealing to me. And then the variety of of options, again, working from younger to older or cruises or international like it seemed to me a kind of wide open opportunity. And what I appreciated about what she talked to me about she also talked to me about the difficulties of the job. And so for me, that was a big selling point to say, Okay, well, if everything was amazing, and there was no, you know, oh, it's gonna be super simple. You know, once you spend a couple of weeks vacationing in San Francisco, everything's, you know, just falls into your lap. So I appreciated that because it led me in my mind say, Okay, well, this I already can do this I need to work on this would be a struggle for me, it allowed me to really understand the the implications and and go forward with it.
Can you tell me a little bit about some of those things? You were like, Oh, that's that might be something that's going to be a little bit of a hurdle for me or something that's going to be challenging, or? Yeah.
I think for me, the biggest unknown having done it, even though again, it was for a friend and and having done it twice, I kind of had a general idea of what it would be like, of course, I knew it was going to be very different working for a corporation with different different expectations and, and all of that. But for me, it was Is this a feasible? feasible Avenue? Like it kind of that classic? You hear it a lot? Like, it just sounds too good to be true? where it's like, Okay, well, if, if there are schools that are producing this many tour directors, and you have this many jobs, you know, just like a teacher, you get shortages of teachers, but you also get too many teachers, and then you can't find work. So for me, that was a hurdle of, Okay, how can I, someone who has zero experience, then compete in a market with people that have a lot of experience, because at that time, while I had done some travel, I was not very well traveled. And so I didn't have the background for that. So I was kind of worried about that, I knew I could handle the logistics of it. I knew I could learn to do the presentations, and I could make it fun. That side of it, but the the experience that you have to get that kind of classic, like, we're not gonna hire you because you don't have experience, but you don't have experience or related experience. So. And for me at the time, the job I was at was fine. But it wasn't a flexible job. So it wasn't at a place where I could be like, Oh, well, I'll do a couple tours here. And then a couple tour like it needed to be either I do this, or I don't do it. Or I had to find another job that would be flexible. And to me, that was a big hurdle to think of like okay, well, I'm gonna have to get several jobs. And that is, is it worth it? If I don't know it's gonna pan out.
So I'll fast forward you and then we'll go back a little bit. But I want to stay on this train of thought. If that was kind of one of your biggest concerns, after graduation, did that come to fruition? was it was it a struggle for you to find employment? Because you didn't have the experience? Is that what it ended up being? Or? Or did you end up finding the work?
Well, for me, it's kind of a unique situation. And I coming out of it, that was still probably my biggest concern where the ITMI staff was super helpful and the exit interview to give me a list of Okay, these are what match up with what you want and what you're good at. So I had my list. But I was still I'm just not good at marketing myself. It's not something that I've ever really had to do. And so that whole idea of follow up and like how, you know, what's the balance between saying I'm awesome, but not coming across this much thinking are awesome. And so that was a big concern of mine, but I followed, trusted the process and I did, you know, sent out all the resumes. And I also just looked online randomly for companies that were nearby and sent my resume as well. So I about two weeks after graduating, I found a local company online that was about a about two hours from where I was working. And I looked online, and specifically on their website, it said, we are not taking any applications right now. And you know, we have more than enough staff. But ITMI said, Send your resume anyway. So I sent my resume to them. And they didn't even have a website that had much information in it at all. So I didn't know that much about it other than a tiny little blurb. And I sent the resume by email, I got a call that next day to come and do an interview the day after. And went into the interview, again, not knowing really anything about this company, because they didn't have stuff online, met with him for about an hour. And they hired me and asked me to start working that Monday. And I still had a job. So I said, Well, I need to give them at least two weeks. And I said, Okay, we'll give you two weeks, we'll see you in two weeks on Monday for a trip in New York City, since you've been there, you can train with one of our people. And I've worked with them full time now for over 10 years. So that's unique in the sense that I didn't end up needing to do any of that stuff, I work with them, I ended up moving to be close to them all our chores leave from that area, so I don't position. But that was that concern about not being concerned, in that I found a family run company that does everything that I wanted to be able to do.
That's been That's fantastic. So I'm going to remind you again, thanks for going forward and backward in time. As you you'd spoken with the tour director, the HR director, and they kind of told you here the, you know, the pluses and the minuses, did you immediately sign up for the class, you know, go and fill out an application? Was there? Was there any kind of lag time? Did you still have some questions you needed to answer or think about before you you sent in your application?
Well, I did it happened pretty quickly. After I because before I met with the person, I had already kind of decided that I was interested in and I'm, I'm the type of person that doesn't really waste time on something unless I'm serious about it, sometimes to a fault. But the so meeting with them was kind of the the first step where I was like, Okay, well, I want to see one, is this actually feasible? Is this a Is this a real thing? Or is this just something that sounds great, too good to be true? And, and? And then the second question and hurdle that I had to get over was, am I the right fit for it? Because obviously, most people if you ask would say, Oh, she paid me to travel, of course I want to do that. So but am I am I actually a good fit for that. And so she was able to be helpful in in giving me a little bit of that information. But that was of course based just off her she had only I think she had graduated maybe three or four months prior she had it hadn't been a long time. But she had had been working. And so for me, I started the process. And I can't remember I know that I talked to at a time and I'm pretty sure, Joanne but it was Ted who did that kind of interview before getting into the class. And so he helped with that, that hurdle of making the marriage between my past experience and my skill set and how that would transfer into tour directing. And so for me, what made me sign up was not only an Of course, everyone at ITMI is very encouraging. And I love the encouraging environment. But for me, I needed like practical scale of like, okay, you do a lot of public speaking, that's transferable. You have organizational skills that's transferable. Due to, you know, your classes and counseling, you'll be able to deal with it like I needed, basically someone to tell me that I could do it not in a general like rah rah, we can do it, but you specifically have skills. And the flip side of that, I also wanted a very clear understanding of what it would take to get me from where I'm at the skills that are transferable to where I needed to be. So in to me, maybe that was even a bigger, bigger part of it because I wanted kind of the honesty of like, Okay, this is the work that it takes. This is a realistic timeline for being able to work. These are things that you have to deal with. And some of those things you just can't find out until you actually do some of this stuff and deal with all the distractions you have to deal with and the crises and all that but I think for me, it was the classic, weighing out the benefits versus the cost. Because if it was, hey, you've got some of these transferable skills, you would be fun, but you need to do this. This, this and And I'd be like, Oh, my goodness, all of that work is going to take me this amount of time. Plus I'm doing that is am I willing to do all that work to transfer? What I am into what I need to be for this job? Because I didn't want to do it unless I could do it to me, because of my part in life. I wasn't retired and wanting to just dabble in something, it's like, if I want to go for this, I want to know that I can go for it. And it's achievable. On on mine is, is much as practically possible.
Did you find when you were looking at knowing that you have these great transferable skills, but there was still a gap between being a successful tour director and guy that you needed to fill that when you looked at the training program? Did it feel like, Oh, this is perfect, this is going to fill it this is going to fill in the gaps for me. Obviously, there's still you're gonna learn things on the job. But this is exactly the step that I needed to become successful and feel confident.
Yeah, Oh, absolutely. I think the the training lined up exactly with what I with what I felt I needed. As a matter of fact, that company I ended up working for and still work for. I am the only person that has been through training at ITMI, or any school, and because they pretty much do everything in house. But I feel like the training that I got it ITMI even if I were to go back in time, and I found that company before I heard of ITMI I would still have gone to ITMI knowing what I know now because coming in, I was able to advance rapidly through as far as not staying in kind of that kind of bottom where you're like, Okay, we're gonna just have you do DC tours for five years and just repeat and repeat. I was able to do internationals that first year, I was able to do a lot of things. And the the confidence that it gave me made a huge a huge difference. So when I was looking at the, the curriculum, in part, I had that little taste of it having already toured record a couple times just twice. And so I knew some of those gaps already that I would have going in. And what I loved about the curriculum was that it covered a lot of different things. Even though I wanted to do over the road tours, there was specific tours I wanted to do, I liked that there were cruises in it, I liked the meet and greets all those other things so that I was able to, to understand the industry better. But one of the things that I really liked about it is that it was kind of a couple step processes. The doing the interviews before being accepted into the school was a big deal to me of saying like, Okay, well, they believe that I can take this class, you know, like, they're not going to waste their investment or their name on me if they didn't think so to me, that was part of checking off those boxes of competency for me to pass the interviews, and then the first half of the class where then you have to pass that to go to the second half. Those were really good for me, because otherwise you just feel like Oh, did I just pay and they're just letting me in because I paid and then everyone's thinking like, bless his heart. He's trying let him just have fun. So for me that that process was important, psychologically, but also practically. And I loved the the practical application that there was an over the road that there was because there's so much about any job that you think you can do it but until you physically do it, you don't understand it, like giving commentary on a coach. I thought I've spoken in front of people all my life. So I'm not nervous in front of people. I don't mind speaking on a microphone, it doesn't matter how many people there are, there's but on a coach, it's a completely different ballgame. I mean, you have things happening out the window, you have the driver making wrong turns you have, there's so much more than just like, Oh, I made this wonderful talk that's going to be so inspirational, and it's going to heal race relations. And, you know, and simultaneously there's a parade coming through or somebody flashes the coach or, you know, all these things that happen that you need to then deal with and give directions to the driver. So actually doing that, and then getting feedback on it was was huge for me as as well because then I found like, oh, when I speak on a stage I'm good at getting rid of filler words. But when you add all those other things that are distracting to me, then I'm adding to that that get repetitious and and difficult to deal with. So that part I really liked and then the the sequence of events that felt like a logical like you're building on this to build on this to build on this. And it just it felt very efficient, but also covered a lot of a lot of material there. And another part to me that was a big sell was the fact that there was held after the fact to get you work because that's Something that you don't. I mean, most schools don't do that. I mean, they'll give you a handout of like, check these websites for work, but to say, Hey, we are going to, you know, we can't promise to place you, but we're going to give you a list of things we're going to help you follow, we're going to help in that process. Since I was a big concern for me, that was a big, big sell. That part of the class was not just teaching it the industry, but teaching you how to be in the industry and how all of those steps were important.
I'm really trying not to ask you about the flashing the coach. That'll be enough soon. Like, all the time I've never had in San Francisco. No one's ever flashed the coach, but you also says Christian tours. Right, right.
No, and I that was just an example. I don't believe that I had some coach before. But that was in a in a charter.
But that was the group loved it. It was a group of seniors, they, they can handle that.
It's like the one thing that they take away.
Oh, exactly, exactly. It doesn't
remember anything else. But you know,
it doesn't matter my talk on the Holocaust, not even in their mind yet.
Legos love it. So speaking of things that are memorable, is there something that you learned about or maybe it was a tip or trick in the class that you still use to this day that you go, if I only learned one thing, or maybe it's or two or three things, but I use it all the time? I can't imagine you could have never ever learned it through trial and error and it makes your job? Like, give me a couple or one?
Yeah, I'm the one that immediately comes to mind is when Joanne was teaching, and she said when she goes into a national park that she has never been to before. When she gets off the couch to pay, she'll go up to the Ranger and say don't point, whatever you do don't point or gesture with your head. Which direction is the visitor center? What am I going to see along the way that I need to point out to the passengers? I've never been here before? Is there anything I need to know from here to the visitor center. And they said, and then when you get the visitor center, you send them into the video and then you you quiz the Ranger and find your route. I use that pretty much in every National Park in in the US. because inevitably there's going to be even if it's a short trip, there's going to be some big formation you don't know about and and often when I get back from the coach, if I need to ask them a bunch of questions, different regulations or things, what's working, what's not working. And then I get back on the coach. And when I get on the mic. I'm like, oh, that Ranger was just so chatty today. No, they were chatting because I was begging them. Please help me not look like a moron. But I use that all the time. I also think of Ted, when he said, Never, ever lose your temper with one of your passengers, even if they completely deserve it. Even if they have done something that is inexcusable, you will always regret losing your temper. And I think of that often when you have a difficult passenger that by all rights needs to be told. And you want to tell them in a way that is just put them in their place, but instead doing it professionally and it's never worth it. And so I think of it often and the few times when I've been tempted or I have been a little snarky or a little I've always regretted it. And so that's something that I really appreciate when dealing with a difficult, difficult passenger. But I feel like it's rare for me to have a trip even 10 years after I went to mind for me to have a trip that not once or twice during that trip. Do I hear somebody's voice in the back of my head? Either giving me a tip or being like, it's not worth it? Don't you know, it's whose problem is it? If it's yours picks it if it's if it's theirs, you know, let it go. So, there's so many things.
I love that those are both really good. I forgot about those. They're excellent. So other than I know that obviously getting a job was is usually the number one thing that people will come out of right, they want some return on their investment. Was there anything else that you said Okay, once I have this, Was there another goal that you had in mind? Was there something else that you that you wanted past just getting that position?
I think I was still at the place. I when I graduated college. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. And so I switched several different jobs. I never considered any of the jobs that I took like, Oh, this is what I want to do as a career. It's just like this is what I want to do right now. And honestly, that's still my mentality right now. Like I feel that even as a tour director, even though I absolutely love my job, I love every part of it. I I like to kind of hold Things loosely because I don't want to then be that person, that tour director or that teacher or that whoever, who clearly is past enjoying their job, like, they're still just doing it because it's like, this is my career and you're like, Oh, please stop your career. So I kind of want to hold that that loosely. So for me, it wasn't a big deal to, to shift into into tour directing. And I wanted to go all in, like I knew from talking to different alumni and, and talking with the staff, that it was like, I need to go all in, if this works, awesome. If it doesn't work, I'll just pivot and do something else. I was fortunate at a place in my life, I didn't have people depending on me. And so while financially, I did put the class on credit card. So finances were were tight at that time. But I didn't have people depending on me. So it's like, I can also risk kind of going all in for this, this new venture. And I tried to intentionally not have too many kind of dreams or expectations, like, Oh, I want to go here. And you know, some people are like, in six months, I want to be doing this in 12 months want to be doing this. And because I talked to so many people that that took so many years to do something or or never got international or did this. But the one kind of bought back in my head dream was when Joanne was talking about her dream of wanting to go to Africa and do a hot air balloon ride. And she told the story about a spider that kept her was gonna keep her from doing that and representing anyway, it's a great story. But he was telling that story. I was like, Egypt is my place like if if I can choose Egypt is where I want to, to go and lead a tour. And about three years ago, I got to take a tour or lead a tour to Egypt. And I had a local guide. So I didn't, I was more on the babysitting end. But I kind of checked off that, in the back of my mind dream of wanting. But I I didn't have any specific expectations. I wanted to be able to go right into over the road tours, but I was willing to try the meet and greets and try to get into the industry. And and there's other things.
So kind of fast forward today. And I love that Egypt have kind of your you know, your aha place? What kind of what does it mean to you to be able to go to those places not only get paid to work and travel and go to them, but you also take during your downtime. You. You also do personal travel and exploration, what does it mean to you to have a career that allows you to be, you know, to pay the bills, and see the world and then carve out time for you to do whatever it is that you want to do.
I think to me once I got into the class, because before I had had a kind of general idea of what you know, a few alumni were doing as far as how their schedule was. But once I was in the class and started to hear what other tour directors did, there was one of my classmates who she was already in the tourism industry, she was already a tour guide, but just wanted to take it to the next level and go to ITMI. But she would spend her winters in this little tiny town in Mexico, she actually ran the airport, there were I think it was either one or two planes that came in a week. So is this grass runway, she basically just hung out in a hut drinking for years, and just had to, you know, walk over to bring in a plane twice a week. And she did that in the winter. And then she did tour directing the rest of the year. And when I heard that I was like that is what I want like to have a downtime. Because that's what I loved about school where you're like, you work really hard. And then you have this big break and you have so that flexibility is what I really wanted. And so having a job that allows me to have that flexibility, even though I worked for a company full time. I've worked it out with them and saying, Hey, this is a slower time. Each year, I'm going to take this off, I promise to work this amount of days during this time. So I have scheduled time off each year. And not only psychologically does that help, but it's just amazing to then be able to, to travel and, and are like you said do whatever I want.
Let's pretend this not COVID but take me through a what has been kind of a year of domestic versus international tours and then kind of what is that amount of chunks of time that you take for yourself and where do you go or what do you do?
So for the past several years, it has been I would do January off, and then I would generally do June off. And spring and fall are the busiest times. Spring I have student tours and then a few years ago tours. And then and summer I have more of the family tours. And then the Fall is senior tours. And I'll do one or two international tours in there and do a couple of cruises, as well. So generally, within a year's time, I'll do between three to six international tours. And then the rest is in the US or Canada. And then I'll do one or two cruises and student tours, I probably, I probably do about two months worth of student tours, and the rest are mainly senior citizens. It's not necessarily build a senior citizens, they're just the ones that have the money and the time to do it. And but starting last year, I decided and this goes on from this point forward, I take january, february off, and June, July off, so I take four months off each year. And that means that I work more, I have less time in between tours, only a few days between tours. But it then allows me to do do more travel and spend more time with family. And the reason that I did that, and the way that I pitched it to the company was that I want to be sustainable. Like I know from past jobs that I've had that I have burnt myself out. And sometimes I burnt myself out doing something I didn't like. But more often than not, I burnt myself out doing something I loved. Like when I was a Production Director that all that creativity, I would just be up until like three in the morning be like I can we can redo this and the lights can do this. And the backdrop can do this. And so it was all stuff I love to do. But over time, it got to the point where you just wake up one morning, you're like, I don't like anymore, I can't, can't do it. And to quote a friend of mine who transitioned from tour director to working for a tour operator, he said, I can't laugh at the passengers jokes anymore. Like I can't, I've heard it 100 times. I can't they're not funny anymore, like the grading and they're. And so we had that moment of just waking up and being like, I'm just done. So for me the sustainability of then being away. And I'm an introvert. So that's important to me to have this time to myself, give me a microphone, and I can talk to as many people as you need. But it without a microphone without a role, I'm just kind of hiding in the corner, or more likely hitting the snack bar and then leaving the party. So for me, I realized that that time is really is really necessary. And the flexibility was a draw for the job and is one of the reasons that I keep doing.
One of the things that I love about this career in this industry is like you were saying, you can go from tour directing to working inside for tour operator, or you could switch to local guiding, you could work in incentives. And if you wanted to go back to tour directing, it's applauded, encouraged. And all of that is great. You got to not only are you a tour director, but now you're a tour director who has the benefit of experience of being inside, you know, the office and everything. Does that resonate with you? Do you feel like that? And that's true.
Absolutely. that's, to me, that was one of the really kind of aha moments of the course I'd already seen it in in writing, but to have that class where it's just listed, like, these are all the options in the industry. And so to even be like, Oh, I'm not super interested in that. But just to know that that's something that I can pivot to if I need to or move. And the flexibility within the industry, like you said to just switch back and forth in roles is something that I loved hearing about, but then I've just seen being on the road. I mean, it's just amazing how quickly people flip flops. Like what you were just in the office, well, I'm back out, this is a better fit, you know, and, and the companies seem to encourage that because it does, like I said, it brings that, like you said, brings the experience into the office, even if they're only there for a couple months. It brings them back in like y'all are doing it this way. But on the road, we keep switching it. So I love that in the community itself is such a kind of inner woven community of where you would think like, yes, there's tour operators that compete with each other for customers because their businesses, but as far as tour directors and people going back and forth, like we just saw all and that all in it together. And especially seeing that during COVID of just companies helping each other out and and all of that. But to me that was a huge deal that you're like okay, well it's not like your traditional lot of traditional fields were like you need to pick your path and go on it because you can't go in any other direction or people will think that you are failing at that or your back and forth. So
Tell me a little bit more about what the ITMI community has, has meant to your or how it's either supported you or let me know what that has kind of done for you personally and professionally.
Absolutely. The ITMI community, to me is one of the biggest selling points of being a part of the family because it's not just the moral support of camaraderie like every industry has that where you get a bunch of teachers together, they can understand each other, they can commiserate are a bunch of scientists, all those, there's, there's that natural. That happens in any industry, but within the ITMI family, like it's just, it's just an unbelievable community of people helping one another. And so much so that when I, when I started working full time, I again started off financially, not an amazing place. So when symposium came around, and like, Oh, I can't afford to do that. And I already have a full time job. So I'm not going to go to symposium. And so the first years I didn't go, but running into ITMI alumni on the road reminded me of like, Oh, I missed this, like I miss the camaraderie I miss, even out on the road, like you'll spot somebody that has a ITMI person and they you know, you can run up to them and be like, quick help me, I'm forgetting which way to this memorial, or I'm blanking on what is the year of this war. And just the helpfulness. So when I did come back to a symposium, I didn't need a job, I already had a full time job at that point for years and had that set as long as I wanted it. But I came just for the community part of it. And that's where I I kept coming for and so still come to symposium for the community of it. And the, as I said, it's not just the encouragement, which of course, is very much needed. But it's helpfulness. And this is one of those industries that people not in the industry don't understand you. And there's several industries like that. But it's really important to have people that understand you, because anyone else in your family, if you complain, like if you just got back from the Bahamas, and you had a difficult group, and it was really hard on you or you had difficulties, all they're hearing is you're whining about going to the Bahamas, you know, and I'm stuck in this cubicle, and you get that all the time. Like you're not, you're genuinely just trying to talk about your job, like anyone would be like, Oh, I'm having trouble with this office worker. But when we kind of complain or vent or want help, people are just like, oh, suck it up here, you just got back from France. So having people that understand makes a huge, huge difference. And knowing that with the ITMI family, not only the staff are there for you at any point, but anyone that's part of the ITMI family, it's just one of the happiest things when you're out on the road and you see somebody and can can flag them down and even just for a minute or even just understanding way back and forth, makes your day better.
So you mentioned kind of, you know, the the staff, so we both know, you know, your kind of approach tkc because I've seen who you were, how you were showing up it, you know, all of the events, were kind of interested in you seen if you wanted to give back and teach. How have you been enjoying teaching? And what does it meant to you to be in that role now?
I think I remember in my exit interview with Ted. One of the things that he said to me is he said and I look forward to sometime you coming back and teaching for us. And at first I was like I was so honored. And then as I was walking out I was like I wonder if he just says that like is a motivational thing. Like Am I gonna talk to the other ones and everyone's like Yeah, he's so it was always because of that it was in the back of my mind. I do I love teaching I love helping people get to where they want to be and get the practical skills and and all that so I've always enjoyed teaching. And so when I was first approached about it, I I liked the idea of it but I was like I don't know how that will really fit in. But now that I have done it a little bit I yeah, I really enjoy. I love the same reason I love tour directing, you have a variety of people and different areas and walks of life coming for different reasons. Whether they're needing this job or they're just wanting it or just so many reasons and the unique perspectives that each person brings to tour directing is, is what I love about our industry. You could take the same exact itinerary from 50 different people in a row and completely different experience, all of them could be great, they could be all excellent. But all of them because of what they bring to the table, if they are using their personality, using their gifts, all of those things, not just giving fats which a computer could do, you could have a totally different experience. And so that's what I love about teaching is, as you are teaching people, you can see, hey, this person is going to bring this to the table, how can I help bring that out of them, and give them the confidence to do that. Because for me, the first person that I went out on the tour with that my company was a perfect fit. For me, her personality was very much like my personality is. And so I got to see that personality spotlight of like, Oh, I can do that, I can say that I can be goofy like that, but also still be professional, I can transition back and forth in these roles. So I think to me, that's my greatest joy in teaching is helping people find what is the best director for me to to be and how can I get there beyond just the practical things, but my personality taking on this role?
I know you haven't been teaching for a long time. So it's okay, if the answer is no. Or if you can't think of anything, was there any just a special moments teaching that you had, like with one of the students or something that was like, Oh, this is exactly why I do this, this is just an amazing interaction, or, you know, you help them overcome something.
I think, since I've mainly done more technology stuff, when there's someone that you know, has really been struggling with something. And for somebody who is comfortable with technology, it's not that that big a deal of like, Okay, I'm just going to show you this is manually how you do this, and this pops up. But for someone that maybe just because of their experiences in life, or just having no technology experience, I had several people and a customer like I would love to do this, I'm a creative person. So I have the photos I have, I can make the presentations, I want to use them. That's a gifting of mine. But if I can't get them onto the coach screen, if I can't find a way to get them emailed or text to the passengers, basically, I can't use this, this resource that I'm good at, and I have a gift. And so I think there were several that staying after class to work with them. So it's like, Okay, well, this No, that that plug, look inside it that won't go in here like this needs to go here, this is what you need to do on your computer. And for the people that manually, they just have to do it themselves. They can't hear you say it, they can't look at a picture like they, they need that. And they just have that moment where they're like I can do this, like this just opened up my, my world of being able to communicate much more thoroughly. By using technology. I think I had several of those moments.
I love that because Yeah, sometimes it is just something really simple. Right? It just completely opened their whole world. That Do you and I would imagine you probably get approached every once in a while by maybe a passenger or someone who says Oh, I know someone who does this, you know, cosy cases like someone's third cousin or something, if someone approaches are purchasing or when they approached you, is there any advice that you give to them when they say, hey, this looks like a really interesting career? What do you tend to tell them
I get I get that a good bit of people that are are interested and I kind of it's it's come down to since I get it so often I kind of have a three step process that I go through with him. So the first thing is I gauge how serious they are. Because sometimes you just have somebody who is basically just telling you, you have a cool job. And you'll launch into this whole whole commercial for the industry and they're just gonna like you just had a cool job. So kind of to gauge their their interest of whether this is something they're serious about or something they just think would be cool. And mentally if they pass that, like they're serious test, the first step. The second is I say, hey, well, if you would mind, I would love to kind of pull back the curtain and let you see behind the scenes of of what it is to be a tour director. Because part of our job is to not let our guests see that we're working. So they think we're having just as much fun as they are so that it doesn't stress them out of all we're doing are all despondency stuff. And so if if they're fine with that, I basically walk them through a day, an average day in the life, how long it is the work that the challenges that you face, just on average, not things to scare them, but just be like, Hey, this is what you need to deal with on your given day. And then at that point, I would say about another third of them are kind of like ooh, so you you really, Okay, nevermind, I'm not interested. But if they pass that test, then the next one The third thing is to gauge who they are say okay, well tell me about you why you think you would be a good fit. And this is where I'm kind of filling what I needed for it. saying like, okay, yeah, actually, oh my goodness, you were a teacher, this is exactly a teacher, your organizer, you were this. And then at that point, if they've kind of passed those tests or interested through all of those, then I will, you know, direct them to ITMI or offer to talk to them more. Because I found that kind of going through that process. A lot of times, I'll finish like a 45 minute conversation by me saying, it sounds like you just want to travel, which is awesome. And that's great. But it doesn't sound like you want to actually do this. But for those that do go all the way through, they have a better understanding of, of actually what's involved. And they see how they could actually do it. And they're ready to, to take that that next next step. And then if they're at that point, I have hours of advice to give them.
Is there like one of those like pieces of advice that you're like, Oh, this one always floats to the top?
I think to me, is focusing on your passengers perspective, like seeing the trip through their eyes. Oftentimes, as as a tour guide, like we were seeing the bigger picture, and we're seeing what we want to put in and what we would like, which is all good stuff. But if you're not seeing it through the passengers eyes, you can completely lose them or overwhelm them. I'll never forget once I had a tour, we were going through the Grand Tetons, and I had just done a tour through there. And I was like, oh, my goodness, I mean, I just have some perfect music for this. And it just unveiling and it's great. And I just have some great things to say. And so I had this great little program for the revealing. And then as we're going through, and I just I was so impressed with myself afterwards. And this, this sweet, sweet older woman came up to me afterwards and she was very sweet about it. But she was like, Casey, that was my first time seeing the Tetons. And, and honestly, I would have loved to just been able just to see them like just to have that moment just to see him not the music and not the the other stuff. And she goes, I love the music. And I loved what you did. But I just needed a minute just to this is for to be there. And it was super sweet. And that's exactly what I needed to hear. Because from her perspective, yeah, my music was awesome. The stuff was it was awesome. But literally, this is her experience in the Grand Tetons for the first time, she needs to literally just sit there and all experience them. So I think, to me, that's something that I try to think about where the passengers in that moment, like yes, I want to give them all this information. But right now they're just paranoid. They're gonna lose their passport because we just went through passport controller right now they're in this. So constantly circling back to what is it the passengers are experiencing in this moment and meet them, they're not forced them to be where I want them so that I can do this amazing thing and blow their minds.
I think that is fantastic, thoughtful advice, because they do probably they're confronted with a lot of new it can be overstimulated, especially when we talk about like I always, I'm an extreme introvert as well. And we probably talked about that before that. Yeah, especially for the introverts. We need time to process. Right, the extroverts are probably like a bring on. Is there no confetti cannon? But it's true. Sometimes. Yeah, they need a moment to process. This is a big deal. It's a big deal. And you just went to the Tetons seven days ago. And not that it's not cool. It's a, but they've never been, and they've been thinking about this for 40 years. Yeah. Yeah. Excellent advice. I love that. So speaking of some fantastic stories, are there is there a story or two of just total joy moments that you had on tour, whether it's students or adults?
I think one that, that comes to mind, I had a, I think it was 92 years old. Gentlemen, doing a tour to Israel and Jordan. And he, he talked about the first day on demand that he his whole life, he wanted to go there and his whole life, he wanted to go to the River Jordan, he wanted to be baptized in the Jordan. And so when we got there, and he went in and went into the water, and when he came out this again, picture of a 92 year old man, fairly, fairly frail. And when he came up out of the water, he just threw his fist up and just let out this yell that I have of sheer joy and delight. And still to this day, it makes me tear up this is probably like seven years ago. have just literally his whole life that he can remember this has been something he's wanted to do so to be able to make that happen for him. was, was amazing. And just to see that delight, and I think, for me, the oftentimes the the kind of moments of joy are the unexpected ones. I will do a few school groups with under resourced schools. And so oftentimes, even if they're in the 10th and 11th grade, they haven't crossed state lines before. So for them, it's a big deal to just cross the state line. And even though we were just four hours away from DC, the parents on the tour had never been to DC. So it was a big deal for them as well, to have a 10th grader ask you what a buffet is because you said you're gonna have a buffet or they're right on an elevator for the first time. So to have those people that are so appreciative, and to be able to give them an experience that, for most people is not a big deal. It's not a big experience. And then the third thing that comes to mind and kind of thinking of unexpected joy is this happened probably about eight years ago. I was it was my first trip in Alaska. And we were going up actually through Canada at this time through the Yukon Territory, and the bus broke down. And we were three hours outside of a town that could get a bus to us. And so fortunately, where we broke off, there was a pit toilet. But that was it. I mean, it is just tundra. And so the driver and I are out. And fortunately, we had cell reception. So we're making as many calls as we can, but it's three hours before we can get any help. And so I looked to the driver whose name is Bryce, and I was like, Okay, well, we need to do something for the people. I was like, What can we do? And he said, Well, I have my hiking stuff in the the coach because I do you know, hiking when you're off doing stuff, I can walk them through the hiking, I can show them berries, I can show them stuff. And I was like, Okay, I said, Well, I can do some commentary, I can do some stories. And so we're like, Okay, well, we're gonna do the Bryce and Casey show. And I was like, you have 45, we broke down all the things that we could do in this setting. And you know, do a hike here, go to the water, talk about animals. And so I was like, okay, you'll take the first 45 minutes, I'll take the same 45 minutes. So for three hours, we went back and forth. And 75% of the people stayed with us, they had the option to just sit on the couch or stand outside if they wanted. But they just follow the rice in case you show he was done, he would pass them off to me, I would take over for a bit. And then we passed back and forth. While one was working. The other was frantically scrambling for what they could do for the next thing. Well, fast forward eight years, just last year, I had a gentleman on a tour. And he looked familiar, but I couldn't think what tour was on he said, I went to Alaska with you. And I had been to Alaska many times since. And so I didn't know which one and he said, you know what my highlight of Alaska, the entire Alaska tour was and he said, and this is serious. I said, Oh, yeah, tell me what was it he said it was the Bryson Casey show. He said, my wife and I talk about that all the time. You know, eight years ago, we still talk about that all that we learned and we got to just be in nature. And we got to say this experience that pretty much would have been a horrific experience. I mean, it's the quintessential nightmare of any tours to be like, I paid all this money to be broke down on the side of the road for three hours in the heat of summer, but instead turned out to be the highlight of of the of the tour forum. So those moments are are very special to me.
I love those. What does it What does it mean to you to know that you have been from gentlemen? And you can have the Jordan River and all that? What does it mean to to know that you're the bridge that gets people to these, these dreams? Or? Or you said even the unexpected? The you didn't know that eight years later, they talk about that all the time? What does it mean to you to be able to make that happen for people?
I am I'm constantly surprised by how impactful things are to people. And oftentimes and this is true in life in general. It's not the things that you plan like you've worked so hard on this, this talk to make it right and and backfill and all this and then what they remember is just your kindness and in doing this one thing to them, or a personal story, you told that somebody traveled with you 10 years ago, and they come back and like I remember your pet pig Wilbur and you're like, oh my goodness, you remember that. And but it is just amazing. I think when people are on holiday, they are just much more open to things. And so they're ready to receive because they are wanting it to be amazing experience. They're wanting to receive the science. They're wanting to see things. They're wanting to learn new cultures, they're wanting to immerse themselves. And because of that, they're also as a person much more open. And so those little things that you do, whether you are doing them intentionally or they're just part of innately who you are impact people on a much deeper level. And so you'll have at the end of tours, people coming up to you, hug you and just start crying. And on a tour not that long ago, I had a woman who, you know, you're just saying goodbye to everyone. And she as she came up, she just started to tear up. And she just said, you won't know what you meant to me. The things you said and just started crying as she walked away. Now, no context, I have no idea what I said it, but she didn't say you don't know what this trip mean. She said what you said meant to me. So you just never know, the impact. I had a student to tell their story from toward the very beginning. So 10 years ago, was actually a teacher now and bringing their students on a tour. So that was kind of crazy. But what they remembered was the fact that I was walking with a group of students, apparently, I don't remember this situation. And there was trash on the ground by one of the memorials in DC, and I just picked it up and throw it in a trash can. And one of the kids said, Why did you pick that up? And I said, Well, why is the trash on the ground? And I said, well, somebody threw it there. I said, No, the trash is on the ground, because nobody picked it up. And that just blew that kid's mind. And he said, You know what, not only do I remember that, he said, but I pick up trash everywhere I go. And every time I see if he's trash, I think of you, which doesn't sound sweet to say, I think if you want to see trash, but those again, offhand moments that were just this amazing, teachable moment to this kid of being like, wait, that's true, like, yeah, somebody throw it down, but I can pick it up and throw it away and make it clean. So yeah, that that always blows my mind. You just never know how you're going to impact people. And you are in a leadership role that they are in trusting themselves to I once had a a three star general on one of my tours. And I didn't know until the end that he was because somebody else said Do you realize who you know who that is? retired and, and he wrote me the kind of handwritten note about the leadership skills he saw in me and how he appreciated following my leadership. And just recognizing because he recognized like, Hey, you are in this now again, my impact, very different impact. But he recognized like, hey, when I'm with you, I am following your orders. And I am part of that. And so that was kind of a mind blowing moment there to realize the the duty we have that it's it's not just you want to make sure they get their ice cream and, and see Mount Rushmore. It's It's It's on a deeper level than that.
That wouldn't be intimidating, you know?
Well, it's like when I had a senator, one of my first trips to Washington, DC, I had a senator on board with his grandkid. I was like, we're pulling up to the Capitol and the teacher leans over, bless her heart. I don't know why she did that. She
was like, Oh, you may want
to highlight senator so and so he's in the in the back there. I was, like I'm about to explain the process. But he ended up being very nice and cool about it. But
you know, this is an office right now, you might have given them like, Oh, I didn't know that. You mean, I didn't do that?
I just didn't. Right. Are there any kind of we'll just wrap it up this last couple of questions. Are there any fun perks that you love of the job, and anything that you're like, I would have never thought that this would be a perk of the job?
Well, I think the community to me is, is one of the biggest, biggest perks of the job, not just within the ITMI family, but just the the tourism industry as a whole the ability to just help one another out. And just the willingness of 98% of the industry that you see somebody with a flag, you know, they're going to be they're going to help you and the amount of times that somebody another tour guide has come up to me and done the kind of classic don't point but please tell me where the bathrooms are or which way to Lincoln Memorial in the times that I have done that as well of going up and asking for help. And I think the the impact that you have on people I didn't anticipate the impact on even just little little tours, you'll do a tour that to you is nothing and it's something you just have to do because you need to make money and it's a life changing something for for that person. So I think that's a, a, a big, a big perk of it that I didn't I recognize it but I didn't realize how big of a of a deal that it was was to people and how how life changing those those moments can can be.
Is there anything else maybe it's a question that I didn't ask or something you wanted to expand upon or something. Is there any kind of last? Something you want to just share about your story or share about the industry or share about your directing? Before we close it?
Not that I can think of.
That's totally fine because I asked you a whole bunch. Thank you for letting me rabbit hole. Mirror okay. Say Casey, thank you. This
has been amazing. You are welcome. I've enjoyed it.
Super, super fantastic. I'm going to hit the stop record. Because he asked was listening now we can talk about it. I'm just kidding.