In May, EcoTeach guides traveled to Nicaragua as part of EcoTeach’s annual guide training. They visited an orphanage, toured the old colonial town of Granada, boated in Lake Nicaragua, dined out in the city, visited a museum and even went volcano boarding. The tour, provided by a local Nicaraguan guiding company, had the cultural exchange and hands-on experiences anticipated by the guides.
What they didn’t anticipate was the disorganization, poor communication and unplanned meals – all strategically planned by EcoTeach Operations Manager, Pika Viquez. Viquez incorporated “planned chaos” into the trip to see how the guides would react. He orchestrated changes in the day’s itinerary without telling them, asked the local guiding company to show up late for activities and “forgot” to coordinate meals with the restaurants.
Viquez’s goal was to recreate many of the feelings and experiences that any traveler encounters when visiting a new place. “Our guides are used to being in control and knowing exactly what to expect. We wanted to take away their security and see how they would respond to the unexpected. We shared stories each evening and everyone agreed it was an amazing experience. They laughed hysterically when they found out that we planned a few problems along the way,” said Viquez.
During the expedition, EcoTeach guides also participated in “real life experiences,” a practice developed by Viquez, to encourage each guide to create his or her own connection with Nicaragua and the Nicaraguan people. They chatted with local people on a ferry ride, tried their hand at horse corralling at a local farm and worked with artisans at a ceramic studio. “Real life experiences are an integral part of any EcoTeach expedition and we wanted our guides to have the experience of being a traveler instead of a guide,” said Viquez.
EcoTeach guide training is an annual event attended by EcoTeach guides, staff and partners. Viquez has been running guide training for the past three years and focuses the training on continuing education, site visits, safety and fun and adventure.