Travel Confessions: Busabout Europe guide Mickey Mann
Ever wondered what life on the road is really like for a Busabout Europe tour guide? Is it as sweet a deal as it looks, or is there a downside to travelling through Europe for 8 months of the year? Nah, of course there isn't! To get the lowdown on all the onboard shenanigans and the best places to party, we quizzed Busabout Guide Mickey Mann about everything from bus etiquette and crazy moments on tour to the best food spots and must-see European locales.
Where is home for you?
I come from sunny Perth in Western Australia.
How did you become a tour guide?
I had a mid-20s crisis! Back in 2011 I was working in a very corporate sales job for Australia’s biggest liquor company. The job came with it all; it had the company car, the company phone, more free liquor than you could poke a stick at and a pretty impressive salary for someone my age. With all that, anyone would have thought I had it made but travelling was waiting in the wings to show me that there is more to life than just that!
How did you end up working for Busabout?
In 2011, I went travelling on extended leave for 3 months and was a passenger with Busabout on the Hop-On Hop-Off coach network. It didn’t cross my mind once that being a tour guide would be a potential job for me - I was having way too much fun working my way independently around Europe on Busabout to even think about other career options! It was when I returned home to Perth later that year that something just wasn’t right - everything had changed. The job that I loved, the job that I previously thought had it all, just didn’t cut it anymore. So with the blessings and support of my family, friends and travellers I had met in that year, I threw caution to the wind, left my sales job and applied for Busabout. Today, it is still the toughest job I have ever applied for but has proven to be the most challenging and rewarding thing I have ever done with my life.
How many countries have you travelled to in total?
I am pretty sure it’s 25 in total…and counting! Most of them are European countries, so this year I am hoping to expand that to a continent I have never been to.
If you had to choose, which destinations would be in your top 3?
1. Santorini, Greece - Everyone in the world MUST visit here at least once in their life! Melting sunsets, cascading towns, ancient history and views to die for everywhere you look. It is the most stunning place in the world.
2. Rome, Italy - One of the centres of ancient civilisation and all things Italian, there is so much to do here - both touristy and not-so touristy. My number-one favourite thing to do here is the Italian experience of la passegiata - the art of slow walking to relax! In summer once the sun starts to set, do as the locals do and have done for centuries, grab a friend, maybe a gelato, and go for a casual stroll around some of the world’s most historic sights to discuss your day’s events.
3. Galway, Ireland- I am still trying to fall in love with a Galway girl! Ireland's culture capital, Galway is a beautiful student town that I never tire of going back to. It is the best place to experience real Irish nightlife how the locals do it!
Do you do the same itinerary each season or mix it up?
I specialise in the Greek Island Hopper trip so I am usually out in the Greek Islands for most of the summer, but I am also lucky enough to have worked the Ibiza tours and trained for the Hop-On Hop-Off Network and some festival tours.
What's your favourite tour/loop/itinerary to lead?
The Greek Island Hopper is my favourite tour to lead. The South Loop [13 destinations in France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Italy] is my hands-down favourite loop on the Busabout network. I have always been a lover of all things Italian!
Best part of your job?
Being the one who holds the responsibility to make a positive impact on our passengers' holidays and sharing in their experiences as they have them. I also just love living and working in Europe. This job changed my life - it gives me an incredible energy that I just can’t get anywhere else.
And the worst part?
Getting a hungover group of 40 to 50 people motivated to board a 6-hour ferry at 6am has its challenges.
What does a typical day on tour entail for you?
As an example - Day 1 of Greek Island Hopper
5:30am: In the hostel reception ready to go. Meet the passengers and issue ferry tickets, which I’ve usually been up 'til midnight the night before organising!
7:30am: A 6-hour ferry to Mykonos in which I have the mammoth job of collecting, sorting and emailing the accommodation information for the next week of 40 to 50 clients to the suppliers and other guides plus organising the evening's activities.
2pm: Check everyone in to hotel, send off more emails, write up forms and paperwork, fill in reports.
5pm: Meet group and introduce them to Paradise Beach in Mykonos and give them a little fun story of Greek mythology. 6pm: We hit the town where I guide the group on an orientation walk, show them the sights, and take them to dinner. 9pm: The orientation walk continues into the wee hours of the morning when we embark on a 3-bar pub crawl for some first-night shenanigans, which usually go until 4am.
All along I have to remind myself how I still need to be up at breakfast at 8am the next day to meet any not-so hungover guests who might need directions!
How often are you away from home?
I haven’t seen a full winter in 4 years! I usually leave Perth in April and return in November or December because I must have Christmas at home.
Best European city for drinking and nightlife?
I really think that the best night out in Europe is in Ios, Greece. The prices are good and it’s such a casual and fun yet supercharged vibe every night. All the bars are small and unique so you can easily dance the night away in multiple venues. If you come on my tour, I will take you on a 6-stop bar crawl that doesn’t start until midnight! This is the best alternative to all the other party islands out there.
The best city for nightlife that I have experienced on our Hop-On Hop-Off network is Berlin. It’s not going to be a cheap night out but if you love clubbing, this place has some of the world’s best. The German capital plays host to a huge and diverse club scene, whatever your tastes are. Electro, house, drum and bass, indie, alternative - the music scene here will leave you begging for more! My favourite club is Watergate - don’t go before 2am and don’t expect to leave 'til at least 9am!
Best European spot for food?
Craziest moment on tour?
Every moment is a little bit crazy, but one time I was waiting at the port in Santorini with my group of 30 passengers giving them a speech on what to expect from the next island we were visiting and while I was talking, I got tapped on my shoulder only to turn around and see that it was my high school teacher, who recognised me. It was so unexpected and just a little bit embarrassing for it to happen in front of my group. I told them this was the guy who used to give me detention and he said I probably deserved it and then asked me for directions to the ticket office!
What bus etiquette should travellers follow?
APPRECIATE! This is a word I keep yelling at all my groups when on tour. I like to tell them that they have come all this way to see Europe in all its glory, so put your iPhone down, stop tweeting your mum what you had for breakfast, don’t spend 3 hours working out what Instagram setting looks best, and just STOP, BREATH, LIVE in the moment and APPRECIATE!
What is your best advice for fellow travellers?
Be daring and be different when you travel. Be adventurous, try to taste every local food and dance every local dance. Become the person you have always wanted to be because life is more exciting when you discover the alternative!