It’s hard to believe that still less than ten years ago we didn’t have a whole lot of options when it came to affordable peer-to-peer collaboration: the people you were collaborating with needed to be close in proximity, or, you needed a budget to make a trip to meet with them.
And while there is definitely a strong case for networking and collaborating face-to-face (in-person events are on the rise!) let’s say you live in Costa Rica, as a tour guide, and your peers are spread across 50,000 kilometres of tropical rain forest.
How would a team of tour guides and scientists collaborate, interact and share industry specific information then?
Socially, of course.
Meet Olga. Olga Sàenz is a 26 year veteran tour guide in Costa Rica whose goal is to connect all tour guides using social media and her Paper.li, El Yerbario. Olga is an adventurer, single mother of five, amateur writer, University professor, web designer and proud Costa Rican, set on educating tourists about the beauty and biodiversity of her country.
Olga started her Paper.li, to monitor her blog Yerbas! and other social feeds in order to deliver all the necessary news -from closed roads to new discoveries – fresh to jungle guides across the country.
In case you were wondering…
“Yerbas” means “herbs” in Spanish and, “yerbario” would be a collection of plants, a herbarium -hence why on”El Yerbario” paper, you will find all news about the forest, new species, biodiversity…
Tell us about Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is a relatively small country (50,100 Km2) and it holds 5% of the planet’s biodiversity, several different ecosystems and more than one hundred volcanoes. All these characteristics make this country a very exotic, luscious and beautiful area to travel through. It allows you to see the sunrise on the Caribbean and drive by gorgeous areas to see the sunset on the Pacific. With less than 5 million people and having abolished the army since 1948, it is also one of the most advanced countries in Latin America in terms of investment, social security and progress.
However, tour guides find it difficult to to collaborate with peers and stay informed.
Describe a tour guide’s “everyday life” in Costa Rica?
365 days can be extremely different one day to the other. One day you wake up seeing an active volcano from your window, the next day howler monkeys are surrounding your room… and the next, you are at a beach resort waiting for the passengers to go sailing and snorkeling… Any day in the life of a tour guide in Costa Rica can be as wonderful and amazing as that.
Or, it can be quite difficult and not because of conditioning or issues due to terrain, but on a much more basic and human level. For example, one time a woman became very ill and I spent the entire night comforting her. Keep in mind that this is a person I didn’t know and the next day I needed to be at my best for the rest of the group. Or also, you may have to deal with a traveler who thinks he is going to a five star hotel when he suddenly finds himself extremely unhappy at a jungle lodge with no amenities. It sounds crazy, but it happens and it can be an awkward situation for the entire group.
But perhaps more than anything, each day as a tour guide is rewarding a rewarding experience. It is incredibly rewarding to provide information that give people new perspectives on life and allow them to experience a country’s culture through its nature.
I love to see the change in people’s faces when I tell them about my country – about nature and cultural aspects (we are an extremely peace driven culture). I have witnessed people crying when they see the monkeys or a volcano for the first time. Day in and day out it is never the same and I have the feeling that we, tour guides, truly change lives through what we do. And knowing that, makes the most difficult situations absolutely worth it.
How do you use Paper.li to maintain tour guides informed?
In the jungle it can take days until we see our desktop or laptop computers, but staying in touch with what is relevant to us and our tour groups is essential. We have our mobile phones, but accessing information needs to be easy. We don’t have time to spend an hour each day monitoring different sources.
That’s where Paper.li comes in. We have set up our paper, El Yerbario, as a digital magazine that covers all the topics that a tour guide in Costa Rica may need.
In my specific case, I use it to monitor my blog, Yerbas! where multiple authors write articles, as well as add the latest scientific publications. We can easily aggregate all of the information into one site, our “El Yerbario” Paper.li.
We have to read a lot to keep up with scientific discoveries, the most important organizations in terms of biodiversity as well as anything local and regional that may affect our planned trips. Not all tour guides have the time to do the research and having it all together in one place makes it so much easier.
With Paper.li, we have the freedom of not needing to monitor multiple sites any longer which during high season will be an especially important tool for us as our time is even more limited.
Aside from Paperli, I rely on Facebook and Twitter to enhance our relationships and make contact with other tour guides. Social Media has made it possible for us to be so much closer.
Curate feeds and sources to monitor industry news!
If you have a blog and industry related sources and feeds you or your team check daily, consider curating them into a Paper.li as an easy way to stay abreast of industry news.
Not sure how to get started? Leave a comment here or tweets us @smallrivers and we’d gladly help you out with best practices.
Cover photo: El Yerbario reader, Mónica Leal