As part of my series on Travel Guides/Leaders, I shot Tom Anger in San Francisco.
I had the opportunity for a short Q & A about Tom's move into leading small group adventures full-time, his work in radio and some of his travel plans.......
We shot Tom on a beautiful afternoon in Potrero Hill, with a D3, compact 600 Profoto, white beauty dish, couple reflectors and a Profoto BatPac...
Where are you from originally, and what did you study?
I grew up east of San Francisco in Hayward, CA. I wanted to eventually study film so I started taking TV broadcasting classes at my local high school with ashtrays, AKA community college.
I hear you were in Radio, for a while, How did that come about, and what was your motivation?
Yeah, I was involved with radio for about 11 years. One of my broadcasting classes was in the same room as the campus radio station. They played absolute crap like Hanson and I was a huge music fan, couldn't let that happen anymore. Ended up programming the music at that station and doing some cool things with it. That grabbed the attention of some folks at Live 105 so they threw me on air nights & weekends. Got to work as a local producer for Stern and Loveline while there as well.
How did you come to transition to leading adventure trips, and how long have you been guiding now?
Just wrapped up my 5th season guiding. I think I'm a lifer now. I was always traveling for at least 2 months of the year. Started out just hitting music festivals around the world, then taking tours. I knew I had to figure out how to stay in that lifestyle. After looking at tourism job postings for 3 years I finally did something about it and gave my notice to CBS. I spent all my own money traveling, that was the time to figure out a way to start making money while doing it.
Where are some of the places you've traveled that made an impression on you, and where do you hope to get to next?
I just bought tickets to Australia & Japan in time for New Years. I never had much interest in Asia but finally made it out to the Southeast 2 years ago. The affordability of food, accommodation & flights really make it easy to feel completely free and do what you want when you want. I woke up some mornings not knowing what country I was going to end up in later that day.
Peru also pulled me in, I spent a couple more weeks there then I had planed. It has such a varied terrain. You have beaches, mountains sand dunes, jungles and a whole lot of history to explore there.
Have you always been pulled by the 'road', or did you make a lifestyle decision, and why?
I had overprotective parents so I think travel was my escape from that when I became an adult. I grew up in front of the TV watching shows like Wild On E! so to finally do these things and see the places in real life blew me away. I still chase that surreal movielike feeling today, its my favorite thing about traveling.
What do you think about adventure tourism these days? Is it too easy to get anywhere around the world right now in an instant? or are you more of a romantic, arduous journey kind of guy?
I have seen a big change in adventure tourism over the last 10 years. A lot of the backpacks are turning into suitcases and the companies are following suit to cater to the vacationer who wants a little more excitement. Its getting harder to come across great places that have not submitted to the lure of the tourist dollar. Those looking to get off the beaten path can still find gems that would appeal to them but maybe not the masses.
I'm split 50/50 on my travels. I break it up into segments of planed and unplanned so I'm free to go with the flow of who I meet or hit up the places I heard about of word of mouth. I try not to learn too much about any one place I'm going, not having expectations decreases disappointment. I like to check into a hostel and talk to people about what they have done. Not everything worth seeing & eating can make it into the guide books. Doing something just because its popular does not always make it right for me.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start or switch careers, and delve into the adventure industry?
If you are a backpacker and you have the passion you can make the jump easily. Your used to not seeing your friends, pets and family for extended periods of time, late nights and early hungover mornings. This industry has a way of sucking you away from your old life, not everyone can handle it. I've seen many who thought it would be cool, took some guiding classes or just just applied with only relaxing vacations under their belt. Some shake at the end of the day looking like they have just seen a ghost when they realize how ass kicking it can be (if your doing it right). No matter what your background is, you have to make the most of your life and just go for what you want. You can't go back in time but you can always go back to your old life if its not for you.