I've been to Rome 12 times, but I've never toured the Colosseum.
I've visited Pisa 20 times over, but I've never seen the view from the tower.
I've walked the Tongariro Crossing seven times, but no one ever took a picture of me at the top.
I've ridden the TranzAlpine railway three times, but I never got a window seat.
• Tour guides reveal the worst tourist behaviour they've seen
• New York tour guide hopes tourism will return for another bite of the Big Apple
• A seasoned tour guide's guide to tour etiquette
• Premium - Hōpara: What it's really like to be a New Zealand tour guide
I have been a tour guide in Italy, France, and then New Zealand. I applied on a whim for a job in Spain, on the basis of some pretty rusty Spanish. "Have you ever been to Italy?" they asked. "Never," I replied.
Six weeks later I landed in Pisa, ready to begin work.
Despite never having been in the country before I coped and I learned fast. I diligently listened to Italian lessons and followed the company script. There were a few disasters – leaving a passenger behind in another city on my first ever trip wasn't ideal. The birthday spent weeping with loneliness on the shores of Lake Como also wasn't a highlight. One couple invited me to share a menage a trois, but tipped me €300 even after I declined. So not such a disaster after all.
At the end of the six-month season, exhausted, I swore I'd never guide again. One year later, the New Zealand office called, and I was on my way.
Life on the road is surreal. You won't see your friends or family for months. You'll forget how to make a bed. You're never alone, but so often lonely.
Australia, NZ travel bubble: The way we'll soon be able to go on holiday
Listen: Why a visit to Sri Lanka was the trip of a lifetime
I spent a weekend bingeing Airbnb's virtual experiences. Was it worth it?
As a guide, you are everything to your passengers. A travel expert, a booking agent, a suggestion box, a drinking buddy and a psychologist (anyone who has traveled in a tour group knows how complicated group dynamics can be).
You are their fascinated friend at dinner, as they recount all the excursions they took that day. When they're hungover and miserable, you're their cheerleader.
You are the babysitter to the one who had too many at the pub, the PA to the one who didn't have time to make it to the post office, the best friend to the one who misses her boyfriend. When the wind is too high for the dolphin swim, and the swells are too much for whale watching, you can forget about your day off - today you are their entertainer.
Romance on the road is complicated. Guides appear footloose and fancy-free, and passengers are often up for a holiday fling. We all have stories of those timid knocks on the door at 3am from tipsy travellers keen to start a romance.
In Venice one night, a passenger pinned me in the doorway of the hotel, told me he had fallen in love with me and said he would drop his life to be with me. His wife and two children slept peacefully upstairs.
But there is no time for homewrecking, because as a tour guide you're on the job from the moment you wake up - many hours before your passengers do - until the moment you go to sleep.
Each morning before breakfast, there is the hotel to be paid, the day's bookings to be confirmed, the weather to be checked. Each night there are hotels to be called, drivers to be booked, and all the day's unanswered questions to be researched for the morning.
And those questions are endless. They come at you thick and fast, from dusk till dawn. What's that bird? What's that tree? Can we feed the dolphins? Where does that river end? Which way will the train come from? What time are we leaving tomorrow morning? What should I eat tonight?
Some days you have to hide from it - in your chalet in Franz Josef, or a motel in Hahei. In the heat of the Italian summer, I remember hiding in minuscule hotel rooms in the centre of Rome – outside traffic blaring, life happening – and being unable to get out of bed for fear of running into a passenger with an endless stream of questions.
On other days you could be jogging through Paris, or drinking wine in Florence, or waking up to a sunrise over Mt Cook. You're rafting the Waihou on Tuesday afternoon, and cycling the vineyards of Napier on Friday. Life couldn't be better.
Tipping is a sensitive subject. Passengers learn quickly that tipping is not the done thing in New Zealand and, without knowing the kind of wages I'm working for, at the end of a tour, they often treat me accordingly. Far worse than no tip is the mean tip. One tour I led had just two passengers. At the end of our 15 days together, they bought me one glass of house red wine, the cost split between them.
But you learn to live off less. You can boil an egg in a motel kettle, and a bit of salmon comes up nicely when poached in instant miso soup. As you get to know the route, you get to know the people. There was a man at Te Papa who let me ride the kids' 3D adventures for free. The kayaking boys in Te Anau who took me to bars my passengers wouldn't find, and the bike-hire woman in Napier who would give me a bagful of homegrown plums to take on my way.
Every day is filled with drama - sunglasses lost, trains missed, luggage forgotten, medical emergencies and homesickness.
But some days are perfect. When all your bookings are done early, and there's a spare place on the tour boat. When the group gets along, they're up for adventure, and they trust you. When they stumble home with a day full of stories, cheeks sunburnt and ruddy. When a swimming seal looked them right in the eyes. When they sought out the wine bar they never would have found otherwise, and brought a bottle to share with the group. When they're grateful and happy and inspired by the journey you're taking them on.
A day's work just doesn't get better than that.