Meet The Tour Leader: Maxwell Wood
Meet Maxwell, a Journey Latin America tour leader for 8 years.
Which Journey Latin America tour do you lead?
I've led a mixture of Journey Latin America tours over the years. Plenty of tours in Central America, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. In the beginning of the year I spent more time in Patagonia on the Nandu: Peaks and plains of Patagonia and Lapwing: Patagonian Odyssey tours.
When did you join Journey Latin America?
I joined in 2012. I had been leading tours with another company but really wanted to spend more time in Latin America and Journey Latin America was the right fit for me.
When was your first visit to Latin America?
In 1992 after university I travelled from the United States through Mexico. Having spent a month in Antigua, Guatemala studing Spanish I travelled around the rest of Central America. Being the first place I travelled to it made a significant impression on me. I think I originally chose Latin America because I had read so many travelogues about it when I was growing up.
What's your favourite place in Latin America?
I can't decide on one favourite city or country. I love many different places but have also been lucky enough to be able to continually travel around and revisit areas. I'm always happy to be trekking in the Andes as I am wondering around a large city. If heading a lot off the beaten track, Barreal in San Juan, Argentina is a lovely place to relax.
What makes Latin America special?
The mix of scenery, contrasting people, indigenous cultures and influence to more western ones. Each country, however large or small in Latin America is definitely unique though lend themselves to comparison with their neighbours. It's very common to start thinking about which area or country within Latin America you would return to before even completing your first visit.
Where would you say has changed the most in Latin America?
Everywhere has changed in terms of infrastructure and choice for their visitors. There is much less visible poverty now but this is from a low base. In terms of specific places I guess Colombia is the most obvious contrast from 25 years ago.
You've been travelling in Latin America for so long, you must have some memorable stories?
After a long day I unexpectedly found a beautiful, deserted, sheltered camp spot of the shores of Lake Fagnano on Tierra del Fuego; it was a beautiful evening. In many places in Latin America I get a great sense of home and well being so I feel privileged each time I visit and everywhere seems so memorable.
What would you say are the benefits of travelling with a group?
The itinerary enables you to see a lot in a relatively short time as well as the ability and knowledge of the tour leader to keep you fully informed and solve any problems so you can make the most of your time. The company of others to share opinions and experiences with creates unique memories.
Where's your favourite place to eat?
I like all the Latin American stereotypes; steak in Argentina, ceviche in Peru, gallo pinto and salsa Lizano in Costa Rica and street arepas in Colombia.
A question we're often asked in the office is, is Latin America safe?
Latin America is definitely a safe place. I know this first hand from the many tours I've been with over the years and the extremely few incidents that either I or the clients have had. We will always give reminders about general procedures and precautions which visitors should take. That said I would always encourage people to explore individually during their free time and give detailed information on where to go. Any large city has potential pitfalls and cities in Latin America are no more dangerous than other parts of the world, in fact, I find they are generally safer at night than in some places in the UK. There are of course exceptions but your tour leader will always be thinking ahead if there is any need to be more cautious or prudent.
Join Maxwell on his upcoming tour, Weaverbird: Spirit of Colombia.
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Real Latin America Experts
Ben Line - Travel Consultant
Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Manager of the Tailor-made Department.
Jamie Swan - Travel Consultant
Jamie backpacked across Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil before joining us; he has a degree in politics and is also a keen sportsman..
Jim Ashworth - Travel Consultant
Jim first caught the Latin American travel bug in 2001 when he decided at the last minute to join a friend travelling around Central America – he hasn't looked back since.
Lina Fuller - Travel Consultant
Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.
Carrie Gallagher - Travel Consultant
A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Escorted Groups team.
Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Consultant
Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.