Wesley Methodist Church Alor Setar

Wesley Methodist Church Alor Setar

A Mentor: Tour Guide or Safari Guide
Written by Karyn Chua   


A mentor is like a guide. But what kind of guide?

A tour guide (Think of going to China/HongKong/Rome as a tourist…in a tour group)safari

A tourist guide takes you on a pre-selected route. He knows every turn and corner….He knows every ‘surprise’ waiting for you. He tells you the history, highlights and best things about a particular place or building. A tour guide doesn’t expect to learn anything from you. His goal is to ‘teach’ you and load you up with all the facts about the place.

The tour guide also knows the potential dangers or ‘no-go’ areas and will lead you on good paths. If there were any ‘risks’ to be taken, it has been well calculated and compensated for. And you’d have been warned step by step.

Following a tour guide is like a child following a parent. Complete ‘trust’ and ‘dependence’ on where the parent leads. We would follow the tour guide’s instructions closely… and in a ‘foreign’ place, won’t ‘dare’ to stray from the path/agenda he sets. He expects you to simply ‘follow him’.

A tourist guide may sometimes sound ‘bored’ or lack passion since he’s already prattled all the information to many previous tourists or tour groups. He’s seen it all, heard it all, and spoken it all before.

The ‘pre-tour’ briefing include instructions to be on time, a map of the place you’re going to and indications of where you’re supposed to be at a certain time…warnings not to stray too far away…even if you just saw something interesting…with the risk of ‘being left behind’…or having the whole group mad at you.

What about a safari guide? (Think of the wide open bushland of Africa, or the jungles of Sarawak…)

A safari guide takes you out into the wild. He may know every tree and valley, but he does not know what lurks around every corner. He tells you to look out for ‘surprises’ even as he himself looks out. His sharper and more experienced eye simply gives him an advantage of where to look and what to look for. He shares the history of the place, ‘possible’ highlights of the jungle/national park (since you may not be lucky enough to see the rare white Siberian tiger)… and points out small and seemingly unimportant flora and fauna around you. He is not put off when you say “Hey I spotted the rare Rafflessia (even before you)”. On the other hand, he shares in your joy of discovery and helps you further appreciate your find. He is open to learning from you and his goal is to help you experience and also learn for yourself.

A safari guide knows the potential dangers and tells you to expect it but will do his best to keep us ‘alive’. He doesn’t hide the fact that danger can surprise us… so he is constantly on the lookout on our behalf and will warn us if possible.

Following a safari guide is like a junior following a senior. Be it a student, or  an employee, or friend… It is following someone who has been that way before and is willing to have us ‘tag along’ for the purpose of helping us experience for ourselves the route. The junior would pay attention to tips and ‘stories’ from the senior (and not merely ‘instructions’) and then are ‘set free’ to make their own discoveries. A safari guide is never bored because the path is never the same, the animals and plants along the way are always changing and waiting to be discovered. He has simply seen much, heard much and shared much… but never ‘done it all’.

The ‘pre-safari’ briefing include instructions to keep an eye and ear out for danger, to take note of the guide’s steps and ways of moving around, warnings of possible danger, advice to heed advice from the guide. And permission to announce your own discovery to the guide and he will lead you farther into exploring it.

So… what kind of mentor are you?

The tourist guide
Tells what to do, what not to do…
‘Knows everything’
You just ‘listen’ and ‘do’ as instructed


The safari guide
Shares what to look out for, possible dangers
‘Knows much but not everything’
You follow and learn as you experience and watch the example of the guide.

Which kind of ‘guide’ would you want your mentor to be?

Comments (4)
  • amelia
    nice way of putting it... a safari guide I want to be. A safari guide also will I seek. 8)
  • lohleefun
    I would like to think that some of us are the Tourist Guide but, truthfully, do we qualify? If we reflect carefully the qualifications given, only God qualifies. He knows EVERYTHING - history, present or future... about us personally or the whole world in general. At best, we are the Safari Guide - able to share, counsel and advise because we "have been there" or "heard about it somewhere". I liken the pre-tour briefing to our Bible - instructions for our tour through life. Having said that, we are to be Christ like, so we must strive to be the Tourist Guide :) Thanks, Karyn, for this enlightening insight.
  • karyn
    I believe we 'qualify' since everyone has 'something' to teach others. Since we'll never be perfect, no sense to wait till we are before we start 'guide-ing'. But I believe as a safari guide, we remain humble to continuous learning from all things, from all 'men'. That makes a good teacher....instead of a know-it-all who's proud of his achievements.
    I hope and pray I'll live like a safari guide, and give thanks for all the safari guides in my life, past and present...
  • meiyan
    Good way of looking at it! Safari-guiding does have its perils, however. Sometimes despite all our efforts, our mentee persists in going in what we deem to be the wayward direction. What then do we do?
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