To simply call Javier Ruiz a tour guide in Puerto Rico is an understatement. Before starting his tour company, Walk San Juan, Javier worked for eight years as a civil engineer in Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural Resources. He then became a holistic healer, after spending four years earning a diploma through the Barbara Brennan School of Healing.
And before that, he was a professional unicyclist, traveling extensively and winning many championships at both the World Unicycling Convention and with the Puerto Rican All-Star Unicycle Basketball Team.
All these experiences help shape his current tourism career. “One of the principles of energy healing is learning how to ‘listen’ [to] what are the client’s real needs (from a deep perspective), and figuring out the best way to support them,” writes Javier on the Walk San Juan website. “Those skills are very handy while guiding private tours…so I can really please my clients.”
As a tour guide, Javier can spend quality time with people and share his passion for the island with others. Although he enjoys his work, it’s not always easy. For one, the hours can be long. But the biggest challenge of his career was after Hurricane Maria. “I was working for FEMA,” says Javier. “[I] wanted to help Puerto Rico, but the money was not getting to the people who needed it. There was nothing I could do to support the survivors. That was traumatic for me.”
In his free time, Javier still rides his unicycle. When he was competing professionally, he traveled all around the world, including a 23-day unicycling trip from Cologne, Germany to Barcelona, Spain. He’s even unicycled on China’s Great Wall.
When he’s home in Puerto Rico, though, Javier’s ideal day includes a visit to El Yunque. Located in the island’s northeast, El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System, but long before colonization, El Yunque was important for the Taino, the island’s indigenous population. While the forest is relatively small, at 28,000 acres, it’s one of the most biologically diverse forests in the U.S.
“I love the rainforest. The energy is amazing,” Javier says. “Amazing landscapes. Beautiful rivers. Great places to hike. There is no way to describe it.” And he’s right. After hiking around El Yunque, head to the mangroves and caves. It’s beautiful. And after, for food, you can’t go wrong with rice and beans, staples of the island. “On special occasions, we eat mofongo (smashed plantain with garlic),” adds Javier.
Puerto Rico has so much culture and history to share, says Javier. “My biased opinion is that Puerto Rico is the most beautiful island in the world.”
To learn more about Javier and book one of the many customized tours he offers, head to his website, walksanjuan.com. And stay tuned for more installments of Dreams Abroad’s ongoing Meet the Locals series, where you’ll get to know the work and lives of global professionals who continually spark our passion for travel.
by Kara Elder