Talk the Walk

I’ve recently started leading guided walking tours for visitors around one of the oldest and most diverse areas of the city. Running guided tours is a venture I’ve often mused about in passing, so when I was recently approached by a ‘free’ walking tour platform, I decided to give it a try.

While I have a background in history and teaching, I’ve never actually led walking tours, and though I’ve been on plenty of them, I really had no clue how to organize one. I decided to choose a multi-cultural, eclectic area of the city, and with much of my family having lived there, I could also weave in some quirky, family stories into the narrative. Preparing the tour ended up being a lot of work to design the route and research and learn the info, while the walk itself took many attempts at tweaking and reframing.

I’ve run a few of these tours now, and like many undertakings, the experience turned out to be quite different than I expected. For starters, walking and talking for over two hours – especially in the cold, while interreacting positively with the walkers – is actually really hard work. It’s also very anxiety inducing, never knowing when you will get bookings, tips or the highly prized positive reviews. And, having started late in the season, tours have been infrequent and group numbers small.

 On the plus side, it’s been interesting to meet people from around the world and to find out about life in various countries, while also getting different perspectives on your own city as seen by other visitors. It’s also given me a chance to hone my ‘thinking on the spot’ communication skills, as every tour has a different feel to it and unexpected situations always arise.

But for me, the biggest challenge has been doing it in the first place – of having the courage and gumption to give it a try, with no idea of whether it would work or not. We’re often afraid to venture out of our comfort zones and challenge ourselves, especially as we get older, so for me, just the attempt itself is a substantial achievement. The more we exercise the muscles of trying, the more we can raise our energy, expand and grow as humans and learn what we’re truly capable of.

And in the meantime – before the cold and snow truly set in – it’s just good to be walking and talking out in the fresh air.

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