"How did you get into guiding?" This is a question I get a lot actually. How does one get into guiding? Well, for me it was purely accidental and definitely not something I set out to do as a little kid. All I ever wanted to do was be a fashion designer...in fact, I had so much tunnel vision with it that I feel I missed out on being a normal kid/adult (whatever "normal" means). The question is what do you do when the thing you wanted most in your life, really the only goal you put forth for yourself suddenly doesn't exist anymore? When you get so burnt out from playing the office politics more so than actually designing and you wake up one day saying I need to do something else. But what?! That's how I got into the guiding world.
Let's back track a bit.... as a native New Yorker with lots of family and friends visiting from out of town, staying with you while they are here, you become a sort of tour guide for them. I can remember showing people around as early as 8 years old. Summer vacations came and while my parents worked we showed our guests around. When you grow up a NYC kid, the subway is really no big deal...in my family though, as long as I was with an adult it was no big deal. So, I have lovely memories of being a tour guide at a young age, OK, OK, that is a far cry from doing it professionally!
In NYC, in order to be a guide you need to be licensed. Not something I knew going into this in April of 2012. As I continued to nurse the PTSD from my previous design job, I saw an ad for a tour company specializing in fashion tours specifically looking for a designer to lead their tours. An interview led to an invitation to take the license test which meant for the first time in years I was studying about art, architecture, history, food, you name it. It was invigorating and very scary to say the least. I crammed everything I could read about NYC into my brain and walked in ready to kick this test in the butt. It rather kicked me in the butt... but in the end I mastered it with license in hand! Within a week of getting my license I gave my first tour of the Garment District and I fell in love. What a great way to tie my favorite things about the fashion industry without the dumb politics so many of us have to deal with in any office environment! And the best part was I could still be a freelance designer... in fact, it was encouraged.
The funny thing is that I can't imagine life without tour guiding. It's fresh and new every time. Not the history of course, but meeting new people, being welcomed into their lives even for just a few hours, and learning more about your city every time. Somehow, sitting behind a computer designing for 16 hours straight no longer gives me that same rush. In fact, guiding restored my faith in humanity... much needed after working in an intense fashion industry.
As I write this and build this site, I pay homage to the woman that allowed me this opportunity...my tour mother so to speak... Rebecca Frey, ex-owner of Seek New York LLC. She opened the door, allowed me to take care of her tours as my own, and is a friend. As she embarks on her next journey in life, she has done what so many would not do, hand over her tour babies. I am grateful to her for her guidance through the years and for starting me on this path.