"You don't have money to buy food, but you always find money to buy tickets", - my mom once said to me, after I told her about going to some new place. But what can I do? Once you start, you're lost forever.
I visited some walking tours abroad, I stayed with local hosts, but I could never imagine that one day I will become a local guide myself.
I started my Awesome Kyiv Blog and for a couple of months I was writing there about the city and sharing my photography and my view of the city there. Then the May came: I was busy, working on my diploma video about Kyiv, meeting new people, travelers, locals, interviewing them. It was a very busy time for me and because of my final Bachelor's project, I even had to cancel some of my trips. As for a person who frequently travels it was like a full stop. Then I decided why not to show my city to the travelers? I thought it could be a nice idea, as there I could meet people who will become part of my video.
I still remember the first walking tour, I was afraid of many things: people not coming, me forgetting everything I know, my English flying away from my head. But it turned out to be totally awesome. People of different ages, backgrounds were hanging out together like they were friends from childhood. We spent the whole day together instead of a planned couple of hours, then we decided to spend one more day together. I came home so inspired: it was my first time and I did not fail! Then I started organizing it on a regular basis. Those Walking Tours at that time for me was kind of traveling: I was too busy to go to the other countries, so the other countries were visiting me!
(Co-founders of Imprinit Ani Yaremenko and Giorgi Janelidze (in front of the photo) also attended Alina's Awesome Kiev walking tour in 2016 and enjoyed it very much. Alina is in the middle on the photo)
My biggest motivation is to connect people. I am telling them at the beginning of each tour: this is not an ordinary excursion where I charge money, give you some info and then say goodbye forever. I love to see how people are finding new friends, as many of them are solo travelers. I love to tell them not only about history but about modern Kyiv, I love to discuss different topics and see what they think about the city. We go to the bar, they learn how to say "Cheers" in Ukrainian and then over some glasses of beer we are sharing the stories which you will never hear on an expensive all-inclusive tour.
I do not think that you should know the city from A to Z to make a good walking tour, but to be in love with your city - this is a MUST. It is very contagious, and travelers can easily get your mood. I love that we are always flexible which means that we can change the route if the travelers want to, stop for coffee or visit something I have never planned to.
"Have you just met a girl whom you like? Go fast and take her number, we will wait a bit" - I am telling to travelers, because I want them to feel as free as possible. I think one of the most important things in being a local guide is to create the atmosphere of trust and relax. We keep in touch with the people who visited my walking tours, we send presents to each other, we went for karaoke, for hiking, kayaking and even had reunions in the other countries. I feel that I am creating something that lasts, and it inspires me to keep on.
I love the idea of Imprinit because this is a platform where people can exchange their experiences, where they can find local guides or see how it works, or simply discover that traveling can be affordable! I am looking forward to seeing here the experiences of other local guides, with whom I will be able to get in touch, to learn how they work and how I can improve myself as a local guide, maybe to build new connections, partnership, make new friends. I want to meet people who are as excited about their city as I am about Kyiv. Because, when everything is said and done, traveling is all about people.
Alina Virstiuk – a local guide from Kiev, Ukraine. The founder of Awesome Kyiv Blog. You can read more about Alina’s traveling and guide experience here.
How to become Imprinit Local Guide and share your opportunity you can find here. Feel free to sign up and get an early access invitation when the platform will be launched.