Tell me about yourself: a bit about your personal story, how you got to where you are now.
I studied tourism and my first job was being a receptionist in the Pyrenees. I realized I liked interacting with people but our interactions felt very artificial. I wanted something more real.
Later on, after being a tour guide for a while, I started making an itinerary and selling excursions myself… I started studying Tarragona, Reus, and other places in the area, so on my days off I would take people to these tours and show them the place as if they were my friends. I wasn’t doing it for money. They could buy me a beer there if they wanted. That’s how I realized I liked showing and explaining different places to people.
Then, after being away for two years, I wanted to go back to San Sebastian, and work in my home country. When I first came I was freelancing, and the lifestyle of a freelancer is a bit lonely. So I wanted to create a group that I could work together with. At that time I got together with Alain… to start an association of tour guides. That was 4 years ago.
Eventually, we had to turn the association into a proper company—mostly for administrative reasons—so in the end, we created Go Local. Our main idea is ‘Donostia by locals’ – break barriers, be hosts, be less formal, have more real conversations.
Can you describe the experience you’ve created?
Let me start by explaining a key distinction… The difference between a tourist and a visitor is very important for us. A tourist is someone who doesn’t want to understand, whereas visitors have questions and want to understand. We want to be guides for visitors, and teach them, help them understand. Not by simply telling stories, but genuinely interacting with them.
Our first tour was the free walking tour. Actually the idea was already out there elsewhere in Europe, but we wanted to create something honest and informal that I can just offer to the people on the street. After that we also started the hiking and biking tours in addition to hiking tours.
Can you tell me a bit more about one of these?
Let’s talk about the Free walking tour. It’s a tour of 1.5 hours. It explains you San Sebastian as we go around town, walking. We help you understand the town, the history, the culture. It’s free but people can donate… and people usually do. Some people give 50 euros, some give coins, very few people give nothing. When people get value and enjoy it, they generally want to give something back.
We want to support local stuff and give people the experience to live like the locals do, so public transport is perfect for making visitors interact with the local context. We take them off the beaten track, to small local bars, explain different ideas of our culture and mix it up with what they know about the rest of the world.
What does impact tourism mean for you? What is the impact you aim to create with this experience?
For me impact tourism is about making the world a better place by making people understand – understand different places, and different cultures.
I don’t like the type of tourism, turning local places into amusement parks for the benefit of rich people. Impact tourism is about learning, understanding, being an amateur anthropologist.
What value will participants get out of this experience?
I’ve realized that everybody who joins our tours loves being off the beaten track. In the bike tour for example, people usually don’t expect how farther away from the center we’re going. It’s not just about the history of the historic center, but more about the neighborhoods and the differences between the districts. Every district has its own identity. So it’s often a very nice surprise for people.
What is the biggest challenge of a tour guide?
In this job when you personally have a bad day it can be a problem if you don’t know how to deal with it. But from my own experience, most of the time when I do the tour I end up happy. You wake up tired, don’t want to see anybody. Then you start interacting with people, and suddenly you realize that you feel much better. So being a tour guide also teaches you to deal with your feelings. In the end, the best way to deal with it is to try to be yourself.
What made you choose to work with Authenticitys?
The first time I met Elena she used the word organic, and for me that’s been the way to describe Go Local’s journey. I think the purpose of Authenticitys is very similar to ours. And it’s easy to understand each other and work together.
Go Local San Sebastian Profile & Experiences on Authenticitys
This interview is part of a series about our experience partners. More interviews will follow soon and also be linked here.