Mark

 

Owner and Guide

 

My first experience with free walking tours came far, far away from Philadelphia in Budapest, Hungary. Apparently my mastery of the English language and my enthusiasm (desperation?) were enough to get me hired by a fantastic company, Free Budapest Tours. I spent the next few months learning the ins and outs of giving tours, making people feel welcome, and how someone could possibly make a living doing just that.

The real value of what I learned came later, though, when I was able to experience this free tour thing from another side. While working at a hostel, I often heard guests’ reactions to the tours. They loved the tour, felt more comfortable in a new place, and, perhaps most importantly, got to know a friendly and knowledgeable local who they could ask about anything. That’s what gave me the inspiration to get this thing going in my home city. Teaming up with Mike was an offer I couldn’t refuse, and thus Free and Friendly Tours was born.

Travel has always been a big part of my life. I attended universities in Estonia, Hungary, Germany, and the exotic West Virginia earning degrees in–here we go–Slavic and East European Studies and Foreign Languages-German. Phew. And in fact, when I got my bachelors degree from West Virginia University, I was living in Hungary getting compliments on my English-speaking ability. I was also thrilled that the names all fit on one piece of paper.

I’ve spent the last half-year furiously catching up with my old pal, Philadelphia. I want to bring the principles of hospitality I learned in Budapest and from years of Couch Surfing to our tour company. Traveling is a fun and worthwhile experience when you’re able to meet friendly locals who know a thing or two about their city, and are able to point you to all the cool places. Armed with 18 years of Philly experience, a relentless enthusiasm, and an insatiable curiosity for this city, I’m extraordinarily proud and excited to be a part of Free and Friendly Tours.