A shared laugh, respect and empathy with someone from a completely different culture is a reward in itself
— Mike Grant

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

ITMI graduation year: 2013

Travel bucket list: Southern Italy, Portugal, Morocco, Croatia, Switzerland, Belgium, Krakow

Tour essentials: Cell phone, Umbrella (no matter what the forecast is),  Sketchbook/Pencil, iPad, My Little Alarm Clock and a Stockpile of Empathy

What or who inspired you to become a tour director?

History is my second love, being organized, and the joy of telling stories proved to be a very good fit. In 2013, after five years as a licensed NY tour guide, I was looking to broaden my skills and clientele. I ran into a former guide/colleague in town with a large group. He told me about getting his Tour Director certification from ITMI and encouraged me to consider it. I was signed up in less than a month.

What did you do before you became a tour guide / director?

Computer graphics production, traditional media illustrator. Still at it.

How do you balance your personal life with your travel career?

Long stretches of not seeing friends, fortunately, doesn't lessen our mutual regard one iota. With my best friend, my wife, it's a matter of checking in by cell phone or email every single day.

What qualities do you feel make for a good tour director?

I recently got a compliment from a teacher who told me that I talk with people not to them. Talk to a crowd like it sounds one-on-one. You want to quickly bond with them through humor, excitement, history, some interesting and funny anecdotes. Make it exciting right out of the gate. Gain their trust ASAP, so they'll know you have their backs. It's about them. Other essentials to check off: being consistently organized, unfailingly polite and appreciative to all those in the local services industry.

What advice would you give to a first-time traveler?

Know your priorities when planning; what is important to you. Do the research. Look at maps. I don't like telling visitors that logistics or timeframes won't work for all the things they want to see.

What are some of your favorite tours or places you have visited as a Tour Guide / Director and did you have a "dream location" or something on your bucket list that you got a chance to do?

The gardens of the Alcazar in Seville, Spain, among Europe's oldest. A gentle beauty with a very deep soul, it feels like Moors royalty has just stepped away.

What can we find you doing when not guiding? What's your "side hustle"?

Creating colored drawings of the 19th century buildings and historical figures. New York is my sole muse for expression. I sell them as greeting cards to bookstores and gift shops.

Do you have a moment or a story you would like to share about something that has particularly touched you on tour? A "once in a lifetime" moment or something memorable with a guest or tour group?

Two come to mind. While talking to a group of retirees about John Lennon outside the Dakota apartment building, Yoko Ono emerged and greeted us warmly. Entering High Line Park with a large group of middle-schoolers, we ran into a wedding party being photographed. The groom waved the kids to all get in the picture.

Name someone famous you’d like to travel with and where you’d like to take them.

Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones, a Civil War buff with quite a collection of memorabilia. I'd give him a Civil War New York tour which, other than battles, has just about everything else. From the building where Lincoln gave a pivotal 1860 campaign speech to a nearby building where his debt-ridden widow sold off her White House gowns. And I wouldn't pester him for stories about the Stones.

How has tour directing impacted your perspective of the world?

A shared laugh, respect and empathy with someone from a completely different culture is a reward in itself. That human connection is pretty easy to tap. It pleases me no end.

What advice would you give someone if they wanted to become a tour director or guide and come to ITMI?

You're working to deliver a vacation people paid good money for. The hours can be long; oftentimes I'm too restless for sleep. When things go off the track, just trust yourself to think fast on your feet. Be mindful of eating too many meals with colossal calories. ITMI has all the tools to make you a consummate professional. I have all my class materials. Another benefit is that each graduating class has a closed Facebook page. I keep in touch with several classmates. It's a great vehicle for networking and positive support.