You should have a side gig. Tonxo Tours as a (paying) hobby

Years ago, I read an article by the great psychiatrist (who in 1981, New York City Mayor Edward Koch appointed Director of psychiatric and prison health services of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, the largest public general hospital system in the United States.*) Dr. Luis Rojas Marcos. At any rate, Rojas Marcos mentioned that in order to have a healthy, stable life you needed three equal pillars, briefly: a loving relationship, an enriching job, and a hobby that had nothing to do with the other two pillars.

Today I am going to focus on that third pillar, your hobby. In my case one of my hobbies is the tour company I set up years ago when I was trying to make ends meet in Spain. Fortunately, now I do have that enriching, enjoyable job, but I never stopped doing tours when I came to Spain. It is something I love doing: sharing my passion for the history, culture, food, etc. of Madrid.

As much as I love the countryside and the outdoors, I must confess I am a city boy. I have always been fascinated by the energy generated by cities. Some of my fondest memories are of walking around cities. Add to that the fact that I have been blessed to live in many different cities (Madrid, New York, London, Boston, Paris, Lausanne, Geneva, etc.) and you get a bit of a city geek.

Of course, it is quite different seeing a job from the outside to being on the inside. We all have an idea of what a certain job is like, only to realize that the day to day of that work is vastly different.

This is what happened to me during my first year as a tour guide. Yes, there is the excitement of meeting and working with different people every time and with sharing your passion for the city. The rest is very much like any old job. There is a lot of psychology and salesmanship involved in getting visitors on board with your tour. There is also a small percentage of customers that are not satisfied and nothing you do is going to make them change their minds.

As you do more and more tours the city shares more and more secrets. The night before a tour, you review the itinerary and your notes and books. Invariably, you learn something new that you can incorporate into the tour. It is a very enriching. I also enjoy questions and requests from the customers.

This Christmas break I had a chance to do a few tours. One with a French family group, another with my old university the European School of Economics where we combine a tour with orientation teambuilding activities, I also did a couple of Prado Museum tours, although big chunks of the museum where closed due to lack of staff due to Covid.

In conclusion, if you don’t already have one, you should find a hobby that you love, and if it leaves you some green, even better!!

ESE did a great Instagram video of the tour which you can see here:

*From his website https://luisrojasmarcos.com/biography/

Tonxo Tours

 

 

 

Well, I guess the first thing I must do is apologize to my followers for a very long silence. Soon you will know the reason. As you might know, about a year a ago I returned home to Spain after many – thirteen to be precise – years in the US. With a clean slate, I decided to start a business that had been on the back burner for years: I have become a personal tour guide, creating bespoke tours of Spain under the name Tonxo Tours.

Showing people Spain is my life calling. I am passionate about sharing my culture, history, language. After showing Spain to all sorts of folks for years, I have decided to start Tonxo Tours and make my joie de vivre available to all! I have been toying with this idea since the late 90s, so it is about time to get going, don’t you think?

Most tour companies boast about their team of specialists, well, I am that specialist. I have been giving tours of Madrid and of Spain since my twenties. I have worked with British rock bands, schools and universities, foundations, executives from all over the world, even the Monaco Olympic Sailing Team, I would love to show you around!

After twenty odd years in the business world and thirteen teaching in high schools and universities in the US, it is time for me to do what I do best, which is to share my passion for Spain.

Why has it taken so long you might ask? My life has been marked by a peripatetic lifestyle, moving to New York when I was ten and then to London, Boston, Paris, Bordeaux, Geneva, Lausanne, Chapel Hill, Naples Fl., and so forth to over eleven cities. Cities became my friends. I loved discovering what made each one unique ̶-how they got their personality. I spent my time in museums, cafés, theaters, concerts, operas, ballets, all of which unavoidably infused me with a love for the arts. Sharing my love and knowledge of cities and their cultures soon became a venue to express myself. As a teenager I gave tours of Madrid and London to friends and family, something I continue to do and enjoy, which has led me to create Tonxo Tours. My experience and passion radiate on the street: Explaining Spanish history, architecture, food, music, sometimes all of them at the same time!!

When I started thinking about setting up a tour company I was aware of the tremendous competition in the market. Just in Madrid you can jump on a sightseeing bus and casually check out the city while chomping on some churros, you can take a Segway tour, there are a bunch of tapas tours, there are free tours, you can get a tour on a tuk tuk, a golf cart, an antique car, even in a pink Rolls Royce! In contrast to that, my philosophy is simple: a no gimmick, quality driven, discreet – yet fun – bespoke tour that will cater to what you want to experience, see, taste and hear, not the other way around.

I can arrange exquisite lodgings, extraordinary experiences, delicious food and drink,

with only one purpose: creating unforgettable memories.

But why would anyone choose Tonxo Tours? you might ask. Here’s a few more reasons:

  1. I am a native, a local, born and bred here, but with the advantage that I have lived abroad many years. I have dual citizenship USA / Spain, offering me a perspective unattainable to most.
  2. Passion: I love sharing my culture, my history, my food, my architecture, art, music, dance, etc. This drives me.
  3. Experience: I have been doing this for years with friends, colleagues, schools, universities, foundations, etc. From 1994 to 2004 I had my own company (but that is a different story) which took me to every city and town in Spain at least a couple of times a year, more for the big cities. So I really know Spain like the back of my hand.
  4. DNA: My grandad worked for the British and American embassies, often times driving dignitaries around – he even got a medal from from Queen Elisabeth (but that’s a different story). My dad was restless. We would go on excursions every time he got bored – which was often – He was also a Spanish history buff which rubbed off on me, so I have been reading Spanish history and literature since I was a youth, which eventually led me to get a PhD in Spanish literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (again, different story).

I received my undergraduate degree in business. I specialized in management, the human part; what motivates people? What makes them tick? I used these skills in my first jobs in finance, photography and management before using them to run my own business for ten years, importing and selling industrial machinery in Spain and consulting for European companies wanting to expand into Latin America. I moved back to the US, where I started teaching in 2005, and although I was making a fraction of the money I used to make, I felt much happier and more fulfilled. In the meantime I got a Master’s and then a PhD in Spanish Literature from UNC. Returning home to Spain allows me to indulge in my true vocation. I am able to apply my many skills developed and honed over the years. So don’t over think it, contact me and I’ll be happy to show you around!

Let me know when you are going to be in Spain and what you want to do and see. I will personally take care of you, if you just want to spend a few hours walking around old Madrid or if you want to spend two weeks exploring Spain, I will be happy to set it all up.

If you want to know more about me, you can read check out this blog about my random thoughts, travels, and whathaveyous.  You can check out my website tonxotours.com and/or my Instagram: tonxotours