Who are you and why are you waving that bright red umbrella?
I’m Matthew, I’m a local Melbournian who’s put together his own walking tour, as you can see written on the umbrella and uniform: “Local Guide to Melbourne.”
I’ve been in the tourism industry for over 5 years. I’ve run more than 400 tours to over 11,000 people so far.
How did you become a tour guide?
Strap in, it’s a good story!
I used to work at the aquarium in Melbourne for over two years in the ticket sales and customer service team. I enjoyed working there, and I fell in love with the tourism industry – who doesn’t love hanging out with people on their holidays?
I moved to the city centre so I could be nice and close to work, but on the same day I moved out of home I got fired from the aquarium because Japanese Spider Crabs can’t take a joke (ask me another time that’s another good story). Which was devastating at the time, but I got myself a job in a café and worked there for a while.
Living in the city, all the time I’d run into people on street corners needing help with directions. I got into the habit of carrying a spare city map in my back pocket just in case. One time on my day off I was doing some grocery shopping at the Queen Victoria Markets and I was catching the route 35 tram home. A group of six people started asking me on the tram for suggestions of things to do that afternoon as they’d just been on a walking tour of the city that didn’t really cater to their needs (three of them were visually impaired) and they only had a few hours left in the city. By the time my stop came around I’d told them all about my favourite arcades, laneways, cafés and restaurants. I was about to hop off when they asked
“Hey Matt, if you’re not too busy, would you be able to take us to a few of these spots?”
It was a gorgeous day, and they seemed friendly, so I said “Why not!”
It turned out to be the best decision I ever made.
I took them to Degraves Street and Centre Place so they could smell the coffee and soups and croissants and baguettes, and then I took them through Block arcade to describe the high vaulted glass ceiling and the mosaic tiled floors and mentioned the opulence Melbourne experienced a generation after the gold rush that became the “Marvellous Melbourne” era. Then I took them to Bourke Street Mall so they could listen to the musicians and street performers.
I threw together this spontaneous tour of Melbourne, and for volunteering my time, these travellers rewarded me with so much praise and encouragement (and a hot chocolate). They told me I should be a professional. So I applied for a job with a tour company and gave it a go.
Why did you start Local Guide to Melbourne?
That’s another great story, but to sum it up I wanted to run my own tour my own way. So far I’ve read 16 history books on Melbourne, and being an inner-city local I have so much knowledge of contemporary Melbourne and its busy social calendar of festivals and events. I didn’t want to continue reciting the same 20 page script forever; I felt my ideas and passion was being wasted working for other tour companies. I wanted the flexibility to grow and adapt and change my tour to the interests of the people on my tour. It’s been an uphill battle, but also the greatest thing I’ve ever done.
You can check out the tour in person twice a day, 10:30am or 2:30pm. Wednesday to Sunday.