#DefineExperience is our bimonthly campaign where we interview interesting and successful people about their experience. We ask them not only about their professional experience, but also about the more personal side of things.
It’s a pleasure to introduce to you our seventh interviewee – Filip Todd, the founder of Free SF Tour.
1. Hey Filip, what’s your story?
I’m a designer, storyteller and travel addict! My purpose in life is to learn as much as I can about the world and the cultural patterns we live in. I love mixing different tastes, smells, music, emotions and everything that keeps us alive!
I was born in a country that doesn’t exist any more – Yugoslavia. I was raised in Macedonia and graduated in Bulgaria. But I’ve been coming to the US every summer since I was 19.
I came to San Francisco (where I live right now) because of chocolate! Yes, I know it sounds like a cool story in a book, but they offered me to work in the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory. I didn’t know much about San Francisco, but I LOVE CHOCOLATE! I was melting chocolate, scooping ice cream and eating chocolate as much as I want! ?
Back in 2007, SF was just a small town with very friendly people and lots of Internet cafes. The iPhone was still not out! I was there when Steve Jobs did his first legendary presentation at the Apple Store explaining how this small device will change the world. I didn’t believe him, until I went the next day to the Apple Store and touched the iPhone. I was stunned. I bought 5 iPhones on my way back home.
2. Filip, please define experience.
The sum of practices and observation of facts and events.
3. What do you consider as your most significant accomplishment in your career so far? What about outside of your career?
Learning to listen to people! This was a very big obstacle for me. I’ve always been the kid with 100 business ideas and the big vision. When I was in high school at the end of every school year I was organising parties for the whole class. Things went well and I saw this as my gig that I can make money from. I was not listening to anyone else except myself! I thought I knew everything until it all ended and I didn’t know what to do next.
Thankfully I learned to listen and got my designer degree! Many initiatives followed after that…
Otherwise, my biggest accomplishment was to start traveling! To leave home when I was 18 and go somewhere I’ve never been. Lesson learned: be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with the ones that provide it.
4. Do you think failure is part of experience? What was your biggest failure?
The biggest experience in life is your own failure. When you fail, get up to try again! If you succeed, that means you gained experience and used it the right way! Keep repeating this process and never give up!
My biggest failure was to start smoking cigarettes at the age of 24. Terrible! Still fighting it.
5. What life-hack tips would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Stay foolish and listen to your guts! You’ll do good.
6. Would you do something differently if you had the chance?
I think everything comes with a reason! I’m sure I did lots of mistakes and wrong decisions, but some of them have taught me very valuable lessons and some of them have brought me to where I am today. I’m very happy about where I am today!
7. This is not from the questions list, but can you tell us more about the San Francisco Free Tour, how it was born and maybe some of your dearest moments and biggest challenges?
I learned how to do a walking tour because I was part of the Free Sofia Tour. Kris, the founder of the organisation, brought me in the team when it was a young group of 6 students! I learned how to speak in front of many people and tell the history of the city through my own stories. I loved it. Although I graduated in Engineering design, specialised in Graphic design and did my Masters in Interior design – the walking tours turned out to be my biggest passion and something like an escape from the real world. It was my own world where I was meeting people from everywhere. Later, I came to realise that I was doing what I love, but not in the city I love the most. I wanted to come back to San Francisco and do my own walking tour here.
In the past 9 years I’ve been bringing people to San Francisco! At one point I became one of the coordinators for the Student Exchange Program and brought more than 50 students to SF, including my best friends.
When I wanted to start doing the tour, I already knew the city and had built up some partnerships. It took me only 2 months to develop the tour with all the stops on the way, and the stories, facts, jokes, partnerships and marketing. The support from my friends was huge!
My biggest challenge was to make myself go every day at 10am to Union Square and wait if someone wants to do a tour!
One of my dearest moments was this year. It was the first Friday of March. Until then my tours were between 2-5 people. Two days before Friday there was a couple on my tour and the three of us went to the Old Fortune Cookie Factory where we all took a handmade fortune cookie made from the lovely Chinese ladies. When I opened mine there was a message and it said “Next Friday will be an exciting day for you!”. Didn’t know what to expect and didn’t take it very seriously. When Friday came 17 people showed up on Union Square! They all came for my tour! They were from all over the world, all young and full of positive energy and they knew about me because they’ve read the reviews on TripAdvisor! We played games, laughed and they walked with me for 2,5 hours listening to my stories and learning about the history of the city… Words can’t describe the feeling I had standing at the last stop in front of them and saying my final words on the tour. The applause I received caused tears in my eyes.
My biggest challenge now is to find people that love this city as much as I do, organise a training course for the Free SF Tour and watch others sharing their passion for San Francisco!
We want to thank Filip for sharing with us his story. It’s always very inspiring to learn about someone’s lessons and achievements. Despite having a serious educational background in Design, Filip finds his real calling – to guide people around cities, making them fall in love with the unique culture, history and atmosphere each place possesses.
If you enjoyed reading our seventh #DefineExperience interview, then stay tuned, because we’re just getting started. Moreover, if you’d like to be part of our #DefineExperience project by doing an interview yourself or recommending someone to get interviewed, then write to us.