From backpacker to entrepreneur: 1st Free Walking Tour in Rio de Janeiro

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From backpacker to entrepreneur: 1st Free Walking Tour in Rio de Janeiro

Nowadays, there’s still some people that think that when you take a gap year to live in another country or simply travel the world, it’s gonna look bad in your CV and it’s gonna be harder for you to find a “real job” once you go back home. Living abroad and travelling opens your mind in a way you could never experience if you live all your life in the same place. And not just that, you also become a more independent and a real problem solver person. These are some of the reasons why many people, after travelling for a long period of time, decide that don’t want to work hard anymore to made other’s person dreams true, but their owns. When I was living in Ireland, I had the pleasure to work with Giovanna Bertiplagia, a lovely Brazilian girl that after backpacking all around Europe and part of Africa started the first Free Walking Tour company in one of the most touristic places on Earth, Rio de Janeiro, where we met again few years later. In this interview she is gonna tell us how travelling inspired her to start her own company and probably after reading this she will have inspired you too.

Giovanna - 1st Free Walking Tour in Rio de Janeiro

  • Why did you decide to move abroad?

I always wanted to live abroad but there were always excuses: no time, no money, university… when I finished my internship, I got a really good job offer… Most of the people thought I had a great job but the truth is I was really unhappy. I needed a good reason to quit the job otherwise it would have been a little bit hard to explain to my family. So I decided to improve my English (that was going to be good for my career so my family accepted…) and I really believed it was ‘’now or never’’, because after finishing my degree, if I had continued in that job working so hard, I maybe would have gotten a promotion and it would have been even harder to quit everything. Well, now I’m not so sure about it anymore, but it was what I thought when I had to take that decision… So I moved to Ireland for a year! One of the best things I have done in my life!

  • How was that experience in Ireland?

I had the time of my life. Studying with people from all over the world, meeting people who were also having the time of their lifes, working in something I had never thought I was going to… it was so much fun! Talking, learning, hangind out, living with people from different countries! Fantastic!! If you have never lived abroad, just do it!!

  • How did you decide to start a company?

Few weeks after coming back from Ireland I was talking with one of my friends from uni about the future and what we could do. She said: let’s start our own business?! I said: yeah, that’s a good idea… let’s think about it. What kind of business?! We did a 10 minutes brainstorm and few ideas came up, including the Free Walking Tour in Brazil. When I got home I couldn’t sleep thinking about all those ideas and the Free Walking Tour seemed to be the best. So it was late but I couldn’t stop thinking and making plans and calculating numbers… so I called her and she said she was doing and feeling the same! At that moment we said: ok, let’s really start working on it. We will have our Free Walking Tour company.

Giovanna - 1st Free Walking Tour in Rio de Janeiro

  • What is it about?

We offer a walking tour in which the guides work for the tips and that is why they give the best of themselves every day!! So people don’t prepay for a service that they don’t know how it is, they just get an amazing tour, and if at the end they are happy, they are more than welcome to tip.

  • How old were you when you start it?


  • Do you think traveling inspired you to create it?

Sure. After finishing my English course in Dublin I had 3 months ‘’off’’ to travel. In most of the cities I went there were free walking tours and I loved the concept!

  • How was the beginning?

I think as when you start any other company, the beggining was very hard, a lot of hard work, I mean A LOT! We had many doubts, and in my case it was particularly hard because there wasn’t any free walking tours in Brazil, and my family and friends thought I was getting crazy. What they, and most of the people, thought about it: ‘’Ok, you’re moving to a big and dangerous city where you don’t know anything right after finishing your degree to start your own company and the tour is FREE?! Really?! Good luck…’’ hahahaha! But my partner and me knew what we were doing and yes, it was risk, but in case everything went wrong, I knew at least I would have learnt something and could go back to my city and get a job, or try to find for a job in Rio… I had to try it!

Giovanna - 1st Free Walking Tour in Rio de Janeiro

  • How is going the company now?

Now more people in Brazil understand the idea about the free walking tour and I think is in part because of us. I feel proud and very happy. The company now has 3 Free Walking tours (Downtown & Lapa, Copacabana & Ipanema and Paraty), 2 Pubcrawls (Night Bar tour in Lapa and Ipanema) and 1 Food Tour in Santa Teresa. We mix free and paid tours. Everyday I’m so happy doing what I do and I think that Free Walker changes people’s minds about Rio de Janeiro: Beach, Sugar Load, Christ Redeemer and Caipirinha… it’s much more than that! 🙂

  • What do you like the most about it?

When we started I used to do the tour, so at that point what I most liked about it was meeting people from all over the world! Everyday I learnt something new, everyday I met incredible people, everyday I received an amazing energy from the people who were traveling (they have something special) and at end of the tour I felt that, because of me, the tourists had an extra experince in Rio! Not only beach, Maracanã stadium, and caipirinhas! They could understand our history and culture and take much more advantage of their time in Brazil!

If you want to know more about Free Walker Tours, you can visit their website or follow them in their Facebook page.

Free Walker

Gi, I still remember when we used to work together behind that bar in Dicey’s, so many laughs and good moments! Who were going to tell us that few years later you would run a really successful company in a dream city where we spent an amazing Carnival together. I’m sure that with your positivism and good energy, you are going to arrive very far away. Hopefully, we’ll meet again soon in some part of the world.

I hope everybody feels a little bit inspire after reading this story. Have you ever done a free walking tour? Did you expect that the people behind them were people like you or me?

Ana Marco