Get to Know Sightseeing Guide Costas

With more than two decades of cycling experience, and having been born and raised in Greece, sightseeing guide Costas is the man to hire when it comes to touring Athens by bike. Inspired by green commuting and efficiency, Costas and his wife, one superstar team, started the tour guiding company “Outdoorshellas Outliving Outgoing,” and their trips are everything you could want and more. We caught up with the man behind Athens’s next big thing to learn the story behind his inspiring guiding business, as well as what makes Greece so great according to a native.

Pleasure to meet you, Costas. To begin, would you mind sharing how you discovered your passion for the outdoors and biking?

While I’ve always been interested in the outdoor lifestyle, interestingly enough, I only discovered mountain biking once I got to University. And even more interestingly, I discovered my passion for the sport in a market on the paradisiacal island of Crete; it was here that I purchased my very first bike. In no time, biking turned from a hobby to a job — though it’s odd calling being a biking tour guide a job because it’s just so much fun — and I’ve been dedicated to the profession for over 25 years now. I suppose it was a good thing my family was unable to fund my university education; it lead me to discover my longterm livelihood and love!

How did Outdoorshellas Outliving Outgoing come into the picture, and what’s the meaning behind the name?

Once my business started to take off with the help of my wife, we relocated to Athens to be closer to our roots and our family, but we wanted to maintain something that reminded us of our love for the naturalness of Crete. In turn, we chose a name that incorporated the outdoors and adventure, despite now using electric bikes. More than anything, my wife and I enjoy being close to nature (we actually met on a rafting trip!), so the company and the name are fitting.

There’s no doubt being a biking sightseeing guide is a dreamy occupation, but what exactly has been the biggest highlight?

The biggest highlight was when I discovered the electric bike; anything outside of the conventional is exciting! I felt enriched finding this cool, new era in cycling, and I liked (and still like very much) the challenge of moving in a bustling city on a bicycle. Another highlight is the uplifting feeling of commuting faster than traffic, as well as with it– it’s a very strong, empowering feeling.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Typically, in the summertime, at least, we ride from home to our business, and then we bike around Athens on tours for most of the day. Staying active and enjoying nature is the name of the game! The most challenging part of our routine entails promoting the electric bike business; currently, Athens is not the most bike-friendly city, so we are working hard to encourage people to alter that standing. Slowly but surely, the people of Athens are warming up to the idea of biking instead of driving (largely because of today’s dicey economic situation…), and they like that electric bikes are less tiring than conventional bikes, so things are working well in our favor. With the electric bike, people like that one can travel further, not get so sweaty, and still have energy at work. It’s a win-win for everyone!

What is the best trip you have ever lead?

Every trip is great — what’s not to love about hanging out in Greece with like-minded people who enjoy fitness and chatting — but there is one tour that stands out, and that one took place on Crete many years ago: I was leading a group of people who were more than happy to take a break in the countryside, dismounting their bikes, and picking up refreshing alcoholic beverages in place. We all ended up getting drunk, but not only that, we ended up getting lost! The whole experience was hilarious; we were all very merry.

Since we all know no job is perfect, would you mind sharing some of the downfalls of being a guide in Athens?

Convincing the authorities to make Athens’ infrastructure more bike-friendly!

As an experienced guide, can you think of any tips people should know before embarking on a guided tour?

Specifically in regards to my trips, people should know just how great electric biking really is; mainly, it’s because you don’t have to pedal as much as regular, so you have more energy to see more sites. Also, you don’t have to worry about not being able to hear my commentary because we provide each person with an audio headset; this means that even people in the back of the pack can hear what I’m saying about Athens’s beautiful landmarks, and it also means we don’t have to start and stop all the time, so we can cover more terrain.

What are your three favorite things about Athens?

  1. This business!
  2. The jovial people: my friends keep my wife and I going through this difficult economic time in Greece.
  3. The old history that is complex, colorful, dynamic, and, overall, a fantastic puzzle of experiences. One learns daily in this city, which makes life ever-interesting.

Have you ever thought of guiding elsewhere?

I always think about traveling to faraway places, but not guiding anywhere else. I’m happy to be in Greece, but thank you for planting the idea in my mind!

Have you cycled in many other parts of the world?

Unfortunately not; I’ve mostly stuck to beautiful Greece, and just spice things up by trying out different bikes. My favorite place to bike in Greece is Crete because of the challenging topography, in particular the mountains and white-sand beaches.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

India! For many years I’ve wanted to go there because it seems so beautifully lost in time. There are so many fantastic, rich traditions that I’d love to experience. I also like that the people of India are authentic and openly communicate. Plus, the tropical climate, and general exoticism, are hugely appealing. If I travelled there, however, I’d probably switch out my bike for an elephant; I’ve always wanted to ride around on those wise, magical animals.

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