Story from the Sole: Immersus Tours Help Visitors Engage with Seattle, on Foot
City tours are typically gleaming tour buses clustered around over-hyped sites, disgorging herds of tourists for enough time to snap a photo and hop back on the bus to ride to the next stop. Jose Antonio Tello (Tonio), founder of Seattle’s Immersus Tours, is helping change that perception.
By Leah Wyatt
Immersus Tours offers a unique adventure for people who love to walk and who want to experience local Seattle life. Tonio’s tours don’t focus on stereotypical Seattle attractions but rather on the vibrant, walkable neighborhoods that make Seattle such a wonderful place to work, live and play.
Tour groups are small, which means that a tour’s energy necessarily draws on that of the participants. Interaction is encouraged, among walkers as well as with locals and business owners (the tours take frequent pit stops at local businesses to enjoy local food, beer, and whatever else tour participants want to stop and see). Small groups enable flexible routing, though tours typically embark on a route that takes walkers from Green Lake to Fremont, a journey of roughly four miles. According to Tonio, his tour groups come from all over the world as well as sometimes including locals interested in further exploring Seattle’s offerings.
Immersus strives to provide an eco-friendly experience. In addition to walking, Immersus groups often take Seattle Metro buses. This, says Tonio, “enables visitors to learn the system for future use.” Unfamiliar public transit systems can seem daunting, and helping visitors learn our bus system surely cuts down on emissions from taxis tourists might otherwise opt for had they not been shown the Seattle Metro ropes.
Ultimately, Tonio hopes that tour walkers will leave with a sense of what it means to live in Seattle, having been truly immersed in neighborhood city life. Traveling neighborhoods on foot allows for this; as they stroll through the city, visitors engage with local culture rather than passively observing it.
Tonio is a true advocate for walking and the ways it can enrich our lives; his commitment to promoting walking extends beyond his business. He supports Feet First as a business member, and has participated in multiple Feet First events, including the Earth Day Hand Truckin’ Beer event and International Walk to School Month (IWALK), accompanying children on their walk to school during the month of October.