ATLsherpa is an educational podcast & newsletter for people who would like to know Atlanta on a deeper, more meaningful level. My mission is to help you connect with ATL’s past, present, and future. As a subscriber, you gain access to articles, newsletters, virtual tours, interactive maps and other multi-media learning tools. — Steve Saenz, ATLsherpa & ExploreATL Tours
ExploreATL Tours is a small, locally-owned business. Your support as a subscriber helps a lot and is greatly appreciated. Thank you.
On January 1, 2021, I launched an educational project here on Substack called ATLsherpa. This endeavor is a natural ‘next step’ on a journey that began in 2014 when I started leading walking tours throughout Atlanta. Since that time, I have designed and led over 300 tours. I have also organized and hosted 500+ culinary, educational, and community service events around the city. In other words, I have gotten to know ATL pretty well.
More importantly, I have had the privilege of helping thousands of people learn more about this amazing city. Sometimes the things we learn together are subtle and intriguing; other times they are head-scratching ah-ha’s that alter our perception of Atlanta; in a good way. In almost every case, people walk away appreciating their city more; grateful that they decided to move or visit here. That is the highest ROI for me as a tour guide.
Walking is the best way to really know a city!
Within the first few months of being a tour guide, I noticed a consistent pattern — a reaction really — from my guests. Without fail, everyone who came on one of my tours said the same thing and it sounded something like this: "I have been living here all my life and I never knew this was here." OR "I have driven by this a million times and never saw that before." That made me realize something very important and I hope you will take this to heart. Atlanta looks and feels very different when you walk through it. You see and feel things that you cannot possibly see or feel when you are driving or even biking around. You see the cool stuff — the interesting stuff — the beautiful stuff — the gritty stuff — the stuff that makes you say, “Man, I’m really glad I came on this tour.” The stuff that makes you proclaim, “I want to explore ATL some more!”
Connecting with ATL’s past, present, and future…
So where does all this cool, interesting, beautiful, and gritty stuff come from? Well, it emanates from the city’s past, present, and future. The past makes itself known when you make time to learn about the people and events that have shaped the city over time. You don’t have to become a historian but you have to develop a working knowledge of what happened before you arrived on the scene. In a future installment, I’ll explain how you connect with the past. That’s where it gets fun!
You might think that the present is pretty obvious and static but it’s not. The present is subtle and dynamic. It is changing at warp speed. If you have ever done a double-take and asked, “Where the heck did that come from?” (referring to a high-rise building) you know this already. The present pulls the future into existence. Sometimes it pulls the past into a new existence. This is especially true for historic structures like the Candler Building in Downtown Atlanta. Many “old” buildings in Atlanta (entire neighborhoods, in fact) are experiencing a renaissance as we speak.
This is a very exciting time to be an explorer in ATL!
The future is being created right before our eyes but you have to know where to look. It is revealed in blueprints and master plans and artists’ renderings. It often hides in plain sight until you look in just the right place. Then, it jumps right in front of you and reveals its intriguing, refreshing, and oh-so-sexy self.
So, the mission of this writing project — ATLsherpa — is to help you experience all of these wonderful things. I want to help you connect with Atlanta’s rich past; its vibrant present, and its very exciting future. ATL is like a giant treasure chest for the intrepid explorer. The treasures are everywhere but most are lurking quietly (incognito) waiting for you to uncover them. That is the explorer’s mission!
Please join me on this treasure hunt…
I have come to realize that some people were put on this planet to explore! These folks tend to be adventurous, curious, and enlightened. They like to learn and discover new things. Weather permitting, they prefer to be outside. They feel a special connection with nature and (almost always) with animals. Explorers have a healthy respect for history and the people who occupied this area before we arrived. Long before we arrived!
If you are one of these people, we are kindred spirits. As a fellow explorer, I would like to invite you to join me on this treasure hunt. Let’s explore ATL together. Let’s uncover the hidden treasures that are all around us. I will be your guide — your virtual sherpa if you will. I will help you connect with ATL on a deeper level, a more meaningful level. In so doing, you will develop a greater appreciation for this city. You will also acquire some new skills that you use to help others uncover the hidden treasures that ATL has to offer. In time, you too may become a Sherpa. I sure hope so.
For those who cannot explore ATL in person…
There are many explorers who, for various reasons, are unable to get outside and explore the city in person. If you are in that camp, please know that you have a special place in my heart. Virtually all of the digital content I have created during the past six years (websites, virtual tours, quizzes, photos, videos) was designed with you in mind. If you decide to join me on this journey, please know that I will always have your back. That is to say, I will continue to create content that you will find interesting, fun, and challenging!