WalkWithLocals was started and is organized by Carl Maynard, who you may remember from the week he hosted @withthelocals, showing off the finest of fine in DC. Focused and energized by community, during his week on WTL, he held the first ‘walk’. And as most good things go - it evolved quickly from there.
And just a couple weeks ago, With the Locals got a chance to stroll around with WalkWithLocals when Carl and his gang ventured to NYC to hold Brooklyn’s first and hopefully not last walk. Carl was kind enough to give us a wider look on the project.
How do you introduce WalkWithLocals to people who have never heard of it?
This is a great question and to be honest, one I get quite often but I feel as though I am still figuring it out. Part of me wants to have an elevator pitch but most of me wants to figure out the best way to explain it but not in a quick way. Just an effective way for them to understand. What I've found helps with any answer I've given is my excitement when speaking about it. If you polled everyone who's asked me what WWL is, they probably all got a different version if the same story, just change a few words here and there but I’d bet on the fact they all got the same amount of excitement. But for you readers, Walk With Locals at its core is a meeting place for locals who share a love of photography. We set a date and time and that's it. We ask folks to meet us there and nothing else. Never a "need" to sign up anywhere or wonder if you're gonna be invited. All are invited and all are welcomed. Walk With Locals wants to help you know your city and know your neighbors.
What was your drive to start these walks?
I’ve been to "insta-meets" or events designed for "influencers" and while I understand why they exist and even believe there's a good reason to have them. I knew something different could exist. I've never seen WWL as better or even "original" but more so, a community for anyone. The best feedback I get is when people either approach me in person or via DM and tell me that WalkWithLocals is the/a reason they're falling in love with their city. Or on occasion I've heard "WWL is the reason I want to stay in DC." What I think people see in and love about about this project is I truly want this project to belong to the city. The project can only go where people take it. Sure I can draft up a graphic and ask folks to hang out but that’s only a small fraction of it. There has to be something that brings them out time after time. I don’t promise anything. We don't take private tours or get access to anything the general public can’t see. The walks are located in places that people are already going. I see a few photos pop in one place and think "ok, we go there next." The amount of times I hear "I never even knew this (place or par) existed." is unbelievable. And why we continue to host walks at such a high rate. There is so much to see and everyone's schedule changes. So there's always a rotating group at the walks. In short, my drive was to just create something I wanted to be apart of. Build something that I believed people would respond to.
Heading up this project gives you a unique perspective, what is something you've learned in this role?
The biggest lesson I've learned so far is people don't need an incentive to explore. Again, it goes back to not promising anything. It's always just about community. People want to explore. It's just natural to want to see what you've not yet seen. But, for most, doing that in a group is all the incentive they need. People want to meet people. We all want friends outside of our office or gym. WWL is pushing to bring people from all sorts of backgrounds. We have lawyers, bakers, journalists, artists and government workers at our walks all at the same time.
Where do you see WWL one year from now?
If you're reading this in LA, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle or Portland, hopefully you've met us by this time next year. We've so far held walks in Baltimore, Philly and Brooklyn. All of which are outside of our homebase of DC. But I've always seen this project as a community that could exist outside of just DC. We want to meet folks all over the country. We have this sub category system set up under #walkwithlocals that centralizes your community by turning it local in the form of #WWLxCITYNAME. For instance, you can check out #WWLxDC, #WWLxPhilly, #WWLxNYC and more. We've even got #WWLxItaly and #WWLxFrance. It's nuts! I also want to see Walk With Locals sweatshirts and tees. I think that is maybe a little longer out but I think well designed tees and sweatshirts are the best way to spread the word. I just imagine a scenario where a dude is wearing his sweatshirt at a coffee shop and someone who has been crushin on him finally gets the courage to say hello and uses his WalkWithLocals sweatshirt as an excuse to do so... is that weird? ha! I think above all, I just want to see us still building community.
Check out @walkwithlocals for future walks!