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 If you’ve ever glanced at my blog before, you know I firmly believe in traveling like a local.

Don’t you ever get a slight feeling of regret when you look back at cities you ran through, without getting past a checklist of churches and museums? Places where you never took the time to stop and take in your surroundings on a sidewalk cafe, or on a park bench? Countries where you never really spoke to any locals, beyond occasionally asking for directions?

If you travel with Unique Tours Factory, you will never have these regrets again. I am hesitant with many tour companies, because with a few exceptions I usually don’t like being led around in large groups of people. Unique Tours Factory is great because it provides completely personal tours, so it’s just the tour guide and you (and your friends or family).

The company just launched, and already offers tours in 15 European cities with 60 different local guides for you to choose from. Looking through the different options, I wish I could return to Paris and learn about the secrets of cinema in Montmartre with Lisette, who appears to be an even bigger film buff than myself. It would probably take me months to gradually find all this insider knowledge on my own. Though I usually like to go around a city by myself, discovering things impulsively on the way, there is no denying that getting a local person’s expertise, especially one who shares the same interests as me, will save hours of fruitless stumbling.

My most recent example of a local friend to the rescue? I have been to Venice twice before for short stays when I was younger, and never really ventured outside of the main tourist thoroughfares. Last time I decided things would be different, so I sat down at a bar, ordered a beer, and waited to see what would happen. Eventually, I struck up conversation with my waiter, Thomas, who was born and raised in the area. That night, I weaved in and out of shoulder-width alleys and holes in the wall that I never knew existed, following closely on Thomas’ heels. I ended up in a small but charming square, with a packed bar full of only Venetians – mostly those who worked in the cafes and restaurants tourists frequented, and had just gotten off work. I learned a lot about what it was like to live in Venice, how it had changed over the years, and what their experience of the city was behind the glittery travel brochure image.

Unique Tours Factory can give you just such an experience, and you can find a guide to suit your particular travel tastes, whether you like photography or cooking. If you are booking a trip to Europe, I highly recommend using them, and if you are in another part of the world, don’t worry – Unique Tours Factory has big plans for future expansion, so stay tuned for more news!

This article is sponsored by Unique Tours Factory, but as always, I only write articles for brands I support and endorse – brands that align with Lose the Map’s message and my travel philosophy.