What the World Needs

If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me, “So, what do you do?” I’d be very well off! These days that is a hard question to answer. I grew up in a world where it was expected that you would graduate high school, go to college, get a degree, “become” whatever it is you become, and do that thing for the rest of your life. For people who live by that model, answering the question “What do you do?” is easy. For me — not so much.

Mandy’s graduation from WPHS

Mandy’s graduation from WPHS

I live in the same neighborhood I grew up in, right here in the Audubon Park Garden District (APGD). I attended Winter Park High School, then went on to The University of Florida in Gainesville, where, after much indecision, I decided to major in Speech-Language Pathology & Audiology. I found this path by way of a love for American Sign Language, and went on to get my Master’s Degree at Gallaudet University (the only University for the Deaf in the world located in Washington DC). For the last 20 years I have worked in the field of deafness and I love what I do. However, about a year and a half ago I became weary of working inside a system that is inflexible to change - and I made the decision to leave the system and start my own business with a business partner who I have been friends with since attending Gallaudet. Wow! What a life changing experience! Don’t get me wrong — I’m very glad I left. But leaving behind a salary, health insurance, and security was not easy.

Mandy and her business partner (and best friend), Katherine on a business trip to American School For the Deaf in CT - November 2018.

Mandy and her business partner (and best friend), Katherine on a business trip to American School For the Deaf in CT - November 2018.

Starting a business was difficult. And not having a source of income was the hardest part. I decided to look at other ways to generate income while working on getting the business up and running. I have always had many interests and dabbled in many different things. I thought that maybe I could take one of these passions and turn it into a part-time job to help ends meet. I am not going to tell you all of the things I have tried in the last year to make ends meet (don’t get any crazy ideas)…but I will tell you about one.

For a couple of years I had volunteered with my neighborhood Main Street Program, APGD, and truly loved working to help and support my own community. I thought that working for my neighborhood, in any capacity, would be something I would truly enjoy doing. I met with the director of the program, Jennifer Marvel, and asked her if she had any part-time positions I could apply for. With the programs’ very small budget, she did not have any positions to offer, however, she was interested in finding new events to host in our community. She told me that if I could come up with an event and execute it, then I could have a portion of the proceeds as my pay. I LOVED this idea and I got straight to work!

This is a picture from one of my favorite APGD tours! This was the night I fell in love with Bem Bom! - January 2018

This is a picture from one of my favorite APGD tours! This was the night I fell in love with Bem Bom! - January 2018

I started brainstorming what kind of event I could create, and it didn’t take me long to come up with an idea. Whenever I travel I like to take a local walking tour. I always avoid touristy areas and try to find a local who gives tours that show the true feel of that community. I live in Orlando, one of the most popular tourist areas in the world, and we don’t have much to offer in the way of a true “local” experience. I pitched the idea to Jennifer of doing a walking tour of the neighborhood that would include history of the area as well as craft beer! (I’m CRAZY about beer - and I LOVE beer tastings!) Jennifer thought it was a great idea, so the APGD Craft Beer Tour was born!

Tickets sold out in less than 24 hours and the tour was a hit! I had an amazing time not only running the tour with the guests, but also the planning, organizing, and collaborating with local businesses. I loved every aspect of it. I went on to do several more tours over the next several months and fell in love with being a tour guide.

A map showing MUSQUITO County

A map showing MUSQUITO County

This past summer I took my annual road trip and participated in three different tours. Attending these tours sparked the idea to create my own business where I can design and run my own tours in all areas across Orlando, Winter Park, and all of central Florida…and I immediately knew “Mosquito County” - the original county name for this part of Florida, was going to be the name.

So here we are! As soon I got back from my road trip in August I incorporated. In September I had my first tour. I October I had a couple more tours. In November I started doing multiple tours each week. And now here it is December and I’m looking back on the last few months and asking myself - “What DO I do?” Am I a speech-language pathologist? A tour guide? A sign language interpreter? An entrepreneur? A bartender? A puppeteer? (yep, I do all these things…) And then yesterday, as I was doing my daily reading from Mark Nepo’s “The Book of Awakening”, I read this:

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” - Howard Thurman

I am alive.

I am doing what I love.

I am living a life of passion.

That’s what I do.