Interview from “The One Way Ticket Show”

I was recently a guest on The One Way Ticket Show podcast and talk all about Museum Hack and just how freaking amazing museums are! Have a listen to the episode and get even more excited about the work we’re doing. Take a listen, or read the transcript below.  Here’s the link:

Take a listen, or read the transcript below.

Here’s the link to the podcast episode:

Plus, find out where I’d go if given a one way ticket (no coming back!) which is the premise of this awesome podcast hosted by Steven Shalowitz.

Nick Gray & Steven Shalowitz getting ready to record The One Way Ticket Show.

EP 126: Nick’s One Way Ticket Is A Do-Over During This Periods In His Life

SS: From New York City, I’m Steven Shalowitz and this is the One Way Ticket Show.

Hello and welcome once again to another episode of the show where we explore with our guests where’d they go if given a one way ticket, no coming back. Their destinations may be in the past, present, future, real, imaginary or even a state of mind, but once again the only caveat, there’s no coming back…

Steven Shalowitz’s podcast the One Way Ticket Show

Now, as a very regular museum goer, I’m truly pleased to welcome into the studio, Nick Gray. He’s the founder and CEO of Museum Hack, a company of renegade tour guides that lead unconventional tours in some of the world’s finest museums. I am so glad to have you aboard the One Way Ticket Show so welcome Nick.

NG: Thank you. Happy to be here.

SS: Well, like I said to you before we started speaking, I’m an enormous, enormous museum goer and so one of the things that I wanted to do is to talk to you about museums and just a word for our regular listeners is that, I’m going to be a little bit unconventional on this episode of the show.

I’m actually going to bring on Nick’s one way ticket destination at the end of the show we’re going to find out where he wants to go on his one way ticket journey at the very end of the show. And we’re going to talk all about Museum Hack at the beginning of the show, okay? So we’re going to break with our current format Nick just for you.

NG: Oh my gosh! This is crazy.

SS: Just because I love museums so much.

NG: I love it.

Guests on a Museum Hack tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

SS: Alright. Well listen, I think it may surprise our listeners that despite you’re founding a company that offers unique experiences in museums, you yourself weren’t a museum goer. In fact, you started off your April 2015 TedEx Talk with the words “I hate museums. I think they’re boring. The paintings have nothing to do with me. My feet hurt. Get me out of here. But all that changed once Saturday night ended”.

NG: It did, it absolutely did. And if you’re listening to this thinking I don’t like museums, this isn’t something I want to know about, you know I used to be that person. And so when I hear you speak about how much you love museums, I love that and I’m excited about that, but.

A quote from Nick’s first ever TEDx Talk.

SS: I haven’t even gone on a Museum Hack tour yet.

NG: I know, I know right?

SS: So imagine how much more I’m going to love it after that Museum Hack tour.

NG: I know. You are a great museum visitor, but I made my company to really reach folks that were like me. Who think that they don’t like museums. I don’t come from an art background. I come from really the business world. And yeah, I had this amazing experience. This woman brought me on a date to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

SS: Here in New York City.

NG: Here in New York City. It’s the most popular museum in all of North America, second most popular in the world I think. But, it’s just so crowded and I don’t like art anyways. So, yeah, had an amazing experience there and it really changed my life.

Tableau Vivant! One of our favorite things to do on a tour.

SS: What was it about that one visit that the light bulb went on in Nick’s head about museums?

NG: You know, I think it was her talking to me at my level and me just experiencing the space with so few people there and this sense of exploring and wonder that unlocked within me a sense of curiosity about art and history that I had never really had. And it wasn’t like that date changed everything, but it started, it got me willing to go back to the museum and see what more they had to offer.

SS: And then you started leading your friends around museums.

NG: I did. I started to lead my friends around, started with my little sister who was visiting New York City and I’d been going to the MET all the time since that date saying I think I moved to a big city for stuff like this, right. So, my sister came, I showed her some of the cool things I found and then I wanted to get my friends to go to the museum with me, but none of them would go because it was the museum, it’s a part of town.

SS: It’s not a cool thing to do.

NG: It’s not a cool thing to do. So I had to trick them by throwing my birthday party there. And they had to go right, because it’s my birthday, I can do whatever I want. And I gave tours for my birthday. For my birthday I became a tour guide and it wasn’t a sophisticated tour. I basically showed them ten cool things I found and three things that I wanted to steal. Right? That was like my level of tour, no thematic narrative arc to it necessarily. And that’s how I really started to become a tour guide.

Nick would talk about ten cool things he found in the museum and three things he wanted to steal.

SS: And then more people latched on to that?

NG: More people latched on, people told their friends. It became like the thing to do in New York City.

SS: Right, and then a company was born.

NG: A company was born yeah.

SS: So what’s the mandate for Museum Hack?

NG: Museum Hack, like our motto is museums are f’ing awesome. And we’re trying to attract a whole new type of audience to museums. We think that there’s more people out there who don’t like museums than who do like museums. That’s why you’re a very special situation. You’re a young guy, you’ve been going to museums for a really long time and you love them and I think that’s awesome, but you also need to know, you’re a lot different from everybody else.

NG: Heck ya.

SS: And no matter what city I go to, wherever it is in the world, and I’ve been to very far flung places, I’ll always go to a museum. And some of my best experiences have been at museums and I mean just one example and I’ve mentioned this before on the show. A couple of years ago during December, December/January, I was in Russia, Moscow and St. Petersburg. Half of my time, three quarters of my time were in the museums. Of course I visited the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, and I remember because it was the dead of winter there were very few tourists. And I remember sitting in the room where Mattice’s musicians and dancers were hung. These two enormous, enormous canvases and I was the only one in the room and it was magical experience and it was almost as if he painted those for me and I was enjoying them in my own private living room.

NG: How awesome!

SS: So I’ve had wonderful, wonderful experiences and again, I think museums are really the intersection of art and history and I think everyone at some level can appreciate what’s in a museum.

NG: That’s so cool. When you were at the Hermitage, did you notice like anything special about the guards there?

SS: No.

NG: So, if I remember correctly…

SS: I don’t remember any guards actually.

NG: Right, right, right. Because they just blend into the walls. They actually hire their like Russian babushkas. They’re generally older, grandma type females who just sit in these chairs.

SS: Now that you mention it, in some of the museums I remember in the Russian museum, I think in the Pushkin in Moscow, I do remember old women and they’re just sitting there knitting or reading and just kind of watching the world go by.

NG: Watching the world go by. Also, in that museum I’ve heard at night they have cats all through the museum.

SS: They do. At the Hermitage, in fact, I have a book on the cats at the Hermitage.

NG: Really?

SS: Yes because they’re to keep the mice away.

NG: Yes.

SS: So they have cats that live underneath the Hermitage. And in fact, we’re getting off topic here, but that’s the beauty of museums, the conversation can go any which way. During the siege of Leningrad, during World War II and afterwards, there was a terrible, terrible rodent problem. The whole city was infested with rodents and they brought in cats from Euroslavo to come in and kill all the mice in St. Petersburg and in fact, along Yesky Prospect, which is their Fifth Avenue if you will, their main street, there’s a book, it’s not a bookstore. It’s a very fine food store and right next to it, there’s a very, very high ledge and there’s a bronze cat there and it’s good luck to throw a coin up there and to have the coin stay there. And that’s the cat in honor of all the cats that came to kill the mice after World War II ended. But, mice were brought in and mice have always lived actually in the basement of the Hermitage to make sure that there isn’t a rodent infestation. You’re absolutely right.

NG: How cool is that right?

SS: I mean museums, the buildings themselves are absolutely terrific.

NG: I love the buildings. For me, that’s the magic.

SS: Well actually, one of my favorite museums here in New York, and then we’ll get back to Museum Hacks, one of my favorite museums is the Neue Gallery at 86th and 5th that’s the Ronald Lauder collection of the Goofstaugh Clens the Eggon Sheila’s, early 20th century German and Austrian art. That was a Vanderbilt house. I don’t know if you know that or not?

NG: Really?

SS: Yes, it was originally a Vanderbilt house and then it passed hands you know throughout the years. But, if you look at it, and you go in there, you can tell it was just a mansion and just a stunning, stunning structure. The cafe is there, the bookstore.

NG: I love that cafe, have you been there?

SS: Yeah Cafe Sabarsky. It’s wonderful, just wonderful.

NG: Protip for people listening to this that are going to come and visit New York, you have got to check out Cafe Sabarsky in the Neue Gallery and it’s good for lunch and dinner.

SS: And desserts.

NG: And it’s very, because it’s subsidized by the museum, you’re in a Tony neighborhood, in a really cool cafe’ that feels like you can be in Vienna.

SS: And they have good strudel.

NG: Very good strudel and you pay what, $15/$17 for manes. It’s really, really nice there.

SS: And that’s where the Adele Bloch Bauer painting is. The famous Guestaf Clink painting, is upstairs and of course Helen Myran was in the movie The Woman In Gold so that painting is the one that’s up there.

NG: Which he paid a pretty penny for.

SS: Getting back to Museum Hacks, the building blocks really of what you do in your business are three things: guides, games and gossip.

NG: Three things, guides, games and gossip that are the heart and the foundation of our company.

And we do exactly is we lead these renegade museum tours. So this isn’t like an app on your phone, it’s not really a website. We’re selling this live tour at major cities where the tour guides really work for me and my company, not for the museum. So guides, the first and foremost. Our company has become popular, I think, I’m certain actually because of the people that we hire. And our tour guides come from all walks of life. They are stand up comedians, they’re actors, they do broadway work, they’re musicians, they’re science teachers.

A group shot of the Museum Hack tour guides in 2016.

SS: They’re podcasters maybe

NG: They’re podcasters maybe. We hire people from all walks of life that have passion and are great storytellers right. And so that’s really important to us, the tour guides and the guides create their own tours.

SS: And they create the games then?

NG: They create the games as well.

Guests playing a game during an Olympics-themed tour of the Met.

Because the guides don’t have a script, because they’re working from their passion, often times there’s so many things that they want to show, that they move so fast.

  • Museum Hack tours are 2-3 times as fast as most museum tours and so they have to come up with games to keep people moving quickly and just to keep their attention spans tuned in.
  • Because you have to remember this is a tour for people who don’t like museums. You know? I’m on my smartphone every 2-3 minutes. I think Google did a survey that said, the average American now checks their smartphone 140 times a day.
  • It’s mind boggling so the tours have all these games and activities to keep people’s attention spans high and keep them having fun.

SS: Right. And then gossip.

NG: Gossip is my favorite part.

SS: That’s what I want to know about.

NG: That’s what you want to know about. Gossip is the juicy backstories about the art.

We’re talking about like you and I said, how much did that painting cost, right? Who donated it to the museum? What was the love affair like between these artists? And that’s how we engage our visitors is through these gossip stories about the works.

A tour guide sharing some juicy gossip about the art at the AIC in Chicago.

SS: Yeah because you really believe in storytelling before teaching people about art history.

NG: Absolutely. I think storytelling is first and foremost what we hire for. And that’s where maybe museums aren’t connecting with as many people as they can because they’re looking for PHD’s in art history and all this detailed knowledge that is great once somebody is tuned in, but we’re going after these new audiences.

SS: But, I have to tell you, even as an art lover and someone that goes to museums, I’d like to know all those as one of my favorite teachers in high school used to call them “facts of worthless knowledge right?”

NG: I like that.

SS: Because that’s what makes things so interesting and that’s what brings everything to life.

NG: Have you read any books by Bill Bryson?

SS: Yeah I know Bill Bryson. I mean not personally, but I’m very familiar with his work yes.

NG: I just thought about that because it seems like someone that you may like or kind of connect with. His books are really special, right?

SS: They are. Absolutely. Which museums do you operate in?

NG: Right now we’re at a bunch of museums. The cities we’re in is New York City, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Chicago and soon we’re working on Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

SS: But your tours are not necessarily just for people that have no interest in museums because you do a lot of work with companies. Right? Event management companies etc., so it could also be for people that do like art, but just want to have a different experience in a museum.

NG: Exactly. We have gotten to be, something that’s fueled our growth has been these company team building tours that we do where maybe a business wants to do something fun with their staff, but they don’t want to go bowling.

SS: I think it’s such a great idea because as someone that worked in the corporate world for more years than I’d like to admit, there are all these so called “bonding” experiences and I won’t tell you what I think of the world bonding when I think of bonding. But, and it’s usually over oh let’s have a happy hour. But, this is a real bonding experience. It’s bringing people together, getting people out of their comfort zone and it’s also not everyone is into alcohol and not everyone is into sports and not everyone is into doing nonsensical things. So this is a very neutral type of environment isn’t it, to put people in a museum and have it a little bit academic, but also just to have it fun and not to have it embarrassing.

NG: Exactly, right. That’s the thing, is that most team building can be fun, but it’s not relevant, right? So we have these huge encyclopedic museums that we can use for storytelling that interacts with a company’s values, their mission statement. Our tour guides do an amazing job about that. And that’s how you know, you mentioned the tour guides. Our tour guides are like a party host meets a persuader, right. These are very engaging people and so a business will come to us and say look we want to do something fun and what can we do at the museum. And we’ve hosted groups as big as 200 people before, whether we do a scavenger hunt or a specific custom designed tour for them. We did one for a major yogurt brand that looked at the history of yogurt through time. It was really cool.

SS: Is there yogurt in any paintings, that you can think of?

NG: You know, it had a lot to do with dairy. I think they did find yogurt in certain paintings. It was a really, really special..

SS: Sure there’s a lot of cows in paintings.

NG: There’s a lot of cows in paintings, right.

SS: When you said scavenger hunt I remember when I was a kid 10,000 years ago and this was well before 9/11 where you could roam anywhere you wanted in an airport. And one of my friends, we were in 7th or 8th grade, had a scavenger hunt at O’hare airport in my home town Chicago and you had to get a this and a that and find out all this information and the team that got everything together won. And out of every party, every event, every function that I’ve gone to throughout the years and I’ve been to some major, major ones and some fantastic ones, I still remember that because it was the funnest and it was in an environment that was rather unexpected. And so I would imagine that a scavenger hunt in a museum, especially the MET, would just be just a wonderful, wonderful experience.

NG: I like what you said about that. That you remember that because it was fun and it was unexpected. Those are two really magical elements.

SS: Yeah you have something that you offer called Hacky Hours. I want to know what that’s about.

NG: So Hacky Hours came really pulled from us, by our customers who said we love what you’re doing at the museum, can you come to our company, can you come to our corporate headquarters and bring some of that energy and storytelling and games to our business space. And sometimes we think of ourselves as culture for hire. You know there are a lot of startups out there that trying to give good work life balance`to their employees. So we do these Hacky Hours and we come in and we play games with people and we do a lot of fun stuff. We do a lot of this team bonding, but that has relationships within the employee’s, things like I said, it has fun, but it has relevance.

SS: And you also do storytelling workshops.

NG: We do storytelling workshops.

SS: What is that about?

NG: This comes from when a business comes to us, they say, look we like what you do at the museum, can you hack our brand story. And so they hire the sauce, the secret special sauce from Museum Hack, to come in and look at, look at their company and how do we reimagine the story that they tell their employees and their customers. We’ve done it for some big companies like Verizon, Viacom, Bloomingdale’s. We did the Knickerbocker hotel which is the new one that’s here in New York City. It’s on like 42nd and Broadway. And this hotel had so much history that we did training for their frontline staff, to say look let’s teach you how to be tour guides of your own hotel because there’s an amazing story here. And that was a lot of fun.

SS: Oh I can imagine. Yeah because there’s a lot of history in that venue.

NG: Oh yeah.

SS: Are millennials going to museums?

NG: Millennials are going to museums, but not as much as we want, you know. Museums today are not competing with other museums. They’re competing with Xbox, with Facebook, with the iPhone. There’s so much attention fatigue out there today and I think it’s been hard for museums to keep up with that shift towards screens and things like that.

SS: But you know, museums can be very inexpensive forms of entertainment.

NG: Oh yeah.

SS: Right? I mean if you have a student ID you can get in either for free or at just a minimal price and I really like what you said earlier on about hosting your birthday party at a museum. My birthday’s September 8th.

NG: Nice.

SS: I have to find out what day of the week that is this week, but I think might want to hold my birthday party there at one of the museums.

NG: You should definitely do it and I’ll give you a little secret. So I did this. When I did my first birthday party at the museum, I’ve had a few there since because I love it. When the museum found out, because I invited like 30 or 40 people, they said okay great no problem, but it’s going to be very expensive. It was way more than $1,000. I said why. They said because you have a group of more than ten people that means it’s a group and you have to pay special group pricing, you know for 30 or 40 people. I said oh, I’m so sorry I misspoke. It’s not 30 or 40, it’s actually 3 groups of 10.

SS: Good idea.

NG: And so because I moved around the numbers and just split it up, we were not officially considered a group. Now, these days of course working with big businesses, they’re not going to get in trouble at the museum. We pay all the full fare. We gave the MET last year more than $300,000 in directed mission revenue, but at the time when it was just myself I was much more scrappier.

SS: Well let’s put it this way. I’m going to have my guests, my friends, buy their own tickets.

NG: Okay good.

SS: So I can short circuit that conversation. You’re familiar with a lot of museums. You’ve mentioned a number of cities in which Museum Hack is found. What do you think museums are doing right and what do you think they’re doing wrong?

NG: I love when museums have alternative hours. Have you been..

SS: You mean like going at night?

NG: Like going at night!

SS: It’s a great idea.

NG: It’s really awesome. Like the Brooklyn Museum does Thursday nights and it’s open late. The new Whitney Museum here in New York is open late on Friday and Saturday nights. Wherever you are in your local community for those listening, it’s very likely that at least once month, if not more your museum is open late. And I love it when people do that because the reality is that daytime opening hours serve a very small percentage of the population. Most people have full time jobs or at least daytime requirements so I love it when museums have late hours during week nights.

SS: Also, if you’re a tourist you want to cram in as much as possible into your visit. If you know a museum is open until 9 p.m. as I just mentioned when I was in Russia, some of them open very late so it was like wow, I can have something to eat at 5 p.m./6 p.m. and then I still have a few more hours.

NG: That’s awesome. And what a great place to hang out at night. That was my whole feeling was that, look I moved to a big city to go to places like this and I could go hang out in a dive bar and have a glass of wine or I could go to the best museum in all of New York City.

SS: And be inspired.

NG: And be inspired.

SS: It’s really about being inspired at the end of the day. So you’ve run a lot of terrific tours throughout these museums. Is there a stand out tour that has been given by museum hack that you want to share, a very quirky, esoteric one? I like that dairy one by the way. That yogurt one.

NG: The yogurt one.

SS: I’m going to have to look at all the cows and all the dairy products now you know in paintings. But any sort of quirky one you want to share?

NG: There’s two that I can think of. One, we’ve done a lot of work with Google sending their teams to us and they love this tour that’s called A Tour Of Technology Through Time. You know for a lot of workers right now, standup desks are in vogue and really cool. We show them Mary Antoinette’s standing desk. We show them how was this particular used. What materials were used to generate that so that’s a cool tour. Then we have another tour that’s selling like hotcakes and I’ll sensor the name a little bit, but it’s Bad A-S-S Witches, with a capital B, at the MET. And this talking about ladies and leadership at the museums, these amazing women who’ve powdered, supported and painted the works of art. It’s really cool and it’s very, very popular.

SS: And what you’ve just described, it’s at the MET?

NG: It’s at the MET, it’s also in Washington D.C. and San Francisco. It’s really grown to more cities.

SS: And there’s something called museum fatigue at the end of the day, but you’ve learned how to combat that.

NG: Museum fatigue is a real thing. If you’ve ever been to a museum or an art gallery and after fifteen or thirty minutes, instead of thinking about the art, you’re thinking about a cup of coffee, which is very normal. Right? I get tired and worn out. That’s a real thing. It’s called gallery fatigue. You know, it’s because you’re brain is looking at and contemplating so many things. And so we do things on our tours. We pass out candy to give a little sugar spike. We do chocolates. We’ll drink a glass of wine at night or do a shot of espresso during the daytime tours. We do exercises, squats in the stairwells, yoga. Whatever we can do to keep people tuned in an entertained. I mean if you’re listening now you can sense how excited I am. This is the energy we try to bring at the museum.

SS: Absolutely, on your website you say “We believe you should visit more museums more often. Museums are a great space for you to get inspired about the future and learn about history”. But I’m going to actually build on that Nick and say that they’re also necessary to put our time today into context.And just one facet that comes to mind, is the notion of fame and who is famous. And in fact a recent guest that we had here on the show, Carol Burken, who is a historian, comes to mind because Carol wrote about Betsy Bonaparte. And Betsy Bonaparte was Jerome Bonaparte’s wife, the sister in law to Napoleon Bonaparte. Okay. And when I was reading that book, it made me realize, here’s a woman who was the most beautiful woman in America. Everyone knew who she was. You ask anyone today, who’s Betsy Bonaparte, nobody knows who she is. So for me going to museums, especially looking at portraits, right?

NG: Yes.

SS: And looking at certain historical events, really makes this notions of what is newsworthy, who is famous and what does fame mean and what does notoriety mean. It puts into context visa via those figures that we consider famous and of note today.

NG: I love that idea. When you go and look at these paintings and the portraits, this is a question. How do you dive deep? How do you find out about somebody when they strike your interest? Are you on your cell phone looking it up? Are you the type of visitor who reads the wall placards?

SS: I read the wall placard and I also listen to the audio guide and I’ll take a photo and after my visit I’ll look up information about the painter or the subject. When I’m on vacation, I don’t take photos, I take a lot of photos, but I’m not on Facebook, I’m not on Twitter, I’m not on social media because I want to be very much in the moment. I’m there for myself, I’m not there to tell my friends look where I am.

NG: Right.

SS: So I and in fact again, just going back to Russia. One of the artist I discovered who’s a very well known Russian painter, but I didn’t know who he was, Valentine Cherub, whose work I absolutely fell in love with and he painted members of the Yusubov family. And one of the Yusubov men was one of those that was said to have kid Rasputin and killed Rasputin in the Yusubov palace in St. Petersburg. And so when I saw his portrait, this particular Yusubov, his first name escapes me right now. Maybe one of our listeners will write in and tell me who it was or I’ll check it out afterwards. But, again, it brought that part of history to life for me and so that’s what I do is that it’s one door opening another opening another. And I look at going to museums as not the beginning and the end. I look at it as really the introduction. That’s at least how I look at it.

NG: I like that.

SS: With all the museums you’ve been too, favorite museum and favorite piece in any museum?

NG: I’m curious to know, what was your opinion about The Art Institute In Chicago.

SS: Well that’s my hometown museum. I grew up there practically.

NG: I bet.

SS: And it’s a brilliant museum and has the largest collection of French impressionist paintings outside of France.

NG: Awesome.

SS: It has very important Shugals and Picassos, Monets of course. It has Rembrandts. It has wonderful Edward Hopper paintings. So it has a terrific, it has one of the world’s best collections.

NG: It does. It does. I think that it’s a great museum and I really like it.

SS: And they have terrific exhibitions too.

NG: Super exhibitions. My complaint with it is that if I’m trying to encourage a new type of audience to go to a museum, it can oftentimes be price prohibitive for someone to feel like they’ve got their money’s worth. And one of the things I love is that some museums have a suggested admission.

SS: Like the MET.

NG: Like the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, which has a suggested donation policy. And you can pay the full $25 or you could pay a dollar to go in if you so felt. That, for me, having a suggested admission policy made me have really a greater sense of agency that I could simply stop in for 30 minutes. That I could just go to the museum for a cup of coffee and not feel like I didn’t get my money’s worth. Now a few months after I started doing this I realized that I could just buy a membership for $70 and I could get in as much as I want. I could skip the lines and for me that’s what I ended up doing. I bought higher and higher levels of membership. But if I had to pick favorite museums, I’d say for somebody new wanting to develop a relationship, look for the ones that let you pay a suggested admission or a free admission so that you can become comfortable with the space and not feel like if you didn’t get anything out of it, like that sense of guilt when you leave a museum. That’s the worst thing.

SS: Or the subject matter interests you. So for example, the ICP, The International Center Of Photography. Their new museum in the Bowery.

NG: Yeah.

NG:  I haven’t been there actually.

SS: Yeah, it’s a wonderful space. They used to be on 6th avenue, just opposite Bryant Park.

NG: Yes.

SS: Then they moved down about a year or so ago.

NG: Didn’t know.

SS: And so, that’s a terrific museum because it’s not the MET, in terms of size that you feel oh my gosh where do I start, but they have wonderful exhibitions and they’re just a wonderful resource for photography and for photographers. So again, if you’re interested in a particular subject, you can also go that route as well.

NG: Two random museums that I’ll throw out there that maybe your listeners can add to their bucket list to visit eventually. One is the Ramen Noodle Museum in Yokohama, Japan. It’s incredible. I went to it. It lives up to the hype. You get the whole history of like instant Ramen Noodles as well as you get to make your own instant Ramen Noodle package. The two top floors are just a food lover’s delight with noodles from all around the world. It’s an amazing museum. Very, very well done. And the second museum is one in Hobart, Tasmania called Mona The Museum of Old And New Art. Have you heard about this?

SS: No I haven’t.

NG: It’s by this crazy gambler guy who had hundreds of millions of dollars that he basically dug beneath a vineyard into the cliffs on the lake there to create a secret Batman superlayer cave housing all of his art that he used during his gambling, basically for money laundering. It’s an incredible, incredible collection. They’re doing some of the best exhibits in the whole world right now and it’s really become the number one attraction. It’s very scandalous.

SS: Well I hadn’t heard of either museum and I like that brought up the Ramen museum because it just goes to show museums art always about art.

NG: Exactly.

SS: Right? They can be about anything, well they can be about history or they could even be about Ramen.

NG: They could.

SS: So a favorite object from a museum?

NG: Favorite object at a museum, I do like at the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, there’s this piece called Fragment Of The Phase Of A Queen and it’s made out of a material called yellow jasper. It just looks so lifelike and sensual and yet it’s so old. It’s over 3,000 years old. So I love those objects that look modern pieces that are thousands of years old.

SS: I agree with you. I went to Berlin almost just to see the famous Nefertiti Bust.

NG: Wow.

SS: And once I saw it I stood in front of it, I went around it 12,000 times and then I thought to myself, I think I’m ready go home now. Even though I ended up staying for about a week, but I was ready to go because mission accomplished and it was really the primary reason for my wanting to go there.

NG: I’ve never been to Berlin before.

SS: The museums are, they’re fantastic. Again, I went in the winter and it was wonderful. See I like to go to places off season. Off peak season because again the crowds are less than during the other times of the year.

NG: It’s very smart. I’m glad that you mentioned that because I’ll give a protip for those listening. The worst day to go to a museum is a Sunday is because that is the most popular day across the board to go to museums is Sundays. And so I believe a good museum experience is a little more private and solitary. That’s what attracted me to the museums and so I got to admit, I love getting to a museum when the doors first opened. Right? Like Saturday morning at, when the doors open, for me that’s a cool experience.

SS: We know where to find Nick now.

NG: You know where to find me Saturday mornings.

SS: Right. Anyway, well listen. This has been absolutely fantastic Nick and I really appreciate you sharing that.

NG: I love to geek out about museums.

SS: Well listen, I’m with you on that one because again, I’m a huge museum fan as you can tell. And I really want to thank you for that. We’re going to have a link to Museum Hack on the show notes page website: So once again it’s

NG: That’s right.

SS: And all of our listeners please go on there and check it out. And check out Nick’s work. And if nothing else, even if they’re in a city that doesn’t have Museum Hack, perhaps they’ll get a different perspective on how they can approach museums the next time they go visit their favorite or new museum. So anyways, thanks for that Nick. We appreciate it.

NG: No problem. And search for Museum Hack on Facebook. We share these hilarious art history mashups that have become very, very cool and popular.

SS: Terrific. Alright, Nick we’re going to get to your one way ticket destination after the break. See usually I do it before the break, but we’re going to do it after the break. And this is the time I always invite our listeners to write in with their own one way tickets and this is the point of the show where I read one on air. So this one comes in from Allen Z. from my hometown, Chicago. We were talking about it just a moment ago, who’s been a listener since we started this show five years ago so thanks so much for that Allen, for all of your terrific support all of these years, much appreciated and keep listening to the show. Well Allen writes in by saying “Dear Steven, if I had a one way ticket, I would want to live in” drum roll please, “Manhattan. There is an energy in that city that is really like nowhere else in the world. From world class museums” he says “to top Broadway productions and the finest dining experiences, you have everything”. And that came in from Allen Z. in Chicago. And I do have to agree with him Nick. We do have world class museums, but of course Chicago does have the Art Institute. New York does not have deep dish pizza like Chicago has, okay. New York also does not have Walker Brother apple pancakes.

NG: Interesting.

SS: Which I will tell you about off air because in the interest of time, but our listeners can look up Walker Brothers apple pancakes. But, in terms of museums, of course Chicago does does have the Art Institute. Chicago has top notch theatre and many shows go from Chicago to New York, but nevertheless Allen there’s always a place for you here in NYC. Right? The whole world comes to New York just like we did. Like we all moved here so thanks very much for that Allen. Alright, if you our dear listeners would like to share your own one way ticket destination with me, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a note at [email protected], that’s Steven with a ‘v’, [email protected] I’ll read your one way ticket destination on air and if you just want to say hello, we’d also be happy to arrange a Skype call with you too to have a chat about anything you like because you always know that I’m up for a great conversation. Just write to me [email protected] Well meantime we’re going to take a short break and then when we return it is time for drum roll please, once again, it’s time for Nick Gray’s one way ticket destination so stay right where you are.

Nick Gray & Steven Shalowitz After Interview

SS: We’re back here on the One Way Ticket Show with our special guest on this episode of the show Nick Gray. He is the founder and CEO, right?

NG: Correct.

SS: Of Museum Hack and just go to to learn more about all that Nick does. Once again, I’m a big fan of museums Nick as you could definitely tell from our conversation. So I’m a really big supporter of the work that you and your team are doing. So as I said at the top of the show, we usually talk about our one way ticket destinations at the beginning of the show, but I wanted to get the museum portion out first okay. So now’s the time for me to ask you: Nick Gray, if I gave you a one way ticket, and you know the drill, it can be in the past, present, future, real, imaginary, it can even be a state of mind. So Nick Gray, if I gave you a one way ticket, where would you go?

NG: I thought a lot about this. And should I tell you, my what I came to as my final conclusion or should I tell you some of the things that I thought about?

SS: Tell me one or two that you thought about and then I want to know your final conclusion.

NG: Okay. Two things that I thought about: one, I thought about going back to around the year 1600 when the British East India Company first started exploring over in India.

SS: What would you have done?

NG: I have a romantic idea about those early days of Indian Colonialism. Don’t get me wrong there’s a lot of bad things that happened with Colonialism. I’d like to go back in time and do the great, good things and less of the bad things. I’ve spend a little bit of time in the country. I love the tea, I love the people, I love the food and I like the idea of the entrepreneurship and like the capitalism that the foreign trade brought in. Similarly, I’d be interested to go to the early days of Hong Kong. Around the time of the Opium wars perhaps, when there was just business and entrepreneurship galor that there was just money to be made if you were willing take the risks of trading and shipping.

SS: So I’m noticing a theme here.

NG: Yeah the theme is probably business and entrepreneurship.

SS: And Asia.

NG: And Asia, right. Then as I thought about those things I thought about maybe going back to 1915 so I could have some time to be ready for the roaring 20s.

SS: And then the stock market crashed.

NG: Then the stock market crashed afterwards. But often times when we think about those old times, we forget how unsafe they were. We forget about the lack of human rights for so many people. And so I came upon, I said you know what, I love living now, but if I could go back to the sunset years of my time in high school around 1999 or 2000. I would like to go back there to perhaps redo my time in college. To maybe take a gap year and not go right into college, but perhaps go out and explore the world to see a little bit more. I was a terrible student.

SS: You mean in high school?

NG: In high school I was an okay student because the classes were relatively easy.

SS: Where did you go to high school?

NG: I went to high school between the suburbs of Dallas, Texas and then I moved to Georgia. Another story, but I ended up starting a web hosting company because I just needed a hobby. My classes were so easy. But as a college undergrad I wasn’t a good student. I would choose my classes based on the professor that was the easiest.

SS: Where did you go to college.

NG: I went to school in North Carolina, a school called Wake Forest University. So I would like to go back in time, 1999 the year 2000, maybe take a gap year, explore the world and maybe use what I learned to go and start my own business. Maybe skip college even and start my own business. I’m so thankful for the education that I did get.

SS: What was your major?

NG: I was a business major with a focus in marketing.

SS: Okay, so that’s why you’d want to go to be part of the British East India Company in Hong Kong when it was just starting out.

NG: I am a business guy through and through. I love business and entrepreneurship and capitalism and I think that so many of the great things that we’ve experienced with the advance of technology have all come because of entrepreneurship, because of capitalism.

SS: You would almost want a redo then of your college years or those years or that part of your life.

NG: I would like to redo it and think maybe I would get into business. Maybe I could arbitrage some of the dot com crash that was happening knowing what I know now.

SS: But, had you done that, you probably wouldn’t be doing Museum Hack right now.

NG: I wouldn’t be doing Museum Hack. Look, I’m so thankful for my life now, but I like being a guest on this show and it’s cool for listeners to think as well, where would you go if you had a one way ticket. And in getting ready for this show I thought about this and I had so much fun thinking about it. I really just sat back and I played through different options and it’s rare in life that we get that opportunity. Right?

SS: Right. Would you like to go back then knowing what you know now?

NG: Of course!

SS: Or would you want a clean slate?

NG: Of course. I would like to go back knowing what I know now and I don’t know if it’s breaking the rules, but..

SS: There are no rules on this one way ticket journey.

NG: I love that. That I would arbitrage the software crash that happened around 2000/2001 to use that time when I wasn’t going to school to start like a business or a mini hedge fund.

SS: Where would you want to be based?

NG: Wow, I didn’t think about that. Where would I want to be based? I’d want to be based in New York City.

SS: So you’d leave the south as you did.

NG: I’d leave the south, which would have been crazy for me at the time to move up to New York City, but yeah.

SS: What would you want to tell people than about our time today? I mean we’re only talking about close to 20 years.

NG: Right.

SS: Okay so 17 years, 18 years, but what would you want to tell them because it’s funny. Even though it’s 17/18 years, the world is a vastly different place and a large part of that is because of 9/11 I think.

NG: I think you’re right. The world is a much different place. There also was a similar hype around startups, you know, 15/20 years ago. No, 19 years ago, there was a similar hype for startups.

SS: Yeah, in the late 90s.

NG: Yeah, that we see now and so I wonder how different would that be exactly. Were there people out there besides Warren Buffets and you guys the sky is falling soon. These valuations are crazy and now I’ve completely sidetracked from my love of museums and for all this stuff, but I think that would be interesting.

SS: But, when you think about it, no Facebook, no iPhones, no Twitter, no Instagram.

NG: That’s right.

SS: Right? I mean all that technology, I mean if you were to tell someone, by the way there’s going to be something called Facebook and fill in the blank, I mean they would probably think wow that’s really cool, can’t wait for it to happen. Or other people might say come on that would never happen.

NG: That would never happen they would say. I’m trying to remember back then if Myspace was a thing, if Friendster was around in 1999, whether that was a part of that timeline or so.

SS: Right. But even politically if you were to tell them, by the way the first lady is going to be the democratic for president of the United States.

NG: Nobody would believe it.

SS: Well I think a lot of people then probably would have said then, yep we predicted that that was probably in the cards for her.

NG: Okay.

SS: But nevertheless you were probably too young to get involved in politics at that point.

NG: Right, that’s true.

SS: Or very much involved then, but the point is, is that if you were to tell a lot of people I think that they would find that is a great curiosity. Don’t you think?

NG: I think that they absolutely would. There’s so much that if you go back in time, you can blow people’s minds with.

SS: Do you have regrets?

NG: Of course. I think it would be hard not to go through life regretting certain decisions that we make. I’ll give you one really silly example, but it’s something still to this day I regret. I lived out in Los Angeles for one summer with some friends. I was doing a movie sort of project and I got invited by an ‘it’ girl that I happened to know, to go to her wedding reception. And I wore a very trendy, but silly t-shirt to that reception and as I look back on it, that really was not a classy thing to do. It was a funny joke sort of t-shirt. My friends all thought it was funny, but as I look back at that moment I just remember the look that I got from her. And this was like her night, her exciting night of celebration. Now, her groom thought it was hilarious. He thought it was a riot. But I think that there are moments like that through my life that I’ve learned through maturity, that I would change if I could do them over again.

SS: I’m mindful of the clocks, just a couple more questions.

NG: Okay.

SS: Could you have imagined though, when you were graduated from high school, let’s say around 1999/2000, that you would be so invested in museums?

NG: Never in a million years! I hated museums growing up. We never went to museums. I’ve never taken an art history class, an art class for that matter. I never would of thought.

SS: Right. And then final thing, you said that you would take a gap year which is more common now. I don’t think it was quite as common as when you were going to high school. Certainly was not common when I was going to high school. You were expected to go straight to college. And you also said that perhaps you would have skipped college altogether. Do you think college is necessary?

NG: This is a very difficult, loaded question. You know I went to…

SS: But, you’re up to the task Nick.

NG: I’m up to the task. I’m thankful for the opportunities that my college presented to me and some of the great friends that I met there, but I meet a lot of people that are burdened with inordinate amounts of student debt. And in small businesses like my own, we have about 50 employees now, we really don’t look at somebody’s academic history to decide how to hire them. Actually, I can’t think of any single person, I’ve hired well over probably 200 people at the various businesses I’ve been, I can’t think of anyone that we hired because of their academic credentials. What we look for instead is hustle and grit, resilience, resourcefulness and I don’t really think academic institutions today prepare you for that.

SS: Right. I think that more kids need to go to college to learn and to open up their minds and not be closed minded when they walk in the door and when they walk out the door.

NG: Yeah.

SS: In my humble opinion.

NG: I like that.

SS: So there we go. We’re going to end on there. Nick, this has been great fun.

NG: Thank you.

SS: I want to thank you for joining us here on the One Way Ticket Show. We’re going to leave it right there as I said. Tell people again how they can find you.

NG: The name of my company is Museum Hack. We think museums are freaking awesome. We’re online, you can search for us on any social media platform: Museum Hack. And I just started a new website where I’m sharing cool life hacks. You can find me at and yeah. Please send me a note if you Tweet or anything like that. I love saying hello to people and sharing fun, museum advice. I’ll give you advice on your next museum visit.

SS: Alright. I’m going to take advice from you Nick. And will have info about you on the show notes page of our website And as a remind, we appreciate you our dear listeners subscribing, rating, reviewing us on iTunes and Stitcher to make it easier for more folks around the world to find us. And once again our website is I’m giving you a lot of information here.

Hopefully you’ve got something handy to write with. Do shoot me an email: [email protected], [email protected] And I spell my first name with a ‘v’. Share your one way ticket destination, I’ll read it on air or if you want to arrange a Skype call and chat as I said before, I’m always up for a great conversation. In the meantime, it’s a wrap for this edition of the One Way Ticket Show. For Nick Gray and for the entire crew, I’m Steven Shalowitz and I’ll see you next time.

Thanks for a great interview Steven!

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