Traveling to an unfamiliar country can be daunting enough without trying to figure out exactly where you’re going to stay, how you’re going to get around, or simply where you’ll find the best places to visit. The thrill of exploring a new place can be quickly trumped by the anxiety of figuring out how to cram all of the best parts of a city or country into the few days you’ll be there.
Two cousins have taken on that challenge of removing the frustration and uncertainty from planning a vacation by pairing travelers with locals to give an off-the-beaten-path perspective to any city. Aarti Kanodia and Kunal Jain noticed a hole in the market where traveling sites either focused on wealthier clients or left most of the work up to the travelers themselves. They developed the website Your Local Cousin to pair travel-enthusiasts with locals who have similar interests, to give an insider's take while sticking to a budget.
While the idea of connecting travelers with locals, or providing the chance to "live like a local," has been the founding concept for companies like Airbnb and Couchsurfing for some time, there's been a recent surge in apps and websites looking to pair travelers with locals directly. Apps like Skout, Badoo and ePenpal leave it up to the traveler to find locals from cities of their choice comparable to a Tinder for travelers. Websites Travbuddy and beWelcome focus on more of a penpal system, allowing travelers from around the world to connect with one another through group discussions and blogs. Your Local Cousin focuses on connecting individuals with the soul purpose of travel, allowing locals to provide assistance in developing an itinerary when a destination is already in mind.
Kanodia and Jain manually sort through local expert and traveler applications to pair people with the most common interests taking much of the legwork out of the equation for those using the site. Once paired, travelers have the option to set up a 15-minute or 30-minute phone call, or email and text with a local. The locals then give recommendations, create a customized map, or answer any last minute questions that pop up while on the road.
Since their launch back in March, Your Local Cousin has expanded to 40 different countries and well over a hundred cities. The team has plans to roll out a more immersive website in the next couple of weeks that would allow travelers and local guides to have a more seamless and immersive experience.