I had the pleasure of spending a half day with Pauline, one of the people offering food tours in Kuala Lumpur through ILikeLocal. (Read my interview with I Like Local here.) Pauline is a native Malaysian who spent several years living abroad in her former life working in IT (and perfecting her English, among other languages). When she gave up the IT work and moved back to Malaysia with her husband Pauline created a new career out of the growing market for travelers looking for local guides to help them enjoy authentic experiences.
I was not on one of Pauline’s standard tours, she was using me as a test subject for a planned Indian food experience in Kuala Lumpur’s Little India neighborhood. What a great quality assurance job! I got to wander around with her, tasting food from lots of different places, listening to her very knowledgeable description of the country and the neighborhood we were exploring, while she asked for my feedback on the stops.
We went into local shops and I learned about all sorts of fresh and packaged foods I had never seen before: fried curry leaves on everything, banana plant flowers are edible and don’t look like flowers, colorful ready-to-deep-fry chips sold in bulk bins.
And I tried such a delicious variety of foods (good thing I skipped breakfast).
Pauline runs tours through a few different businesses. In addition to I Like Local she works with the local tourism board, and also has her own website. On her business card Pauline calls herself a “Food Experience Captain” and I think she more than lives up to that title.
With the growth of sharing economy tourism, interest peer to peer travel experiences is creating a market for new careers for locals who can earn a much higher portion of the profits by setting up their own business. Websites like I Like Local are making this easy for people who don’t have the skills or knowledge to set up their own site. And travelers gain a lot more options for tours and activities that go beyond the standard tourist experiences.
For a list of all the peer to peer activity websites I’ve found, check out my spreadsheet and filter on the category “Activities”.
Not only does this Sharing approach to travel sound like great fun, it also builds bridges of understanding and friendship between individuals and cultures around the world. This is definitely something I want to do.