Bart and Sanne van Poll created Spotted by Locals, a directory of local-curated city tips, so that every traveler could have the experience of being a local in destinations around the world. In this interview, Bart shares how they got started and where they’re “spotting” now.
Lots of people wish they could work less and travel more. How do you combine the best of both?
We created the perfect job for that! With Spotted by Locals, the only thing we need is an internet connection – and we can’t stay at home, because an important part of our concept is that we have to travel to meet our locals in 57 cities around the world.
It’s usually the people you work with – either clients or colleagues – who make it difficult to work from abroad. We would advise anyone who really wants to combine traveling & working (it’s not for everybody!) to talk to their boss or clients about this. With the technology available nowadays, it is possible to do a lot of work from anywhere in the world!
Also, check the reliability and speed of internet connections in places you want to travel to. Unfortunately many countries have internet connections that are just not reliable or fast enough to do a Google Video Hangout or Skype video call.
What do you love most about traveling, and what is the most memorable trip you’ve ever been on together?
That’s a difficult question, as there have been quite a few! Our first trip abroad together to Paris, our honeymoon to Senegal, a 6-month trip to South East Asia, traveling through Bangladesh and China…
But I think the most special experience for us was our road trip to start Spotted by Locals in 2008. During a heat stroke we traveled to 20 European cities by car to convince the first locals to join our plans to start a network of city blogs with tips by handpicked locals.
I remember a moment where when we drove our crappy old car without air conditioning from Madrid to Lisbon during a heat stroke. Almost no other cars on the road, beautiful views, Belle & Sebastian on the radio, and lots of exciting times ahead of us. At that time it hit both of us at the same time that this was one of the best moments of our lives!
What is one key lesson you two have learned from life as expats?
We don’t really consider ourselves expats. But we’re also not really Amsterdam locals… We are just on the road a lot – about 6 months a year.
One thing we have learned in the last 6 years is that “home” is a relative feeling. It doesn’t necessarily have to be one place on Earth; it can also be a feeling. When we travel together, we feel “at home”.
What is your dream trip?
In 2016 we hope to celebrate our 10-year wedding anniversary with what we hope will be our dream trip!
We’ve already been thinking about it, and have come up with all kind of different dreams: hiking in the snow in Lapland, backpacking through Japan, traveling to Mongolia. Or maybe just a staycation eating out in restaurants we cannot afford in the city we love most: our own Amsterdam…
What would you both be doing if you hadn’t started traveling?
If we had stayed in Amsterdam, Sanne probably would still have her own company “Gezond Verzuim” advising companies about keeping their employees healthy. She sold this company when we started Spotted by Locals. Bart would probably be working for an exciting startup in the internet industry.
But it would be much more likely that we would be living and working in another place – probably moving around frequently to experience living in different countries & cities.
Any words of advice for first-time travelers?
I’ve traveled quite a bit, but very few of my best travel experiences include a tourist highlight. It’s not easy to explain to your friends (“what, you went to Amsterdam but didn’t visit the Anne Frank House?”), but I advise you to skip some of those “must do” tourist highlights and spend time discovering a destination as a local. Sit out on a city plaza and just observe. Enter a tram or bus without a plan and get out where it looks interesting…
The more open-minded you are, the better the experience is. Often while traveling to new places, the spots you visit are not the kind you are used to visiting. Maybe they are not even to your taste.
To make the visit a great one, I always try to understand what local people like about a spot. Doing this helps me to find the beauty in every single spot I visit!
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