The concept for Local Expeditions came about after founder Nancy Blaine planned a unique outing for some colleagues visiting her in New York. A long time New Yorker, Blaine has an encyclopedic knowledge of noteworthy sites, as well as the nooks and crannies of the city. For her guests, she wanted to create a local’s experience – a walk on the Highline, wine in a friend’s garden, dinner at one of her favorite restaurants in SoHo. Her visitors were overjoyed. They were able to see New York the way only a local could. Blaine realized that she had a knack – and a love – for creating these types of bespoke experiences.
A seasoned traveler herself, Blaine is always looking for where the locals eat, shop and go. When visiting a new place, she would always forgo group or packaged tours.
“When I am in a city that I don’t know, I am not the kind of person who wants to go where the concierge tells me to go,” says Blaine. “I always try to find someone who grew up there or has lived there for a long time to tell me where to go.”
By creating her own itinerary based on recommendations from residents and locals, Blaine realized she was able to connect to the location and the people in a much more memorable and meaningful way. Local Expedition takes this premise, and aims to expand it to a much larger and more diverse community.
Local Expeditions connects tour guides with visitors via an interactive platform. Locals create and lead tours based on their particular interests and passions. The “Photographing Coney Island Tour” was designed by a professional photographer who has often documented the iconic destination in her work. Her tour is a photographic treasure hunt of Coney Island, complete with shooting tips and a trip to Nathan’s Hot Dogs. Anyone can create and submit a tour to the site, where it is then vetted by the Local Expeditions team to ensure quality. While Local Expeditions offers a template for a ‘local expedition,’ locals can sign-up and design their own adventures, based on who they are and what they know.
Those who want to take the tour, visitors and residents alike, connect to the tour guides via the site. Like most platforms in the sharing economy, the community and its reviews – of both guides and customers – regulate the business.
Not only does Local Expeditions allow tourists to experience a city like a local, it also provides a creative outlet, and an income, for guides. “I am passionate about the sharing economy and its principle of fair wages for good work,” says Blaine. “It’s a model that puts the lion’s share of wages directly into the hands of the driver, the homeowner and in the case of Local Expeditions, the local guide.” Prices are set by the guides, and, in keeping with Local Expeditions ethos of connecting to the community, five percent of the tour fee is donated to a local charity of the guide’s choice. In creating tours, guides are able to share with others their unique take on their city and express their inner storyteller and performer.
Local Expeditions launched in September, and current tours include the Hidden History of Park Slope Brownstones, an up-close look at the history of the Lower East Side’s Yiddish Rialto, and a bike tour through DUMBO focusing on the history and architecture of the neighborhood. The company plans to expand its tour offering in New York, as well as in other cities and countries. As the community grows, so will the types of tours. Blaine anticipates that those who take tours will then go on to give their own back home, spreading and sharing the community of local travel around the world.
By Kadi Hughes