Spotted By Locals Arrives in America

Bart and Sanne van Poll. Photo courtesy of Spotted by Locals.

Bart and Sanne van Poll. Photo courtesy of Spotted by Locals.

It's the dream of most of the wanderlust-afflicted folks, including me, to journey the world, meet local people in far-flung locations, and maybe earn a few bucks while doing it.

This was also the dream of these fabulous Amsterdam-based travelers and married couple Bart and Sanne van Poll, a dream born over a beer in Brussels in 2007. The dream quickly blossomed into their reality -- a popular alternative travel website calledSpotted By Locals where over 240 hand picked contributors, called spotters, in 44 cities across Europe wax lyrical about their favorite places in their home cities.  

On January 31, l Spotted By Locals launched in the America, with spotters already on the ground n San Francisco and New York and plans to have locals up and running in seven U.S. and Canadian cities by summer.

"We love to meet locals when we travel and see how they live their lives; what places they prefer to visit the most. That's where we want to be. We think others will too."

Before Spotted By Locals, the avid travelers said they relied on paper guidebooks for facts and history that never change but too often arrived at a referenced restaurant or café to find it closed or brimming with tourists, with nary a local in site.

"The problem with travel guides and websites, in our opinion, is that they are usually written by travelers and not locals," said Bart. "Travelers visit a city for a short time and leave. They are not able to keep up with the current changes in the cities and spots they wrote about."

On a trip to Brussels, Belgium in 2007, Bart and Sanne followed in the footsteps of a local blogger who highlighted his favorite places to eat and drink in the city. Their experience was exceptional and authentic, and over a glass of the blogger's favorite beer at his favorite watering hole, the plan for Spotted By Localshatched.

When it launched in 2008, Bart and Sanne took a giant (dream) leap and quit their day jobs. "If it didn't turn out to be the success we'd hoped for, we thought we could find another job."

Fortunately for them, Spotted By Locals took off and these days Bart and Sanne spend half the year outside of Holland, visiting their spotters and traveling to new places.

New York and San Francisco felt like the natural places to launch in the USA, says Bart, adding, "San Francisco is considered by Europeans to be one of the most beautiful and pleasant cities in the United States."

They've also crossed the border into smartphones with an app for Android & iPhone out (all offline, no need for wifi), and an app for the Windows phone in the works.

"Spotted by Locals doesn't make us rich financially, but we are leading a dream life. We travel a lot and get the opportunity to meet an amazing amount of local city lovers from many countries."

This confirms what I've known all along, that following your dreams, and fueling them with Belgian beer, really pays off. See the Spotted By Locals website

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Kimberley Lovato

Kimberley Lovato has written about travel, lifestyle and food for national and international publications and websites including National Geographic Traveler, Executive Travel, American Way, AFAR, Condé Nast Traveller (UK), Ryan Air, b.there, Easy Jet Traveller, leitesculinaria.com and frommers.com, among others. She is the author of a Michelin Guidebook on Brussels, where she lived for six years Her culinary travel book, Walnut Wine & Truffle Groves, about the Dordogne region of France, won the "Best Travel Book" nod in 2012 from the Society of American Travel Writers, as did her personal essay, "Lost and Liberated," which also appeared in Best Women's Travel Writing, Volume 8. When she's not plotting her next trip or her annual pilgrimage to France, she resides in San Francisco where she is a correspondent for BBC's Passport Blog, a student in Stanford University's Creative Writing Certificate program, and a brave mother of a teenaged girl.