It all started in 2011. I quit my job to live abroad and travel the world. I pursued my passion and started a travel business with a mission. It was an interesting journey and definitely not an easy one. As I see many people struggling with the same questions I had at that time, I decided to share my experiences and lessons learned.
From the age of 13 I always had an interest in foreign cultures and knew that I wanted to explore the world one day. I could spend hours looking at countries in a world atlas. When going on holiday to France I was inspired by the car number plates to see from which part of France they were coming from. I still don’t know where this interest came from.
I never had been outside Europe until the age of 25. At that age, I went abroad for the first time for a 6-month internship to India. Yes, India of all places! It couldn’t be a bigger contrast with my home country, the Netherlands.
But oh my, what did I love it! It was not love at first sight, no. The first 3 months I didn’t know if I loved it or not, but at some point I got hooked. This was the moment I knew I wanted to see it all.
I returned home after 6 months and took a job at a consultancy company. Quite safe. I wanted to make a career, working for large multinationals and making long hours. So standard. In the beginning I just took every single moment possible to travel until the moment I felt that this job was not it. I took a sabbatical in the hope to figure out what would be my next step and traveled 4 months solo around the world, but that ‘aha moment’ didn’t come. During this 4-month trip I was reunited with my previous love. When returning we decided to just leave the Netherlands behind and move abroad. This was the point I quit my job, although still not knowing my next move.
It didn’t come to light from one day to the next. It was a process. I know many people face this moment in life that they don’t feel comfortable in their current job, but just don’t know what else to do. This, plus the fact that people stay in jobs because of money. Completely understandable. Especially when you have debts and mortgages to pay you will think twice before taking any risk at all.
I made the mistake that I wanted to have a very clear picture in mind how my new job would look like. I spent hours drawing and writing things I liked, my strengths and more of this. It didn’t bring me one step further. At some point I just decided to start talking to people who were working in areas I was interested in. This got things rolling.
How it all started
As I mentioned above I had always been an avid traveler and a had curiosity about other cultures. I knew I wanted to build something around this passion and that this business would have a positive impact. Throughout my travels, I came to realize that my most treasured experiences were from my encounters with local people. Although a multitude of travel agencies were willing to show me the major attractions, none offered the kind of personalized experience I was looking for. I needed to organize it myself.
The more I talked to other travelers, the more I realized I was not alone in feeling this way. Travel trend reports told the same story. Until today travelers are increasingly seeking more personal authentic travel options.
While tourism appeared to be a strong economic driver and a source of income for many people around the world, little to none reached people on the ground.
As poverty alleviation is one of the major global challenges, and tourism has proved to be a major source of income, I believed that connecting locals and travelers directly could have a transformational power. This was the moment I invested all of my savings into building I Like Local.
As you maybe know I Like Local is a social enterprise that enables travelers to book authentic travel experiences directly from locals in Asia and Africa. Our goal is two-fold: in-depth experiences for travelers and direct income for local communities. 100% of the money asked by the local hosts is directly paid to them. I Like Local doesn’t charge them anything.
My biggest challenges
If I look at my biggest challenges then I think it was starting this business alone. At one side this is nice as you have al the freedom in the world at the other side I was missing a sparring partner. Someone who had the same passion as I had. I know that bringing passionate minds together can bring companies to new levels and let them excel. It creates energy and motivation. Luckily I found this partner recently. A great addition to the team!
What helped me was the clear vision I had and gathering people around me who could advice. What really kept me going were the local people I was working with and the positive reactions I received from travelers. I handpicked all the locals myself and really felt they were special in some way. Of course this will be a challenge when we are growing, but the goal is to build a relationship with every single one of them. I really believe in that personal touch, also with our customers.
My next big challenge will be raising funds this year. We are at a turning point and need to raise money externally for the first time. So we’ve just launched a crowdfunding campaign that we worked very hard on. If we raise the funding goal we are able to support more locals in Asia and Africa and expose more people to a different way of travel.
My biggest accomplishment
There were two moments that I was really happy. One was the launch of I Like Local and the other one was the moment that I was invited by the BBC to come to London for a television interview. I couldn’t believe it! It was a great experience and exposure for I Like Local. It gave us a big boost and helped in building credibility.
My advice to other women
I know it is very difficult to find your passion and create a job out of it not even talking how to organize it financially. My best advice of all times is start TALKING to people. Talking to anyone who inspires you, who has a job you think you might like or works in an industry you are interested in. Don’t think it is necessary to have your dream job in mind, because you think it otherwise doesn’t make sense to talk to someone. People 9 out of 10 times like to help others and share their experiences. You will be surprised how things can come together. This you can’t predict beforehand. Life is full of surprises!
If possible try to find a partner. This will create energy, self-confidence, motivation and can bring your idea to life. Research also shows that start-ups have a higher chance of succeeding when they are not sole-founded, according to a Fortune article.
It sounds maybe weird, but what also helps is telling other people about your plan before it is already live even tough you are not sure how it should work out. It will help you manifest it.
If you feel you would like to support my mission with I Like Local, please have a look at our crowdfunding campaign. It would help us so much! Thanks a million!