How COVID Sparked a New Idea

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How COVID Sparked a New Idea

How Our Journey Started

My name is Sanne Meijboom and I’m the Founder of I Like Local.

In this blog post, I will share more about my journey at I Like Local and why it still drives me today.

From a very early age, I was an explorer and always looking for my next great adventure. This inner curiosity made me travel the world, visiting over 60 countries and living in 4 different countries on almost every continent.

For me, it’s always been the deep connections I made with local people during my travels that were most memorable: an invitation for dinner in Kenya with a family on their farm, a beautiful conversation at a food stall in Brazil that helped me on my spiritual journey, an overnight stay we made at a family’s home in the Philippines, to the mouthwatering home-cooked meals in India. And these are just a few moments from a lifetime of unforgettable memories.

During those years traveling the world, I noticed how many of the local people I met were not always benefiting from tourism. And as travel is one of the largest industries worldwide, I wondered why that was the case. It appeared that some did not know about the potential or had limited resources to tap into it.

This was the moment there was a click. I realized that there must be more travelers like me, searching for these unique and local connections, and at the same time local people who have difficulties in reaching them. Then why could I not facilitate that connection for them? This is where the idea of I Like Local was born. So I took a leap of faith and invested all my savings into building the I Like Local platform and bringing this vision to life.

Since the start, I decided that I didn’t want to maximize profits at all costs or follow the traditional funding route that many startups took. The reason for this was that I felt it would put our mission and company values at stake in the name of rapid but unsustainable growth.

So we grew slowly but steadily. It was not easy and oftentimes a lonely journey. This journey was also bringing up my limiting beliefs and fears. It was safe to stay small and also not avoid the risk.

Then in 2018 and 2019, things slowly started to shift.

A shift was happening

We were selected to participate in’s accelerator program, in which ten sustainable travel startups from around the world participate each year. Then in 2020, we were awarded as the top rural tourism development startup at the UNWTO’s Global Tourism Startup Competition in Madrid.

With all this recognition, I felt that I Like Local was still on the right track by prioritizing purpose over rapid growth.

The Big Bang

Then COVID hit, which was devastating for so many people worldwide and across the entire tourism sector. All facing the same storm but in different boats.

For us, it was also a wake-up call to take a step back and reflect on the direction we wanted to take with I Like Local. We were looking to raise money, but I wanted to avoid the traditional investment route for the reasons I mentioned before.

During the early days of the pandemic, I read a Dutch book called ‘Fantoomgroei‘, which highlighted the exact question I had been asking since the start of my company.

It showcased that over the past 40 years, our global economy has grown exponentially. And while you would expect that everyone benefited from this growth, this hasn’t always been the case. In the sharing economy, for example, business decisions are frequently made at the expense of the users that create value on the platform. In addition, the interests of society, health, people, and the environment took a back seat to the interests of investors and shareholders, leading to decisions that are not in favor of the greater good.

This book finally showed me the logical framework and reasoning that I had been thinking about for so long. What if we would make our local people and their communities co-owners of I Like Local? Or even our clients and partners? In this way, we could create a balanced ecosystem that would thrive on each other’s existence, in which we co-create value and share its success. Users and other stakeholders could then have a voice and be a key part of our way forward. Profit-making would be a means of reaching our goals instead of the main goal, and money would not be extracted from the company but reinvested. It was the start of a year-long journey on how to implement this model.

Our way forward

Now the time has finally come to launch it. This week, we will continue building on our mission to make the travel industry more fair and transparent and will be the first travel marketplace to transfer its ownership to our hosts, clients, and various stakeholders.

This means that everyone, from our hosts, our clients and travelers, partners, and anyone interested in joining this journey can become co-owner of I Like Local and can share in its success.

With this innovative new business model, I aim to prove that the value created by our ecosystem can benefit all of our stakeholders, not just a select few. We hope our example can contribute to a discussion on system change that is so very needed.

If you are interested in joining as a co-owner and being part of our movement, you can learn more via

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About Us

We are a group of like-minded travelers who want to make a difference via travel. We are always looking for the off the beaten track places with a local touch. At the same time we want to contribute to the beautiful people who are living in the countries we travel to, share our knowledge and connect people worldwide.

– Sanne Meijboom, Founder

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