Horizon App: Providing Private Hospitality Exchange Networks for Communities

“It’s no secret, every traveler wants a friend in every city they visit. Trusted friends, and insider information, is the lifeblood of amazing travel experiences. Two people with shared passions and experiences meeting eye-to-eye in the same room and forming real relationships is where life’s magical moments stem from. Finding those amazing connections is a horribly inefficient process. We see a better way” – Drew Meyers, Co-Founder of Horizon App

With the growing demand for free or cheap places to stay around the world, many new services have risen to prominence within the hospitality and travel marketplace. Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway and coach surfing services have become fierce competitors to the traditional hotel stays giving travelers better options for lodging and an opportunity to live like a local while abroad. Horizon, a relatively new mobile app and web-based service has joined the marketplace offering travelers the ability to intersect travel, community and social good with each stay. Launched in March of 2015 by Drew Meyers, Will Moyer and Oren Borovitch, Horizon provides a searchable private hospitality exchange network in over 120 countries around the world.

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The mission of Horizon is to increase access to travel opportunities by enabling shared hospitality among trusted contacts and communities; providing free or cheap accommodation and cultural experiences not otherwise available. The founders of Horizon strongly believe in the importance of getting people to travel and experience cultures vastly different than their own in order to create a society that gives back and understands the world.

“Enabling more people to venture outside the friendly confines of the their own country and experience an array of foreign cultures, will grow the community of those who realize we live privileged lives the majority of the world can only dream of. Those who experience the world are exponentially more likely to work on projects that improve society and raise the standard of living for those in poverty, rather than just maximizing income”. – states Drew Meyers.

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SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL RESOURCES

Lokal Travel: Connecting conscious travelers with unique local experiences

“In a remote and lush corner of southern Costa Rica lies a realm of giant trees, potbellied spider monkeys, harpy eagles, prowling jaguars and herds of white-lipped peccary. This is on the last places on Earth where virgin rainforest grows right to the high tide line, and a visitor might walk for hours – or days – along its isolated coast without meeting a single person. This the Osa Peninsula and there is no other place in the world like it.” – Trond Larsen, Osa: Where the Rainforest Meets the Sea

Quietly pushing off the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica lies the beautifully pristine Osa Peninsula, a magical paradise of untouched primitive rain forests, deserted beaches and rural communities relatively hidden to mainstream tourism. Known for its conservation efforts and robust ecotourism industry, the Osa Peninsula is one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet with over 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity in less than one millionth of the Earth’s surface area. However, recent plans to open up an international airport threaten the very beauty, uniqueness and ecological diversity of this place both to its inhabitants and its flora and fauna. Sadly, as little as only 5% of all revenue made on tourism goes back into the local community and the rest goes into other hands.

It is here where conservationist and filmmaker Eytan Elterman and his good friend photographer Marco Bollinger lived for five months to produce the award-winning documentary “2.5 %  – The Osa Peninsula” that would change the course of their lives and inspire them to create Lokal, an online booking platform and marketplace for community-based tourism in remote places around the world.

It all began in early 2011 when Eytan read an article about the plans to build an international airport in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. Both Eytan and Marco were deeply inspired by their years of traveling and their passion for engaging with diverse cultures and they wanted to combine their vision of responsible, conscious travel with their expertise in powerful visual storytelling. The story about the building of an airport in the Osa Peninsula greatly piqued their interest.

Eytan and Marco had been working together as the founders of iSeeiTravela boutique travel media firm producing brand-building documentary content to showcase local experiences, inspire sustainable travel and highlight unique destinations and conservation. Yet they wanted to do something different and on their own. They moved to the Costa Rica and spent five months living in the Osa Peninsula learning about the unique issues of this area and eventually producing their beautiful documentary film 2.5% – The Osa Peninsula.

Unspoiled coasline in Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula. Photo credit: Lokal Travel

Unspoiled coastline in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. Photo credit: Lokal Travel

Central America Conservation/Environment Costa Rica Global Issues Osa Peninsula TRAVEL BY REGION TRAVEL RESOURCES
Bonnieux, France

Context Travel: Small guided tours for the intellectually curious traveler

At the end of May, I attended my third TBEX conference (Travel Blog Exchange) and was introduced to Paul Bennett and his wife Lani, the founders of Context Travel. Context Travel is a network of Ph-D level scholars and experts living in cultural capitals around the world who take tourists on small or private guided tours of their cities. Paul and Lani founded the company in 2003 after two years of sailing across the Atlantic with their young children. They were so inspired by the experiences while traveling that they wanted to create something authentic and unique. A kind of travel company that would enable travelers to get a rare behind the scenes view of what a place is like while also promoting sustainable travel. There are no tour buses or tour guides; instead you are swept away on a walking “seminar” with a local expert.

The Context vision is to create an atmosphere—a context, if you will—for curious travelers to engage with local experts; to give them access to places and cultures that might otherwise remain out of sight to the casual visitor; to invite them off the tourist track and into the real life of the people, history, and culture that makes these cultural capitals amazing.

Paul and Italo on a drive through Venice's canals.

Paul and Italo on a drive through Venice’s canals.

Fast forward 13 years, and Context Travel now operates in over 35 cities around the world, inspiring travelers to see a city through local, knowledgeable eyes. Context Travel is recommended by such acclaimed sources as the New York Times, Travel and Leisure, and National Geographic (to name a few) as well as a growing number of highly satisfied customers. I was so inspired by Paul and Lani’s story that I asked to do an interview to learn more. Here is what Paul had to say.

TRAVEL TRAVEL RESOURCES
Lago Cocibolca Granada Nicaragua

A sunset tour of Las Isletas in Granada

Imagine gently gliding through the smooth waters of Lago Cocibolca, Nicaragua’s largest lake, at the magical hour of sunset. As the local fishermen are throwing out their nets for the next morning catch and the school children are paddling home on dinghies from a long day at school. Imagine being the only passenger on a 20-seater boat with a Spanish-speaking fisherman steering the way.

That is where I found myself a few weeks ago at the end of my epic day of touring Granada on foot. In the serendipitous calm of the deep blue waters of Lago Cocibolca freckled in streaks of orange, purple and pink. Just me, my driver and the “Guapotona“, the “handsome tuna

Lago Cocibolca Granada Nicaragua

Conservation/Environment Global Issues Nicaragua TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION
Kilimanjaro hike to Barranco Camp Machame Route

Why Using Local Guides Matters

Over the past twenty years, the world has truly become a smaller place. Once hard to reach, remote parts of the planet that used to be only for the most adventurous of tourists, have become more accessible. Places like the Himalayas of Nepal, the tiny fishing villages of Southeast Asia and the bushland of the Maasai have opened their doors for travelers,  allowing us to see their beautiful unique cultures as never before.

Although it is wonderful that more of the remote corners of the world are now accessible, it comes with a price. The negative impact of tourism on the environment, culture and people of a place, threatens it’s very own authenticity and landscape. This is why choosing sustainable travel is critical if we want to preserve and protect these destinations for the future.

My father and I have been trekking in remote places for decades and every place we go we use local trekking guides and companies. I honestly admit that the initial reasons behind our choice were purely convenience and economical.  However, the more we began using local guides, it became clear how incredibly rewarding and important it is to hire locally. Not only do you get a more intimate cultural experience by getting to see a country through their eyes, your investment also greatly supports the local community in which you are visiting. By hiring local, all money you spend on your trip is directly reinvested back in that very place that is so special instead of profiting an international corporation who only has financial interests to gain.

Furthermore, the cross-cultural friendships and understanding that are made and shared by hiring local are priceless. Not only does it create goodwill, it brings a new perspective and understanding on both sides of the relationship. As a client, you get to learn as much as possible about a culture, history, society, life, flora and fauna and environment. As a guide, you gain a better understanding of people who are so different from those portrayed in the media. Together, you can create life-long friendships that promote cultural understanding and peace.

Kilimanjaro hike to Barranco Camp Machame Route

Our group heading down the trail on Kilimanjaro.

Here are three examples of why supporting local guides matters.

Adventure Travel Africa Bolivia Nepal Tanzania TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION TRAVEL RESOURCES Trekking/Hiking