Have you ever got that nagging feeling, while visiting a new a city for the first time, that you’ve simply been following the crowd and ticking-off sites from the same pre-packaged list that everyone else has, while cutting a well worn path across the city’s tourist traps? It may sound cliche to say it out loud, but deep down, most keen travelers are after the kind of experience you don’t get by following the step by step itineraries you find in the more popular guidebooks – they want to experience a city through the eyes of a local.
Enter in 2011, then Berlin resident, Clare Freeman and her idea for a new way of visiting a city – My Plus One, a network of insiders which, for a small fee or gift/skill offering, connects visitors to a city with like-minded locals keen to share their wealth of knowledge and meet with new and interesting travelers. “I had the idea in July 2011. It came to me one evening and then I asked my friends about it and they all said I should pursue it. Its aim is to make travel more easy, beneficial and fun by allowing travelers to meet interesting locals and recommending stylish & affordable accommodation“, explains Freeman. Since that time, many visitors to Berlin have been given a window into what its citizens like to do in their spare time through this service, and the reviews have been nothing but positive.
For a little over 2 years now, Berlin has been the test city for a service which is continuing to blossom over time, and after a few years of fine tuning, the My Plus One concept recently made the leap to go international and launch in four new cities; Amsterdam, Barcelona. London, and Paris, along with a sparkling new website www.myplusone.net helping even more travelers to connect with locals in each city. Over the past couple of months, Clare and her team have been busy meeting and interviewing a wide range of interesting locals in all four of the new launch cities, with each local adding a different perspective to their city. “[We connect with our locals]..through contacts and friends, & we meet them all in person and try and get to know them via drinks and meet ups. My favourite city to discover new locals in has been Paris, as I love the beauty of the city & food”.
I asked Clare what she learned from My Plus One’s first few years in Berlin and what drove her to go international with the service? “I met some really great people in Berlin, and spoke to many more in other cities who wanted to launch the concept in their city. That’s what drove me to expand My Plus One into other cities”. When asked what My Plus One had planned for the future, now that she has moved from Berlin back to London, she explained that it was a case of building up the teams in each location, with a view to expanding to even more cities in the future. While enjoying her time back in London, I asked what she missed most since leaving Berlin last year she sounded a familiar tone – “I miss the cafes and nightlife of Berlin, and how cheap eating out is compared to London!”. Clare also explained that My Plus One is also about helping people find fresh, sustainable, affordable and stylish accommodation options in their chosen cities, and so they have partnered with hand-picked hotels and apartments in each city. Check them out here.
If you’re visiting any of Amsterdam, Barcelona, London, Paris or even planning to come to Berlin and wish to connect to people who can show you a version of the city you won’t find in the Lonely Planet, click here. If you’re living in any of these cities, or know a friend who might want to become a local, My Plus One are still accepting new locals here!