A few nights ago I attended the March gathering of the New York Chapter of Travel Massive, “a world-wide community of locally organised meet ups for travel & tourism companies, travel bloggers, startups, and travel media to connect and share globally.”
Though I’ve been down with the flu, I went because I wanted to connect with my friends Amanda Rogers and and Steve Mann, the co-founders, producers and videographers of The Local Way, a travel video series. The videos follow local guides as they “take” you on a tour of neighborhoods in a variety of cities – so far in Paris, Dublin, New York and L.A.
What I love about the series, beyond the travel aspect, is how its format captures the essence of a city. The hosts focus on authentic, small, local businesses and how those businesses relate to the microculture of the surrounding neighborhood and its residents. These are the things that imbue a city with the sort of rich, layered flavor mostly absent from the suburbs. It’s why city folk pay twice the rent for a quarter of the space. It’s why they endure noisy neighbors and sweaty, smelly subway commutes.
Visitors come for the shopping and (sometimes) stay for the culture.
“I used to rent out my apartment [to tourists] while I was living in the East Village,” says Amanda over post-TM beers and burgers. “They would always leave behind [emtpy] shopping bags. But when they came back after a day of shopping, they would want to know where to go out in the East Village.” The Local Way New York, she hopes, will offer them a more “insider” option than the Lonely Planet and a more personal option than New York magazine.
The cool part, of course, is that New Yorkers – or Parisians, or Dubliners, or the LA-LAs (what do people in L.A. call themselves?) – can watch the videos to discover more about their own city. The key is that the local guides, because they are local residents, offer an authentic point of view. Sure, a video journalist can parachute in, grab a local, and follow them around with a camera. But The Local Way removes that extra layer between the viewer and the cocktail bar, or boulangerie, or Irish music pub.
So far the whole series has been self-funded by Amanda and Steve, who work day jobs to get by. To make their final push, they just started an Indiegogo (crowd-funding) campaign to raise money to complete their series and take the series from project to business. If you would like to support “travel the local way”, small businesses in big cities, and/or “a new form of documentary” (Amanda’s words), I encourage you to throw a dollar or two their way: