Thursday, 15 January 2009

Stepping out of cyber travel and into reality

"Apaga la tele. Vive tu vida." Turn off the TV. Live your life.

I saw this piece of street art in Valparaíso, Chile last month. Good advice, wouldn't you say? However, seeing as I rarely watch TV, turning off my laptop might be a better resolution for me.

Like many people, I spend a lot of time in front of my computer for my work. Consequently, the last thing I want to do is socialise online too. I have zero interest in virtual travel on sites such as Second Life.

Nonetheless, I am all for using the internet as a social stepping stone. That's why I like travel networking. Although you meet the people online, these virtual meets are soon transferred into real, life-enhancing experiences.

Map-based social network is the latest to encourage its members to get out more. In 2007, the site launched as an online community featuring worldwide maps where members pinpoint local attractions, sites, happenings, or just about anything they want. However, in a new twist, they've now launched the "Local Guides" subdivision, which highlights specially selected members who are willing to meet with others in person and show them around.

Here's how they describe it:
Local Guides are informal ambassadors volunteering to represent their unique parts of the world. They offer a unique perspective beyond traditional travel writers and editors, they are real locals offering up first-hand gems of information about their homes. They are eager to share and to connect.
Sounds good. So far the site has handpicked guides in Taipei, LA, Orange County, Malaysia and Chennai. More to come. Read more about it on Make Travel Fair.