For Terri Lundberg, 50, home is always a home away from home. She has trotted the globe, exploring many new places, learning the cultures and cities from the locals, and it was from these experiences that she decided to turn her love for travel into a career, founding Hometown Tourist.
Lundberg, a native of San Diego, California, has visited more than 25 countries and blogged about her travels for years. However, Hometown Tourist took it a step further, offering its readers recommendations for restaurants, nightlife, museums, exhibits, etc., from the locals themselves.
“About six months out of the year I am on the road and when I was in San Diego, I would go around, take pictures and talk about tourist destinations, things that were slightly off the beaten path, things that locals knew about … Then when I went to Seattle, I was interviewing a friend and I said, ‘You could be my hometown tourist for Seattle.’ And that’s how the idea was formed,” Lundberg explained.
“I tend to stay in apartments rather than hotels,” she said of her travels. “I shop at the local grocery stores. I’m really chatty so I start talking to the locals and asking them for recommendations and over the years, I have just found that those recommendations are better than anything I got on Trip Advisor.
“I don’t do travel like I am traveling, but rather that I am living there. A few weeks ago, I was living in Saudi Arabia. A few weeks before that, I was living in Berlin [Germany]. Now, I am living in San Diego. I started traveling because I like to go places, but I got bitten by the bug through business travel,” Lundberg continued.
“I decided to make [my love of travel] into a business because I think it is a great idea and no one else in the U.S. is doing exactly what I am doing. There are two other direct competitors that I have – they are both out of Europe – one is based out of Amsterdam, the other is based in the U.K., and 90 percent of their cities are European cities,” she said.
When her business was in its infancy in November 2013, Lundberg simply asked people questions through an interview form and then she would post it on the website. Working with a web developer to improve the user experience, Lundberg re-launched the site in February 2015.
“The site will eventually have downloadable apps for all the cities that we cover. They will have downloadable PDF guides, so the new set up was set up with those things in mind, giving different visitors different ways to excess the information,” Lundberg explained.
“Right now, we have 22 cities that are city guides and then we have our interview with a local section,” she added.
The city guide section has tabs for all the different interests for that city such as nightlife and restaurants.
“These restaurants are recommendations. So you’re not going to have every single restaurant that existed in that city … It’s going to have the recommendations from all local bloggers. You’re going to have a smaller grouping but it’s going to be more reliable,” Lundberg added.
She has two to four bloggers covering each city and her hope is to have at least five per location. According to the website, the many blogs and recommendations hone in on travelers’ desire to experience new things even if it’s not their first time visiting the city.
“Every single recommendation I have edited and vetted. I haven’t necessarily been to every single one of these places, but [what] I do is research the restaurant before adding it to the site,” Lundberg said.
“My favorite part of the making the site is reading all the recommendations. For example, I have been to many cities, but I have never been to Chicago. Every time I read the blogs for Chicago, I want to get on a plane to go to Chicago. And that is what I love about traveling, that when I discover something that I didn’t expect either about a location or about myself,” she added.
Hometown Tourist has pulled in a big media presence through social media, which is its main form of marketing. The marketing will hopefully lead to Lundberg’s ultimate goal for the website, which is to create a web series.
“We’re going to start a web series. That is going to happen, but then ideally, I’d be a host on the Hometown Tourist show on the Travel channel. That would be ideal, but we are at least going to add a web series because I think people want to get involved in going to various cities and interviewing locals,” she stated.
“My favorite aspect of the site, what makes it unique is that it is unique. We are the only travel blogging site in which locals are giving local travel tips,” Lundberg added.
Kaylene Hersey is an intern at Lioness and is currently a senior creative writing major at Western New England University. She is from Colchester, Conn. Besides writing, she has a passion for baking and dancing, and she hopes one day to work in the Editing and Publishing world. If that fails, she plans to open up her own bakery.