When planning a trip, some tourists look first (or only) to major attractions—museums, monuments, buildings and other landmarks that give character to their destination.
But many travelers are hungry for more authentic travel experiences, those that allow them to “live like a local.” And the best place to start, Jay Savsani says, is in a local’s kitchen.
Savsani, a Chicago-based web designer and digital strategist, argues that sharing a meal is the best way to understand other cultures, which is why he founded MealSharing.com, a website that connects tourists with locals who offer home-cooked meals.
Savsani has helped build a community that, in less than a year, has stretched across nearly 400 cities, from Paris to Siem Reap, Cambodia, and Los Angeles to Berlin. But more than connecting people across continents, Savsani says the network can also build a better economy and help Americans reimagine what it means to share.
In a nutshell, can you explain your big idea?
Meal Sharing is a website that enables travelers and locals to connect with each other over home-cooked meals. Hosts around the world are now able to open up their kitchens to people so they can experience their life through food.
Tourists search for a host in the city of their choice and then send a meal request for a particular date. You can also search by one of the varieties of meals on the site, from traditional meals to experimental food to vegetarian cuisine. There is something for everyone.
To become a host on Meal Sharing you have to fill out a few more questions about your style of cooking or recent dishes you have made. This helps potential guests get a sense of what they should expect. Before the meal is confirmed, guests message with the host about dietary restrictions, directions and a meeting time. After the free meal, tourists can go back on the site and review the experience to help build trust and safety for future users.
The website facilitates community building through shared resources, promotes cultural exchange and encourages people to cook at home to enable a healthy lifestyle. It is an idea born out of our own traveling experiences and our desire to connect with people. We wanted to create a platform that uses technology to make human interaction easier and safer.
So wait, it’s free?