Last year, I was walking down a forest path in Chile when I met a very old man. He told us he’d been a guide on the trails for 60 years and asked us if we’d like to walk with him. As we hiked up and down treacherously steep paths crisscrossed with knotty tree roots, he asked us if we could take a short rest because he was just recovering from his 6th stroke.
We sat down next to him and he asked us if we were up to see something really beautiful, something really special that not many gringos have seen before.
2 hours later, our legs were scratched and our mouths parched but we kept climbing. Finally, we came to a rushing stream and followed it for 10 minutes until it stopped and cascaded into the most beautiful waterfall I’ve ever laid eyes on. We spent the rest of the day exploring the falls, and swimming in the freezing cold lagoon below. It was a life experience that I’ll never forget.
After traveling with his wife for over a year, Entrepreneur Vipin Goyal asked himself, “Why are discovery and exploration reserved just for travel? How do we create a platform where we can access those great experiences that are normally dependent on serendipity?”
This past summer, Vipin Goyal launched SideTour, and built the company within the TechStars incubator in New York City, a very prestigious and highly selective accelerator program. SideTour opens a window into someone’s world and provides inspiring and talented hosts with a new storefront-like marketplace, much like Etsy did for artists. SideTour offers users a chance to buy unique experiences like “Enjoy a Fireworks Display on a Private Sailboat”, “Learn Traditional Pasta Making in La Cucina di Caterina”, “Experience the Last Chance to Test Drive the Tesla Roadster in New York City”, and “Ethical Fashion Shopping Journey on the Lower East Side.”
Hosting a SideTour is a great way to make some extra cash in your spare time. One band opened up their rehearsal sessions to fans at $50 a pop and was earning an extra $200 a week, or $10,000 a year. The current version of SideTour is very simple; it’s built on WordPress and EventBrite. And it only lists experiences in New York City.
SideTour dances in the company of Jetsetter, which inspires travelers to take advantage of discounted hotels; various Daily Deals sites which offer a variety of local adventures and travel packages; and perhaps it is most similar to Zozi, a $10 million ventured backed travel company that offers “bite-sized” adventures and unique local experiences such as abalone diving, surfboard carving lessons, twilight kayaking, and cycling and wine tasting tours.
Unlike daily deal sites, the experiences are not value driven or discounted. Goyal says that the hosts are unique whether it’s the insight that they bring, the expertise they have, or something compelling about that host. Goyal wants SideTour to be a place where you can buy experiences you can’t find anywhere else.
Next week, I’ll be having lunch with a Banker-Turned-Monk at an East Village Monastery. The following week, I hope to attend a dinner party hosted by the Former Sous Chef of Aquavit. At the very least, these events make for great date nights. At at the very most, they serve to broaden your perspective and perhaps change your life for the better. Goyal has created a new form of experiential travel that doesn’t rely on serendipity. Sidetourism has begun.
Learn more about SideTour here: