Tamara is a "cousin" who fashion loving, creative people visiting Tel Aviv can connect with. Tamara is a "cousin" who fashion loving, creative people visiting Tel Aviv can connect with. Tamara is registered as a "cousin" on the Cool Cousin app. Now, fashion-loving, creative types visiting Tel Aviv can connect with her. (Courtesy photo)

How to connect with locals during your world travels

Cool Cousin travel app helps tourists meet residents with similar interests in cities around the globe.

Traveling can be equal parts awe-inspiring and alienating. Visiting new places offers the possibility of new experiences while at the same time, it means you are an outsider, not versed in local customs or culture.

Enter Cool Cousin, a new smartphone application and website founded by five well-traveled Israeli friends who want to bridge the divide between travelers and locals.

"A traveler is by definition an outsider, and we hated that. We hated arriving to Tokyo or New York or Paris and being nothing," Itamar Weizman, Cool Cousin's chief operations officer, explained to From The Grapevine. "We don’t always know locals and because of that we’re disconnected from what’s going on. So we asked, ‘How would a city be through a local's eyes?’"

The answer was to enlist locals – termed "cousins" – who can offer an insider's perspective of their hometown.

Cool Cousin will be available on desktop and iOS with Android availability in the near future.Cool Cousin will be available on desktop and iOS with Android availability in the near future. (Photo: Cool Cousin)

Weizman spent the better part of the last year away from Cool Cousin's HQ in Tel Aviv on the road stockpiling "cousins." So far he has enlisted 350 people across 20 cities – including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Paris, London and Stockholm – with the expectation of having 1,000 by the end of the year.

"They could be famous locals or interesting locals whose vibe we simply love,” said Weizman. "But what these people have in common is that they love their cities; they love to travel; they love to tell stories and they are also very forthcoming and compelling.”

The list is impressive, to say the least. In London, the CEO of major fashion brand and the producer/manager of popular indie rock band Alt-J are "cousins." In Stockholm, the CEO of the trendy clothing brand Acne Studios is a "cousin."

Each "cousin" is given a profile – replete with photos taken of them at their favorite hangouts – where they build their own map to the city. Users can filter by interests – culture, nightlife, etc. – and create an itinerary based on the "cousins'" suggestions and even interact with them through a messaging system.

Cool Cousin is the brainchild of five friends who wanted to make the travel experience more personal.Cool Cousin is the brainchild of five Israeli friends who wanted to make the travel experience more personal. (Courtesy photo)

In addition, a host of other services will be available right at their fingertips.

"The idea is to combine an almost-magazine level of content with an app for travelers to do anything they need. Book a table, an Uber or an Airbnb – pretty much anything you can think of," explained Weizman.

For the moment, Weizman said Cool Cousin is focused on servicing popular urban destinations. The app is live on iOS within (Android should be available sometime in 2017) and will be continually expanding its footprint across the globe, with plans to connect you to your favorite places on the planet very soon.

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