So the first month of 2013 is well under way, which means we’ve all got to stick to our resolutions to be better. Well I don’t, but I’m definitely keen to keep featuring better and better people over here at My Spanish Lovers. This week we’re talking to Chris, a guy who fell for Madrid and the love of a beautiful woman from Castilla la Mancha. All of that’s great, but Chris’s newest project is especially exciting – he’s working on Minube, an awesome social travel site based out of Madrid. Check out his story below to find out more about Minube and why good friends and good food a happy man make.
Hi Chris! Thanks so much for joining us here at My Spanish Lovers. For those readers who don’t know, could you introduce them by sharing a little bit about yourself?
Sure! Well, I’m originally from Texas but I moved to Madrid in 2008, for reasons that still aren’t really clear, as is often the case. Learn a new language, travel a bit, adventure. The plan was to only hang around Madrid for a year or two but, as so often happens, Madrid got its hooks in me and now, five years later, I have an exciting job with minube helping out with the English-language site, and a beautiful fiancé from Castilla La Mancha. So, it looks like I’m in Madrid for good! Which isn’t a bad thing at all…Madrid is one of the most addictive cities I’ve ever been in.
You work on the social travel site Minube. What is the site, and how does it work?
Well, minube is a social travel site based in Madrid and, in a nutshell, the idea is to connect travelers with each other to share their experiences and recommendations to make the whole experience better. It’s a place to go to find out what travelers and locals recommend doing in thousands of different places all over the world. And not just big trips either, it’s equally useful whether you’re taking a 6 week trek through Southeast Asia or if you have a free afternoon at home and are stumped for plans. The most common response is “so, like Trip Advisor?” which I suppose is valid. Yes, we’re similar, but I think we’re a lot more dynamic, we’re a lot more positive, local, and visual. But anyways, minube is a place to go to get inspiration for your next trip, find out cool places to visit, stay, or eat using recommendations from other travelers, then share your own experiences and inspire others.
Minube originally started out as an exclusively Spanish offering, but now you’ve grown to have community around the world of over 500,000 people. How did you start growing, and what was the goal?
The goal has always been to be a global company. We have sites in Spain, Italy, Portugal, France, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, and, as of November, in the US and UK as well. Growing obviously requires a lot of talented people and a lot of hard work, but one of the things that really helped was the fact that we’re travelers as well. It’s not an act. We’re all passionate about seeing new places, trying new foods, and meeting new people, and I think that really helped attract like-minded people and build up some enthusiasm. In the early days (this being 2009 or so), one of the founders Pedro just took a trip around the world, blogging about it, putting his adventures up on minube, and getting to know other travelers from all over.
What are the benefits for users who want to be members of the Minube community?
Hmmm…I think one of our coolest benefits is the ability to make your own travel guides. We have a “Saved” button which lets you saved things into lists which you can then download. Let’s say that I’m going to visit Rome with some friends. I just create a list, something like “Our Trip to Rome” and start adding and saving all the things I want to do: museums, cafés, squares, etc. I can invite my travel buddies to the lists and they can add and edit the things they want to. Then, we download it to our phones or iPads and there we have it: our personalized travel guide, usable offline so no heart-stopping roaming charges, with contact information, photos, videos, everything.
The other big benefit is the social aspect. I can follow people on minube, add them as friends, see what they’re up to, where they’re visiting, where they’re eating, and get inspired. I’m an ex-pat, although it feels weird to say that…the word “ex-pat” conjures this image of some grizzled old British guys, drinking in some hut in India or Malaysia, like you see in the movies! But, I suppose I’m an “ex-pat” too, and I have friends all over the world, most of whom like traveling like me. So it’s a cool way for us to stay in touch and see what each other is up to.
What about those users who aren’t sure exactly where they want to go or what kind of trip they want to take? How does Minube accommodate those kinds of searches?
Well, almost every trip we take is, at one point, seeded in our minds. Usually it comes from friends or family, but sometimes it can be a bit more ephemeral: a smell, an object, a color. So, we made an Inspiration screen to help. You can find trip suggestions based on things like distance from home, number of days, type of trip, or, my favorite, color. So, I live in downtown Madrid and whenever I need a break from the city, I just plug in “within 50 miles” to find ideas for day-trips to disconnect. And part of the fun is that you discover places you might not have learned about otherwise, real gems like La Pedraza near Madrid, for example.
How is Minube a unique online offering for people looking to travel? What can they get with you they won’t find anywhere else?
Good question. First, the recommendations you’ll find on minube are a lot more authentic than on most other sites for a couple of reasons. We emphasize recommendations over reviews. If you didn’t like a restaurant or thought a hotel was bad, we’re really not that interested. The question is “Where should I go, where should I eat, and where should I stay to have the most amazing experience possible during my trip?” So, minube’s a place to get inspired by other travelers’ awesome experiences, see what they recommend, and then go live it for yourself.
Also, minube has users throughout the world, especially in Europe and Latin America, so a lot of the recommendations you’ll find are from real locals, not just visiting tourists. There are lots of cities in the world, and Madrid is definitely one of them, where there’s an amazing wealth of interesting shops, restaurants, and things to do, but that are initially hard to find when you’re just visiting for the first time. How many tourists know about the rooftop bar in Casa de Granada, or the Chinese joint under Plaza de España, or the Sorolla Museum, or seeing some flamenco in Cardamomo, or any other of the endless amazing places on their first visit to Madrid? Minube is a platform to get this kind of information straight from the people that know best.
What are some of your favorite places to travel around Spain? If you had one place to recommend for someone looking to take a trip to Spain, where would it be?
Gosh, there are so many places I’ve loved…crystal waters in Mallorca, sleeping on the beach in Almeria, pintxos and txakoli in Bilbao, La Pandorga wine-throwing party in Ciudad Real…but if I had to recommend one, it’d be Granada. Granada, as a city, is just spectacular. The Alhambra is one of the most incredible structures in Europe, and the city’s tapas scene is what I think most people look for when they come to Spain but which they usually have a hard time finding in Madrid or Barcelona. Plus, you have the caves in Sacromonte, the Albyzin, ridiculous nightlife, and the beach is only 45 minutes away. Good friends and good food at the Mirador de San Nicolás at night is probably the happiest I’ve ever been!
Anything new we can expect from Minube this year, or any recent updates you’re excited about sharing?
Well, our latest news is we just released a version for Android, which is wonderful. We also just made a List Store which has mini-guides created by real users. If you’re passionate about a place, or even a theme, you can create a mini-guide about it and we’ll put it in our store. For example, a great writer from New Zealand, James Blick, just made a guide to craft beer in Madrid. James is a complete beer fanatic, and goes into such depth and detail about all these relatively new and unknown beerhouses in Madrid, and that’s kind of the whole idea of the mini-guides: real people showing the rest of us their passions. Some of the mini-guides are for free and other run for about €0.79. We split all the profits with the people that upload the mini-guides too, which is kind of a cool way for casual city-explorers or aspiring bloggers to earn a little extra cash to keep trying new restaurants or taking trips.