Elaine Rystead of Local Wanderer

Words by Chloe Popove

  • Photos by and courtesy of Local Wanderer.

    Photos by and courtesy of Local Wanderer.

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Local Wanderer is a travel website of bright and delightful places. We caught up with Vancouver-based Elaine Rystead—half of Local Wanderer, whole ray of sunshine.

How did Local Wanderer start?

My good friend Taylor Loren and I were on our way to Seattle for the Capitol Hill music fest a few summers ago. On the way to Seattle, I explained the concept for Local Wanderer that I had been stewing on over the past few months. Taylor was my only good friend in tech at the time (working at Hootsuite), and she provided me great feedback for the concept. A few days later, Taylor called me and told me she had quit her job, and that she wanted to pursue Local Wanderer together. Woo!

Shortly after, Taylor gave up her apartment, I subleased mine, and we were on the road for almost three months. We started our Instagram account on the road, and travelled almost everywhere in between Vancouver and Mexico in my car Julie. Throughout the entire trip, we didn’t use Google maps once. It was utter chaos at times, but we didn’t have anywhere to be and we wanted to challenge ourselves—to talk to people organically, and learn from the communities we ended up in. We came home totally broke, but with a sparkle in our eyes as we had gained a following of 27,000 on Instagram. Since then we’ve launched a blog and still feel blessed to be on the hunt for localism, not tourism. It’s kind of our thing.

What has travelling taught you?

Travelling has always been a part of my life, as my parents lived quite a transient lifestyle and took us on all of their adventures. As a result, travelling has become a breath of fresh air for me, as well as an opportunity to learn and grow in new and creative ways. Travelling teaches me to assess my goals and lifestyle, and to simplify what my needs are. I’ve always been keen on exploring new opportunities, and hitting the road has provided me with a deeper and renewed understanding for people, faith, empathy, appreciation, and inspiration. The beauty of travelling is that you’ll never stop learning about yourself or others, no matter when or where you go. Of course you have to be willing to experience and challenge yourself, but I think that learning about what you like and don’t like is super important to figuring out your correct path; travelling is such a vessel for that experience.

What are three things you never travel without?

My camera, duh. My running shoes, because I still crave my exercise routine while on the road. My vitamins—got to stay healthy to beat those germy flights.

Where’s your favourite place in the world for a cup of coffee?

Oh my word, how can I choose one? I’d have to say: Revolver for Vancouver, G&B in DTLA (at the Grand Central Market), or at a quick coffee stand in Paris, because I romanticize it all the time.

What’s your favourite thing about yourself?

Where I came from. I adore my parents and I feel pretty special to be carrying pieces of them within me, wherever I go. You are what you eat, but you’re also a lot like who your friends are. I’m really grateful if any of the beautiful people in my life have rubbed off on me, making me who I am today. As for physical traits, I used to hate having freckles on my nose, because in the summer it just looks like I have an incredible sunglasses tan line. But I’ve started to really like my freckles on my nose.

This interview has been edited and condensed.