Local Guides Spotlight is a Connect series that celebrates members of our community who are making a positive impact.
Local Guide @SuzanneN is a mom, traveler, and writer who enjoys using her contributions to help other parents and explorers discover great places to go. She grew up in the United States, but has been living overseas for 14 years—first in London and now in Bangkok.
“Our family loves to travel, and we are always figuring out ways to fit it into our lives, whether that means bringing everyone along for a work trip, or fitting in a long weekend in a new place,” Suzanne told us. They’ve been to eight different countries in just 18 months!
Suzanne joined the Local Guides program over two years ago. “I have written quite a few travel guidebooks, so it's in my blood to review places and share information,” she said. "I hope my contributions help people make the right choice for them, or even just make life a little easier."
We recently caught up with her to learn more about her tips for writing family-friendly reviews, her advice to new Local Guides, and more.
What are some of the things you’re passionate about?
Helping others in big and small ways. Connecting with other people. Communicating. Seeing the world!
You often include information that can help parents with kids in your contributions. Why do you think it’s important to add info to help other parents?
If our children aren't happy and safe, parents can't enjoy themselves. Finding places for children to play, run around, learn something, restaurants where all family members can eat food that makes them happy, and places to sleep that work for families is my main focus when I'm planning a trip, so I know it's important for other parents, too.
Sometimes, though, it's not even about having fun while traveling, it's about having a hungry kid who is melting down and desperately needing to find a good place to eat, right now. When I'm writing reviews, I often think about that parent, standing on the street with an unhappy child, opening his phone and frantically searching for child-friendly restaurants in the area.
What information do you wish more people included in their reviews?
Time is always a factor, and I think any useful information people put in their reviews is great. With a critical mass of reviews, users will have enough information even if each review is not totally complete. So, just review more places!
Do you have any tips for others to help guide parents through their contributions?
Have an end user in mind. Reviews are valuable because people read them, not because we write them, so think about the reader.
What are some of your favorite places to go with your kids in your area?
Here's a list of indoor play areas in Bangkok. It can get very hot in Bangkok, but children still need to be able to run around and have fun. There are quite a few places in Bangkok to take them when it's too hot for the playground:
Based on your contributions, you also seem very passionate about sustainability. Can you tell me more about that?
My children are going to have to live in a world that's a lot hotter and dirtier than the world we got to grow up in. It doesn't really seem fair to them, or to the billions of people on the planet who will really suffer because of climate change and pollution. But it's not too late, and the good news is that most people want to do the right thing. They just don't have enough information. So if we give them information, and let businesses know that consumers really do care, change will happen. And I'm not just talking about not using plastic straws, that's just the beginning.
How have you helped to make the map more eco-friendly?
I'm starting by calling out businesses that are environmentally friendly because it does really matter to consumers. If you came across a restaurant where people were smoking, you'd probably put that in the review, right? I hope at some point we'll feel as strongly about whether a place engages in sustainable business practices. I'm still figuring this out, I have a feeling we'll have some bigger and better things coming in the near future.
Also, I've mapped a bunch of places in Bangkok where you can get your water bottle refilled.
People don't realize that water doesn't need to come from a plastic bottle to be drinkable, especially in Bangkok; if they know there are places to fill up with clean water, many will bring along a bottle when they go out.
I also try to eat only plant-based foods (vegan foods), and much of the reason for that decision a couple of years ago was based on sustainability. Most people aren't interested in becoming vegan, which I totally get (my son's favorite food is bacon), but it's nice to show them that veggies can be beautiful and delicious. I love reviewing restaurants with amazing plant-based dishes, especially those that are a bit on the fancy side, and posting those photos so people see that plant-based food can be totally yummy and indulgent, too!
Here's a list of a few of my favorite vegetarian/vegan-friendly places in Bangkok.
What are some things other Local Guides can do to help guide for sustainability?
Share information about sustainable practices at places you review. Are restaurants selling water in plastic bottles, still using straws? Do they donate unused food and compost food waste? These are all great things to add to reviews.
Do you have any tips for Local Guides who are new to the program?
It's a great program and a great community. Take time to connect to other Local Guides around the world, and just enjoy being able to share info. Keep it fun, don't do more than you want to, and know that it's helping.
Why are you proud to be a Local Guide?
Meeting the other 150 Local Guides at Connect Live and seeing just how interesting, engaged, caring, funny, wonderful they are... I'm proud to be part of a group like that!
We hope you enjoyed getting to know Suzanne better! What's your favorite way to contribute on Google Maps? Tell us about it in the comments below—and we may just feature you in an upcoming article!