During my weekend in Montreal this summer, I had the pleasure of meeting Lauren McLeod, one half of the awesome Globetrooper team (her husband, Todd Sullivan, being the other half) and learning more about their website, a trip planning tool “to find travel partners for group trips and world adventures”. The more I learned about Globetrooper, the more the idea intrigued me. I felt this could be very useful for solo travelers, especially those traveling solo by circumstance, not choice. Unlike traditional packaged tours, Globetrooper offers travelers the opportunity to create their own itineraries and invite others to join them for part or all of the trip. Todd graciously agreed to be interviewed for SoloFriendly to help you all learn more about how Globetrooper can be of use to you, the solo traveler, and to get to know the people behind the concept.
SF: First, could you give us a bit of your own backgrounds and how you met?
Todd: Lauren and I met almost 8 years ago through a mutual friend in Australia. Ever since, we’ve both studied hard, worked hard, but increasingly realised there’s much more to life than the daily grind of 9-to-5. With backgrounds in business, software & design, and a love for travel, we left the corporate world and launched Globetrooper on Lauren’s birthday this year (28 March 2010). It’s been a roller coaster, lots of ups and downs, but what an experience.
SF: What is Globetrooper and how did it come about?
Todd: Globetrooper is a platform for people to find travel partners for global adventures. In December 2008 Lauren and I planned to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, but we wanted others to share the experience. We had trouble finding interested people, even though we knew hundreds of people were climbing Kili on a weekly basis. We eventually found a Danish guy to join us and we had a great time. It was a year later that we decided to make the most of life and embark on building an adventure travel business.
SF: Has it evolved the way you expected it would?
Todd: Not at all. We first launched Globetrooper as an information portal (with a view to making it more social), but the content quickly took a back seat to the ‘travel partner’ concept. So much has changed in 6 months: the design, the functionality, the concept, the complexity, etc. Even now, we’re working on features that will see the site further evolve into a platform to help people travel the world in different ways. Stay tuned 🙂
SF: What do solo travelers need to know about what Globetrooper can do for them?
Todd: Quite simply, Globetrooper can help solo travelers find people with similar aspirations to join them on global adventures where they either need other people or want companions. They don’t have to join each other for entire trips; they may just meet for coffee. When someone publishes a trip on Globetrooper, they’re essentially saying they’d like to travel the globe with others. However, there are no obligations; the concept works purely on good faith and good travels.
SF: How many travelers are currently using Globetrooper?
Todd: That’s a hard question to answer since our users don’t have to register to search and browse trips. Many users browse trips for ideas or inspiration, while others use it to launch full scale expeditions into remote areas. However, based on analytics, tens of thousands of people use Globetrooper each month.
SF: Do you have any success stories you can share with us?
Todd: Most of the big trips are still months away, but we have heard of many smaller meetups. Even Lauren and I met a number of people in Canada through Globetrooper, whom we’re still in contact with. The most successful trips, in terms of people joined, are the Gobi 2011 and the GCIRC. The Gobi 2011 expedition, which departs in May 2011, is now full with 14 confirmed (and paid) travellers. So I’m sure we’ll have lots to report as 2011 gets underway. We’re also thinking of building a feature where users can report on their successful meetups with others, which of course will help us to determine the success of these group trips.
SF: Who is Globetrooper for (versus who is it not for)?
Todd: Most importantly, Globetrooper is not just for solo travelers; it’s for people who want to undertake trips that they believe would be more rewarding in a group. Even as a couple, Lauren and I prefer to travel with others.
Globetrooper is not intended for people who don’t enjoy adventure travel and don’t enjoy traveling with others. Similarly, it’s not intended for people on truly solo trips (e.g. solo expeditions in which the primary objective is to travel unassisted).
SF: Okay, so Globetrooper is for adventurous travelers. Define “adventurous”.
Todd: Great question. I’d say it refers to people whose purpose for travel is to push their own mental boundaries. We recently wrote a blog post on what we think ‘adventure travel‘ means. We believe it’s much more mental than physical. Maybe its easier to say what we don’t think adventure travel is, which would be trips that are purely for rest, relaxation and/or enjoyment (e.g. weekend getaways, beach holidays, ski trips, etc.)
SF: Any exciting trips coming up you’d like people to know about?
Todd: There are two very exciting trips coming up that are actually worlds apart.
The first is The Great Circular Indian Railway Challenge, which involves circumnavigating India by train over 12,000km in 15 days. It’s easy to miss the objective of this trip and dismiss it as too much of a rush. But imagine a group of 20 average travellers trying to set a record to circumnavigate one of the most chaotic countries on the planet. Some people spend months away without a tale to tell, but that would be impossible on this trip. I can already vividly imagine the adventure and mischief that will ensue. It will be tough, but it will be a life-changing experience, without a doubt.
The second is Live Laugh Love Greece, which is an adventure trip to Greece that steps way off the beaten track to explore the culture, the country and the islands through the eyes of a local. The beauty of this trip is that it takes one of the most visited and gorgeous destinations on the planet and lifts the covers to show what made the country so popular in the first place. Too often, great destinations become overrun by tourists, so new visitors don’t get to see what made it so special, but this trip plans to undo that, which we think will really appeal to cultural travelers.
SF: What’s next for Globetrooper, and for you two?
Todd: We’re madly working to make Globetrooper more social and more useful. We ultimately want to help people travel with others to places they never would have imagined and be inspired enough to make a difference where it counts most. No easy feat, but that’s the plan. For Lauren and I, we’re currently in Peru heading to Bolivia in a couple of days. Then we’re off to Argentina where we will live for a few months to make a lot of progress on Globetrooper. Then it’s off to India for the GCIRC and Mongolia for Gobi 2011.
Thanks again to Todd for taking the time to answer my questions! If you are an adventurous solo traveler who is open to meeting up with other like-minded travelers for part or all of a trip, you should definitely check out the Globetrooper site. Because while traveling truly solo in a foreign culture can be its own adventure (and reward), sometimes it’s nice to meet new people over a shared experience as well.