Where did the love for travel begin?
During my early teen years – between 14 and 16 – my dad and I would fly from Pittsburgh to Denver to see my uncle and ski the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. It was not a normal thing for a kid from my neighborhood or school to fly across the country for a ski trip. I fell in love with “the West” and the feeling of discovering new places. That same love for the Western U.S. is what later shaped my decision to go to Arizona State University after graduating high school in Pittsburgh.
What does travel mean to you?
To travel is to leave the comfort of everyday life to explore the world in a way that positively supports local communities and the environment -- and in return, receive deep fulfillment and gratification through the knowledge gained, sights and cultures explored, people you’ve met, and beautiful memories gained.
Who were your inspiration(s) growing up?
As an animal lover since I was a child, I’ve always loved Jane Goodall for her ability to inspire others to embrace empathy and compassion towards all living beings.
Why is travel so important, especially for women?
Travel is so important for all of us but especially for women, because it helps to build strength and courage and eliminate fear. These qualities are needed more than ever to become resilient and to move closer to our dreams.
As the CEO, Co-Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Kind Traveler, how did everything begin?
During a trip to Belize where I witnessed heartbreaking poverty, environmental despair and emaciated dogs roaming the streets, my partner Sean and I had an experience that changed us. We were on a bus with other travelers heading to the Mayan ruins and to go caving. Deep in the back roads, the bus stopped at a local convenience store as the last chance to get water or snacks before heading on the tour. As we got off the bus, the rib-protruding dogs approached us, begging for food with eyes of despair.
Rather than ignoring the plight of the situation, we decided to help. As animal rescue volunteers in the U.S., we ran into the store hopeful they had dog food. They did! We bought as much as we could and scattered it on the ground. As more and more dogs joined in, we looked up and saw that all of the other travelers on the bus were also carrying out bags of the dog food.
When we got back on the bus, the entire sentiment changed from this feeling of being sad, helpless, and hopeless, to a sense of joy knowing that we tried to make things better in some small way. We realized that everyone else wanted to do good — but they just needed a catalyst.
The feeling from our small act of kindness stayed with us for a long time and we wondered how we could use our entrepreneurial skills and passion for travel to make it easy for travelers to make a positive impact to the destinations they visit– and in turn, be filled up with a sense of purpose from their travels resulting in a more meaningful and memorable vacation.
After four years of research and development, the answer was KindTraveler.com, the first hotel booking and media platform that empowers travelers to positively impact communities and the environment in the destinations they visit.
How can non-profits or travelers get involved?
One of the features that makes Kind Traveler unique is its ability to empower travelers to make a positive local impact in the destinations they visit. When we partner with hotels in a certain destination, we look for nonprofit partners to align with our Give + Get booking model: Travelers access exclusive hotel rates and perks when they give a $10 nightly donation to a local charity that positively impacts the destination they are visiting, or to a charity of choice. 100% of donations go to charity.
The best way for nonprofits to get involved is to email us at email@example.com and let us know about their interest in getting involved.
For travelers, the best way to get involved is to subscribe to our weekly newsletter on KindTraveler.com. Our newsletter is where we announce new Kind Hotels, 72-hour sales, and vacation giveaways.
You speak at many conferences around the world. What are your most memorable speeches? What is a topic or a story you love to speak about the most?
I have several different styles of speeches, depending on the audience. Recently, Kind Traveler spoke at the UNWTO Tourism Tech Adventure in Santiago, Chile, and at Lufthansa Innovation Hub’s Changemaker Challenge in Frankfurt, Germany. Both presentations were Kind Traveler’s investor pitch as they were both pitch events as startups are continually looked upon as sources for innovation within the sustainable travel space.
Last month, I spoke at Visit California’s Outlook Forum and this B2B speech was designed to empower both hoteliers and DMOs (destination marketing organizations) on the steps to consider when creating a sustainable travel initiative. Last week, I spoke at the Women’s Travel Fest and since this was a B2C speech, it focused on the questions travelers should ask to ensure their travels are sustainable through responsible decision making.
While each speech is directed to a different audience profile, they all have the same undercurrent explaining why sustainable travel is so important and how it’s possible to be an active participant in solving the world’s greatest challenges.
Why is sustainable travel so important?
Last year, there were 1.4B trips around the world with 1.8B projected by 2030. More people are traveling now than ever before due to travel becoming more affordable and technological advances. However, travel can come with negative consequences as well. The travel & tourism industry, responsible for $9T GDP and 1 in 10 jobs worldwide, is also responsible for 10% of the planet’s carbon emissions, connected to a warming planet, and can also create harm to communities and the environment if not managed responsibly and sustainably. Furthermore, as cited by UNWTO, only $5 from every $100 spent from a traveler visiting a developing country, stays in that country.
The goal of sustainable travel is to create travel solutions that not only support the economy, but also advance both community and environmental impact in a way that supports the wellbeing of a destination so that it may thrive for future generations.
The love for travel cannot be separated from the state of the world.
Have you faced any setbacks during your journey? What did you learn?
It took my cofounder and I four years from the time the idea of Kind Traveler was born and our launch in late 2016. There were many times where we did not know if the technology we were building (alongside a web development team) was going to work because we were creating something that did not exist previously. I learned that it would have been impossible to go on this journey if my passion, purpose and skills were not completely aligned. When this trifecta is aligned, it’s possible to move forward in times of doubt, uncertainty and struggle.
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to pursue a career in the travel industry?
My first piece of advice as touched on above is to take the time and do “the work” needed to uncover where your passions, purpose and skills align. Passion is usually found within the subjects that evoke a deep emotional response. For me, I wanted to help create a kinder world through travel – travel that supports the wellbeing of animals, the environment, and people. As an animal rescue volunteer, it makes me super excited to promote a kinder way of traveling that eliminates animal suffering in the world – and helps people and the environment, too.
What is your dream for the future?
My dream for the future is to grow the Kind Traveler collection of hotels and charities globally so to create meaningful impact opportunities around the world for travelers.
Where can people find out more about you?