Want to travel for free? Crowd Funding is the way

Avril-Ann Braganza decodes the process of using crowd-funding to make it easier to travel to your dream destination

How would you like to go on a holiday? And what if someone else, or rather, many others paid for your trip? Are you jumping up and down in excitement, yet? Hold your horses! It`s not that easy, but it is possible.

Simon Good and Chris Kastern from South Africa received funds for a trip to Uganda, which was part of a travel bloggers’ tour. Simon couldn’t make it because of an accident, but Chris did. The tour had three main objectives: The first was to raise awareness about the plight of mountain gorillas and the benefits of responsible tourism. The second goal was to highlight the importance of iconic African National Parks and Reserves in conserving the continent’s natural integrity. The third aim was to promote overland trekking in Africa to the domestic tourist market and inspire leisure travel to the continent.

They obtained a great deal of monetary and non-monetary support, but they monetised the non-monetary support for easier tracking purposes. “We received hiking gear from Hi-Tec and Cape Union Mart, travel insurance from TravelInsure, support from the NEDBANK Greenbacks loyalty reward programme (they donated rewards that we redeemed for discounted flights), flight discounts from SouthAfrica. Travel Online and travel support from NOMAD,” they tell us. Chris` eight-day trip was breath-taking and deeply emotional. The opportunity to immerse himself in the gorillas` natural habitat gave him a deep appreciation for East African forests. That`s one successful trip down!

Kunho Kim and his team, who will be on a road trip to 20 cities in 20 states from San Francisco to Boston, in order to publish a wheelchair-accessible travel guide, have Hampton Inn in Pittsburgh sponsoring their stay there, and Hertz has offered them a discounted rate on a wheelchair-accessible van rental.

What is crowd-funded travel?
You may have heard of crowd-funding to finance a new business venture, a commercial campaign or a medical emergency, but crowd-funded travel? Online portals like Trevolta, which went live in October, 2013 and Fund Your Travel (not yet a live platform and with no definitive launch date to offer as yet) enable travellers to go on sponsored trips. Sounds too good to be true, right?

How does it happen? Travellers create and submit their extraordinary travel campaigns for expeditions in order to raise funds for them. “We strongly encourage our travellers to spice-up their trips. It is highly unlikely that a traveller will raise funds for his trip if it’s boring and all about him. Either your trip must be extraordinary–something that no one else does, or it must have a humanitarian aspect–do good and you will be rewarded. However, we don’t restrict what trips go up,” says Mark Karimov, CEO of Trevolta. These projects then await backing by inspired people or sponsors looking for marketing opportunities and brand awareness.

Lindsey Richardson and her sister Kailey lost their mum to cancer in November 2010. They are following her travel journal; 6 months, 10 countries to honour her legacy by teaching–English to the youth in various villages around Slovakia, exploring–Europe as their mum did 30 years ago with her best friend, following her travel journal to see the same sights, hear the same sounds, eat the same foods, experience her adventures and have a few of their own; and learning–in Israel for three months through Master`s College.  “While we have achieved and exceeded the goal of USD $1,700 on Trevolta, we still need about USD $5,000 for our ministry and service funding in Slovakia,” says Lindsey

So what’s in it for the sponsors?

In case of Fund Your Travel, travellers will blog throughout their trip, which will be followed by the FYT community. This will serve as a platform for businesses or sponsors looking for opportunities to advertise. In return for funds, travellers will promote brands and review their merchandise or services, during their trip, in the most creative ways possible.

On Trevolta, each traveller offers rewards on their trip page–what the backer will get for  contributing X dollars. Rewards can be personalised postcards, souvenirs, delicacies, pictures from the places they visit and more. There is also a section called `Chip in any amount (more than the largest contribution on a given trip page) and Create your own reward,` where contributors can ask travellers to perform fun tasks during their travel in return.

It could be anything from asking the travellers to visit a specific place, spend a night without a room or to eat something unusual. Chris who had trekked in search of mountain gorillas in Uganda says, "We were asked by local South African celebrity, Elana Afrika-Bredenkamp, to eat a local grasshopper delicacy called Nsenene, but I couldn`t find any as they were not in season and it turned out to be okay, because Elana never actually came through with the funds that she promised!”

Alexandre Côté and Audrey-Ann Brunelle left their hometown, Québec, for a five-month trip to Australia, New Zealand and Hawaïï, bringing back a whole lot of breath-taking pictures on their return. “Our contributors can benefit from all our pictures in any way they want to use them. They have all rights to them,” Alexandre tells us.

Are there consequences if you don`t stick to your promises?

Of course, there are! If a Trevolta traveller doesn’t deliver–what he promises, he must either refund the backers or face legal action from his contributors. The same applies to Fund Your Travel.

“Travellers will be required to share their entire trip on-the-go, making it easier to track whether they are doing what is expected. The campaign owners or travellers will have to declare rewards for the backers and a tentative timeline by which the rewards will be delivered. If the travellers don`t stick to their timelines, they will be bound to return the money to their respective backers,” explains Sandeep Mehta, co-founder of Fund Your Travel.

Final Verdict

While it may sound easy, these travellers do have their own set of challenges. “Our challenges include, the large amount of planning we`ll have to do, raising the necessary support and more. Obviously as this is a long trip we`re going to face major logistical challenges! Our limited time frame will also play into these,” adds Brad Riew from Kunho Kim`s team.

For Lindsey, "Other than monetary challenges, safety is a concern. It is a little scary to travel as girls, but we really aren`t that worried. I think setting off is sometimes the hardest part and you can only plan so much; once you`re holding your ticket and you step on the plane, there is no going back.”

Whether you`ve already had a successful crowd-funded trip and you`re planning the next one, or if your campaign is still a vague plan dancing around your brain, make sure you have an idea that`s worth backing. 

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