‘Dream big & do what you love’ – that is possibly my favourite mantra to live by. Unless you dream big and push the limits of your own possibilities, you might never know your own full potential – and really, that would be a complete waste. But as so often with big dreams that will change your life, they need money to be fulfilled. The food truck in which you will prepare dishes from your home country in your new chosen home, the guest house you want to open especially for female travellers, the street art city tour you’d like to offer to show visitors the urban art of your city – these kind of big dreams need money, and money isn’t something you just find lying around on the streets on the internet. Or is it?

I’m sure you have all heard of a little movement called crowd-funding before (duh!), but how many projects you hear about being crowd-funded are actually films or ‘does-the-world-really-need-this?’-niche products? I have hardly come across anything to do with tourism before, and that’s why I was so excited when I found out about TravelStarter.

How it Works

As you have probably already guessed correctly, TravelStarter is a lot like Kickstarter, but for the tourism sector. Anybody can register their project, set a financial goal and campaign for the fulfilment of their dreams. The idea is for small businesses and individual entrepreneurs from within the travel and tourism industry to find the funds to follow through with their ideas, and for travellers around the world to support local tourism and make genuine travel experiences on the road. The TravelStarter founders, Anushka and Blaz, weren’t happy about the profit-oriented image of mass tourism, and what it does to the relationship between travellers and their host cultures. For them tourism is all about sustainability and sharing resources. In that sense, TravelStarter is actually more like CouchSurfing or WorkAway, where hosts and guests mutually benefit from each other – just on a much larger scale.

TravelStarter was launched in December 2014 and since then cool projects have been successfully funded with the help of many backers. In order to renovate a beautiful old building and open a new hostel in Cardiff, Wales, TravelStarter helped raising over 13,000USD, and a fully funded French project involved the set up of a network of tour guides to connect tourists with locals.

By backing a project on TravelStarter, travellers can make a meaningful connection to the local tourism industry. Like the local backers of the projects in Wales and France, you could support a project in your own hometown, to help attract more people discover its beauty. Or, like the foreign backers, you could back a project in your next destination and meet some of the locals who are involved with it. By donating money you can collect cool travel rewards - a night at the hostel you helped open up, or a private guided tour of Paris, anyone? You get the idea.

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There are many exciting projects on the platform and they come from all over the world - Thailand, Nepal, Slovenia, the UK etc. It seems, no matter where you plan to go, you’ll probably find a project to back up there soon. You could for example support the newest project in the United States, which is Michelle and Kelly’s dream to open a small B&B in Pacific Beach in San Diego. The rewards for supporters include a pub crawl or brewery tour, a whale watching tour and, of course, a stay at the finished B&B. Browse the projects and the rewards, depending on what you are looking for.

Or maybe you have a little entrepreneur slumbering inside? Now is the time to wake them up, submit your own project and start your TravelStarter campaign! It could be a small idea, like getting a proper kitchen so you can start cooking EatWith-dinners for others; or bigger ones, like starting a business to offer guided tours in your hometown; or even massive ones, like starting a bike rental scheme to show people your town on two wheels. If you want to share the joy of your home with its visitors and start a sustainable business at the same time – the sky is the limit!

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The Travelettes Dream Projects

As you know, we at Travelettes are big dreamers ourselves, so we discussed which projects we would like to work on in the future – maybe with the help of TravelStarter we will actually be able to do so.

1) To build a home and school in India…

…which also serves as a place of cultural encounter for travellers. This is one of Katja’s big dreams – here’s what she says:

Ever since I first traveled to India 10 years ago I was struck at by the poverty, the caste system and especially the inequality between men and women. In many parts of the country a woman losing her husband for whatever reason risks being rejected by the family and exposed to life on the street or being forced into prostitution. I was horrified by the many women roaming the streets with their 2, 3, 4 children and imagining that they once had a normal life. It has since been my dream to build a home and school for children that would otherwise be homeless and to get those rejected women off the street by teaching them how to teach those kids.  

2) To publish a series of travel guides

Whenever, someone asks for advice about a destination I’ve been to, I can’t help myself, but drown them in the sea of knowledge I have accumulated – in private conversations, in our Facebook group, the heck, even on Tinder I jumped a random guy with my recommendations for what to do in Edinburgh. After writing so many Travelettes city guides and Travelettes itineraries, I want to think I’m actually quite good at this and dream of publishing a series of paperback travel guides (cause I can’t handle not having a physical travel guide myself) about destinations that I know like the back of my hand.

3) To establish a travel booking platform for women only

I’m quite certain there is an abundance of hostels, tour operators and other services out there, who tailor their products and tours particularly to women – but how can I find them? Shouldn’t there be a platform on which I can search for guided tours, experiences or hostels/guest house for women only? Oh, and while we’re at it: include information about the availability of contraception and hygiene products worldwide!

4) To open a cultural activities centre for travellers

Getting in touch with the local culture is easy and hard at the same time. Things like couchsurfing are a massive help, but when it comes to staying in hostels, the organised events feel too touristy too often. Why would I want to hang out with all the other guests only – I wanna meet locals and get to know their culture! A centre for cultural activities which is run by locals and encourages interaction with local cultural organisations (like theatre groups or supper clubs) would be great resource for travellers – don’t you think? I think every city needs this.

5) To create a 2-for-1 bicycle shop

This is actually Frankie’s dream – here’s what she says about it:

Having lived in Amsterdam for nearly two years now I know well the many benefits of having a bike can bring. Compared to cars and other modes of transport, it’s very economical, enabling and keeps you fit. It’s also a lot of fun and is much quicker and arguably healthier than walking long distances. My partner and I have long discussed how much we’d like to start a social enterprise and a while ago I had the idea of “buy a bike, give a bike” roughly based on the TOMS model. We’ve not pursued the idea much more as we’re about to have a baby – and it’s already being done by several organisations around the world – but it’s definitely something I want to come back to when I can in the future. My travels have already shown me many places where both children and adults would benefit from having access to bikes to speed up their journeys to work or school so this is an idea that will continue to grow inside me, whether I like it or not!

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Are you a TravelStarter?

Now we want to hear about your big dreams – do you have a great idea for a tourism project, but not enough funds to turn it into reality? Running a crowd-funding campaign might give you the opportunity to do so quicker than you thought! The team of TravelStarter supports all their projects with advice on how to run a successful campaign and how to reach a wide audience. It might still be a small platform, but it has been growing much lately, getting a lot of attention from press and the industry – soon it will hopefully be even bigger, and your project could be a part of this movement of sharing!

Head over to TravelStarter to find out how to make your dreams come true or how to fuel someone else’s!


*This post is written in collaboration with TravelStarter. All photos via TravelStarter.

This is a post by Kathi Kamleitner.

Kathi Kamleitner was a regular contributor at Travelettes from 2013 to 2019. Originally from Vienna, Austria, she packed her backpack to travel the world and lived in Denmark, Iceland and Berlin, before settling in Glasgow, Scotland. Kathi is always preparing her next trip – documenting her every step with her camera, pen and phone.

In 2016, Kathi founded Scotland travel blog WatchMeSee.com to share her love for her new home, hiking in the Scottish Highlands, island hopping and vegan food. Follow her adventures on Instagram @watchmesee!