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Gen Z Speaks: How social isolation and loneliness led me to start a travel company that brings people together

I would never have guessed two years ago that I would one day be the founder of a travel company that does social adventures, in spite of a pandemic that had decimated global travel.

WHY I STARTED A TRAVEL COMPANY 

My working days were pretty mundane and time seemed to slip away without anything memorable happening. I was reluctant to accept the reality that this would be my life for the next 50 years.

So, I turned to TikTok and started posting videos asking people to ski in the French Alps with me. I made sure to use a catchy title and that was the birth of The Great Singapore Ski Trip.

Soon after, sign-ups were pouring into the Google Form, which I used to gather interest in my ad hoc vacation idea. 

This overwhelming response from fellow Gen Zs and millennials in Singapore confirmed my suspicion: there was a strong appetite for social adventures. 

I realised that I was not the only one who had been feeling this way when we transition from being a student into our working lives. 

Many fellow Gen Zs and millennials want to expand their social network in an authentic and fun way. And what better way to meet new friends through travel, a pastime many young Singaporeans already love.

Thus, the idea for Sotravel, a community-focused travel platform, was born.

Nevertheless, starting the company came with its fair share of challenges. To obtain a travel agent licence from the Singapore Tourism Board, I needed S$100,000 of paid-up capital.

This was a daunting sum of money for a fresh graduate like myself. I pooled my savings and there was still a significant shortfall. 

For a time, I contemplated giving up and shelving the idea. But I pressed on in the end, knowing that I would be letting down the community if I were to do that. 

Knowing that there was great financial risk, I decided to borrow the remaining capital from friends and family who believed in the idea.

It was an incredibly daunting process to ask people around me for money, but it would be a huge regret if I did not try. 

I am grateful and privileged to have such supportive family and friends, and knowing that they had backed me up when I needed to kickstart my business idea drives me to work even harder to build something they would be proud of.

I also roped in two of my friends to become partners when I realised that this entrepreneurship journey would not be possible alone. 

The three of us were already friends thanks to a couchsurfing trip during our exchange, and despite our different backgrounds, we shared the same belief that our idea could work.

WHAT GEN ZS WANT

As Sotravel began to gain traction among travellers, we faced logistical obstacles as organising large group trips is a complex task.

But with every challenge we overcame, our determination to make Sotravel a success grew stronger.

Over time, we have become deliberate in how we designed our trips. 

We only host trips that are activity-based, because we understood that most Gen Zs and millennials do not want to sit on a tour bus shuttling them around monuments.

We concentrated on creating travel experiences that were more fun with larger groups, such as skiing, outdoor climbing and trekking.

More importantly, our itineraries were designed to break the ice, foster friendships, and create unforgettable memories. 

Because everyone on the trip would already have a common interest in the activity they are doing, that common ground helps build a sense of community.

In the coming month, Sotravel would have brought over 130 travellers to ski, surf and climb all around the world. I never expected a simple TikTok video to evolve into a platform like this.

Looking back, I’m reminded of the importance of connection, the power of shared experiences, and the magic of travel.

In a world where genuine connections can be hard to come by, I am grateful to be building a community that offers an opportunity for people to rediscover the joy of togetherness.

As American novelist Anais Nin wrote: “We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Larry Lee, 25, is the founder of Sotravel, a social adventure travel company

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