TWIPPER OF THE WEEK

Twipper of the Week: Jenny Feng, contributing writer at The Outbound Collective.

Current city: Home is Calgary, Canada

Age: 27

Total countries visited: 23

What makes you interesting: The diverse life experiences I have accumulated. I grew up and spent my childhood in China and lived in Canada since my early teens. I built a career in corporate banking in the last five years which I’m extremely proud of. I recently left banking to work on a new project (in stealth mode). Instagram has been a wonderful creative outlet for me the last year. I have traveled to five different continents (6th in 2 weeks!). I’m an adrenaline junkie and have done everything from skydiving in Dubai to cage diving with Great White Sharks in South Africa. I love house music. I love geopolitics. I love meeting new people from all walks of life. I ran a full marathon in Spain in 2012. I have always believed in giving back to the community, making a difference, and have always been involved with different charity organizations since university. I live for new experiences!

What brands do you love: Google – I admire companies with such incredible innovation and creative capabilities, and their power to change and disrupt the world as we know it.

Where are you the most authentic you: Anywhere and everywhere – because why would you ever be someone else?!

It’s 2050, list all the places you are most proud to have visited: Egypt (check), Dubai (check), Philippines (check), Machu Picchu, Kenya, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Russia, Antarctica, and hopefully as close to 195 countries as possible!

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from traveling: Don’t take everything at face value, and don’t believe everything you see or hear. Go experience for yourself.

How has travel changed you or how do you hope it will change you: Travel has made me more humble as a human being, more understanding of our differences, and more grateful for this interesting little journey we call life!

Next travel destination: Sydney and Cairns, Australia, and moving to Cairns this winter!

Fly SkyHi With CEO Rama Poola

Everyone likes the idea of going on a spontaneous adventure but when flight and costs get in the way, the once great idea turns into just a dream. Seeing all of your “must-see bucket list destinations” just got a lot easier. Rama Poola, CEO of SkyHi is ready to turn your dream  into a reality by making it easy for you to claim seats on flights all over the world for one low monthly price. As a traveler himself, he knows that some of your best adventures are the ones that are done on a whim and he’s ready to help you make the best memories of your life!

Tell us about SkyHi.

SkyHi gives travelers a seamless, on demand way to claim empty seats on commercial airlines for a low monthly subscription fee. Members can see flights leaving within the week, flying to destinations up to 1500 miles from their current location. Flights are one-way and a user can only hold one ticket at a time. SkyHi is creating a new way of thinking about travel by providing freedom and spontaneity for everyone. Our clientele is young professionals with job flexibility and some disposable income. Freelancers, creatives, gap year students, and even early stage startups can benefit from a service like ours. The first time I booked through  SkyHi, the process took 30 seconds from not knowing where I wanted to go, to having a ticket in my email. This is a huge win, since making travel plans usually takes me hours before I book a flight on traditional OTAs (online tour operators).

What experience did you encounter that helped you create SkyHi?

I came up with the idea for SkyHi on a trip back from Berlin. I was at the Tegel airport and met a few backpackers who didn’t have a ticket to anywhere specific, yet. They were waiting for a flight that went under 50 euro, going to any of the cities they had on their travel list. They ended up going to Lisbon, Portugal. I got on my plane back to New York and was frustrated to see that it was fairly empty. The inefficiency bothered me and I thought to myself, if the price was low enough, would those backpackers have flown to New York on a whim? I drew up the business model and software architecture on a few napkins, pitched it to my now co-founder the next day, and quit my job the day after that.

How does SkyHi differ from other flight booking apps?

I have yet to come across a flight booking app that has a good user experience. The apps are cluttered, confusing, and not intuitive for a traveler like me. Myself, as well as pretty much every traveler I talk to, constantly change settings/filters to try to get a ticket that is exactly the right price. It takes too much time and is frustrating. SkyHi is dead simple. See places you can travel to in the upcoming week, pick a flight and claim your seat. Every flight costs the same amount of money. All you are thinking of is where and when you want to fly. Flights are one-way only and last minute, so it really is on demand flight travel.

SkyHi went through rebranding at one point. What were the struggles you encountered during rebranding and how has this helped the brand?  

We had to rebrand in the beginning of the year, and at the time it was the last thing we wanted to do. We were heads down building the app, talking to potential partners, along with a whole slew of unknown questions we were trying to answer. The main struggle we had was how do we look at the brand with a fresh set of eyes. We had been operating under our previous name and had become emotionally attached to it. Once we could let go of that, look at the audience we had created, and start to do branding exercises to determine our brand direction, the rebranding effort became really enjoyable.

If you could start over creating SkyHi, what you would you do differently?

Great question. This question is  a bit hard for me to answer. I’m one of those believers in the universe guiding me along my path. I’ve learned things about the travel industry well into developing SkyHi that could have been useful and saved us time and money. However, if I knew all those things up front, I may have never started SkyHi. I may have become overwhelmed by the hurdles. I’m grateful that we’ve hit hurdles one at a time along the way, allowing us to be thoughtful in how we make forward progress without being overwhelmed. I’d say the one thing that would have helped in hindsight is building deeper relationships with travel industry experts earlier.

What do you find to be most challenging about running a company, specifically in the travel space?

I think the biggest challenge is that the industry is very resistant to change. I see so many inefficiencies, but it’s hard to even begin to improve them. Outdated technology and an unwillingness to shift from old ways of doing things makes the industry stagnant and difficult to innovate in. We’ve run into walls regarding regulations, integration with old technology, and have had conversations that ended with, “we know it’s not ideal, but we’ve been doing it for so long.” As someone who has consistently built innovative products, this was both challenging to my personal psyche as well as challenging to navigate as an innovative startup.

How has working in the music industry at SFX Entertainment and Beatport prepare you for life as a CEO?

At my time and SFX/Beatport, I was thrown into handling situations that felt way out of my depth, but just kept trying my best and really grew a lot from the experience. I got to help integrate two very different technology groups into one cohesive team. I got to help craft a reduction in force strategy that was fair. I got to think of large scale problems in the music industry and think of solutions. I got to be a part of hiring practically every new member of the technology team. Overall, what I really learned was how to properly grow a team of talented people while holding and sharing the overall vision. So, in short, it was the exact preparation I needed to become a CEO.

During your time at Arc90 you led the startup Readability. What hurdles were you able to foresee and avoid due to this experience?

Readability was one of the more difficult products I led. Mainly because I was still so green to having so much responsibility. Readability was a small team with a small budget and a short timeframe to launch. The team was talented and all had strong personalities. At times, I felt that I didn’t have enough to offer and was often indecisive when it came to important decisions. What I learned from that experience was how NOT to be an effective leader. In the products I led after Readability, I was more cognizant of how to effectively motivate team members, how to hire properly, and how to be decisive. I carry all that experience now as the CEO of SkyHi. We have been able to build a team that works well together and have been able to take a product to launch in a notoriously difficult industry in roughly 18 months.

Do you have any mentors or people who have deeply influenced you to become the entrepreneur you are today?

Many of my mentors are family members I’m first generation Indian-American. My parents and immediate family immigrated here with nothing and have all had incredibly successful careers. I’d say the most influential person I have in my life is my older brother. He paved the way for me as a kid, supported my crazy endeavors, believed in me, and instilled me with a positive outlook on life. He’s also been incredibly adventurous with his life direction. He’s currently living in Berlin with his wife and baby daughter while attending wine school in London. Just three years ago he knew very little about wine and now is writing for one of the most prestigious wine publications and being flown to vineyards around Europe. He constantly reminds me that I’m capable and deserving of doing what makes me happy.

If you were going to book a flight using SkyHi today, where would you go and why?

The first place I want to go to is Montreal. The food, architecture, art, and culture really appeals to me. I’m also a bit of a Francophile, so anything that’s French influenced draws me in. As close as it is to NYC, I haven’t been to Montreal since I was a child.

What are some of the main goals you most want to accomplish in your professional career?

Around the same time, I was starting SkyHi, I was exploring the possibility of starting a company to help the tech community in Kenya. Over the past few years, I have been following the tech community there and have really been drawn to how they are solving hyper local problems. I was hoping to start a consulting company to help early stage startups with mentorship, software architecture help, and any other services they would need to get their ideas launched. I traveled out there in January 2016, but ultimately decided that it was not the right time to pursue. At some point in my career, I want to share my expertise to help product creators solve community needs.

What would someone be surprised to know about you?

I LOVE to dance! My close friends know this, but most people don’t. When I was a lead at Beatport, I decided to take DJ lessons to better understand our user base. I learned then, that I loved DJing and dancing. I now DJ around New York City and go dancing several times a week. The dance floor is one of the few places where I can be truly present.

What key piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to create their first app?

If your gut tells you that you have a good idea, listen to it and start building. You’re never going to have all the answers to determine if it is the right idea or exactly the right time. There were so many things we learned along the way that if we had known up front may have prevented us from ever starting SkyHi. We hit so many walls, but we were resilient and found ways through them. For me, it’s been the growth along the way that has been the most rewarding.

Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

You’re obviously interested in travel since you’re part of the TWIP community. I’d say, for me, the experiences I’ve had on the countless travels in my life have fundamentally shaped me to be a better human being. I have learned so much from other cultures and people. I’ve seen things that are awe inspiring. I’ve been on spontaneous adventures that have become some of my favorite moments in life. Travel has made me more compassionate, more patient, more adventurous, more understanding, more confident and happier. When I think back on my life so far, it’s all those experiences that fill me with joy. So, keep getting your passport stamped and exploring. You’ll be better for it.

More facts about Rama:
De-Stress Technique: Dancing, running and meditation
Latest Gadget: Native Instruments Traktor F1
Favorite App: Instagram forever
Favorite Travel Brand: Airbnb
Next Vacation Destination: Thailand

TWIPPERS OF THE WEEK

Twippers of the Week: Josh and Krissy from Wanderlust Duo!

Current City: We are currently at home in St. Louis and gearing up for an adventure to Central America for the very first time.

Age: Josh is 38 and Krissy is 36.

Total countries visited: So far we’ve explored the cities and regions of 35 countries, 33 of which we’ve visited in the last three years.

What makes you interesting: Next month we’ll be celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary… It’s amazing how time flies!!  We have spent nearly half of our lives together and have only traveled abroad together.

What brand do you love: We love brands that help us travel more efficiently. For example, when we touch down in a new country, T-Mobile automatically connects to the local mobile provider, giving us data for no extra charge.  Another great one is Charles Schwab’s ATM card, which refunds fees from any ATM in the world.  We also love Airbnb, which allows us to travel slower, live in real neighborhoods, and cook whatever strange things we find in the local markets.

What does “Travel” mean to you: For us, travel is a way to truly expand horizons.  There is no way to better learn more about yourself than to be confronted with unimaginable scenarios in strange surroundings, and overcome new obstacles.  It’s also amazing to find that most people are friendly and willing to help when someone is in need. International travel also makes the world a much smaller and more relatable place!

What has been the most useful thing you have brought on a trip: We purchased a RAVPower 26800 mAh portable charger that has been priceless.  It has three outputs and can charge an iPhone 7 nine time between recharges.  Also, it may seem simple, but when living out of a backpack, packing cubes are a great way to fight wrinkles and keep things somewhat organized.

Describe the last time you tried something new: We are always on the hunt to try new things, and are cautiously up for anything.  It’s definitely not our most exciting “new thing”, but we recently tried our first all-vegan restaurant and were very impressed!

Do you have any recommendations to help battle jet lag: In order to battle jet lag, we try sleep on the plane based on the local sleeping times of the places we visit.  Also, we find that bringing extra drinking water onboard the flight and avoiding caffeine and alcohol seems to help.

What is the best part about having a travel partner: Traveling with a partner is the only way to go!  Most importantly, you’ll form a special “co-pilot” bond and can revisit shared memories for life.

What is your most favorite travel memory:The first travel memory that comes to mind was from our first European trip.  We were traveling from Barcelona to Nice and made every mistake possible.  We went to the wrong train station, got on the wrong train, and when we finally figured things out and made it to France, we were so sick of trains we hopped off and rented a highly over-priced car.  It was getting late as we neared Nice, and when finally we pulled off the highway for gas, all the stations were closed.  When we finally found an open station and rolled in on fumes, our credit cards weren’t working and our phones were dead.  We ended up getting just enough gas with the coins we had for tolls, and made it!  It’s funny how such a stressful day can turn into such a funny memory.  As they say, “It’s the journey, not the destination.”

Next travel destination: We are currently fanning the flames on our new St. Louis-based business, but we are planning to spend some time in Central America once the temperatures drop a bit.  Everything’s up in the air as of yet, but Costa Rica, Guadalupe, and Panama rank high on the list!

 

TWIPPER OF THE WEEK

Twipper of the Week: Gareth Leonard from Tourist 2 Townie

Current city: Tokyo, Japan

Age: 33

Total countries visited: 45

What makes you interesting:  My passion to “Travel Deeper” and truly understand a place through the people and culture that define it.

What brands do you love: Anyone with an appreciation for “micro influencers” haha!

What’s your favorite passport stamp and why: Bhutan, because very few people have even heard of this incredible country.

#1 thing you must do when traveling: Make friends.

What are your travel pet peeves: People that don’t respect local culture / expect the same environment as home.

If your personality was a city or country, which one would it be and why: Rio de Janeiro – On the surface I seem a certain way, but if you look closer there are many different layers and stories.

It’s 2050, list all the places you are most proud to have visited: The Philippines, India, Ghana, Mars.

Describe your first travel experience and at what age: I studied abroad in London when I was a Junior in college. It shaped the way I travel now because I didn’t leave my comfort zone and have regretted it ever since. I stuck with the other Americans in the program and didn’t make an effort to meet or interact with locals. It’s safe to say that, that has all changed.

Next travel destination: Trekking the Dolomites in Northern Italy.

Twippers of the Month – September 2017

Twipper of the Month – September 2017: The Smith Family from Our Family Passport!

A family that travels together, grows together. For the Smith Family seeing the world, learning, experiencing and growing as individuals, and as a family, is what motivates them to get out and enjoy life together. The members of the Smith Family are constantly moving up, moving out, growing up and changing. Traveling is an opportunity to stop and enjoy their time together. “We fight and argue like most families, but love being together and trying to put experiences together,” says the Smith Family. This multigenerational family, ages ranging from 4 to 51, has been to over 40 countries and 6 continents including Antarctica. Their blog has something for everyone who loves to travel, from tips on traveling with children to why you need to go on Safari. With their ever-changing bucket list and growing family, now up to 10, the Smiths are excited to see where the world takes them. We can’t wait to see where life takes the Smith Family and happy to announce them as our Twippers of the Month for September!

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