Updated: Mar 11, 2019
Letters From Our Founders: Our co-founder, Saba, reflects on how travel has changed and why she co-founded Whisk Away to reimagine the way we travel. ///
Travelling Fast and Loose
My story of serendipity starts young. I was born with a tiny birthmark on the bottom of my left foot, which my mother said was a sign that I was destined to travel. Fast forward 19 years when I moved outside of my home state of New York for the first time for an international exchange programme in the UK. Like many American transplants to the UK, I was excited by the prospect of having Europe at my fingertips. Skyscanner became my best friend as I traveled through ten countries over three months.
I guess you could say I traveled “fast and loose.” One minute I’d book a trip, the next I’d be in the lobby of a (sometimes dodgy) hotel asking for a map. No smartphone, no TripAdvisor, no time for research or contemplation. I didn’t plan, I just went, wandering into the unknown, with a new discovery at every turn. Sure, there were some hiccups. The first time I went to Paris I ran out of time to see the Eiffel Tower, and then had to take a boat across the English Channel to get back to the UK because I missed my flight and couldn’t afford the next one (it was my 20th birthday, and one I'll never forget). I made mistakes, I got lost, but I had the time of my life.
From Magic to Mayhem
Two years ago, after living in New York City for ten years, I moved back to the UK for business school. I was ready to jump right back into my jet-setting ways but quickly learned that things are very different as a Transplant 2.0. Now when I travel, I start planning weeks ahead of time, gathering information from friends, bloggers, influencers, review sites, and editorials. After a dozen hours of research and much decision paralysis, I attempt to make order out of the mayhem, making a detailed itinerary and plotting points in Google Maps. By the time I set foot in my destination, I know what sights I want to see (and exactly what they look like), what restaurants to go to, and what boutiques to shop at, zipping through town practically on autopilot. While I definitely make a lot fewer mistakes, there’s also a lot less room for happenstance and serendipitous discovery. There’s something about it that’s just a lot less magic.
For all its convenience, the internet age has drowned us in an ocean of information. It’s made historically simple and spontaneous things feel complicated and contrived. Whether choosing a new conditioner or deciding on your next holiday destination, the mountain of reviews and recommendations are overwhelming. Research from Expedia shows that the average person visits 140 different travel websites before booking a trip!
So why do we do it? For one, because we can. Information is everywhere, at our fingertips, convincing us that we need it, that we'd be crippled without it. Then there's also that ever-present feeling of FOMO that we can't seem to leave home without, and the thought of "missing" something important while in a foreign place can be particularly daunting. This is compounded by the fact that we live in a social world where you haven't done it until you've 'grammed it. The result is over-engineered itineraries that are really "to-do" lists, and a generation of travellers who have never known what it's like to get truly lost in a new city.
A Stroke of Serendipity
Disillusioned by the modern travel experience, together with my classmates Jeanette and Bhavik, I founded Whisk Away in the summer of 2018 to reimagine the way we travel. We want to empower customers to seek out those moments of serendipity and magic once again. In fact, looking back, the way it all began was serendipitous in itself...
On the first day of business school orientation, just as I was making my exit, I bumped into my now co-founder Jeanette. As we introduced ourselves to one another, we realised that we both graduated in the same year from the same university in New York, yet somehow failed to cross paths throughout the entire four year programme. We didn't take our second chance at friendship for granted, and, as friends do, we took our first trip together just a few weeks later. Our shared love of travel soon turned into a shared vision for its future: a new model centred around effortless spontaneity.