There is a deep social mission behind Horizon - to organize every single trusted community in the world by location, in order to enable in person conversations, experiences, and friendships. Why? There is zero doubt in my mind community inspires travel decisions.
As I wrote in 2013:
...as an industry, how do we truly inspire more people to actually travel — my major entrepreneurial goal — right now?
In my mind, the most authentic way is to increase the pool of people potential travelers have to converse with, and facilitate the trip discussions in a broader group that includes looser connections, while still remaining inside a trusted and secure environment (which email, phone, and text are).
When we nail that dynamic in the travel industry, I believe we will have found a way to get more people on the road.
It’s my personal belief that community is the only way to truly change behavior and get more travelers on the road, and the world desperately needs a larger community of global travel advocates to inspire the next generation.
Why does that matter?
There is no doubt, traveling changes people. My perspective on life completely changed once I saw poverty with my own eyes. Sure, I had seen clips of poverty on TV, and articles in the New York Times – but poverty is impossible to ignore once you experience a glimpse into the everyday lives of the billions that live on less than $2 a day.
From my experience, those who travel are exponentially more likely to work on projects that reduce inequalities in the world rather than simply maximizing income. People who experience different places, people, and cultures and realize they live privileged lives contribute more to society over time.
A trip to Africa ultimately led to the creation of Gates Foundation, one of the largest foundations on earth (Wikipedia). The following quote is from Melinda Gates during a Ted Talk with Bill talking about their first trip to Africa in 1993:
In this trip we really went to see the animals and to see the Savannah (…) But what really touched us actually, were the people. And the extreme poverty. We started asking ourselves questions. Does it have to be like this? And at the end of the trip we went on a walk in the beach (…) and it was really there when we said, what can we do? and how can we go about it?
Unlocking Travel Opportunities via Hospitality Exchange
The best way to experience the culture of the destination you’re visiting – staying with a friend or trusted local – happens to be the least expensive means to get out and explore the world. Of course, most people don’t have friends to stay with in every city and country around the world. That’s precisely the problem hospitality exchanges were created to alleviate. There is a reason Couchsurfing has an amazingly strong community: they have facilitated in person connections and experiences every single day of the year for the past decade. Facilitating in person experiences is the only tried and proven community building strategy in existence. Community building via hospitality exchange is the best community building tool imaginable, since staying in someone’s home is the most intimate relationship possible aside from actually sleeping with someone.
That said, the vast majority of the world is not a member of the Couchsurfing community – and never will be. It’s 10 million strong, but there are 7 billion people on planet earth.
We believe millions of travel opportunities can be unlocked by lowering accommodation costs through increasing hospitality exchange among the communities they already belong to, enabling a broader pool of people to experience the vast world we live in with their own two eyes. I’ve already written about the challenges hospitality exchanges have faced historically, and why we think Horizon is poised to succeed where so many failed.
Do you believe what I believe?
1: For those who haven’t seen it, you can watch the whole Bill and Melinda Ted video below:
2: Photo credit: Kayla Villnow at Esperanza International