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Posted by on Dec 10, 2012 in Blog, International Education, Interviews, Study Abroad, Teach Abroad, technology and travel, Travel, Volunteer Abroad, Work Abroad |

Interview with Travel720 (Now Project Travel)

Jennifer Thomas, founder of Project Travel, (Formerly travel720), meets with The Traveling Advisor from Chicago, Illinois via Skype. She shares about the upcoming launch and how her website helps participants of international programs raise money to study, intern, volunteer, or teach English abroad and invite others to share in their journey. Since the original recording of this interview, travel720 changed their name to become Project Travel and I have officially joined the Project Travel team. 

What is travel720?

We are building an online fundraising community for program participants who want to study, volunteer, teach or go on service trips or people who want to engage in an educational travel experience. We felt it was really important to design a site with a community in mind and making sure it was something you could enjoy sharing with your family and friends. The moment you say “I will travel” that’s the time that your journey starts. It takes away a little bit of the stress from raising money but also makes it easier to be confident and creative to help you get there.

How does travel720 differ from other crowdfunding platforms out there?

What really makes us stand out and somewhat unique in this space* is the fact that we’re not a marketplace. Travel720 is designed specifically for people who want to have meaningful travel experiences but need a little bit of support to help them take an active role in earning their educational experience.

*The online fundraising space popularized by websites such as Kickstarter.

Do you have to be a student to start a campaign on travel720?

You do not need to be a student to participate in travel720 though the large majority of users probably will be students of some sort. Really the qualifier is that (participants) are traveling through an organization that provides a program platform, so volunteering, teaching, studying, or service trips. If you are not going through a program, if you are going on a honeymoon or are trying to raise money in general, we are not going to be the site for you because we want to build a community for people who are looking for some support to budget, save, and earn money for their trip. We want them to be surrounded by their fellow friends and peers who are also trying to do the same thing. We feel that’s what is going to strengthen the cause and help promote what they are trying to do.

What was your inspiration for launching a crowdfunding platform for international programs?

Travel720 was really born out of my own struggles trying to afford meaningful travel and realizing that I didn’t need a handout to get there, I just needed a little bit of support! I wanted to make sure that I could help others who need support to encourage them to be confident and creative and comfortable in reaching out to their community. In 2002, I had this urge that I knew could only be satisfied through traveling. I visited my study abroad office and looked into volunteering, WOOFing and the Peace Corps but when it came down to it, I was in school full time and working as much as I could. It really came down to cost. So after two years of trying to figure out how to make this happen, I finally ended up visiting Lisbon, Portugal with a best friend of mine but the downside was that we were only able to go for three days! It was a great experience for what we could afford. We got to meet new people and speak the language a little bit and explore the culture. On the plane ride home, I was sad that I wasn’t able to stay longer and I realized that with $100 more I could have! Once you are abroad and in a ‘new world’ almost, it is compelling to want to stay as long as possible and do whatever it takes go get there and stay there. I’ve since been to Mexico and Nicargua and I love traveling! Everywhere I go I make sure to immerse myself in the culture. It’s not about vacationing it’s about making travel a part of your life.

What does the name travel720 mean?

The name tavel720 came from a few different areas. I wanted to make sure that as a company we stuck to our goal of making travel possible. Again, this is not for vacationers or people who want to run a marathon or just general fundraising– it is for people who want to have meaningful travel experiences. So it felt important to have the word ‘travel’ in the name to make that clear. I think a lot of people think, and I know I felt this way when I was student, “I may not be able to get somewhere again, at least not for a long time!” But I want to make sure people understand that with what we are creating with travel720 and with the opportunities out there, travel is not just a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Travel is something you can incorporate into your lifestyle. So, the 720 is for the notion that you can travel around the world and back again, or 360 times two. When you return from your first experience and you know that you need to do whatever it takes to go back, you have the tools to go back to the first place that you went or anywhere else in the world!

Do you need to be a student to participate?

You do not need to be a student to use travel720 but you do need to be traveling through an organization that provides programs like study abroad, volunteering, TEFL for teaching English, or programs that support meaningful travel and provide structure to help you focus on your goals.

What have been some challenges you have encountered along the way?

Last year I went full-time with travel720. The biggest challenge has been finding the right people who can help direct the vision of what travel720, who have the passion and have also traveled. It has been an amazing journey so far! Now the focus and challenge is trying to get the site released so that we can help as many people as possible to travel.

When does Project Travel officially launch?

Right now we have about 550 people on our wait list to get in to the site. Our ‘alpha launch’ has already had a successful travel campaign. Dennis is spending 6 months in Mexico, which is exciting! The public launch should take place sometime in May 2013.

Can people sign up now?

Yes. People can sign up at www.projecttravel.com to get on our list for the official launch and start a travel project in January 2013.

Where would you like to travel to next and why?

My next destination is my very first volunteer trip near East London in South Africa. I want to go on a four-week program and am planning that for early 2014 and I will be using travel720 to help me get there.

Thanks Jen!

Jennifer Thomas, Founder of Travel720

Jennifer Thomas, Founder of Project Travel