This is a fun interview with travel business owners Alex and Elise, creators of the young professionals small group travel company: Here and Now Travel on how to start a travel business you love.
Alex and Elise had a vision to create a travel company specifically for young, working adults who wanted to travel and meet new friends while maximizing PTO. They offer boutique small group tours with local guides to amazing destinations like Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica, Iceland, & Greece.
In this episode we discuss all things around how to start a travel business including how Alex and Elise came up with the idea for Here and Now Travel and how their trips are designed to deliver more authentic local travel experiences rather than a “toursity” experience, how they broke into the travel industry and what hurdles they overcame to make their travel business dream a reality.
Connect with Here and Now Travel at hereandnowtravel.com and use promo code SQUAD125 to get $125 off any trip for your listeners.
How to Start a Travel Business – Interview with the Creators of Here and Now Travel – Episode Transcript
Welcome to this week’s episode of the Travel Squad podcast today we’re interviewing Alex and Elise, the owners and creators of the young professionals, small group travel company Here and Now Travel.
1 (1m 9s):
We had such a good interview with Alex and Elise. Their vision was to create a travel company specifically for young working adults, just like all of us who wanted to travel and meet friends, but also while maximizing their paid time off. And they really offer boutique small group tours with local guides to amazing destinations like Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica, Iceland, and Greece, their tours look amazing.
3 (1m 37s):
And in this episode, we discussed all about how Alex and Elise came up with the idea for Here and Now Travel and how their trips are designed to deliver more authentic local travel experiences. Rather than that more touristy experience. We also dive into how they broke into the travel industry and what hurdles they had to overcome to make their travel business dream a reality. And just hearing that really resonated with me. I think it resonates with anybody who’s a traveler and wants to make travel their business, their passion. So it was so amazing and exciting to hear all about that. But most importantly, we discussed their trip itineraries and the amazing travel experience that you’re going to have when you book with Here and Now Travel.
3 (2m 19s):
I know after speaking with both of them that I can speak for the squad here, when I say we are super excited to take our travel experience in the future here with Here and Now Travel
1 (2m 30s):
And best of all, they even gave us a promo code for all of our listeners, all of you out there to get $125 off any trip using the promo code squad 1 25.
3 (2m 43s):
Again, that’s squad 1 25. And with that, let’s welcome Alex and Elise to the Travel Squad Podcast.
2 (2m 53s):
So I’d love to kick us off if that’s all right with you all, because I’m so excited. You guys, literally my dream life, creating a business out of travel that enables you to travel for work. So I just want to start with, how did you guys come up with the idea?
5 (3m 10s):
I think it goes back to, we were working and we still are working a nine to five jobs and we were a couple of years out of school and we were just so burned out. We were working nine to 11 hour days in front of a computer, and there was nothing more that we wanted to do then leave and go on a vacation. But the last thing that sounded fun was logging onto a computer after work planning a two week vacation and doing that. And so we said there has to be a better way to this. And I think Elise, she said, Hey, look like group travel is really popular with like study abroad and it’s cool there. And then it’s really cool again when you’re retired, but like there’s nothing in between. Like why is that?
5 (3m 50s):
I would kill to just pay someone to like jump on their group and go travel right now. And so that’s when ultimately, you know, we started researching and we said, okay, well there’s other companies that are doing it. Let’s go try them out. And so we tried two other groups and there was just some things like they didn’t use local guides. They used guides from the U S to guide you around Costa Rica. You’re in like highly trafficked areas. You were in tour buses, like big charter buses. And we said, you know what, there’s some opportunity here. I think we could do it. And we could do it in smaller groups. We can do it a little more authentically. And yeah, that’s ultimately how we started it.
6 (4m 23s):
Well, I think Kim kind of jumped the gun here a little bit. I mean, you can tell how excited we are because obviously our passion is travel as well. We’re clearly making it a business ourselves, but you know, before we get more into the business and how things developed for you guys, why don’t you tell us a little bit of background about you guys personally, how you met, where your passion for travel came from? Because I think with that knowledge that everybody else can understand, like, yes, this is why you guys are doing what you’re doing now.
7 (4m 49s):
Yeah. So I have always, always had a passion for travel. Like you can ask my parents and I was like 12. I said, I want to travel the world when I grow up. Like, that’s all I want in life. That’s my dream. And it started when I did a study abroad in college and then we traveled as newly married. So we met at Texas a and M university. And when we were 19 and we got married around 23, so we were young, married kids, like really excited to travel. And then for work, actually in 2017, they invited me to do a month long training in Argentina.
7 (5m 30s):
And I loved it. I was like, I’m not going to look up anything about Argentina. I’m just going to go. Like, I want to experience Argentina with the Arjun times and just absorb the culture and just enjoy it. And so I did that and then it was actually a year later in 2018 that we were burnt out, as he said. And that’s when I was like, you know what? Some of my favorite travels that I’ve ever done has been when I didn’t know anything about the country, it was the same for my study. Abroad, didn’t know anything about the country. I just like jumped in. I was guided by locals the whole time I went, wherever they told me to go basically. And I could just be really present and just enjoy the moment.
7 (6m 11s):
And that’s kind of what got me into, I guess the idea of group travel in general, but yeah, I’ve always loved travel. I mean, I’ve always had a big passion for it.
2 (6m 20s):
What were you doing for work when they sent you on that month? Long Argentinian training?
7 (6m 27s):
It was just a training. So I’m an engineer for work. It was actually all 21 to 35 year olds, which is our age range of our company. There was 30 of us and it was just a way for like networking. It was just like a month long training. We learned about our industry and we networked and it was a, a really, really cool opportunity actually.
5 (6m 47s):
And I, I stayed in Houston, sat on the couch and watched our dog. It was totally fair and
7 (6m 52s):
Totally full duty.
6 (6m 55s):
Well, I was going to say, did you go on that trip? You answered the question. So where did it come from that?
5 (7m 1s):
So funny. I mean, I know you guys are from a small town and I’m from a small town as well. And my parents were both in education growing up. And so we had the summers, but we spent it all domestically and really within Texas where, you know, at least in our, both from. And so I really didn’t travel a ton, especially outside of the U S like growing up. And actually my real passion came from when I met Elise. Cause she was so like bitten by the travel bug. And she was like, we have to go, like, as soon as we get married, like, let’s go
7 (7m 31s):
Because we make enough money to like, to them down to the penny, like let’s spend it on travel.
5 (7m 36s):
Yeah. And so we did, we went 12 days to Italy and kind of did the typical Florence, Venice, Rome kind of mix. And I know it’s cliche, but I was just like, oh my gosh, what have I been missing? And that’s when I got bitten by it.
2 (7m 51s):
I did that same Italy trip.
6 (7m 53s):
And what’d, you guys are saying just really resonates. I feel like every traveler that we talk to, it’s always that one thing, you know, you go on that one, great trip, the first one. And then you just realize how exciting travel can be for the new opportunities, the new cultural experiences and everything like that. And once you have it, you just want to keep going, going, going, right?
5 (8m 14s):
7 (8m 15s):
Yeah. For sure.
8 (8m 16s):
So in 2018, you said you started to get burnt out, which kind of made you want to jump into the travel industry. So how did you guys jump in to the industry and start your company?
5 (8m 26s):
W we have been really impressed by the travel industry because Elisa and I had no exposure to the industry as a whole, you know, before this, other than being like customers, ourselves and going and traveling, people are really friendly. Business owners are really friendly. And so I just started reaching out to other business owners. You know, we wanted to do group travel for young professionals. So I reached out to group travel for seniors. I reached out to some of those like CEOs and I found a guy who was really accommodating. He sat down with me for an hour and just started picking his brain, you know, as well as like, how did you get started? But then kind of getting into the business side as well. Hey, what do we need for international business insurance? What do we need for travel insurance for our travelers?
5 (9m 8s):
And so really I just started kind of cold calling cold emailing some of these like people who had, you know, mid-sized to small Travel businesses and say, how did you do it? And what would you tell somebody who’s, who’s trying to start it. And that was huge. And that’s what I think travel is so positive that you can do that. You could almost do that with any business, anyone involved in travel and they’re more than willing to help. No,
7 (9m 29s):
That’s amazing. Yeah. And there’s so many like different types of group travel, you can do like parents and singles. And, and so the group travel industry specifically is really cool, cause you’re not really competing against each other in a lot of ways. You’re only, I guess, competing against the people who are in your so.
5 (9m 48s):
And I think that was the best piece of advice or insight to travel that I got and having some of those conversations was it was a president of one of these companies. And he said, Alex, the travel industry is so big and there’s so much demand for travel that almost anybody that wants to get into the industry can like, there’s enough demand for that. It’s not just like this tiny pool where there’s only a couple of names who can play in that space. Really, anybody can jump in. So he really encouraged me, you know, we had nothing, we hadn’t formed an LLC. We hadn’t put together any trips. And he was just like, you have to try it. Cause there’s plenty of space for everybody.
6 (10m 20s):
When you guys were getting started. Did you know that you wanted to do it more on the, I don’t want to use the word guided tours, but the group tour aspect, or were you just trying to break in, in general or did you know that was your niche? Like, yes. We want to take people to have these more localized, authentic experiences
7 (10m 37s):
From the get go. We said, we’re young professionals. We know what young professionals want. We know the needs of 21 to 35 year olds. And we, we knew we wanted small vans. We wanted small groups. We wanted off the beaten path, not super touristy. So yeah, from the start, we had a very specific vision of what we wanted and which customers we were going to cater to.
8 (10m 60s):
So I have a hard hitting question. You’ve mentioned that you invite people that are 21 to 35. What happens if they’re 36, do you automatically tell them that they can’t go? Or what if they book it when they’re 35? But in the meantime they turn 36 before the actual trip start.
5 (11m 17s):
We always say that we just put 21 to 35 on our website to let people know, Hey, here’s generally who books aren’t trip. So you kind of understand like what the group generally looks like, but we’ve had folks we’ve had 40 year olds joined the trips and it totally works out. We never turned anybody down. As long as you have, you know, a pretty like chill, like social personality and you, you like being active on your trips and your, you know, go with the flow. Like you work like you’ll, you’ll work with these groups. Cause it’s just a bunch of, I mean really social, fun, nice people. And at the end of the day, the age doesn’t matter,
7 (11m 49s):
I always say age is a mindset. So we never turn anyone down
6 (11m 53s):
Real age is, and the problem that’s the problem is that they act beyond that age. You need them for that 21 to 35. Really what you’re saying?
2 (12m 1s):
I think that’s really cool because when you traditionally think of group tours or guided tours, you think of a lot of older generations that like to join those tours and you are right about, you know, the bigger buses and the slower pace of travel and whatnot. So I think that’s great that you’re targeting that age range. And I’m just curious, you mentioned before that you were married at 23. How old are you both now?
7 (12m 22s):
We are 28.
2 (12m 23s):
- Okay. Right in your prime.
6 (12m 26s):
I was going to say you got seven more years before he got to cut yourself off from your own.
5 (12m 30s):
So somebody, so we were doing a business pitch competition and we had our old university and we got to sit down with the professor is kind of like this, I dunno, warm up before the pitch. And he said, you know, what’s cool about you. He said, oh, well, you know, we’re young professionals and we plan our trips and he said, well, that’s great. But what happens seven years from now? When you age out, what’s your edge, then we’re like, oh my gosh, we’re going to age out of our group at some point. Like,
7 (12m 55s):
Yeah, But we always say like, we’ll just like change the age range, like that it’ll be 35 to 50 year olds. And then they’ll start mid, Just as we, as we age.
6 (13m 9s):
So you kind of touched on this a little bit, Alex, when you were saying that you made those cold calls starting to reach out to people in the industry, but talk to us a little bit about that balance of both of you working your full-time professional jobs. And I know you said they gave you great info, but what hurdles and things did you encounter trying to get started obviously where you guys are at now?
5 (13m 29s):
I think the biggest piece was trying to yeah. Carve out time and like not totally burn yourself out. And so yeah, we would work until five 30 or six. And then, I mean, you remember those first four months there was a desk. I would sit at this desk for like three and a half, four hours each night and Elise would be there and she would sit on the couch, like facing me and I’d be facing her at this desk and we’d just be typing out stuff on our website. And so I think that was the biggest challenge was those first three or four months when I, you know, you’re in month two of building and you’re on your 14 hour day and you go like, okay, are we really going for this? Or like, should I just cut my loss now? And so I think that was the toughest part was you were starting this business because you wanted to do something that was going to give you energy and wasn’t going to burn you out.
5 (14m 15s):
But in the moment it’s totally burning you out. And so I think, yeah, that was the biggest hurdle for me.
2 (14m 20s):
I bet you, in retrospect that three months or four months doesn’t feel so long anymore.
5 (14m 26s):
No, it was a minuscule amount of time and it’s gone, man. I’m so glad. Like we pushed through that, but like in the moment it feels like forever.
7 (14m 34s):
Yeah. I heard somewhere that starting a business is kind of like looking into fog. Like you’re just like, I don’t know where this is going in hindsight, we can say like, yeah, we’re so glad. I mean, it really was only three, six months of struggles and then it kind of has been good post pandemic and everything, but yeah, at the beginning, you’re really just like, where the heck is this guy? There’s no, like, there’s no clear path when you’re starting a business. So that was a, I think that’s the hardest part.
8 (15m 1s):
So you actually started to hit on a topic, the pandemic, how has that affected your business? Because you got the idea right before the pandemic started and we’re still kind of living through that pandemic.
5 (15m 12s):
Yeah. So we, so we, we had our first trip in June of 2019 and those first like nine months or so, you know, we had pretty good success. We ran nine trips in nine months and we were in Tulum, Mexico with a group. It was our biggest group to that point, like momentum and just been building and national emergency in the U S was declared when we were in Saloom. And I mean, you know, we had no idea like how long, ah, this is maybe, well, maybe it’ll knock us off our path for two or three months and we’ll get it figured out and we’ll be back. And we went 15 months without running a trip. And so, yeah, that was a little demoralizing because we had all this momentum, we were growing, we’re getting bookings. And then we had to cancel everything for 15 months.
7 (15m 54s):
Yeah. But we are kind of silver lining people. And we were like, you know, it was kind of perfect time for something horrible to happen as far as the business goes, of course, because we didn’t have any employees yet. You know, we were still small. We could literally just turn off our marketing spend and that was kind of it. So we try to like, see the good in it. Like we’re glad it happened now early on versus like later on when we have employees and other people’s lives and our livelihoods to think run,
5 (16m 23s):
It really helps you think about how you’re going to build this business. And yeah, whenever you do, whenever you start bringing in other employees and our local guides, you know, how do we help support them if something like this happens again. And so it really it’s been a, it was terrible because for 15 months, you know, we didn’t have anything going on, but now it’s it’s, I think it’s helped us like plan for the future.
7 (16m 41s):
We got really good at return policies. We haven’t had to do a return policy until then and now yeah. We’ve nailed that one down. So we don’t have to think about that in the future. Again,
6 (16m 52s):
I think so many businesses adapted to the refund policy or return policy during COVID and I’m hoping it’s one of those things that actually stays in the industry and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will, but hopefully no one uses it unless they have to, but that would be clutch.
7 (17m 9s):
Oh yeah. We agree.
5 (17m 10s):
Isn’t that amazing with airlines? Like we finally put their feet to the fire that, you know, some of the baggage fee, some of the cancellation and rebooking. Yeah. Cause that’s just like what travel needs to be. Like, we need to eliminate barriers from travel as opposed to throwing on more barriers that really don’t do a lot for them as the airline, other than kind of line pockets. So yeah, we were stoked to see that.
6 (17m 31s):
Yeah. And I want to touch a little bit more on the building phases. You guys starting up the business cause I’m thinking to myself you’re okay. Your tours that you guys go to, you know, you mentioned to loom, I know Costa Rica, Cuba, Iceland, Mexico city, were these places that you guys have gone together and did these trips and how did you guys find the local guides? Because I know every place has a local guide. So tell us a little bit about really hammering out those details of what you were going to do for your product that you initially put out there.
5 (18m 2s):
Yeah. So for us, we’re actually pretty risk averse in terms of like how we live our lives. And so we said, look, we’re not going to quit our jobs yet. And just go all in on this side business, we’re going to try as best we can to work both. And so with that being the case, we said, okay, if we’re going to go on these initial trips and just make sure they’re being run to like the level that we really want them run, we need places that are close. So we can really save our vacation times. Like Elise can use her vacation, I can use mine. And so what we said is, okay, when we pick these first couple of locations, we know most of our customers, most of our friends are in Houston. Most of them are gonna come from Houston and Dallas. So we’re going to pick locations that are under five hours flight from Dallas and Houston.
5 (18m 43s):
Cause that’s how we, we knew like we were asking for your time and we were asking for your money and we were trying to allocate our time as well, away from the job. And so that’s when we really started looking at Latin America. And then when you start thinking about some of these other companies that run trips, Europe is a, is a big destination. Obviously Asia is also big, but Latin America sometimes gets kind of left behind. Like there’s just not as many trips there. And so we saw an opportunity like, okay, Columbia, Bogota’s like, that’s a lot of fun, you know, what if we ran trips there. And so that’s how we initially picked the spots. And to your question, we had never been. So we said,
7 (19m 16s):
Can we go places? Because we were like, if this all goes sideways, like we at least want to get some good travel memories out of it. So we, yeah, we picked, I guess four or five places that we really wanted to go like personally. And then it kind of turned into these scouting trips. I mean, we were very intentional about the travel, but it was also like just on a personal level.
5 (19m 37s):
Yeah. So Alisa and I would go, we’ve tried to use our weekends as best we could. And so we’d go five to eight days and each of those locations and they were superintendents having facts like 7:00 AM to, I don’t know, like 10 or 11 doing kind of nightlife stuff to, to try and figure out, okay, here’s all of the must have in our five day trips. And here’s what, maybe we could leave to the side.
7 (19m 60s):
Yeah. So our strategy was to go on trips that we wanted to go on, pack them like crazy trial, a bunch of guides, a bunch of hotels, you know, like go from hotel to hotel. And then from there we can pick all of our favorites and then whittle that down into like perfect, like curated four to five day trip. Yeah.
2 (20m 19s):
And then you mentioned you were looking for flights within five hours of where you guys were living when you first started out. Was it a lot of friends and family that joined the trips in the beginning?
5 (20m 30s):
Yeah. So yeah. I was just telling somebody the other day we begged people and 2019, it’s shame to admit it. I don’t my buddy hunter actually. And I’d say a hundred, please. Like, come on this trip. I just need like two more people. Like just you, if you have anyone at like, just come on. And so yeah, you beg, and so now it’s, it’s unbelievable really that in 2021, now we have the 160 travelers and they’re from all over the U S now. And yeah, it’s, it’s amazing. What, just a little bit of time and just like some consistency in marketing and trying to get your name out there, like what that does, but yeah. To your question. Totally. All friends at first.
7 (21m 7s):
Yeah. It was just our friends. It was just a really fun Costa Rica friendship. We were like, just test it out, come with us. And then, then it turned into friends of friends that was like two to three trips in and then just very slowly has turned into all strangers.
6 (21m 22s):
Yeah. Well, I love your business plan in the sense of, you need it to be close to you guys in terms of testing things out. And if anything, I don’t want to say it goes wrong, but you know, you’re needed, you can go. And it’s like flying across from west coast, east coast or east to west in the United States. Right. But I think you hit on something that’s really, really true is that Latin America is a very underrated place. I mean, very few people I think give it that mindset and comparison to, like you said, Europe, Asia, and here we are in San Diego and we’re right by Mexico. We have the two on an airport. It’s very easy for us to get to Latin America, but for you in the center of the country and anybody else, who’s not living on the border.
6 (22m 2s):
I mean, you guys are positioned perfectly to capture that market of people who are like yes, Latin America. And I think it’s really great.
5 (22m 9s):
Oh, thanks. We absolutely love the energy. It is just like good vibes. Only. Like that’s it, we will absolutely love being in Latin America. I don’t think I’ve ever danced more in my life than on some of those trips, especially at Columbia. So yeah, we love it.
6 (22m 23s):
Well, so I’m going to hit you with a hard hitting question. Brittany had one, I got one. How has your Spanish game?
5 (22m 29s):
Okay. There’s a program it’s called and it’s basically peer to peer language teaching. And I’ve been doing it for about a year and a half, two years. And so yeah, about two years now and I’m beginner to intermediate guys. Like I do it two hours a week.
7 (22m 45s):
He’s good. He can get around for sure. I mean, we have to for the business, but I talked to you. We recommend that to everyone because like we found people at Columbia, you can get used to their dialects and obviously they’re a lot cheaper and depending on the different countries that you choose,
5 (23m 3s):
You can get a lesson for $10 an hour. And it’s, it’s a lot of fun because you’re just talking and,
7 (23m 8s):
And you get to know the people and yeah, it’s a lot of fun. So he’s, he’s good. I’m, I’m getting there.
6 (23m 14s):
I’m really working hard on mine being that we live so close and we’re actually starting to go and utilize the fact that we live by the border more and travel more in Latin America. So that’s why I was just curious with your business down there, you know, what are you guys doing for that? So I’m going to keep that in mind.
5 (23m 30s):
Yeah. Well just call me we’ll practice. We’ll have like peer to peer talking sessions. We’ll fumble through it.
6 (23m 35s):
Well, we can switch the podcast right now to Spanish.
5 (23m 40s):
It’s not inclusive to all the non Spanish speakers that wouldn’t be inclusive of us. Like it’s just, you know, another.
8 (23m 49s):
So I was looking through all of the things that you include and I see that you guys do a lot of pre-departure planning and you provide like a packing list and you know, you have all the logistics already created for everyone. The one thing that you guys don’t really provide is lights. So how do you talk to your customers about getting those lights? Do you recommend certain times like, Hey, you want to take a flight this day and get there by this time? Talk us through that logistics a little bit.
7 (24m 15s):
Yeah. So we, we set up transportation to and from airports. And so we basically tell them, Hey, you need to be here on this day at this bus at 3:00 PM. And we’re leaving essentially. And so we leave it up to the customers to get there whenever they want to. And then if they want to, you know, come a day early, then we can give them tips or things like that. But it’s very chill. Like they can come whenever they want, as long as they’re there, when we’re going to leave on the bus.
5 (24m 45s):
Yeah. So it comes and we’ll say, Hey, you need to arrive by 3:00 PM. Typically our private transportation leaves by 3:00 PM from the camp coot airport bound for Taloon. But we’re seeing a lot of people. They like the flexibility. Our trips are five days, six days. My people like the flexibility of, well, actually I’m going to extend it another three days. So, you know, thanks guys, but I don’t need a ride back to the airport. I’m going to stay, you know, here in Tulum and maybe go to Playa or something like that for an extra two or three days. And so I think people like that
7 (25m 13s):
5 (25m 14s):
We’re seeing probably 30% of our customers are extending. Cause we, we do our five to six days. That’s pretty purposeful because the average working professional, when you first start, you get 10 days total of vacation. And so we say, okay, ours will only at max will cost you three vacation days, but it’s kind of cool. Cause you’re seeing a lot of people and they say no, like I’ll use a few more here and stay a few extra days and see a little more.
2 (25m 37s):
Has the shift to more remote work had any impact. Have you seen people come on your trips anytime recently that they’re working while traveling.
5 (25m 46s):
So I’ve had a couple of people reach out now and they ask, you know, Hey, what’s the wifi stability of Cuba for instance. Right. Cause it’s a little bit different situation there. What’s the stability. And to loom, like I hear that’s pretty remote. And so I think those questions are stemming from like people who want to extend, but they’re worried about, you know, how can I still connect remotely? And so I’ve gotten a lot more questions through the inbox about that, like in the last, probably four months. So to your point, yeah. People just say, I’m like, I’m going to keep working remotely. So why not do it in a cool location? Yeah.
2 (26m 17s):
That’s definitely my dream to work remote and just travel
7 (26m 22s):
2 (26m 24s):
Well, you guys, aren’t doing it. You’re quitting your jobs, aren’t you?
7 (26m 27s):
2 (26m 28s):
That is so exciting.
5 (26m 30s):
As we’re talking right now,
7 (26m 32s):
Three days left, which is crazy
2 (26m 35s):
Getting down to the wire.
7 (26m 37s):
Yeah. And you have what? Eight days left.
5 (26m 39s):
Eight working days left. Yeah. So it’s getting really real, you know, we’re packing everything up and in the back half of 20, 21, we’re going to follow our groups around. Basically we have 15 trips in the back half of 20, 21 and Elisa and I are just going to have a carry on and a backpack. And so we’ll be hopping from country to country for the last couple of months of the year. Yeah. As we’re like whittling all of our stuff down to just fit in those two bags. It’s I think it’s fine. It’s
7 (27m 6s):
Real that’s for sure.
6 (27m 8s):
So are you talking about hopping on your own tours or doing other travels amongst yourselves? Cause I was going to ask with the leaving of the professional jobs and going now onto this new venture, are you just going to take that carry on and get on a few of your own trips and tours that you guys are doing with people and just put your face out there. So that way they can tell their friends about it and be like, oh, this is a great company. This, that the other,
7 (27m 30s):
Yeah. That’s the idea we’re going on. Most of the trips gets maybe 10, 11, 12, something like that out of the 15. And yeah, the idea is that we can get to know our customers even more and build some excitement. And honestly we just want to do like that’s the whole reason we started the company was to meet people. We love meeting new people and then traveling at the same time, I kind of think of the nomad life. I don’t know if it would get a little old after a while. Like if you’re not constantly meeting new people, like building connections. And so we’re excited because we get to build new connections, like pretty much every week with new people, which is perfect for us.
5 (28m 10s):
And it just helps us. Honestly, it’s not a survey from a random inbox at the end of the trip. It’s like, you know, we’re just Alex and Elise and it’s gone. Hey, like what did y’all like about it? What did you not like about it After spending five days with people? Like they feel pretty comfortable with you to be able to like give you honest feedback because your friends, by that point, you’re like, Hey, I liked it. Try tinkering with this a little bit. And so that’s invaluable to us. And so that’s why I’m excited. Like for 12 trips we’ll get to meet, you know, a hundred and thirty five hundred forty different people and get their input. And I just think it’s going to be like invaluable to
7 (28m 42s):
5 (28m 43s):
8 (28m 45s):
Yeah. I think that’s really personal. And you get to know anytime you’re on a trip and you were traveling with other people, you get to know them on a real personal level. And it creates friendships that last years and years and years based off of that, which is really amazing. And I know you said that you’re going on most of the trips, but there’s a few trips you’re not going on with your groups who host those.
5 (29m 5s):
So our local guides in the future, like that’s the go-forward kind of model was that we have these amazing local guides. They all have their own independent agencies. So they’re entrepreneurs like in the country, most of them, all of them are in the age range of the group. So they’re all kind of like in that young professional range, they’ve stepped out on their own. They have their own agency and yeah, we hired them and they’ll run the groups. And so they’re great. Right? They do all the heavy lifting at least. And I are just there as basically like social chairs. We call ourself a social chairs because we, you know, we, we don’t pretend to be the local experts. We work with these amazing people who could really give us the low down. And so, yeah, they’re great. And they’re really fun.
5 (29m 45s):
That’s a total requirement of ours to hire a guy. Doesn’t have to be fun. And so when we’re not there, it’s going to be probably a better experience because they’ll get to like take up the entire entire deal without us getting in the way.
7 (29m 58s):
Yeah. We love and trust our local guides and we vet them a lot. Like we make sure that we can work with them and that we just love being around them. And yeah, we trust them completely to run our trips.
6 (30m 11s):
You guys are going to be like undercover boss, but not really undercover.
7 (30m 15s):
Yeah. It’s like, do not listen to us. We know nothing about this country. Talk to them.
6 (30m 21s):
Well, quite honestly, we’ve been talking recently about doing an Iceland trip, more specifically Northern lights. I know that’s one of the ones that you guys do. I’m hoping that by the time we go on that you guys are still doing undercover boss in a sense. And then we are on the
2 (30m 37s):
5 (30m 40s):
You guys hear me out on this? We are in a totally glass dome underneath the Northern lights of Iceland. And we do episode, I don’t know, 200 of the Travel Squad Podcast. I don’t know. I like the idea we should do it.
2 (30m 55s):
I love the visualization.
6 (30m 59s):
It’s happening now. I think it’s official. We just need to hammer out the details is really what you’re telling me.
5 (31m 4s):
Have your people talk to our people, get it. We’ll get to go on.
2 (31m 8s):
Have you guys had anyone go on your trip and then come back for a second trip yet?
7 (31m 13s):
Oh yeah. Yeah. We’ve had quite a few.
5 (31m 16s):
It’s fun and yeah, you see their name pop up again and you know, reviews are really important like on Google and wherever else, but that is like the most heartwarming, like what we’re doing. Like people like it, like, and people like traveling, that’s the best.
7 (31m 31s):
Well we’ve had customers that came back and then we get like email notification afternoon notification because they booked like three trips with us for 20, 22. We’re like, wow. That’s so cool.
8 (31m 42s):
That’s amazing. Well, you know, I love my hard hitting questions. So I’m going to ask another, well, is it working with your spouse? Full-time
7 (31m 51s):
So it is, it’s really fun. I mean, we kind of got lucky, I think before I would have been a little bit worried, like probably back in 2019, like, I don’t know how’s this going to go? But then the pandemic just took care of that. And we were both working from home for an entire year. And so we got used to living and working together and yeah, kind of just worked, but we do have different styles. I would say working, I have a little bit more go with the flow free spirited, like just do whatever feels. Right. And Alex is way more disciplined, which is amazing for running a business.
7 (32m 33s):
But yeah, we’ve definitely had to figure that out. Like, okay, when you asked me to do this, do you mean today? Or you mean like whenever you feel like it, but that’s about it. It’s a lot of fun.
5 (32m 44s):
I think the coolest part about it is you get to see your partner, your spouse Excel, like in a professional way. Whereas, you know, when at least was doing engineering, I’m in sales currently. I had no idea what she’s talking about. Like, you know, I don’t know what’s going on like professionally and you really don’t know like what your partner is doing, but then when you work together, you get to see them. You’re like, oh wow. That is so cool. I’ve never seen you in that light before. Like I’ve only known you as like a romantic relationship Business partners and you get to see them in business mode. And it’s cool. It’s cool to see.
8 (33m 16s):
So Alex, you said you work in sales and how has that played into like the marketing of your company?
5 (33m 22s):
So that’s another piece of how it works for us working together because we like different parts of the business at least really loves kind of the back end website development. How our systems work, like in terms of when a booking comes in, how do we keep all of that together? And I really liked being in front of people and yeah, cold calling
7 (33m 42s):
5 (33m 43s):
Cause that’s what I do like every day. And so man being in sales, it was really helped me. And it’s really helped as I talked to vendors around the world and travel as well. Cause you kind of know what kind of questions people ask in these meetings and how to talk about the business and how the financials and all that. So yeah, sales was, it’s been really crucial.
8 (34m 2s):
Yeah. So I don’t know if it’s because I’ve done some research on you guys, but on Instagram almost every single day, I’ll get your advertisements come up on my feed. Like no kidding every single day.
7 (34m 17s):
Oh my gosh.
8 (34m 18s):
They’re a legit company. This looks amazing. I’m always really impressed. So congrats to you guys on that.
5 (34m 25s):
Awesome. Are you annoyed?
8 (34m 28s):
It inspires me to like keep checking it out. Like I ran several times. I’ve looked at like, you know, the things that you provide and we’ve taken several route travel trips in the past though. You know, you’re always in that mindset of like, how does it compare? And like what are the things that they offer? And I love that you guys go to some lesser known countries because a lot of places don’t go to them.
5 (34m 50s):
Ah, thank you. And I, I think that’s a Testament. We work with an agency, a marketing agency. And so, you know, like on the social side we knew Facebook ads and Instagram ads are gonna be huge for us because that’s where we spend too much of our time. And we know that’s where like all the people that we’re traveling with spend a lot of their time. And that was one where we said, you know, we don’t know a ton about this and we know it’s super important. And so we went and worked with an agency actually, and I would totally encourage people like if they’re starting a business and there’s a piece that you know is really important, but you don’t know how to do, like, don’t worry about spending that initial investment, especially if you don’t have any cash at that point, like the business isn’t making anything for you, it returns. And that has been probably the best thing we’ve done as a businesses is hire this marketing agency called .
5 (35m 34s):
They’re phenomenal. There
7 (35m 36s):
Is a small business too. Like we actually talked to a marketing agency and they’re like, well, our packages start at $30,000. We’re like, okay, no, but we found a startup that we love. Like they’re doing their own thing. We’re doing ours. And they’re amazing. They’ve completely turned our business into what it is right now.
2 (35m 58s):
I love to hear that I actually work for marketing agency and do marketing and PR for a living. And I love to hear people say marketing has its return on investment. It really does.
5 (36m 10s):
Oh my gosh. It’s amazing. Really. And with all the information that Facebook and Instagram has, you know, you target travelers, it’s not like a billboard on the side of the highway. You just hit everybody that drives past it. They might be into travel. They might not be, you know, with digital marketing, anybody who likes traveling, If you have a travel podcast
7 (36m 31s):
6 (36m 34s):
Speaking of putting your name out there, how did you guys end up coming up with the name for your business?
7 (36m 40s):
Ooh. So for me the biggest piece, you know, that we talked about earlier about why I love group travel so much is because you can be completely present. Like when you travel on your own, you are researching the hotel and then you get there. And you’re like, I thought it was going to be like an eight out of 10. And it’s really more like a six out of 10. Like I didn’t really love that. Or you go to a restaurant and you’re looking up Yelp, like every day, trying to figure out like which restaurant to go to. And then again, you’re kind of comparing it to the reviews that you saw online. And so that’s one of the things I love about group travels that you can just show up and enjoy the restaurants, the activities and hotels without expectations beforehand.
7 (37m 24s):
And so we wanted to come up with a name that talked about being present and being in the moment. And that’s where Here and Now came from.
6 (37m 33s):
I love it. Just hearing you say that like really resonates with me because even on our guided tours and things that we’ve done, even though they haven’t been the smaller, more intimate, like yours, let alone with our age demographic you, right. They’re usually catered to be, you know, more older people, but whenever they would take people out to eat, it would always be not at a touristy place, but at a locals place. And I know that’s what you guys like to do just as well and take people to, yes. Some of the touristy spots, but off the beaten path. So that really resonates. And I love how you guys came up with that. That’s awesome.
5 (38m 7s):
2 (38m 9s):
So it sounds like you guys have been pretty lucky with the business and how it grew and people are loving it. You did have a little bit of a setback with the pandemic, but what other challenges came up that you had to navigate through?
5 (38m 22s):
For me? I think it was initially when starting the business, you feel the need to convince people that this is a real thing, and this is not like customers. This is your friends, family. When you tell people at, you kind of get this response, like at a dinner party, right. Everybody’s going around the table and they talk about, oh, what do you do? You know, I’m in finance, I’m a chemical engineer. I’m a, oh, we have a little travel company. Oh, you’re a travel agent now. Not quite. And then you explain the business and they go, that is so nice. And
7 (38m 52s):
It feels, feels
5 (38m 53s):
Really like patronizing. And so sometimes you deal with that. That’s, that’s a little bit of a challenge, a thing that’s any new business I think. Yeah,
7 (38m 60s):
Yeah. Taken seriously. And yeah, I’d say that’s, that was definitely a challenge.
6 (39m 5s):
I think one of the things we always hear from entrepreneurs just as well, and it’s really the truth. It’s always going to be your family and friends who are the last to kind of really get on board and be supportive. Not that they’re not, but you know what I mean? And the tone in which they say it maybe sounds patronizing, like you said, or thinking like, oh, maybe this isn’t going to last. It’s just a phase type thing. So yeah. I agree with what you’re saying. That’s discouraging all the way around for anybody starting the business to kind of get a response like that.
2 (39m 32s):
They also snake. If they are laughing at you, then you know, you’re onto something with a good idea.
5 (39m 43s):
The bit that, you know, it guys, the funny one is people and they say, okay, well, like when you get done traveling and you come back to the states, what are you going to do then? And you know, I dunno like this is going to be a full-time gig. Like this is, this is a company, you know, it’s not just a
7 (39m 57s):
Make money doing that,
5 (39m 60s):
Just like backpacking and freeloading and like throwing all our responsibility to the wind or anything. You know? So it is, it’s funny. You, sometimes you feel like you’re trying to convince people,
6 (40m 8s):
Just need to show them that you have a legitimate business entity and be like, oh, I write this off on my taxes. Here you go.
2 (40m 15s):
5 (40m 17s):
I’m going to show them I’m on a podcast. You kidding me soundbites after this.
2 (40m 21s):
Yes. And in the episode have them listened to it.
7 (40m 25s):
2 (40m 27s):
So you guys are growing on a lot of trips in this back half of this year. And do you have any plans for 2022 to expand into new locations?
7 (40m 36s):
Yes. So in 2022, we’re expanding to Greece and Northern lights as they’re like our new trips for the year, but we’re actually just on a personal level. We want to spend most of the year in Europe and we want to live in different places and kind of go with the different travel visas. Like you can go to like Ireland and then Croatia, and then you can go to Spain and they’re like all on different travel visas. So you don’t have to like apply for a freelance visa in any one place. And that’s our plan on a personal level. And then the idea is that, you know, as we get to know people and understand kind of the places that we love to go, then we’ll build more trips, more ideas from there.
2 (41m 19s):
That is so cool. You guys are living my dream.
8 (41m 23s):
We’ll be in touch with you guys again, you know, critical levels to get, to pick your mind and learn about the business and how things are going. So we’ll go ahead and definitely keep in contact
7 (41m 32s):
With you. Oh, perfect.
5 (41m 34s):
We’ll do remote shows wherever you guys want to. Under the Northern lights. Very sad.
2 (41m 41s):
Next year, actually Greece is the one international trip. I am a hundred percent going on. So maybe I will look into your guided tour there
5 (41m 50s):
Or meet us there, whatever you want to do,
7 (41m 54s):
Where are we going to be hanging out?
2 (41m 56s):
I love what you guys said earlier. It’s still stuck in my head. I think my biggest aha moments from this conversation is what you said about pick your brain. And you often hear from entrepreneurs, don’t ask me, can I pick your brain because they’re busy and they’re not getting anything out of it. And so that I love that you came across someone that was willing to offer his time and his insight and help you guys out in that way. And it just goes to show that there are people out there that want to help you, that will help you. And then the other thing you said was about travel is unlimited. It’s not a saturated market. It’s probably the one industry that will never die. Never go away, always exist. You guys are just brilliant for going into this industry.
5 (42m 37s):
Thank you. Yeah. I think it’s a Testament to travel at its core is a feel-good industry. Like you don’t get in it to make lots of money. It’s not like software sales or something like you get in it because you like travel. And I think those are just the kind of other business partners you run into is people who just want to have like a good life showing people, something really cool and a really good time and making them happy. And they’re more than happy to work with you and talk with you and give you as much of their time as they can.
6 (43m 4s):
So what does the next five years hold for you guys? I mean, I know sky is the limit. We’re talking about short term right here, what you guys are doing after putting the jobs and into 2022. But where do you see Here and Now going in the next five years? I mean, obviously more places are you guys going to get to the level where, you know, as you get larger flights are included, like those types of things, like where do you guys see yourself developing in the future?
5 (43m 29s):
Where do you think,
7 (43m 31s):
Oh gosh, we have said that we want to kind of keep it more like intimate boutique company. Of course we want to grow and expand and everything, but we don’t want to get to a point where we’re running like 300 trips a year and we don’t even know any of our travelers. We don’t really even know our guides. Like we want to keep it very boutique and intimate. And so I hope that at some point we can get to that limit to where we’re really happy. And then, yeah, I could see us doing other branches, like that’s outside of just young professionals. I’m trying to think of what else.
5 (44m 6s):
I think for me, we want to launch a college graduation division. And so for folks who want to go, you know, three weeks, that kind of typical American version of the like post-college European vacation, three weeks a month, whatever it is, taking college students and doing that and getting them used to the idea of group travel and getting rid of this kind of stigma that it’s for old people. And so we do that and then hopefully they join us for trips, you know, whenever they jump into the workforce. So trying to build a group travel kind of from the ground, like as they graduate college and come in, I want to do that. And then, you know, at least said with the branches, we actually in about a month, my mom is turning 60 and she is having a group of her friends come to Costa Rica.
5 (44m 49s):
We’re hosting them. And so we’ve put together a trip for them. And so she’s really excited. Cause she said that they’re the beta group, they’re the test group for our older division, our adult division. They say, so who knows? Yeah.
7 (45m 1s):
Instead of here now they wouldn’t be been there, done that or something. But yeah, we talked about kind of taking our trips that are already curated. We already have all the contacts and then branching into people who already have a group of six to 14 people. And we just kind of put it together for their family reunions or for their friend groups or something like that. That’s another idea.
6 (45m 27s):
I think one of the things that you both kind of said in your answers or on previous questions is that one, you know, you don’t get into it to make the money. And to Elise, you mentioned this where it was really kind of still wanting to keep it boutique. So even though you want to grow, what’s not something that you want to become like super commercialized, which I think really reflects that you guys are focusing really on providing a true, genuine experience on the travel. And not really just like here, come do this because we’re putting it out there. And I think that is really, really awesome because in business, you don’t really find that a lot these days. And especially when it comes to travel, like authentic experiences are key and I can tell by your answers, that’s what you guys are really going striving for.
6 (46m 10s):
And that’s awesome.
5 (46m 10s):
That means the world. That’s all we want to be. And so, yeah, that means the world that that’s how you see it. So yeah.
8 (46m 18s):
Well guys, it seems like we’re wrapping it up, but we love to do a segment with our guests called the rapid fire segment with three questions. So we’re hoping to dive right into those unless you wanted to say something else before we get into that section.
5 (46m 31s):
No. Perfect. Yeah. Rapid fire.
8 (46m 34s):
All right. First question is what is your dream vacation
7 (46m 37s):
Right now? I would say Irish countryside,
5 (46m 42s):
Irish countryside, Australia,
2 (46m 45s):
Two very different vacations.
5 (46m 49s):
That’s why it works. We have different likes. That’s why the business works. I think,
8 (46m 54s):
Well, question number two is give us a travel confession. It could be an embarrassing story or something that you did on a trip, but travel confession.
5 (47m 2s):
Okay. Mine is when we were first going, ah, we’re going to Italy. It was my first time to like really leave the U S other than maybe like a Mexico type of trip. And I was so obsessed with the thought of pickpockets, pickpockets are going to get me. And so I bought, you know, like Eagle Creek, that’s a really big brand. And like that kind of space. They have this wallet that you attach to your belt and you flip inside of your pants and you’re supposed to put your money on your wallet’s in there. And I bought it and Elise was like, what are we going to do with that? How are you? Are you going to flop this thing out of your pants? Every time we go to pay. And I was so obsessed and I tried it one day and I was like, this is so not practical. And I had to stop. That was like 20 bucks off of Amazon.
5 (47m 44s):
Like totally down the drain. But I was so obsessed with it. Of course, you know, it’s pickpockets everywhere, but that was not an issue, but that’s, that’s my embarrassing travel.
7 (47m 52s):
Oh, I see. Okay. That reminded me of also my embarrassing in Italy when it was like my first time, post-college like planning a trip for me and my spouse and all this stuff. And so I booked seven walking tours, seven tours
5 (48m 9s):
And seven days,
7 (48m 10s):
Seven days. And that’s like with major transportation, like in between. And so there is multiple days that we were doing two walking tours a day. And by the seventh one, we were seeing the Coliseum and we were both just laying there, like, no, I can’t do another one. Like I’m going to die. And then at the end we like high five. We were like, thank God. Like we’re done with the Coliseum or like, wow, good lesson. I will never do that again.
5 (48m 34s):
We got massages and Rome we’re so tight.
7 (48m 39s):
’cause we were dead. Oh my gosh. It was so bad.
6 (48m 42s):
So you can burn yourself out on walking tours is what you’re telling
7 (48m 45s):
5 (48m 46s):
Is possible where you share.
2 (48m 49s):
That’s what we would call an easy day.
8 (48m 53s):
So last question is, give us your best insider tip.
5 (48m 56s):
People love to tell you about what they love. And so stopping someone on the street and a destination and asking them, you know, like, where should I take my lunch and not like, where should I, the American tourists take lunch? Like where do you take lunch? Tell me where you take lunch. I think that’s a good piece of advice. I’d give
7 (49m 14s):
Dang. I can’t think of anything right now
5 (49m 17s):
At Lisa’s is don’t book a million walking tours.
6 (49m 22s):
Your insider tip should have been booked on Here and Now
5 (49m 27s):
Good. We’re still learning. We’re still new business owners guys like give us the second.
2 (49m 32s):
I think you guys had a great one earlier about using your weekends and maximizing the time you already have off to make those trips happen. And that’s something that we talk about with our audience all the time is, you know, leave after work on a Friday, come back on a Monday morning before work and just really get everything. And you can, so I think that’s one of your best tips I’ve heard.
5 (49m 53s):
Oh, can I do another one? This one? And this one might be controversial actually in the travel community. Mine is like, don’t be afraid to spend on the flight. I think travel has become so crazed with like finding the cheapest flight, even if it’s six connections and you know, 36 hours of flying. Most of us, we go on what maybe two, if we’re lucky, like international trips, like make best of use of your time because that’s your most valuable resource. And mine is like, spend a little more on the fly, get a good flight or you get there. You’re not wasting a ton of time in airports and connecting. And you’re not a zombie when you get there. But I know that’s, that’s a little controversial with people wanting the cheaper flights, but that’s mine. Like don’t be afraid to spend it on the flight.
6 (50m 34s):
Well, I agree with that. And that’s because I’m an old soul back in the day I had that old mentality, but I think you’re been there done that crew will resonate with that piece of advice.
2 (50m 46s):
This has been such a good interview. I’m so glad that you guys reached out to us and we got to connect your business is amazing. I can’t wait to join one of your trips and both are just so sweet. And I loved the business. This was a great interview.
5 (50m 58s):
Oh, thanks for having us. We listened to that first episode and that’s when we decided to reach out. So it was like, man, I don’t know. It just feels like we would vibe with these people and y’all are good people you can tell. And they’re a lot of fun and add. This has been a lot of fun. Thank you for having us.
2 (51m 13s):
You guys are welcome back anytime.
6 (51m 15s):
Yeah, we appreciate you both being on. It was great and it was fun.
8 (51m 18s):
Yes. And I’m holding you to it episode 200. We’re going to Iceland and wherever we have to make that podcast, we’ll make it happen.
5 (51m 28s):
Landon Reykjavik guys, and we’ll take care of everything else seriously.
6 (51m 32s):
And it could be sooner than 200, 200 is the latest.
2 (51m 37s):
Wow. What an amazing interview Alex and Elise are so interesting. And I personally, and I know you guys too, can not wait to take one of their trips. I’m definitely eyeball in Greece. And we mentioned this in the intro, but Alex and Elise are offering all of our listeners $125 off discount with the code squad 1 25. So use that code if you’re going to book and as always keep the ventures going with us, follow us on Instagram and YouTube at Travel Squad Podcast. And send us in your questions of the week.
3 (52m 6s):
If you’ve found the information in this episode to be useful, or if you thought we were just playing funny, please be sure to share it with a friend that would enjoy it too. And as always guys, please subscribe, rate and review our podcast and tune in every travel Tuesday for new episodes,
1 (52m 20s):
Stay tuned for next week’s episode, we have some more amazing adventures and tips in store for you.