WYSE Travel Confederation proudly welcomed On Board as a new member earlier this month. We chatted to Founder Marcela Fernandez to learn more about the organisation that uses travelling as an engine to learn.
Tell us your story. How did your business get started?
On board is the result of realising that I didn’t want to be part of conventional education and I should take the alternative education path. For me travelling has always been the most authentic way to learn and being inside four walls waiting to get a degree was not going to help me get where I wanted.
So the desire to use the world as my classroom grew stronger, and after three years of researching alternative education programs I realised that it was my turn to create the program that I always dreamed of. I became an entrepreneur and today it is a reality called On Board, because I believe we can travel differently, not only more sustainable and consciously, and not only to escape from reality but to learn.
What are your unique selling points? What makes you different?
On Board is different because we don’t fit into any classification , we are not a tour operator, nor a travel agency, we want to show people the countries we visit through the eyes of the local people.
On Board is an outdoor classroom, so we focus on learning while we travel where we connect with local mentors (from entrepreneurs to politicians, chefs to artists) that share their expertise with us. We also visit local communities to try to create a positive impact and leave the area better than it was. We match the needs of the communities with the On Boarders talents
We create a community of travellers, travelling together and changing one country at a time.
What are some of your success stories?
In our first experience we visited an indigenous tribe in Colombia, they opened their doors to us, which is already hard to get even as a local. They told us that their main challenge was to sell their organic coffee; that selling it was their way of protecting their land and getting over the line of poverty.
Right now, we are helping the indigenous community to export their coffee to Slovenia, our second destination for On Board. They are learning how to make their coffee fully fair trade so they can start selling it in other parts of Europe.
Another success story is the fact that three of our On Boarders decided to stay longer in Colombia, one even changed his flight twice to take advantage of the connections made while On Board.
What are your future plans?
We have a range of new experiences in different destinations, October in Mexico visiting a sacred land of the Huicholes, an ancestral indigenous tribe.
In November we will go to Guatemala, in January we will be in Chile and February in Costa Rica. We plan to visit different countries but in particular, we want to grow our community and make people associate On Board with the idea of the type of travelling that they have been longing for.
Which trends and challenges do you see in the youth travel sector?
I see a trend of people beginning to understand travelling as a rite of passage, as a search for meaning, but it is really easy for people to get lost in their quest and to miss “the right answers”. That’s why On Board really wants to be a helping hand and a facilitator in their process.
Travelling alone is necessary and worth it, but sometimes people don’t know that what they are missing is a community. A confirmation that together we can do more.
A major challenge we face is how to inspire people to travel more without loosing sight of what travelling is all about. We should not harm the places that we visit with our presence or by creating artificial effects just to satisfy the “tourist need”, because the world doesn’t need tourists, but instead conscious travellers.
What was your motivation to join WYSE Travel Confederation?
On Board is a baby that is growing, and we believe that WYSE Travel Confederation offers a great opportunity for us to get more visibility and to introduce ourselves into the travelling industry, let people know that we exist and connect with those who share our vision or would like to learn more about it.
We also hope to learn from people that have been in the sector and hear what they have to say, and at the same time teach from our experience.
Any top tips for people starting out in the youth travel sector?
I think it is key to have a very clear idea of what you want to achieve, believe in the abundance mindset and try to speak with as many people as you can even if they think completely differently.
Make sure you are in love with what you are doing and see it as a gift to the world, but without getting to attached to it. Never surrender, and never ever confuse travelling with your “work” although it is your business. I believe when we forget that travelling is also our passion when we start becoming slaves of what we create and forget that travelling itself is one of the biggest privileges anyone can have.
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WYSE Travel Confederation values all of its members and enjoys hearing and sharing the stories behind the brands and organisations that build up our ever growing community of service providers to the youth and student travel industry. If you would like to see your story herecontact us, or join WYSE as a member.
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