By Contikivacations | May 25, 2012
It's exciting when you discover innovative ideas in travel and there's no doubt that the Triptrotting website is definitely one of those social travel sites that is making a splash! The site connects you with like-minded travelers all over the world. We're happy to share our next series of "10 Contiki Questions" with the co-founder of Triptrotting, Aigerim Shorman, as she shares how the site came into existence, her own travel tips and advice, and where she's headed next.
Check it out!
Where did the idea for your website, TripTrotting.com, come to be?
It started because my friend (now business partner), Shana, and I used to travel a lot together and always faced the same question... Where are the locals? We weren't talking about local tour guides or taxi drivers (who are also amazing), but locals like us, who were our age, shared our interests, were in the same professions. Shana and I were studying business in undergrad and were very interested in connecting with other local students to find out what their lives were like, what types of jobs they were looking for, what their future plans for life were and, most importantly, where they liked to go out for dinner and drinks (all the great questions you think of in college:). Unfortunately, there was no platform back in mid-2000s that connected strangers globally based on their interests and personalities. So we thought to ourselves... Why not do it? Serendipitously in 2010, we met Galen Buckwalter, former Chief Scientist from e-harmony, who loved our idea and decided to help us built an algorithm that would connect people around the world based on their interests and personalities (similar to e-harmony, but not for dating:).
When and where did you first travel by yourself, and why did you choose that particular destination?
I am originally from Kazakhstan (was born and raised there) and my first trip alone was to Cambridge, UK for a summer abroad program in high school. I have always wanted to visit UK because of its history and culture, and when opportunity presented itself I couldn't say no. I am very lucky to have gone on that program because I made friends from all over the world in Cambridge (Russia, Italy, US, Mexico, Estonia, France, Turkey, etc) and it opened my eyes to how big and diverse our world is.
Was there a particular trip or travel moment in your life that changed your life?
It's hard to pick one... To be honest every trip, every travel moment has been life changing in one way or the other, but the common theme has always been locals. For example, during my trip to Dubai with Shana we met 3 local emirates our age and ended up spending 5 hours over dinner with them. We talked about everything from politics & economics to night life & locals' perception of expats. Those were by far the most valuable 5 hours of the entire week there and we are still friends with those guys. In 2009 I did a 7-day roadtrip with a local "kiwi" family from Auckland to Wanaka during Xmas break. We stopped by their friends' houses on the way, solved millions of riddles and counted more sheep than people on the roads! In South Africa I got to visit local families that lived in townships and talk to them about their lives and challenges. I was struck by their level of enthusiasm and strong desire for reconciliation, despite of years of apartheid oppression. It was truly inspiring!
Do you prefer to travel alone or with a travel partner? What would you say the benefits of either travel style would be?
It depends on who is the travel partner Now that I have Triptrotting, I feel like I have friends literally in every city in the world. So I never feel like I have to travel with someone. But it is always fun to have a "partner in crime" during your adventures. It is nice to be able to share your experiences with someone. On the other hand, traveling alone is incredibly liberating experience. I look at it as a "self-discovery" process.
Which destinations would you visit multiple times and which countries have you decided you’ll only visit once?
I think I am one of those people that "generally" visits places only once because there are still 100+ other countries I need to visit. But I always keep going back to Paris. It is one of those cities that whenever I am in the general proximity, I try to visit at least for a day. LOVE my morning cup of cappuccino and chocolate croissant :)
What are 5 destinations that you recommend the 18-35 year old Contiki travelers MUST see?
Queenstown, New Zealand; Cape Town, South Africa; Lisbon, Portugal (a hidden gem of Europe); Tokyo, Japan and Almaty, Kazakhstan (because I am from there:)
What are some of your top tips or travel advice for travelers who are looking to either travel alone, or to travel as part of an escorted tour like Contiki?
If you are traveling alone, try to make as many friends as possible, but also try to spend some time alone... You will learn a lot about yourself through that experience. In either case though, make sure to connect with locals! I don't want to give a "shameless" plug, but I've used Triptrotting many times during my trips (even as close by as San Francisco), and it has never disappointed me. You will make amazing life-long friendships and take home unforgettable memories of your experiences together. Like one of our triptrotters said: "the people you meet and friendships you make are the best souvenirs that you can take home from a trip"!
What are the must-have items that you pack with you every time you take a trip?
Generally, less is more. Ideally carry on size bag, because you would have to deal with fees and lost luggage and it is never fun! Must haves are my little "ideas" book where I can jot down new ideas inspired by people I meet and places I visit and cash! (you will get killed on ATM fees and exchange rates otherwise)
What are your favorite travel rituals?
I always make sure to send a postcard to my grandma in Kazakhstan. She was born and raised in Soviet Union and it is amazing for her to see me travel all over the world I also always make it a point to try local street food, learn how to say "I love you" in local language and make at least 1 local friend.
Where are your travels taking you to next?
My next international trip might be back home to Kazakhstan. Also hoping to see Australia in the near future as well, just for fun
Aigerim Shorman is Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Triptrotting – a fast-growing start-up focused on connecting travelers with locals. She launched Triptrotting with her college friend in 2011 and since has grown its presence to over 2000 cities across 150 countries. Triptrotting is backed by Google Ventures, LaunchpadLA, 500 Startups, WI Harper Group, Idealab and a number of other investors.
Prior to Triptrotting, Aigerim taught at a charter school in inner city LA as part of Teach For America corps and worked at a bulge bracket investment bank in New York. Aigerim earned B.S. in Business Administration from University of Southern California.