My experience, your expense

Fuelled by travel but don’t have the resources to head out? Say hello to crowdfunding

August 02, 2016 03:56 pm | Updated October 18, 2016 12:50 pm IST - Chennai

Arjun Menon in Antartica. Photo: Special Arrangement

Arjun Menon in Antartica. Photo: Special Arrangement

July 20: Rohith Subramanian rides around Singapore on his Bullet. July 23: He is on a ship to Indonesia. July 29: He stands before the Kawah Ijen active volcano, staring into the blue fire. Even as I type this, he is probably surfing in Bali. And, in a day or two, he will land in Malaysia, says his status on The Lone Wanderer Facebook page, which has over 10,000 followers.

Rohith, a resident of Adambakkam, Chennai, is on a 46-country tour, and he is not spending a penny from his pocket. Instead, an odd mix of 87 people, a majority being strangers, is funding him.

Crowdfunded travel is a plausible idea today, thanks to online crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Wishberry, FundMyTravel, GoFundMe, Plumfund, and more. There are several examples of people across the world who owe their road trips, honeymoons or even flight tickets to a bunch of well-wishers they have never met.

For instance, a Los Angeles-based couple raised $16,000 for a 23-country road trip to South America and back through Kickstarter. Their journey is captured in the blog Our Open Road, through writings and photos, for their donors to see. Unbelievable, yet true, a 24-year-old raised a part of the money to travel from Australia to Disneyland to meet his long-distance girlfriend through GoFundMe, and promised to give each of his backers a custom-made puppet!

“The younger generation has become more adventurous and open to travelling than ever before. Despite the barriers that travel enthusiasts encounter, such as finance, accommodation and cultural immersion, people have become more interested in exploring the world, and breaking these barriers,” says Christine Petilla, director of FundMyTravel, which has helped over 5,000 people crowdfund travel, since 2012.

Today, people have moved from treating the question ‘Why would anyone pay for me?’ apprehensively, to something that has a logical answer. Just like Rohith did. The question had him brainstorm for weeks, until he came up with an honest, short video about why he wanted to take up the biking tour, and uploaded it as part of the campaign on Fundmydream, a site he co-founded along with a friend at the age of 19.

“Funds initially poured in from family members and friends. This helped the campaign gain momentum. Later, I promoted it through social media sites, and also spoke to individual sponsors and brands for funds,” he says. Rohith raised around Rs. 6 lakh for his tour; he aims to cover over a lakh km in one-and-a-half years. He has already finished the Indian leg of the tour — 29 States and seven Union Territories in 150 days, and is now on a mission to cover the rest of Asia.

“I was not born with a silver spoon nor did I have a blue-collar job. I was 19 and unemployed when I began to harbour the dream of travelling around the world,” he recalls, over a call from Bangalore, a few days before kickstarting his international tour.

“Lack of money should never be an excuse. I am 22, with no track record, or influence. Yet, I managed to raise enough money for my travel. You just have to be madly passionate about what you want, and make people see and sense that madness,” he adds.

But, who would pay for someone else’s fun? A question that he started with, and found answers for, over the course of the campaign. “In my case, contributions came from many in their late seventies and eighties, who couldn’t travel when they were young but wanted to. Then, there were those who just wanted to get the satisfaction of seeing someone else fulfil their dreams,” he says.

According to Kiruba Shankar, a professor of digital marketing and author of books on crowdsourcing and couchsurfing, it has a lot to do with ‘virtual relationship’.

“The donors could be followers on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, who want to see the person achieve his or her goals. These are usually people who have been following the person for a long time,” he says.

Meanwhile, Mumbai-based photographer Arjun Menon is just back from a visit to Antarctica as part of ‘2041’ (a project by Robert Swan, explorer, environmentalist and the first man to walk to both the South and North poles), through which 1,500 tonnes of metallic waste have been cleared, as part of the eight expeditions held so far.

Arjun was one among the 80 selected from a pool of 3,500 for this year’s expedition, and it required him to spend a whopping Rs. 17 lakh. He decided to crowdfund one-third of it through Ketto, and managed to “raise Rs. 3,68,770, which was the highest raised among those who were selected”. Another 50 cent came through sponsorships by organisations and individuals. He says, “I probably wouldn’t have been able to raise this much money if it wasn’t for a cause such as global warming that affects everybody.” All his 88 backers received postcards with pictures of penguins on them and links to specially-shot videos from Antarctica.

Wishberry, a popular crowdfunding site, accepts only those campaigns that come with a cause. “We are all for backing people who travel for a purpose. We helped a stand-up comic group perform at a festival abroad, and also someone who wanted funds to join an expedition in Antarctica. While we receive a lot of requests from people expressing their desire to raise money to just travel around the world, we do not accept them unless there is a cause involved,” says Anshulika Dubey, co-founder of Wishberry.

And then, there are sites such as Honeyfund, through which couples have been crowdfunding their honeymoon, for a decade now. “We’ve helped more than half a million couples,” says Sara Margulis, CEO,, Inc. “Here are our top tips for people crowdfunding travel — have a friend set it up and share for you, and tie it to a gifting occasion such as a birthday or graduation,” she adds.

Living for travelling

* 60-year-old couple Vijayan and Mohanna from Kerala couldn’t get loans to travel, considering their only source of income was from the small tea shop they ran in Kerala. A media company set up a fundraiser and found help to fulfil their dream of visiting the U.S. through Ketto.

Amount raised: Rs. 1,73,450

* Vivek Vashisht, an educator, took up a cycling trip from Mumbai to Delhi to raise awareness about education inequality, and, in turn, raise funds for his expedition to Antarctica that focusses on conservation of Nature, through Ketto.

Amount raised: Rs. 3,33,410

* Colorado-based Yesmeen Scamahorn started a campaign to fund her travel to five countries — India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Guatemala — to work with the underprivileged.

Amount raised: $12,433

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