Find your community: inspiring travel networks
The internet is a vast resource when it comes to travel – there’s an abundance of websites and apps designed to aid those looking to explore. At Lonely Planet, we curate collections of our experts' best recommendations, but we also realise the value of community, of conversing with fellow travellers who have been where you want to go, and who can answer questions and share experiences in real time. Here, we’ve compiled a list of thriving communities that exist on (and off) the web to help you plug into the perfect travel network.
Thorntree and Lonely Planet Travellers Group
Lonely Planet has long been home to a vibrant community of travellers keen to share tips and tricks. We established the Thorntree forum in 1996 – it's one of the longest-running online travel communities and a fantastic place to find detailed information on itineraries, recommendations and logistics. The forum is helpfully organised by country and interest, so you won't have to scroll through tons of unrelated posts to find your topic.
If Facebook is more your speed, hop into the new LP Travellers Group, where members share a variety of images, videos and information to help and inspire others.
Girls Love Travel
Girls Love Travel (GLT) came onto the scene in 2015 and has become one of the biggest travel communities on the internet, amassing over 610,000 women or female-identifying members. Founder Haley Woods started the group after struggling with 'first-date friendships' during her own travels, creating a community who shared her passion for globetrotting and empowering more women to travel in the process.
The group contains a number of subgroups (GLT 35+, GLT Pride, GLT Moms, among others). Members can pay a monthly fee to be part of a new GiveBack subscription scheme, which gives them access to a smaller community and assistance with trip planning. The money goes toward purchasing passports for GLTers who don't have one. After six months, members of GiveBack receive either $50 toward branded merchandise or a GLT trip.
To Woods, the strength of GLT lies in the dedication and engagement of its members. 'Time and time again, members have asked a question, a local answered, and the member has ended up travelling and meeting the local. For us, it’s not just coming together online, but it's making sure we are building that offline relationship too. As all of us evolve more onto our devices, one thing that helps the travel community is knowing that there is someone else on the other side of the device.'
Digital Nomads Around the World
As companies continue to embrace the flexibility available with a remote working set-up and more people choose to leave the desk-bound life behind, record numbers of digital nomads are roaming the globe, taking their mobile offices with them. Digital Nomads Around the World is an online forum that connects full-time travelling professionals with others doing the same; members share tips on everything from useful on-the-road work hacks to workspace recommendations to restaurant advice.
Fat Girls Traveling
Annette Richmond kicked off her online presence with a blog about plus-sized fashion before transitioning into the world of travel; today, she blends the two in her community platform Fat Girls Traveling. The project started on Instagram – Richmond chose to feature editorial photos that highlight the beauty and success of plus-size travellers, and since then the account has grown into a fully fledged community, with 4,300 members on Facebook and 14,500 followers on Instagram. The Instagram account has become a beacon of plus-size representation in travel, and the Facebook group allows for members to discuss all things related to discovering new destinations.
'Our society has always shown fat people to be depressed or eager to lose weight, to be the class clown – to fall back on other things because they can’t offer anything of beauty. I want to rock the boat a little bit,' says Richmond. 'We want to see representation of ourselves. We want to see fat people thriving because there are plenty of us that are.'
Richmond will be hosting her first annual Fat Camp in North Carolina in August 2018, a fat-positive adult summer camp for plus-size women. 'For fat people, camp can trigger negative emotions – it’s a time where they wanted to hide, or they were sent to a weight loss camp. We aren’t focused on weight loss or counting calories. We’ll have delicious food, nostalgic summer activities, tubing, s’mores and campfires.' Interested members can sign up for the whole weekend or day passes.
Nomadness Travel Tribe
What started as a Facebook group with 100 members has now morphed into an international network of 20,000 members: Nomadness Travel Tribe. The community is geared towards millennial travellers of colour and the only prerequisite to join is a single stamp in your passport. 'The community is for people who organise their lives so they can maximise their time on their road,' says founder Evita Robinson. 'It’s an alternative universe of knowledge: a community that looks like you, that understands your perspective and your concerns, and can give the most real, authentic answers to your questions.'
Nomadness usually hosts three to four formally organised trips per year (though the community averages around 100 meet-ups around the world annually), and in late summer of 2018, it is throwing its first festival for travellers of colour: Audacity Fest in Oakland, California. The event’s schedule features a number of speakers (including Oneika Raymond, Gloria Atanmo, and Tiffany 'The Budgetnista' Aliche) giving talks on a variety of travel-related topics.
For Robinson, Nomadness represents a movement. 'When it comes to mass media, [travellers of colour] are completely underrepresented. We are just as transformational and we are bringing so much money into this industry. African-American travellers – we’re talking about people who historically have gone through so much. Historical reference is what we carry with us. I step in as 20,000 – it’s not just me. I take my tribe wherever I go.' Potential members can join via Nomadness’ website.
Outdoor Afro is a US-based nonprofit network that operates in 30 states, working to inspire African Americans to connect with the country's public lands and support their mission statement of inspiring 'black leadership in nature'. Trained volunteers lead a number of outdoor activities including hiking, camping, environmental education and conservation excursions. At the heart of these activities, the organisation promotes equitable access to public spaces and increased representation of the African American community in conversations regarding the infrastructures of and narratives surrounding these open spaces. The group specifically partners with organisations dedicated to environmentally sustainable and culturally respectful travel.
Travel for All
Martin Heng, Lonely Planet’s Accessible Travel Manager, kicked off the Travel for All online community in 2015, and since then its membership has boomed to 30,000. The group consists of travellers with access needs, providing a platform to share their own experiences, crowdsource information, and find travel inspiration.
'Particularly for people living with disability, travel can be daunting. Hearing from people with similar conditions overcoming their fears can be a great motivator,' says Heng. 'Also, accessibility is not just about the built environment; the barrier is often more a case of insufficient information about accessibility in any given location.'
The community, one of the first to address accessible and inclusive travel online, also serves as a space for disabled travel bloggers to share their work and for members to collect relevant articles and other literature in a central location. 'Confident or not, when you have access issues you do need to plan ahead, which means access to accurate and trustworthy information,' Heng says. 'There’s no real alternative to eyes on the ground.'
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