They say traveling helps you find yourself. But what if your travels helped you find ways to help others, too?
“Starting a business halfway across the world? You must be crazy!” Born to a Moroccan mother and an English father, Anthony Schwarcz, co-founder of Travel To C, grew up in Paris and Geneva, so moving around has always been part of his life. His family as he recalls, has always been a big fruit salad of people from everywhere, adding fuel to his passion for traveling.
In 2012, Anthony was on a world tour expedition when he came across his partner Bun, “James Bun,” and experienced Cambodia like never before. After spending some time as a local—living in homestays, eating local food, teaching children English and even riding a motorcycle like a badass—Anthony decided that he wanted to give back to the Cambodian community in some way, while being able to share his intimate experience with the world. Fast forward to October of 2013, and voilà, www.travel-to-c.com became a functioning domain name with a mission to make people see things differently.
“By making a true interaction between the foreigners and the locals, we want to make a positive impact on the community”
Travel To C has adopted the philosophy of voluntourism, i.e. tourism where travelers do volunteer work during their trips. In contrast to many aspects of Western culture, Cambodians are very community-oriented. However, due to their devastating past, their country’s economy and educational system are struggling. Despite this, however, they often treat every stranger like family and will offer more than they can provide. So Anthony wanted to do something in the spirit of Cambodian generosity. “I felt a call to come back, I don’t know why, but I had a very special relationship with Cambodia.”
“Since I was a young kid I’ve always had a real passion for learning about different cultures from different people. I translated that into starting my own business”
With a background in Finance from Bentley University, Anthony grew up thinking about one thing (hint: ka-ching, ka-ching). As a result, his entire career has been guided by the green since he was eight years old—from saving his allowance to his choice in undergraduate focus. And yet, after spending time in another culture, his aspirations altered toward creating a non-profit organization. Seems like there is really something to the whole “travel expands your mind” thing! Makes sense to build a business around it.
“Being an entrepreneur and trying to start a business halfway across the world, while not physically being on the ground, was the biggest challenge. However, Bun was the ideal partner as he was very trustworthy.” Without Anthony, this project would never have started. But without Bun, the project would never get done. As the sole investor, Anthony empowered Bun to quit his day job and join his team. Their ying-yang relationship meant Anthony was the visionary, while Bun executed and facilitated the tours in Cambodia. There’s a simile there about Anthony being the center of the organization, while Bun was the…well, you get the idea. Fun fact: Bun was recently rated as the #1 tour guide on TripAdvisor.
But building a business, across the planet, without any blueprints isn’t impossible. Like most of us, Anthony never had any mentors and always relied on the opinions of his friends. So, during the initial pre-launch phase, Anthony spoke with as many people as he could to share his idea and receive feedback (Just like the Lean Startup tells you to do). His tips, from the other side of the building process: Don't be scared to hide your vision, for fear of copycats. Most people are too lazy to execute anyway. It's also important to be open to the original idea evolving a million times from conception to realization. For those looking to start their own venture, your project should relate to you in some capacity. It can be in any industry, but should define your needs.
Looking for a place to travel to next? Maybe plan to experience Cambodia with Travel To C, get a sun-kissed tan and meditate with the monks, all while supporting the local community. Who knows, your next vacation could change your career path as much as your quarter review.