There’s a first time for everything, and this is an exciting first – a duel interview with Meagan and Jaclyn of ecomadic! These powerhouses have been preparing to formally launch ecomadic, a platform designed to help people find sustainable and local travel providers. It’s a mission I share completely with Suitcase Six, so I’m eager to pass along their wisdom and lessons from their journey into entrepreneurship, in the travel industry, during a global pandemic which has brought international travel to a standstill.
Read on to get to know these two founders and friends and their inspirational efforts.
Hometown: Oakton, VA
Currently lives: Road-tripping the US!
Current job: Co-founder/Creative Director of ecomadic & Freelance Writer
Favorite Places traveled to: Western Australia & Hawaii!
Place You Want to Travel to: Portugal & France 🙂
Hometown: Huntington Beach, CA
Currently lives: Washington D.C.
Current job: Founder of ecomadic & Masters of Tourism Administration Student at GW University
Favorite Places traveled to: Glacier National Park & Philippines
Place You Want to Travel to: Antarctica
Tell us about yourselves and your travel histories.
Jaclyn and I are best friends from college. We both studied Hospitality Management at the University of South Carolina and have been to around 7 countries together. We even spent a summer living in Hawaii! (possibly our favorite experience)
Jaclyn finished her undergrad and moved to Singapore and I (Meagan) finished and moved to Sydney. We both spent a few years travelling the region. I spent most time traveling in a van in Australia and Jaclyn spent time exploring every inch of Southeast Asia. During those couple of years, we both pursued Masters degrees. I studied Creative Writing and Jaclyn studied an MSc in International Business.
What was your motivation for starting ecomadic?
While Jaclyn was studying her MSc, she created a blog called ecomadic to highlight sustainable businesses she found as she travelled. She also decided to write her dissertation on Greenwashing in the Hospitality Industry. As she became more and more passionate about sustainability across all levels– environmentally, socio-culturally, and economically, she decided to have ecomadic go into redevelopment and turn it into a business. I began to help with social media and eventually grew into a bigger role.
We want sustainable travel to become the norm & for more people to be empowered to make informed decisions. ecomadic is a place for travelers to come to find which local businesses they should support. By making the entire sustainable tourism ecosystem easier to find and empowering travelers with education – ecomadic aims to amplify the positive effects that sustainable tourism brings to communities environmentally, socially, and economically.
You’re entrepreneurs and business partners since founding ecomadic. What does a typical day at work look like for you?
Currently, we’re on the road! We’re creating, writing, editing, and researching businesses in each US state we travel to. In addition to content creation for our site and social media, we’ve launched a new Magic Monday newsletter to provide inspiration from the road to all our readers. We’re constantly looking to partner and work with local businesses or travel creators to make sustainable tourism ‘cool’ 🙂
What has been the hardest part of starting a business?
We went through an accelerator program from May to July. The startup world is pretty intense and balancing trying to make an impact and make money is difficult. We’ve definitely burnt ourselves out trying to do too much at once and have had to consciously slow down.
How do you view the role of tour operators in sustainable travel? Travelers?
Tour operators need to think about sustainability from all perspectives (environmentally, socially, & culturally). Since they play a major role in the entirety of the tourism industry, by implementing conscious practices, they are in return assisting with community development and helping to minimize their traveler’s impact too!
Travelers can make such an impact with their decisions. Taking the time to choose local businesses and ensure their money goes straight to the local economy is one of the best things they can do.
I can only imagine COVID has complicated your business plans. Can you talk about how that’s influenced your work and how you see the travel industry moving forward after the pandemic becomes less prominent?
We’ve definitely been affected. We were originally supposed to launch in March and then took some time to regroup. Jaclyn and I were actually in Southeast Asia planning to travel for a few months and onboard sustainable businesses in that region but have completely pivoted as we had to return to the US due to COVID. We recognize how much bigger of a positive impact you can have in your own country (especially with the right to vote). As international travel is out of the cards for a while, we’re exploring our own backyard and hoping to inspire others to do the same.
How can travelers support tour operators right now when they can’t travel abroad?
Support local around your home & plan mini-weekend trips away. To rebuild tourism in a sustainable way, it definitely starts at home! As we’ve learned, there’s so many beautiful places in the US to experience.
Adhere to social distancing protocol and be safe. For tips on responsible road tripping, we put together a mini-guide.
What do you see as the way your average citizen can make the biggest impact in protecting our planet?
Definitely spending your money consciously. It is really easy to lean towards convenience (ahem, Amazon), but supporting smaller & local will promote a more circular economy. And then, of course, minimizing your impact. The little things really count – bringing your own bag, reusable water bottles/coffee mugs, and so on. Doesn’t take much effort or seem like much, but small everyday practices really can add up and make a big difference.
What’s one thing you think people get wrong about sustainability?
I think we’re always looking for businesses and individuals to include social issues within their scope of sustainability. @IntersectionalEnvironmentalism has opened our eyes to how much more work we have to do in making sustainability more inclusive and making sure people are included at the forefront of all conversations, not just the environmental aspects.
What message do you really want to get out there with ecomadic?
Stay, eat, shop, & tour with local responsible businesses. We want to help consumers find them and understand more about sustainability so their decisions become super simple!