I frequently get asked to post guest posts on my blog and almost always refuse. When Yannick and Luc reached out to me about Leave A Trace, I made an exception simply because I love the concept behind their startup travel booking site. Rather than do my own article about it, I decided to let them tell us about their business in their own words. Here’s their response:
Traveling with Leave a Trace
Leave A Trace is a non-profit travel booking site founded by two old friends (Yannick Pichler and I) and are now run by over 20 volunteers. We want every trip to have a positive impact on the community it visits. We are only 5 months old but have already donated over $1,000 to charities around the world doing things like fighting human trafficking, supporting early childhood education, and improving animal welfare. And we’ve done that without costing our supporters a cent. Intrigued? We hope so.
Here’s how Leave a Trace works:
If you start your travel search on our site, you can book travel through the world’s most reputable travel brands by linking to their sites. For every booking or purchase that you make through us, Leave a Trace gets paid a portion of the booking amount (up to 7%) as a commission from our partners. 100% of the commissions generated go directly towards great causes.
How did Leave a Trace begin?
The idea for Leave a Trace was hatched two years ago while traveling. I took two months off work to live in Nosara, Costa Rica and (try to) learn to surf. I was living a 20 minute walk from the beach, and after making the walk several times, I decided I wanted to rent a bike from the shop in town. After some negotiation with Tom, the shop owner, we settled on a price and I rode off with instructions to bring the bike back weekly for checkups.
During those checkups, Tom and I chatted. I learned that he was from Arizona, where he had previously been a bike mechanic, and that he lived there most of the year. The bike shop he opened in Costa Rica was now his sole source of income and supported him year round.
While that was no doubt fantastic for Tom, it struck me as odd that my bike rental fee was paying for his costs of living in Phoenix, and largely not flowing back into Nosara, or anywhere else in Costa Rica. The feeling wasn’t helped by the fact that Costa Ricans, on average, earn a fifth of what Americans do, and Nosara is in Costa Rica’s poorest province.
As I learned, similar models were pervasive: most of the surf shops were owned by people from the US, as was the restaurant I ate breakfast at and the house I was renting. The employees at many of these places were locals, but they shared in none of the profits that came from charging American prices in an area with significantly lower labor costs. And this was in a town that, on the face of it, was not overwhelmingly touristy. I realized it would be completely possible for me to stay my two months, spending money on a wide array of services, and leave none of the locals much better off.
Yannick and I built Leave A Trace to remove that possibility. We wanted a tool that would make sure every trip had at least some positive impact. And we wanted it to be free to use. We think we’ve done that, and are excited about getting Leave A Trace in the hands of as many people as possible.
About the Leave a Trace founders:
Luc Robinson is an enthusiastic traveler who loves to surf, ski and play golf. Chasing those pursuits has taken him all around the world, most recently to Japan. Despite a love for activities, Luc thinks the best way to see a new place is just to wander on foot.
He went to Williams College before working as a consultant at Bain & Company. He’s now working on a variety of projects, first and foremost, trying to make everyone’s adventures just a little bit more charitable.
Yannick Pichler is a Mechanical Engineer who graduated from Queen’s university. After living in the big city for two years, he moved to Banff, Alberta to ski, golf, bike and hike. He currently runs the Engineering department at the Fairmont Banff Springs. As an outdoor enthusiast, and sports fanatic in general, Yannick’s travels have taken him to some amazing places with incredible cultures. He looks forward to continue checking boxes and Leaving A Trace as he does so.