Friends of Friends: An International Travel Network
Imagine that you’re going to Australia but en route you have a long, 7-hour layover in Tahiti. Because you’re not one to merely sit in the airport catching up on gossip tabloids while waiting for your flight, you decide ahead of time that you’d like to venture into Papeete and get a feel for local life in Tahiti – even if you only have enough time to grab lunch and lounge on the beach for an hour or so until it’s time to head back to the airport to check in for your flight. The only problem is that you’re lugging around two big carryon bags full of supplies that you brought along to donate to an orphanage that you’ll be volunteering at while in Australia. Unfortunately, Tahiti’s airport doesn’t have lockers and while you want to make the most of your long layover, you don’t want to have to drag your bags around with you.
Well, what if your friend who works at the Australian orphanage happens to have a friend who lives near Tahiti’s airport that he can put you in touch with so that you can store your bags while you explore? And better yet, what if this Tahitian friend of your friend is willing to take you on a quick tour to show you some of the best local beaches after you guys have eaten at a restaurant that all of the locals rave about?
Enter Friends of Friends Travel or FOF Travel for short. FOF Travel is an online marketplace and social network that connects friends and friends of friends so that they can exchange travel services such as accommodations, lockers, guides, and much more – for free! Think of it as a global hook up as you’re able to get free local benefits based on your connections with your friends and their friends alike through this international travel network!
I recently caught up with Daljeet (“DJ”) Singh, FOF Travel’s Head of Marketing, to learn more about FOF Travel, his travel style, and why too much ice cream consumption may damper his future travel plans. Check it out…
How old are you?
Where do you currently live?
Southeast London, UK
How did you meet Krissa (CEO & Founder) and Mark (Chairman & Co-Founder)?
Krissa and I went to school together at a British high school in Hong Kong and have been friends for over 12 years. Mark is a close friend of Krissa’s Scottish father from their childhood days. I met him through FOF Travel.
How did FOF Travel start?
It began when Krissa took a trip to Sydney to visit one of our friends from high school. She was introduced to so many friends of friends there that on her flight back to London she began to wish that she had a place where she could easily see where all her friends were in the world, and where their friends were too. The seed for the idea was planted.
For at least a year or two before, Krissa and I had always talked about starting a business together. Our problem was figuring out what it was we wanted to do. We knew that our upbringing as “third culture kids” had to be the key, but we hadn’t yet figured out how to take advantage of it in the most effective manner. FOF Travel was the answer.
For years we’ve enjoyed traveling on a budget by taking advantage of opportunities presented by having a global network of friends. With FOF Travel, we could share those networks with those who didn’t have such large ones, and become more aware of just how extensive our networks really were.
We could bring our various social circles together, and allow them to share in the free travel services that we’ve been taking advantage of our whole lives – and even find out some hidden contacts we never knew we had!
How did you get involved with FOF Travel?
I happened to be in London a few weeks after Krissa came up with the idea. I was attending one of our mutual friend’s weddings and I was staying at her place – FOF style. She told me all about the idea in person, and I was instantly excited. We began working literally from opposite ends of the world with me still in Melbourne while Krissa and Mark were in London. All of us were working the jobs we had been doing before, while starting to build FOF Travel.
Is your work with FOF Travel on a full-time basis? If not, what else do you do for a living?
As of January 2013, FOF Travel is now my full-time job. However, I was working as a freelance copywriter, doing mostly web copywriting and SEO in Melbourne beforehand, and I still do the occasional writing job on the side – but it’s mostly for enjoyment!
Do you always implement the FOF Travel philosophy whenever you travel?
Whenever I can – it’s the natural way we’ve grown up traveling since our international schooling in Hong Kong has resulted in a social circle that’s splintered across the world.
But I say, “when I can” because even with our broad and wide networks, there are only so many contacts you can really have. FOF traveling is best, but sometimes it just isn’t available – people are busy, people are away, or you’re going to some very exotic place where none of your friends have even visited, let alone lived. This is why we’ve partnered with travel and lifestyle brands like STA Travel, Hostelworld.com, World Nomads and many more, to get special deals for Premium Club members so that all aspects of travel are cheaper.
Currently, how big is the FOF Travel network and how many countries does it include?
Inherently, FOF Travel is global. It was impossible for us not to be, considering the offering. So even within the 600+ members we have at the moment, we have a full range of countries represented from England to Australia, from New Caledonia to Trinidad and Tobago. At last count we have 104 countries represented.
There are 3 key FOF Travel pillars – trust, philanthropy, and wanderlust. How is the philanthropy pillar incorporated into FOF Travel?
Philanthropy is fundamental to the entire concept of social travel. This isn’t just a marketplace – it’s a FREE marketplace. And that can only be achieved through the philanthropy of your friends and friends of friends.
It’s also integral to our general philosophy in how we choose our partners, how we conduct our business, and how we plan to move forward. Philanthropic value is a big consideration in many of our choices.
Where’s the coolest place that you’ve used your FOF Travel connections, and what did you use them for?
For me personally, it was my migration to London where I really saw the incredible value of connecting with friends and friends of friends. It was the easiest migration of my life – of which I’ve had a fair few – and all because I had no stress. If anything fell through, I had a safety net of friends and their friends who would help me out. Not to mention, I was introduced to over 30 friends of friends in the first few weeks here and instantly knew all of the right (and wrong) places to go, shop, eat, drink and party. London was fun from the beginning thanks to my friends and friends of friends.
What’s your travel style?
It all depends on what I’m traveling for. If it’s just for business, I’m pretty minimal because getting rest is important when you’ve got meetings and have to focus.
But if I’m going to see friends and family, it’s going to very much be in that social travel vein, with constant communication with my local friends and lining up brunches, lunches, teas and dinner followed by drinks and dancing and whatever awesome local things there are to do. Sleep is definitely not the priority on those trips!
If it’s a trip to a place I’ve never been before, it’s going to be hectic and jam-packed with a well-researched itinerary so I can try and make the most effective use of every single minute. And if it’s a vacation because I need a break, then it’ll be relaxed, calm, extremely lazy with absolutely minimal effort put in beyond knowing where the best restaurant is, how easy it is to get to the beach and where the best places are to go shopping!
I also find I prefer to spend the first day in a new city simply walking around, exploring local things and turning right because it looks more interesting than left. That is, if I don’t already have a local telling me that left has some secret hidden gem!
What’s been your biggest travel challenge?
Money. I have a bit of a weakness for shopping, so keeping my budget on a tight reign while I’m traveling usually takes quite some focus. But hey, staying with friends of friends means I’m actually able to indulge in shopping every now and again! That’s the crux for me – social travel means more shopping money!
What’s been your most life-changing travel experience?
I think the most extreme was when I went to Mumbai and saw the extent of poverty there, right alongside the opulence that India often exhibits. It was both humbling and shocking. You can hear about poverty but to actually walk by children lying on the pavement looking like blackened dolls…that’s something else. It makes you really appreciate your life no matter how much greener the grass seems in someone else’s lawn.
Name one place that you’ve been longing to travel to and explain why.
Antarctica! Since I’ve been reading more and more travel-related articles and blogs, I’ve been reading more and more about Antarctic adventures and it seems incredibly exciting. And it will be great to have conquered yet another continent! I’d probably want to do it sooner rather than later – I’m not sure how sprightly I’m going to be when I’m middle-aged considering the amount of ice cream I consume!
What’s on your travel itinerary for the remainder of 2013?
Well, I just moved to England and the rest of Europe is just a hop and a skip away! And since we’re partnered with Busabout, I’m sure I’ll be doing some hopping on and off around the continent! While I don’t yet have any plans solidified, I have a friend that’s staying with family in Germany, so partying in Berlin FOF style is surely in my future. Other things on my bucket list are to see the Northern Lights, go island hopping around Greece, explore some Eastern European countries, and spend a romantic weekend in Paris – once I meet someone to do that with anyway! Who knows, maybe one of my friends of friends out there will become my travel buddy for life.
Interested in joining the FOF network? Sign up today!