The hardest part of a semester abroad isn’t saying goodbye to your family and friends or packing five months worth of clothing into one suitcase: it’s planning the perfect backpacking trip. The goal? See as many iconic cities as possible, stay in the cleanest hostels and meet fellow travelers on your way.
After spending the spring 2015 semester abroad in Barcelona, fourth-year international business major Curtis Lefebvre and his friend Edgar Alza, a University of Florida graduate, imagined a better way to streamline transportation, lodging and experience booking for backpackers. With the help of their colleague Ben Chrobot, a computer science grad from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Lucky Backpack website and mobile app will launch next year and connect travelers with everything they need for the most transformative trip of their lives.
After planning their own backpacking trips while abroad, Lefebvre and Alza realized they had a knack for finding the cheapest transportation, best attractions and friendliest hostels.
“We started off as a travel consultancy, but then we realized we wanted to reach more clients,” Lefebvre said. “We wanted to make it easier and incorporate technology.”
In February 2016, they established Lucky Backpack and began building their clientele and website.
“We provide personalized travel content and solutions,” Lefebvre said. “We also want to foster a community where backpackers can share their recommendations and experiences of places they’ve gone to.”
Right now, users can create a profile and fill out a survey on their travel preferences on the website. A series of beta releases will help develop the site in the coming weeks, first with transportation and lodging booking. Users who book through the site will also receive personalized travel recommendations based on their preferences and reviews of other backpackers. With this personalized format, “people will be able to visit a city they’ve been to before and experience it differently every time,” according to Lefebvre.
Booking a backpacking trip can be an overwhelmingly daunting task for travelers. It can take hours sitting in a travel agency, or getting lost in a sea of travel website tabs online. LeFebvre says his 30-day trip took him weeks to plan, but the experience was well worth the effort.
“I started in Barcelona, went to Rome, Florence, Pisa, Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam and Brussels all in 30 days,” he recounted. “I took advantage of free walking tours and bar crawls and ended up only spending about $2,500.”
Although he traveled alone, Lefebvre had an incredible time for cheap. Lucky Backpack will connect users in the same city to bring the community full circle.
“That’s why I feel that an app like Lucky Backpack will be great,” Lefebvre said. “Because you can contact people and say, ‘Oh, you’re a backpacker, too. Do you want to meet up and do this tour or see this today?’”
Without an unbreakable travel plan, backpackers will be able to decide where to go and what to do according to how they’re feeling. The freedom of choosing where to go next will open doors for timid travelers.
“I think there’s a lot to learn by being in a new place without having a tour guide with you all the time,” Lefebvre said.
The transformative effect of a trip abroad is something only experienced travelers can describe.
“The way you come back is just different,” Lefebvre said. “You learn problem solving skills, how different cultures work and you meet new people. With Lucky Backpack, you’ll have that freedom without being completely disconnected.”