The Tide is Turning: Why I’m Traveling Despite the Ongoing Pandemic

What does the travel startup leader do to work through the challenges of a global crisis? YouLi co-founder, Jen Fein, shares how she shifted the focus during the pandemic.


“Despite the coronavirus risks, I’m still getting on a plane this week” – Jennifer Fein, March 2020

Last year I made the bold decision NOT to cancel plans to travel to South America in March of 2020. I experienced the panic of closing borders but was still lucky enough to make it home safely and on time. That experience meant I took seriously what was happening around the world. I accepted the LOOOONG Melbourne lockdown of 2020. Then I enjoyed the freedom it bought us over the Australian summer.

For some people, the pandemic meant they had extra time for projects or just resting. This was not the case for me, as a workaholic and a founder of a Travel Tech platform, it meant that I worked from home in an exhaustive way to ensure there was still a YouLi on the other side of The Great Travel Pause.

Now, I will get back on a plane and travel internationally, despite the ongoing pandemic.

From Survival to Revival

One of the key qualities that a founder needs is determination. I had to find the energy to work through the challenges that were beyond my control. I had to exercise the survival skills to focus on the immediate while we put the grander vision is put on hold.

For myself and the team at YouLi, it is clear that now the tide is turning from survival to revival. It’s slow and, much like a real tide, it can be really hard to see at first. There are still dangers to be considered. Yet, I can feel a shift in our industry and from our clients, that means I get to pull my suitcase out of the basement and dust off my travel planning skills.

We have seen consistent growth over the last two quarters and we are proud to showcase the clients who have faced their challenges and created opportunities for themselves and their businesses. People like Sophia Boyer, Nick Vanello and Elinor Fish have all joined our zoom calls to share their successes during this pandemic.

“People are craving human connection and connection to nature, and the experiences that I offer for women to connect with each other and run in the wilderness are exactly what they need right now"
Elinor Fish, Run Wild Retreats'

What YouLi Built For The Travel Planners Over the Last Year

We found that forward thinking clients knew a slow operational time was the right time to invest in technology. They want to be prepared for the travel boom that is starting to arise on the other side of the pandemic. We worked with many smart companies to build websites and automate processes. With their help, we made YouLi better for everyone.

(Re)Launching Group Trips – From Essential to Custom Web Design

We have expanded our offerings to sell Custom designed websites that are built with the YouLi Trips platform in mind to reduce build costs and ensure a scalable operation for our clients. To help clients who are budget constrained we launched the YouLi Plug N Play website option. It’s a cost effective way to get a beautiful and effective travel booking website without needing a developer.

Success Story | Luxury Travel Brand launches with ESSENTIAL Plug N Play Website
(powered by YouLi)

Check out what Sophia Boyer did with her recently launched brand “Melanated Travel“. She didn’t need a developer or a huge investment of time or money and she has an essential website up. See other Starter Websites

“What takes the joy out of travel is Google Docs! When you don’t have a platform, and you are dependent on a management system, spreadsheets and docs become overwhelming. With YouLi I don’t have to hire anyone, I’m able to do it all on my own.. I was able to organize a trip for a family of 220 people, kids, grandmothers, to Cancun. It took me less time to do that, than to organize a group trip of 10 people with other platforms. So I’m really jazzed, and excited!
YouLi brought the joy of trip planning back into my life.”
- Sophia Boyer, Founder of Melanated Travel & Sankara Travel
Melanated Travel powered by YouLi

Success Story | Family Travel Business launches with a CUSTOM Website (powered by YouLi)

Check out what Sam Keller did with his recently launched brand “Working Without Borders“. He was looking for something that really expressed his new brand and had a unique look and feel. Steph, our incredible UX/UI designer, helped him find the colors and photos that expressed his vision and put them together in a stunning website that matches the brand he is creating.

The pandemic means more families will be able to live and work remotely. Sam is ready to show them how to achieve their dreams.

Time to Relaunch

Like our clients that are gearing up for international departures in 2022 and beyond, it’s time for us to relaunch. Starting with our logo:

Our incredible designer, Steph Chung, with help from Sallie Fraenkel of Mind Body Spirit and board member at Transformational Travel Council, designed our new logo. The whole team pondered who we are as a Travel Tech company and selected our logo to match who what we have become… More to come on that story next month!

The new logo is symbolic of our evolution and we feel strongly that it is time for travel businesses to invest in technology. This allows them to automate the stuff they don’t love and focus on what they do best: creating and leading incredible human-centered experiences.

We want to be the technology that POWERS unique experiences, and we know that can only be done through empowering unique humans. The bots can help us automate some stuff, but the humans are the ones who create the real value in the experience. We understand that and focus our energy on building technology that is human-centered.

Staying Safe While Traveling

In March 2020, my Telstra phone showed #STAYHOME at the top of my screen. Now it says #STAYSAFE. The challenge we all face is how to transition from “stay home” to “stay safe”. It’s not easy and we will make mistakes, but we have to learn how to travel in our new normal.

Here are some of things I plan to do to keep myself and my contacts safe:

  • I accept that things are likely to change and I’ll have to adapt along the way
  • I am fully vaccinated – and before I fly I’ll be at full immunity
  • Astra Zeneca has treated me well and I had only minimal side effects
  • That means even in the rare case I contract the illness, I won’t get extremely sick
  • On recommendation from a client: I bought a “VacSeen” bracelet
  • I found Travel insurance that covers medical expenses, INCLUDING covid related illness
  • I have lots of masks and hand sanitizer in my bag
  • I’m checking with all the people I plan to meet:
  • Are they vaccinated (or they have other protective measures)?
  • Are they comfortable seeing them in person?
  • I’m adapting to what other people need to feel safe
  • I’m aware of the rules of departure from my country and arrival into the United States
  • I’ll be masked on the flight
  • I’ll get a negative covid test 3 days before
  • I’m carrying my proof of vaccination letter with me (printed and digital)
  • I’m prepared to quarantine on return to Australia if needed
  • Not sure where you can travel? Check out this great tool!

There is still a lot of uncertainty, so I don’t know if all of that will be enough to keep me safe. Yet it feels a bit like a return to the old days of travel. Back when you didn’t know if the place you were going to was 100% safe. Needing your wits about you and people you can trust along the way creates adventure and deeper connections.

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