A Q&A with Legends co-founder Shaina Shiwarski and how the network creates your unique travel DNA
What we’re about to say may blow your minds, but it’s completely true. People travel for different reasons.
Mind blown? No? Well, ok, but there’s a point to this and we wanted to get your attention so please stick with us.
What are the reasons for our travel?
- Personal Interest
- Bucket List
- The list goes on.
Who do we travel with?
- Business Associates
Whether you love to travel with a group, as a solo traveler, or with family or a furry companion, there is one constant with every event: travel is a social act.
It doesn’t matter how social you are or if you’re an introvert, extravert, or something in between. You will run into people, try new things, and have new conversations, even if they’re short. You will take transportation that sets you next to others doing the same thing as you for their own reasons. From the airport to restaurants to hotels, no matter where you go, there others will be.
So, how memorable would you like those interactions and connections, both large and small, to be? And how can you make sure they are positive ones?
One thing you can do now is turn to technology designed by travelers for travelers, such as the Legends Network app, where you can find communities, people, and places that align with your travel expectations.
Legends is a networking app that provides travel recommendations from your personal network in a unique way. Let’s find out how from this conversation with Shaina Shiwarski, the co-founder of Legends, what it’s all about and how its algorithm can be used to self-curate your next travel destination.
Q. What do you think of global travel today?
A. I love that global travel today has grown to this stage that we have created a community that supports people to realize that they can live amore nomadic life. By nomadic, I mean, choosing freedom for themselves before freedom for others.
The implication of this is that corporation, location, or even certain life circumstances can no longer fully dictate where we can live or what we can do. This is possible because of the choice we all have now and the opportunity for people to have access to necessary resources.
Q. How has this view helped shape your vision for Legends?
My journey and that of my co-founder are very similar. Both of us grew up in a very small town. She’s from a small village in the UK while I’m similarly from a small town in Pittsburgh. Growing up, our horizons were not very broad. Who we met, what we were exposed to, and how we thought were greatly constrained by the environment we were born into. Eventually, we both ended up moving to New York where we met for the first time.
For me, being exposed to different cultures, languages, people, backgrounds, and perspectives gets you thinking about what else there is in the world. It’s like how you could sign up for these books from Tahiti and Fiji when the internet first came out, and they would send you massive pamphlets. That commune with nature was so compelling that I aspired to visit certain places in the world.
I ended up studying sustainability in college, but in New York, got into the tech world and didn’t know how it would all come full circle. And so, when my co-founder and I were successful in our respective careers, we reflected on how traveling has helped us evolve into more empathic and compassionate humans. Also, there is this invaluable quality of self-reflecting better when you travel more. So, we decided that we could tie up our career experiences to create a product that helps people achieve all these too.
Me, having spent 10years in tech education, the content creation space, as well as my background in sales and marketing; and my co-founder in finance, we asked ourselves, when you land in that country, do you want to go to a place that pushes your boundaries and how do you go about this safely? How do you find like-minded people that you can connect with?
But we found that as we were traveling, the tools that could help us grow and evolve were not thereto support us in a way that brought the community into it. So, we both said, you know, if you look at all the social apps out there, there are so many that focus on different hobbies and different destinations, but why not travel as a whole? And two years ago, we did some research. Then, about a year ago, we decided to build an app that we would use while we were traveling. And that’s really how Legends came to be.
Q. How have you leveraged technology to make Legends curate a truly personalized community for travelers?
A. Everyone defines a community differently. Also, with each new place you visit, you may be looking for a different kind of community. So, for us, we decided to start by asking, who are you as an explorer? More traditionally, we’ve thought about getting recommendations or getting connected by asking our friends where they went to. It’s almost like when you have a house or you are decorating your apartment, it’s easier to ask someone what they would purchase, instead of you making the decision.
What we discovered was that people look to others to make the decisions for them because they don’t have the information or insights to know where to go next. So, we saw a need to create awareness for explorers to understand who they are, what they have done, where they have not been to, and what they have been exposed to.
We asked ourselves, how do we change the thought around why they want to go to a place next?
Usually, many go where their friends just came back from or they keep going to the same place because it is familiar and planning the trip is easier. Or they could just take a look at Conde Nast or one of these lists and randomly choose a destination because of already-established analysis and certain expectations for the trip to be amazing.
To avoid such cases where a good experience is left to mere happenstance, we created what we call your travel DNA. What your travel DNA does is automate the process of actually mapping destinations that are ideal for you. We visualize your travel destinations instantly when you get into the app.
Your travel DNA encompasses more than just physical places that you’ve been to such as beaches, mountains, lakes, oceans, and rivers that you’ve been exposed to. It’s also about cultural elements, languages, cuisines, climates, and religions. We give you a stamp of the percentage of the world you’ve been to and its different categories; to where you’ve been exposed and where you have not while layering it with where your friends have been to.
Q. How exactly does your travel DNA work?
A. What your travel DNA does is that it creates online a community of not only your friends in your existing social community but matches you with someone in our platform that has gone to the same 10 surf breaks you have and10 that you haven’t been to. This way, you can connect with them on these personal preferences of how you travel and grow your community that way.
Also, imagine showing up in New York, and Legends communicates to your community for you. Last week, I was in New York and four friends were there that I had no idea about. Imagine Legends sending me a notification saying, “Hey, Shaina, Ariana just landed in New York City, want to grab a drink with her?” There’s a lot of communication that happens that we do not see.
We are looking to streamline the community for people to connect while they are exploring cities, traveling, or even staying engaged with the network they have already built for themselves. Information and technology could help us connect more in real life and that’s the type of stuff we are building.
Q. What kind of technology is at work here?
A. From a tech perspective, our goal for everything we build is to automate for you. We are building for the everyday explorer. What we mean by the everyday explorer is the average person who is not getting paid to be a traveler.
Having surveyed the entire landscape and a lot of the technology already in existence such as social platforms like Instagram and TikTok, we have seen that an entire content and creative team has to be set up for you to be relevant on those platforms. This leaves you vulnerable if your stuff is not gaining the traction you need.
We decided to cut to the chase by building everything. We are doing the work for you. Our tech is doing the work for you, intending to share and create connections. We are doing this with technology that you are already familiar with, kind of the matching and geolocation technology while also trying to use the most sophisticated technology that is efficient to improve the process.
Q. Tell us about the algorithm that helps you self-curate your next travel destination on Legends.
A. We are building this algorithm in two ways – the realistic present-day project and the futuristic, crazy one, if you may say so. There are things called ley lines. They are like energy hotspots around the world. It is believed that certain areas in the world where some of the parent pyramids were built are where ley lines exist. These ley lines are spots in the earth that provide certain energy to you.
Additionally, there are also these things that are related to your birthdate. For astrology believers, you could key in your birthdate, year and time for this static astrology map to find cities that are aligned with you. Such locations help you grow, feel grounded, or more connected. Imagine such a world where you feel like you want self-actualization and you are linked to 50cities in the world that will help you achieve that based on your astrology data.
That is one way (the futuristic way) to think about it. The simplest way that we are thinking about right now is where you haven’t been to. We believe a lot of people want to grow and evolve as humans, it’s in our DNA. And that’s where the travel DNA foundation starts. With us being able to tell and the user being able to say,” Okay, I haven’t been to these areas, but my friends have, and here are their recommendations.”
Q. In what way does this algorithm work?
Our algorithm, which we call the growth algorithm, works differently. It pushes people to grow rather than push all of the content on the sites out there. Other platforms push the same information in the same things that a user sees. This keeps the min the same bucket. You go on a site and you say, I like surfing. I like mountain climbing. I like this and that. And these platforms send you only these things.
What if a platform or algorithm were to say, “Okay, you like these things? Well, similar to surfing is wakeboarding and this is an area you have not been to. They don’t surf there but they have this type of activity that is very similar and a lot of our surfers like that.” What we have succeeded in doing is that we have pushed you to go outside of your comfort zone, try something new, and go to a new city.
And what does the world look like when we start to encourage growth and encourage self-actualization? I think it looks like a more empathic, compassionate world. So, that’s how our algorithm is developed, and it’s important to us for it to be positive and growth-oriented.
Q. Beyond determining the next ideal travel destination for yourself, are there other benefits to using Legends?
A. Yes, there are other benefits to using Legends. For one, it helps you stay connected with the local community of travelers at your travel destination. For example, I was in Costa Rica for three months and I met hundreds of people, I might have not grabbed every single person’s number. But if I could have just said, “follow me on Legends,” that would have been much easier. Because then, I’d start creating my community.
Think about the number of people you meet in any given place. From the locals to friends to someone Legends lowers the barriers to connection. you grab a drink with. Also, we take so many phone numbers from people but we don’t have a way to communicate with them because we don’t just want to reach out to them and say,” Hey, how are you doing?” But if we knew they were in the same place, we would connect with them on Legends. Legends lowers the barriers to connection.
For me, the community revolves around this communication problem that we’re solving by how we create the tools to stay connected when you’re in the same location, meeting people, and then continuing that relationship outside.
Also, I was in Greece, sitting with my friend at dinner and we were googling what places to go to dinner the next day or what beaches to go to. I sat there thinking how a new version of this app would be so much better as we had already wasted an hour trying to decide where to go next because none of our friends had been there and therefore, they couldn’t recommend any place.
So, I think sharing is something that has too high a barrier for people. Many share in Excel sheets, some people have stuff on Google, and others get information in their emails. The data does not need to be that difficult to access with the technology that exists today in the market.
About Insured Nomads
Insured Nomads is the first to take an integrated traveltech, fintech and insurtech solution to the world for remote workers, globally distributed teams, expats, and travelers. Their purpose is to make travel as safe and smart as staying at home. They do this by providing health insurance with exceptional medical benefits in tandem with wellbeing, safety, security, and advanced tech-enabled solutions for ease of payment for healthcare, emergency response and evacuation. Insured Nomads is available through affinity relationships, direct, embedded and through select brokers and partners for groups and individuals.
Information on integration, collaboration and partnership contact Brett Estep: firstname.lastname@example.org