A New Way to Shop and Travel — And How Grabr is Empowering a Shift in Perspective

Travel Disruption Summit Guest Blog

Editorial Note: Grabr has been selected as the moderator guiding the “Travel” roundtable at the Travel Disruption Summit, a one-day symposium bringing together thought leaders in the travel industry to New York City on May 23rd. During the event, participants will discuss the opportunities for innovation at each phase of a traveler’s experience, including the actual travel to and from a destination.

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In a world where money is so often linked to success, it’s an exciting time in the travel industry. We’re starting to tip the scales, choosing to redefine what really constitutes as “wealth.” We’re choosing to climb Machu Picchu rather than the corporate ladder and instead of counting our vacation days, we’re counting the stamps in our passports.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from living in six cities around the world, it’s that travel can be insanely expensive or dirt cheap. It all depends on where you’re going and how you plan to live once you get there.

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In many ways, travel is more accessible than ever before. Companies are becoming open to the concept of remote work, which in turn gives employees and contractors flexibility and the freedom to choose their environment. Then there are the writers, bloggers and content creators we see on Instagram. They’ve found a way to live a life fueled by their passions, with some earning more money than they ever would have at a corporate job.

Yet, while travel has become more accessible, access to products and worldly goods still remains broken. I learned this first hand after moving to San Francisco. It wasn’t just difficult to get my hands on my favorite products from Barcelona; in many cases, it was downright impossible. Admittingly, I was after my “wants” — comforts of home like gazpacho and Spanish wines. For others, it’s the “needs” that aren’t being met.

People in certain countries usually have to pay 3-4 times the price to access the same products we take for granted, if they’re even available at all.

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In Argentina, for example, our shoppers request what many of us would consider basic, “everyday” items we can easily buy on Amazon or any store — things like baby clothes, kids toys, collectibles, gadgets, makeup and even bed sheets, cereal and vitamins.

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When my husband and co-founder, Artem, and I thought about how many people are lacking access to products and goods around the world and how many travelers fly abroad daily, and can simply share extra space in their suitcase and bring those items, the light bulb kind of went off and Grabr was born.

It might sound like a new concept, but in many ways people have been bringing items to their friends and family for generations. The only difference is that now Grabr allows people to extend their “friends and family” circle, connect with travelers who are going their way and get access to the worldly goods with their help. Travelers in return, can subsidize their trips every time they travel as well as make travel experience more meaningful by connecting with locals and helping them get products they desire.

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As a founder, one of the biggest rewards is empowering people to travel.

For many travelers, the “getting there” is the biggest hurdle, and the one that hinders them the most. So, it’s not surprising that most travelers on our platform use their earnings to offset the cost of their roundtrip airfare. They’ll fly to, say, South America or Asia, deliver their orders and then continue on to neighboring countries.

With Grabr, you have complete control over where and when you travel. You’re able to bid on items you can deliver on your trip, knowing that you’ll earn a commission (usually 20–25% of the item price) with each delivery.

Most travelers we’ve seen deliver about ten items on their trip, earning around $350 to put toward their trip. Some of our more ambitious travelers have reimbursed their entire trip, including roundtrip flights, 4-star hotels and cultural experiences on-the-ground.

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For me, I love learning the “why” behind using Grabr. Sure, money is a driving force, but it’s more than that. We have US-based expats using Grabr to fund their flights home to see family and friends. Others are huge sports fans eager to see their favorite team in action.

Another benefit of using Grabr, and one I think most people overlook, is the reduction of our carbon footprint on the earth. When you consider how many planes Amazon and FedEx charter just to deliver goods, it’s a little alarming.

When compared to travelers who fly abroad maybe two or three times a year and can deliver some of these items in a more organic and eco-conscious way, it makes me hopeful for the future of travel.

Besides making money, Grabr travelers make lifelong friendships

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This is something we really hoped for but weren’t necessarily expecting. Our travelers are always telling us how they got coffee one day with their shopper, or how their shopper invited them to a home-cooked meal, or that they toured them around their favorite neighborhood. Grabr’s grown into a marketplace for sure, but it’s also emerged as a full-fledged community, where one person is helping another.

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