When I set out last February on my Bangkok 2 Birmingham trip I did so with the full intention of using it as a springboard to launch the new travel society Dromomaniacs I had just quit my nice corporate job for. Things were looking good for Dromomaniacs – I’d trialled 4 test events before I left my full time job, got over 200 people signed up to a sparkling new all singing all dancing website, got a mention of it in the Evening Standard and got my all time hero Michael Palin to write a foreword for the society.
But some things changed over the course of the journey and I came to some important realisations about the business and myself. Hence I have now rebranding and relaunched as ‘World in’. It’s all about helping people discover unique experiences from around the world in their own city. ‘Worldinlondon’ will be the first business. (More info at end of article).
Here are 5 reasons for the change:
1) Sometimes you just have a better idea. Whilst I was on the road this past year I had a lot of time to think. And hence a lot of ideas. Too many really. But it was this idea of experiencing the world in your own city which really stood out for me and I couldn’t get out of my head. The idea had started when I couchsurfed around London prior to doing the Bangkok2Birmingham trip. Actually, although the subsequent trip had many fantastic moments, I don’t think any really surpassed that month in London in terms of enjoyment, new things experienced or new things learned. Funnily enough, as I spoke to other people about my travels on the trip, almost everyone was more interested in the couchsurfing your own city story than the fact I was travelling through all these ‘exotic’ countries.
I think that as a concept, experiencing (or ‘travelling’) the world in your own city is a much more niche, defined and unusual proposition than a society broadly focused on travel in general. It’s also got great and clear potential to do good – in terms of bringing communities together, and the business model (peer to peer online marketplace like ‘airbnb’) is clear, simple and has been shown to work before. It also fits me more as a person having had some time out to really reflect.
2) I started to question whether I was actually a Dromomaniac. This may sound a bit of a bombshell for someone who actually set up the society and was the word’s biggest proponent. But I started to feel uncomfortable with what the term Dromomaniac actually meant. If you read around the web it often doesn’t have positive connotations. ‘Dromos’ means running in Greek and ‘mania’ means insanity. Others have described it as borderline personality disorder – constantly running away from friends and family and never settling. I’d come by the word via Michael Palin who had used it in a more positive light in ‘Around the World in 80 days’ describing it as ‘the compulsive urge to travel’. I’d wanted to frame the word in a positive light (it’s not in the English dictionary so technically the meaning of the word is up for grabs) and basically use it as a synonym for ‘wanderlust’ (which was annoyingly already an established brand). But actually as the trip wore on, I realised that whatever way one looked at it, the term it wasn’t perhaps right for me as an individual. True, I loved the travel, but actually I loved stopping in one place more. I loved meeting new people, but realised I didn’t want to do that at the expense of my own friends and family. Having returned from the trip I now have anything but ‘the insatiable urge to travel’. Quite the opposite – I feel burned out by constant travel. I still want to explore, I want to experience new things & cultures, but for now I want to do that in my own city with a solid base and sense of ‘home’.
3) The name ‘Dromomaniacs’ was also proving problematic as a business name. Whenever I explained it on the trip, nobody understood what it meant. It was also difficult to spell and for people to remember. Words which have obscure meaning can obviously work (Google!), but I think they should be shorter, catchier and more memorable
4) I think that Dromomaniacs was trying to do too many things all at once. I wanted it to be a great website where people could post their best material, as well as cultivate an offline community through events, trips, classes etc. etc. There were lots of different ideas in there and not a focussed business model. I kept on getting advice to just focus on one. In essence ‘worldinlondon’ is just one of those ideas – the offline events in your own city. But just much more focussed and clear.
5) I hadn’t followed the ‘lean start-up’ methodology with the Dromomaniacs website development. I read the excellent book ‘lean start-up’ too late (in a yurt in Kyrgyzstan) to save myself from some crucial mistakes with Dromomaniacs. If I’d have read it, I’d have never developed the new map based website. I spent a lot of money on that website and from a business purpose I don’t think it was actually helping me any more than the ‘ning’ network I used originally. I still think the map-based profiles are a cool idea, but I hadn’t tested that was what people actually wanted. And I hadn’t defined what business value it was giving me over a more simple system. The whole web development process became a bit of a nightmare – lots of teething problems with the site, developers who were either too expensive or too difficult to communicate with and lots of things to fix. All the issues with the site are eminently fixable, and I still think the functionality (of being able to create beautiful profiles and map your photos, videos and articles on them) is really cool. But perhaps that is a business all by itself – one that doesn’t necessarily need to be called Dromomaniacs. Time will tell what happens with the legacy of the website….
So there we have it. It’s not been an easy decision to change direction – a hell of a lot of personal emotional energy and time went into Dromomaniacs. I quit a good job for it. But, sometimes changing direction is the right thing to do and I feel really good and energised about the decision. Please join me now in making ‘Worldin’ and its first business ‘WorldinLondon’ to be the best it possibly can be. Feedback, ideas and contacts all most welcome. For more information please visit www.worldinlondon.co.uk