Building Community During COVID-19: An Interview with Kerry Botensten of TripSha

Communities are so important, especially during this time. In this blog series, we spoke to three leaders who build communities around travel and sustainability. They gave us their insight on what they are doing to change the way they build community during this pandemic.

This interview is with Kerry Botensten, the Head of Trips for Tripsha is a community and platform for travelers who want to connect. It’s a place to meet new travelers, join curated trips, host trips and create memorable experiences with like-minded travelers.

As the Head of Trips for Tripsha, Botensten currently leads curated trips while both training and guiding hosts in successfully leading their own trips. Her trips are unique to the travelers attending, consisting of adventures off the beaten path, local experiences, current culture and lots of laughter. She credits her experience on Wall Street, working in entertainment and her passion for travel bringing her to her current role. After leaving her financial job and traveling to over 50 countries, she decided to combine her passion and her professional experience and share travel with others.

In all of your work, what have you learned about the importance of building community?

Kerry Botensten: Communities are built to bring like-minded people together, creating a bond of similar interests, similar personalities and similar processes. Communities are the foundation and support system during rough times (COVID) and the growth/inspiration during good times. You are ultimately creating a “team” which is always stronger together than separate. This is evident in our daily lives. When you’re at a baseball game, most people want to be surrounded by fans of the same team creating a community. When you’re at the gym and you take a yoga class, you’re in a community.

Travel communities are the same. Leaving your daily routine to travel to an unknown place can be scary, so travel communities can help ease this uncertainty. At Tripsha, we believe that travel Communities are extremely important for developing trust, security and a comfort level for all travelers. On a corporate level, the Tripsha community creates brand loyalty, an understanding of our mission and a unified network among our hosts and our travelers.

It then tiers down to multiple other subset travel communities. Are you adventurous? A foodie? Beachgoer? Historian? Figuring out how you want to travel, what you want to do while traveling and the pace of your travel are all key factors in travel communities you can join within our community. We know that our travelers want to find others to travel with, feel secure with, discuss travel interests with and unify with while traveling.

How did the coronavirus impact your organization and its plans for 2020? What changes do you anticipate for 2021 and beyond?

K.B.: We noticed the impact very early in the year as travelers questioned traveling internationally. The fear that came out of China had our clients hesitant about booking trips. We understood the uncertainty and wanted to support our travelers as much as possible. Due to the virus, Tripsha has postponed all trips through mid-summer and is being updated as the environment changes.

As for beyond, travel will slowly resume. I expect that the summer and fall trips for 2020 will mainly be domestic for each country. Traveling will start with transportation via road trips, trains and shorter domestic flights, not internationally. The focus will also shift away from large crowded cities to mountains, beaches, and more remote destinations. To start, travel groups will be smaller and among friends, as people adjust to being in group situations again.

In 2021, international travel will return but maybe selective on which region and type of travel as each country eases restrictions at different times.

Have you changed the way you build community right now? How have you responded? How do you plan to respond?

K.B.: We have changed the focus of our community but have not stopped building it. The focus has shifted from travel inspiration and creating groups in foreign destinations to being supportive, positive and a stabilizer for this uncertain environment. We want to be a safe positive space for travelers who have questions, concerns and need support.

What has been the impact of the coronavirus on your community’s members?

K.B.: Our members are connected because they all love to travel, to meet new friends and to travel together in groups. Right now, none of this is possible, therefore it’s creating a sense of emptiness. Most travelers feel like they have lost the ability to have a balanced lifestyle of work and travel. They are confused, anxious and want to know when life will resume and when they can travel again. Some are feeling isolated and yearning to connect with others who feel the same way. This is why we intend to keep our community present and supportive for all.

What advice do you have for everyone under quarantine, and in particular, travel lovers?

K.B.: We always say that we don’t have enough time. This is your time to learn something new, spend time with loved ones (whether virtually or at home), work out, write, meditate, cook, etc. Catching up with old friends or family will help with the lack of human contact. And travel lovers, you can still go online and plan for future trips, write about old trips, create videos and photo books from past trips. Reminiscing and celebrating past trips are positive ways to keep the travel spirit in you alive. I also strongly believe that knowledge is the key to stabilizing the mind and helping with potential anxiety. Keeping up with the news and current events will give your mind the power to create your own assumptions and feel confident with the vast amounts of information. Because of this, I have been posting the brief news highlights every morning on my Instagram stories. It’s for people who don’t have time to read/watch the news but still want to understand the highlights of the ever-changing environment. It’s true; knowledge is power.

When you look to the future, what are you hopeful for? What challenges do you foresee?

K.B.: I’m hopeful and know that we will all come out stronger, more resilient and not take as much for granted. We will also learn more about ourselves and become more confident. This time at home, without our normal socialization and time schedules, will help us realize how simple life actually is. From a financial perspective, it will also help us understand where and how we spend our money.

The challenges will be reversing the fear of social interaction: getting on an airplane, going to museums, hugging each other, eating at a restaurant, using public transportation, etc. These are all functions of society that, in a month, have become abnormal to us. It will take time, science and our communities to build this up again. I have no doubt we can and will!

What resources can you share?

K.B.: Email alerts are my savior! It’s a quick, easy way to get an idea of what you want to see whether it’s flight deals, news updates, shopping deals, etc. For the current environment, I visit the CDC website as well as the U.S. Department of State’s travel website. I also receive local city alerts (via phone).

If you’re interested in learning more about Kerry’s work and Tripsha, visit her at: