Why I Started a Travel Company

Travel has always been an essential part of my life. From my earliest experiences as a young man, hitchhiking across Canada and meandering through Southeast Asia, to filming a documentary in Central and South America, and pursuing business ventures throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.

I remember the first time I stepped foot outside of North America like it was just yesterday. My destination was Thailand. Of all the iconic backpacking pilgrimages, no country has yet captivated my imagination like Thailand. The first time I stared down the infamous Koh San Road, my life flashed before my eyes as I watched truth-seeking travellers, peddlers, partiers, locals and people from a from all walks of life and all over the world converge on a tiny 1km street. It was wonderfully chaotic and a bit terrifying but as I’d grown up in a small town seeing all that life virtually exploding at the seams was eye-opening. Hell, Thailand imprinted itself so hard upon my wanderlust-filled soul that the name of this company, Kosan, was inspired by it.

Later on, I was further inspired by the haunting prayer call and the smell of smoked meat and tea in Istanbul; the majestic grandeur of the Andes in Bolivia and Peru; the hospitality of the Colombians; the lifestyle of the Italians; the quiet strength and amazing food of the Vietnamese. I could go on and on about my love for the beauty and diversity of the world.

 

I always knew I’d start multiple businesses throughout my life—I just didn’t know what they would be. My first startup was Naked Brand Group Inc in 2008.

Year, later when I sold Naked I was pretty sure of two things:

  1. I wanted to stay in the apparel business and
  2. I wanted to keep travel at the core of my life.

As someone who has been to almost 30 countries, I’m qualified to say that shopping for my travels sucked. It meant searching the internet and racing all over town to pick up the things I needed. It took days. The items were usually some combination of hiking gear, sporty athleisure wear, or just regular everyday clothing. Nothing was exactly right. Also, I discovered there just wasn’t one place where travellers could get all their needs met: gear, clothes, accessories, and information. Putting on my entrepreneurial hat, I realized there was a market for practical luggage, stylish functional travel wear and a one-stop-shopping kind of experience.

I asked my friend and co-founder of Naked, Alex McAulay, if he had the same experience. No question about it—he did.

Over the years, I’ve come to enjoy the camaraderie between partners in a startup and the value of associating with incredible people. That is why Alex and I asked Karyna McLaren to join us in starting Kosan. Karyna had been an intern at Naked, then went on to achieve her masters in Fashion and Merchandising at RMIT in Australia. After all that she travelled the world. We admired her endless positivity, impeccable work ethic and “get shit done” mentality.

So, we wrote a good old-fashioned business plan, Designed and created a backpack and later a Travel Dress as our Foundational products, did a couple successful Kickstarter campaigns, and becme one of the top 10 most successful apparel Kickstarter ever. That was when we realized we were on the edge of a huge opportunity. We’re now developing a full range of clothing and products.

 

 

Helping people prepare for travel, and connecting travellers and locals alike is at the core of what we do every day. Simply, our team believes that the more people who travel, the better off the world will be. Why? Because travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, intolerance and narrow-mindedness. Mark Twain’s words, not mine. So, from a practical standpoint, our contribution to travellers will be high-quality clothing, gear, inspiration, information and, most importantly: community. We want to help you go out and see the world and, also, to bring the world to you. But it doesn’t stop there.

A greater responsibility is now bestowed upon us, travellers. Beyond the life-changing experiences, we enjoy by immersing ourselves in new cultures, we must share our newfound lessons and insights with others (but not in an annoying, know-it-all way). And yes, we are 100% serious when we say that this has to go beyond the beautiful photos and videos we post on Instagram. More important are the lessons of tolerance, acceptance, human rights, equality, environmental awareness and our shared humanity.

These, the very essence of what we experience while travelling, is what we need to share. We must strike back with acceptance, gratitude, compassion and love wherever prejudice, bigotry and the burning fuel of fear exists. Along the way, we’ll shed outgrown habits and beliefs in order to see, learn and grow with new eyes. You’re an ambassador. You’re a voice to be reckoned with, transforming from tourist to wanderer, from outsider to local, and from stranger to friend. We are creating bridges for the human race where there were none before.

With travel comes the acknowledgement that the world is imperfect and that we must fully face the hardships, suffering and conflict that penetrate the fabric of life each and every day. And right alongside that—the pure love and beauty and our shared humanity.

What I believe and share with you is deeply rooted in my travel experiences. They’re lessons learned from fellow travellers, young and old and from different backgrounds. Through these lessons, I’ve come to believe that the choices and actions we make as travellers truly impact, not only our own lives but, the world around us. Every interaction is a chance to show respect, grace, appreciation and kindness. Every situation is a choice to learn, grow and share. We are both students and teachers to everyone we meet. As such, we have a great responsibility—to travel with the recognition that there is a purpose to satisfy something beyond ourselves. Often, the purpose is fulfilled with something as subtle as a smile, a bow or a hug; other times we are called to action, even simply to engage in a conversation with another human being.

 

I’d even hazard a guess that this mindset may be deeply rooted in your heart as well. While I haven’t met you yet, I know that travellers are a special breed who open their eyes and their hearts to the world.

I’m dedicating the next chapter of my life to building Kosan. I’m excited to have you a part of the journey.

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