Travel Deeper, Live Louder: A Conversation With Travel Entrepreneur Sierra Busch
When artist, content creator and travel entrepreneur Sierra Busch moved to Italy to study abroad in college, she had no idea this experience would set the foundation for a career in travel, and eventually lead to founding her own company. Her passion for providing others with meaningful travel experiences sparked an idea for a company. So, after graduating from college, Busch worked for a luxury travel company and even as a local guide in Italy. Finally, with experience and insider knowledge, she launched Creative Edge Travel.
Busch says she loves inspiring people to go beyond the surface of a new culture. As a young woman entrepreneur, she’s also teaching other women to live louder and imagine bigger things for their lives.
We spoke to her about how travel has impacted her life, what it was like to launch her own company and her advice for other women dreaming of doing the same.
First, can you tell us about what travel means to you? What were some of your most impactful trips, and why?
Travel has been a surprise gift for me that unexpectedly altered my life’s path. On the first day of my study abroad program in Italy, they told us our lives were about to change, and I remember sitting there thinking, “Yeah, this is going to be REALLY cool, but it’s not going to change my life.” Seven years later and the experiences I had there eventually led to me changing my entire career and transforming into what sometimes seems an entirely different person because of it.
Travel is how I find meaning in my life- connecting with others, recognizing what inherently makes us human and what differs just because of where we were born. Community and growth. Stepping outside of my life at home teaches me that I’m not stuck to the cultural expectations I grew up with in the US (not that those are necessarily so bad). I can choose a way of living that works best for me.
My most impactful trips are those where I closely connect with locals and make friends- making artwork for an Italian family in exchange for room and board for a month, or working for a tour operator in Southern Italy for three months, for example. These opportunities have allowed me to become somewhat of an insider in the culture and it’s these incredible, local experiences that I want to help other travelers experience through my company, Creative Edge Travel.
After you graduated, you started to work for a luxury travel agency. What was it like to work on the other side of things, instead of traveling yourself?
Once I made the switch from the arts to working in travel, I was amazed that all the time I had “taken off” for traveling was highly-sought, valuable work experience that deserved lines on my resume. I had never thought such an amazing job was even an option. On top of that, my passion for Italy set me apart with an expertise- imagine that, a real-world job emerging from a genuine passion!
Designing luxury trips for clients was a different game. I travel cheaply and off-the-beaten-path while my clients were staying in 5 star hotels overlooking the Ponte Vecchio. However, my travel knowledge helped me know what to anticipate for these clients and how to research destinations to create really smooth trips. My experience in the luxury market has given me the ability to think above and beyond- to plan really special and beautiful moments that make the journey extra special and memorable. I also get to use my creative side!
My specific advice for women is to just go for it! We women tend to be hesitant and feel we need to stay to please people around us and do what seems “acceptable” (which usually is NOT quitting your job to follow your passion).
After working for a bit in the industry, you decided to launch your own company. When did you know this was what you wanted to do?
My friends were coming to me for travel advice and I noticed that I felt the most alive and “lit up” when I had the opportunity to tell them about places and experiences that I knew they wouldn’t find on their own and would really make their trip more authentic.
So I actually started with the big, dreamy goal of helping people have more meaningful vacations in Italy by leading my own cultural immersion trips. The first step was to gain experience, which I did by working in the industry from a variety of angles and it all unfolded from there.
What has been the most challenging and most rewarding aspect of being a young woman entrepreneur? How has your company changed your perspective on travel?
Great question! I think the most challenging thing is all the leaps of faith you consistently have to take. These leaps sometimes come naturally and others take a lot of time and strength and perhaps painful sacrifices to get there. But either way, people around you are going to question and doubt what you’re doing. However, the flip side is that you get to be an example for how to live a little louder and imagine bigger things for your life. So many people feel “locked in” to their career path. It is certainly a privilege to have the opportunity to step out of that but other times it’s just fear. If I can help others live a more beautiful and honest life, I’m happy.
For people taking your trips, what new perspective or experience do you hope they gain?
I want to show travelers what it’s like to break past the surface tourist level and experience Italy from the perspective of an Italian. We’ll walk through a small village with a local elder who has never left and hear his stories about every corner. We’ll learn traditional dances and cook with the nonna. We’ll have aperitivi with local young people and find out why we keep hearing that Italian men are still living with their mamas at age 30.
Connecting in this way and asking deeper questions allows us to have an experience that informs our perspective of the world and who we are within it.
For Pink Pangea readers interested in going into the travel industry, what advice do you have? And specifically, what advice do you have for women dreaming of launching their own travel company?
First, decide why you want to go into the travel industry. Having a driving cause will guide you to make the right choices for you.
I’d also encourage you to pick an area of the world you really love and learn as much as possible about it.
And of course, you need to build a network. People tend to get nervous about this step but really it’s just about keeping an eye out for events that sound interesting to you and going. Always bring business cards and a rule that you can’t leave until you’ve handed out at least five. In my case, I hadn’t yet worked in the industry or started my business so I just made basic business cards as if I had. Talking about what I wanted to do was hugely helpful in refining the idea, and motivating to hear really positive feedback about it. You can also join networks like Travelistas United, which I started for women entrepreneurs in travel.
My specific advice for women is to just go for it! We women tend to be hesitant and feel we need to stay to please people around us and do what seems “acceptable” (which usually is NOT quitting your job to follow your passion). The only person we really need to please is ourselves and that voice inside that isn’t going away. Break down the big goal into steps. And know when it’s the right time to take a leap.
Finally, if you could envision any dream for the future of travel, what would it be?
Oh man, there are so many things! What is at the forefront of my mind is sustainable travel- both in terms of the environment and keeping amazing places authentic. My dream for the future of travel is that we can find a way to travel that positively impacts locals but doesn’t alter the culture. I’m afraid this is a pipe dream but I can’t help envisioning it. I’m really excited to study the issue more and find ways I can practice sustainable tourism in my own business.
Travel Deeper, Live Louder: A Conversation With Travel Entrepreneur Sierra Busch