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Travel is back and in a big way. According to a new report from the US Travel Association, travel spending ($100 billion) in April 2022 was 3% higher than 2019 levels for the first time since the pandemic began, and more than a quarter (28%) of travelers are planning to spend significantly more than their travel budget for 2019 for marquee trips this summer. The World Travel & Tourism further projects travel and tourism traffic in the United States in 2022 is expected to exceed pre-pandemic levels, with the sector contributing nearly $2 trillion to the US economy – an increase of 6.2% compared to 2019.

The outlook is so optimistic that tourism industry vendors are rolling out new and exciting offers and options designed to entice travelers to go their way. Adding to the excitement are innovations introduced to increase our joy in exploring the world and to promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). While researching new and emerging travel trends, I came across an inspirational group of entrepreneurs – Tosh Swain and Kaysie Nielson – who are keen to make sure your time on earth isn’t boring. They’re about to start a startup called The Experience Shoppe, which aims to help would-be hikers establish themselves as a community and easily connect with experts (guides, trainers, mentors, and creators) for proven experiences . things to do” and enjoy new experiences in their own cities and around the world.

The Experience Shoppe particularly caught my eye as it has a strong focus on helping people enjoy their own hometowns in a fresh way. Want to change your coffee dates for something more memorable? Are you taking the family for an unforgettable experience? Trying something off the beaten track for your birthday? Start a new hobby? Learn something new? Discover a new place? This is their speciality!

I was so impressed by Swain and Nielsen’s enthusiasm and disrespect for the status quo that I met them for a chat. Here are some top takeaways.

MK: Can you first describe what The Experience Shoppe is and who it is for?

TES: The Experience Shoppe is designed as a ‘things to do’ hub for locals of all ages and interests. A more grassroots advice that avoids tourist traps and outrageously expensive adventure tours. It’s a one-stop platform where travelers and other fun-seekers can connect with local experts and others to discover unique things to do with friends or family, for hookup, self-expression, and socializing locals to explore new cultures and places that live there. Users simply access the platform from a computer or phone and customize a search – or let us suggest ideas – to get great travel ideas.

It is a particularly well-suited solution for those seeking a deeper connection to their own community; more opportunities to experience their own hometowns or wherever they are; culturally immersive and authentic experiences to truly understand and feel a part of the places they visit; develop new hobbies; and to meet new people.

MK: Who contributes to the platform?

TES: We believe in passion over profit and carefully curate what’s on our platform. We seek and screen like-minded locals around the world who are happy to share their knowledge and offer unique, original and personalized ideas that create an inclusive and authentic community marketplace – an engaging space where your world grows with new horizons. Unlike most travel sites, we’re all about the experiences and social connections users create on our platform. Over the past year, we’ve handpicked enthusiastic local developers who offer free or paid online or in-person experiences that help users travel to new places and generally create novel experiences – even from the comfort of their own homes. The Experience Shoppe focuses on unique, handpicked, spontaneous and hard-to-find local offerings to enhance and enrich our life experiences.

Whether it’s an astronomy tour, a beginner’s aeronautics class, breathwork, drumming lessons, nighttime paddleboarding, authentic Mexican salsa cooking classes, laughter yoga, or other non-traditional activities, we cut the noise to offer verified activities that are distinctive and offered by passionate local experts.

MK: Tell me about your personal and previous career paths that have led you to develop The Experience Shoppe.

TES: We have dedicated the last two years of our lives to this project. We gave up the security of our salaries to work for one of the nation’s fastest growing tech companies, selling everything we owned and taking odd jobs to live on our own terms while we build this significant platform. Not just for us, but for everyone who believes that living every day on this side of the earth is worth cultivating. As a gay, multiracial, women-owned Benefit Limited Liability Company, we also see the world without limitations – an inclusive world where we support the continued growth of each other, ourselves and our environment. That’s our goal, and we currently have a Kickstarter campaign underway to bring that vision to life. Those who support us will enjoy some tremendous benefits.

Scientific studies show that new and diverse experiences are associated with increased happiness, and this relationship is associated with a greater correlation in brain activity. “Our results suggest that people feel happier when they have more variety in their daily routines — when they go to new places and have a wider range of experiences,” said Catherine Hartley, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at New York University and one of them the co-authors of the paper.

With this in mind, Swain and Nielson created The Experience Shoppe. The company is founded on the belief that together we can uplift the world through shared, meaningful experiences that enhance our collective happiness through an inevitable expansion of our individual skills, knowledge and achievements. The more we consciously cultivate enriching experiences, the more we increase overall life satisfaction and well-being. And according to research, we’re going to be so much smarter.


Forbes Business Council, Newsweek Expert Forum and Rolling Stone Cultural Council Member Merilee Kern, MBA is an internationally recognized brand strategist and analyst reporting on cultural shifts and trends as well as notable industry changers, makers, shakers and innovators across all categories, both B2C and B2B. This includes experts and thought leaders, brands, products, services, destinations and events. Merilee is founder, Executive Editor and Producer of The Luxe List and Host of savvy life Lifestyle TV show airing in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Atlanta and other major markets on CBS, FOX and other top networks; as well as “Savvy ventures“Business TV show that airs nationally on FOX Business TV and Bloomberg TV. A productive voice in the lifestyle, travel, hospitality and leisure industries, an authority and a taste maker, Merilee keeps her finger on the pulse of the market in search of new and innovative must-haves and exemplary experiences at all price points, from affordable to extreme. Her work reaches tens of millions worldwide through television (her own shows and numerous others she appears on) and a variety of print and online publications. Connect with her at and /Instagram / Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIN



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