GlobeSisters, a new social startup launched through Berkeley SkyDeck, is the creation of Pauline André, an avid traveler and Berkeley alum with a desire to make solo traveling safe for women.
With this focus, GlobeSisters offers an expanding network of female travelers looking for affordable adventures, according to André.
André, who began solo traveling when she was 17, fell in love with solo traveling based in local communities. She had been hosting travelers from all over the world in her home near Paris and said it was as if each visitor brought their country and culture to her. She herself was able to travel solo through Peru after working there as a teacher.
However, two years later, during a trip to Chile she had a bad experience with a male host who tried to get her to sleep in his bed, which led André to reflect on her experience and come up with the idea of GlobeSisters.
“Traveling solo, it can be hard to be secure and have experience with locals without having creepy experiences,” André said. “I spoke with women who had similar experiences and women who never solo traveled … GlobeSisters was meant to have women feel empowered to travel and solo travel and have local connection and true connection.”
One of the key points of GlobeSisters is that it only focuses on female travelers, according to André. Beyond this, all host homes must have at least one female member of the household, and she must be the main point of contact for the travelers, André said.
The security and vetting process for potential hosts and travelers is a central part of GlobeSisters for André. She said anyone who wishes to join GlobeSisters must have their identification verified using an official ID. This creates a series of helpful safety tools, André explained, including the idea that if someone is kicked out of GlobeSisters, their ID will be banned and they won’t be able to rejoin.
“We’ve been super lucky,” André said. “Before we began, I talked with a lot of travelers who said ‘oh, we would love to have this, we would love to have a community of travelers and people we can share and local and not super expensive accommodations.’”
Solo and local traveling can be a more cost effective way of seeing the world, according to André. She explained that for GlobeSisters, users just pay for a pass for a designated amount of time — one month, two months or a year — and can travel as much as they want within the GlobeSisters community of hosts during that time.
Part of the focus on solo and locally hosted travel is the ability to enjoy new communities when staying with locals, according to André. She explained that the GlobeSisters app features a community section for people to see and share events going on around them and where they can meet fellow travelers or locals.
“When you want to go somewhere you can have some fear because you do not know some things,” André said. “This way, you have the best local tips and connect with the right people even when you’re traveling.”
Berkeley SkyDeck and the campus community have been essential to GlobeSisters’ founding. According to André, most of the community that is participating in GlobeSisters is located in the Bay Area. Beyond SkyDeck, Berkeley’s StEP program for student entrepreneurs helped launch this social startup and find mentors and potential partners.
Some campus students, such as freshman Hannah Wu, have also begun to work for GlobeSisters as a brand manager. Wu said most of her work with GlobeSisters has been finding potential partners and contacting graduate student instructors, or GSIs, who may be interested in the startup. When speaking with GSIs and students, Wu said many of them were interested in the program and the idea of being able to travel safely.
“When you talk to any girl and you have this opportunity for you to be more independent and be able to explore the world, I think most of them are very interested,” Wu said. “There is a lot of pent up demand and excitement around traveling and needing to meet new people.”