Travengers AU is celebrating 3 years, so our Founder Agnes is sharing her story of starting it all up, how and why it came about, and how she kept the drive throughout COVID, to where we are now.
Thank you for being here!
It’s wild to think that it’s been 3 years now since the launch of Travengers AU.
The idea of Travengers came about 5 years ago when I moved to Australia. Here I worked with 2 young neurodivergent men, who made me realise that loneliness and lack of access to things like friendships and travel, were not just a problem for my autistic sister in Norway, it was a global problem. What frustrated me the most were the misconceptions and lack of acceptance of young people who who “fell between” mainstream groups and other disability groups. And how badly they were sometimes treated by their peers, and that finding like-minded people seemed so difficult.
But if I wasn’t going to do anything about it myself, how could I complain that the opportunities didn’t exist?
The launch happened in January 2020, after I had been working on it for about a year, building the foundations, the brand and a plan. I was scared to launch it, but I realised that this was more important than my fear, and I was clear on the impact I wanted to create and the change I wanted to see.
And from there it grew.
Local families started hearing about Travengers and got in touch. We did our first trip to Port Stephens and had a ball, and while we were planning our 2nd trip, COVID hit.
We quickly transitioned into doing online Virtual Travel Groups every week, exploring the world online and connecting socially, as we were locked down for months. My autistic sister could join too, and still does on our Wednesday night virtual travel group.
By the time of the first iso break, we started doing local social events followed by local trips. It was unreal seeing people coming together and connecting! The COVID waves came and went, again and again, and although it was frustrating and uncertain, giving up was never on the cards.
We have now grown to a community of almost 100 people who comes regularly, and our subscriber and follower list combined have grown to well over 2000 supporters, travellers, future travellers and their families, who now knows that travel and social connection is possible.
So far I’ve gone through 4 exciting accelerator programs, have an advisory board and mentors, and received some prizes and nominations, where each have been quite surreal.
We have groups in Sydney and now setting up in Melbourne, with our first trip running from VIC as we speak! We’ve travelled around Australia and New Zealand, and have plenty more in the pipeline this year 🙏🌎.
As a founder I’ve found it hard to decide how personal I should keep Travengers. Should I keep myself private? Or let you all get to know me?
Well to me, Travengers has always been personal. When I decided to go down this track I made it my mission, and decided I would do what I can to make a change for the many young people out there.
So here’s a little bit more on the personal side of this journey..
For those who don’t know me. I’m from an island in the north of Norway. I’ve lived in Australia the past 5 years, after I originally came here to work in disability for 6 months.
The time here has been life-changing in many ways – I’ve been lucky to build a strong network and have come to deeply love Australia and its people and nature. It has been a personal journey, going from having a safe and stable job as a Learning Disability Nurse, to founding a company in a different country.
Starting a business didn’t feel natural to me, and I had to re-learn what I thought I knew about myself . Since then I’ve learnt a lot and I continue to do so.
Being so far away from family has been a big challenge. 4 years ago my father had a stroke while he was at an autism advocacy board meeting, in support of my sister. He became a wheelchair user with 24/7 support in a nursing home, and has lost the ability to speak. For 3 years I couldn’t visit family due to the pandemic.
In April last year his condition worsened, and I needed to take a break and go home. It was a short break for Travengers, but he recovered and I returned to Sydney. This December, my dear Godfather with Down syndrome left us. He was a ray of sunshine and always extremely close to me, and one of the reasons I started studying Disability Nursing 12 years ago.
In times like those it’s hard being on the other side of the world. But my father was an autism advocate for my sister, and my Godfather my earliest inspiration, and it has only strengthened my drive to keep going.
And here we are, 3 years later, with an amazing team and a growing community of young people who are connecting, learning, growing and exploring. And just having fun! And it fills my heart each time I see a photo, hear your feedback, or join and event myself. It makes it all worth it.
So let’s celebrate those connections, and you.
My sister never got invited to birthdays by the kids at school.
At Travengers you’re all part of our community, and so here is our 3rd year birthday invitation – to you!
Whether you’re new to Travengers, and old friend, or you would like to come and get to know us, we would love to see you on Sunday 26th Feb in Manly!”
From left: 1. My dear Godfather and I, 2. Justin, Mark and I while cutting birthday cake last year, 3. My Godfather and me as a child, 4. My sister Elise and I on Zoom
The greatest birthday gift would be to see you there, and to read your testimonial!
So if you have ever had a positive experience with Travengers, we would greatly appreciate a testimonial / review from you 🙏 💛
Check out our Instagram post for our 3rd Birthday event