After the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the mission of the travel-related startup Tradelasts shifted to help those who are putting their lives on the line.
“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Perhaps no other time in recent history has proven that saying, adapted from poet Robert Burns, truer than now, when the COVID-19 pandemic has turned everyone’s lives and plans upside down.
Take Pier White, for example. He had a great idea and a well-thought-out plan for a travel-related business, which came to fruition just before reports started coming out of Wuhan, China, of a mysterious illness. Travel, as everyone now knows, is one of the major casualties of the pandemic.
But another aspect of the coronavirus crisis is the effect the public health crisis has had on those on its frontlines: first-responders and healthcare workers. And White’s business model lent itself to a unique plan to respond to those who have been putting their lives on the line and feeling the stress from the battle.
The idea of White’s startup — which is called Tradelasts — is to create memories by establishing a community of trusted vacation homeowners. The South Bend, Indiana-based company is a membership-based, concierge-style vacation service where participants join a trusted community of homeowners and offer the use of their homes and vacation homes in exchange for points to be utilized in staying at another member’s home on their own vacation. The concept allows owners to leverage unused time in their vacation homes and create lasting memories for their families by visiting other great properties in different locales within the network.
“We were in the process of working with investors, recruiting members, building out our tech platform and beginning to launch initial marketing efforts, when the nation and the travel industry shut down. Not a good time to launch a travel-oriented business,” said White, a 1994 graduate of the University of Notre Dame.
Recognizing the tireless efforts of physicians and medical responders in the pandemic, Tradelasts is intent to match vacation homeowners with medical personnel to provide first responders and their families a free vacation stay. Once the crisis is over, the free vacations will serve as a gift of gratitude for the care they’ve provided to embattled communities.
“When the pandemic put our launch plan for Tradelasts on hold, I asked myself what I could do to help and how we could adapt as a company,” White said. “The decision to pivot was the natural answer to both questions.”
White got the idea from his own battlefield experience in the U.S. Air Force. In the wake of 9/11, he flew 50 combat missions over Afghanistan and Iraq. Veterans often return from a deployment traumatized by what they have seen and experienced, making it difficult to return to the normalcy of civilian life and successfully reintegrating with their families, he said. As a result, veterans experience higher divorce and suicide rates due to post-traumatic stress.
“Our healthcare workers are now under the same kind of life and death trauma as our military personnel, and their mental health and family lives are at risk. When this is over, it’s going to be tough for them to get back to normal. A free vacation where they can escape to a beautiful place and relax with family is a great way to start the personal healing process,” White said.
So Tradelasts’ new plan has several components:
- Anyone can show their gratitude for deserving medical personnel by donating time in their vacation homes (a Tradelasts membership is not required to donate).
- The public can also recognize others by nominating medical personnel for vacations.
- Medical personnel who worked on the pandemic frontlines can sign themselves up for a free vacation.
- The public can donate to Tradelasts’ Gofundme page to help cover cleaning costs and help families with travel.
- People can volunteer their time to help make the vacations possible.
With the nation just starting to open up restaurants, stores and other businesses, White hopes the healthcare heroes vacations will be operational sometime this summer. Until then, Tradelasts will concentrate on recruiting members, donors and volunteers, and getting the word out to the medical community and the general public about the nominating process.
Anyone wishing to help with Tradelasts’ efforts to extend free vacations to healthcare workers as a vacation homeowner, donor or volunteer can visit Tradelasts’ website or contact White at firstname.lastname@example.org.