We love it when our alumni graduate from Dispatches to their own projects. Beth Hoke contributed to Dispatches for several years, posting from a dozen countries across Europe while handling some of our social media. Now she’s working in South Florida building Crowdsourcing Europe as she plots her return to Europe later this year.
“I’m stuck until Americans are welcome back in Europe,” Beth said in a phone interview. “But I’ve been thinking about doing (Crowdsourcing Europe) for a while.”
Crowdsourcing Europe is meant to be a one-stop shop for European travel information … even for the most off-the-beaten-path destinations such as Kosovo and Liechtenstein.
Her website already is getting traffic for posts on places like Andorra where there just isn’t a lot of info out there.
Good business ideas should solve pain points. The idea for a mega-portal to try and corral all travel information came out of her own travel frustration of “having to search 20 different places for bus routes in Croatia,” Beth said.
Part of her approach is – as the name implies – crowdsourcing, incorporating content from other bloggers and content creators like herself who’ve traveled in Europe and have great tips to share.
Like how to take a 3-euro bus ride from Dublin airport to the city center rather than taking Uber or an expensive shuttle. She links back to sites from contributors. “So if they want to increase their readership, they’re welcome to send me a link to their content and we can do each other a solid.”
But Crowdsourcing Europe is not just for budget travelers. Beth wants to help all kinds of travelers, including solo travelers, female travelers like herself, travelers over 50, luxury travelers, and LGBQT travelers who want to know where it’s safe and they’ll be welcome.
So, how to fund this ambitious startup? Beth wants everyone to be able to access all of the content, so the business model is not subscription-based. Instead, there are affiliate links that direct readers to relevant information. If you, like I, think someone is surely already doing this, we’re wrong. For the moment, Beth seems to have this market to herself. There are websites such as Wikitravel, but some of that info hasn’t been updated since 2007.
Everything on her website is no older than one year, and she’s updating daily with new content and refreshing the links to keep it as current as possible.
Crowdsourcing Europe adheres to the startup adage that entrepreneurs who do what they love have better odds of success. Beth’s personal story is – in and of itself – amazing and inspiring, all about breaking away from ordinary life and embracing adventure. In November 2016, she left Chicago for Madeira after she saw the Portuguese island on an episode of “Bachelorette.”
“When I got there, I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have a job,” she said. “I had a backpack and my daughter’s dog, so I needed to make it work.”
To survive this all-in, make-it-up-as-you-go expat life, she started teaching English online in 2017, then added freelancing and became a Dispatches regular. She housesat in France. She visited family in Scotland and Germany, then took them along as tourists in Paris, where she documented the Gilet Jaunes movement as they trashed the Champs-Élyseés. She returned to Germany, where she grew up as an Army brat and the Netherlands, where she camped out in our guest room. Made it to Spain, Turkey, Luxembourg, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Italy, and I’m leaving several countries off the list.
She roamed around Europe until she returned to the U.S. in December 2019.
Most of it was fun and beautiful. But there were less-than-fabulous moments. Like her 2017 trip to Italy, where just about everything went wrong that could go wrong. Which, of course, was one of the inspirations for Crowdsourcing Europe.
In Arpino, Beth’s train stopped at the bottom of hill below the village – “a very, very steep hill” – and there was no public transportation to get her, her daughter, her dog, and their luggage to the top. She’d researched all the travel connections, but when buses don’t run and trains are canceled, it makes for a miserable trip. Dispatches readers were merciless. Travellingmaz posted on the story, “So unprepared and badly organized. Research everything!” To which Beth replies, “We researched the shit out of how to get around. I have a master’s degree in library science, so I know how to research.” But the information wasn’t there, and in the Italian tradition, transport schedules are, ah, flexible.
Beth wants to help others avoid her misadventures: “This is a passion project for me. I wanted a site where I could find all the information I needed. And I want to share that information with others.”
So, introducing her “can’t-go-anywhere-due-to-the-pandemic-so-can-only-dream-of-travel project,” Crowdsourcing Europe. We’re honored to be part of her journey.
You can see Beth’s extensive Dispatches archive here.
Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.