Our Partner Stories: Where To Next feat. Ayen Dela Torre

Our Partner Stories: Where To Next feat. Ayen Dela Torre

by Audrey Ferriol December 20, 2018

In Things That Matter, we work together with so many like-minded brands and organizations to further our advocacy of living compassionately and intentionally for a more inclusive world. We are inspired by these partners every single day and we want to share this amazing, powerful, and empowering culture with everyone else in the community, especially with you, our advocates!

Through Our Partner Stories, we'll highlight journeys, advocacies, and communities of these groups and individuals and we sincerely hope that their stories are meaningful and helpful to you. We do know that, at this point in time, the world needs to hear more from these voices.

The first of this series features Where To Next, a community of creatives with a passion for adventure and storytelling. They create products, share stories, and organize events that aim to inspire others to travel with passion and purpose. Here's a conversation with one of its co-founders, Ayen Dela Torre.

What year did you start?

We started in 2014. Since college, Rachel, my partner, and I always wanted to make a project together. At first, we wanted to organize an exhibit and maybe write a book. But we kept setting our ideas aside. Until one day, we were chatting online and we decided to create our own travel planner.

What was your biggest inspiration for starting? Or who was your biggest inspiration for starting?

We started Where To Next because we wanted to have the freedom to be creative in our own terms.

I worked as a management trainee in an FMCG right after college. It was a good opportunity to learn but it wasn't the right environment for me to grow. At that time, I thought that by quitting my corporate job and moving to another country, I would figure out my purpose. The thought seems absurd to me now. The former happened, but the latter is still a work in progress.

During that life break, I met friends who just graduated from high school, as well as a 60-year-old Japanese man who was on his own path of self-discovery. We found common ground in our struggles and in our hopes. I learned more about the things I enjoy doing, like writing, taking photographs, facilitating discussions, and the compromises I was willing to make in order to keep doing it. My six-month stint in Denmark taught me that travel cannot fill a void, but it can remind you of what truly matters, and motivate you to be braver with your choices.

Travel cannot fill a void, but it can remind you of what truly matters, and motivate you to be braver with your choices.

When I got back home, I reached out to an old friend and started pursuing two things I love: travel and storytelling.

What obstacle almost stopped you but didn't?  

When we started, we didn't personally know people who were on similar paths. Most of our friends were in corporate or taking over family businesses. They had valuable insights but their challenges were different from ours.

At one point, we couldn't keep up with the demand, our quality on both the product end as well as the customer service part were failing. Buyers would send us harsh feedback and we would cry about it for days.

What became our compromise was to find other means of income while growing Where To Next on the side. I joined an education startup while Rachel took on projects as a freelance graphic designer. This became our way to meet more people, learn different methods of working, improve our skills and quickly apply those lessons to our baby. The next step was to not take everything personally. Get as much feedback as we can and use that feedback, not as an excuse to give up, but as fuel to make things better.

What was the most surprising lesson you have learned in doing what you do?

Start making art before you are ready. If you want others to be changed because of your work, then you need to muster the courage to show it.

When we have a new project, we start a poll among our friends, asking them what color and feature they prefer. We test out our workshops during social dinners. We don’t wait for the plan to be finished, we seek advice along the way. Schedule sharing time when you’re 30%, 60%, and 90% done.

Start making art before you are ready. If you want others to be changed because of your work, then you need to muster the courage to show it.

It's also important to surround yourself with people who “get it”. Avoid the ones who will just agree with you all the time and fluff your ego. Your tribe will tell you exactly what you need and why even when it stings. Offer to help others with their own projects. Evolve along the way.

What keeps you going when the going gets tough?

It's our fifth planner and a part of me was worried that people would no longer notice. There are many brands and ideas that compete for people's limited attention. How do you stick out?

I remind myself that it's not about standing out. It's about making people feel something, enough that they want to connect with you and your work. Three weeks in and the conversations feel familiar. People bring our planner to places and send us photos without any prompt. They keep our handwritten notes. They spot tiny errors and tell us they love it either way.

When the going gets tough, I go to our tribe for comfort. I remind myself why we chose this path, to have the freedom to dictate how we spend our days, and how we want to change others through our art.

I remind myself that it's not about standing out. It's about making people feel something, enough that they want to connect with you and your work.

Do you have a favorite product from your brand?

My favorite project to date is Life Stories. It started as a coffee shop talk series. It has evolved into a trip with workshops and other interesting experiences. The goal is to add purpose to your passions by connecting you to like-minded individuals and communities.

It was inspired by a living library event I attended in Denmark. Speakers served as books, they share certain chapters of their lives to strangers. People listen and exchange conversations after. Scandinavian people are often seen as more reserved, but I felt so much emotion and empathy at that time that I wanted to do more of it.

MAD Travel helps us run these events and Life Stories has also been a good avenue to learn from different people and organizations. (That’s how I met [Things That Matter]!)

What's next for you and your brand?

2019 will be the first year we will run Where To Next full-time. It took a while for us to get here but I’m excited to see what we can come up with. I honestly don’t know what’s ahead but I’m sure it will be fun to figure it out along the way.

What is your biggest dream for your brand? The milestone that will make you say that you have finally "made it" (does not mean you'll stop)?

In the near future, I want us to be able to publish books. To organize more in-depth workshops. To serve as a platform for local creatives to spread their work and be able to sustain it.

I think our interests will evolve and there will come a time where we will go on to do other things (we joke it will be a breastfeeding community once we have our own families), but I want to grow Where To Next to a point that it can become an idea or mindset that anyone can run with.

The book you remember the most

Linchpin by Seth Godin, Resonate by Alex Wolfe, To Shake the Sleeping Self by Jedidiah Jenkins. (Sorry, I love too many books!)

The sustainable practice you are trying to keep

Just being more conscious with what I consume.

Your New Year's resolution

I don't do NY resolutions. I think you can make changes at any point in time.

Social media is a big part of our work but I consume too much of it. I get anxious when I'm unable to reply to a certain comment or when I compare my brand's growth to others. An artist I look up to, Sofia Cope, said that it's good to remember who you are before the world told you who you should be.

My current resolution is to be more present and do things I inherently enjoy like writing and meeting people over coffee.

The person or people you want to have drinks with, dead or alive

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Social media is a big part of our work but I consume too much of it. I get anxious when I'm unable to reply to a certain comment or when I compare my brand's growth to others. An artist I look up to, Sofia Cope, said that it's good to remember who you are before the world told you who you should be.

Ayen is wearing earrings and bracelets from Things That Matter brand partners, Sesotunawa and Kinamot nga Buhat.

 




Audrey Ferriol
Audrey Ferriol

Author

Co-curator of Things That Matter and an advocate of intentional and compassionate living for a more inclusive world. You can follow her stories on Instagram at @audreyferriol.




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