“Travelling is a great experience, but how can it be better?”

That’s the question I asked myself when I was reflecting on my past travels. Before I get into my start-up’s story, let's go back to Saudi Arabia for a minute.

I was born in Dhahran and lived there for 13 years before moving to Ras Tanura. During my time in Saudi Arabia, I went to ISG Dammam, Ras Tanura Aramco School, and Dhahran High School (DHS). The best part about living in the Kingdom is the people you meet. You interact with people from all over the world -- hear their stories, learn about their culture, and make friends who come from different countries. Living in Saudi Aramco adds to that experience and it helps you build a strong sense of community. Then, at some point, you leave that world – either going back to your home country, or a new place for education or work. After finishing high school, I went to Canada for University. All my friends went their separate ways, spreading across the world.

Fast-forward a few years to 2020. When the pandemic hit, like many of you I missed travelling and was thinking about my previous trips. Reminiscing about my trips led me to think –Travelling is a great experience, but how can it be better?

How My Time in Aramco Led me to Build a Travel Start-up
Nigel, Furqan, & Steve (Nigel's housemate)
How My Time in Aramco Led me to Build a Travel Start-up
Nigel & Furqan

For me, the best trips have always been those that I took with friends, where I was able to reconnect with them. Like that time when I spent a weekend in New York to visit my high school friend Nigel (fellow Aramco Brat!) and seeing New York from the perspective of a local. We covered all the tourist spots — the Brooklyn Bridge, DUMBO, SoHo, Times Square, and Magnolia Bakery. But undoubtedly, the best part of the trip was exploring hidden gems – having dinner at a Moroccan restaurant with Nigel’s housemate Steve and the next day, having brunch with Nigel’s other friends in Manhattan. If I didn’t know anyone in New York, I would have simply covered tourist areas and done all the touristy things because that’s what all the blogs recommend! But I don’t think I would have had the same experience of getting to know the city and its people a little more intimately.

How My Time in Aramco Led me to Build a Travel Start-up
How My Time in Aramco Led me to Build a Travel Start-up

In late 2019, I took a trip to Spain with friends from DHS. Even though we hadn’t seen each other for so many years, as soon as we landed in Spain, we picked up where we left off. Reconnecting in Spain, helped strengthen the friendship we had. As we get older and make new friends, traveling together helps maintain previous relationships.

Just before the pandemic hit, my friend from university, Aly, visited Toronto. While we met only for a quick lunch, we spoke about our career paths, graduating from Queen’s University, and what we wanted to do in the future. It was clear that both of us had entrepreneurial ambitions and wanted to build something that would add value to the world.

How My Time in Aramco Led me to Build a Travel Start-up
How My Time in Aramco Led me to Build a Travel Start-up

After a few months and lots of online conversations later, we thought about developing a travel app.

If we hadn’t met for lunch that day, we wouldn’t have built on our friendship from Queen’s and wouldn’t be working together today. With a passion for travel and personal growth, both of us wanted to develop something that provides an opportunity to explore different cultures and learn more about the world and ourselves. But it would be better if we can add to that an element of building relationships. Travelling and connecting with people makes our trips memorable.

I realized that most people have a social network beyond the country they live in. As we get older, that network gets wider. Our network keeps moving as we relocate for education, work or family. It led me to think that it would be nice if, before a trip, I could see if any of my friends are located at my travel destination and reconnect with them before arriving…. Or if one of my friends had a layover at the same airport! Initially, we dismissed the idea, thinking that Facebook already serves this purpose or perhaps, this might only be useful to a third-culture kid. We are lucky to come from such a diverse background and not everyone might have that kind of network.

How My Time in Aramco Led me to Build a Travel Start-up
Trvlar team

We dug deeper, did some market research and spoke to friends who love to travel. They loved the idea and said that something like that could change the way they travel! A lot of times you see a friend’s Instagram story and realize that they are visiting your city but by the time you see the story, it's too late to plan something. Aly and I started building a team and got to work on this idea of trying to improve people’s travel experience and that’s how Trvlar was born.

Trvlar is an app that connects you with friends and helps make travel easy. On the app, you can let your friends know before you travel – whether it’s a local trip or an international adventure. The app connects you to your friends when you are in the same location—in the age of social connectivity, imagine having an in-person interaction. We work hard to build a network, now let’s work to maintain it!

Facilitated by our app, I envision seeing Aramco Brats having reunions around the world! We Aramcons, are fortunate to have met so many people and have a strong community. But let’s make sure we maintain those relationships even after we leave. Imagine having a cup of coffee with your neighbour a few years from now – maybe in a new city, maybe in their hometown!

The Trvlar app launches on the app store this summer. In the meantime, you can join the waitlist at www.trvlar.com. Let’s travel and reconnect!

I'll leave you with this question, “What has made your previous trips memorable?” I would love to hear your answers, feel free to drop a note at furqan.s.khan93@gmail.com.