I wish someone told me to not stress about the small things too much — to look at the bigger picture. I worry a lot about our traffic, but I’ve realized now, during these unprecedented times that I need to simply do my best. I accept that not everything will always work in my favor. Be flexible, and don’t be afraid to deviate from your original plan. Make a plan, make a backup plan, and make a backup plan for your backup plan. Your path to success may not be what you thought it would be — but with determination, perseverance, and continued forward motion you will get there.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gunjan Prakash.
Gunjan Prakash is a visual artist by profession, mother and wife by choice, and a traveler since birth! She continues to develop her passion for vacationing while running her successful Facebook group, “Families Who Love To Travel,” made in partnership with Families Love Travel. Gunjan uses both platforms to empower families and solo wanderers alike by telling her story.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in New Delhi, India, in a very progressive family. As a child, my parents believed in experiencing life to the fullest, so we traveled around the globe together. Immersing myself in multiple cultures really helped shape my open-minded worldview. After I completed my BA in India, I had dreams of moving to the United States and working for MTV. I did eventually move to New York for graduate school and managed to land my first job at MTV. I really enjoyed my time there. My career took off and I bounced around a few other media companies as an art or creative director until I had my twins. I took a break for a while to care for them, and once they grew older I turned my attention back toward my career. Art and design had always been my passion, but I soon realized taking a typical nine-to-five as a creative director wouldn’t be feasible anymore with the demands of raising my family in NYC. After some time focusing on myself and my future goals, I chose to pursue my hobby, traveling, in a more work-focused way — which led me to where I am today.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Do something well or don’t do it at all. I don’t accept sub-par performances in any aspect of life. For example, I knew that by taking the plunge into the entrepreneurial world to launch my online magazine Families Love Travel, I would have to hold myself accountable for everything. I’ve learned that ultimately I am responsible for every failure, along with every success. This philosophy extends to multiple aspects of my business. In terms of scouting family-friendly hotels, restaurants, and things to do to feature in our magazine, I strive to maintain a level of selectiveness. I only showcase the very best, whether that’s location-wise or budget. Just in case, I also suggest to hope for the best, but plan for the worst.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I really admire Anthony Bourdain. I love how true he was to his love of travel, and how it shined through everything he did. I also enjoy cooking, so it’s really a joy to witness how passionate he was about food. When planning my own travels, I definitely draw from experiences I’ve seen in his documentary series. I’ve consulted his shows before traveling and they’ve always provided a renewed perspective on where I’m heading. He travels to a lot of countries many would consider ‘off the beaten path,’ and I really enjoy doing this too. I crave local, authentic experiences, whether at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant or a hidden-gem attraction. I appreciate how he doesn’t steer toward the typical tourist options — he stays true to the essence of the country he’s visiting. His presence is like a curious guest, attentive but never imposing. This inspires the way I travel today and how I view the world with open eyes.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
Before the pandemic, I mostly worked toward launching my magazine, Families Love Travel, including starting an online group for parents looking to connect with other traveling families — this group has since grown to the largest family travel group on Facebook. Prior to this, I had experience in a range of positions within the arts field, beginning with my first job at MTV as a motion graphic designer. I also worked for various media companies after this. I’ve pretty much done it all — freelancing, full-time employment, working on documentaries, television shows, etc. But my enthusiasm for traveling the world led me to form Families Love Travel, which we worked hard to launch leading up to right before the pandemic.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
Families Love Travel launched right at the beginning of the pandemic, so we definitely scrambled to pivot our content to align with what the world is going through. At first, we launched our Travel From Home series, which allowed families to explore worldwide destinations such as Paris, Peru, and Mexico from the comfort of their own home. As the pandemic progressed and many opened up to the idea of safe, outdoor travel, we directed our focus toward publishing COVID-friendly articles. Hiking, biking, and other local outdoor excursions surged in popularity during this past summer, so a lot of our content dealt with how to navigate these safe vacations as a family. Pieces we’ve published range from “How To Travel To Virginia With Kids During COVID-19” to “Essential Packing Items For COVID Travel,”which both provide parents with tips for traveling during the pandemic. As those trends have now died down with colder weather, we’re publishing content to help families add certain destinations to their future bucket lists. For example, we recently published a list of“Family Vacations To Plan A Year In Advance.”
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
As previously mentioned, once my kids grew older I realized even though I had more time, I still couldn’t work long hours. I had to make a decision that would benefit both my career and my family. So, during that time, I started attending a lot of self-help and inspiration workshops. One particular workshop dealt with ‘turning your passion into a career,’ which was a very interesting prospect to me. The workshop and my instructor advised us that to turn something into a career, we needed to make it central to our life. That’s when I decided to make travel my brand. Taking that workshop inspired me to take a leap and truly pursue travel as a career option. Of course, I’ve always felt very passionate about traveling, especially with my children. A lack of online resources for parents like me to ask questions or express opinions inevitably caused me to start my own Facebook group, Families Who Love To Travel. Our success (we now have over 30,000 members) eventually spawned my online magazine, Families Love Travel.
How are things going with this new initiative?
It’s going pretty well! Our Facebook group Families Who Love To Travel did really well in terms of engagement before the pandemic, but this predictably died down once families started to travel less. As I’ve discussed already, we really did launch Families Love Travel during a less-than-ideal time. But in terms of our viewers, our magazine is doing fantastic. Google is beginning to recognize us, and our organic traffic is growing. Given our circumstances, I think we’ve done well. But we also hope once the vaccine is widely available and people can travel, our magazine will pick up much more. When families are ready to begin vacationing again, we’re ready to support that through community recommendations and advice!
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My husband has always believed in me. Following my travel dreams has been a tricky gamble from the beginning, so it’s really wonderful to have someone supportive by my side. In addition to funding my company, he continues to encourage me to pursue my passion and has uplifted me every step of the way. Additionally, Families Love Travel would not be where it is today without the incredible team that has been with me from the beginning. I’m lucky to work with a group of incredible women, most of them mothers, who have put so much energy into making Families Love Travel the best family travel magazine it can be.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
Navigating COVID-19 during the launch of my business has definitely been the most interesting challenge. I didn’t expect such a warm welcome from readers in my Facebook group or other businesses in the same industry. Getting in touch with travel and tourism boards during one of the worst times for travel has been an interesting surprise, for example. But we don’t take it as a negative, we’re instead using this travel lull to put our foot in the door. Obviously, bigger, more established companies have more manpower than us right now, but our humble group of mostly moms is doing well.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
First, I wish someone told me to not stress about the small things too much — to look at the bigger picture. I worry a lot about our traffic, but I’ve realized now, during these unprecedented times that I need to simply do my best. I accept that not everything will always work in my favor. Be flexible, and don’t be afraid to deviate from your original plan. Make a plan, make a backup plan, and make a backup plan for your backup plan. Your path to success may not be what you thought it would be — but with determination, perseverance, and continued forward motion you will get there.
Knowing your audience is important too. I always make sure I’m putting out a relevant product. Content is nothing if your audience isn’t receptive and engaged. Keep your finger on the pulse of your business, track what works and what doesn’t work, set a new course if necessary, and keep moving forward. Adapt, grow, and improve. What makes FLT unique is that we have a dedicated Facebook group, which has grown to be the largest travel group on Facebook, where we interact directly with our audience. Every recommendation, tip, travel hack, you name it, all come from personal, tried and tested feedback. That puts us in a unique position to engage 24/7 with our audience and enables us to put out relevant content with a very quick turnaround time. This is even more efficient thanks to our virtual, all-women team, many of whom are working moms.
I also wish someone told me how important it is to develop moxy, along with your passion. Positive morale is such a significant source of inspiration for my employees and me. Having the determination to succeed while launching a travel company during the pandemic is a steady process for us. How do you push forward on the hard days and celebrate the good ones? A genuine love for what we do propels us forward. Not to mention, I wish someone had told me how to build a brand during a pandemic or to create awareness for something that is currently a “luxury.”
Finding a good team is hard, so when you do, hang onto them! Given that my team is fully remote and located in various locations across the world, finding a mutual time to come together and discuss ideas is integral to staying on the same page. It’s also important to maintain a fair balance of checking in with everyone without micromanaging, guiding their decisions while allowing them to follow their instincts and individual interests. Still, it’s important to develop goals together, to let everyone have a say in what direction our magazine is heading. What makes my magazine unique is its community connection, and my employees are part of this community too.
Finally, make work FUN! If it isn’t fun it isn’t going to be successful. You have to believe in what you do, surround yourself with passionate people who believe in what you are aiming for as a team. Everything we do is authentic because it comes from a place of love.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
Moderating a travel group when traveling isn’t allowed has been very stressful for me. This applies tenfold to running a travel magazine, which presents its own unique challenges to navigate. I’ve been called irresponsible, unethical, and have had to deal with a lot of negativity daily. One of my coping mechanisms is to disconnect from the source of the stress and take a minute to self-reflect on why I do what I do. I love to travel and produce content for a reason. I want to help other families spend joyful moments together. I’m not necessarily promoting traveling right now, but there will come a time when the industry opens up again. And if I don’t work on what I’m doing, I won’t be able to create a useful resource for when that time comes. So I think an important part of optimizing your mental wellness during the pandemic is reconnecting with yourself, remembering your passions and where they’ve brought you. It may be stressful now, but it’s all toward a future goal.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I’d love to inspire a movement that devalues materialism. I truly believe in appreciating experiences over personal possessions. I try to instill this into my travel philosophy too, since I always want to live in the moment during my vacations. Building memories with the people I love is much more interesting than a shopping spree. I’m also raising my children with a similar mindset. Instead of giving them neverending toys during birthdays or holidays, I choose to go on vacations that we’ll all enjoy. I cherish spending precious time together. Whether it’s with your parents, grandparents, or extended family, I’ve learned there’s much more to life than video games or television. People are more important than acquiring things. After all, traveling isn’t just about where you go — it’s about forming connections with those you love.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
As fellow twin parents, I’d love to sit down with George & Amal Clooney — perhaps in their Lake Como home! I admire Amal’s work, and love that the Clooney family is able to balance their professional lives with family and travel.
Connecting with other women in the travel industry always leads to interesting conversations. I admire Julia Cosgrove’s work as Editor-in-Chief at AFAR and always look forward to reading her thought-provoking articles. The travel industry suffered greatly in 2020, along with many other industries, and it forced us all to evaluate how we can move forward. I read an article she wrote that encouraged people to utilize the power of travel as a force for good — which is a philosophy I embrace with my family and share with our readers at Families Love Travel.
I have followed many women on their career paths including Neha Parikh, President of Hotwire, who I admire greatly. As a veteran of the industry she has made a huge impact on the way we travel, and as someone who is always on the hunt for great deals, I am personally a big fan of what she has done at Hotwire! I’d love to have lunch with her and discuss Families Love Travel’s growth.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!