People have been asking Madeline Jhawar where they should go in Italy for most of her adult life. In her 20s she was a Butterfield & Robinson guide leading bike tours around Italy. She learned the logistics of group travel, the language, and most important how to make sure people had a great trip.
In 2008 she started her own travel business, Italy Beyond the Obvious, with a mission to share with her travelers all the amazing things she loved about Italy, from popular sites like St. Peters to the hidden gems of the Amalfi Coast. She charged a flat fee for each travel day which freed her to include whatever would suit her customers best. Madeline became one of the first to build a business that offered “fee-based travel”, with predictable charges and clarity for the customer.
Over the next few years she found many travelers who were ready to pay for a different kind of travel, tailored to fit their needs and also somehow letting each person be engaged in the places and people they visited. This success led to exposure on the travel podcast circuit with TBEX and Host Agency Reviews, which increased her success and more. Suddenly other travel planners were asking how they could do what she did, but for a different locale. She helped them where she could, and stored their names away in a folder.
In 2017 she had over fifty requests in her folder. She asked Devin McKinney, a marketing consultant she’d hired to help with her email marketing, if he knew how to set up a beta test for a new business training people to start and grow their own travel planning business like Italy Beyond the Obvious. Little did she know that Devin was a long time startup guy who’d been running beta tests at every company he’d ever been with.
Devin was trained in software and technology and marketing and had been doing startups for over twenty years when he met Madeline. Doing startups in the go-go years of the 90s trained him to think big and be bold. When his ebook company was acquired in 2000 he moved to Rome and set up shop there as an independent web designer and part-time actor for three years. He has since been helping startups succeed for over 20 years, as a consultant and even a mentor in a local startup incubator where he lives in Eugene, Oregon, also known as the “Silicon Shire”.
Together they took Travel Beyond the Obvious beyond its first eight beta students to a full web site and social presence. When COVID hit all their experts were hit as well, including Madeline. Every one of their community of experts lost all their customers overnight. Madeline and Devin rallied in support of their travel experts and expanded the idea of a certification program into a reality. They all believed that there would be a surge in travel when the pandemic eased, and they were able to prepare their travel expert community to ride the wave.
Their encouragement proved to be true, and by the end of 2021 when travel restrictions were lifting their travel experts started bringing success stories to the monthly TBO Mastermind calls. In 2022 they launched the Travel Expert Network where travelers can find exceptional travel experts for their trip planning needs. The roster of certified travel experts continues to grow and their plans to support their experts grow with it.