Featured Explorer: Gabby Beckford

Brooke Ostrom

Brooke Ostrom

Content and Community Manager

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Getting paid to travel is a dream for many. But, what if we told you that dream might not be so far out of reach? Gen Z travel expert and entrepreneur Gabby Beckford has created her website,  Packs Light , to show young women how they can find and apply for funded travel opportunities worldwide. 

Growing up, Gabby said her “quirk” was applying for anything, including online poetry contests and cereal box sweepstakes. During her college years, that quirk drove her to apply for experiences that allowed her to travel while studying. She was granted more than $70,000 in scholarships, graduated debt-free, and achieved one of her goals to study abroad. After college, she began her engineering career but later quit her job to pursue her side project on a full-time basis. She now helps others easily find the resources that she spent so much time looking for and applying to online.

Gabby’s website and social platforms provide tips on how to apply for travel opportunities, gives insights into solo female and Black travel, and highlights her big adventures. She has been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, National Geographic, and more. 

What inspired you to take the leap of quitting your job and start prioritizing travel more?

I grew up with parents who loved to travel, and I've always had a personal love of travel, too. I was always going to unique places for spring and summer breaks during college, and I was always looking for an opportunity to see and experience something new. When I studied abroad in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, completely funded my study abroad scholarships, that's when I realized the different possibilities for careers and ways of life. From that point, I knew one day I would own my own company and be a digital nomad!

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A lot of people might not realize there are funded opportunities available to help with travel. Can you tell us about the dashboard you’ve put together for opportunities people can apply for?

There is so little awareness around these opportunities and that is the exact reason I created the Packs Light Paid Travel Opportunities Dashboard. The PTO Dashboard is a collection of funded travel programs that range from international fellowships, to global speaking engagements, to study abroad scholarships, just like the one that let me study and travel in Dubai and changed my life. I like to call these types of opportunities “gateways to travel” because they often allow people to have their first international travel experiences in an intentional and meaningful way. These paid travel opportunities not only look good on resumes, but they grow your international network, help you have once-in-a-lifetime experiences while avoiding debt, and (just like me) expand your worldview.

Why do you think it’s important to be traveling now in your younger years?

I think it's important people start traveling as soon as they can because of the compound impact that meaningful experiences have on the rest of our lives. I always say that travel is just life, concentrated. Everything you experience in your daily life, like interacting with different types of people, being exposed to new things, and learning about yourself and the world around you, is heightened tenfold. I think that having a diverse range of experiences as a young person makes us more curious, more self-aware, and better global citizens.

What have you learned about yourself while traveling?

The biggest thing I learned about myself while traveling is that we are all the sum of our curiosity. Life hands us a certain set of situations, and that helps some people and hurts others. However, the more curious you are about life, the things you can do in yours, and the ways you can improve your life and the lives of those around you, the better off you'll be. I learned that opportunities surround us at every step, but it's a skill to actually see them and have the confidence to go for them. I am very lucky that I have had that skill since I was a young kid applying to cereal box sweepstakes. I want to share that skill with the world.

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What is some of the top advice you would give to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?

My top advice would be to start today. Start Googling today, make that resource list or write that book today, or just make that vision board today. Analysis paralysis is the biggest killer of dreams, and those who just start and embrace trial and error and failure have no other option than to eventually succeed.

You recently posted a video on your 2022 goals. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on now and what’s next for you?

My big goal this year is solidifying our income streams! With the pandemic, I was just happy to be able to travel and see more of the world in 2021. This year I am going to be a lot more intentional about our finances so that both me and the team I've built can grow and do the things we want to do with stability. I'm releasing digital courses that have been collecting dust in the back of my mind pretty early on this year, so I am excited to see how those help people!

To follow Gabby, and to keep up-to-date with her adventures,  visit her website .