Why I started a travel agency for entrepreneurs and what the future brings

28. October, 2014

I always wanted to share why and how I started Refuga and my thoughts about the future. It is an exciting time for Refuga and I am absolutely sure that we are on the right track to do something really great.

I am working everyday to grow the community around Refuga and I see that as a crucial thing for achieving the things I am hoping for. To all of you who are already following the project, I want to open the doors and invite you in.

Why I started a travel agency for entrepreneurs and what the future brings. CLICK TO TWEET

Why I started Refuga

In the summer 2012 I quit my last job as a Country Manager for a Swedish e-commerce company. My girlfriend just got accepted to a masters in Beijing and we had been dreaming about living abroad for years. This was our chance to break free, go on adventure and live in a (very) foreign country.

I started doing some freelance consulting (within online marketing), but I quickly realized that going from having an office and colleagues to being on my own and working from home, could be a difficult transition. It can be quite lonely working alone.

I got an idea. What about finding some other guys who could join me in Spain for a week to work and relax? I thought this was a good idea to grow my own network. I just wrote the idea on my private blog and hoped I could get 5 people together for an awesome week. Within 24 hours I had 20 (awesome) people who had signed up and paid for the trip. A big surprise, but I was in a hurry to arrange the camp.

The first trip to Barcelona was a great experience. I had a lot of fun, the feedback was very good and I saw an important thing; This was the most valuable networking I had ever experienced. After a few days, people who eat, live and work together just start to share and help each other a lot. I have never been at a place, where so much valuable knowledge was being shared. I saw that being a smaller group, together for a week was much, much more valuable than attending a conference.

The first event kickstarted something in me, so I kept on doing the events for Danish entrepreneurs the next two years.


Why I didn’t focus on Refuga right away

The last two years I have had some awesome experiences with Refuga, but I always thought to myself that it was just a hobby project, that I couldn’t turn this thing into a real business, that it couldn’t scale, etc.

It’s funny, because the it was the one thing I was most proud of, the project I had most fun doing and the project I had most success with (in small scale), I just didn’t focus on it. I always pictured myself starting a traditional startup with a lot of employees, funding and an office.

It took me about 8 years to realize that the traditional way is just not for me. I get burned out from working the same place every day. I need to travel, I need to go on adventure, I need to break free and do things my way.

Actually, I think this is a big problem for the startup environment. Being an entrepreneur is becoming so popular it has reached a hipster-level. Everybody wants to do something in “tech”, an app, a SaaS company or something with social media. So many entrepreneurs are just thinking about getting funding and selling their company. It took me 8 years to realize that entrepreneurship – for me – is a great chance to actually do something I really love and live the life I dream about. Workway has slowly transformed the way I see working and living and how to combine these things.


What the future brings

I have been focusing more and more on Refuga. The first international event (held here in October 2014) was the last test for me. If that was a success I wanted to focus 100%. Being together with 10 different nationalities in a beautiful house for a week for adventure and work, was one of the absolute best experiences of my life.

After the bus had taken the participants from the house to go to the airport, I was sitting outside the house with my girlfriend, Michelle, and talking about the week. I had a fantastic week, people was giving incredible feedback and when they left they gave me a hug. Sounds like the perfect life and business and I just realized that this might be a once in lifetime chance to work with something that is really, really amazing.

I am sure that the future will bring a lot of good things for the project. I will start doing more trips myself, but I am happy to tell, that I am working hard on making it possible for other entrepreneurs to easily host Refuga trips themselves.

I see more and more people trying to do events like these and I want to help kickstart that movement even more. I want to enable proactive people to host events, to access to my setups and the Refuga community. I really think that every entrepreneur out there should go on a trip like this. It’s difficult to find a better place to learn, go on adventure and have fun for entrepreneurs.

I will tell more about all the new things that are coming in the near future.

Thanks for following the project, I hope to see you somewhere out there!

The future plans for @refugacom, a travel agency for entrepreneurs. CLICK TO TWEET.

Nikolaj Astrup Madsen I am the founder of Refuga. I'm danish, but I'm traveling the world while building Refuga and whenever I have time I go for a run in the mountains. I hope you will join me on this journey!

7 responses to “Why I started a travel agency for entrepreneurs and what the future brings”

  1. Steen Olsen says:

    To be proud of your startup is core if you want to go all the way. Making a difference based on REAL VALUE like what you do, Nikolaj, is everlasting and even though I have not yet been able to attend any of your trips, I’ve LOVED it from the start. Hardly anything is scalable like “pure online based concepts” but you can still make this scalable – it is all a matter of angle and perspective. Keep up the good work and keep bringing joy to others and yourself, and you’ll be a “rich” man…

  2. GERARD says:

    You are influencing in 1000’s of people’s life. Your dreams have became part of our dreams. Is your way of working, and your way of thinking wich makes the #workawaycamp an amazing experience. Keep walking we will follow you!

  3. BizzVenue says:

    Great blog post. Very informative and inspirational. You took a big risk leaving everything and moving to China. Luckily it paid off big time!

  4. Workaway is best startup-come-together I have ever attended. Looking forward to January and Morocco. My 5th Workaway!

  5. Jean Chow says:

    I am fascinated by your project. Kudos for launching it. Will be following your progress. Am about to launch a test on a similar project and see possibilities of sharing. All the best!

  6. Sagar Shah says:

    I would love to join if you are planning to travel Asia and Australia!

  7. I love reading about the project and I think it has a great opportunity to becoming very very popular. The thoughts about making it easy for others to host events, is something you should hold on to.
    Hope to see you soon

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