Gap Journey: BA Start-Up with a Twist
Article by Rachael Leonie
“We’re going skydiving. Want to join?” Seconds ago, the young boss had politely excused himself from our interview to take a call, so naturally I was scribbling furiously in my notebook in an attempt to both busy myself and fill in the story gaps I hadn’t had time to write before.
“Rachael?” –Oh. It appears he had been talking to me.
As I had just recently begun my interview with Luciano Garcia, head of Gap Journey, I was a bit confused. And I don’t think that’s an odd feeling considering it’s not exactly Miss Manners etiquette to ask someone to jump out of a plane upon meeting them.
“I’m –” *clears throat* “–I’m sorry?”
Luciano Garcia then dove into an explanation of how they were arranging an event for interns in the Buenos Aires area and that himself, along with his employees, were going to suit up and skydive as a type of team building activity and that, naturally, since I wanted to see what their company was all about, I was more than welcome to come. Okay, then. Given my fear of heights, I quickly steered the conversation back to my set of interview questions in hopes we could stick to the script.
But we didn’t. Because Luciano Garcia’s story isn’t the average, entrepreneurial success story I was expecting, just as his startup, Gap Journey, isn’t just your average company.
Luciano Garcia was born and raised in Buenos Aires –a true porteño through and through. He loved–and still loves–the city where he grew up, but once his 20’s hit he wanted to see the world and thus began to travel. Curiosity took him to England, where he studied in London during university. Shortly after graduating, his ears perked again at the chance to travel through the states. By that time, the travel bug had bit, and he found himself North of Argentina, volunteering throughout Bolivia and Peru. He had his fair share of world experiences, yet he was still craving more: more knowledge, more experience, and more adventure.
So he continued seeking opportunities, like that which he had landed in Bolivia, which would allow him to both see more of South America and travel with intent; complete immersion in a culture that would broaden his worldview while participating in an organized program, favorably with others looking for the same type of experience. And yet, his searches came up blank. Programs like these either didn’t exist in certain cities, or their information wasn’t accessible via the internet. There was a gap in the market, and Garcia was determined to fill it — not because he necessarily wanted to be a CEO at 30 or be running a small company out of his apartment, but because he didn’t want to feel like he –and thousands of other students– were missing out on opportunities that could potentially be just a mouseclick away.
By 2013, Garcia had his vision: Gap Journey, a company that would database internships in Buenos Aires (which soon grew to include other South American countries and, now, major cities throughout the world) and match students with those internships according to their travel interests and professional skills. At the end of 2013, he was converting his vision into an actionable business plan. As his idea grew, so did the work that had to be done, and he needed more hands on deck to make his vision a reality. But Garcia wasn’t just looking for talent; he was searching for sharp, hungry intellectuals who craved adventure yet still had both feet on the ground. Enter Martín, his first recruit who he scouted through a friend of a friend in a Start-Up group. Martín was Argentine but well-versed in world travel. He would be the first piece in Gap Journey’s eclectic mashup of expats and Argentines that materialized in Garcia’s apartment-cum-office over the year and a half that followed.
The Gap Journey team has grown significantly since the company’s birth. There’s Brittany, an energetic, former-personal trainer from the states, with a cured-to-perfection porteña accent; Ben, an Australian adventure-seeker who spent months kayaking through Peru before landing in Buenos Aires; Tim, a British-born businessman, whose own internship abroad inspired him to get involved in Gap Journey; and Martín, mentioned before, who serves as Garcia’s right hand man, taking the team’s ideas and converting them into feasible business models. On any given day, the group can be found swapping travel stories in between their interviews with students located throughout the world. And yet, on any given day as well, it might be Garcia alone at his home office, as his employees are out traveling, meeting new interns, or hosting organized events in their host city.
By Garcia’s next birthday, the company will have reached almost 2 years since its launch. The idea that sparked those couple of years ago has now placed hundreds of students in internships internationally, allowing them to see the world and gain precious work/life experience while doing it.
As for me –I’m still debating whether I want to jump out of a plane with these guys.