In just three years’ time, Welcome To My Garden has grown from an experiment in my parents’ garden into an initiative with a positive impact for thousands of people. And this is only the beginning: more and more people are joining the slow travel movement. Now, we need to make sure that we can keep the WTMG spirit alive, improve the platform, and financially sustain our efforts. The time has come to develop a fair model to cover the costs of the platform and distribute them fairly between all slow travellers.

To make a long story short:
🌱 Three years after launch, WTMG has grown into something much bigger than Dries' parents garden. Today, over 5.000 gardens are registered on WTMG, and over 60.000 stay requests have been sent by slow travellers.
🏗️ Although there is no financial exchange between hosts and slow travellers, WTMG needs funds and the full-time attention of our small team to maintain a quality network and continue developing the platform.
💰 Until now, the costs of WTMG have mainly been paid out of the pockets of our founding team.
🪄 Various funding approaches, such as donations and subsidies, have proven unsustainable for WTMG.
💚 It’s vital to get to a fair and healthy model which splits the costs among all slow travellers.
🙏 261 Superfans have already shown support.
👉 We're introducing an annual membership of €36 for all slow travellers, so that they can cover their part of the costs. Become a member today!
💡 WTMG needs at least 3.000 members to ensure financial self-sufficiency and independence.

Over the last few months, our founding team (Dries, Manon and Thor) has been listening and talking to hundreds of WTMG hosts and slow travellers. Thanks to their valuable feedback and reassuring enthusiasm, we now have clear ideas on where we want to go next with WTMG, supported by our community.

In this blog post, we want to show you what’s going on behind the scenes. You’ll learn more about where we are today and what steps we want to take in order to make sure WTMG will continue to survive and thrive in the years, and hopefully decades, to come.

What happened since I put my parents’ garden on a map

It’s been both heartwarming and mind-blowing to see what happened over the last three years. Although our team sensed early on that we were on to something big, we never expected it to get this serious! Three years after launch, WTMG has grown into something much bigger than my parents’ garden. Today, over 5.000 gardens are registered on the platform, and the vibe is spreading to more and more countries. Slow travel enthusiasts have already sent over 60.000 stay requests through WTMG. As a community, we can be very proud of what we’ve achieved together!

While WTMG was launched and gained popularity during covid, it didn’t stop there: the number of slow travellers using WTMG kept on growing post-covid! Here are some exciting stats for you:

YearUnique travellers sending requests

Behind these numbers, there are thousands of people who started to explore travelling by bike and on foot. In many cases, these were people who didn’t think slow travel was for them, and found out they were capable of doing and enjoying it, after all! And then there are all the heartwarming and inspiring encounters between these travellers and hosts that took place during their adventures.

This is a win-win-win situation

It’s clear that everyone involved is winning here:

  • It’s a win for slow travellers who can now find a nice and safe place to camp for the night.
  • It’s a win for hosts who get to meet new people without even having to leave their home. We totally underestimated the importance of this aspect when we launched WTMG!
  • And finally, the climate wins too, because slow travel doesn’t put undue pressure on valuable ecosystems and local communities. Instead, we make them thrive.

A growing platform comes with new challenges

It’s amazing to witness how WTMG is impacting individuals and communities. At the same time, we also need to think about how we’re going to safeguard the future of the platform. It’s vital that we develop a fair and healthy model now, while we’re in a good flow. Although there is no financial exchange between hosts and slow travellers, WTMG needs funds to maintain a quality network and continue developing the platform. That is the question our team is facing now: how can we make WTMG future-proof for all those enthusiastic slow travellers and hosts?

WTMG feels magical, but we have to make the magic happen

First of all, it has become very clear that WTMG has reached a point where its workload goes far beyond the volunteer stage: it needs the full-time attention of our founding team (Dries, Manon and Thor) to stay alive and kicking. And then there are our freelance/part-time contributors: Marie who takes care of the design of our website, Janneke who makes sure we communicate clearly, Ward who developed several functionalities on the platform… Behind the scenes, it takes hard work to run the WTMG platform and keep the slow travel spirit alive.

Bailey Richardson, Kevin Huynh & Kai Elmer Sotto put it beautifully in their book ‘Get Together’: “Communities feel magical, but they don’t come together by magic”. This certainly applies to WTMG. Making our slow travel platform work for so many people and fostering a true community spirit is a big and exciting commitment. To make sure that we can deal with the increasing workload and costs, we need to step up our game. It’s time for our team to take some great strides, with the support of our amazing community.

Growing with the community

WTMG has only managed to get this far thanks to having both a dedicated team and a powerful community behind it. Our latest community survey was filled out by 1.500 users. Clearly, there’s a lot of enthusiasm for and commitment to WTMG. People want to keep it alive.

We believe we’re at an exciting point in time today. We have everything it takes to continue developing WTMG from a happy fledgling into a fully independent initiative. It’s time to develop a fair model that makes WTMG financially self-sufficient and therefore independent – before we run out of energy or money, like so many great initiatives before us have.

A fair model: let’s split the costs between slow travellers

As a social enterprise, we put impact over profit. Yet, money does matter. Each month, we spend thousands of euros and hundreds of hours keeping WTMG going. This is our life and our job: we need to pay our incomes, our office, hosting costs, and more. WTMG is a fully independent project that has been fully bootstrapped by its founding team; which means that no investors have been involved. To make sure that WTMG can exist in the years to come, a fair model will help split the costs among slow travellers.

Before we dive into the fair model we want to implement, it’s good to first take a look at how we’ve paid the costs so far, and what has proven not to work for WTMG.

How the WTMG bills got paid so far

Since day one, the eight very talented people who contributed to the development of the platform have been compensated for their work. Until now, the costs of WTMG have mainly been paid out of the pockets of our founding team.

This is how we’ve covered the costs so far:

  • The vast majority of the bills got paid thanks to the income made from planning trips with our side-business Slowby (€30.000), and the distribution rights of Manon’s documentary “Women Don’t Cycle” (€25.000).
  • In its first year of existence, WTMG got some financial support from early believers like Grote Routepaden, GR Sentiers and Natuurpunt.
  • At the end of 2022, we launched a call for WTMG Superfans. We’re very grateful for the support received from the first 250+ Superfans and a generous €1.000 donation from a host. Thanks to these first believers, we’re convinced that we can get to a self-sufficient model for WTMG. But to get there, we need wide support; not just from a small percentage of our users: we’ve calculated that we need the support from at least 3.000 travellers to make that magic happen.

While hosts are already making a tremendous contribution by opening up their gardens to slow travellers, currently only a small proportion of users is contributing towards paying the bills for many free users. It would be much fairer if we could split the bill among all slow travellers. Being a community also means distributing the load more evenly.

What has proven not to work

We’ve already tried out a few ways to generate the income we need to keep going. The following have proven to be unsustainable for WTMG:

  • Donations. It’s tempting to think that we can make it work if everyone voluntarily contributes a little bit. In reality, it turned out that donations were insufficient to even cover all the technical costs. In total, we’ve received less than €500/year in donations.
  • Running another initiative (like we did with our Slowby trips). Since WTMG requires our full-time attention, it’s simply too big an effort to run two big initiatives at the same time with a team of three. Someone also correctly called this funding model a recipe for burnout (no worries, we’re still full of positive energy, but that’s why we need to act now!).
  • Subsidies. They’re great to kick off a project, but don’t make it financially self-sufficient in the long run. As nicely explained in this post by Library of Things, writing subsidy applications would also distract us from our real goal: creating value for our community.

We’ve chosen not to display ads on our website. Why? We don’t want to sell your data to companies whose values may not align with ours. And again, going after advertising would also shift our focus away from creating value for users. We want to get paid for a great slow travel platform that is worth paying for.

So, to sum it up, we believe it’s fair as well as reasonable to ask for a financial contribution from our slow travellers. Several users have suggested this to us in recent conversations, and our call for Superfans has given us the first indication that this could work!

Side note: it’s also worth reading Nomadlist’s FAQ answer on why free apps can’t survive.

A yearly financial contribution from slow travellers

During our conversations with users, it was WTMG host Simonne who came up with a very simple and clear idea:

Why don’t you simply make it clear to slow travellers what you need to run WTMG? You as a team should tell the community what you need and ask them to contribute. We just want to make sure that WTMG can survive and that’s your responsibility. I’d find it completely normal for slow travellers to contribute to WTMG, and I’m sure they will be happy to do so.

Simonne, host on WTMG

In practice, this means that slow travellers need to make a yearly financial contribution so that WTMG can continue to exist. This is what we already asked for when we launched our call for Superfans. Now, we’re extending this request to our entire slow travel community. Basically, if you use our platform we expect you to contribute. So, in addition to the possibility to become a Superfan, we’re introducing a membership for all slow travellers. This way, everyone gets to covers their part of the costs. We’re not asking hosts to chip in, since they are already contributing in a different way – but of course they are totally welcome to contribute financially too if they feel like it.

Since we have nothing to hide and transparency matters, we have made an overview to give you insight into where the contributions of our members will go.

Annual membership fees allow us to:

  • Maintain the WTMG platform and servers
  • Cover all operational costs like software costs, accountant and co-working space
  • Respond to support requests and questions from members and hosts
  • Maintain the quality of the WTMG network
  • Provide a community space where members can meet and share experiences
  • Improve the WTMG platform based on feedback from members
  • Communicate about WTMG externally and promote slow travel in general
  • Set up collaborations with other slow travel initiatives

Promising signs for the future of WTMG

Last but not least, let’s take a moment to look into what fair model we’d like to introduce. Since our Superfan offering will be the basis for our annual membership for slow travellers, it’s interesting to share what we’ve learned since last December. 261 WTMG users have since become Superfans.

To make it possible for everyone to contribute to WTMG, we introduced a trust-based pricing model with a minimum price (€36), normal price (€60) and solidarity price (€120). It turned out that this open pricing model really works! Here’s the distribution of our first 261 Superfan contributions:

Number of Superfans%
€ 366826%
€ 6016965%
€ 120249%

We’re very grateful for the support received from our first 261 Superfans! Most of them have contributed €60 to WTMG, and that means so much to us and to WTMG. The possibility to become a Superfan remains. As we extend our request for support to the wider community, our membership will be introduced at a price of €36 per year (the minimum price), so that slow travellers can cover their part of the costs. To maintain a quality network and to continue developing WTMG, we will need the support from at least 3.000 slow travellers becoming a member. Together we can make this work – that is what it means to be a community.

Now, let’s make the magic happen together!

Our next step will simply be to ask all slow travellers to make an annual contribution. There’s only one way forward for WTMG, and that’s by doing it together. So we are counting on you! Become a WTMG member or Superfan today by clicking here, and let’s make it happen.

As always, we would love to hear your ideas, suggestions, and comments. Please feel free to drop us a line here. We can’t wait to see how we can take WTMG to the next level with you! And thank you for reading, and for being so involved. We really appreciate you!