If there is a silver lining to COVID, it’s that people took some time to step back and re-examine their priorities. And what many people found is that they need to put more emphasis on living life and doing the things they love with the people they love. They need to take time to be together, to be present, and to have meaningful experiences with each other. In a lot of cases, this means traveling or recreating together.

As part of my series about “How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Fairbourne.

Jason Fairbourne is the founder and CEO of Yoodlize, a peer-to-peer rental platform that allows people to rent anything to and from others in their community. Through the Yoodlize app, users are able to make money renting out their belongings or save money renting other people’s belongings instead of buying them. Jason previously traveled the world as the principal at Fairbourne Consulting, which helped organizations like the U.S. Department of State and the International Rescue Committee develop micro-enterprises in developing economies. After creating scores of small businesses across the globe, Jason is now democratizing the sharing economy by enabling everyday people to monetize their existing assets and create new streams of income using Yoodlize.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After taking too long to graduate from college, I had a transformative experience backpacking around southeast Asia, where I encountered extreme poverty and lack of opportunity among many of its inhabitants. It inspired me to figure out how I could help lift those in need. Soon after that experience, I got married, and my wife and I spent a six-month “honeymoon” living in a Kenyan village volunteering for an NGO. I then got a master’s degree in economic development and went on to become the first Director of the Microfranchise Development Initiative at Brigham Young University.

It was while teaching that I started Fairbourne Consulting, which helped nonprofits, foundations, governments and multinational corporations identify, launch and scale 30+ micro-enterprises in developing economies. I traveled to more than 50 countries as a microfranchising consultant for clients that included Mastercard, Nestle and the U.S. State Department. While this work was rewarding and gave me a sense that I was making a small difference in the world, all the travel was hard on my young family, so I decided it was time for a change.

I took my wife and three kids back to Kenya, where we started a couple of new businesses. During this time, we homeschooled our children, which included studying a part of the world, then visiting that place. After five years of globe-trotting with Kenya as a home base, we decided to return to the U.S., assigning the kids one last project: come up with a business idea our family could start when we returned. That’s when our then-14-year-old daughter Alta came up with the idea for an online marketplace where people could access other people’s stuff.

As she reflected on our worldwide travels that were part of her homeschool learning, Alta asked, “Dad, remember when you were looking for a surfboard so we could hit the waves in Norway? Or that time we had to buy a skateboard for that one outing in Amsterdam? Or how about in Japan when you wanted a telephoto lens for skiing and said, ‘Somebody in Japan must have a Canon lens I could borrow for the day.’”

Alta listed off a handful of other things we had needed when traveling, things that, if we had the right connections, we could have rented from locals. “People use platforms like Airbnb to find homes or Uber to find rides — -why don’t we create a platform where people can find stuff?”

And that’s how Yoodlize was born.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Before Yoodlize when I was consulting for a client in Jamaica, I picked up a hitchhiker, which is not a safe thing to do in Kingston, but I did it anyway. It was this old guy with dreadlocks who said he used to be Bob Marley’s manager, and then he invited me to a private party that evening at the Marley estate. I thought that the guy was probably crazy–but what if we wasn’t?

I decided to try my luck and showed up, and the party was on! There were about 50 other reggae artists there, including Rohan Marley, for whom I later did a project.

I also was able to attend another party where Damian Marley debuted a song, and I met some other incredible reggae artists. So you never know what can come from picking up a random guy on the side of the road in Jamaica!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This is another story about when I was working for a client in Jamaica. We were building businesses to help kids on the street that weren’t going to school and other at-risk youth. Part of our research included going to different parts of the city, observing and interviewing people, talking to locals, and then whiteboarding everything we learned to look for patterns.

On day three of this, one of my employees–an innocent, fresh-faced recent college graduate–and I ended up in a place called Lizard Town in Kingston. We noticed everyone staring at us as we walked around. We also noticed giant holes in the walls of some buildings, which we later learned were made by 50mm machine guns that the U.S. military had fired while trying to catch the leader of the drug cartel there.

As we’re walking through this town, some big, rough-looking guys grabbed us and said we had to go talk to the Don. They led us through collapsed buildings and side streets skirting a gross sewage canal while my employee and I are realizing we made a huge mistake coming to this area. We were sure we were going to die.

But once the gang found out who we were and what we were doing there, they showed us their chicken business and we ended up having a friendly conversation. We even talked to another lady who was a drug dealer about how she runs her business.

They let us go right around 5 p.m., but we barely made it out because that was when the police started sealing off the area, as they did each evening, to keep the thugs in. There were 8 or 10 armored vehicles with officers in full body gear who sealed off this area because it was too sketchy to actually go into the area. And here are two nerdy white guys walking out.

When we later told a government official this story, he was astounded and said that despite living in Jamaica for 40 years, he had never been, and wouldn’t dare go, to Lizard Town.

It was scary at the time, but now it’s funny looking back on that–just that we were so clueless– but we also learned that taking risks and putting yourself out there can lead to really important insights that ended up helping us as we created businesses in those communities.

Another lesson that I was fortunate to learn early in my career was in Kenya, where the water is not always safe to drink, so people buy bottled water, which is expensive, or just go without water. I saw people drinking milk out of little pouches and thought that maybe I could get people to drink water out of pouches, which could be manufactured and sold at a lower price than bottled water.

Before diving in, I started doing some on-the-ground research, observing people’s behaviors and talking to them about the idea of pouched water, and I found all of them said they would never drink water from a pouch–that it was too weird–yet they drank milk from a pouch, so those ideas didn’t seem to align.

I also knew that Kenyans are very status conscious and frequently used conspicuous consumption, or the prestige of being able to show that they could afford to buy bottled water, even when they really couldn’t afford it. I thought, “What if I could combine these two ideas of keeping up the image that they could afford packaged water, but make it more affordable and accessible by packaging it differently?”

So I started Bamba Water, which sold water pouches for half the price of bottled water. We went on to sell 100,000 pouches a day in Mombasa, which has a population of 1 million people. It just goes to show that research is so important and that people sometimes–and maybe even oftentimes–don’t say what they really think, and that you have to figure out what they want through their behavioral patterns.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I’m often referred to as the founder of Yoodlize, but many don’t realize that my co-founder is my wife of more than 20 years, Natalie Fairbourne. She’s made tremendous sacrifices to help Yoodlize get to where it is today. She serves as our chief product officer, customer service manager, bookkeeper and wears a bunch of other hats that get thrown around in a startup. I couldn’t do any of this without her. I’m the big-idea guy, but Natalie is the one that gets in the trenches and makes things happen.

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

In recent years, we’ve seen a shift to owning experiences instead of owning material things. You can see this in what people post on social media: pictures and videos of them traveling, hiking, doing and experiencing. This is a big shift from our grandparents, who grew up in the Great Depression and didn’t have the luxury of having excess “stuff.” As a result, that generation really valued and became attached to the possessions they did have. But as we move further from that point in time, our love affair is shifting from love of things to love of experiences.

This experience-focused paradigm has a big impact on travel trends and is also a key element of peer-to-peer rental platform Yoodlize. Our app connects and enables people to rent items to and from each other in local communities. It’s like Airbnb, but instead of people renting homes to and from each other, people can rent everything else, like tools, recreational items, outdoor gear or party equipment. And just like Airbnb enables travelers to have authentic, unique experiences, Yoodlize aims to do the same by connecting travelers with locals and their gear.

Yoodlize is still in its early stages and is currently used mainly by local community members in just a couple of markets (Utah and Ohio), but our vision is to be so ubiquitous that people can access anything they need, anywhere in the world.

Imagine if you were in a remote village and could still have convenient, affordable access to a canoe to take a trip down river or rent a tarp when you were going camping and didn’t realize rain was in the forecast. How about picking up a mountain bike from a local for half the price you could get it at a rental shop, along with some great insider tips from the local on the best trails while you’re at it?

There are so many scenarios where travelers could benefit from renting an item from a local instead of having to pack it or purchase it. And while there are clearly great benefits of this model for travelers, the great thing is that they are also supporting local economies at a micro level by putting their tourism dollars directly into the hands of locals.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

Yoodlize addresses several pain points, the most obvious being that people gain convenient, affordable access to the things they need when they need them, without having to purchase and store them. It makes a ton of sense to just rent that kayak or e-bike or camera lens without having to spend money on a new one that you’ll use only once or twice and then have to figure out where to keep it when it’s not in use. We make it easy to connect people to the things they need.

This is also key in allowing people to have experiences that they might otherwise miss out on. If you go on vacation and you want to paddle board, but you don’t own one or don’t want to travel with one, and if there aren’t any rental shops around that have any, you’re out of luck. But of course, there will be a local who has a paddle board that you can rent for the day, allowing you to have a really fun experience and create an amazing memory that you otherwise wouldn’t have had. But you can’t rent the paddle board if you don’t know how to find it.

I love that Yoodlize makes it easy to connect people to the things they need, which enables more meaningful experiences, whether at home or, hopefully soon, when traveling. I think as people get used to the idea of online rental marketplaces for their travel needs, they will start to rely on marketplaces like Yoodlize to create trips that are unique and authentic, and will end up traveling more–or at least having better experiences when they do travel.

There is one more important pain point that Yoodlize addresses on the side of the owner of an item, and that is the ability to make money renting out their stuff. One in three Americans has a side hustle, either as an economic necessity or just as a way to earn some extra income. Another quarter of Americans said they planned to start a side hustle in 2021. Yoodlize provides an easy way for people to monetize existing assets that are otherwise sitting idle in their home. There’s no investment necessary. Owners simply download the Yoodlize app, create a free account and start listing their stuff. It’s a really easy solution to a common problem of figuring out how to make some extra cash.

As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share a few examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?

If there is a silver lining to COVID, it’s that people took some time to step back and re-examine their priorities. And what many people found is that they need to put more emphasis on living life and doing the things they love with the people they love. They need to take time to be together, to be present, and to have meaningful experiences with each other. In a lot of cases, this means traveling or recreating together.

During this pandemic, we’ve seen a huge increase in people taking road trips instead of flying. Some of our owners have had great success renting out their trailers, kayaks, car racks, camping gear–anything that helps these types of travelers have a great experience. I think all travel and hospitality companies need to meet travelers where they are and adjust to this new normal.

Ultimately, travel will eventually get back to normal where people feel comfortable flying in airplanes again, but what has forever shifted is our perspective on the importance of creating memories with our loved ones through our travel and recreational experiences.

You are a “travel insider.” How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

In a previous life, I traveled the world as a consultant. I’ve been to about 50 countries. No matter where I go, I love to immerse myself in the culture and try new things, especially if they’re extreme or adventurous things. I’m not really a sit-on-the-beach kind of guy; I’d much rather go explore, so I’m excited for an upcoming trip to Costa Rica I’m taking with my wife and kids. I think we have ziplining, canyoneering, white-water rafting and checking out some volcanoes and waterfalls on the agenda. Maybe I’ll do some cliff diving, who knows?

The best part is that the trip is being paid for entirely by the money we’ve made renting out our stuff on Yoodlize.

Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.

Like most people, I haven’t traveled much in the past couple of years due to the pandemic, but I did a ton of traveling before that, first for work as a micro-franchising consultant, then on some pretty epic homeschool assignments with my wife and kids. The latter were always great bonding experiences that gave our family an opportunity to reconnect.

I love that Yoodlize can provide this same connection not only among people that are renting things on our app and enjoying them with family and friends, but also that it gives community members the chance to connect with other people in their communities to whom or from whom they are renting stuff. This human connection is an integral part of wellness and self-care, and I’m glad Yoodlize can play a small role in helping make that happen.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.

The key thing that will keep travelers coming back for more is enabling experiences. These experiences should be:

  1. Memorable — Memorable doesn’t have to mean elaborate. Sometimes chatting around a fire pit or enjoying a soak in the hot tub–even if it’s inflatable!–can prove a memorable way to top off an eventful day.
  2. Unique — Travelers often want to have experiences that are off the beaten path. Provide them something they can’t get at home, something they will want to take pictures of and share with their friends. Giant yard games, an outdoor movie, or literally taking travelers off the beaten path in a fun toy are examples of simple ways this can be done.
  3. Authentic — Every traveler wants the inside scoop from the locals. Peer-to-peer rentals put travelers in touch with people who live in and know the area. This provides an opportunity for meaningful interactions and authentic experiences.
  4. Affordable — Experiences have to be affordable; no one wants to break the bank by going on vacation. Travelers have a strong likelihood of accessing items for a fun experience using a P2P rental app like Yoodlize.
  5. Convenient — While travelers will sometimes make a trek for a really cool experience, it’s often better when the experience can be accessed conveniently, especially when you’re dealing with a family with children. Travelers want it, and they want it now–so don’t make them wait.

If a traveler can have an experience that hits on all five of these points, they will tell all their friends, post it on social media, recommend that experience to others, and be back for more.

Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?

My entire career has been devoted to helping people by giving them resources to succeed. When I worked in micro-franchising, I helped thousands of people in third-world and developing countries build sustainable businesses that helped them become self-sufficient. I know many of those people continue to experience success and break cycles of poverty within their families and their communities.

Now I am using tech to provide resources to people that will help improve their lives. The Yoodlize app provides a flexible way for people to create meaningful passive income. It reduces consumerism and gives existing items new life. It helps reduce our collective carbon footprint by cutting back on the amount of new goods that need to be manufactured. It lifts local economies by supporting local individuals and keeping money local. It encourages human connection. There is just so much good that can come from this idea of renting local, and I’m humbled to be a part of it.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d like to think I’m already involved in a movement away from owning things and towards owning experiences. I didn’t start this movement, but I do believe that Yoodlize can help accelerate this movement that helps us take better care of our environment and each other. I’d love to live to see the day when homes aren’t filled to the brim with “stuff” and people are instead sharing with each other and creating great memories while doing so.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/yoodlize/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/yoodlizeinc/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yoodlizeinc

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.