Chizoba Anyaoha sits on a beach in Sydney, Australia letting his eyes drift across the figures wandering by the shore. His observant eyes lock with those of a woman who seems to be traveling alone. For a moment, he feels that he has stumbled upon serendipity — an opportunity to connect with a solo traveler like him — before the woman turns and walks in the opposite direction.
In this moment, TravSolo was born.
“There has to be a better way,” Chizoba thought.
Featured on Forbes and a myriad of travel publications, TravSolo is an app for solo travelers that streamlines the process of creating an itinerary, allows fellow solo travelers to meet, establishes safety precautions, and provides travelers with an opportunity to share their stories.
Chizoba, who has spent his life traveling between New York City and West Africa, was always a man who paved his own path instead of allowing himself to be pushed from place to place at the will of others.
At Syracuse University, Chizoba pursued a major in psychology with a minor in economics through the College of Arts and Sciences in hopes of fine-tuning the skills necessary to develop a business that meets human needs.
“I’m a builder,” he says, in reference to his relentless drive to create.
When he spent a semester abroad in Florence and explored nearby cities and countries independently, he later admitted he had solo traveled without even realizing it. After falling in love with the adrenaline of seeing the world beyond what he knows, Chizoba continued to pursue the meaning of what it truly means to live. He also learned that humanity shares more commonalities than differences, and it is especially vital in an increasingly diverse and racially charged nation to engage in cultural immersion to expand our global perspective.
A calculated risk-taker, Chizoba explains that it is important to be “comfortable with being uncomfortable.” He describes solo travel as an addicting experience and an opportunity to tell a worthwhile story. The problem, however, is that such stories are diminished by those who could not experience them themselves. TravSolo aims to solve this by allowing travelers to share their story in real time.
He hopes that this will inspire others to think, “If he or she did it, maybe I can too.”
This format aims to remove the distraction of editing for social media as well, shifting the focus to be on the trip itself. The app’s structure is also why TravSolo makes it easier for travelers to piece together an itinerary, rather than spending hours researching what to do.
Along Chizoba’s journey to humanize technology to make it more accessible, he acknowledged that not everything will always go as planned and that there is no one way of doing something right.
“There is no such thing as a perfect product — there is always something to improve because people’s needs change. Cities change. Travel changes.”
Looking forward, Chizoba plans to soon offer a subscription service within his app that will allow unlimited creation of drag-and-drop itineraries or one-time fees for short-term itineraries. Beyond this, he intends to expand his app to adapt to situations like COVID-19 by introducing travel itineraries related to road trips, hiking, and camping. He will also offer better connectivity for travelers, more journaling features, and greater safety tools.
When developing his app, Chizoba built a team of mentors and team members. He stresses that “When you’re working alone, you move faster, but when you’re working with a team, you move better.”
In building his team, Chizoba looked for people whose vision aligns with his. “Passion is most important because skills can be learned,” he notes.
Chizoba explains that it is important for entrepreneurs to understand their ultimate vision and understand why they are pursuing it.
“Why you?” he asks in particular, challenging people to identify what drives them to innovate within their industry. “Whether your startup fails or succeeds is up to you because you’re the boss. You need to have the why. With it, you’ll never be able to cheat your passions.”
Chizoba found his “why,” and now, he hopes to continue to grow the business that makes him happy.
“Do what you love, and love what you do,” Chizoba says. “Live your life. Laugh when you can.”
Growing up, Chizoba didn’t have mentorship to chase the self-started lifestyle he desired. Now, he gives back by mentoring high school and college students in accelerator programs. He has been an active alumni member of Syracuse University’s Blackstone LaunchPad and Techstars and participated in the LaunchPad’s first SummerStartup Accelerator. He also did a residency with the Antler accelerator program and was a startup mentor for the Diamond Challenge and CUNY startups. He especially hopes to provide opportunities for people of color to find a voice in the travel and tech industry.
“It’s very impactful to see someone like them who did it. It’s inspiring.”
As a result, he will even be serving as a judge for American Airline’s Black Enterprise BE Smart Hackathon for all 101 HBCU schools.
Regardless of what background someone comes from, Chizoba urges people to enact their crazy ideas: “To be an entrepreneur, you need to be irrational enough to build something from thin air.” It is this determined, outside-the-box thinking that pushed him to persist despite mistakes.
Chizoba leaves us with a final, haunting food-for-thought: “Everyone dies twice — once, physically, and once, when people stop saying their name. What impact do you want to have on the world? What do you want to be remembered for?”
Story by Sasha Temerte ’23, LaunchPad Orange Ambassador; photo supplied