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How to turn every travel experience into a story

Interview with Samantha Hardcastle, founder of The Storied Experience
Created by Maria Stoyanova
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Samantha Hardcastle, founder of The Storied Experience, tells us more about the power of storytelling in tourism and hospitality.

Samantha is a storyteller and experience advisor for hospitality and leisure experiences around the world. She studies traveler behavior and trends to help businesses elevate their experience and bring their story to life – online AND offline – in captivating ways. She’s a member of Travel Massive New York City and Philadelphia.

Read on to learn about transformational travel and how to get started with storytelling in the hospitality industry.

How did you get into travel?

Travel is in my blood – my mom is a travel agent, and my grandma was a travel photographer. But it wasn’t until I started working at a luxury travel magazine (running their social media) that I realized that this is where I was meant to be.

Slowly but surely, I started orienting myself to work with boutique hotels, destination dining experiences, tourism and leisure experiences, and DMOs. It was so fun for me to immerse myself into different aspects of travel, from design and food and beverage, to wellbeing and adventure.

It helped me develop a well-rounded perspective of how all of these important aspects play off of one another. It wasn’t until about two years ago that I actually started studying travel on a deeper level, as I saw businesses begin to struggle with commoditization, competition, and increased traveler expectations.

How did you create “The Storied Experience” and what’s your mission?

The Storied Experience stems from our own frustrations as travelers seeking meaningful experiences. That’s really how it came to be.

At The Storied Experience we believe that hospitality and leisure experiences can bring joy to society through creating and fostering moments for connection, curiosity, culture, play, and self-discovery. We see the potential for every experience to make a stronger contribution to the wellbeing of humanity, orienting people towards harmony and happiness.

Sometimes experiences (no matter how well-meant) end up homogenized and fleeting. The traveler walks away feeling unfulfilled and unchanged. And that’s what we want to help these businesses get away from. Because we know that the experience was spurred from a place of passion, purpose, and personality, but somewhere along the way their story was lost.

Our hope is to help these business owners own their story to create an unwavering, authentic experience that aligns their values with their guests’ values and desires.

What is transformational travel and how does it affect the travel industry?

It was December 2018 that I got involved with the Transformational Travel Council (, and they explain it best: Transformational travel is any travel experience that empowers people to make meaningful, lasting changes in their life. Ultimately, it’s a new philosophy on travel that connects travelers to their truest self and to others, cultivating a sense of purpose and belonging.

As for my own perspective and experience, I think Transformational Travel is most important for combating placelessness and frivolous overtourism. The last thing people want is to spend hours traveling to a destination only to feel like they never left home in the first place.

When culture disappears, when we don’t feel like we’re learning or expanding during our travels, when we still feel isolated despite being surrounded by hundreds or thousands of people… this is no good for society.

Why is storytelling in tourism important?

I like to think of storytelling in the big picture sense – every experience is telling a story of a destination and the people behind it. When business owners downplay their story, their experience ends up too similar to every other experience. The story is what makes the experience special and stand out.

Here are some tips for getting started:

1. To uncover the core of your experience’s story, ask: “Why am I doing this? What’s the driving force behind this experience? Why here, why now? What transformation does it bring to people?”

2. Once you recognize the motivations and driving forces behind your experience, use archetypes to bring your story to life. Archetypes have been used for decades in storytelling / branding to create relatable and compelling identities. They help infuse your story (on and offline) with character and personality.

3. Don’t get hung up on telling your origin story – you’re better off telling the story of your experience. If you’re using storytelling for online purposes, paint a picture of what it’s like to be immersed in your experience or destination. Engage the senses and use story to stimulate the emotions that align with your experience’s archetype(s).

How can the Travel Massive community help you?

I am on a mission to change the way people think about the way we travel, gather, learn, play, nourish, and fulfill our desires. I’m looking to connect with people who also want to turn the industry on its head, to bring more meaning, culture, sense of place, and story to each and every experience.

I would love help in spreading the word about our other project – ( which includes a lot of great information about the experience archetypes and storytelling. Check out the newest online training course (

And if you’re looking to connect further, join all of us at The Storied Experience for an online monthly industry chat ( all about the experience economy, transformational travel, traveler behavior and trends, and more.

– Thank you for sharing your advice with us, Samantha!

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