ANNOUNCEMENT: The Awardees of the 2024 Solo Not Solo Grant (powered by Packs Light x Intrepid Travel)

by Gabby Beckford
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I founded Packs Light because I'm passionate about removing barriers to travel and empowering women to learn more about themselves by learning more about the world.

It's with this mission that I (Gabby Beckford 👋🏽) created a series of Packs Light Travel Grants in 2023. This is the second eration—the Solo Not Solo (SNS) Travel Grant!

About the Solo Not Solo Grant

Powered by Packs Light and Intrepid Travel, I'm hosting the Solo Not Solo Travel Grant as an opportunity for 3 lucky women to travel with me on a fully-funded Intrepid group trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for their Carnival!

The trip was designed to reframe people's thinking about solo travel. Three (3) women were selected. None of them know each other, or have met me in person, and we'll all be traveling solo… together!

In April 2023 I launched the very first Packs Light Travel Grant (the Study Abroad Redo Grant) to prove that not all miracles are “once in a lifetime” and to give a redo to 3x lucky winners who never had the opportunity to study abroad! With more than 500 applicants, it was a huge success.

But this time I wanted to offer something specifically to the core Packs Light community. The people, mostly women of color, who have been and want to keep Packing Light with me for the long run. So I launched it only via my email newsletter.

More than a grant: a “Solo Not Solo” movement

I want there to be a greater message and lesson in everything I do. With this grant, yes, by applying, you could win a trip to Brazil.

But if you didn't win, I always wanted applicants to take away some life changing perspectives. To really look at what it means that you can be “solo, but never truly alone”, in travel and in life.

If you watched the live (or peeped the replay here), you know the Packs Light community showed up and showed out!

Applicants to the SNS grant walked away with:

  • A renewed sense of community in Packs Light
  • Inspiration that “incredible things can happen to ‘ordinary' people” like us
  • Fun and excitement! Point blank, period.

The feedback we saw from our Instagram Live pitch contest let me know that we hit the “community” note on the head. So many of you felt the energy in that live and were riding that buzz for hours or even days after. I know I was!

“I have been dying to make a travel account but was too shy to. I finally gathered up the courage to make one thanks to this opportunity.”

Andrea D. (24)

So many of you walked away with new ideas of opportunities themselves—who you are, who you want to be, the opportunities available to you, what makes you excited!

“What you do with Packs Light means a lot to me because before you, I didn't know travel grants were available after college. You literally opened up a new world to me. You give me the courage to speak and advocate for myself. Applying has forced me to become more confident and to recognize the many talents I have. I didn't realize how gifted and accomplished I was until I had to write those things out or pitch them. Thank you for that and all you do. God bless you to infinity and beyond.”

Dorothy C. (25)

“I discovered Packs Light content on Tiktok in 2021 while quarantining at home. In a time of lots of fear and uncertainty, I LIVED through your content and visualized myself being brave enough to travel solo. Your content gave me the courage to start exploring my own city and visit the neighborhoods I didn't even know existed! I became a tourist in my own city (New York City) and soon realized how much more I was learning about myself.”

Valery N. (25)

“I have been on the Pack’s Light email chain since the pandemic. I discovered Gabby’s work through her TEDxTalk and was hooked! Not only has it been inspiring to see a woman of color such as myself live out her travel dreams, but to see her share this love for travel with others through paid opportunities is especially needed today. In a world where women are told to be fearful of the world, Packs Light embodies what it means to be a woman of color challenging the stereotypes and expectations of how they travel. I want to push the boundaries and explore the realms of culture, creativity, and humanity’s greatest quirks and kindness.”

– Elizabeth R. (22)

Each pitch shows women pouring their hearts out surrounded by support and love of my community. The energy in the live pitch was beyond infectious and the levels of talent and passion were through the roof, making the decision of who to award the grant to a hefty one.

Your stories are so powerful. They mirror the spirit of the Solo Not Solo Grant! And for me, they reinforce my commitment to offering life-changing opportunities to ambitious individuals, regardless of background or circumstances.

It was not an easy decision.

I repeat: it was not an easy decision.

Ultimately, the three (3) selected grant awardees were incredible women who demonstrated outstanding character, curiosity, and confidence, and whose applications displayed a clear connection to the Packs Light brand and values.

Drum roll please… the Official Solo Not Solo Grant Awardees of 2024!

Anaya V., 27 (she/her) 📍Texas, USA

Introducing, Anaya (27)! Anaya's dreamt of freedom of solo travel for a long time. She says that my content introduced solo travel in a new light for her, as a chance to step out of one's comfort zone, test her strength and resilience, and connect with new communities and like-minded folks.

In her application she shared with me some vulnerable stuff. Like the nagging voice in her head that always told her solo travel is too difficult to plan:

How are you going to travel to a country where you can’t speak the language? What if you can’t read the signs in the airport and miss your connecting flight? How are you going to find reliable people to book the excursions through? How will you navigate transportation in a foreign country?” I used to get stuck on these thoughts.


She sees this solo (not solo!) girls' group trip as an opportunity for her to bite the bullet. To leap beyond those fears and prove to herself that she too is capable. And to do it comfortably with a supportive group of women who share common interests: like traveling to dive deeper into culture and community when traveling.

Anaya's SNS application touched our hearts and stood out as an inspiring combination of commitment to getting out of her comfort zone, a curiosity for Brazilian culture, and a Packs Light level of attention to detail (she read the fine print!) that got her spot

WHAT SHE'S MOST EXCITED FOR 🇧🇷: Anaya most wants to dive into Brazilian culture and the Carnival celebrations. Brazil has the largest African Diasporian population, and Anaya wants to see the influence of Afro-Brazilians and indigenous peoples in the ritual

Andrea D., 24 (she/they) 📍California, USA

Andrea (24) is the daughter of refugees who fled civil wars in Central America. Her parents did not see travel as leisure—they knew migration and survival.

Despite their past, Andrea's family encouraged her to explore any and all opportunities that her U.S. citizenship granted her—like large college scholarships. When she mustered the courage to leave her neighborhood, she broke through the comfort zone she'd grew up with and realized that the same identities that once marginalized her were now tools to community-building and leadership.

Now, they see all of their identities as their key to authentic success: first-gen, queer, Central American, womxn. They are no longer afraid. They're ready to break generational curses and embrace themselves wholly on their first solo (not solo) trip!

Andrea's SNS application and Instagram live pitch full of energy, but more importantly spoke so clearly of her dedication, authenticity, vulnerability, and an undeniable girls-girl vibe. Making them stick in my heart and mind as a must-have on this trip to Brazil!

WHAT SHE'S MOST EXCITED FOR 🇧🇷: Andrea believes that joy and community are powerful tools against the very present settler colonialism, racism, and prejudice in Latin America. She's most excited to witness the harmonious blending of queer, Indigenous, and African traditions*. As a queer Central American, nothing excites them more than the famously LGBTQ+ friendly parties while in communion with their familia Latina!

Mmachukwu O., 19 (she/her) 📍Tennessee, USA

Meet Mmachukwu (19), a student at the University of Tennessee at Martin who grew up in Lagos, Nigeria!

The oldest child in an immigrant household, Mmachukwu says she often acts as “the family guinea pig” for first-time experiences. And solo travel is no exception.

She juggles 20-hour work weeks, a 20-credit course load, and her work as an Afrobeats dance instructor, and admits she's at the end of her rope. She's been feeling stretched thin and burnt out for a while, focused on saving every penny she can for her education and seeing $0.00 left over for her travel fund. She dreams of traveling to take a break from her daily monotony and to “rediscover her true self in the beauties of other cultures.”

She noted that while she'll be the youngest on the trip (I took my first solo trip at 17, so I've so been there!), the idea doesn't scare her, it excites her. She looks forward to having women a few years ahead of her whom she can turn to for advice and inspiration.

Mmachukwu literally made an Instagram account named “@hereforgabbybeckford” to attend the Instagram live pitch competition. Talk about standing out and being unique!

Her SNS application and impassioned live pitch amplified her enthusiasm for solo travel rooted in cultural learning and her dedication for personal growth through community and adventure, making her our final awardee!

WHAT SHE'S MOST EXCITED FOR 🇧🇷: The Portuguese language! Mmachukwu is working hard to become a polyglot and feels semi-fluent in French and Spanish, and wants to start her Portuguese language journey with this trip. Mmachukwu also loved Intrepid Travel's ideals as a B-corp that invests in local communities and can't wait to experience a trip with them.

The Top 10 Finalists of the Solo Not Solo Grant

I was equally as blown away by our Top Finalists, whose applications undeniably moved both the Packs Light and Intrepid Travel teams.

Their applications put them in the Top 2% of all SNS applicants because of just a matter of a few points, which means their applications almost equally left us inspired and awestruck.

Top 10 (in no particular order):

  • Olivia H.
  • Zuri J.
  • Shaina S.
  • Dorothy C.
  • Azalyah A.
  • LaToya L.
  • Tiffany B.
  • Valery N.

If you applied but were not selected: read this 🫶🏽

Unfortunately, hundreds of you applied with your hearts and souls making it an incredible difficult decision, but only three women could be selected as awardees.

Each time I host one of these giveaways I am honored and impressed by all of the excitement and ambition that I see in each and every application, but feel the weight of selecting the awardees.

Not winning the Solo Not Solo Grant is not a reflection of your story, your efforts, your application, or even you. This grant was simply meant for these three ladies. Many more opportunities may be met for you if you continue to be brave enough to put your name in the hat!

Join the 2024 #PLNameinHat Challenge

I recently shared a viral Instagram reel about how much I sucked at applying for things in 2023. Especially compared to 2021, when I applied to more than 50 opportunities, which led to more than $140,000 and not one, but three fully funded PTO experiences!

Well, in 2024. I'm back on the wagon. And I'm taking you with me.

In the last Sunday SeekPTO Newsletter of each month, I'll send an update of all of the travel, grants, small business, grants, scholarships, and other funded opportunities. I am eyeing and applying to, and any tips I can share.

Challenge participants will also send me a screenshot of your filled-out Opportunity Tracker for that month (so make sure you get it here if you don't have it yet!). It will help us both stay accountable to actually clicking “SUBMIT”.

The first #PLNameInHat Challenge check-in is January 28.

💡 Looking for more paid travel opportunities? Check out our PTO (Paid Travel Opportunities) Dashboard, updated weekly with new funded programs, travel scholarships, and more! Make sure to join our email list, too.

Application tips from the winners

A pivotal part of each Packs Light Travel Grant is to vet relevant applicants, but to also teach and empower them as much as possible. To aid them in their applications we provided: detailed Terms & Conditions page, tips on the application page, and of course my hundreds of free social media posts with my personal tips and tricks for applying to PTO!

In the spirit of extending their success, the three SNS winners have also agreed to share their top application tips which they think led to them winning the SNS!

Gabby has soooo many blog posts, YouTube videos, TikToks, and courses full of information on how to successfully apply for paid travel opportunities. Those resources, in conjunction with being able to tell your story in your own voice, are what are keys to a great application.


Applicants should let their authentic voice shine in their writing. Your application can be an endearing story or a witty conversation, it doesn't have to be an extremely formal or flawlessly written essay. It's not homework, it's an opportunity to share yourself and be vulnerable in the name of possibility.


Applicants to write their responses like they're talking to a friend over a warm cup of coffee or tea. In her words: “You’ll flit right off the page!”


What's next for the Packs Light Travel Grants?

Will there be a “next time”?

Are you kidding me? Of course, yes.

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't keep applying to the many PTO I share on the SeekPTO Dashboard every day.

The response to the Packs Light Travel Grants, since the launch has been amazing. Yes, from the press, and from the travel community (I'm nominated for two Bessie Awards! Vote for me before Feb 1!), but mostly from my Packs Light audience.

I've loved learning more about you all through your applications, and seeing what drives you to travel, and Chase, the incredible in life. Starting this grand series has been a beautiful new way to connect with you all and I plan to keep doing it!

The truth is though: it takes an incredible amount of time, resources, and mental load for me to host these grants. So the next travel grant won't be for a few months, or more. As always, the way to find out about it first is to be on my email newsletter.

Additional resources

  • The PTO Dashboard: my vetted database of fully or partially funded travel opportunities (like the SARG!). Think travel scholarships, grants, fellowships, internships, study abroad programs, speaking engagements, etc. that allow you to travel for work, for school, or for fun… for FREE!
  • The Ultimate Funded Travel Opportunities List… for AFRICANS!: One of my most common questions is, “Do you know of any funded travel opportunities for African nationals?” Well: here is that list! There are vetted travel scholarships, travel grants, international fellowships, international study abroad opportunities, remote work companies, etc.
  • PTO Start Page: Every free PTO resource Packs Light has can be found here– including PTO TikToks, the PTO Dashboard, PTO how-to blog posts, in-depth stories from past PTO winners, and more.
  • Application Tool-Kit: This tool-kit includes document (resume, cover letter, LOR) templates, email tips, and a “should I apply?” calculator. Basically, it's every basic piece you need to NAIL your next opportunity application!
  • Start Winning PTO!: The teaser course to the $10K Trips course. This is the course that gets your feet wet and gets you started seeking, applying, and winning PTOs.
  • How to Take $10K Trips… for FREE!: If you're serious about applying to and winning PTOs… this is the tell-all course you need. Seriously, I made the course I WISH I had myself when I started applying to PTO. It would have upped my success rate and saved me so much time and heartbreak. It has every PTO tip and trick I've learned in my 8+ years applying to, judging, and securing $200K+ worth of travel and funding from PTO!

Whether you applied or are looking to apply to future Packs Light Travel Grants, subscribe to my email list. You'll receive regular updates, gain access to resources tailored for the global learner, and be the first to know when the next grant window opens.

Leave a comment ❤️

The comment section of this blog post is open to all thoughts, feelings, insights, and public warmhugs and messages between applicants. Send notes and messages there or me, or for each other!

I also welcome all private feedback and comments via this SNS Feedback Form, at any time.

A wholehearted congratulations to our winners and a resounding thank you to everyone who applied. Your stories uplifted and impressed us, and we can't wait to see where your journeys take you next.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a PTO?

PTO = paid travel opportunity. Basically, PTOs are any fully or partially funded travel scholarships, grants, fellowships, internships, study abroad programs, speaking engagements, etc. that allow you to travel for work, for school, or for fun… for free.

For more information read our blog post: What is a PTO? How I travel the World for FREE (and you can too)

Where can I find more PTO to apply to?

My list of 1000+ paid travel opportunities lives on my PTO Dashboard—travel scholarships, international internships, study abroad scholarships, and funded travel opportunities just like the SNS. We update it weekly, so check it out and join my email newsletter!

How can I find PTOs myself?

I share my exact tips and tricks for finding, applying to, and actually winning PTOs in my self-paced online course, How to Take $10K Trips… for FREE!

The SNS was only for U.S. and Canada… I'm African. Are there PTO that apply to me?

I made a resource of 250+ vetted travel scholarships, travel grants, international fellowships, international study abroad opportunities, remote work companies, etc. exclusively for African nationals.

Check it out: The Ultimate Funded Travel Opportunities List… for AFRICANS!

When is the next Packs Light Travel Grant?

The next Packs Light Travel Grant will be toward the end of 2024. Stay tuned!

How can I stay in the loop?

If you want to be the first to hear about our next Packs Light Travel Grant (and maybe even receive some insider application tips 🤫), make sure you sign up to receive email updates.

Subscribe here.

I want to get started with PTO but I'm… overwhelmed. Where should I go?

Start at the PTO Start Page, of course.

Every free PTO resource Packs Light has can be found here– including PTO TikToks, the PTO Dashboard, PTO how-to blog posts, in-depth stories from past PTO winners, and more.

I applied to the SNS, but didn't win. I know it was something with my application… How can I improve it?

In my Application Tool-Kit, I really break down all the essentials for you.

The tool-kit includes document templates (resume, cover letter, LOR), email tips, and even a “Should I Apply?” Calculator that will save you hours of your life and so much stress, because it keeps you from applying to PTO that you have a low statistical chance of winning. Basically: it's every basic piece you need to NAIL your next application.

Liked this? Check these out!


Jennifer Manzano January 7, 2024 - 11:36 PM

This was such a FUN read. I didn’t apply but watching the whole journey and seeing our community connect was so amazing. Congrats ladies and everyone who put themselves out there <3

Gabby Beckford January 8, 2024 - 9:22 AM

❤️❤️❤️ Thank you for the support Jennifer!

Shaina Smith January 7, 2024 - 9:57 PM

Congratulations to the winners! It’s your time! This was meant for you out of all the others who applied and put their hearts into it as well. This is your moment!

Gabby Beckford January 8, 2024 - 9:21 AM

I loved reading your application Shaina! You absolutely killed it! Thank you for sharing this love!!!

Valery Nunez January 7, 2024 - 5:18 PM

Congratulations to all the winners of the SNS travel grant!! I am inspired by all of the ladies that won and I can’t wait to see the amazing content from this trip. It was so awesome to be a part of the Instagram Live and this beautiful community of women. Thank you Gabby!

Gabby Beckford January 8, 2024 - 9:22 AM

I can’t wait to see them fly in their trip too! We loved your application Valery, you stood out to us as a great storyteller and energy

Dorothy Colon January 7, 2024 - 1:33 PM

Congratulations to the ladies that won! Please create some fire content so we can celebrate you and live through you! Soak it all up you are deserving! I can’t wait for more opportunities to apply!


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