The Future of Travel: “Experiential travel is on the rise” with Wade Shealy and Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis
Authority Magazine
Published in
12 min readAug 6, 2019


Experiential travel is on the rise. There has been a shift in the mindset of what vacationing means. The ideal vacation was once to go to the beach and relax while reading a good book. While that’s still in demand, as everyone needs a bit of rest and relaxation, more travelers continue to embrace experiential travel and adventurous activities. Today, people are seeking out vacations that give them the opportunity to continue their healthy lifestyle on the go, immerse themselves into local cultures, find a way to give back, explore local gastronomy, and overall, live more like a local.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Wade Shealy, Founder and CEO, ThirdHome. With over 30 years in the sector, Wade Shealy is one of America’s top leaders in resort real estate development, marketing and sales. In 2010, in response to a market need to help second homeowners realize more value in their ownership, he founded and launched THIRDHOME, the industry’s premier luxury property and travel club. Wade lives on a horse farm outside Nashville in Franklin, Tennessee. Besides his quarter horses, Wade also raises bees and tilapia. Inspired by his early background in nature preservation, he designed and built a natural swimming pond on his farm, one of the first of its kind in the U.S. When he is not riding horses or traveling around the world, Wade can be found riding his Harley on the back roads of Tennessee.

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

I started my Resort Real Estate career in 1984 in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. I remember when I started there we had one stop light on the entire island. In 1986, with two other associates, we started our own real estate company that quickly grew to one of the largest in the state.

It’s not one particular story that led me to THIRDHOME. It’s the combination of hundreds of conversations with my real estate clients that all echoed the same theme. I started to notice that when they were thinking about making a second home purchase, no matter how excited they were when they first bought it, almost invariably they would all be back wanting us to sell their vacation home within 5 years. When asked why, the same answer always came up: We love it here but feel like we have seen and done everything there is to do and want to try somewhere new. It dawned on me, why should you have to sell your home to travel? Why not exchange with other like-minded individuals by creating a group of people who all want to do the same thing?

Coincidentally, many vacation home owners who had purchased in the late 80’s and early 2000’s found themselves unable to sell with the financial crisis of 2008. THIRDHOME gave them a way to create a different kind of value from their home: the ability to leverage it to travel the world.

In 2010, I decided it was time to lean in to what the market was asking for and I created THIRDHOME. We have quickly grown The Club from our first member in early 2010, with a beautiful home on the Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley, Montana, to 11,000 members who have homes in 93 different countries.

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

In 2003 I purchased a 4,000-acre island off the coast of Georgia and my first buyers were Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck. At the time, they were an extremely popular couple and were being followed constantly by the paparazzi. We were flooded with everyone trying to get a peek at them. The paparazzi issue became so bad that I had the Governor shut down the airspace above our island to keep the photographers from flying over to take photos.

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?

A developer once hired me to come to his resort to help identify what was he was doing right and what he was doing wrong, and to help him uncover opportunities to improve his business. He gave me a tour of a spec house that had not sold and asked my opinion on why this home had not sold. Seeing a chance to share my expertise, I proceeded to tell him that the kitchen was all wrong, the ceilings were low, the cabinets were too dark and the general overall flow of the home was not appealing. I went so far as to ask him, who in their right mind would have built a such a home. After a long, uncomfortable pause, the developer, hung his head for a second raising his hand saying, “that would be me.” Lesson learned: understand who your audience is before you speak your mind!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

As I noted earlier, one of the outstanding traits of our Club is that our members are like-minded. When they travel to other members’ homes they treat it as they would their own. When they host another member in their home, they sincerely want them to have a great stay and enjoy all that their treasured vacation home and surrounding area have to offer. It’s almost as if they are hosting a friend and want to do all they can to ensure that they have a good time. We often hear stories about members who become friends and even travel together to other THIRDHOME residences as a result of meeting because of The Club. They have a lot in common: They are successful, like to travel, are entrepreneurial, and enjoy sharing their experiences with others.

We encourage those friendships and create events where members can meet and mingle to share their travel experiences. Whether it’s a member appreciation party for 300+ hosted by our US office out of Nashville, or a small group trip to Havana with Mariel Hemingway, our members share a common love of travel, and appreciate the chance to share it with others who are like them.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?

When I started this business, it consisted of my ability to convince a few friends and former clients to trust me on signing up for this new way of looking at leveraging second home ownership for tremendous travel opportunities. It was not an easy concept to sell, especially given that tech-heavy sharing experiences had yet to emerge, such as Uber, Rent the Runway, etc. People didn’t turn to the internet and strangers to do business with — especially on a luxury scale.

There was no way I could do this alone. I looked for employees who could truly understand and carry out my vision. I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy sell, as this whole sharing economy was not even a ‘thing’.

Today, with a club of over 11,000 members and a solid proof of concept, those initial conversations my teammates are just as important as they were 10 years ago. And even more important are the ongoing conversations to keep our current members happy and traveling.

They key is hiring people with positive energy and a true desire to help people. Our corporate culture has evolved into one that of satisfied team players who are dedicated to doing a great job, helping one another, and ultimately encourage our members fulfill their travel dreams. The energy and spirit of my team constantly provides me validation of the dream I started 10 years. This is what motivates me and keeps me from burning out.

And of course, the ultimate way to avoid burnout is to travel and see the world!

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?

We all need mentors. I have had one since 1976 who has turned out to not only be my mentor but my best friend and person to lean on when I need advice. In turn, I hope I have become that for others along the way. Not only has this mentor shared his knowledge with me, but he has also spent time on multiple occasions discussing his career journey with my team at THIRDHOME, and even attended a faraway company retreat. I aspire to give to others as he has given to me. Time and knowledge are both valuable assets, and I truly appreciate the time he has given to me and to THIRDHOME.

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?

Our industry is changing. People look at owning assets different today than they did a few years ago, and, as millennials grow up, they continue to embrace and support the sharing economy.

Therefore, I believe our concept of owning a vacation home that gives you access to others around the world, without having to pay rent, will become the norm over the next 10 years. In fact, I predict, 10 years from now, very few, if anyone, will buy a second home without a membership to a club like THIRDHOME. That would be like buying a car without wheels, it just won’t get you anywhere.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?

It is my hope to save the vacation home industry from a major pain point it deals with — people losing interest in committing to going to the same place over and over again. Our Club allows you to have the dream of owning a vacation home without the anchor it normally brings of sinking you to the same place every time. Another pain point in the industry is that those who own vacation homes typically don’t utilize it for majority of the year. THIRDHOME enables owners to gain more value out of the residence when it would typically sit unused. By placing value on this unused time, home exchange creates an opportunity for homeowners to gain the most out of their asset.

How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

Owners and buyers of second homes are starting to demand more from their sales or management company. We get calls every day from companies wanting to know how they can partner with us so they can add more value to their clients. They are also looking for differentiators in the field.

Can you share 5 examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to travel?

Vacation rentals are rising in popularity. With well-known rental companies like Airbnb and HomeAway, and a variety of television shows emerging around vacation rental homeownership, the idea of owning a vacation home with the purpose of utilizing it as an investment is a strong trend that I see growing. While select cities are trying to regulate “vacation rentals by owners” out of existence, we’ll begin to see cities that embrace it and even build developments with vacation rentals in mind. These developments would include property management services and on-site staff to help manage the vacation rental process with little effort put forth by the owner. THIRDHOME recognizes that rentals are an important part of tourism right now, and have launched a Rentals division to address the needs of owners who want a more luxury experience. We accept only luxury properties and require vetting of guests to maintain the same exclusive experience our members have come to know with THIRDHOME Exchange.

The sharing economy will continue to flourish. Attitudes are changing to be more accepting of the collaborative consumption movement. It’s now the norm to exchange, rent, swap and trade items in a variety of markets. Consumers are realizing that by sharing, they can open up a variety of opportunities in life. With millennials being one of the stronger demographics in this movement, I believe we will continue to see an upwards trend to building your life around collaborative consumption.

Experiential travel is on the rise. There has been a shift in the mindset of what vacationing means. The ideal vacation was once to go to the beach and relax while reading a good book. While that’s still in demand, as everyone needs a bit of rest and relaxation, more travelers continue to embrace experiential travel and adventurous activities. Today, people are seeking out vacations that give them the opportunity to continue their healthy lifestyle on the go, immerse themselves into local cultures, find a way to give back, explore local gastronomy, and overall, live more like a local.

Travelers are more interested in worldwide exploration to new (and less likely) destinations. Between the increase in vacation rentals and travelers having more adventurous spirits and ample access to information through the internet, lesser-known cities and destinations will begin to see an influx in tourism. These up and coming tourism areas can be seen in Umbria’s challenge to Tuscany in Italy, and Lombok Island’s rising competition with long-established destinations like Bali.

Travelers are becoming more interested in connecting with other travelers and building new friendships. Small-group tours are making it easy for travelers to visit the world and meet new people along the way. With the age of social media and the internet, individuals are more open to meeting new people and creating long-distance connections as they are easier to foster in today’s society. We see this not only with our Adventures, which are small-group tours for luxury travelers, but we also with the Exchange, as members are always eager to take trips with other members they have met throughout the years. Not only do consumers want to align with a brand they trust, but they also want to align with a brand that will introduce them to new friends and networking opportunities.

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

My perfect vacation experience is one where I don’t have to worry about where I’m staying, but instead can focus on what I want to do once I arrive. Thankfully, I have encountered gracious hosts who always make me feel welcome at their properties through THIRDHOME, and have been able to see much of the world. I look for well-appointed accommodations, access to local outdoor recreation or cultural activities, and great dining experiences when I travel. A spectacular view from where I stay is always a welcomed bonus.

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

Last year, THIRDHOME hosted a member appreciation party with 350 of our members in attendance. Members kept coming up to me over and over with wonderful accounts of how THIRDHOME had changed their lives. One member in particular said their family had traveled to over 20 countries and vacationed in places they had only heard about. While luxurious accommodations and increasing the use of second homes are the foundation of what The Club started as, igniting wanderlust and expanding worldwide travel options for thousands of members is something I’m truly proud of.

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. :-)

Our members constantly show that they are generous, and we recognize that a community banding together for a cause is a powerful thing. We are currently exploring options on how we can create (or partner with) a non-profit where our members who travel the world can also help participate by giving back to other communities, near and far. We’ll share more as the concept develops. For now, we’ve begun weaving initiatives into our Adventures small-group tours to assist with conservation efforts. Those who travel on our gorilla trekking experience led by Craig Sholley, Senior Vice President of the African Wildlife Foundation, will have the option to donate to the foundation along with their safari booking. Additionally, we have built in conservation funds into the price of our Fiji Adventure led by Jean-Michel Cousteau, with a portion of the proceeds from the Adventure going to supporting the mission of Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society. Conservation is a subject that is near to my heart, as I served on the State Board of Land Conservation in Georgia for half a decade. During that time, I was also appointed to the Georgia’s Marshland and Wetlands Protection Committee and was voted the “Tree Friendly Developer” for the state of Georgia. I’m proud that we can say that THIRDHOME is now supporting conservation efforts with some of the small-group tours offered through our Adventures.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

THIRDHOME can be found on social media at @thirdhome on Instagram, @3rdhome (THIRDHOME) on Facebook, @3rdhome on Twitter, @thirdhomeclub on Pinterest, @thirdhome on Youtube, and THIRDHOME on LinkedIn. On these platforms you will see spectacular homes in our portfolio, read about how The Club has changed the way our members travel, and also get brief glimpses into my exploration of the world alongside members during our Adventures and custom travel experiences.

Thank you for sharing this with us!



Candice Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.