“It's not enough to say, okay, yes, as women we can do it. We need sometimes to push each other into the water. Because no matter how much we repeat to ourselves we can do it, we don't believe we can. It's not until someone throws us into the water and then we'll realize we can swim. ” ~ Juliana Medina
In this episode, Christine hosts a soulful conversation with Juliana Medina. Juliana is the founder and CEO of Impulse Travel, Colombia’s most innovative DMC. Impulse Travel’s purpose is to mesh travel with the creative and social sectors in order to create meaningful trips that are a part of the peace process and social transformation of Colombia.
Christine and Juliana discuss:
Join Christine now for this soulful conversation with Juliana Medina.
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Christine: Juliana Medina became a tour guide at the age of 16 in her hometown of Cartena, Columbia as a way to pay her way through college only to realize the incredible power of travel to transform lives. She went on to build a local tour operator in Cartena that later became Impulse Travel. Columbia's most innovative DMC at Impulse Travel, the purpose is to mesh travel with the creative and social sector in order to create meaningful trips that are part of the peace process and social transformation that Columbia is going through. This was such an incredibly powerful and inspiring conversation. I am sad to say that afterward I realize the audio is a bit unclear at certain points. I really hope you'll stay with us because Juliana has so many important things to share with us in our conversation. She and I talk about how to tell a story of a destination and creating space for locals to tell their story and create context for an experience even when the dominant narrative of the history of a destination is negative; she shares how engaged guides and travelers can shift that narrative. We talk about setting intentional limits on the growth of our business and basing success on the impact we want to create. She also shares about the importance of community and the innovations in tourism being seen in Mein and all across Columbia. Love these soulful conversations? We rely on listener support to produce our podcast. You can support me in amplifying the voices of women by making a donation on PayPal. The link is in the show notes. Join me now for my soulful conversation with Juliana Medina.
Christine: Welcome to Soul of Travel podcast. I am so happy today to be joined by Juliana Medina and she's the CEO of Impulse Travel and I believe she’s joining me from Columbia today. Yeah, uh, we were so lucky to be able to have met in person when we were both at the Adventure Travel World Summit in Switzerland. So it's always unique, especially having started this podcast in the pandemic to actually spo speak to someone that I've met in person. Uh, she was on a panel with my friend Rosette Deco, who's also been on the podcast and we had such a great immediate connection. I knew that she needed to join me on the podcast for conversation. So I'm really looking forward to this and um, welcome to the show.
Juliana: Oh no, thank you so much. Uh, thank you for having me. This is my first time in a podcast and I love podcasts. I'm very excited.
Christine: Oh, good. I'm glad that this can be your first podcast cuz it already just feels like a friendly conversation. Um, so I'm glad to be able to do that with you. And, uh, before we get started, I'd love to give you the chance to introduce yourself and tell our listeners a little bit about who you are and what you do in the space of travel.
Juliana: Um, yeah, so I'm Juliana, I'm a Colombian woman in, I work in the tourism industry. Um, and I became, one started working here because I needed money for, to pay for college and I was side in finance and I to speak German because I was working as an au pair, as an nanny in Germany. So I came back and I, I found like a, a source of money and then I realized that this could be even the power of travel and the power of telling our own story as a guide, as a tour guide. And, and then later on then I had my company then, then became Impulse Travel. And now what we do at Impulse is that we connect the local communities, change makers, social enterprises with tourism and in a way of creating authentic experiences and at the same time empowering local communities and to Colombian, to build our own story and tell my home story.
Christine: Yeah, thank you for sharing that and I love that so much because, um, as you or my listeners might know, when I started Lotus Sojourns, that was really how I started is I wanted to bring travelers to connect with some of the local social impact projects that I knew that supported women. And I thought it was such a great way to actually hear and understand the story of a destination through, through their eyes and their experience and through supporting these organizations. So I love so much that that is really the foundation for the work that you're doing as well. And um, I really look forward to sharing more about how that works in impulse travel. Um, one of the things that you and I have talked about in the past and uh, where I would really love to start this conversation is, um, when we're bringing travelers to a destination.
Christine: And, and I know that there's specific destinations that are kind of showcased in the media as having a dark history, but I really think every country has a dark history. So if we're being fair and honest, um, I think that gets spun the wrong way in media, which is part of why this local storytelling is so important. Um, but for you, how do you work to bring the ancestral history that is a part of a culture into the experience that travelers are having while working to kind of tell a richer and more inclusive story and also not try to like soften the impact that especially in Columbia that war and drugs have had, but then still creating a space where travelers can connect and begin to understand the context of the destination that they're in. I know this is a super loaded question, but I think like as travelers it's, I think it should be a part of our responsibility to understand the context of where we're going and not just go places to, to see shiny beaches and these attractions that are in magazines. Like as travelers, I think we should know where we're going and we should understand how our travel impacts that destination and also really understand where we are. So I think you do this so beautifully and I would love to just explore this with you <laugh>.
Juliana: Um, yeah, that's, um, it's, it's funny cause when we started we had this goal of we won travelers to fall in love with Columbia. That's our goal was at the beginning. And we thought that the way of doing that was like the nice stuff that we have. Like, you know, the diversity, the bio diversity, the nature, that beautiful nature that we have, like how kind and how welcoming our people are and all those things are true, but it's like, okay, but hide everything else. You know, like people are not gonna make it fall in love. And with that, the drug dealing and with the, um, with all that, it's like, you know, we keep those things from us when we talk between us or we don't even talk like nobody talks about those things. So, and then we like start working and then we got like the guide starts telling us, or or me as a guide itself, like people start asking me about those things like, um, like work time and and what about the drug feeling?
Juliana: And it's like, what is the drug production in Columbia? So, and we like, we're trying always like to talk a little bit but always change the subject. Okay, yeah. Oh yeah, yeah. In here we have production, but you know, we don't consume, we don't all that just switch the question and thinking like about what you just said, I think it more than the travelers needed to know everything about a destination, uh, because you don't know everything and that's why you go there because if you, you know everything then why what you care to do. So, but just like the kind of traveler that I love is the one that are curious and that like, don't say like things just like from the beginning, but just wait and ask those questions like how did you live it or how was review? And those kind of questions that when you make it it to the locals, that turns into beautiful conversations that not only making you a wider understanding of the destination, but also for the locals make us think about our own history or the situations that we are going through.
Juliana: For example, um, when I started, when I started as a story guide in 2013 and started getting all these questions, um, um, about drugs and all that and I, I realized how little I knew and how actually in school we never talk about it. And we, for example, we were going through a civil wars and with all that and I realized that I had no idea about anything of that. I knew a lot about the history, I knew a lot about the colonial times. But then in terms of what is going on right now, no one talks because since it's still life, you know, as a teacher it's like you don't know who's the father of your children, right? So who fights and like you can get into trouble. So I had to research myself and I had to understand and, and not take sides and to understand how complex it it is in Columbia, the war, and actually how like now we like just finding this peace, peace agreement and the peace process and to understand like this war, we say it's a 70 year war, but actually if we, if you research it comes from the colony times.
Juliana: And before that, and like during the indigenous time, like when we used still have a lot of indigenous tribes, but when everything was indigenous in Colombia, um, like we used, there's a lot of people who says, oh my god, the indigenous, they were like, they back then they live in peaceful times until the colony came and you know, they disturb everything. And that was not true, right? Like the also the, like the different indigenous communities fought between each other. So it's like not as, it's not very like this willing to start up the war and this is the end and understand, understand peace as a process, um, which I think it's important. And that's also what we are doing with the tourism. So what we do is that in our experiences, um, you visit social enterprises that are finding solutions to solve problems in their communities and therefore like they're not maybe solving the in whole country, but everything, every community needs to be in peace and needs to be a strong community working with each other.
Juliana: Just to give you an example, um, and it also be the same time for the travelers must be fun. It's not only going to there and listening to sad stories and it's just, for example, here in Cartagena, um, there's a fisherman village nearby where we have an experience with a community, um, leaders that have rescued um, mangrove forests that used to be full of trash. And now they clean it up and now you can do tours around the, uh, around the mangrove forest and beautiful, you see a lot of, lot of birds or so you can learn how to fish. But also what is behind all that is this social project that have empowered a whole community all behind these man groups and also hear their stories and they say like this man groups is giving them alive and how they're fighting for the territory and this Afro-Colombian community and also how they're, uh, coming back to the roots and resing all this black heritage that we're, that we need to be proud of and all that.
Juliana: And all this is built through tourism. So, and therefore, like if we connected back with the, with the idea of Columbia is like not denying that what we have been going through and that yes, like Pablo Escobar existed. And yes, we still, like, we produce a lot of coca in in Colombia, but also understanding that is a sacred leaf for many of our communities and for us. And it's very helpful for example, when you have have to treat sickness, sickness. So I'm understanding like not everything is white and black, so understand how white it is. And for example is that the war against drugs is not working and it's not also a war that only Columbia should be fighting is that war that if all the world should be fighting and we just one part of it and like all the money that western countries like United States or Europe have to give it to Columbia for the war to buy more weapons and to it would've invested in more infrastructure to bring like good roads to the villages and to good education and all that.
Juliana: Maybe the situation now will be different and not to, not to regret what just happened, it's just to start thinking about it and not blaming us as Colombian as the one guilty for the whole, for the war everywhere. So actually we, when we started like um, we said no, we are never gonna talk about Pablo. I dunno the story. So then we launched a tour in Medellin that's, uh, we started calling it “Pablo Who,” to to say like Pablo is a result of everything in the history and just one character and not like the main character. And actually we're not just, we're just rebranding and we are just gonna launch it in the new marketing story for that word that it's gonna change the name to, “We don't talk about Pablo.” So, and it's like mixing of this narrative of Encanto that we don't talk about something, it's gonna make it worse and we need to talk.
Juliana: And then about like, and in Colombia it's very often that people tell us, oh, we don't talk about Pablo or we like change the subject and like, we need to think talk about those things. We need to talk about what is the drug problems, what is the impact in, in cities like, like Cartagena, and for example, like it's rein coming in the, in the nineties at the most dangerous city in the world to be in the, uh, now is the most city in Colombia and have won many prizes for be the most innovative city in the world. So we have open air and services and they have, um, a great transport system. And everywhere you can work, you can walk freely without problems, without being afraid. And like, this is a lot to learn and I think this is okay, drop made us all that, but also now is our time to also tell the story that we wanna tell about the track.
Christine: Yeah, thank you so much for walking us through that. And I think, um, one of the things that you said in, in there about, you know, even your process of learning history that you were unsure of. I think that's another thing that is so interesting when you're supporting local guides to share the country is because a lot of times we assume that we're going to the source that has all of the knowledge, but then again, can't have understanding the context. Like you we're not sure, you don't know what has been taught through, you know, that system the same as in the us Like our, our history that we learn is a very sanitized history that I think is evolving, um, the history that you learn anywhere in Europe. It's, it's so centralized on kind of what a, a greater influence is telling you you should learn.
Christine: Um, so I think that's a, a really interesting thing about travel too is as someone from a destination, you do start questioning the reality that you know about where you are. When you're empowered to tell your story, you have to understand what your story is. And, and it's kind of fun to think that, that you, you're questioning it from all sides, I guess it, it becomes a very exploratory process. And for me, I also, what I love about travel is that it does step into all of these spaces, especially once you start thinking about the impact that travel can have. And so it's not just about taking a vacation, it's, you start looking at all the pieces like what has to happen in order for travel to exist and in order for this tour to exist. And then like then you start to understand local infrastructure like you were saying and education and access and community, and all of a sudden it's this much broader web.
And so I I really love that, that you have been able to kind of emphasize the parts and pieces that make travel work and, and really be authentic in like, I don't telling all of the parts of travel. Like I, I think that that's something that we saw after the shutdown of Covid because we saw who was impacted by the loss of travel. We started to understand how deep and wide travel is instead of just like the surface of the hotel and your room and your food and your meal and this very self-focused travel experience. Then you started seeing, you know, the families that were impacted and guides and like, it's just such a broad industry. Um, and I feel like I'm digressing, but I love that that that that is a part of the experiences like seeing all the pieces, like nothing is really hidden.
It is just like this is what it takes to make tourism work. And I feel like also witnessing the growth of tourism in Columbia has been such a, an a really powerful thing. It, it feels like it has shifted very quickly and you were mentioning Medellin and the, the popularity of that destination. And it, for me from a professional perspective, it went to like hearing not much about Columbia as a destination or Columbia as a place that like really intrepid travelers were go, would go or um, you know, to all of a sudden every person I knew it seemed went to Columbia from like 2020 to now. Like there's so many people who have gone and so many people talking about, like you said, that innovation, the focus on sustainability on community-based tourism and like, I was like, wait, what is happening here? And I know it's not all of a sudden, but it's just all of a sudden this awareness or this attention. But what do you think caused that shift or that shift in perception even? Um, and I don't know if you have felt it from your end, like the way that I saw it from my side, <laugh>
Juliana: No, it is, and yeah, Columbia is getting very trendy as a destination and, and of course that comes from the fear that you mentioned before, right? Like, um, everybody was born like Latin America, always have been a great destination to go, like people like Latin America. And we are very similar in very many ways, right? Like we speak the same language and like in the, in our culture we have differences, but a lot of things are are similar, so like this joy dance and all that. So, and I had a lot of travelers that I came and they said, you know, like Columbia was the only, the only one that was missing from the big ones, right? Like I've been to from, I've been to Mexico, I've been to Brazil, I've been to Argentina, like, and it was like this country in the middle that looked so interesting but so dangerous that we cannot go.
Juliana: And and you have to like, we have two oceans and we have like 40% of Columbia is Amazon jungle and we have three mountain ranges like, you know, like we have everything given we have this beautiful country. So, and then we sign like there was a sign of the peace agreement in 2016, so like this news of Columbia has opened and Columbia safe to go. It started like spreading around even as that's like, like actually that happened. Like Columbia is very safe to travel since early 2000, but you know, always take your time and of course this assignment of the peace agreement was like everything everywhere in the news. So, um, people start, started to come. And also it's a great, like, I'm not gonna say that I'm grateful completely for the war because of course we have like, um, uh, like me, like thousands of people who died and we have all suffered the war in many, in many different ways.
Juliana: But um, the war or like coming late to the play also gave us the opportunity to think how we wanna do it. So, um, because like you come as a late player so you can learn from from the failures from the ones before and we like, there's still like problems. And now that I'm inside, I still see, okay, we could be, we could be doing better and I'm working every day to make it better, but it's like this, we are trying and we're coming and we're giving, we're trying to give the travelers this experience to like, and we also very big country so they can go and spread around and visit our communities and also the money of, uh, of the, of travel also not stay always in the same hands. So like, uh, there's a lot of boutique hotels, there's a lot of small restaurants and like not trying to become destination to stay in a whole inclusive resort with thousands of rooms where everything stays in the same place, but just become the rest, like the destinations where you can spend two weeks, three weeks and it always looking something different and going in into the destinations and um, that's our goal.
Juliana: That's a goal as least as a company. And I know for the government also, they're pushing into that direction. Um, and especially that is where things are happening. The also cause of the weather, it's very nice weather all year around, like we call this the city of this eternal spring. I'm located in Cartagena, which is a global heritage site with beautiful architecture. You have very nice, uh, sunny beaches nearby and all that. Um, but also Cartagena has been like a, as an oldest tourist destination. So the moving under, like we have Hilton hotels for very long time, like since, since the uh, nineties. So, um, so the here the things are more developed, but just how everything has switched, uh, and have grown so fast in Colombia is very incredible. So right now where I am as a business owner is like how to the wave in the right, in the right position and how to not lose the focus on how to not like, how to make the most of it because you know, you never know what could happen, right? Like we can have the next pandemic, next corner still and how to make it sustainable for our communities, how to make it sustainable for us and how to learn from the others.
Christine: Yeah. Um, it's such a a, I guess like such a valuable insight to realize that if you had had a tourism boom 20 years ago, you had been in, you know, the, the majority of destinations that were really focused on, you know, cruises or like you said, all inclusive destinations serving that niche of, or not niche, that is mass tourism serving that market. But now because the, the knowledge and awareness and information that is surrounding sustainable tourism and community-based tourism, is so much more accessible. Like you said, you can start there, you don't have to try to shift that direction. Um, but it, but it is, when you look across the, the board very unique for a destination to start there, but because you have that information to build from, you can. Um, so I, I think that that's amazing and uh, I think there's a few other places I've seen that have, you know, have been able to do that.
Christine: Um, after I was in Switzerland, I went to Slovenia and you know, they're a country that is also very focused on sustainable tourism and growth management of tourism and it's because they're starting in this space as well where they have seen what has happened and they can say, you know, maybe not all or nothing is not the right approach, <laugh>. And um, yeah, I think it's just really, it's really great to be at this point in time where people are really focusing on that and having that as the foundation and not the place to grow towards, like they can grow from that space. Um, I guess this would be a really good spot to, to jump into you and I talked about in terms of our own businesses, intentional growth and like really as business owners, understanding the impact you wanna create and how much you need to scale to make that impact. But then not surpassing that just because it seems like the right thing to do. And then also as a business owner and as a c e o like feeling happy and balanced in your work, finding what that level is and just like putting the lid there, what, what, what is that like for you? And, and cuz I know you've grown a lot recently and like what has that dance been <laugh>?
Juliana: Oh, that's, um, still a question that I'm, I'm asking myself every day. Um, when we were at the ATTA, um, they were talking about like, like about this concept of infinite, um, growth, like always keep growing and growing. And I that that talk really hit me because I was, I was asking myself the same, like right now we are in the, we're in the group, in the team. We're, we're team, we're 10. So, um, and I like it cause it's like a, we, we like to call ourselves like a high performance group of friends, so we're not family, you know, like families wherever, like I felt like, you know, it is your time and if you need to move on, it's, it's your time, right? Like just to feel like you, the time that you spend during your time in impulse is, is worth it and you feel like you growth in it.
Juliana: But so we, um, so we are a team of high performance friends, so, which is a great number, but really to be 5,300. But like, but you don't even know the names of everyone. Like you don't know the stories, you don't know like what is going on and it's like, what does it mean for my life? And it's like, is like having more employees or having more like it's, it's a, it's of like, oh I wanna like be so powerful. Like I feel like the life of 300 people depends on me, right? Like I don't think that's what I want in my life. Like I feel that what I do is, is important for the people. Like I feel, I wanna feel like the company inside everybody feels fulfilled and then like they're doing something better. But at the same time then I'm also asking me, okay, maybe you're choosing that and you're choosing to keep maybe smaller and you are rejecting to grow in and like bring your impact further because like this person coming to Columbia and if you find your offer, they're gonna find something else and maybe they're gonna do small.
Juliana: So it's like what happened if you're looking and they Google a things experience or tours to do in Colombia and the only things they find is the same things like the <inaudible> or going to the these same stories and there's nothing happening behind. So like more than me telling you um, business, I'm still asking me myself like how to keep that balance in my life. Because most of them talking like when you work for sustainability also feel like, oh my God, what I do is not hundred percent sustainable, right? That is like more tourism comes to this, right? Like, which is a small impact, but even wanna bring hundred people, thousand people a year and then what happens? Like, okay that's money and their money can bring into development for them, but then how that's gonna impact the culture. So, you know, you have all these questions going on all the time and and so have the answer. I just try to keep it as a question in my life to not always like, grow with the flow of not making, not making this growth at a big, the main achievement and grow, growing more money or just to have more people and we're growing is because like that's what we as a company cause it's sustainable and cause we're also learning from it.
Christine: Yeah. Um, I think it's so great and I love the idea that you said just kind of keeping that as a living question because uh, there's so many things you have to check up against it. Like you said, you know, if you if you're running a sustainable business and trying to have impact, then you know, what is that impact? How do you find balance in that? And and like you said, you know, we you want financial income and revenue and to create that resource for the communities and the social impact organizations you're supporting, but then you have to look at what's the tipping point for that and when does it, like you said, start to impact the community from a way that it starts to shift culture or that they are really evolving to serve tourism instead of tourism serving them, which I think is what we really have seen around the world.
Christine: And that's where we saw the greatest impact during the pandemic is these communities that that really did begin to cater towards tourism when they had no tourism. They were, they were devastated. So we need to think about what that line is and then we don't know. I mean that's the other thing is like you said, we don't know that line. It's not like we're like, oh well we just crossed it <laugh>. And so you have to, to keep looking at that. And then I think from, for me, from the, the impact that I wanna create too is from a, from a like corporate culture standpoint, like you were saying that you are these 10 people who are working together, who are family. Like that's such a unique space in the world of work that I, I feel like that creates a even more positive impact in the lives of our, of our employees, uh, of the guides, how they interact with the travelers.
Christine: If they're one of 10 and not one of a thousand, they feel their own value and that also tells a different story. And so I think like those are all those things you had to juggle and like I had a exciting thing to be able to hire someone to work for me that it was someone I was like, as soon as I get to the point where I can do this, want you on my team because you understand so much what I'm trying to do. And then we also have such a kinship, like what we can create together is so different than just bringing in employees and growing and then what you put out is so different. So I think it's such a, a powerful conversation and also something that's kind of new because I think growth for the sake of growth, like you said, has been the paradigm and now people are like, well <laugh> is that what we really need in this world?
Christine: Like, and we serve better if we only grow to a certain place. Which then also allows someone else to come in and bring their gifts into a space that you maybe were trying to fill, but it's not your zone of genius because you were just growing. Um, I dunno, well we can start to get pretty philosophical in this space, but I, I just really loved that that was a part of what we were talking about, uh, when we first connected. Um, another thing that, that we talked about in this kind of same thread is when you're creating a positive impact, and most of the businesses that come on, on Soul of Travel are really impact driven led by women who want to create a positive impact. Um, and I know this is important to you and that you have actually won, uh, the urban been recognized by the UN WTO for the global startup competition and your work with the sustainable development goal six, number 16.
Christine: And so like, this is something that's very important to you. But then as brands we're looking at how do we tell our story? How do we tell them impact is important to us and still allow them to like, to respond as travelers who want to come to a destination? Kind of where we started this conversation, like, do you create the trip that you know they're gonna come to and kind of like forget about the other parts of your, of your environment and your country and your destination because you know that's what they're gonna come for. But in the end they're gonna realize they can create a positive impact. They're gonna, they're gonna hear the story like you're, you're not going to not ask your guide a question about their life. So things are gonna start to surface and you're gonna understand such a interesting place to be in when you're not just saying like, here's this relaxing vacation that's gonna meet all of your needs. And it's kind of superficial when you really want them to know that this will impact their lives and impact the lives of the people around them. How do you bridge that? And again, I know there's no answers, but what has that been like for you to kind of navigate that balance?
Juliana: I feel like when, when people go on vacation, it's like they, they can show these, right? Like there's, um, and when they go on vacations, like they wanna feel like they wanna be free. I mean, for some people it's just going on a day on the beach and, and like having quiet cause their daily life is stressful, so they feel like they wanna escape and that escape is just laying on the beach for, for a full day. And there's other people that feel that for them, their reality is going, doing something stream, you know, going rafting or going, um, so there's all people that ever by any reason, because normally it's by accident. They, they <inaudible> or they end up in this travel that are transformative and knowing the local culture. And I think it's very few people that actually start a trip like that from the first time.
Juliana: It's just that those two reason ended up here and then they love it and then they keep looking for that. Um, or they have a friend that maybe very strongly recommended, but it's like the first, like, going into this kind of traveler is very hard. So, um, when we, when we warn them, um, um, we changed the whole, the whole website to make it like we the super and not like a super, um, impactful from the company. And if you're gonna come with us, you're gonna be transformed and you're gonna be that and, and like, you know, all our trip have this impact and have all that. And then we realized that it was not working. Um, it was not working first. Cause like, like normally going back to this first through the first sentence, like when you go into vacations and you wanna be your true self, like maybe that's those words like transformative, impactful.
Juliana: So like too for you, you have in this moment of your life is cause you know, like making a promise that my trip is gonna be transformative is a big statement, right? And normally the trips you realize that we're transformative way long time after they happens, right? Like you can tell that maybe six, at least six months after they happen or then you can tell, maybe you can say, oh, this was special. But really to me, like to understand what it means for you, that happens and that takes time. So, um, that's why we don't want that to be like our statement or our value proposition. Like with us with this trip, you're gonna get transformed. Um, even now, like that's what a lot of our guests face about the trips. It's like, okay, we want them to discover that and encounter that and because not because they're expecting it to, to be that.
Juliana: So, and also because, um, they, we need, what we be trying to do is like how can we, the things that they're looking for and they like having fun and for example, as I explained, just going into the fishermen and learning, like going into the mangroves, which is very nice nature and feel the quiet man and then meeting these people. And I feel, you know, not everybody has the luxury of taking a six month trip where you can go very slow into the destination and meet the locals and, and stay there and take the time to build those relationships. Um, but like what we just like to offer like this kind of maybe expres, um, experiences that can go deeply into it, but at the same time, uh, are also, um, I'm losing the words, but it's like almost a community per perspective. It's a very short encounter.
Juliana: So, uh, always telling my story, um, I wanna do it in a very precise wave that <inaudible> doesn't like empower me and not decrease me. And it's not always feels like a therapy. Even sometimes it's, but it's not like, oh my God, I'm so poor and I'm this and all that. But it's just empowering, you know, I feel this and I've done this and I, I did this and how fun to play, to learn how to play the drums, for example, experience in cold drums and the, and beach or we have another experience we meet again that is called the after tour. So we learn how to play the drums and we fail this music and all like the meaningful the music in Colombian history. So it's like you as a traveler have a hard time. So you play, you learn how to play the drums, you listen to music, but what is going behind?
Juliana: It's also very cool. So it's also trying to mention, uh, find a balance and hopefully that also links to a very interesting experience that I just had last week that, um, I don't that much anymore. Like I used to guide every day sometimes, and then each of the trade and you know, but then, but then last week was, so, um, we needed a guide in German, but our was kind, so I had feedback on the, so before that we had to was, um, uh, tour and I normally really don't like tour because, um, travelers and even they were going actually to this fisherman village in one of our experiences. And normally travelers, they're, they're not that and, and, and they're, I dunno like they're not this kinda travelers where you can get conversations.
Juliana: Anyway, I did it. So I went with them and it was a group. As they landed, they’re talking about how crazy the traffic was. And, and again, we were driving into the, this village and the area is that the houses are very, very simple infrastructure and you know, like the materials are made of wood or maybe there's some trash in the streets and all that. And then one woman in the group said uh, oh my God, I don't understand, I don't, I don't see how can people live like this? And I don't think I would be happy living in a place like this. Um, so, and I remember myself from many years when I started guiding and I would answer, I would just avoid it or say, oh, I know, I just keep it like that, right? Because what do you answer to things like that?
Juliana: First I find it very rude to someone coming to my country. Maybe you can think it, but say it out loud to me, um, as a local and it feels very rude, like telling me, how could you leave happily in a place like this? Like I like it. But then this time, um, what I did is that I started a conversation about what is actually happiness. So then I asked her like, um, okay, so what is, what do you think is, um, makes me happy? Or do you really think people in Germany having everything is truly happier than the people here? You know, like now you go steam, people just go to the sea and they fish. So they're not, they're not starving. That's what I can pronounce. I can this specifically neighborhood, they're not starving and, and you know, like look at them, they're over with, their families look at at sitting outside, they have time and all that.
So like, do you think that's really like what's happiness and all that? And like she said, yeah, but you know, like, um, like this basic, I'm I'm used to those kinda things and it said, okay, yeah, you might be right. It's like, um, you are used to certain kind of things and those are your standards. But maybe for those standards where the price that you're paying to, um, what is like the time that you have, like what is the family for us, for example, I was explaining as Colombians, uh, it's very important to be grateful. So we practice it grateful, like when eating or when in our daily life. And, and it's like, and when I was in Germany, like people were like complaining all of the time, everything, you know, like the train is two minutes late.
Juliana: And then we got to the fishermen and they start explaining like how was important to this black heritage and how like they have been empowered and all that, and how like they were making jokes and all that. So we, when we came back on the way back to the city, I was like, what do you think? And said, yeah, like, like she, of course she didn't change her mind immediately, but I could feel that she was like, she was not just given it that as a statement anymore. So, and also that's where we, what we're doing and what we trying to create with the trips, not for telling the truth of the time. Like, you know, like here, Columbia's perfect and this is all these things is just to build conversations. And, and that's also what tourists and experience won replace. I see more and more travelers that are just booking the accommodation, going to the restaurants, booking, you know, going to the beach and going home.
Juliana: And they don't, they don't book experiences to go deeply, which you understand something. For example, we have another experience here that is visiting indigenous communities to learn how to weave a technique that is called Wayuu. And so you learn how to weave, which is very, very beautiful technique, but also learn the history of what means to be an indigenous communities live is in the city. Like, like this identity, has it all been to be indigenous or not know that. And having all these conversations about also the indigenous communities like home, right? Like you can say Americans like how it's home. So, and also start asking us the question and not like, not the conversation going in one way. And this is a work and that's why it's so important, the, the guide and, and, and all like this training, we, we were doing like a lot of like, um, of, of training for our guide to also train and having this meaningful conversations.
Juliana: Especially because I, I learned a book that really impact me last year that it was called, um, Beyond Guilt Trips, have chance to read it? Which is about that, about having this conversation and helping digest the realities that we're going through. So, but then, um, we talked, we started, like, we came with the idea of launching a podcast with, for like talk, talking about this conversations. I'm not like, sometimes they couldn't make it to the session and it's not like it's recorder like they have to watch the video, which is very heavy. So I actually think that you, like you talked me about the, the podcast for the industry. I thought again, maybe this is the solution for us with our guides to promote, deliver this conversation, have his knowledge.
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Christine: Yeah, um, gosh, there's so many things from that that I wanted to focus on, and now I'm just like, I'm just happy that I'm having the conversation and I got lost in it for a moment. Um, but I do, I think it's so important and as you were talking about, you know, the, the guests that you were, um, bringing in from the cruise ship and, and that conversation, it really reminded me of, of ones that I've had in the past as well and where people, I think, you know, it's such human nature to notice the differences when we're traveling. And so, and then with that, that difference, you notice the discomfort or like, I don't know why we lean towards negative instead of towards positive, but I do feel like that's a, a, a way that our brain starts to like to process information.
Christine: Um, but I I love that you asked that, that question of, you know, do, do you think this is actually equaling happiness where, where you're from? Because in fact, so many travelers are traveling because they're feeling like loss or unhappiness or they're needing to like recharge, like you said, or, or just relax. And so, um, it's really interesting to ask those questions and when I've traveled with people and they start to notice that like, I've done the same thing, like, what about that to you says unhappiness or sadness or, you know, despair or, or these things that they're saying they're witnessing and you know, then they, they question that. And much like you said, like the the time that it takes away from your life to produce in order to have the income in order to buy the thing. And uh, like is that joy or is the fact that maybe you have less money, but you have all this time with your family?
Christine: Like I find when I travel, especially to what we would call developing countries, that I'm so envious of that community and that time that families have and this, like, I'm often being fed this meal from a, a local farmer or from their own properties and it's such a bounty. Like I, I start to question like, what is wealth? What is happiness? What is abundance? Like how are we measuring that? And you know, those are the conversations that start to make me feel really excited to like, to, to kind of shift paradigms. I feel like you and I are trying to shift every paradigm right now, <laugh>, but um, like I, I'm like, to me that's joy. Like to be able to spend all that time and also when I was younger, like my grandmother had a huge garden and, and fed our whole family. So for me, there's a part of my heart that resonates with that being joy.
Christine: And so I see that and I'm like, no, to me that's happiness. Like I don't need a TV and a like new car and, and all these things. Like I, I miss family like that. And so I think it's so great to have those conversations and to just like push people's comfort level a little to have it both ways. And like you said, for for the guides to be able to ask questions or communities to ask like, well what's this like in your country? Or, because we don't think about that a lot, like when we go out and travel, we have this curious mindset, but when we're home, we just like submerge into our surroundings. And so travel really, like if it can be an equal exchange like that and you can start to question on both sides of the conversation and not have it be this interrogation of the destination where you're at and it's under fire, like flip that mirror, like take that backwards and and ask the same question.
Christine: So I really love that you, that you did that and that you're also working with your guides to cultivate that conversation. Oh, and the book that you mentioned, um, Beyond Guilt Trips, um, by Dr. Anu Taranath is definitely one I highly recommend. I interviewed her on the podcast, so anyone listening, I would definitely recommend going back, listening to that and reading the book because that was a huge shift for me as well. Like I just read the preface of that book and I emailed, uh, Dr. Taranath and I was like, oh my gosh, I have been waiting for this book. Like, I've only read the preface and I already know this is the way I've wanted to think about travel.
Christine: So, um, well, before we end our conversation, um, I just really quickly wanted to talk about, uh, community and the importance of community, especially for women as travel leaders. And, um, for me, I know that that support and that community, especially as a solopreneur right now in my business has been so important. But I was wondering how that has impacted the growth of your business or like, as you stepped in as a, a woman in the industry running your own company, like what have you been surprised by or how have other women supported you? I cuz I have really seen that women see me and see my vision and then they're like, aha, like this is the thing I think would really move the needle forward in your business. And I was really surprised by that level of camaraderie or like the willingness to make sure that my business was thriving and really find that support. But how, what has that looked like in your business? Or have you, what have you found?
Juliana: I dunno, like it's, um, when I was, when I was teenager, I used to have a lot of, um, male friends and I, I had this idea of that, that I didn't have a lot of female friends and like there was, and there was a lot of, um, that, and actually that is also this misconception that we as we're available and ourself. And then suddenly when like five years ago, I, I just questioned myself that like, is is it really true that you cannot, um, because also I was having a lot of opportunities given by men that want, like, were conscious and they wanted to bring women into the field. So like, I was like getting cool for a bigger group for like giving the trust and they, and I, I knew there was a part of like them like, oh my God, like let's go with this young girl.
Juliana: Like it's very passionate and like she's like giving her a different tv, you know, and being a female kinda like played a role and helped me and gave me some chances, which is normally the opposite with I feel, but I feel for me for that, so for myself, questioning myself, like what, what I'm doing with the community and what I'm doing, um, and about this misconception. So I started to reach out more to women and to ask them for, for help and to, for example, I'm part of, um, association here in Columbia that is called [inaudible] and there's um, like this the responsible travel association and there's a lot of women there, but I was always hanging with the male, with the men in the, in the industry, which is the most, because in the, in we, no one is alive that in the tourism industry, there's mostly, um, women, but we talk about the leaders, there's mostly men.
Juliana: So I was like always talking with the men and trying to hanging out with the men and the, and the group, um, one with the bigger companies and all that. But then there was like, Hey, what about us women, what about like us in these same associations? What are we doing? And also something that I realized is that sometimes it's not enough of empowering, it's not enough of saying, okay, yes, as women we can do it. We need sometimes to push each other into the water. So because no matter how much we repeat ourself, we can do it. We don't believe we can. So it's not until someone has threw us into the water and then we, we'll realize we can swim. So, um, that would point us like to be consciously like working more like with local owners, like cultural owners that are women and giving them like services and help them, them how to like bigger groups, more complicated groups and like luxury things and all that.
Juliana: And they normally would go with men and it's not a terms like men versus woman, it's just like how actively I look for those things and push people into the work. For example, I have a group that wanted to be lead complete by women. So, uh, women was easy, but women drivers, that was very hard with big cars. So, um, I had to make, um, a call like, like the social media, like I'm looking for female drivers all around Columbia and all that. Very few came, but I needed one for a big for a, so, and I didn't find it until I find, until I ask one of the male, one of our driver, a male driver that we have. Like, I'm looking for that, I'm looking for a, a woman to drive a bus. Like maybe you know, someone that you can borrow the bus.
Juliana: So lend the bus and said, ok, my wife can do actually she parks it and she use it and, and then she did so, and this thing like, and then she, she kept driving, you know, like, and if maybe you would ask her like from nothing when no chances, hey, why don't you became a driver and knock on people towards maybe the door's not gonna open. Like sometimes like what I think it's most important is for us to trust other people or those is something that I learned not that long ago is that I used to say, do it even when you are fearful right now. I don't, I don't believe that. I think like fear has a go in our life and fear tell us to run or tell us that we're not prepared for that. So, and, and to listen to that fear, yes, you are maybe not prepared for that.
Juliana: So then what do you need to ask people that in there, in fear, like what tools you are missing to feel that you can do it. Because sometimes like when you're so fearful to doing something, maybe you don't, don't, you don't do it right, right, because you, you feel like you don't deserve or you you're not able to do it. So to ask people that are in fear or they're in this situation, like, what do you need to feel that you're capable of doing it and maybe I can help you or can connect with you. So then you feel more like capable of, and so sometimes just say, well you can, so, and this is like now what's my business now with this association? We're meeting, we're planning, we're planning, uh, retreat only for the woman in there to like keep talking and also cause as a woman we say sometimes this situations about like, yeah, not feeling that we're capable and not here that way worth it. So like in this is something also something that only we, if a woman can feel herself and we can empower ourselves by showing examples and throw it into the water.
Christine: Yeah. Oh my gosh, I love that so much. I feel like I'm so glad that that's where we ended the conversation. That was, um, some really, really beautiful wisdom. Um, I, I love the idea of how we can throw each other into the water. And I think that comes like with our belief in one another too. Like, I think I love what you said about fear, but I think also sometimes we do hold ourselves back and don't believe in ourselves. So someone that just pushes us is in the water and then we're like, oh wait, I'm swimming. Like, that's so valuable. But also to, to honor that fear. And like you said, then don't let that be the stopping point though. Being like, what do you need to overcome that fear? What support do you need? What, what do you need to learn to not have fear, to have more comfort to be able to do that. I think, um, both of those things are, are so valuable. So thank you so much for, for sharing that. Um, as we in the conversation, I have uh, a couple rapid fire questions for our, our audience to get to know you a little bit more as a traveler. And then, um, yeah, I'm so grateful. This is such a fun conversation. Um, the first one is, what are you reading right now?
Juliana: Oh my God, I'm very bad with names. Is Reinventing Organizations Is the name in English?
Christine: What is that again? Sorry.
Juliana: Reinventing Organizations. A very, yeah, it's very cool book about how we can, about organizations in a different ways about like, uh, translate the words in English, but just how can we create an ambiance, what everybody feels needed, what you don't have to be telling everybody what to do and everybody feel part of something bigger and yeah, it's a great book if you're into and and all that.
Perfect. That goes right in our flipping the paradigm conversation as well. <laugh>. Um, what is always in your suitcase or backpack when you travel?
Juliana: Um, my menstrual cup, I would say that came to mind. You never when you're gonna need it. Right? But anything else?
Christine: Yeah. Uh, to Sojourn is to travel somewhere as if you live there for a short while. Uh, where is a place that you would love to sojourn?
Juliana: Places in my mind that I've been, um, that I always felt like I was not ready to, but now I'm feeling more that I'm ready to go is India. I've never been to India and I, I like I knew there was not a place just, and there you have, feel like you're ready for and I'm feeling like I'm close. I'm close.
Christine: Oh, I love that. That's how you shared about it. I have felt the same way. Like I felt like, um, India is a place that I, my soul wants to visit and yet like I needed to be ready to receive whatever was waiting for me and also to experience just the destination. But, um, I'm traveling with my daughters for a year soon and I think I know so many women there who have in invited us and ex you know, extended open arms and invitations. So I think it might be coming, which is interesting cuz then I feel like I'm taking my daughters there before they might be ready, but maybe they're ready. I don't know. So, but I love that, that you shared about it that way. Uh, what do you eat that immediately connects you to a place that you've been?
Juliana: Oh, there's, um, there's a, that is called [inaudible], which is, uh, AUP made of and, uh, a local root that's called a very, a very simple dish, but it just reminds me of being in the backyard of my grandma's. And I feel like the heat and I feel like, like the yellow, like everything's so yellow cause it's so hot here. So this is, um, what comes.
Christine: Uh, who was a person that inspired or encouraged you to set out and explore the world?
Juliana: My father. Um, my father is a, he, my father, my mother especially. My father has this like travel spirit. And it's very funny because he always came back from the travel, from the trips and he always telling the story to my two brothers. Um, and they were telling a story of us and he always won us, my, my brothers to become the travelers. And they didn't. And I did. And he's told me many times like, why you, why, like, why you have to be the one going as an pair for a year being so young, why you have to go to these adventures. And, um, not that long ago we did a, uh, a trek trips. The two of you, the two of us, uh, which is was like at this like closing, like going into adventure. And for the very first time I was stronger than my father. So I have to like slow down the past and like talking to them and to feel like this was me a way of thanking him when he put me into adventure without him wanting me to. And now me like push him to doing this long track maybe when he wouldn't done it, um, by himself.
Christine: Wow. Thank you. Um, if you could take an adventure with one person, fictional or real alive or past, who would it be?
Juliana: Um, trip I would take, uh, I have, I would take, uh, there's, um, a character in Columbia history that she's called [inaudible] and she was like looking for a, the independence process and she, she got killed and before she died she said like, uh, even that I'm young and a woman, I'm not fearful for dying for what it's what is right. So, and her life just to go on a trip with her and see how she was like looking like this rebellious time, um, for her to, would be, um, going on a trip in Colombia, like going into the jungle with her, like going into, um, uh, a trip. That would be very cool. I'm very awesome. I I I know she would be prepared for everything.
Christine: <laugh>. I love that. Um, well, solo travel is a space for honoring, uh, the voices of women. Who is one woman in the travel industry that you admire and would like to recognize in this space?
Juliana: Hmm. A woman, um, Gabby from ATTA. And I think she, she has, uh, such great light and she always look for people to be like in the hands spot to bring it, um, be there in the place. And she has such a way of empower, like not empowering, like giving you like empowering words. It's just like, as I said, right? Like she talks to you and uh, you can, or what you did is so important and this all connecting people together. So yeah.
Christine: Thank you. That's uh, also a beautiful kind of full circle moment cuz she is the first guest on my podcast and through our conversation then I realized that I wanted to focus on the voices of women in tourism. And so, uh, that feels like a, a beautiful, uh, thing to be able to recognize her here for that as well. So thank you. Um, well thank you so much for joining me for this conversation. I hope that our listeners really took away, um, some ways of thinking differently about travel and thinking about our impact. And hopefully we're just inspired to, to get out there and travel and really be intentional and curious and have fun, uh, with their experiences as well.
Juliana: Thank you so much for having me.
Christine: Thank you.