Written by Emily Packer
Have you ever taken a 10 hour flight to a faraway beach, only to find yourself on a lounge chair drinking a delicious Mojito next to a group of loud-talking fellow Americans, French, British….fill in the blank…? Or perhaps you miss that feeling of being totally lost on vacation – unable to speak the local language or use English to get by, ordering things off the menu that come as a total surprise, or learning something about the local culture that doesn’t come from your Lonely Planet? Well, fear not – authentic travel IS still possible!
If Congo, Rwanda, Costa Rica or Uganda have been on your list for awhile – take a look at Vayando. Its a self-described “tool for curious travelers,” allowing them to spend a day with local entrepreneurs in their coffee fields, shops, kitchens, fishing boats, studios, etc. to learn more about their livelihoods. “Travelers get a very personally unique experience while entrepreneurs gain the opportunity to diversify their income or build their business,” says the website.
“There are so many misconceptions about indigenous people. You need to meet us and learn first-hand, what makes us human, just like you.” – Jose Carlos and Leila
And they’re all about making a positive social impact. Vayando works with over 50% female entrepreneurs and ensures all of Vayando’s marketed entrepreneurs receive 70% of the each booking fee paid by travelers. For more information on how it all works, read more here.
After daydreaming about my next vacation, I’ve picked out my top three excursions below – but check out their website today and choose your own favourites! From spray painting to banana farming to hip hop dancing, you are guaranteed to find something for you! Happy authentic traveling! 🙂
Follow them on Instagram at @vayandotravel for more inspiration.
BAMBOO FARMING AND TORTILLA MAKING WITH ALEXIS AND XANIA (Costa Rica)
Book here for only $20
Xania is famous. She makes probably the world’s greatest tortillas “palmeadas”, or tortilla completely made and shaped by hand. Then they are cooked on an “fogon de leña” or a wooden stove. You will go through the whole process with her of making traditional Guanacasteco tortillas. After you will take a light walk with her husband Alexis and see his farm of plantains, yucca, sugar cane, and more. Alexis is in the process of growing an exotic bamboo farm where he hopes to someday be able to make great art and even possibly construct some cabinas for visitors. You can also add on an additional tour of the river and trails that the community has to offer.
STREET PHOTOGRAPHY WITH PAPA (Kampala, Uganda)
Book here for only $40
Come spend some time with Papa photographing the lively streets of Kampala. Papa will guide you through city districts that he knows well, and you’ll shoot together. And if you’d like, he can also walk you through the fundamentals (e.g. composition, depth of field, ISO) of what makes a good image. You’ll meet at the National Theatre, then head out on foot to different districts in Kampala. This is a great way to see different sides of the city and meet lots of local people through the lens.
ICE CREAM MAKING AND BAKING WITH SWEET DREAMS (Butare, Rwanda)
Book here for only $25
Come spend an afternoon learning about ice cream and the women who run Sweet Dreams (Inzozi Nziza) in Butare, Rwanda’s first ice cream shop. Sweet Dreams is a cooperative of local women that each own a share in the business, who are empowered through a sustainable income and the chance to make real decisions that affect the shop. The women of Sweet Dreams are also make up Rwanda’s first all female drumming group, which brings together women from both sides of the country’s genocide for reconciliation. Their drumming group has received international notoriety, including being featured at the Sundance Film Festival and global media outlets. Sweet Dreams is guilt-free ice-cream at its finest.