“What I really want to do is empower people all over the world; I believe that, when given the proper opportunities and resources, people can and will excel.” Though we were many states and a long-distance phone call apart, the passion in Kylie’s voice as she described her dreams for her travel business were fervent and palpable. As the CEO and founder of Acanela Expeditions, a boutique travel company that offers small group tours all over the world, Kylie has dedicated her life to learning how to use travel to create a positive impact on local communities in almost every continent. “When I travel, I want to immerse myself completely in another culture and connect with as many people as I can. I want to help people feel confident in their passions and skills; that’s the best way to create long-term impact on local communities.”
International travel, while once deemed a luxury reserved solely for the wealthy, has become increasingly accessible to the masses. With thousands of websites dedicated to cheap flights and accommodations in every corner of the world, more people are traveling now than ever before. Yet, with this increase in global traffic, the question becomes, “How is the rise in tourism affecting local peoples, cultures, and communities?”
This was exactly the type of question that Kylie wanted to address.
Kylie founded Acanela Expeditions at the ripe young age of 20, while she was still a sophomore at Brigham Young University in Utah. After her first year at University, Kylie received the chance to study abroad in Oxford, England. Growing up in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, she had never traveled internationally, and she wanted to take advantage of this amazing chance to experience a new continent and a variety of foreign cultures. Saving up all of her dollars from her part time job, Kylie and a couple of friends decided to spend a whole month before their study abroad program to backpack through Europe, and, as she explains, “all of the experiences I had on that trip directly impacted my desire to found Acanela.”
While in Europe, Kylie and her friends woke up in a new country practically every day; they spent time with local people, learning about their communities, staying in their homes, cooking and eating together, and touring various cities throughout the continent. Kylie fell in love with the different ways that people lived, ate, and viewed the world; yet, what she came to value most were the similarities that she observed. “At the end of the day, I felt like we were family.”
When she returned home, all Kylie wanted to do was to share meals and stories with people; she had learned during her time abroad about the incredible power of food to create connections across cultural bounds, and she wanted to share that power with her friends and family at home. So, that Christmas, Kylie put together various spice blends and recipes, all of which were connected to a story about one of the people that she met during her trip. She then sent those packages out as gifts to her loved ones. The reaction was immediate and overwhelming: people were moved by the stories and recipes that Kylie shared, and they encouraged her in her passions to continue to create connections through food and experiences. This turned out to be the very start of Acanela and the artisan impact project.
In Latin, “Acanela” is the word for cinnamon, a name that Kylie felt embodied the goal of her new business: to create meaningful, cross-cultural experiences through the magic of food. As Kylie continued to travel around the globe, first through Southeast Asia, India, and China, and then to Africa, the stories grew deeper and her connections to various people and cultures expanded. Eventually, Kylie realized that what she really wanted to offer her friends, family, and followers at home were not only these incredible stories and recipes, but also experiences: she wanted to give people the opportunity to travel to another country and to meet these local people, or “artisans” as they came to be known, in person.
But how could she do it? Throughout her travels, Kylie realized she had created profound connections and friendships with people in every nook and cranny of the world, including incredible cooks, knowledgeable tour guides, mountain climbers, and boutique hotel workers and owners. She began working with them, one at a time, listening to their stories and providing them with the resources that they needed to build their ideas and skills into sustainable businesses, whether that was through helping them build their internet presence or making sure they had the proper equipment for their businesses. She also provided them with the freedom to use their abilities and passions to craft itineraries and experiences for small group tours, from cooking classes and culinary experiences to group climbs to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro!
Slowly but surely, these artisans, who included women in Africa who cooked amazing dishes and enthusiastic tour guides in remote areas of Indonesia and Vietnam, have become the very core of Acanela’s philosophy: to empower local people with resources and learning opportunities to become leaders in their communities. Acanela curates experiences directly with these local people, not only to impact communities in a positive way, but also to provide fully immersive experiences for the traveler by exposing them to some of the most beautiful places and vibrant cultures on earth. “One day,” Kylie says, “I hope to have a friend in every country in the world.”
The invitation is open for any and all travelers to join Acanela on this amazing journey, a journey of exploring, learning, and connection. It’s a journey to learn how to travel with purpose, and how to have a positive impact on local communities throughout the world. Travel with Acanela, and you can be a part of something much larger than yourself: you will not just have an amazing experience, but you will also have the chance to make a difference.
What impact do you want to have when you travel?