Education, Connection & Awe: Meaningful Trips With Naya Traveler
Education, Connection & Awe: A Recipe for Meaningful Travel
Though we’re not done with the virus yet, we have said good riddance to 2020, and that psychological shift has been significant. Many of us are entering 2021 with realistic expectations, but new year optimism is stubbornly persistent. At some point during the next 12 months things some semblance of normality will resume. Our next trip is tantalizingly close, my friends! Where will you go and what kinds of experiences will you prioritize?
After so much lazing around at home, doing the same activities with the same people, many of us are desperate to immerse ourselves in a buffet of new experiences. We’re craving that good kind of culture shock. The kind that leaves you a little bit wiser, more open and full of fascinating stories.
My interviewee this week is Marta Tucci, co-founder of Naya Traveler, a company that specializes in luxury trips underpinned by a strong focus on heritage, tradition and culture. The Naya team will custom design a vacation based on your travel goals, weaving in interactions with people that make the experience more meaningful.
“There’s always a learning process on a Naya trip,” explains Marta, a Barcelona native who is preparing to move to Brazil after several years residing in Buenos Aires. “These kinds of experiences teach you something, you build bridges of connection, and they really leave you completely changed.”
Esme Benjamin: What makes Naya Traveler special?
Marta Tucci: We build the itineraries completely custom to what the client wants, then we remain present 24-7 throughout the trip, and we work with very high-end, boutique-type properties that really do enhance the cultural experience. But what we try to communicate to people is that, for us, luxury is the intangible part of the trip: the access that we can get our clients so they can meet certain personalities of a destination or visit places that are really off the typical tourist route.
EB: You launched Naya with trips to just nine destinations. Why were those places significant to you and your co-founders?
MT: There are three partners in the company and we started with destinations where we had either lived, or have spent more than six months, which really does break the barrier of knowing a place in a more local way. We added places to our list as we began doing long trips. Our rule of thumb is to find places we personally find interesting, places that have a rich history and heritage, and lots of natural beauty.
EB: How do you ensure that the experience feels authentic to the place while also allowing the client to personalize it?
MT: A few years ago wellness became a very trendy subject, and we started getting a lot of inquiries like, "Oh, I heard about a yoga retreat in Morocco. I want to do that." And so we had to take a moment and see how we could make wellness fit within our philosophy. Culturally, doing yoga in Morocco doesn't make any sense to me. So we're like, let's try to put out a message of wellness travel that is contextualized within the destination. We came up with a few ideas for trips where our clients were able to experience wellness, but wellness that was rooted in the traditions and the culture of the destination.
EB: That’s smart because there are wellness traditions in every single culture. It’s more authentic to explore hammams while you’re in Morocco and learn about yoga in India. Can you give an example of a wellbeing trip you organized?
MT: We had a woman who came to us and she had just lost her husband. She wanted to do a wellness trip where she dealt with her grief, so we organized a seven-day trek in the Andes with a shaman who was briefed on her experience and what she was trying to get out of it. It was a seven-day journey walking in the highlands, accompanied by the shaman who practiced different meditations and rituals with her every single day.
EB: You have discussions with your clients about how to interact with indigenous and local communities in a respectful manner. That’s a really important thing that’s not talked about nearly enough in the travel industry.
MT: Because I come from an ethnographic background, I’ve been on top of raising awareness of how to interact socially with indigenous communities, or even locals who are from a totally different culture to yours. Travelers should be prepared and it’s a learning process. Once the client has booked the trip we send them an itinerary by mail with a whole section providing historical background on the destination, a list of useful words and phrases from the language and tips for how to interact with people. We give details on social interactions, the types of food they will encounter on the trip. With that, and the countless phone conversations that happen pre-trip, there’s a very good level of preparation.
EB: Naya Traveler seems really well-positioned to help people live the travel dreams they didn’t get to fulfill in 2020. Are you sensing a lot of momentum for post-vaccine trips?
MT: We have been picking up on changes in the public's attitude towards travel. Whereas before, I feel like we were all in this hamster wheel of ticking things off the list for Instagram – like, I need a picture at Machu Picchu or wherever – that's lost its value now. People are focusing their attention on doing one destination in depth rather than trying to squeeze four countries into two weeks. That way, the traveler can have a more enriching experience. Plus, the destinations themselves are not going to suffer as much from overtourism.
EB: I read a quote from you in another interview where you said: “A lot of people travel to escape but our clients travel to find something.” Can you say more about that?
MT: The structure of society is that we live in a big city in a tiny apartment and we do a horrible commute to work every day and we basically live to work. And when we get our 15 days off we want to escape that reality. This has been a pattern in travel for a long time, which is why we have the success of destinations like the Maldives, where you go to do nothing. I always said to my mom, “I want to live on a farm in Majorca with chickens. I want to relax when I’m home, and when I go on the road I want to be excited, I want to be inspired, I want to be enriched, I want to learn. And then I want to bring this back to my safe place and let it digest and become part of me.” I’m not the only person in the world who thinks like this. People who love to travel are seeking knowledge, they’re curious about the world and the unknown, it excites them.
EB: I love that. I think one of 2021’s big travel trends will be trips that allow us to go deeper in some way. People want a life-affirming and enriching experience from their next vacation.
MT: Anytime we receive a request in our inbox from someone, there’s a little form they have to fill out with a box that says “why do you want to take this trip,” and even if it’s just one sentence it’s always touching. It’s quite telling that it’s not just that they have money to spare, there’s always a reason behind their motivation to travel, and that’s enough for us to feel excited about helping them to achieve what they want to do.