Education, Connection & Awe: Meaningful Trips With Naya Traveler - Full-Time Travel

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.”

Lake Peten Itza, Guatemala

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.

Upsala Glacier, Patagonia (Argentina)

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. 

Indigenous Quechua woman and her Llama. Sacred Valley, Peru

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.

Blue Nile Falls, Ethiopia

Visit or follow @nayatraveler on Instagram. Photos by Marta Tucci (find her work here). 

There's more to Greece than the white and blue buildings and the surrounding Mediterranean Sea. If you're planning a visit, check out these places below!

📍Kokkinopilos. Preveza
📍Verliga Dragon lake, Thessaly
📍Ithaca island, lonian Sea
📍Aoos springs lake, Epirus
📍Lake Prespes, Macedonia
📍Balda di Stringa waterfalls, Epirus
📍Meteora, Thessaly
📍Pelion, Thessaly
📍Lake Zorika, Epirus
📍Mt Lakmos
📍Crete island, Aegean Sea
📍Gistova Dragon lake, Macedonia

Reel: @farawayfarers

Swim or kayak through the limestone cliffs of the Twin Lagoon, a must-visit destination for those traveling to Coron, Palawan, Philippines. It is called "twin" lagoon because it consists of two lagoons separated by a limestone cliff, with one lagoon on top of the other. The water in the inner lagoon is warm and clear, with a stunning turquoise color that makes it popular for swimming and snorkeling.

Reel: @travelifejournal

Take a dip in a series of seven saltwater lagoons located in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. The Lagoons of Baltinache are known for their beautiful turquoise waters and unique geological formations. The high concentration of minerals in the water gives it a unique buoyancy that makes swimming in the lagoons a unique experience.

Reel: @everchanginghorizon

Watching the sun rise above the clouds at Haleakalā National Park is one of the most memorable experiences you could have. Haleakalā is a Hawaiian name that means “House of the Sun” and is an awesome place to watch the clear night sky and stars fade away as the sun lights up the sky and the earth.

Reel: @girlchill_sunset

Just 1 hour from Shanghai by train, Cherry Blossom Valley is a popular tourist destination, particularly in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The valley is named after the thousands of cherry blossom trees that cover the area and create a stunning display of pink and white flowers. The trees were originally planted in the 1980s by a group of Japanese experts who were invited to China to help with reforestation efforts. The best time to visit is typically in late March or early April. Get there early to beat the crowds!

Reel: @cyncynti

New Zealand is unbelievable. See it for yourself:

1. Fiordland National Park
2. A classic backcountry hut trip
3. Blue Pools walk
4. Hooker Lake
5. Milford Sound
6. Lake Pukaki

Reel: @kylekotajarvi

Surrounded by lush greenery, towering karst mountains, and the river flowing through, the Detian Waterfall is a popular tourist attraction and a symbol of the close relationship between China and Vietnam. It is the largest waterfall in Asia and the fourth largest cross-border waterfall in the world.

Reel: @sophoebelous

Escape to a serene and peaceful oasis away from the bustling city of Marrakech at Le Jardin Secret—a beautiful and historic garden where visitors can escape the noise and chaos and enjoy the beauty of nature. The garden was originally built in the 16th century and is home to many different species of plants, including exotic flowers, citrus trees, and palm trees.

Reel: @hypermiggzz

For a magical moment and bucket list travel experience, visit the end point of the annual monarch butterfly migration. Starting in August, the monarchs travel 2,800 miles south from Canada, making a temporary home amid the towering trees of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico, where the two most popular sanctuaries to view them are el Rosario in the state of Michoacan and Piedra Herrada in Estado de México. Standing in silence while thousands of delicate wings beat in unison is something you'll never forget.

Reel: @juliiathompson

There's just something beautiful about snow covered landscapes like this popular attraction in southwestern Utah. Known for its unique geology, @brycecanyonnps_gov consists of a series of natural amphitheaters, called "hoodoos," formed by erosion of the rock layers.

Photo: @nathanleeallen

As we experience a couple more weeks of winter, we can't help but dream of tropical destinations like Hawaii. The warm water, sunny skies, and consistent waves make it an ideal destination for surfers. Hawaii has a vibrant surf culture and community and is also a beautiful place to explore outside of the water, with lush green mountains, stunning beaches, and unique cultural experiences.

Reel: @christopherballadarez

1. @sequoiakingsnps, California
2. @canyonlandsnps, Utah
3. @olympic_nps, Washington
4. @whitesandsnps, New Mexico
5. Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona
6. Knik Glacier, Alaska

Reel: @nathanleeallen

Imagine getting caught in the rain while kayaking at one of the most beautiful and popular destinations in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. Known for its stunning turquoise-colored lake, surrounded by the majestic Rocky Mountains, Lake Louise is home to diverse wildlife, including grizzly bears, elk, and moose.

Reel: @reneeroaming