Travel Globally to Help Locally

The stories you hear and the people you meet throughout the world do not leave you. They inspire you everyday to get up and make a difference.
— Kelly Campbell
African woman

We chat to Kelly Campbell, one of the founders of The Village Experience, about how we can transform the world and ourselves through travel.

Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world, worth 7.6 Billion US dollars in 2016 alone. What if the majority of that money went to local communities and fair trade businesses? What impact could this have on the state of our world? The Village Experience is a company that does exactly that. Their mission is to uplift impoverished communities in the developing world through tourism and trade. As Kelly explains,“Sustainable tourism might work better than any sort of charity or project. It creates jobs, promotes conservation, spreads awareness on social justice issues, creates future philanthropists, and keeps people wanting to come back and experience new things. It works by pumping money into the local economies instead of making them dependent on Western aid.”

The Village Experience Kelly.jpg

In 2015 I went on a trip to Kolkata in India in support of street and trafficked children, organised by The Village Experience and Yoga Medicine. There I met Kelly Campbell, one of the founders of the business and was totally inspired by her passion and knowledge of the area, the people, and the issues around trafficking in India. We spent many evenings chatting over chai tea about the issues facing this community, and I left the trip transformed. When starting this website Kelly was the first person I thought to contact and find out more about her amazing business.

Kelly and her sister Anne started TVE in 2008. Kelly had previously worked for a sustainable tourism company and both sisters had worked in fashion in NYC. Their many interests combined into a company that does more than tourism:

“We wanted to create a model where anyone and everyone could get involved. So, we have three separate parts to the business:

·      Socially responsible tourism - allowing people to travel and see the world while giving back at the same time 

·      Fair trade wholesale line called Sora Nomad (Sister Nomads) that allow people to simply shop and give gifts that give back 

·      Community Development non-profit called The Village Cooperative that creates new philanthropists and supports the development of the villages we visit and partner with around the world.” 

The sisters make sure that they don’t spread themselves too thinly, trying to do everything everywhere. Instead, they limit their main destinations each year, at the moment their focus is on India, Kenya and Guatemala. What we really like about The Village Experience is that they partner with organisations on the ground, rather than imposing their own agendas or beliefs onto villages around the world. We asked Kelly about her favourite projects at the moment:

Doctors in Kenya

“I love Safari Doctors that we are partnering with in Lamu, Kenya. They are providing access to healthcare in villages ravaged by Al-Shabaab. They use a traditional dhow and sail their medical teams, equipment, and medicines around the island Archipelago to treat those most in need. 

I also really love Vamos Adelante in Guatemala. They are teaching nutrition and hygiene to families in rural villages and creating more opportunities for access to education and healthcare for the poorest families in the area.” 

So what’s in it for the traveller? Why, apart from the benefits to communities, would you choose to travel this way as opposed to the traditional tourist ways?

“Our travelers are given behind-the-scenes access our destinations, which would not be available to your every day tourist. These life-changing experiences, such as walking through red light districts and meeting survivors of trafficking in India stay with our travelers and inspire them to do more in this world. Whether through future travel, more conscious shopping, or diving into philanthropy more...our travelers are now giving back to the world in really meaningful ways.”

For Kelly this business has been transformational. She’s the perfect example of how finding your purpose leads to a joyful life:

“This is truly a lifestyle and not just a job. The stories you hear and the people you meet throughout the world do not leave you. They inspire you everyday to get up and make a difference. I sold or gave away everything I had in the states and took to traveling the world so I could learn more and better understand how to give back. I work everyday with my network to bring about change because I know the people I am serving personally...and I feel their pain. I know all they need is an opportunity...and I have the power to provide that. Nothing could feel more empowering.”

African village dancing.jpg

Kelly’s advice to entrepreneurs wanting to follow a similar path is to “learn everything you can about your industry. Work for someone else, learn the ropes, volunteer your time...understand what works, what doesn't work, and where the opportunities for improvement lay.”

We’re really inspired by Kelly and The Village Experience, what they do is so important and can change so many lives across the world. The reason we travel is to connect with people, to realise that we’re all the same even if we live in different circumstances. If you’re interested in travelling with them, visit their website here. Some of the new places that are on Kelly and TVE’s radar are:

“Kenya - lots of great things happening here in terms of conservation of elephant and rhino and technology 

Egypt - this might be one of the most amazing places in the world to visit, but after the Arab Spring tourism has all but vanished...taking tons of jobs with it. Families are suffering but the sights remain unbelievable. We want to bring tourism back!

Ethiopia- new hotspot for coffee and wine production and absolutely stunning destination in need of tourism”

What are some of the considerations you make when choosing your trip? What are the discoveries you have made on the road? Go ahead and share it with us!