Cultural travel agency Immersion was founded by Chelsea Glass in Guatemala and has since expanded to other countries throughout Latin America, impacting local communities along the way.
Between the beautiful rainforests, scenic volcanic landscapes, fascinating culture and welcoming people, there’s a lot to love when visiting Guatemala. That’s why when Chelsea Glass traveled there for the first time on a diving trip to Spain at the age of 19, the experience she had truly changed her life.
Glass got to know and chat with many of the locals during her stay. She soon met Don José, who grows coffee on a small plot of land along the side of a capping volcano; and Joaquín Avich, who turned his home into a Guatemalan cooking school with a beautiful roof terrace, spending his days teaching people how to cook aromatic Guatemalan cuisine.
In no time, Guatemala, which is home to so many passionate, dedicated and friendly people, carved out a special place for itself in Glass’s heart. It sparked a passion in her to create a platform where people from all over the world could enjoy a similar experience to hers, in a way that would positively impact local communities at the same time. And so, Heart of Travel was born!
Glass is the founder of the revolutionary travel business that works with local communities across Latin America to create the ultimate travel experience. Together, they offer a unique opportunity for people from around the world to not only travel to Guatemala and experience the country in all its glory, but to meet and spend time with locals in an empowering and life-changing way. .
Glass works closely with Heart of Travel Operations Manager Pamela Aguilar, Curriculum Developer Eimy Calderón, and a variety of local artists and artisans to create a travel experience unmatched by anything you can imagine. Travelers are invited to immerse themselves in Latin American culture alongside local individuals and small business operators who are given a platform to share their stories, art and services on their own terms.
“Me Heart of Travel we wanted to create opportunities that would give people stable and dignified employment, as well as allow people who were visiting Guatemala to get to know Guatemala through the eyes of locals,” says Glass. Giving locals the opportunity to share their services and products with travelers not only provide them with a stable and reliable income, they are also able to share their stories with their own voice, helping to dismantle myths and misconceptions about Latin America.
A unique aspect about Heart of Travel is that it is an organization empowered by women. Not only are all of the company’s full-time employees female, but it also works hard to strengthen women-owned small businesses. In addition, it employs a variety of guides, drivers, artists and artisans in the community, and unlike other travel agencies in the area, does not take commission from any of its employees or freelancers.
“Our philosophy is that we’re paying our guides enough that they don’t need to get a commission from our artisans, and we don’t want to take our clients to certain artisans just because we can get a commission,” she shares. . “We want to take our customers to meet an artist or visit a small business because we really believe it’s an amazing thing they should learn about. If they want to buy from them, that’s great, but if not, they know that that person or that business has already been compensated for their time and knowledge when they opened their doors for us to visit,” she continues.
The impact of Glass and her team’s work in the community has been felt by many, in addition to those who are given new and abundant employment opportunities. Individuals from all over the world who travel with Heart of Travel are immersed in a unique experience where human connection is at the core.
“I just finished a trip earlier this year Girls love travelwhich is quite a big brand and Facebook group, and the founder told me, ‘people can come to Guatemala and probably still have a great time, because Guatemala itself is amazing. But there is absolutely no way anyone can replicate the experience we had Heart of Travel because of the connections we have made'”, she says.
“And I think that’s really evident to the people who have traveled with us. The connections, the high standard of ethics, the fact that we are very female-empowered and the unique immersion experience is what really sets us apart from other agencies,” she concludes.
Heart of the Journey began in Guatemala and has expanded to other countries including Cuba, Spain, Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico and Colombia, however, the emphasis on community building, opportunity and culture has remained the same. The company offers small group tours as well as private tours, vacations and destination wedding planning services. So if you’re looking to plan your next adventure, be sure to visit Heart of Travel website to learn more and embark on a journey of a lifetime.
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