Matt Fenton, Jennifer Viloria and Leonardo Gubinelli of Inspired Escapes talked us through how they were able to turn an idea into a growing business, their awe-inspiring trips and how you can become a responsible tourist by creating your own sustainable projects around the world.
How did the concept for Inspired Escapes come about?
Inspired Escapes originated from our previous program, Inspired Challenge, which combined passion for travel with challenges, such as marathon running or mountain climbing.
During one of our Inspired Challenge trips to Mount Kilimanjaro, we began speaking to the locals at the base of the mountain and realised that the community wasn’t receiving any of the money raised from the hundreds of mountain charity climbs. Upon returning, we discussed combining a travel concept with raising money for local issues observed. We, therefore, set-up Inspired Escapes, which included elements that worked for the Inspired Challenges model, but also gave back to the communities.
We target travel lovers looking to fulfil a social need. If you’ve observed a social issue during a holiday or weekend trip and are inspired to help these local communities, we help you implement the change through setting up your profile to fundraise on our platform.
One of our travellers went to Kenya and noticed 13 year old girls being married off before going to school as their families didn’t have the finances to support schooling. Upon her return, she started a charity and has now built a school for these girls, creating a sustainable impact on the community.
What is responsible tourism? How can one become a responsible tourist?
In addition to the environmental aspects of being a responsible tourist, like low carbon emissions and water conservation,
we work to encourage the next level of responsible tourism. It’s about immersing yourself in the culture and ensuring the community actually retains its tradition as opposed to imposing western standards.
We work with the chief of each community on our projects to ensure that we aren’t choosing where the money goes, but listening to where the money is needed.
The company concept is built around living for a moment that inspires you. What was your inspiring moment?
During a trip to Bolivia I visited an orphanage where a newborn baby had been found by an eight year old in the dumpster. Having just had a baby myself, this really hit me hard and inspired me to help create a change.
I grew up in the Philippines and my mother left me with my grandparents when I was eight to go and work in the UK. I only saw her every three years until the age of 18. I wanted to stop the flow of women leaving their children behind to work in cities and create an opportunity that would encourage them to stay in their rural surroundings with their family.
A year ago, I met the most inspirational person in Paris, a founder of the biggest organisation in the Philippines that builds housing for slums. He does social entrepreneurship on a massive scale, with goals to lift three million people out of poverty by 2024, and create 500,000 more social entrepreneurs. I saw what he was creating in the Philippines and thought, wow, how can we connect people to this world.
How do the Inspired Escapes packages work?
We want to give everyone the chance to embark on one of our experiences. There are soft, medium-to-hard adventure packages and challenges, which may appeal to a group of friends to climb a mountain for a cause of your choice. You have the option to choose one of our designed programs or craft your own trip, which we can help plan.
The 2 ways you can get involved are: 1) design a trip that has a social impact built in, or 2) if you’ve travelled somewhere and are inspired to implement a charity you are passionate about, we can help build an itinerary around it so you can present it to your network and perhaps bring them along with you to channel the funds to the charity. You can travel solo, as a group of family/friends or join other groups.
What’s been your favourite Inspired Escapes trip so far?
Uganda. Seeing the Gorillas in the wild and building water wells in the community. In a local community we visited, many members of the town, mainly children, were trekking four hours each day to the nearest clean water source. We funded a water well for the community so now the kids can attend school instead of collecting water for their families, as well as aiding the reduction of diseases from dirty water.
This edition is all about unique travel destinations- what would your recommendation be for a unique trip this year?
Iceland has been a very popular destination this year. We built an amazing itinerary, which is four days over the weekend, where you can see the Northern Lights, the glaciers and go whale watching. You can set up your own foundation or raise funds for a cause of your choice.
As avid travellers, what are your top 3 must-haves for any trip?
A video camera to record everything. Depending on where you’re going, insect repellent and a thermal flask to keep water cool.
A backpack, a bathing suit and lastly, an open mind. Whenever you travel, don’t go with prejudgements; allow your mind to absorb as much as you can.
A pair of decent walking shoes, water purification tablets and dental floss. It’s amazing what you can do with dental floss (use as thread, a fishing line or shoelace replacement).
If you’re interested in getting involved or want to find out how to bring an idea to life, contact Inspired Escapes on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.inspiredescapes.com