What inspired the creation of Go Eat Give?
While I was working at my corporate job, I came to be known as the “travel desk” person, someone colleagues would go to for travel advice. At that point in time, I was traveling just for fun, on holidays. But I also did a lot of local experiences like volunteering, cooking classes & home stays.
One of my friends recommended I start a blog to share my tips (so people would stop calling all the time) & I created a website, Go Eat Give. At first, it was meant to be nothing but a data dump on my own travels, but as readership grew, I became an avid travel blogger.
And a few months into it, people from all over the world were writing to me asking if I could plan their trip or if they could go with me. That’s when I decided to make Go Eat Give a nonprofit organization.
Share about events you host (like Destination Dinners or cooking classes), immersive trips you take and more to connect people on a deeper level to communities and help travelers give back?
Go Eat Give’s mission is to raise awareness of different cultures through travel, food and community service. We accomplish this through localized experienced as well as trips.
Our local events include Destination Dinners, where we feature a country’s food, music, current events, speakers, costumes, etc. Think of it as escaping to another country for an evening! This is a wonderful way to learn about the diversity in your own backyard as I have come to meet people from over 50 nationalities here in Atlanta.
Food is one of the first methods by which we break down barriers & expose ourselves to different cultures. We organize cooking classes in homes of personal & professional chefs so people can learn about authentic home cooked food & also have a conversation about the chef’s upbringing in that country.
Our immersive trips are designed to show you the touristy as well as the real side of a destination. We definitely visit the top attractions, but stay at sustainable hotels, volunteer in the community, eat at people’s homes & have conversations with people from different professional backgrounds.
I feel by traveling the “Go Eat Give way” visitors feel they learn a lot more about the actual way of life & the culture, as well as create one-of-a-kind memories.
How do you encourage travelers to travel sustainably? Why is this important to you?
As more people are traveling than ever before, it is important that they do so consciously. By this I mean being sensitive to another culture, not harming the environment & leaving a positive footprint. I encourage people to make better choices of where they would stay or eat at, which tour operator they would book through, and what activities to engage in & where to shop locally.
Even if you can only afford a few hours, I recommend seeking out a local charity or project to visit to lend a helping hand or take donations to. I find often people are looking to have fun & save money, not thinking about the people whose livelihoods depend on the tourism industry, directly & indirectly.
When it comes to your own personal travels, how do you think exploring the local culture of a destination helps you discover its story and layers of history?
The biggest thrill for me when traveling is learning new things. I love to dive into the local food, festivals, markets, traditions & more. I enjoy talking to people & ask a lot of questions. In the process, I discover things that are contrary to public opinion. It’s like walking through history books without having to scroll through pages.
For example, when I first visited Cuba in 2013, I thought the people were pressed living in a communist regime, cut off from rest of the world. As I walked down the streets of Havana watching building about to collapse, it confirmed what I had heard. But once I started talking to the people, they told me how they felt “at par” with the rest of their neighbors, as they never felt one had more resources than the other.
Everyone was always signing, dancing, making jokes. There was no crime & people did not feel that the world had come to an end because they didn’t have Internet or iPhones. (Things have changed a lot since then in Cuba!)
Share about a particularly memorable trip you’ve been on! Why was it so special?
A couple of years ago, I celebrate my birthday at the Punakha Festival in Bhutan. It is an annual event where the entire village gathers at Punakha Dzong in their finest attire to watch Buddhist monks perform chants & dances for 3 days. By watching them, you receive blessings too & it was special to have such an honor on my birthday.
I dressed in Bhutanese traditional dress & sat on the dirt floor with everyone else, mesmerized by the entire experience. There were a handful of tourists there & they were taking photos of me thinking I was one of the locals!
What advice would you share with a budding travel entrepreneur?
I sincerely believe those who work in travel are driven by passion more than money, so as long as you are driven by a genuine desire to learn, serve & make a positive different, you will enjoy what you are doing. Besides that, be persistent. It is a tough business!