The cultural Immersion travel agency was founded by Chelsea Glass in Guatemala, and has since expanded to other countries across Latin America, impacting local communities along the way.
Between the beautiful rainforests, scenic volcanic landscapes, fascinating culture, and welcoming people, there is a lot to fall in love with when visiting Guatemala. That’s why when Chelsea Glass traveled there for the first time on a Spanish immersion trip at the age of 19, the experience she had truly changed her life.
Glass got to know and converse with many of the locals during her stay. She soon met Don José, who cultivates coffee on a small plot of land along the side of an encapsulating volcano; and Joaquín Avich, who converted his home into a Guatemalan cooking school with a beautiful rooftop terrace, spending his days teaching people how to cook aromatic Guatemalan cuisine.
Within no time, Guatemala, which is home to so many passionate, dedicated, and friendly people, carved a special place for itself in Glass’ heart. It ignited a passion in her to create a platform where people from around the world could enjoy a similar experience than she did, in a way that would positively impact local communities at the same time. And just like that, 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 provide a unique opportunity for people from all over the world, to not only travel to Guatemala and experience the country in all of its glory, but to actually meet and spend time with locals in an empowering and life changing way.
Glass works closely with Heart of Travel’s Operations Manager, Pamela Aguilar, Curriculum Developer, Eimy Calderón, as well as an array of local artists and artisans, to create a travel experience unakin to anything you can imagine. Travelers are invited to immerse themselves in Latin American culture, alongside local individuals and small business operators who are provided with a platform to share their stories, art, and services on their own terms.
“With Heart of Travel we wanted to create opportunities that were going to give people sustainable and dignified employment, as well as let people who were visiting Guatemala, get to know Guatemala through the eyes of locals,” Glass shares. By giving locals the chance to share their services and products to travelers, not only are they provided with consistent and reliable income, they are also able to share their stories with their own voice, helping to dismantle myths and misconceptions about Latin America.
One unique aspect about Heart of Travel is that it is a female-powered organization. Not only are all of the company’s full-time employees female, it also works heavily to amplify woman owned small businesses. In addition to that, it employs an array of guides, drivers, artists, and artisans in the community, and unlike other travel agencies in the area, doesn’t 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 take commission from our artisans and we don’t want to take our clients to certain artisans just because we might get a commission,” she shares. “We want to take our clients to meet an artist or to visit a small business because we truly believe that it’s an amazing thing that they need to learn about. If they want to purchase from them, that’s wonderful, but if not, they know that that person or that business has already been compensated for their time and their knowledge when they opened up 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, beyond just those who are given new and plentiful opportunities for employment. Individuals from all over the world who travel with Heart of Travel are immersed in a one-of-a-kind experience, where human connection is at the core.
“I just wrapped up a trip earlier this year for Girls Love Travel, which is a pretty big brand and Facebook group, and the founder said to me, ‘people could come to Guatemala and probably still have a wonderful time because Guatemala itself is amazing. But there’s absolutely no way that anybody could replicate the experience we had at Heart of Travel because of the connections that we’ve created,’” she shares.
“And I think that that’s really palpable for the people who’ve traveled with us. The connections, the high standard of ethics, the fact that we’re very female powered, and the one-of-a-kind immersion experience is what really sets us apart from other agencies” she concludes.
Heart of Travel began in Guatemala, and has expanded to other countries including Cuba, Spain, Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico, and Columbia, yet, the emphasis on community building, opportunities, and culture has stayed the same. The company offers small group tours, as well as private tours, retreats and destination wedding planning services. So if you’re looking to plan your next adventure, be sure to visit Heart of Travel’s website to learn more and embark on a trip of a lifetime.
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