A travel experience for the active foodie.
By Hudson Lindenberger
Imagine yourself sipping an excellent glass of Chianti after an enjoyable afternoon hike through the Tuscan countryside while your hostess creates an authentic Italian feast for you. Or maybe you can see yourself traveling on the ancient tea and horse route in China, stopping in on Shangri-La, all while enjoying high quality locally sourced meals. These two trips are just a few of the new excursions being offered by Whole Journeys, a new travel company created by natural food giant Whole Foods.
Whole Journeys started guiding tours in spring of 2013 to four continents (South America, North America, Asia and Europe) with 15 unique excursions. They plan to increase the number of trips next year, adding several bucket-list destinations (such as Patagonia and the Galapagos), as well as some cutting edge trips to entice the seasoned traveller (think truffle hunting in Croatia or grape harvest in Argentina).
The idea for the company sprung out of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s desire to share the stories of the farmers, ranchers, artisans and manufactures of their products with socially conscious travelers. The trips will focus on what Whole Journeys likes to call an active foodie, a person who loves food but also is looking to delve deeper into the stories of their favorite ingredients. The trips are designed for smaller groups (16 people maximum) and take you off the beaten path, think small boutique hotels instead of large resorts. Several tours offer lodging on working farms to encourage you to understand the environment, most include hiking, and all encourage exploration of the regions visited. The person helming the endeavor is 15-year travel veteran Kathy Dragon, whose resume includes personally escorting more than 3,000 people on intimate adventures.
Kathy describes her vision for the journeys as providing, “a life altering experience that exposes people to new experiences and foods, while at the same time opening their eyes to the rest of the world.” To achieve that goal, the trips are arranged to take you off the beaten track and introduce them to the culture of the region. By bringing a small group into a local farm, vineyard or town, Whole Journeys provides guests with unprecedented access to the farmers and artisans who create the products that their parent company is famous for. On several of the trips travellers will visit local homes, cook alongside their hosts, and learn family recipes. These types of experiences are far more intimate than a typical tour group.
As for the food, you can only expect that it will be extremely memorable. The itineraries for every adventure are painstakingly crafted to expose you to regional delicacies; hard to source items and top notch food. What else would you expect from Whole Foods? You might have even helped pick the items for your meal with the farmer a few hours earlier! With trips offered this year to Peru, Italy, Switzerland, France, Turkey, China, Spain and USA, there are plenty of delicacies awaiting you.
Whole Journeys plans to maintain their intimate community-centered focus even as they grow. Plans call for them to expand their offerings beyond just the active foodie category with offerings in Global Connect, Health and Wellness and Hands on Cook. Each category has some interesting offerings and merits a closer look.
Global Connect trips offer the traveller the opportunity to go deeper and connect with organizations and communities. These are socially conscious trips where you have the opportunity to get your hands dirty and help make a change in a community. The vision for these trips is to partner with The Whole Planet Foundation. Currently the trip to Machu Picchu is being offered under this banner.
Health and Wellness trips are about rebuilding your personal and spiritual self. The trips will focus on Meditation, Yoga, Holistic training as well as overall health. Travellers interested in “The Engine 2 Diet” can try out the Sedona, Arizona trip, which is an extension of one that has been offered to Whole Foods employees for several years.
Hands-on Cook trips provide a chance for you to dive in and learn local recipes, and cook with the locals. The trip to Tuscany, Italy is one example, with another offering planned for next year – a trip to Rajasthan, India.
Whole Journeys is a great option if you are looking for a unique trip where you know your legs will be a bit sore, the food local and tasty, the wine excellent and the scenery breathtaking – a trip that takes you off the beaten path, beyond the normal tourist highlights, to gain a deeper connection with the culture and community.
I keep thinking about the trip to the Dolomites in Italy with six days spent hiking and exploring the region, the highlight of which, according to Kathy occurs on the fourth day when you arrive at Rifugio Franz Kostner. The Rifugio is an authentic Italian mountain hut that has breathtaking views of the Dolomites and the Alps. Once you arrive and settle in, you are treated to a dinner of ‘Slope Food’ prepared for you by Michelin-starred chefs, while enjoying some of the finest South Tyrol wines, hand-selected by the sommeliers. After the meal you spend the night in the Refugio and wake up in the morning to breathe the clear mountain air. Fantastico!
For more information visit Whole Journey’s website: http://www.wholejourneys.com