This morning I woke up with the travel itch. With snow flurries dancing outside my window and January dragging on in a seemingly endless parade of chilly days, I am starting to daydream of what adventures 2020 will hold. Tanzania is one of those far-flung destinations that always jumps to the top of my travel list, filling my mind with visions of safaris across the Serengeti and dancing along the Maasai. This year, Unearth Women is partnering with female-founded tour company, Purposeful Nomad, for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure to—you guessed it—Tanzania.
Last year, I had the opportunity to experience, first hand, how Purposeful Nomad runs its trips. During a tour of Guatemala focused on spotlighting its female weavers, I had the chance to meet Purposeful Nomad founder, Caitlin Murray. To say Murray is an inspiration is an understatement, Murray is a female-empowering idealist who has poured her time, energy, money, and passion into a company focused on giving back to local communities. Leading trips of women ranging in age from 20 to 70, Murray is reminding all of us that our vacations have the power to do so much more than relax us, they have the power to change a community for the better.
In an effort to support Murray and Purposeful Nomad, Unearth Women is offering its readers $250 off Purposeful Nomad’s upcoming Tanzania trip. Below we catch up with Murray to learn all about the upcoming Tanzania tour and what travelers can expect on this life-changing adventure.
Unearth Women (UW): When it comes to Purposeful Nomad choosing a new destination to plan a trip, what are some key factors you look at?
Caitlin Murray (CM): The number one thing that guides me to a new destination is the local contacts and connections with other organizations and non-profits I may come across. I strongly believe that without connecting and empowering the communities and destinations we visit, tourism can not become a positive force and I need the knowledge and expertise of a local team to do this.
Since community engagement is a huge part of each itinerary and the heart of the way Purposeful Nomad travels, finding these trusted contacts is the most important piece. Everything else always seems to fall into place. For example, on our India trip, it wasn’t so much the destination of India as being the priority, it was more I really wanted to work with the Sambhali Trust. I’ve known these guys for years and finding organizations like these is like a diamond in the rough, especially in a place like India where sometimes its really hard to tell who is really invested in what.
UW: For first time Purposeful Nomad travelers, what can they expect on a trip?
CM: Our ability to blend excellent customer service, attention to detail and community connection all while being sensitive to our impact to the destinations we visit is what sets Purposeful Nomad apart from other tour companies. I think our style of travel is the more active type. You can expect to tap into local culture, food, and community. Each day is always different and I really like to include a nice blend of activities from hikes to cooking classes and yoga to community volunteering.
While we do do a lot of activities I also don’t like to pack the schedule morning until night so definitely expect to have some free time. I think it’s really important to allow the traveler to breathe a bit, process what they are doing and spend some time alone if desired. You can expect a diverse set of travelers as our groups are usually filled with women from all over the USA (and beyond!) between the ages of 20 to 70. You can also expect to be taken care of by the best local guides I can find. These local guides are imperative to crafting our itineraries. I look for guides who are incredibly knowledgeable, passionate and fun.
UW: Purposeful Nomad is hosting a trip to Tanzania in July 2020! This is your company’s first trip to Africa. What made you decide on Tanzania?
CM: Yes! 2020 is the first year that we are launching trips to Africa and we are so excited. Tanzania has been on our list since the inception of the company and finally, the timing was just right. The contacts I met operating in Tanzania are the number one reason I choose this country in Africa to start in and like I stated above, once I have those trusted contacts everything else just falls into place. Never mind that Tanzania is not only safe but incredibly diverse both in culture and nature.
UW: What was the first step in getting your Tanzania trip off the ground?
CM: Finding the individuals and organizations to partner with to fill the community engagement piece is step number one. For Tanzania, I met the founder of the School for St. Jude and was awed by the incredible work she and her team were doing. After multiple conversations and recommendations, I felt like this was a great fit to gain access and knowledge into the local community and create a meaningful trip. Her husband who is Tanzanian just happens to own and operate a small safari company as well. I love using local tour operators to handle many of the trip logistics. They had all the knowledge and facilities to handle every facet from lodging, community engagement, local guides, transportation, and all the safari details. I was sold.
UW: What are some of the challenges you face in planning a tour itinerary for Purposeful Nomad?
CM: With my belief that tourism can be a positive force in the world I need to be cautious and careful about what I am doing. Vetting organizations, finding new experiences, going to places outside the typical tourist path and making sure our tourism dollars are staying in the places we visit takes time and patience. In order to change the way we travel we need to change the way we operate and it starts with the tour operators and agencies working at the ground level. Often times this means working against a system already in place or convincing others that changing old habits will benefit them in the long run.
UW: What are some of the experiences women can expect to have when joining Purposeful Nomad’s Tanzania trip?
CM: This trip has what I love to call our three pillars: adventure, soul renewal, and community engagement. We will be in the town of Arusha for a few days joining in on the daily activities of the children who attend the School of St. Jude and we will have fun and learn about their lives. The founder and owner will be escorting the group around and give us some insight on what it means to run a foreign-funded school in Africa. From Arusha, we head into nature and travel through the Lake Manyara National Park, Serengeti National Park, and the Ngorongoro Crater. This is basically three safaris in one trip! During this time we visit the Maasai tribes, see the great migration and photograph some of the most epic landscapes in the world.
UW: How would you say Purposeful Nomad’s Tanzania trip differs from that of another tour company?
CM: For one, we don’t just bee-line it to the Serengeti. We take time and stop to engage with the local communities and learn about their lives. The dollars from this trip will go towards reputable organizations like the school we visit and locally run and operated safari companies like the one we use. Although wildlife is a huge part of what draws people to Tanzania it is also important to curate a well-rounded trip where the focus is also about the people and culture. We are also engaging with the local communities and not just passing through Tanzania behind the windows of a safari vehicle.
UW: What is your hope for Purposeful Nomad in the future?
CM: I hope to steadily grow my audience and start expanding my reach to other countries outside the USA. I hope Purposeful Nomad starts to become the first choice for travelers when they are looking to do something more meaningful with their tourism dollars. I’m also working on launching some family trips for 2021. While the women-focused travel is definitely not something I want to let go of, I want to open the door up for more inclusive experiences.
UW: What destination do you hope to plan a trip to for Purposeful Nomad
CM: I’m constantly thinking about future trips. I never know what is going to be around the corner but I do have two new destinations in the works for 2021: Mongolia and the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. I also am super interested in doing a trip to Greece and Vietnam.