Summer vacation travel is meant to be rejuvenating and restful, especially when we unplug from our devices and find our way to true relaxation. Even then, however, we don't "unplug" from an essential part of our personality: being an entrepreneur.
Which is why, as I travel this summer, I'm continually on the lookout to connect with people (especially entrepreneurs) who inspire me with cool and interesting projects and innovations. Actively seeking them, supporting them in their own endeavors, is one of the most rejuvenating things I can do.
Here are five tips to tap into the spirit of entrepreneurship, no matter where your journey takes you this summer.
- Research blogs by writers who actually live in the location, rather than blogs or websites that are written primarily by visitors. TripAdvisor is useful in a pinch -- and valuable for its user-generated content -- but there is a significant advantage to seeking out "not-the-usual-suspects" when it comes to travel guides. That advantage is local expertise, which comes with up-to-the-minute information about festivals and special events, particularly when shared via social media. Writers who actually live in the destination are likely to be passionate about their city and what's in their own backyard, said entrepreneur Sucheta Rawal, who founded Go Eat Give as a way to connect people, places and palates. "They'll be the ones writing about the little gems."
- Follow the link to the About Us page on the company's website, and look for an actual person there that you can relate to. Why are the owners running the business? Are they truly passionate about it, or is it just a commercial outlet? That's a critical distinction, particularly when you're proactively seeking like-minded entrepreneurs to experience their view of the world.
- When researching overnight acommodations and places to eat, consider factors such as sustainable practices, who the business employs, and how they give back. Tam's Café in Dong Ha, Vietnam, for example, was founded to help hearing-impaired people develop business skills and and support themselves financially. Coco Farm & Winery Estate in Ashikaga, Japan employs autistic and handicapped youth. And Laguna Lodge on Lake Atitlan in Guatamala believes that "nature is the new luxury," which they practice through programs like low carbon cuisine and long-term employment of 100% indigenous Kaqchikel staff. More than half are women. It's a very remote area, Rawal said, so the Lodge's owners offer discounts to physicians who come to do medical checkups for their staff.
- It may seem like a given that, to find more authentic local experiences of food and restaurants, you'll want to venture away from the touristy areas. But don't overlook the importance or the logistics of this. Exercise lots of creative options. Take a side street. Be adventurous about trying street food or hole-in-the-wall places. Visit more residential areas where you know it's going to be a mom-and-pop place. There probably won't be a lot of foot traffic, but the food is likely to be a lot more authentic. You could also enroll in a home-hosted cooking class or meal. The best meal Rawal ate in Cuba was at a small home in Old Havana, where the roof was almost collapsing and the make-shift dining table was a covered well. Her group paid $20 per person for the residents to purchase groceries and prepare the meal. "Not only were [the ladies] happy to make a little extra money, they enjoyed entertaining visitors in their humble home," Rawal said. "We joked, laughed and made new friendships."
- Visit cooperative farms, which are a pretty straight beeline to a local, authentic experience. Coffee cooperatives are a great place to start. They can be located in farming and fishing villages, for example, and you can see how the coffee is grown and harvested, then buy bags of beans directly from the source. "There's nothing more pleasurable than drinking a cup of cappuccino overlooking the coffee plantations," Rawal said.