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Global. Local.

I was asked the other day why these two words were something that made it into our logo. The first kind of makes sense, but why the second? This isn’t something I can completely answer in a quick one-liner, but here goes: it illustrates our vision of a travel company that is self-aware of the impacts it has on the world.

A nap in the street; Bangkok, Thailand

Global is easy: we’re an international tour company. At present we operate regularly in 14 countries, and do custom tours to several others. We do “Global” on a daily basis; from taking groups for dinner in Kathmandu to planning entire itineraries for Azerbaijan.

Five years ago, I sat on the side of the road, waiting patiently for someone to come by. My motorbike had broken down in Vietnam in an area best described, or so I thought, as the middle of nowhere. Feeling a bit defeated, I was startled as the two people who whizzed past me exclaimed “Rob!?!?” They were friends from one of my exchange programs, and I had no idea they were going to be in Vietnam, let alone on a road in the middle of nowhere. The world is smaller than you imagine it to be – but you need to get out and see it. I’ve since made it my life to take others out to see it, and to see something new whenever I can.

Right. Global…got it. But what about Local? How can an international tour company really have “Local” as a vision?

Local, to me, means going past the standard lines of package tourism. All inclusive trips to Mexico, and the huge bus tours have their place. Sure. However, a tour that stays only in 5* Swiss chain hotels misses the nuances and subtleties available to those who really get below the surface of a city. Studies have shown that large scale package tourism has far fewer benefits for developing countries than backpacker tourism does, due to the long term, grass-root nature of backpacking. At the same time, improper control of the impacts of backpacker tourism has led to scathing criticisms such as Gap Years: Wasted Youth.

Stunning Mongolian girl dressed up for Nadam; Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

To me, this paints two extremes. It shows that local involvement in tourism can help to uplift poor communities, but also shows that when uncontrolled, it can have adverse effects on communities and values. Why not paint a middle road? Rather than having the two extremes of luxury package tourism and bare-bones backpacker trips, a middle-ground emerges that is sustainable and easily managed. It is the concept of travel that engages local communities, and treads carefully at the same time.

At Finisterra, we aim to stay locally, eat locally, and visit locally. This means that when we look for hotels to stay in, we aren’t looking for the Marriotts or Four Seasons. Whenever possible, we stay locally while maintaining a high standard for every night on every tour. Our ideal place to lay our heads is a smaller, unique, locally-owned hotel that is well located, clean, and friendly.

A guy with his chicken, Cuba

When we include meals on tour, we want something exciting. Large hotel buffets are the same breed of meal no matter where you go – they’re things that go well into giant steamed trays. I want to have the best cuisine a country has to offer, cooked by chefs that take pride in their national dishes. When we eat out, we do the full-range: one night might be dinner at a 5 star restaurant, the next might be at a tiny hole in the wall a few blocks down the road. The difference is that we take the time to make sure you get the real deal.

And while we write itineraries with a lot in mind beyond simple sightseeing, we leave some room for improvisations. Visits to friends’ homes for tea or detours for dinner at a local magistrates house just because we happened to be passing through – these are the important parts. Our staff at Finisterra have been travelling since we were old enough (and some even before that!), and we want to use every bit of that experience to deliver something otherworldly; something that can’t be done by most tour operators.

Keri and her friend, Kenya

Making affordable, upfront adventure travel packages means that we can try to make the world smaller by taking people outside their comfort zone. As we challenge preconceived notions of how other cultures are simply different, we constantly see that it isn’t our differences that should garner all our attention, but the overwhelming similarities.

I know that every adventure we offer is one that people will talk about for the rest of their lives. Travel with Finisterra, and travel to the edge of the world.

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