Looking for travel tips from the experts? We love traveling – and it’s a big part of what we do. Products like coffee, bananas, chocolate and tea don’t grow in our home climate, and anyway, our mission is to help small-scale farmers around the world gain access to the U.S. market. So, in order to bring these fair trade foods to you, we trade directly with the people who grow crops in Latin America, Asia and Africa. That means some of us log a lot of miles each year.
For this blog post, we talked to a group of especially experienced travelers — four women who visit producers regularly in the communities where they live and farm. We asked them to share their best travel tips, in their own words. Whether you’re a frequent traveler yourself, or just like to imagine globe-trotting adventures, we hope you’ll learn something useful!
Travel Tip 1: Pack smart
Ravdeep Jaidka is a Sourcing Manager in our Fresh Produce division, and often travels to meet with avocado and banana producers. Her tip is to think carefully about what to bring along.
Visiting each producer partner at source is an important element of EE’s producer relations. Over the years of traveling, I’ve added some essential items to my packing list to keep the trips manageable on a personal level:
Travel Yoga Mat, since the best way to get some exercise can be through some solo yoga in the hotel room.
Instant Coffee Packets. While it’s not the tastiest, it’s pretty easy to get your hands on a cup of hot water to get that daily fix.
Backpacking Pack. Having all my luggage on my back makes me feel more secure and agile while moving through crowded bus stations.
Facial wipes, because it gets sweaty on the farm!
Finally, some pre-downloaded podcasts and Netflix for the long flight.
Travel Tip 2: Keep Healthy
As manager of the Cooperative Development Program, Julia Baumgartner works regularly with nine different agricultural co-operatives in Mexico, Peru, Guatemala and Paraguay. She offered these travel tips, focused on the importance of looking after your health while on the road.
The key to frequent international travel for me is staying healthy on the road, often in challenging environments. With too much experience getting sick while traveling, I’ve found natural remedies to keep me well and energized. I never leave home without probiotics, Intestinal Tract Defense tincture in case I do get sick, elderberry tincture and oral rehydration. Lately I’ve been careful to produce less waste, and always pack a water bottle, tote bag, reusable utensils, a coffee mug and bandanas.
Travel Tip 3: Stay Safe (and Make Sure You Have a Comb!)
Kim Coburn maintains relationships with co-operatives across Latin America who grow coffee. She’s Equal Exchange’s Green Coffee Buyer. She contributed some smart travel tips for staying safe – and for not letting the friendly welcome mess up your ‘do!
When you’re a female traveler, it’s smart to have an itinerary planned out and confirmed, and have drivers or a transportation plan to and from each destination. If I’m traveling solo, I make sure that my cell phone will be on and working in case something falls through (hey, it happens)! And I bring a backup charger to make sure said phone stays on!
People of all genders will probably want to bring along a comb, but here’s my tip: it’s really necessary if you have long hair! In some parts of the Andes, it’s customary to throw confetti to welcome guests. While this is a beautiful gesture, it takes forever to get out of your hair — especially after walking around under the sun, visiting farms, and getting sweaty.
Travel Tip 4: Seize the Day
Travel is unpredictable! Laura Bechard offers some tips to help you lean in to that uncertainty and enjoy it. She’s our Chocolate Supply Chain Coordinator, and has visited cacao and sugar producers in several different countries.
Don’t be afraid to help out in the kitchen! Some of the best conversations happen over the dinner table.
And always pack a swimsuit. From bathing and hygiene to swimming and fun, you never know when you might need one!
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The 2021 board of directors for AVACH posing in front of the warehouse in Querecotillo…24 February 2020