Travel Abroad With These Women-Owned Tour Companies

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, I want to especially recognize women in travel.

Travel is a powerful tool that helps women become independent, gain self-confidence, empower, be economically and socially impactful. Over the years, I have met countless women who worked in the tourism ministry, as travel agents, tour guides, and more. Here are some inspiring women that I met who are successful travel entrepreneurs.

Kelly Campbell relaxing on her dow in Lamu, Kenya

Kelly Campbell, Kenya

Kelly Campbell is a native of Indiana and founder of The Village Experience, a responsible tourism company. Kelly travels year-round taking groups of people to fund projects in Kenya, India, Egypt, Morocco and Guatemala, improving the lives of women and children, and providing water to remote villages.

I stayed with Kelly at her charming house in Lamu, Kenya, where she has been living since 2016. After spending a few days with Kelly, I really feel she spends every single waking minute thinking about other people. Her tour guides, personal chef, dow boat operator, hotel owners – everyone seems to have been impacted by Kelly at some point.

Read How This American Woman is Changing Lives

Veselka and I having dinner in Split

Veselka Huljic, Croatia

Veselka and I bonded instantly when we first met at a travel show in New York. But it was over a glass (or few glasses) of Dalmatian wine and delicious pasta in Split, Croatia, that we shared more personal details about our lives.

Like me, Veselka quit her corporate job so she could be her own boss and spend time doing what she was passionate about. Veselka founded an adventure tour company – AndAdventure Croatia, which focuses on biking, water sports, wine and culinary travel across Croatia.

Read Charming Small Towns in Croatia

Ramona at a view point in Transylvania

Ramona Cazacu, Romania

In her 30’s, Ramona was tired of her desk job. She enjoyed being outdoors, hiking through Romani’s countryside, chatting with locals, and introducing travelers to her native country. Her ability to speak many languages since she was a kid helped her create MyRomania, a tour company that specializes in creating authentic family-friendly experiences.

Soon, Ramona’s husband quit his job too and joined the business. They moved into their parent’s home in one of the villages, where they bring up their 2 kids. Ramona is one of the friendliest people I met during my travels and it seemed that everyone knew her wherever we went in Romania.

Read Why Romania Should be on Your Travel List

Justa at a spice farm in Zanzibar

Justa Lujwangana, Tanzania

Justa Lujwangana is from Tanzania and lives in New York. She worked in the healthcare business before pursuing her passion for dance and travel. Starting with just a Meetup group she called Curious on Tanzania (COT), she went on to form an experiential travel company offering tours to Tanzania.

During the trip, you will stay at Justa’s family home in Dar es Salaam, eating home cooked meals, attending Sunday mass in her neighborhood, meeting her friends, and learning the Tanzanian way of life.

Read more about my experience in Tanzania with COT.V

Khishigjargal walking on the sand dunes in the Gobi Desert

Khishigjargal Dorjderem, Mongolia

Khishigjargal has lived and studied abroad, speaks multiple languages, and runs Voyage Unique Mongolie, a customized travel company operating in Mongolia. As her personal guest, Khishigjargal and her husband drove me around the country for a week, making me feel as if I was on a trip with friends, rather than tour guides. We would drive through the barren Mongolian countryside for 8 hours a day and still have so much to talk about!

If you are looking to experience a nomadic life, walk in the Gobi Desert, or witness the historic Naadam Festival, Khishigjargal is your gal!

Read more about my travels to Mongolia

Divya riding a shikara at Dal Lake, Srinagar

Divya Pahwa, India

I met Divya Pahwa through friends of friends, as I was looking for a partner agency to organize Go Eat Give trip to India. Divya grew up traveling all over India and was always interested in travel. She worked in a Delhi based tour agency before starting her own travel agency – Explorer’s Travel Boutique. She has a team that oversees everything from Indian weddings and corporate travel to individual and group travels all over the world. Her entire business is based on word of mouth referrals.

While traveling with Divya (we were recently in Kashmir), I could see that Divya works non-stop, answering her phone at every hour of the day, and addressing to the smallest client request herself.

Veronika, founder of Aroha Tours

Veronika Vermeulen, New Zealand

Born and raised in Germany, Veronika fell in love with everything about New Zealand, so much that she moved there and opened a luxury tour company – Aroha Tours. She loves the Māori culture, landscapes, nature, culture, wine and all that the country offers. She is married to a dairy farmer and lives on a 600 hector farm with 1200 milking cows.

Veronika and I have not met in person as yet, but I’m looking forward to traveling with her around New Zealand this November.

Go Eat Give will often refer to or partner with these women to book your customized tours to the countries they specialize in. By supporting other women in travel, we commit to have a long lasting impact in the communities we visit, and show you the very best of the local hospitality.

This Country Has the Best Olive Oil & You Didn’t Even Know It!

When you think of good quality olive oils which countries come to mind – Italy or Spain? But did you know Croatia is emerging as the best olive-growing region in the world? Total Croatia News reported that Flos Olei, the first and most respected guide to the best olive oils in the world premiered their 2018 edition where over 500 world producers from 50 countries participated, of which 75 producers were from Istria, the peninsula located at the head of the Adriatic.

Yes, I picked up a bottle of olive oil during my last visit to Croatia!

I was also fortunate to meet one of these award-winning olive oil producers at A Taste of Croatia with Chiavalon Extra Virgin Oil hosted by Drusk Trading Company at Oro Restaurant in Long Island City, NY. The founders of the olive oil company, Tedi and Sandi Chiavalon shared their interesting story with the attendees over fine Croatian food and wine.

Sandi was only 13 years old when he got into his grandfather’s olive groves. After his grandpa passed away, he decided not only to tend to the 50 olive trees left behind, he learned everything there was to learn about olives. He worked odd job and used his savings to buy 100 trees, graduated from the Agricultural Secondary School in Poreč, and enrolled at the Faculty of Agriculture in Zagreb. As business expanded, his brother joined in and they have over 7,500 olive trees producing more than 20,000 liters of olive oil.

What sets this first generation family-run producer apart is their dedication to quality. They harvest and process the olives the same day and produce certified 100% organic extra virgin olive oil from Istria. In 2016, the World’s Best Olive Oils included Chiavalon among the TOP 25 organic olive oil producers in the world!

“Our great advantage in the production of high quality olive oil. The secret lies in lower temperatures, thanks to which olive trees have a shorter vegetation period and the oil accumulation in its fruit begins later than in southern regions. When summer heat waves strike southern areas, the fruit already contains oil, so the high temperatures cause a considerable decrease in its quality. On the other hand, here in Istria, the accumulation of oil begins after the period of high temperatures has passed and can no longer have a negative effect on oil quality. This results in high quality extra virgin olive oil of an intense flavor and aroma, and elegant notes of various herbs,” say the Chiavalons.

Now to the taste test. How do you tell when a olive oil is good? Just like wine, olive oil has color, flavor and aroma. Good olive oil is generally more green in color than yellow. Take a sip, close your mouth and breathe through your nose. When you push the olive oil to the corner of your mouth, you should taste grass, artichokes or something spicy, bitter and earthy, never sweet. There may be fruity characteristics, nutty, buttery and elegant notes of various herbs.

Good olive oil when paired with the right ingredients, can enhance a dish significantly, as I found out through a 5-course dinner prepared by chef Djani Barbis, a notable NY chef of Croatian descent.


Dishes featured from the Croatian coastal regions of Istria and Dalmatia, included seabass tartare with lemon foam, octopus salad, seafood pasta with squid ink, filet mignon with champignon mushrooms, and delicate fruit crepes stuffed with fig-ricotta and wine-walnuts. Each dishes complimented very well with Chiavalons’ world-renowned extra virgin olive oil, and took me back to memories of being in Croatia.

If you can afford to take a trip to wander around the historic city of Zagreb, interact with the friendly locals of Samobar, or drive around the coast near Dubrovnik, then you won’t be disappointed by the scenery or the food! Personally, I will be dreaming of having olive oil, wine and truffles in Istria. In the meantime, click here to order Chiavalon olive oil online.

You Have to Eat and Drink This in Croatia

During the 10 days I spent in Croatia, I ate about 10,000 calories worth of wine, pastries, pasta and seafood per day! I know you are thinking, Where does the food go? I actually walked about 10 miles a day through historic squares, cobblestone streets and parks filled with spring flowers, so everything evened out!

While its hard to include all the delicious things you can find to eat and drink in Croatia, here are my favorites. Trust me, you will not be doing justice to yourself if you leave the country without tasting all of them!

Baby asparagus salad with boiled eggs at O’Zalata Restaurant (now closed) was located inside the walled city in Split. During spring, wild asparagus are found along hillsides and people pick them up while hiking. These are much thinner than what you find in the American supermarkets and have a lovely crunchy texture.

Mushroom soup made with 20 different kinds of mushrooms at Gabreku 1929 Restaurant in Samobor. Named best restaurant in this part of Croatia, the chefs collect mushrooms from all seasons, preserves them, and use them in this amazing soup that is famous in northern Croatia. It is serve with mushroom trumpet powder and pumpkin powder. Even the bread is made fresh daily using local grains and corn.

When I saw people lining up to get a piece of this pie at The Riva (Split waterfront), I had to taste it. Soparnik is a Swiss chard stuffed savory pie and is the most famous speciality of the Dalmatian region. It originated from pizza as a poor man’s food. You can find many street vendors selling their own recipe of soparnik.

The island of Hvar is famous for Peka, which is usually made with veal or lamb and potatoes, cooked under an iron bell filled with charcoal. My hosts, Borivoj and Zeljka Bojanic, who run Konoba Maslina Restaurant in the village of Vrisnik, cooked me a tender grilled octopus peka. It was tender, juicy and so flavorful. I’m sure they got the fresh catch earlier that morning. Even if you are not an octopus fan, this would make you one!

Most tourists stay inside the walled city of Dubrovnik, which can get very crowded specially when cruise ships dock. My guide, Tomi from Viator Travel, drove me to Pelješac peninsula near Dubrovnik, where we took a small boat into the sea accompanied by an oyster and mussel farmer. He picked up oysters straight out of the water, shanked them open, drizzled lemon juice, and handed them over to us. A bit raw and live for my taste, but could it get any fresher than this?

Zagreb has a lot of good restaurants serving Italian, Croatian, Middle Easter, Mediterranean and European cuisines. Though I had many delicious meals in the capital, the best place I ate was Vinodol Restaurant in the heart of downtown Zagreb. The ambiance was beautiful, but the Fuji pasta with fresh black Istrian truffles, and a glass of Istrian wine – were to die for!

Why would you travel to a place to eat fruit? Because it the sweetest organic farm fresh strawberries you can find for really cheap! At Dolac Farmers Market in Zagreb, I bought a pint of giant organic sweet and juicy strawberries for $1.50, and devoured them sitting in the park surrounded by tulips. Heaven!

Croatians make all kinds of homemade brandies (called rakia or raki) using fruits, nuts and honey, often using what’s growing in their own backyards or gardens. These home brews are had at home (before and after dinner) or sold at local farmer’s markets. One of the best raki’s I tasted was at a simple kiosk located in the Craft Square in Varaždin. The lady who produced the honey brandy even raised her own bees for the honey that she used in the brandy. Talk about knowing the source of your food!

Another amazing dinner I had was at the family-owned upmarket Restoran Palatin in Varaždin. The meal was scrumptious, but the icing on the cake (literally speaking) was the Palatin Cake for dessert. The owner told me that  this 6 layers of rich chocolate and chestnuts pastry was a 100-year old family recipe.

No visit to Samobor is complete without Kremšnite or Kremšnita, a local pastry made with cream custard. It is served warm in the northern part of Croatia, and eaten for breakfast and dessert. Sign me up! In fact, many people come to Samobor on the weekends, only to grab a slice of this comfort food.

I also visited many wineries in Hvar and Dubrovnik that are worth visiting. Croatia produces excellent quality red and white wines, my favorite being malvazija (malvasia) from Istria, plavac mali from Dalmatia, and Dingač from Pelješac peninsula.

If you need something to bring back home and remember the flavors of Croatia, food markets and souvenir shops across southern Croatia sell packets of candied dry fruits. Arancini are traditional homemade sweets made with candied figs, orange or almonds, that are crunchy, long lasting and taste amazing with a shot of rakia.

The Museum of Broken Relationships: Must See in Croatia

The Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia, is by far the most unique museum I have ever been to. Unlike other museums, it doesn’t carry any antiques, jewels or historic remanences. Instead, it displays items donated by patrons from all over the world that hold symbolic value to them personally.

Museum of Broken Relationships
Take your time reading through the various exhibits

A Personal Connection

After realizing heartbreak, Olinka Vištica, a film producer, and Dražen Grubišić, a sculptor, coined the idea of this museum. Starting as a personal collection of previous relationships, it quickly transformed into a 1000-item traveling museum. As a result, the two Zagreb-based artists have received audiences across 13 countries. In addition, the museum won the EMYA Kenneth Hudson Award in 2010 for the most innovative and daring museum projects in Europe.

Items on display include everyday quirky items such as a stiletto shoe, CD’s, laundry basket, toy cars, letter, etc. Each of the items is accompanied by country of origin, a memoir of the relationship and relationship period. I found some notes particularly interesting and others rather funny.

The collections were diverse as people recounted short stories of randomly falling in love and of inevitable heartbreaks.

Museum of Broken Relationships
A crate acting as recollection of a past relationship

A One Of A Kind Experience

One can spend an hour or two seeing the small museum, though the museum also sells books with pictures and stories of some of the items on display. You can also find break ups on the interactive world map and read stories on the blog.

Reading stories of broken relationships is perhaps the opposite of reading romantic novels, but surprisingly they don’t get you down or depressed. I feel that reading about real-life relationships that didn’t always end well makes us realize that we live in a realistic world where everything is not always perfect. It makes you feel that you are not the only one who has suffered through a heartbreak. And it makes you smile to read about how people fall in love and cherish the smallest of gifts for years to come.

Museum of Broken Relationships
Find yourself connecting with the items on display

While the museum is very popular among visitors, it nearly doubles its attendance around the Valentine’s holiday. If you would like to unburden your relationship, send in your item to the Museum of Broken Relationships.

The Museum of Broken Relationships has permanent exhibits in Zagreb, Croatia and Los Angeles, California.