Happy, happy, happy Tuesday!!! I’m super excited to bring you today’s interview (part of our series of real-people-really-living-their-dreams. )
You know, for so many of us who want to make a change or take a chance at pursuing our dream (especially if we’re making a big change!), it can seem incredibly daunting. Hearing from others who’ve been there and taken the chance to step out on a new path can be a huge inspiration, which is why I decided to talk with a bunch of really amazing people who’ve up and done just that – stepped out onto their own unique paths to live their own unique dreams.
I hope you enjoy these conversations as much as I did, that they inspire you to pursue your own dreams, and that they pull back the curtain a bit and demystify the process. Because the truth is, you’re not just unique ~ but also are uniquely gifted, and the world really does need your gift.
From Budapest to Berlin, Asheville to Italy, Colorado to Lisbon – Tour Operator and Travel Agent Kim Giovacco organizes, plans, and operates tours for small groups to vegan-friendly destinations. Sightseeing, dining (exclusively at vegan and vegetarian restaurants), cooking classes, walking tours, festivals, and even visiting animal sanctuaries are just some of the activities Veg Jaunts and Journeys includes in its tours. A full service travel agency, Veg Jaunts and Journeys also helps individual travelers plan vegan honeymoons, family vacations, and milestone celebrations.
You can learn more about upcoming tours, discover vegan trip ideas, and read customer reviews by visiting her website “Veg Jaunts and Journeys” at https://vegjauntsandjourneys.com, or by connecting with Kim on Instagram and Facebook .
I reached out to Kim to ask her about realizing the dream she’d held for decades, and about how (as she put it) “my avocation has become my vocation”.
LuAnne: Tell me about your career, what you were doing, before you launched Veg Jaunts and Journeys?
Kim: After holding office jobs and some travel-related positions such as working for a map publisher, a foreign tourist office and a travel consultant at Walt Disney Travel Company, I spent the past 18 years working for the government of Singapore in Boston, for their economic development board.
LuAnne: Was there a specific event, or series of events, that started you thinking about opening a travel agency specifically geared towards vegans?
Kim: I had wanted to be a travel agent since I was 17, but it was strongly suggested that I should obtain a college degree, so I took that route, and made travel my hobby, eagerly waiting for my next vacation, and being ecstatic when I finally reached four weeks of vacation (time) every year. I used all of my vacation days to travel overseas, but would visit US places too, over long weekends. I really enjoyed planning trips..(and) groups of friends would sometimes join me. In 2016 I was on a board which was working to start a food co-op in Metrowest Boston. I was obsessed with food co-ops and would visit them whenever I was in other parts of the US. For my birthday my partner very thoughtfully planned a weekend tour of about a dozen co-ops in VT and NH. And then it just hit me that I could plan tours for vegans. I had a feeling that my job with the Singapore government was going to wind down due to an office closure. So within one week I chose the name Veg Jaunts and Journeys (LLC) and had hired someone to create a website.
LuAnne: You’re a vegan, (obviously!), so can I ask when you first became interested in that way of eating and living?
Kim: I’ve been vegetarian for 33 years because eating an animal just seemed to me to be an unnatural thing to do. When I learned that many ancient philosophers were vegetarian, I didn’t feel so strange, because I didn’t have any vegetarian friends (at that time). After about 25 years I thought about becoming vegan but thought it would be difficult to keep to that lifestyle while traveling. I tried a few times, but only lasted for about a month. Finally I was introduced to the vegan group in Metrowest Boston, and then it only took me three weeks to become fully vegan, because there were so many resources that I learned about from the…people in that group.
LuAnne: What, if any, assumptions did you have about launching your own business? Did any of them turn out to be true?
Kim: I thought that everyone who was vegan would want to travel with me (and) that was definitely false. First, not everyone who is vegan likes to travel. Second, not everyone likes to travel with a group. Third, some people like to make their own arrangements. And lastly, not everyone has the luxury of being able to travel.
LuAnne: What was the biggest challenge for you as a startup?
Kim: The biggest challenge was letting people know that my company exists, and I’m quite an introvert, so it was not at all easy for me to speak to strangers at vegan festivals, where I’ve mostly been promoting Veg Jaunts and Journeys.
LuAnne: So, how did you overcome the challenge of being an introvert but still needing to promote your business?
Kim: I did as much business and promoting myself as I could via email, because I’m great with email!! Once my tours started filling out, I felt so much more confident talking to people. I could say “This tour is sold out.” And that gave me validation that there was a need for what I’m doing, and that people are interested.
LuAnne: What is the biggest challenge for you now?
Kim: The hardest issue now is not having enough hours in the day…
LuAnne: What has been the biggest life(style) change for you since you launched your own business?
Kim: For the previous 20 years I made a good salary and was able to travel freely and live a comfortable life. Now I work about five times as hard for one-fifth of the salary! Although my living expenses are pretty low, I have to pay for health insurance and need money to put into the business for marketing and advertising.
LuAnne: How have you changed since going into business for yourself?
Kim: I’ve actually become pretty confident, especially since during my first full year in business, all of my tours have sold out.
LuAnne: What’s the most exciting part of running a vegan travel agency?
Kim: For me, realizing that after dreaming about it for 36 years, I can finally say that I’m a travel consultant, and that my avocation has become my vocation.
LuAnne: Okay, let’s talk about fear and nerves and trepidation…did you have any before launching?
Kim: From the start I was very excited for this venture, but until I have the minimum number of people needed for each tour to run, I find it difficult to relax!
LuAnne: Do you have a favorite trip that you’ve taken?
Kim: It’s so difficult to choose, because there are only two places I’ve visited that I don’t have a desire to revisit. I think that Turkey is one destination that is perfect, because it offers a bit of exoticism, but it’s easy to travel there as a tourist. I’ve been to Germany at least a dozen times, so now feel very at home there. My favorite cities are Budapest and Barcelona and one of my favorite countries is Lithuania, where my great grandmother was born.
LuAnne: What is one thing that you’re super excited about right now?
Kim: What I enjoy the most is actually planning the group tours, and right now I’m in the midst of planning 10 vegan tours both in the US and abroad for 2019. And I’m happy because my partner has offered to handle my bookkeeping, which I loathe!
LuAnne: How do you define “success”?
Kim: Success for me is doing what you love. It has nothing to do with finances, I think. I feel so happy when other vegans learn about my company and want to brainstorm about how we can work together. I just this minute finished an interview for a podcast that I’ve been listening to for three years. To know that I’m being recognized in the vegan community makes me feel that I’ve reached a certain level of success. I can’t wait, though, until I reach the point at which I will be able to donate a portion of my sales to animal welfare organizations.
LuAnne: Tell me a bit about what services you offer, and why?
Kim: Veg Jaunts and Journeys offers customized group tours and individual trip itineraries, because many people don’t have the time to plan a great vacation for themselves. I spend a lot of time online uncovering new vegan travel opportunities and keep tons of online files at my fingertips with ideas for all sorts of vegan travel. I’ve traveled to almost 40 countries independently, so feel pretty experienced, and I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned along the way with others.
LuAnne: Is there anything you think would be helpful to a reader who might be thinking of taking concrete steps towards achieving their own dream?
Kim: Don’t wait another minute…but it definitely helps if you still have a salary paid by someone else. I think it’s a good idea to start a side business which can grow into a full-time career that you’re passionate about.
Don’t wait. Start small.
Do what you love.
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