When Long Beach native, Marianna Jamadi decided she had enough of New York after living there for seven years, she decided to travel and visit all the places where she had family. Given that she’s of bi-cultural heritage – Finnish and Indonesian – she set herself up for a world tour that would take a year and a half.
Unburdening herself of most possessions, everything she took fit into one suitcase, and with a myriad of dream destinations to make her IG moniker real – nomadic_habit – she was off to find her own way. A year into her year-and-a-half journey her mother took sick. Ending her personal trip to tend to her mom, it was an email from an admirer of her photography who wanted to hire her – that would soon prove that coming home was all part of the journey too.
The woman – Katalina Mayorga – had a travel company idea, El Camino Travel and thought she was asking Mari to be a freelance photographer. It didn’t take long for Mari to say no to being a freelance photographer, and yes to coming on as a co-founder,
“We never met before the company started. We just had a dream and a feeling. And, we believe in the power of travel imagery and the feeling we had with each other,” she says, noting the company launched in May, 2014.
She rose through the ranks of an un-launched company in the matter of a conversation. That’s what I call alignment.
Two months later, in July, they met in person, in New York, the same city that once was like “an abusive relationship,” for her. Of meeting her co-founder in person, “It was great, we’re both from families with all girls, immigrant families and we both have tattoos of our heritage, it was just kismet.”
Kismet follows her, for its how we also met. Having ben a fan of their travel approach and philosophy, it was over coffee with @cookwilltravel that I mention their company as lifestyle endeavor I felt got it right – a universal human need, with a little reinvention. Little did I know, he knew her, called her up and she was soon sitting in front of me speaking her story and eventually mine – coffee culture.
“I was just talking about coffee. It’s the one word that sounds similar in every language. Coffee is supercentric to culture. It’s called Kahvi in Finnish and the word is Kopi in Indonesian. It’s the connective tissue of culture.”
You’re right I chimed in. She was so right. And, here we were connecting over two fundamental and universal pleasures: coffee and travel.
As we talk in the comfort of Rose Park Coffee Roasters, I sense a realization, El Camino Travel sees travels almost as a lost tactile art. Then, Jimadi holds her phone in front of her as if she’s about to take a photo, “I didn’t want the IPhone to be the barrier between the traveler and the experience. Its almost a lost art to feel an experience for experience. We want people to have that: an experience. We also understand that they want to share their story in real time with the world. So, we’re saying, ‘leave your phone for the day and we got you.'”
Mari admits this is challenging for some at first, but after a couple of days in, travelers trust that the creators of this tour, have a way with capturing their daily escapades, small moments and the authentic interchanges that they don’t need to do it themselves.
“It is a luxury to have a beautiful picture of yourself, it’s a gift, and a little glamorous. This is our way of giving something beautiful,” says Jamadi.
With such beauty bestowed upon guests daily – photos from the day before come as incoming mail the following morning – I wondered what she found people were enamored by while on this experience. While It varies, this is one story that she shared which resonated with me.
“I met a woman. She made a lot of handicrafts. Her husband didn’t think she could make money from her skills and she lived in a poor area. We set up a coconut workshop to help her out, that everyone was able to participate in. On every trip, funds are donated towards a local cause in the community. When the trip was over, a lady on the trip who lives in New York was so moved she started a fundraiser to help with supplies. Another guy started a program to help with tools. Each person is reflecting on their experience and then moving it forward in their own way.”
Show me the way.
Discover more of El Camino Travel here. Book the only non-sold out trip remaining this 2015 year here.
photos selected from El Camino Travel’s instagram