Five years ago Jordan and I tied the knot and shortly thereafter departed for adventures unknown in the land of Chile. There the seed of Knowmad Adventures was planted, nurtured and my, how it has grown! You’re not supposed to speak too loudly about the fact that you started a company with minimal industry experience, no business plan or, in our case, barely a plan at all, but I guess I’m having an overly honest moment.
I can’t help but smile when I look back at those early experiences – when we struggled to pack our bags within the weight limits. My insistence that bringing 20 or so scarves actually cut down on the overall amount of clothes I had to bring because an accessory could make a whole new outfit out of the same shirt. Landing in Santiago, we were picked up by Pamela, Jordan’s Chilean exchange sister and we stayed with her in her family’s departamento for the first month while we got our bearings, tried (and failed) to open a bank account, tried (and failed) to get an internet chip for our laptops, and tried (and finally succeeded!) to buy a car. We studied the guidebooks and picked Northern Patagonia to begin our explorations.
There we spent almost a year working at the same table, learning the travel industry and where we wanted to fit into it, stoking the wood burning stove, cooking food from our garden or local markets. We took trips to corners of the world like Cochamo and Valle de Ventisquero that seemed undiscovered. Our first Christmas as a married couple was spent among strangers, now friends. We endured a giant earthquake and the subsequent heartache suffered by the warm and welcoming Chileans that we had grown to love.
We rented a cabin on a dairy farm in Northern Patagonia. This was the beginning of Knowmad Adventures!
Our first time hiking the “W” in Torres del Paine National Park.
Horseback riding in the Cochamo Valley.
The two of us on a trekking trip to Valle de Ventisquero in 2009.
A deserted homestead we found. We had to fend off the goats!
Christmas spent with our neighbors on the farm.
We received our first travelers. Made a Knowmad facebook page. Sent out newsletters (mostly to our wedding guest list…shhh!). Met guides, listened to stories, made connections. Built trips, designed and printed our very first catalog. We faced every step of building our South America travel company wide-eyed and eager.
Five years later things have changed, but what’s more notable perhaps is what has stayed the same. This year over 500 travelers will journey with Knowmad to South America – that’s about 475 more than year one! Our destinations have expanded from just Chile to Peru & Machu Picchu, Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands, Argentina, and our latest addition of expeditions to Antarctica. We have an actual real office in Minneapolis with working internet, printers, phone lines and even a mini-fridge! That’s a far cry from the rough table we had in our Patagonian cabin. Our team has expanded to include so many wonderful people, including the latest addition of two new Trip Specialists, Renee and Jack. We can boast about awards from Travel & Leisure now and recommendations from Frommer’s.
Salud! On our most recent trip to Chile to check out different lodges in Southern Patagonia.
But, at the same time, not all that much has really changed. We’ve still got that curious nature about us. That same love for exploration and appreciation for the connections made while sitting around a fire sipping maté with a local gaucho. We founded Knowmad with the notion that by marveling at the world around us and opening ourselves up to unimaginable experiences, we grow. Five years later, we’ve grown more than we could have imagined and hold that notion even closer to our heart. Happy Birthday Knowmad Adventures. Thank you for the journey.
Un Beso, Tara
Tara is the Co-Founder, Marketing and Operations Manager at Knowmad Adventures, a company dedicated to creating unique, private and custom trips in South America. She first traveled to South America in college and is endlessly inspired by the cultures, food, colors and idiosyncrasies she discovers there. Read Tara’s biography and more about the Knowmad team.