Have you ever felt like a catalyst in changing someone’s life? I have. Here’s how: Kim Giovacco loved to travel. From the moment her parents took her to Europe at age 6, she felt an urge to see new places and meet new people. “I always wanted to be a travel agent, but my parents wanted me to go to college.” So, she went and majored in geography.
Kim’s jobs allowed her to travel, but little did she know that when she met me, her life was about to change.
We met at a vegan potluck and started dating. The next spring, I wanted to plan a birthday surprise for her.
She was on the board of a local food co-op and was obsessed with it. I planned a weekend getaway in Vermont. I think I should get a prize for this, as we visited 10 local food co-ops!
Kim wasn’t available on her actual birthday, so I planned our adventure for the future. But I didn’t want to be empty-handed on her actual birthday, so I designed a beautiful itinerary of our upcoming jaunt and gave it to her in a card.
The next day, she was in the shower and lightning hit (figuratively, not literally). She said, “I thought, ‘I can do this for vegans! It would be so much fun!’” Previously, she had always traveled by herself because she didn’t want to pay for a tour only to have a bowl of lettuce to eat, while everyone else had many choices. (Kim had been vegetarian for 28 years and became vegan after we met.) She also didn’t want to participate in tours that exploited animals, such as elephant riding or swimming with dolphins.
Thus began Veg Jaunts and Journeys (www.vegjauntsandjourneys.com), Kim’s company that offers small group tours to vegan-friendly destinations. Within a week, she had gotten a logo designed, thought up a tag line, hired a web designer, and started planning tours. I had never seen her so passionate or focused.
Her first tour was to New York City. She had planned a jam-packed weekend, but Mother Nature didn’t co-operate. It was over 100 degrees both days. We had fun anyway.
After a couple of months of planning tours and going to vegfests to promote her company, Kim started getting calls to help with travel planning. She planned honeymoons, family trips, and anniversary travel. But she found this frustrating, because she would do all the legwork and her clients would have to book everything themselves. “I really wanted to be full-service,” she said. So, six months after she started the tour company, she became a travel agent. Full circle. She realized a dream she’d had since she was seventeen. Today Veg Jaunts and Journeys has two arms. Kim offers small group tours to vegan friendly destinations, as well as a full service travel agency.
Last year, she took a group to Berlin and called me from there: “I am so happy! I know I’ve found my life’s purpose.” That group became fast friends and stuck together even during their free time. For 2018, Veg Jaunts and Journeys has five journeys planned: to Central Europe, Asheville (NC), Lisbon, Colorado, and Italy. In addition, she now has on-demand half-day food tours of our incredibly vegan-friendly new home city, Asheville, NC.
Wendy Werneth, The Nomadic Vegan (https://www.thenomadicvegan.com) is co-leading the Lisbon and Italy tours with Kim. Wendy lives in Portugal and has traveled to over 100 countries.
And the fabulous MSVA alumni and instructor, JL Fields (www.jlgoesvegan.com) will be teaching a half-day cooking class on the Colorado tour.
When I look at how far Kim has come from that day in May 2016, it makes my head spin. She literally took the ball and hasn’t stopped running with it. She is constantly thinking up new travel adventures and opportunities for vegan travelers.
And…she is lucky to have me, because someone has to stay home with the cat! (Sometimes we get a cat babysitter, so I can travel as well.)
I am looking forward to seeing what other adventures she brings my way in the years to come. I am pretty sure she will hit my bucket list spots (Paris and Hawaii) in the next year or two.
Laura Beck, Your Vegan Mentor (www.yourveganmentor.com) is MSVA-certified vegan lifestyle coach & educator, living in Asheville, NC, where she presents vegan cooking demos and gives presentations of the benefits of eating more plants. She also serves on the board of the Asheville Vegan Society.