ROSE WINTER, ISABELLE TOBE
There is no wrong or right way to travel. It is a personal process, shaped by what you want to get from it. But there is a conscious way to travel, where you are spiritually and mentally present along your journey. Some of the most memorable, meaningful trips I’ve taken have been those in which I listen more than I speak, whether that is to the morning calls of birds breaking the day, or the stories of local people that you cannot get from Google. Since travel has transitioned from my hobby to my sole trade, this was a conversation I needed reminding of. I have been on eight trips this year so far, consumed mostly by work. I had no idea that when I would interview Angie Arrieta, the Experience Manager at the Mexico-based tour provider Biajeros, our exchange would leave me newly inspired. Her go-slow, listen and learn approach to shaping travel experiences is so closely aligned with that of Solana. Here is the wisdom that Angie had to share…
ROSE: Angie, thank you for making the time to speak to me, all the way in Mexico City! I would love to know more about you, your journey and your role at Biajeros.
ANGIE: Thanks Rose. I’ve actually been following Solana for a while now. I guess you could say I used to work in the shoe industry, with Mexican crafts! One day they popped up on my Instagram, and I thought their shoes were beautiful. I was born and raised in Mexico, and I have been lucky enough to be able to live abroad several times, in Ireland, in France and for short periods in the USA. Travel has always been a big part of my life. I made my first big move to Ireland eight years ago to study, but before this, I spent a lot of time trying new and different things, as my mum worked a lot to support me. I was never at home really!
Fast forward through my life, I have been able to make travel a part of my day-to-day life, even at home. That’s just my way of living. Before the pandemic, I started giving free walking tours in Mexico City, where I am from, and after this, I worked for an academic travel agency. When the pandemic hit, I moved from Mexico City to the beach in Oaxaca, which is one of my favourite cities, where I worked in a hotel. I then headed back to Mexico City, and soon after I discovered Biajeros on Instagram. I asked them if they were interviewing, and they said yes….now I am their Experience Manager!
ROSE: Wow. It’s so fascinating that your life has been so grounded in moving around, it sounds like this role was always in the pipeline for you! Tell me more about Biajeros and the kinds of travel experiences on offer.
ANGIE: Biajeros is actually a translation of the word ‘travellers’. We are a small company, but I have a big role, which is to take care of the experiences and the customer journey. This includes our service providers as much as who is participating in the tours. I try to make our experiences innovative and pay attention to the detail in each experience.
We offer different tours for styles of tourism, such as eco-tourism, communitarian tourism, indigenous tourism and adventure tourism, which can all be catalogued as regenerative tourism. This is to say that there is a cycle of making things better, and promoting conscious tourism overall in how travel is done. Our experiences are flexible and are open to anyone who is willing to discover new things.
ROSE: I suppose Biajeros is quite unique in a sense to other tour providers. Can you explain the mission and vision of Biajeros? ANGIE: Indigenous and communitarian tourism is very important to Biajeros. Both of these types of experiences are designed and organized by indigenous groups and local communities. Many of our experiences include volunteering opportunities, and immersive opportunities. One of our main visions at Biajeros is that one is a traveller even in their home city. Everything is travel, even walking one step after the other is movement, the basic definition of traveling.
ROSE: Agreed, and speaking of home, if you could only visit one destination in Mexico, where would it be and why?
ANGIE: I will say two, because it's hard for me to say just one. Firstly I would say Mexico City. It has a bit of everything for everyone. I love Oaxaca, and I learned a lot about textiles here. Three of our main experiences at Biajeros happen to be in Oaxaca, and it is one of the most colourful, tasty and scenic states in Mexico. It is a popular place for digital nomads and surfers. I would urge people to trust in tour providers and local residents who are offering services to see Mexico in a different way. There are many things that a guidebook won’t teach you, that someone who has lived and worked in a region can.ROSE: It seems that conscious travel is a high priority at Biajeros. Do you have any advice on how people could travel more consciously in Mexico?
ANGIE: There are some actions that only apply to Mexico, but most can be applied to every journey you make. My first piece of advice would be to come over and observe, before anything else. I mean really observe. We can always think that something can be done better, or done the way that we usually do things, but observing and understanding that there are other ways is necessary. It is better to be more observational than talkative at first.
Additionally, I would urge people to understand that tourism here in Mexico is trying to be more eco-friendly. Be prepared, and get used to carrying a cup or bottle with you, cutlery, and straws too. I would also say that it is best to consume local where you can. Globalization has its pros and cons, but there’s this new thing called ‘glocal’, meaning that you can be global and travel, but support local business when you do so. I also believe that you shouldn’t rush to try and understand everything. I saw a similar message on the Solana shoebox. When you travel, where you really apply what you have learned is when you’re back home. Take small learnings and reminders on your journey, and let them settle on your way back home.
ROSE: You mentioned that you learned a lot about textiles in Oaxaca, so I am going to assume you must be an expert at shoe designing! If Solana had a Mexican inspired shoe, what would it look like?
ANGIE: I think Solana could never just do one shoe for Mexico, it would have to be an entire collection! I see how velvet is important in their shoes, and actually what I’m wearing at the moment (points to black velvet top with brightly coloured embroidered flowers) is from a place called Tehuantepec in Oaxaca. I could totally see a really elegant black shoe with details like that.
ROSE: What a pleasure it has been to speak with you, Angie. I am certainly going to apply a lot of your outlook to my travels, at home and abroad.