Reviving the Hardest Hit Industry: See How Karolina Guilcapi's Doing Her Part to Bring Back Travel
PALM COAST, Fla. - It is no surprise Americans love to travel. According to the U.S. Travel Association, U.S. residents logged 1.9 billion trips for leisure purposes in 2019. It is also no surprise this favorite pastime was amongst those industries hardest hit in 2020 due to COVID-19. Nearly 5.4 million domestic travel and tourism jobs were lost in 2020 as people stored away their passports and settled in at home. For Karolina Guilcapi this scenario is all too familiar, as she loves to travel but also personally experienced job loss at the height of the pandemic.
Desiring to bring life back into the travel industry, Karolina found a way to merge her passion for travel and her love for international cuisine. She developed her own travel and adventure business with a twist: tell her where you want to go and she'll curate a dream itinerary for you based around the local food culture. She realized there was a niche market for "lovers of food, travel and experiences", so she created Sated Ventures.
We had the opportunity to catch up with Karolina to learn more about her passion for travel and her new business. Here's what she said:
H&F: You started a new business last year after experiencing a furlough due to the pandemic. Tell us how you have redefined yourself.
Karolina: 2020 was a whirlwind! After 15 years of managing a high-energy operator, working 10 hour days, revolving everything around my job - everything unexpectedly stopped. I was furloughed from my general manager position, and suddenly I had time. I had time for my family. I had time to read magazines on the beach. I had time to cook! I joined a book club. I started a mobile dinner club! My mind finally had time to think.
When months went by and it was clear that my previous position would never be available again, I poured the same energy and time I used to dedicate to someone else into my own project. Between my love of food and experience in travel, I focused on a niche in the industry that needed development. Surely there were others out there who loved food and travel as much as I did! Sated Ventures was born.
H&F: You’ve come up with a clever idea. Can you explain how your company is different from an average travel agency.
Karolina: Sated Ventures is for lovers of food. Lovers of travel. Lovers of experiences. Every itinerary created is carefully curated to the client’s likes, and then peppered with culinary delights. If the client enjoys getting involved, we include cooking classes making mole in Oaxaca, mixing caipirinhas in Rio, making chocolates from scratch in Guatemala, picking herbs in a Cambodian garden, and so on. If the client enjoys eating and not so much cooking, we organize tastings of wine and local specialty foods after a day of touring, we visit famous restaurants in Lima or Bangkok, or surprise them with beautiful white glove picnics along their hike to Peruvian ruins. So many wonderful ways to elevate the experience!
Besides these private adventures, my focus is also on operating a few departures a year where foodies can travel together! People who love food usually love other people with the same interest. How wonderful to meet other wine enthusiasts on a vineyard in Argentina? Or join a small group of like minded individuals around a boma dinner in South Africa?
The last piece of Sated Ventures that I am so excited about is involving local chefs. What is a great restaurant without the amazing chef in the kitchen? I want to highlight them! I want to pull them to the front of the house! In my tours, I am inviting chefs to join us on the group departures, and be the celebrity on board for a few days. I am also working with local chefs to guide some of the day experiences - anyone can lead a city tour, but a chef will show us the culinary secret spots, his favorite place for lunch, pop into storefronts usually not visited by tourists, and so on. It will truly leave my clients feeling sated.
H&F: How has your career experience prepared you for what is next?
Karolina: Travel has always been a part of my life. My family emigrated to Brooklyn, NY from Warsaw, Poland when I was little. That huge move made the world smaller somehow, and I was inspired to explore as much of it as possible. I studied tourism and hospitality at Johnson & Wales University, and worked every internship and abroad program possible into my four years there.
After graduating I climbed the ladder at a specialty tour operator - from a tour consultant all the way to general manager of sales. For 15 years I dealt with an amazing array of clients, I traveled extensively becoming a destination specialist, and I spent time building itineraries, training staff, and getting to know the ins and outs of what the industry can offer. On all my travels I always incorporated food - we cooked, we shopped at indigenous markets, we planted mango trees, we tasted everything. Sated Ventures was already brewing, I just didn't know yet.
H&F: What is it about traveling that you enjoy so much?
Karolina: I sleep really well when I travel! There is a feeling that you get when you travel to a new place, where you do not know the language - it’s a feeling of excitement, of nervousness that I crave. Your brain is so alive, constantly processing, translating, taking in new sights. So when you hit the bed at night, you rest so well! When I travel, my husband says I get “the look.” I am happiest when travel is involved.
H&F: Where are the best places to travel too with a popular foodie scene?
Karolina: Loaded question! Which child do you love the most? Haha. Latin America has my heart, as I spent more time there than anywhere else in the world - the restaurant scene in Lima is famous for extravagance. The cooking classes in Oaxaca will transport you back in time. The estancias of Patagonia offer melt in your mouth steaks. But there is also the wine trail of South Africa. The night markets in Chiang Mai that will awaken your palate. The fabulous seafood in Iceland. I see it this way - every country has something delicious to offer. You choose the place, and I will show you what we can do there.
"I see it this way - every country has something delicious to offer. You choose the place, and I will show you what we can do there." - Karolina
H&F: How does your company factor in COVID-19 protocols when traveling to other countries?
Karolina: The world is slowly reopening, and every country I work with has been so diligent about safety first. The crews in the Galapagos are fully vaccinated. All safaris are now done in private jeeps. Masks are required in every airport transfer vehicle. Covid-19 tests are automatically arranged when needed. We are the most flexible industry in the world, and we will mold as needed to make sure our clients are safe and happy.
H&F: What are the benefits to traveling with a group?
Karolina: This is not your typical group of 40 crammed on a coach bus taking photos through a dirty window. I smile, as I have done those all over Europe when I was a teenager.
Sated Ventures offers these intimate group departures a few times a year so that like-minded people can get together, can share stories, can make friends that could last a lifetime. There is something about breaking bread with someone that automatically takes you to the next level of friendship. In my years of travel, I worked with many fantastic clients who were single. We always discussed was how eating alone was the one thing that they would change. With Sated Ventures - you never eat alone.
H&F: What has been your favorite highlight of owning your own business?
Karolina: I have two daughters who have been watching me work hard their whole lives. When they were tiny, they would always mimic me - typing away on their little pink computers, or blabbing about late flights and fancy hotel rooms. The other day I heard my nine-year-old daughter in her room on her pretend phone: “This is Sated Ventures, how can I help you?” It made my heart swell to hear her use my company’s name. It made it real.
H&F: Starting a business is not easy. What hurdles have you had to overcome that you did not anticipate in the beginning?
Karolina: The biggest hurdle, in the beginning, was getting used to all the hats! Previously, I had an IT guy, an accounting guy, a marketing guy, assistants, etc. When Sated Ventures was born, I wore all the hats! Slowly, I am hiring some help, but working all those facets really allowed me to appreciate small businesses.
H&F: Just for fun, can you describe the best meal you’ve ever had and tell us from what city/country?
Karolina: Easter Island, most remote place in the world. We rented bikes and explored the coastline where wild horses roamed, the moi statues in the sand, the secret beaches that revealed themselves only in low tide. We found a small shack restaurant facing the ocean, where we could clearly see a little fishing boat bobbing in the water. The fish we were served was massive, delicious, and so fresh! Chilean wine flowed, the ocean breeze in my hair, my muscles hurting from riding the ragged roads, the man I love across from me. Perfection.
H&F: Please tell us about any future plans you have for the business.
Karolina: 2022 will be a big year - I plan to guide groups of foodies to Jordan & Egypt, Ecuador with Galapagos, and Peru with the Amazon jungle. All 3 itineraries will be filled with lots of surprises, local chef appearances, and memories I hope my clients will treasure.
H&F: Anything else you want to share?
Karolina: I am always looking for new culinary ideas, interesting restaurants, chefs that love to travel! Although my focus is always on foreign travel, Sated Ventures will also plan a Culinary Retreat here in the USA! More details to follow!
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