How Tourism Changed My Life: A True Story by Marilyn Velásquez Alvarado
Thank you so much to everyone for joining us today. I'm thrilled to have you all here. My name is Angie Drake. I am the owner of NotYourAverageAmerican.com. We have a website where we share information about traveling in South America, especially Andean Nations like Ecuador and Peru. Part of my job a few years ago or a couple of years ago, I started doing more sustainable tourism consulting, working with different companies to help them attract an aligned audience, the types of clients that really bring value to a trip in that they respect local cultures, they want to work with local guides, they want to learn and understand the people that they're visiting. And it's been a joy doing that and as I started that work. I began to realize there's a lot of stories out there to be told and that they're not reaching a broader audience.
So, today is the second in our series How Tourism Changed My Life. I am thrilled to be here with Marilyn Velásquez Alvarado. I'm going to let her talk about herself but I do want to let you know that I met Marilyn through another friend in Peru, Patricia Deva... Deza sorry, and she also works in tourism in the Arequipa area and this is how tourism works. Tourism for good works because people who are already working in tourism are sharing stories of other people working in tourism. We're not competing with each other to get each other's clients. We're helping each other to get more clients and it isn't a competition. It's more of a collaboration and,
as we see tourism turning into more collaborative ways, I think we're going to see more success for everybody. So Marilyn, let me go ahead and start this for you. We're gonna share the screen. Just slightly off. Can everybody see this screen that says How Tourism Changed My Life? Give me a thumbs up. We've got a thumbs up. Okay Marilyn. Oh I've got.. I think something is in the way here. There we go. Okay are we ready to go? Yes. Yes, welcome Marilyn. Welcome, Angie and thank you so much for this opportunity. Good morning and good afternoon,
everybody. I hope you are well as far as possible. I am happy to share with you this moment and of course when Angie too for explaining you how the tourism changed my life and I hope that the time you are giving me is productive for all of you. Well, I'm Marilyn Velazquez Alvarado I'm from Leymebamba when I visiting beautiful place like this Laguna De guaman Pata is in my region I feel like anything it's possible is the large part of why I continue working in tourism but how did I get here. The past, the path wasn't been an easy one. I was born in Leymebamba in this small town. It is in the north of Peru there are about
3871 inhabitants. It's a beautiful place with a big mountains. We have two rivers, wonderful new song and archaeological places and it's possible to stay or have experience with a community for example with cooking class or a textile experience. It is two hours from the city of Chachapoyas and it will take me two days to take the bus from Lima to my hometown. Yeah it's so hard the trip by bus but fortunately we have a comfortable buses in Peru. That's a long day, a long two days, so travel just to get home from your capital city.. it's incredible. Yes, yeah. Yeah, but would most tourists actually take the bus? and now it's possible to take the plane. For example, Lima to Chachapoyas directly is one hour and 45 minutes and then two hours by by combi to my town. Combi is like a minibus but other way is
Lima to hang is 1 hour 30 minutes and then 5 hours to Lleymebamba. 4 hours to Chachapoyas. So you were born in Lleymebamba... I was fortunate to have two very strong and important woman in my life.
First, it's my grandmother in Peru. Like say that was a little for example Abuelita... a little ending ether on the word abuela Abuelita She is Mercedes. She was born with a gift. She was a midwife who could harness the power of the plants to heal bones and to diseases. She never went to the school because in her time education was only for boys. She was a life-giving woman. Happy, lovely and strong and a Warrior too. You could hear her singing the verse or yaravies is the like a traditional songs in my in my town. When we went to fields to bring food for the guinea pigs
and or when she walking village to village for her way to deliver the future babies. You have really good memories of your grandma and these songs... yeah, I spent a wonderful moment with her and she died when I was seven years old. Who is this other
woman who was important? Is my is my mom Elisa she worked since she was very young in different jobs and when she had her children, even more so. She only had two years of the formal education, in the elementary school... Two years? Yeah only two years. Okay and the first two years and sometimes I try teaching her to read or write and she say, it's not necessary because I know what I need to know. Okay, yeah it's fine for you but it's okay. She raised all her children with the help of my Abuelita my grandmother and my father was not in the in the picture. She always told me
that I should study to be a good woman. Yeah, it's the same for my other sisters and that's why when my mother passed away seven months ago, I struggled to keep things going. And having her die just as life was beginning to look normal again, brought back all of the doubts and question that come up during the pandemic. The one that I keep asking myself over and over was should I continue working in tourism? But why I think about this because I'm not feeling good sometimes and I'm sad and decide for a few months living in the booth.. bubble and I did a bubble you were living yeah yeah because it did that to a lot of us I think we can really empathize... With the Covid it's not like this but I thinking how it's possible because the travel the travel is don't come my country. But when my dad my mom died, it's it's so hard
because I'm thinking how can I talk with a tourist, how can I Inspire them to come to my region and how can I can talk with our partners in the community if I'm not feeling good? It's it's like uh yeah maybe I'm not talk with a true or something like that. But in this time I met Angie and she asked me to put together my story it gave me the opportunity to to truly reflect on why I started working in tourism in the first place. I started with my first trip far away from from home. My first trip away from what happened before I went to University. I left Leymebamba to go to high school in Trujillo. The town is was 12 hours by bus. I left because my mom wanted to me a better opportunity. My first year in Trujillo was
difficult because I couldn't no longer go out to play when I wanted to because when I lived in Leymebamba like a free... climbing, jumping, staying in the river in the nature playing all the time of course study too and I missed my mom. The other kids at the school made fun of the way I spoke because we our accent in the mountain, it's so different the accent the people in the coast.
so when I started college I already knew what is why I like to live away from home. After high school, I wanted to study business administration but when I applied to the National University of Trujillo I didn't get in. So with my mom and my other older sister encouraged me to all the way I tried again and this time I applied to for the degree in tourism. And it ended up being the perfect fit.
The college was better than the high school and part of why it was better it was I began to travel in my own in my own country and discover an experience in the the part of Peru that International tourists knew better than the people like me know come from the towns hours or days aways from the big cities. I graduate with a degree in in tourism finally. (laughter) One year before I finished the college I found a job different from the ones I had had before, as a waitress in the vegetarian restaurant in Huanchaco. One day when I was working at a double shift, my boss Janika said to me Marilyn sit down for a moment and rest. Tell me what do you want to drink and I will bring it to you and it's the weird
answer for me I didn't know how to respond that because in yeah, in my country when you work you're you're never at your employer expect you work throughout your shift and will never think for offer for being for drink or eat something when you are working, but with Janika it's so different because she's from Holland and thought differently. And she taught me a lot about respect. She knew the moment when I was ready for more responsibility and made sure I had opportunities to grow at my in my work. After two years, I was running the restaurant alongside to other women all because she saw something in in me. But all the time, I have doubts about my my capacity, but she all the time know how yeah who we are and where how it's possible make the better job. Yeah, I want to talk just a little bit more to make sure that that this point gets across because of how important Janika was in changing the way you thought about yourself.
Yeah. The idea I think for a lot of Americans, we understand when we go to work we're given 15-minute breaks, we're told to eat a lunch break you had never experienced this in Peru. You would never... No, no because we work all the time yeah you have the time for take your lunch or dinner but is in an other part you know how is the time for take the lunch but in this part she asked me about... she asked me how I feeling, how I want and she's saw I'm tired possibility and say yeah take your time and rest. That is the, yeah the different way the business come in my in my country... She treated you like a real person who has emotions and feelings and was having a long, hard day and she saw a moment to... Yeah... Yeah. She all the
time look for for her employees and she said the business is not only for keeping money, it's how you put you your energy and give opportunities around your business, in the for example in one in Huanchaco with other organization. I like this this part... I love this story this part of your story and I think it's key to where you went next. Yeah, the restaurant made me brave. In 2008 I started my first travel agency with my friend Carol. She is in the picture. We are in Cajamarca. We sell the the trips in Huanchaco, Trujillo, Pura and in my region too. The experience in contact with a community, the nature, of course the archaeological places too. And one year later we start for create a coffee shop in my region in Chachapoya
with a propose to show the best products, have the farmers in my in my region, the handicraft. The idea is promote the idea is promote the slow food and fair trade. Ten years later, by 2018, I was specializing in the transformative and generative, regenerative... yep yeah it's a tough word... and I will my work at home was fulfilling. It was travel abroad through the uh through me the greatest lesson of all. I think I love more my country and my town and my region when I travel in other countries. For example, when I went in Colombia or Ecuador or
Alemania or France I yeah I learned more about my my country. Yeah maybe sounds weird but it's I think that's good yeah. When you were working at this travel agency that you had started you had an opportunity to apply for a scholarship to travel abroad. Yeah, yeah this is a great uh travel because it's the first time I flew in the in the plane because when I travel in my country all the time I travel by bus, even the the travel is longer. For example, when
I was the first time to Cusco I traveled for 48 hours by bus, but never I take the plane. When I went in Ecuador is by bus too. When I went to to Japan is yeah the first time the take the flight. When I was 31 years old, is the first time I saw the snow. and I yeah the really nice experience sometime I'm playing in the snow and try to make it the angel like the movies. [Laughter]
And on the trip I learned in this trip, I learned to that true meaning of love. and the surin from the man who is now my husband. This is Francisco Javier and me in the picture. This was the trip that truly transformed my my life. So first first plane trip, first snow, and your husband... not your first husband, your only husband. Yeah, my only husband. Yeah A big adventure because I never have experienced the real family, Dad and Mom. Yeah that's right ,
you didn't have a dad in your life so this was, this was a new experience for you. Yeah, exactly. But after my mother died seven months ago, I wondered if I wanted to work in tourism anymore even after having such wonderful life-changing experience. Then I started thinking of the lesson that she taught me. She was a strong and kind. She persevered. She was an adventure by nature.
When she was 13 years old years old, she ventured out in the peque peque. It's a small boat like canoa because she was she had to work in the town far from home. Then at 15, she traveled in the bed of the pickup truck as is the costume in the rural Peru where few people own their own cars.
After the age of 40, she traveled by bus to Trujillo to visit my sister because they were the first to leave a home to have a better future. After the 79, she had the the courage to fly the first time across the world to visit her son-in-law, her grandson and me here in Sevilla. We wanted to her to know where we live and for her to live a new experience because she knows only my town Leymbamba, Chachapoyas, Lima. But we we want to give her the opportunity to know other countries. She was always faithful for her convictions and faithful for her for the rights.
My mother support and constant remember that I need to move to grow was that pushed me towards tourism in the first place. Without her I never would have traveled to Trujillo, never would have to toured my own country, never had left it to found my own husband and tourism changed my life but it was my mother that changed it more. Sorry and I think... It's okay. I remember when we were working on this part and this was
what we call an epiphany in English, that moment of understanding about something that we never really could, yeah, it put to words before and when when these words happened you were like, oh my goodness that is the truth. That's the truth I didn't I didn't understand. Tourism has changed my life but it was my mother that changed it more. Yeah, because she yeah if she never think about giving me the opportunities, I'm not here in Sevilla, maybe I'm staying Leymbamba with yeah worker, maybe like her with so many childs. I don't know. Yeah and today I'm proud to say that my business embodies the values my mother taught me: joy, integrity, courage, authenticity and compassion. Yeah, I think this is my values and I put in our company too. It's a great gift your mother gave you and it's a gift that you're giving all of us through your business. Yeah
and today I'm probably offered transformative travel experience to individual and small group waiting to visit, let you know part of Peru in Chachapoyas and Amazon and in Amazonas region. We have never experienced mass tourism. I guarantee an immersive journey where ancient culture, modern traditions and Mother Nature unite. Let's take a quick look at my website to inspire you to
imagine what your next trip mean to light. So this is Marilyn's website for Nuevos Caminos Travel. Yeah, we we in the website, you find six different trips with... all is in contact with a nature with a community but if you need something for customized trip, it's possible design for you. And we have, we work with hostels, hotels and home stays near the nature with the farmers, artisans... When you have more time later or other day, you can explore our website and know more about us and how we work in our community and how we involve the protect our culture and the nature. Would you like to choose one of these to show us just a little bit? Yeah... for example experiential
is the fourth one. This one here. yeah This is the most popular trip, our trip. You can visit the first time the in Churuja, know how our ancestor prepared the traditional food when they need travel to other town. Now we call
box lunch, really because when it's a long time, take your long time the trip, you keep a box lunch they keep a different kind of food. You learn about this and then visit Karajía is a sarcophagos, Huancas with a wonderful views, the canyon and stay the experience with the, with the women for creates foods, for example. And Cuela too. In Leymebamba, it's possible visit the fourth day. The museum, they have a 200 mummies and different material archaeological materials. Did you say 200 mummies? Yeah. Why are there so many mummies? Because the archaeological found in the Laguna De Los Condores in the mausoleos and the tombs and they have a yeah so many mummies with a archaeological things. I think this is something that people don't understand about Peru. When they see Peru, everyone automatically gravitates towards Machu Picchu and
it makes perfect sense. It's been a National Geographic. It's the pictures are everywhere. When I looked for a backdrop today and I looked for a Peru backdrop, all I could find was Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu. Yeah. But Peru is so rich in culture and here, hours, days away from Machu Picchu, you have your own archaeological ruins. Are they Incan ruins or are they from pre-Incan peoples? No, Chachapoya culture. The Chachapoya culture. and this is something I think that.. The Men of the Clouds because they (the men of the clouds, oh, that's beautiful) because they built in the the places in the the top of the mountain for example or find the sarcophagus. The Carajía is in the middle of the mountain in Laguna De Los Condores. Yeah. So there's there's rich history, we found this throughout the Andes there were
peoples before the Inca in most places and that those stories are not very well known to people even sometimes within Peru or within Ecuador that it's not always talked about a lot the ancient history that took place in so many places. I'm so glad that you are focusing on this in your tourism. I think it's a wonderful opportunity for people to get to know a different part of Peru and in a different way and even if they've never been to Peru, to consider starting their journey in Peru at a place like this to get a different broader experience that sometimes Machu Picchu, which is wonderful, can feel very touristy because there's so many people nowadays trying to visit. Yeah, I know that Machu Picchu is the most popular but it's possible to stay more more time in my country. Yeah, first visit, for example my region and they finish your trip in in Machu Picchu because the Inca culture is important now too. But yeah we have more archaeological places, more traditional communities and different experiences in my country and it's it's nice to visit us and discover sorry and discover this part of Peru. Yeah, because I would like to thank you Mia Jarret, an amazing coach who helped me to reconnect with my purpose and my values and of course and help me to improve the strategy marketing our, in our platform, virtual platform and for yeah stay in more contact with our customers or future clients. Tell us a little bit about who
Meritt, who Mia Jarrett is. Yeah she's the woman I met in the program from the enjoy in Canada in Canadian Canadian for head of Empower Woman and I work with her for like two months for restructure our enterprise but not only our enterprise just connect with you because we are the the soul our company, if you are good, your company is good and your family is good too. I love this work with a integral work. Yeah like a holistic part, yeah, when yeah and the Enterprise. And I strongly believe in that as well. When you are presenting your business values, you're going to attract the same types of people looking to practice those values as well and then everybody's happier with the final tourism product. We you know they come on a trip they have the expectations of those values. You offer them. You provide them. They have a good time. They write good reviews. Yeah. When they don't have a good time, if something goes
wrong, they're much more likely to reach out to you directly and explain to you, hey this this part of the trip could have... and then it's so much better working with people that understand what their... yeah... like the final journey can look like. Yeah. I wondered if anybody has any questions for Marilyn? I think we do not have any questions today and that's okay. This has been a wonderful opportunity
and I'm so glad we got to share Marilyn's story today. And thank you for inviting me is the yeah... it's the good way for practice my English too because... It is a good way to practice. Oh and that actually brought up the one question I did have. If somebody would like to come visit and purchase one of your tours, how important is it that they speak Spanish? Yeah, it's important to know the the basic words for connect with the people but our guys speaking in English and French too. yeah English and in French too. That's good to know. It's not it's not a problem but it's nice when you connect with the people and say for example gracias, hola, adios, mucho gusto, qué rico. Yeah. Qué rico, how delicious. Yeah, very nice thing to say after a really good
meal. No I think that's wonderful so I hope that we are able to convince more people to visit Chachapoyas and your hometown as well to take advantage of these wonderful tours that you have designed and to meet some of the wonderful guides that are local and thank you so much for your time today Marilyn for everyone else thank you so much for joining us today. If you would like to tell your tourism story I would love for you to reach out. We have a comment from Deb in the comments. She says it's on my list now which is wonderful to know and we hope to put this destination on more lists so that people can get to know parts of Peru that are lesser known and not talked about very often and that Marilyn will have the opportunity to meet so many more people. Oh and Jasmine says I've been there twice and it was so worth it. Jasmine oh even better
than Machu Picchu we hope that Jasmine maybe will visit once again. Maybe she'll bring new friends. Which would be absolutely great. Thanks so much for all of your participation today. I'm gonna go ahead and sign off and thank you so much. We will be sending out a survey that I hope you guys will be able to answer to help us know how to improve these events in the future. Have a great day! Bye-bye thank you. Bye-bye, thank you. Bye