Ioana of Comuna Travel Loves SZ

photography by Majestic Disorder

What was your biggest inspiration behind the creation of Comuna Travel?

Looking back, there were a few key moments in my life that were sort of catalysts towards creating Comuna. Travel and cultural exchange has always been a natural part of my life from a young age. I grew up in Canada from 5 years old after my family immigrated from Romania. My early years were spent in ESL (English Second Language) classes either with my parents or at school. Here I would become immersed in the realities of other cultures and connecting with each-other over common experiences as first generation Canadians. I also spent a lot of my youth travelling back to Romania (and later around Europe) to stay connected with family back home. My love for cultural awareness and preservation of tradition grew organically through staying connected to my own roots.

But, it was 2 recent life events (1 big and the other spontaneous and short) that really got the wheels turning on our relationships with other cultures as a global generation and also the way that we engage with other cultures while travelling.

1. In 2016 I joined a volunteer trip to Greece where I spent 2 weeks in the thick of the refugee crisis. As a volunteer and as a whole, I can’t say that I think I made a huge impact, but the stories that I was privilege to hearing and the connections that I formed with young people and families who had experienced these harrowingly long journeys, persecution, loss and so much hardship in search of freedom, opportunity and safety, radically altered my life and person. It made me recognize the importance and impact of letting people tell their own stories. When I returned home, it took a long time for me to adjust back into “normal” life and work and the experience stayed with me to this day.

2. One year later, in March 2017, I took a spontaneous trip to Cuba where I became fully aware for the first time of the divide that exists between the local reality (which is so culturally rich and incredible) and the tourist reality (which is packaged and fabricated). There’s a separation that gets perpetuated by the travel industry itself, and I think that also leads to a lack of cultural awareness as a whole, whether that’s intentional or not, which harms the local development of these places that so often rely on tourism for economic means.

The destinations that I choose to focus on are places that are either misrepresented through the media or skewed in the way that people perceive them through the tourism industry itself; and I am working to show a different reality that is much more culturally rich, creatively alive, diverse and locally inclusive.

The seeds for Comuna were planted over many years, memories, and experiences, but that trip to Cuba really made me take the plunge and start a travel company focused on fostering human connections and creative cultural exchange. A few months after that spontaneous trip, I quit my job at a design agency, rolled back my consulting contracts, travelled a second time to Cuba, fell even more in love with its people and culture, and launched Comuna. I haven’t looked back since.

 

Dream trip?

Ouf, this is always the hardest question to answer because every new experience is a dream trip for me and I want to go everywhere! Right now, for personal travel though, my heart has been pulling me towards exploring Nepal. In April, Comuna collaborated on a documentary photography trip in Cuba with the amazing Emory Hall, and her love for Nepal and years of travel stories there left a huge impression. I’m hoping to get to Nepal with her next year to support her back with what she’s planning on building there in travel and cultural exchange. I’m a big believer in embracing collaboration in the travel space over competition and am super excited to see and support what she creates in Nepal!

 

 

Top 5 items for packing?

1. A mini first-aid kit! I used to overlook this, but after recent travels these essentials came in very useful on a few occasions. Also shout out to my nurse Mama who taught me how to properly dress a wound.

2. A good worn-in pair of sneakers like white converse that are great for walking around a city or even wearing with a dress for a casual-chic look.

3. A power-cube because I’m always travelling with a lot of gear that constantly needs charging and many places I travel to only have one plug per room. The fight for charging power on group trips is real!

4. A small notebook for journaling and remembering the sounds, smells and feelings during trips that are often go-go-go while I’m leading them. Also, for taking down the information of locals who I photograph to send them the photos later or when I return. I’m old school pen and paper like that.

5. Electrolytes and good face and body oil! I put these together because I get easily dehydrated on trips, so they all help keep my skin healthy while travelling in different climates.

Can I add a 6th? Seriously my new disco pants from SZ Blockprints. They’re already a staple in my go-bag to colourful, warm destinations.

 

 

What's on your reading list?

Currently I’m reading Women Who Run With the Wolves and A Global Nomad in Search of True Happiness. Up next, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Lines In The Sand.

 

What draws you to SZ Blockprints? And what's your favourite item?

I have been trying really hard to be intentional about everything that I purchase and knowing where it comes from and the supply chain, particularly with my clothing and being a more conscious consumer of fashion. So, naturally I was super excited to be introduced to SZ Blockprints and knowing that all of the pieces are ethically produced in collaboration with local traditions in India through a slow fashion model. The company’s ethos completely falls in line with my own work and Comuna’s ethos on slow travel and creative cultural preservation.

The Disco Pants in Camel Patti hands down! I wore them all around Mexico City, on recent flights, and in Havana, Cuba during our 1 year anniversary party on a rooftop in Old Havana where they were a pretty big hit on the d-floor! I absolutely adore them because I’m such a pants girl, but these give you a bit more of a dressed up look if you want with the wide flare and vibrant print. They also have the most perfectly tailored fit for a tall girl. Love them to bits!

Check out Comuna Travel here

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