Between the Seams of Naya Traveler
Over the last decade, travel has shifted from must-see destinations to tailored, cultural experiences. We’ve traded in those bucket lists and souvenirs for sharing a pot of tea with a Berber family in the Atlas Mountains, stamping our own sari pattern with a textile artist in Rajasthan or being guided through an ancient Tibetan monastery. At Naya Traveler, we have come to understand this need for authenticity in travel, and build experiences around this central idea.
In 2015, when Sarah Casewit, Sofia Mascotena and Marta Tucci began to brainstorm what is today Naya Traveler, they looked for unique and imaginative ways to offer what the travel industry was missing—highly personalized journeys rooted in authenticity and their own personal experiences. Much of what Naya is today is an extension of our co-founders’ characters as individuals as well as their common outlook on travel. Get to know them a little better to discover what inspired them to take the plunge.
What first inspired you to travel?
Marta || As a daughter of a pilot and sailing olympian, I don’t recall a moment in my life when we were not traveling. My first years were spent aboard my father’s sailboat at sea, and the only home I ever knew was one that was in constant movement. As I got older, we would divide our time between the sails and the airplane cockpit. For my brother and I, airports were our favourite playground, the plane’s galley’s our ultimate hide-and-seek spots, and the unknown our only constant. Funnily enough, it felt strange if we ever spent more than 3 months in one place, and we would find ourselves being our own kind of ‘homesick’. My inspiration to keep traveling as an adult comes from a yearning to remain grounded—despite how contradictory this statement might sound— and stay connected to my family values.
Sofia || The first and foremost inspiration goes back to my childhood home in Argentina, and my father’s library. He had books from all over the world about culture, history and society. The stories and images gave me a glimpse of a world of wonder.
From an early age I felt an enormous attraction to go and see with my own eyes, beyond the story books, to cross the limits of my small town where I lived for 17 years. My parents instilled in me respect for nature, different cultures, and ancient civilizations. I was enthralled by the Incas, Ancient Egyptians, and tribes of Kenya.
Sarah || I can't help but make this about my mother. As a teenager, she studied Portuguese in Brazil, Chinese literature in Taiwan and cultural communications in Afghanistan. By her early 20s, she spoke 7 languages and moved to Morocco on her own to take on Arabic. Growing up in this atmosphere and under her shadow, I understood from a very early age that travel is the best form of education. Today I continue to travel and help others do so, inspired by the transformative power it has on our minds and souls.
What led you to pursue a career in the travel sector and make travel an integral part of your life?
Sofia || From a young age, I always wanted to travel around the world, but I was also clear that for this I needed to study a career that would allow me to also travel with knowledge. It was at the age of 16, a year before I finished high school, that I decided to study Tourism and Hospitality. By studying different civilizations, world geography, history of art and culture, as well as the intricacy of the travel world, I knew that I was going to be able to fulfill my desire to travel and to explore the world.
Sarah || I studied religion in college because I wanted to develop an in-depth understanding of cultures by penetrating them from the inside, via the spiritual route, which I believe lies at the core of each great tradition. I never thought it was something I could do for a living or turn into a career. After I started working for a luxury travel agency in Buenos Aires, the idea sprung in my mind to turn my passion for travel into a company concept and a philosophy that spoke to me on a personal level. Today, Naya Traveler is an extension of myself and an integral part of my life as I continue to seek naya (wisdom in Sanskrit) through travel.
Marta || It wasn’t a choice as much as a natural tendency to follow the lifestyle I had been accustomed to from an early age. While many careers in travel call for a sometimes selfish, sometimes lonely lifestyle, creating Naya Traveler has given me a chance to not only forge relationships with other like-minded individuals, but also put my knowledge and experience at the disposal of those who have a desire to travel but might need a helping hand doing it. The reward from this is invaluable.
What’s your favorite destination?
Sarah || There is a special place in my heart for Morocco, because it is where I grew up and called home for 20 years. Fez in particular is a place I always go back to and never tire from learning about its incredible history and benefiting from its deep-rooted spirituality.
Marta || There are so many, both known and waiting to be known! If I should choose from the destinations we offer at Naya Traveler, Kashmir remains my favorite. It might sound like an odd choice, but beyond the evident natural beauty and cultural richness of this complex region, it’s a place that managed to shake my core and kick me out of my comfort zone. I like destinations that take time to reveal themselves, that demand strength and an open mind to get to know, often resulting in a strong personal connection with its people, beliefs, and way of life that keeps drawing me back time and time again.
Sofia || It is very difficult to choose, because each place I have known has given me something different. At this moment I would have to say Ethiopia. For the enormous cultural and ancestral wealth that remains alive in these changing times, the great importance that is dedicated to religion and spirituality, the rich and millenary history, the beautiful natural environment that they possess, the warmth and simplicity of the local people, and the rich local foods. When traveling in a way that leaves superficiality and prejudices aside, one not only takes away what he sees, but returns home with a fuller soul. This is the greatest wealth that travel offers to me.
your travel must-have?
Marta || My Moleskine—I don’t go anywhere without it. I like to keep diaries of my travels and there’s something very cathartic about putting words to paper for me, especially if I’m travelling alone. I have a very large collection of them at home, and it’s always very interesting to read and remember details that might have escaped my recollections of a given place, person or experience.
Sarah || A good carry-on bag with quadruple wheels! My destinations of interest are usually places with rough terrains and because I'm not a duffel bag or backpack traveler, I need my solid (and small) suitcase to be on point!
Sofia || Definitely my Mate! As a proper Argentine, wherever I go I am compelled to bring my Mate canteen, leaves and cup. There is nothing better than enjoying good company with views of a sunset, or a quiet morning, in the company of my Mate and it keeps me going on my trips!
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Sofia || Going from being an employee at a company where you can depend on a manager’s support and a steady income to exposing yourself to the risk of building your own path is a great challenge. Our dreams call us to take big leaps of faith. There is a fine line between success and failure and in my work I always live by the saying “No risk, no gain.” Don’t let your fears stop you, let them serve as motivations to reach your goal.
Sarah || It is very important to know when to be humble and when to be bold when striving to blaze your own trail, no matter what industry that may be. There comes a time when you feel ready to take the jump and to believe in your plans; and you have to catch that fleeting moment before it passes.
Marta || First of all, congratulate yourself for your decision to take the plunge—that first step is the hardest and you are already ahead! As someone highly obsessed with perfection, I’ve come to understand that many valuable lessons are found in making mistakes, embracing the fact that sometimes, albeit our expectations, they are necessary roadblocks to push you in the right direction (one that you might have not even considered yet!)