February 5, 2013 | 8:08am
So, you consider yourself a foodie. But are you an adventurous foodie? You haven't really taken the plunge into becoming a full-fledged gastronome until you've traveled to some far off destination with stories about how you hand-picked coffee berries straight from the tree in Costa Rica.
If you think you have what it takes to try Turkish delights in Turkey, sample the dolce vita in Italy, or sip ancient herbal teas on horseback through China, then maybe Whole Foods has just what you're looking for. It's not down any of their store isles, however. It's at the source.
For decades, Whole Foods has been known for its unique organic or all-natural goods that -- for the most part -- come from eco-conscious farms and purveyors that support responsible local and global food production. As a result, many of the foods the national chain grocer sells aren't just good for you, they also have a good story. Whether it's an artisan cheese maker from France, or a small-batch baker in Boulder, Colorado, food manufactures and their products are worth meeting face-to-face.
Rather than read about it in the latest Whole Foods newsletter, why not learn about it first-hand with the new Whole Foods travel program known as Whole Journeys. The program launches with a series of 12 vacation packages later this year starting in April with a trip to a Turkish food festival, followed by an epicurean biking tour in Italy during May to June, and ending with a wine festival in the Swiss Alps with departure dates in late summer and early fall. For those who want an adventure a little closer to home, there's even a gourmet rafting trip in Idaho featuring regional recipes and local products including microbrews from the area in August.
Also known as an "experiential travel company," Whole Journeys offers several travel packages that provide specialized, multi-day international and domestic trips for small groups of eight to 16 people. The tours are foodie-focused, inspired by the people behind the food with the idea of bringing people closer to the source of the products Whole Foods sells in its retail chain grocery stores.
The tours have been designed by Whole Journeys Executive Director Kathy Dragon, who has more than two decades worth of experience as a professional adventure and experiential travel coordinator and guide. "The goal is to engage guests with local cultures through authentic experiences," said Dragon. "That means accommodations at boutique properties, expert local guides, plenty of traditional cuisine -- all within the Whole Foods framework of responsible tourism."
Expect regional cuisine and the culture of food to be the basis of the entire experience, where travelers come face-to-face with the small, artisan producers of specialty products and foods. Depending on the travel destination, tours also offer plenty of exercise, be it walking, biking, hiking or horseback. Boating trips are in the works, and anyone is welcome -- couples or those traveling solo.
Whole Journeys will offer a variety of travel itineraries around the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, as well as the U.S. Most are priced around $3,000 to $4,500 per person, and include things like transportation, travel accommodations, most meals and entry to special events and museums. There are also customizable options that let travel groups design a trip around specific details like a departure date, accommodations and focus, be it more on wine, food or other interests.
"The trips I've designed allow for authentic experiences involving rich cultural connections," said Dragon. "I believe why we travel, where we travel, what we do while we are there and when we return home, can effect positive change in the world."
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