Heart of Glass SHE LEADS TOURS THAT CHANGE THE WAY YOU SEE THE WORLD
hen Chelsea Glass opened her boutique travel agency, The Heart of Travel, last November, the name was more than just a clever riff on the oft-repeated phrase “the art of travel.” It perfectly captures what Glass loves about seeing the world. “The name embodies the experience I’m trying to create with my guided tours,” says Glass, who leads groups of intrepid travelers on intimate explorations of countries like Guatemala, Cuba, Mexico and Peru. “It’s not just a vacation. Hopefully, the trip they take with me has a bigger impact. It hits you deeper—in the heart.” An East Sac native, Glass was 19 when she flew to Guatemala by herself for the first time to volunteer in health care. (She didn’t know until she arrived that she was going to be working in an infant malnutrition ward.) She was eager to see more of the world and expand her language base from the Italian she’d studied in school to the Spanish she was rapidly acquiring out of necessity. After finishing her volunteer stint, she planned to go back for two months over the summer to further get to know Guatemala. Instead, she ended up staying for three years. “It just kind of snowballed,” Glass admits. “I got offered a job as a tour guide and I fell in love with meeting
JL By Jessica Laskey Shoptalk
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Cheri Malkasian is the owner of Summer Porch on J Street.
Chelsea Glass is the founder and owner of Heart of Travel. new people. It changed my perspective on the world.” This feeling of discovery and wonder is what Glass seeks to achieve with the five-day to two-week tours she offers through The Heart of
Travel. She prides herself on curating “authentic and ethical” experiences for her clients, including lodging, transportation inside the country, meals and entrance fees to activities and landmarks.
“I don’t want the tour to feel generic—we don’t travel on a big tour bus,” says Glass, who learned the complexities of coordinating travel while working for four years at Casa de Español, a Spanish language school in Sacramento. “I want people to feel like they’re traveling with a friend who happens to know a bunch of people in the country we’re visiting.” Glass calls on the many contacts she’s made over the years living and traveling in Latin America to connect her clients to the true essence of the environment. “When I take people to Mexico City, we have happy hour at my friends’ house and show them around the neighborhood so people can get an idea of what it would be like if they were to just pick up and move there,” Glass says. “In Guatemala, we live with an indigenous family on the lake.” This focus on an authentic experience also dovetails nicely with Glass’ interest in sustainable agriculture, which was her area of study before she moved abroad. (She’s about to earn her master’s degree in Spanish from Sacramento State.) “Developing nations are very dependent on the tourism industry, but that has its downsides,” Glass explains. “Dropping Westerners who aren’t informed of the cultural norms into small, indigenous communities can cause big problems. I want my presence and that of my clients to not have a negative impact on the culture or the economy, so we keep our tourism as sustainable as possible. In each country, I work directly with a local community for the best opportunity for cultural exchange and