Ridgefield’s Soul Sister Travels helps adventurers ‘journey with a purpose’

RIDGEFIELD — Those looking to bring a more meaningful experience to their world of recreational travel might find a relatively new local business a great fit for their future journeys.

Soul Sister Travels, owned and operated by two longtime friends from Ridgefield, takes people who want to do something more interesting with their time than just be a typical tourist, to a new level in both volunteer and vacation opportunities.

“Soul Sister Travels is an invitation for those who might want to journey with a purpose,” explained Kathy Pesce, co-founder and executive director.

Since the inception of their business last year, Pesce and Mary Dent, co-founder and journey curator, have led trips to Africa and Southeast Asia, as well as several national locations, including Florida and Vermont.

“We both clearly love traveling,” Dent said, “and we both have a heart for volunteering.”

“We thought, ‘We can't be the only ones who want to travel and do good,’” she said. “‘Let's combine our passions and offer intimate trips that combine travel with volunteering, wellness and the opportunity to genuinely connect with the people in the communities we serve, as well as the other trip participants.’”

Describing the business as a “for-impact organization,” Pesce said their simple goal is to curate volunteer travel opportunities for those who want to do something a little extra with their time beyond sitting in the sun.

“There are several volunteer companies but nothing we know of that is small and on a personal level,” she said. “We curate the trip and not only guide you each step, but we are physically there.”

Though the two longtime Ridgefield residents had not known each other through their respective families and social circles, when they finally met they immediately felt a strong connection that somehow made them seem like close friends. Then, after several years of knowing one another, they ultimately came to the conclusion that their respective backgrounds could synchronize for this venture.

“Kathy has an extensive background in corporate event planning ... Her career has made her perfectly suited to researching and creating detailed trips to any place in the world,” Dent said.

A native of Martha's Vineyard, meanwhile, Dent spent years juggling work in tourism with her own extensive journeying around the globe.

“These work and travel experiences took me across the U.S., to Alaska, New Zealand and Australia, Thailand, Nepal and Belize,” she said.

Being more of a grassroots organization, Soul Sister Travels is able to tailor trips more succinctly to individual interests, with various levels of wellness activities and volunteerism woven into the experience.

Anne Milot of Ridgefield has been on two trips through the Soul Sister group — one to Florida to work in support of some small women-owned

businesses, and the other to Vermont, where they helped local residents in need

and participated in a farming community.“Kathy and Mary are the most amazing leaders, and you will feel welcomed and part of something truly unique and special from the moment you meet them," she said.

Along with the service work, Milot — who is going to do an international trip with the group next year — said she appreciates the focus on personal health and wellness that tie in with the experience.

“The wellness component consisted of creating beautiful vision boards for the new year, yoga, meditation ... and best of all playing in the snow on the beautiful grounds with new friends,” she said. “Both trips I came home with a new sense of peace and purpose that lasted for weeks after, as well as new friends (and) connections.”

Despite the name, Soul Sister Travels is geared toward all genders and ages. Further, forging relations with people plays a key role at the forefront of their work.

“We are very focused on the authentic connections that occur on our trips,” Pesce said.

“These connections are not forced, yet the nature of the experience lends itself to a very real and heartfelt connection with both the other volunteers and meaningfully with the community in which we serve,” she said.

Dent concurred, sharing the story of how, on their most recent trip to Kenya, the manager of the game reserve they were visiting told her how he was blessed. On that trip the participants with Soul Sister did work in schools inside the country's largest urban slum.

“There is so much need for kindness and connection in our world today — a different and more intentional narrative to what we see and experience all too often,” she said.

“Soul Sister Travels invites its travelers to travel with intention, to choose acts of kindness through their travel experience, (and) to feel and spread joy.”