Behind The Scenes
Words by Comuna Travel founder, Ioana Todosia
The story behind Comuna begins with the relationship I’ve developed with my own dual cultural identity over the years as a Romanian-Canadian immigrant. In the mid 90's my parents were what we call today, economic migrants, leaving their lives, culture, and families behind for the unknown. They were forced to leave post-Communist Romania and immigrate to Canada with a 4.5 year old (me) and 9 year old (my sister) in tow seeking a better life, opportunity and secure future for their children.
I was lucky to grow up as a Romanian-Canadian but also surrounded by many different cultures. My best friends were Punjabi, Hindu, Ukrainian, Yugoslavian... which also led me to witness from an early age how the media shapes global perceptions of people and places by hyper-focusing on select factors and in some cases complete fabrications.
While in University, I developed a passion for global issues and migration while majoring in international relations and sustainable development, but a desire for a more creative life led me to start a digital branding and storytelling studio while still in school. I’ve spent the majority of my life in cross-cultural environments – from a decade-long career in hospitality to my own experiences growing up inside immigrant communities and navigating a dual-culture identity. All of it cultivating in me a strong sense of appreciation for other cultures.
As I’ve traveled throughout Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Turkey, the Caribbean, and Central America over the past decade, I’ve continuously witnessed a common thread sewn by mass-tourism. One where locals often feel forced to play into the stereotypes and false portrayal of their own culture rather than protect and share the authentic and deep-rooted realities, because that’s where the money is being spent.
The seeds for Comuna were planted over many years, memories, and personal experiences, but two life events, one big and another somewhat unexpected, were the major inspirations behind what would become Comuna.
In 2016, I joined a volunteer trip to Greece and spent 2 weeks in the thick of what would only become the beginnings of a global refugee crisis. Here, I was witness to the proliferation of misinformation by the media to dehumanize people on a difficult journey. But, I also witnessed the importance and power in exchanging and listening to individual stories that inspire us to connect with one another on a very basic and human level. Then, one year later, I took a spontaneous trip to Cuba where I became fully aware for the first time of the divide that exists between local realities and tourist realities in places that are very culturally rich, but economically depend heavily on tourism – a separation that gets perpetuated by the tourism industry itself and leads to a lack of cultural awareness as a whole.
Comuna's overall mission is to foster cultural understanding through meaningful exchanges, to promote the local creatives and entrepreneurs pushing their countries into the future against all odds, and increase respect for traditional knowledge and identity. All while telling real stories through creative collaborations.
So, how do we create these heightened travel experiences? I personally spend time on the ground to deeply scout our destinations and build relationships with inspiring locals who are striving towards making their countries and communities better. In collaboration with our local partners, we co-create unique and highly immersive experiences that promote the good work and creative energy happening in each country we travel to. We collaborate with everyone from passionate local guides to entrepreneurs, social activists, musicians, artists, designers and sustainable farmers to develop one-of-a-kind experiences for travellers that contribute to local development.
Comuna becomes your personal, highly-connected, local plug into each destination we travel to. We want travellers to become immersed in a culture and live in the moment without having to worry about all of the details and logistics of making an inspiring trip happen. Right now, we’re focusing on small group trips of max 6-8 people per journey. We keep it small so the experience remains intimate and flexible and so that the impact on the local environment and community is minimal. We have big plans to expand as we grow though, and will begin offering the same highly curated and unique itineraries for private journeys in the near future.
In a world full of repetitive noise, increasing divisiveness and individualism, I wholly believe that there’s no time more important than now to tell different, more inclusive and diverse stories of the people and places that we interact with wherever we find ourselves in this shared world.
COMUNA ETHOS ON TRAVEL
Foster meaningful cross-cultural connection & understanding.
Promote and preserve local creative economies, both new & traditional.
Create moments of heightened human connection.
Support the sustainable economic development of local communities through responsible tourism.
Tell inspiring, fair and representative stories through creative collaborations.