People travel with many different intentions. Some long to escape the rhythms of everyday life and to experience a new culture. Some want to unplug and be fully pampered in a luscious setting. Some go to learn, train, be guided. And some, like Celi Baker, the founder of Soul Trips, travel to give back.
We spoke with her to find out the story behind her retreat company, and what makes community service such an important part of her travels.
“I think at the beginning everybody has a different purpose,” she said. “The purpose of your travels can and might change with time”. For me, I began to travel to learn English and to experience other cultures.”
As a young adult, Celi traveled with Up with People. She spent years on the road connecting with communities, offering support in whatever way possible. The life-changing impacts her actions were having on other people’s lives inspired Celi’s travel intentions to shift.
“When I started traveling with Up with People I was 18, and I realized that even though sometimes you don’t spend a lot of time doing community service or volunteer work while you travel, that little time you spend volunteering has the potential to change that person’s day or that person’s life. And it makes such an impact for that person and for yourself.”
So when she and her friend Clara completed their time with Up with People, they knew they had to create similar opportunities for travelers to give back. They began small, with four-day trips to communities where they could find a diverse range of opportunities to be of service.
“There’s a lot of platforms out there that offer wellness retreats, but for us, it’s not only about physical wellness or mental wellness. We believe that your soul also needs to be well in order for you to be well mentally and physically. So, why not combine something that enriches our soul?”
With groups no larger than 20 people, Celi and Clara support their participants to get to know one another as soon as they arrive. Then, the service opportunities begin. “It’s not like, let’s hang out on Wednesday, let’s hang out on Thursday and then we start on Friday,” Celi says. “No, it’s like Wednesday night is who are you? Why are you here? Let’s get into it, you know, so that we can enjoy a full retreat for the four days that we are there.”
Celi says that she sees many people in the world who want to give back but are stymied by logistics.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get involved in your community because you don’t know the right person, or you haven’t found what gives you that little fire in your soul. So, we just want to be that platform where people can go and have a nice trip, do a little bit of yoga, meditation or anything that has to do with wellness but also give back to the community where they are. That’s why we started.”
Celi’s passion is palpable even from a distance. Her Soul Trips have brought people from 18 years old to 60 who want to use their hands, hearts, and time to do something good for the world and have a little meditation and yoga. Celi says participants bond deeply through such an experience, even in such a short timeframe. There is something powerful about working together to create an impact.
For this big-hearted woman, dedication to service now guides every trip she takes. “Every trip I do, even if it’s a family trip, I always include a little bit of service. Just for fun, I mean why not? We are there, we have the possibility to visit someplace and help in a way, why not?”
Why not, indeed.
Celi Baker has over fifteen years of experience traveling the world and planning trips and events for the non-profit and corporate sector. She is the graphic designer, entrepreneur, and co-founder of Soul Trips. Visit Soul Trips’ Retreat Guru page.