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Meet the Curator: Ioanna

"As with many things in life, the best travel philosophy is to leave something better than when you found it."

Ioanna Yiasemi
Origin travel curator
What sparked your passion for travel and how did it become your career?

I have a natural sense of curiosity and I've always loved meeting people from different countries or reading travel magazines. As a young adult, all I could think about was travel. If I wasn't sleeping or studying, I was planning travel itineraries I couldn't yet afford. So it only made sense to find a way to travel for a living!

Biking around the white beaches of Cyprus
How many countries have you visited? What were your top 3 and why?

Probably about 40. I am unconditionally in love with Italy, top to bottom, left to right. I lived there on and off for months at a time and it's crazy and chaotic but also real and authentic. I love cycling and there's huge bike culture in Italy in incredible places. I've biked La Sella Ronda in the Dolomites, the Strade Bianche through Tuscany, around Lake Como, and so many other beautiful circuits.

The second would be Greece. A lot of the things I love about Italy also exist in Greece, but [being Greek Cypriot] Greece feels like a second home to me. And then third is Colombia. I love when you can find so much variety within one country, and Colombia has everything. You can go on a history tour through a colonial city and then hike through a tropical jungle. The scenery, food, and people are all so diverse.

What’s the place you most want to visit that you haven’t been to yet?

Japan, Mongolia, Argentina, Madagascar, Morocco... do I have to pick one?

Why is it important for travel to make a positive impact?

For me, traveling connects people and cultures in a way nothing else does. It creates cultural awareness, brings people together, and cultivates love for nature. When used wrongly, tourism also has the power to exploit, commercialize, and destroy communities and the environment. That's why as travel professionals we have a responsibility to stay true to sustainable travel and ensure that our activities are positively impacting the places we visit.

How can you promote positive change when traveling?

As with many things in life, the best travel philosophy is to leave something better than when you found it. If you're hiking a trail and see trash, pick it up. If you're visiting children in a lesser developed area, give them school supplies instead of candy. Whatever community you're in, make sure you're spending your money in local businesses.

What’s the most surreal travel experience you’ve had?

One of the most memorable experiences I've had was the two-week trek to the Mt. Everest base camp. You have to mindful of everything you do because you're sleeping in camps and have to carry everything—including your food for the whole trip. It's not simple traveling, and that's what makes it so rewarding.

Some of the most scenic lakes in the Himalayas

Another absurdly surreal moment was watching the sun come up for the first time after a long winter in the Norwegian islands of Svalbard, which are closer to the North Pole. I walked through a glacier in pitch black darkness and the only illumination in the sky is from the northern lights. But on March 8, the entire town gathers for a festival to watch the sunrise for the first time in months. It only stays up for 20 minutes, but it was so otherworldly to me.

Which was the most memorable property you've ever stayed at? Why?

Les Sources de Caudalie in Bordeaux, France. It's in the Haut-Médoc wine region and surrounded by vineyards, so it's a dream for wine lovers. The entire property feels like a fairytale, and there's even a rabbit statue in the garden to give it a Wonderland vibe.

Everything was simply perfection, from the way the staff anticipates every need before you even know it's there to the spectacular combinations of flavors at every meal. You don't just taste wine, but really learn about it. Sommeliers explain what you'll taste and smell in each sip, and the experience was one of the best in my career.

What item can you not travel without?

My camera of course!

Pick one of your favorite photos from your travels and explain why.

That is such a hard question!! I'm going to say the lanscape from the top of Poon hill in the Annapurna mountain range, because I love nature, mountains and sunrise so much!