Soul Sister Travels Volunteer Travel Agency Starts in Longboat Key | Rowboat key

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Distant journeys are not necessary for experiences that widen the horizon. Just ask Longboat Key residents Kathy Pesce and Mary Dent, who set up the volunteer travel agency Soulmate trips and kicked off their visit to Zota Beach Resort.

Travel industry veteran and nonprofit contributor Pesce and Dent, respectively, have been preparing to launch Soul Sister Travels for a few years after finding out they wanted to put their life skills and love of travel into one. The idea is that people who sign up for trips will not only see a new place, but they will also have new experiences through local volunteering and a wellness component with the trip. Pesce has made such trips before and wanted to make the concept more accessible.

“Basically, we run volunteer travel opportunities for those looking for adventures from the heart,” Pesce said. “Each volunteer opportunity will be a local experience, and we’ll also add a self-care component to really nurture your own well-being and somehow improve the overall experience. We just feel the two go hand in hand.

The women organized a two-hour event in Zota in January as their first trip. It attracted a few Longboat women, as well as four who flew for the event. The wellness theme was “Rise and Shine” and the volunteer organization was In the Pink, an organization in Sarasota that provides cancer patients with everything they need throughout treatment.

“We did meditation, and we had the director of In the Pink and people really wanted more,” Pesce said. “We actually ran for over two hours. No one wanted to leave. It was really exciting.

After the success of the first event, there was another one in Zota in May. Pesce and Dent are planning a third in November with yoga. For the volunteer part, they are considering a partnership with Habitat for Humanity. They already have a list of participants, most of whom are out of state.

“It’s pretty cool to see people wanting to travel outside of their own home or state and wanting to do good in someone else’s house,” Pesce said. “They’re so excited for a whole weekend, because it gives you time to do some really substantial volunteer hours, and also the wellness part of it. They will certainly be able to assimilate everything and feel all the effects.

They are also planning a trip to the Smoky Mountains over the summer, where guests will volunteer in the national park. Next comes a trip to Kenya and volunteering in the Kibera slum. Volunteering programs include reaching out to children and teaching them useful life skills.

“We really want to keep travel local, easily accessible, as well as travel that goes beyond what people are ready for,” Pesce said. “Our mission is really to make volunteer trips accessible to everyone, whether in our backyard or beyond. Not everyone is comfortable going to Africa or even going to the Smoky Mountains.

Pesce discovered that there is also an interest within Sarasota in volunteering with animals. Right now, the company is trying to find types of trips that are of interest to a lot of people. Their goal is to make volunteer trips accessible to everyone, so things with varying prices and times are important.

“It helps to reach out to everyone’s different passions and expose them not only to their passion, but also to some kind of wellness component in addition to travel,” Pesce said. “There are so many times people have said, ‘How do you do this, how do you even start, where do you go and can I afford to do it? You just have to find the right one for you.

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