Hi there! I’m Diane Valenti.
I hatched the idea for Llama Expeditions over a home-cooked chicken dinner at close to 14,000 feet in the Peruvian Andes way back in 2008.
I was on a backpacking trip with local friends from Cusco.
We were miles from anywhere you’d find tourists.
In fact, we ended up camping on a family-run farm that was about a day’s walk from the nearest community – AKA “civilization.” Transportation consisted of a mule.
Since then, I’ve had many similar experiences where I was the only or one of the few Americans to be found – from long distance bus rides to beautiful beach resorts to fascinating archeological ruins to unmarked restaurants only locals knew existed.
And, it got me thinking.
I realized that it took getting off the beaten tourist circuit for me to really experience a country and get a sense of its culture and its people. Slick tour packages felt too staged. They seemed to tell only part of the story, and a sanitized version, at that.
I also had the good fortune to discover that there were times iconic sites were nearly empty. More than once, I was among a handful of people visiting Machu Picchu. It became clear to me that with the right timing, it was possible to enjoy top attractions without being jostled by throngs of people and risk getting whacked by a selfie-stick.
Finally, I became aware that the economic benefits that tourism brought were often concentrated to a few destinations or a few places within a destination.
It seemed that there was so much worth exploring that was being entirely ignored. And so many more people who could economically benefit from tourism.
So, I became very interested in taking experienced travelers to explore emerging destinations and largely undiscovered, yet magical, places in popular destinations. While there, we make it a point to work with the local community so they directly benefit from tourism and to get involved in local community projects, especially those that help women and girls whenever possible.
If this approach to travel resonates with you, I hope to see you on one of our trips soon!