Support local economies: An interview with Kesi Irvin

One important part of responsible tourism is to support the local economy when you travel. In today’s interview, Kesi Irvin, founder of the travel blog Kesi To And Fro talks more about the importance of supporting local economies when you travel.

She also focuses on off the beaten path travel, so we have a lot in common! Her passion for local experiences shine through her bubbly personality and she will give easy tips for how you can implement it in your travels too.

I can’t wait to know more about what this girl has to say about responsible tourism! But first, let’s get to know her a bit better.

Meet Kesi Irvin

In 2015 Kesi quit her finance job in NYC to travel the world. She’s been to over 60 countries, and her favorite place in the world is East Africa.

Kesi has been a full-time nomad since, living out of her backpack. On her blog, she teaches nomads how to sustain long term travel, shows how to have more local experiences while abroad, and inspires travel to less popular destinations, like the Democratic Republic of Congo.

An interview with Kesi Irvin
Kesi in Lake Bled, Slovenia

An interview with Kesi Irvin

What does travel mean to you?

Traveling is my life. My favorite part about traveling is making new connections and learning about different cultures. My style of travel is less about sightseeing and more about immersing myself with the local scene.

I want to try new foods, interact with locals, and experience unique activities. Traveling has taught me that humans are very giving. I’ve had many strangers from all walks of life help me through my travels, and I stay happy because traveling reminds me how good the world is.

What does responsible tourism mean to you?

Responsible tourism, to me, means supporting the local economies I visit. I tend to venture to cheaper locations that could benefit from my tourist dollars.

Even though I am a backpacker, I still think it is imperative to spend money in the communities I visit. If I don’t have enough money to go on a excursion or tip appropriately, I shouldn’t be traveling. I also try to use local operators whenever possible, instead of supporting foreign investors.

Supporting local economies is essential because I’ve had first-hand experiences on how hard it can be for some local tour operators in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo or Tanzania to support themselves.

I’ve seen the term “begpacker” before, which means backpackers that run out of money and start begging for money on the streets. I am firmly against this because most of the time backpackers come from a country where there are sufficient job opportunities to support themselves. 

Kesi To And Fro

When did you first start to be conscious about the way you travel and the effects your travels have on your destination?

When I first graduated from university, I went backpacking in SE Asia, and I remember bartering hardcore over goods. Most of the time, I was fighting super hard to save $1, but in the grand scheme, $1 makes little difference to me but could make a big difference to the vendor. For me, bargaining was all about pride, and I wanted to be a fierce negotiator to feel like I “won.”

I look back at these times, and I think I was silly for making a big fuss over a dollar. I never want to be ripped off, but sometimes there are valid reasons why there is a “tourist tax” aka differences in prices for a tourist vs. a local.

Have you traveled to a specific destination that you found especially sustainable that you would like to recommend to other travelers?

When I’m in Germany, I am always confused when I am in someone’s house because I never know which trash bin to use. Most German households have three or four bins to ensure all trash is recycled correctly.

Usually, when I travel in other countries, there’s one bin for garbage and one for recyclables, but Germans make sure to separate plastics, glass, paper, and other trash.

Kesi of Kesi To and Fro, Volcano boarding
Volcano boarding

What do you do to travel responsibly?

I am not a model citizen when it comes to responsible travel, but I try to make conscious efforts to be more sustainable. If I am not short on time, I will opt to take a bus to travel instead of flying. Not only do I save money, but it also helps the environment.

When I’m exploring a city, I try to walk as much as possible and not take taxis. (I use a wheeled backpack, so even if I have my bag I can still walk because I have the option to roll my bag behind me).

I only support animal tourism, when I know there are conservation efforts and that the animals are happy. I look for local tour operators. I’m also a minimalist and typically only buy new clothes at thrift stores.

Kesi Irvin of Kesi To And Fro

What are your top 3 advice to travelers that want to travel more responsibly?

  1. Carry your own water bottle
  2. Support local tour operators
  3. Try to have vegetarian days. Be conscious of your meat and dairy intake.

Find out how to support local travel businesses when you can’t travel

See more from Kesi

Did you get just as inspired as I did? I love how she always try to join local tours to support the locals. I know I can get better at that!

Kesi also comes with a good reminder: “I am not a model citizen when it comes to responsible travel, but I try to make conscious efforts to be more sustainable,” she says.

I think we should all remember that it’s not about being a perfect responsible traveler. It’s about doing better when we learn new things.

Make sure you check out her blog, Kesi To And Fro and tag along her adventures on Social Media. You find her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Is there anything you wish I’d asked Kesi about? Feel free to drop any questions in the comments.

Other interviews you might like:

Keep the locals in mind: An Interview with Corritta Lewis

Minimize your negative impact when traveling: An interview with Sandy Rao and Vyjay Rao

Be conscious of your impact: An interview with Mariellen Ward

Pin it for later!

Are you curious about supproting the local economies when you travel? Kesi Irvin of the travel blog Kesi To And Fro covers it all in this interview about responsible tourism! #responsibletourism #sustainabletourism #brainybackpackers
Make sure you don't regret anything after your travels with these 40 tips for responsible travel!

2 thoughts on “Support local economies: An interview with Kesi Irvin

  1. Elisa says:

    A nicely-done article. I always try to support local tourism as well and visit places off the beaten path.

    I enjoyed reading it. Thank you.

    • Linn Haglund says:

      Thank you! I’m glad you liked it. Traveling off the beaten path and supporting local communities is my favorite way of travel too.

Comments are closed.