Dominique Callimanopulos has a resume that makes for great dinner conversation: she’s traveled the world to study alien abduction with a Harvard professor, lived with elephants in Botswana, and jumped into the frigid waters of Alaska’s Glacier Bay—twice. Dominique founded Elevate Destinations to bridge the gap between tourists and the local communities of the places they visit. The company’s vision goes beyond voluntourism—every trip booked through Elevate Destinations benefits local communities and conservation, and five percent of the trip’s net costs go to that destination’s non-profit partners, whether the trip is a honeymoon, family vacation, or a volunteer trip. Though each trip is customizable, each seeks to reduce one’s carbon footprint. You can rest easy in your eco-friendly luxury lodge.
Though I would much prefer to be nowhere else. This is my version of heaven.
Occupation: Owner of Elevate Destinations, a philanthropic and sustainable travel company.
My last trip took me to Alaska.
First international trip: My nanny traveled with me around the world on freighters when I was a baby.
Most treasured souvenir: A coin that a Malian grandmother in a remote rural community pressed into my hand when I was 19. Generosity comes from unexpected quarters and is a state of mind.
How has travel impacted your life? I cannot imagine a life without motion, exploration, or surprise!
Is there an experience that has specifically transformed your life? In the 1990s I traveled with Harvard Professor of Psychiatry Dr. John E Mack, researching the phenomenon of alien abduction worldwide. Those were an amazing few years!
What’s your biggest airline pet peeve? Unfriendly airline attendants.
Favorite shopping destination: Local markets.
Traveling with kids is the best way/place to connect with locals.
What’s the one hometown place you miss most while traveling? Martha’s Vineyard.
Best memory of a trip with kids—either from your own childhood or with your own kids: My best most recent memory was tonight when my daughter and I watched mother elephants with their newborns and lionesses and their cubs under a full moon, here in Lewa, Kenya.
Most out-of-character travel experience? Something that you would never have done at home: Spent three days by myself in the middle of the Sahara Desert.
Favorite foreign tradition: Communal meals.
Travel has taught me that interested people are interesting people.
Photos courtesy of Dominique Callimanopulos