Talking Shop with Kylie Chenn, CEO of Acanela Expeditions

Kylie Chenn has been around the block. The global block. Before the age of 25, Kylie had traveled to and operated trips in 100 countries, and in 2019, she earned herself a spot on Utah Valley Magazine’s 40 Under 40 list. It’s true.

Kylie is an international globetrotter and the chief executive officer of Acanela Expeditions, a travel company that curates small group expeditions to over 100 countries, bringing people closer to diverse people, places, and cuisines across the globe. Their travel portfolios include photo explorations, culinary trips, cultural excursions, train journeys, hands-on, immersive experiences, educational programs, and their signature Impact adventures — all designed to better the world, make an impact in the lives of talented artisans around the world, and foster connections between cultures.

I knew I had to reach out to Kylie. In her noble mission to cultivate immersive and meaningful international experiences, she inspires me with her passion and vision, effectively using her talents, gifts, and experience to make the world a better place.

On today’s Talking Shop, Kylie talks about the keys for planning successful travel experiences, the most rewarding part of her work, and her favorite travel destination.

Everyone, meet Kylie!

About You:

How did Acanela Expeditions get started?

When I was in University I had the opportunity to study at Oxford, and while being based in England I had the chance to travel all across Europe and experience so many different countries, languages, and cultures and I absolutely fell in love with the experiences I was having! The following summers while I was still a student I spent time living in Portugal, backpacking India and Southeast Asia, Living in Malawi, and Traveling from Cairo to Cape Town.  I was inspired to start my business after having so many incredible experiences around the world, and naturally, a lot of people started asking me about what it was like (and they wanted to travel with me). My first 3 trips that I put together were summer backpacking trips with whomever from my University I could recruit to join me (I wasn’t making money on any of these trips; in fact, I was losing money, but I absolutely loved what I was doing!

How did your education and experience in social innovation inspire what you do now?

While I studied at Oxford and Cambridge I studied Social Innovation, and met people from all around the world who are involved in my business still to this day.

How do you go about planning immersive and meaningful travel experiences?

Planning travel experiences has always been something that I really loved, which is what got me started in the industry. The real secret is simply in building relationships with locals and communities all around the world, this takes a lot of time spent really understanding people and places, but makes the experiences ever so meaningful.

What do you find most rewarding about what you do?

The most rewarding thing about what I do is getting to know so many incredible people around the world, from so many different unique places.

What has been your favorite travel destination? Favorite thing you did there?

My favorite travel destinations are Peru, Tanzania, and Nepal – I grew up in the mountains so mountainous places always feels like home, and hiking (being active) is one of my favorite things to do.

What has been the biggest thing you’ve learned as you’ve immersed yourself in other cultures?

I’ve learned that although people seem different, but we are actually more similar than we know.

Have you experienced any gender bias in your business endeavors? How do you move past that?

I get this question asked a lot, and one that actually hasn’t been too much of a trial for me (at least as much as people think it should be a trial).

From your perspective, what do women leaders offer the field of business?

Women bring a new perspective to the workplace, so the more women we get into leadership positions the more innovative ideas we will be able to come up with.

What is your ultimate vision for Acanela Expeditions? How do you maintain that vision during hard times?

My vision is to have hundreds of thousands of travelers going out on immersive travel experiences every year with Acanela Expeditions.

How do you avoid burnout?

I would say that avoiding burnout is almost impossible. I can think of 2-3 distinct times in my career the past year where I hit a wall that hurt so bad that I didn’t know if I would actually be able to get back up and keep going.  In those moments I relied a lot on my family to bring perspective back to me, reminding me to focus on loving what I do, rather than always trying to chase the next goal and number.

The Fun Qs:

Favorite international dish?

Anything Curry, still to this day I am known as the Spice Girl – as I love anything flavored with Spices.  Indian would have to be my favorite.

Latest Netflix/Hulu binge?

I actually don’t watch a lot of Television, instead I enjoy watching my Favorite YouTube or Facebook Series like Nas Daly, the Bucketlist Family, etc… and learn tips on how I can improve my own series!

What are your favorite things to do in your off-hours?

I love to be creative and be active, if I’m not building trips I’m probably putting together a photo story, making a video, playing music, or running outside on my favorite trails.

What is your favorite song to blast in the car?

I love good music, as a good tune has the power to really inspire you to do incredible things.  “Africa” by Toto is my all-time favorite song, followed by the Theme Song from “The Greatest Showman,” and anything Taylor Swift (I grew up wanting to be like Taylor Swift).

Connect with Acanela Expeditions on their website, travel blog, podcast, Facebook series, YouTube channel, Tumblr and on Instagram @acanelaexpeditions.

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