Travel with a purpose
Just the word adventure makes me tingle…I love the anticipation, the planning, the journeys, the new-ness of different worlds and the experiences that you know you couldn’t quite be prepared for. It is the not knowing what to expect that sometimes makes the adventure and I still feel like that every time I step off the plane in Africa.
My name is Kate Webb and I am the co-founder of Orbis Expeditions - a UK and Malawi based travel company that aims to push the boundaries of conventional travel and create bespoke expeditions for people wishing to travel with a purpose and get that tingle that only adventure to unknown territories can bring. My job is to put together and run adventures that offer you a chance to get that tingle and ensure that your expedition also benefits the destination you are adventuring in and the people that live there. I love what I do.
Venetia Norrington Travel Photography
Dom and I first arrived in Malawi in 2005 in the back of a very smelly, very full and very fast pick up truck…we were travelling by any means from Nairobi to Cape Town and Malawi was on our route. East Africa done I was pleased to find that we, as visitors, were a rarity in Malawi and it felt like we had crossed into a country that was welcoming, peaceful and very laid back. There were far more people walking than driving, no plastic in sight, the most stunning views and landscape over the shores of Lake Malawi and at every turn a small business at the side of the road. There were also lots and lots of aid and charity signs marking projects that the international community were funding. (That is a different, very long, blog post!)
Starting a business in one of the poorest countries in the world is very challenging. Navigating the business registration, no start up loans, corrupt systems and being so far from home and any support all made these first few years really hard but also a massive adventure and a time we now look back on and cherish. We made many mistakes, learnt huge lessons and became excellent at sniffing out the really inspirational people to invest in and work with.
So we set out to create a sustainable travel company, one that offered benefits to local people, a chance to create economic empowerment for local Malawians and an opportunity for those travelling to Africa to see and learn more than the best wildlife on safari. We have a staff base in Malawi of ten who now run and operate all our groups. We work with school students on global citizenship expeditions, charity adventures raising funds, sports challenges (Dame Kelly Holmes is our ambassador for our Sport with a Purpose brand www.orbis-challenge.com) and more recently our Corporate Skill Sharing Adventure expeditions, which are pushing Trade and Not Aid to the front of the travel agenda. Since becoming a mother to Sam (4) and Emmie (3) investing in small business growth - in particular with female entrepreneurs - has become my passion and this is now some of the most impactful work we do.
Skill Sharing Adventures
I am sitting here on a Sunday morning glued to my Whats App messages pinging in. It is our fifth women’s skill sharing workshops and 10 female Malawian entrepreneurs are making their way across Malawi to our office to meet the team of International ladies who have come to share business skills and talk about women’s empowerment in business. I know the magic that will take place today, the conversations that will start around the use of social media or how to keep a useful cash flow sheet but will evolve into discussions around women’s rights, juggling family and work life, the risk and scariness of leaving employment to take the plunge into running your own company- contacts will the shared and friendships made. The team of International ladies will arrive back to their lodge tonight, watch the sun go down and talk to each other about their days experiences before heading back out onto the road and onto their next adventure - a village homestay, a safari, time spent on the shores of Lake Malawi. These 7 day women’s expeditions, combining business sharing, adventuring, mentoring, safari and a behind the scenes look at one of Africa’s most beautiful countries aims to offer ladies the chance to Travel with a Purpose, push their boundaries and bring together teams of women from across the world in an incredible adventure.
Our company - now eleven years old in Malawi - is pushing the boundaries, we are challenging the perceptions of travel to Africa and we are offering incredible experiences that do benefit local communities in Malawi. The challenge with our Skill Sharing work is now to get businesses in the UK involved - to open the discussion about supporting trade and not aid to countries like Malawi. We want to get sponsorship for professional skilled participants to come on our skills sharing expeditions, businesses paying part of their costs. To use corporate CSR budgets and incentives to offer incredible adventures to employees, that share basic business skills and offer SMEs in Malawi a chance to grow, to develop and to sustainably support business owners and their families.
I would love you to be involved…to lead a skill sharing team in 2020, to join our May Women’s Challenge or to get your company signed up on our Skill Sharing Incentive programme.
Kate Webb is the Managing Director of Orbis Expeditions
All images by Venetia Norrington Travel Photography