This story is part of our To the Fullest series, which profiles Canadians who are shedding some of the little things in life to make more time for amazing. To the Fullest is brought to you by Lexus Canada, a luxury automotive brand that supports the experience of amazing in all forms.
Brittany Kasco, founder of Origin Travels, makes time to build her company from her home office in Toronto. (J.P. MOCZULSKI)
Kasco launched her business, which makes travel to countries like Costa Rica accessible for millennial women, two years ago. She expects to triple the number of trips Origin Travels offers in 2020. (SUPPLIED)
Britt Kasco has been exploring the world for as long as she can remember.
The founder of Origin Travels, a Toronto-based travel company that makes global exploration accessible for millennial women, traces her love of travel back to childhood when she and her family explored the world by sea. Kasco fondly recalls stepping out from the safety of docked cruise ships and into the markets and alleyways of foreign port cities to find a new adventure each time.
So, with free time on her hands after graduating from the University of Toronto in 2012, she returned to her lifelong passion, embarking on a four-month backpacking trip through Southeast Asia.
It was during an impromptu detour to Malaysia when she noticed that her most memorable experiences come from exploring the less-travelled corners of the world, where local people moved freely, far from the traffic of tourists.
“I realized that so much of who I am – from my independence to my confidence walking down the street – had to do with constantly being put out of my comfort zone,” Kasco says. “You could drop me in any city in the world without WiFi and I’d be able to find my way, and I benefited so much from unique [travel experiences] that I wanted to bring that feeling to more young women.”
“I feel my best when I’m able to return to my origins of who I am as a human and as a woman, and when I can move my body in nature, taste flavours, and meet new people."
— Britt Kasco
When she returned home, Kasco took a position as a small-group tour operator for Canadian travel giant G Adventures, where she worked mostly in customer service and trip coordination.
Over the course of three years at the company, she watched the travel market become crowded with female-focused companies, but noticed that none reflected the authentic, boots-on-the-ground experiences she’d had on her own journeys abroad. Rather, the majority touted idealistic visions of luxurious, costly trips, like Instagram influencer vacations, all while seeming to ignore the cultural integrity of the destinations themselves.
“I was seeing images of places like Venice, which is overrun with tourism and is suffering as a result,” she says. “I saw a massive gap in the market for experiences that are authentic, immersive and within the budget of the fastest-growing demographic of travellers, which is millennial women.”
With that vision in mind and just $6,000 in hand, Kasco left her nine-to-five position in Jan. 2018 to launch Origin Travels, Canada’s only travel company designed to bring affordable travel to millennial women.
With the goal of providing safe and accessible trips for small groups of women, she decided to prioritize less-travelled areas like Kenya, Costa Rica and Guatemala. She also prioritizes the local economy within each country she visits by booking with homegrown hotel owners, guides and merchants.
One of Kasco’s spring trips to Guatemala takes travellers through the volcanic landscape of Lake Atitlán and into small villages, where local guides familiar with the landscape lead kayaking trips and yoga lessons. Another trip takes travellers to India during Holi, the Hindu festival of colours, where they learn about the festival’s history and traditions from local guides.
When she's not developing her company, Kasco makes time to adventure through Ontario with her puppy by her side. (THOMAS BOLLMANN)
Kasco strives to make these experiences financially accessible by offering payment plans for trip-goers who cannot afford to pay for them all at once. She also runs an energy exchange program in which travellers can trade their time – in the form of referrals and blog posts – for discounts on her trips.
While Kasco does not have a traditional business background, she says she’s learned a lot about financing “on the go” and leans on her network for support. As an entrepreneur, she works in female-only co-working spaces to surround herself with and learn from like-minded, passionate business owners.
“I know a little about a lot and I’m constantly putting myself in spaces where there are other people working toward their dreams,” Kasco said, adding that her desire to explore and learn drives her to work toward her business and personal goals.
“I feel my best when I’m able to return to my origins of who I am as a human and as a woman, and when I can move my body in nature, taste flavours, and meet new people. I want other women to have access to these opportunities too.”
Kasco says the best part of running her travel company is watching other women grow throughout their adventures. "When I see these women transform from day one to day seven," she says, "it keeps me going." (J.P. MOCZULSKI)
In the two years since launching her solo venture, Kasco has been reaching more and more women with her vision.
Moving into 2020, Origin Travels is introducing four new itineraries and expects to triple the number of trips it offers. Kasco is also planning to launch corporate-style retreats and women-in-leadership camps for female entrepreneurs. Over the summer, she will run her annual Summer Wander Series, a program of day-long events around Toronto designed to help local women explore their urban environment.
To keep her trips financially accessible to travellers, Kasco works directly with local businesses to book accommodations and activities, surpassing the additional fees involved with using travel intermediaries. She spends much of her time doing research on local businesses and interviewing the people she’s contracting to ensure that travellers will be safe and comfortable.
“I’m dedicating my life to bringing groups of women to places that they might not feel safe travelling on their own, and of course that comes with reservations,” she says. “But when I see these women transform from day one to day seven – they might be trekking over river rocks in a more confident way or coming out of their shell – it keeps me going.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY J.P. MOCZULSKI & THOMAS BOLLMANN