Isabelle Klümper is the founder and director of the volunteer travel company, Travel to Grow.
Who are you?
I’m Isabelle Klümper, the founder and director of Travel to Grow. I’m half- French and half-German, but I grew up in Burundi in Africa before moving to Luxembourg as a teenager. I’m very much an international citizen! I studied geography in the UK and tourism management and marketing in the south of France. I wanted to combine the experiences from my studies with my thirst for travel, and since I’ve always lived in other places, it felt quite natural to do something related to that. After a while, I didn’t want to carry on working for mass and luxury tourism, so I got into working for volunteer travel when living in South Africa in 2010. Back in Germany, where I’m currently based, I decided to set up my own volunteer travel company. The idea of Travel to Grow is that volunteers can travel and volunteer, while growing themselves and the countries they visit in the process.
Where do you call ‘home’ and what do you like about it?
I see myself as having two homes. I call ‘home’ where my family and friends are, which is not geographically determined. I feel at home with people. My chosen geographical home, where I can combine the African feeling from my childhood with a western lifestyle, is South Africa; Cape Town specifically. For the moment however, my temporary home, where I live with my partner, is Frankfurt. It has a lot to offer. It’s culturally very mixed for a German city, it’s big, and it’s a central point in Europe to fly anywhere in the world.
Describe your favourite place to work and the view out the window.
I don’t have one favourite place to work, and it depends where in the world I am. I don’t like routines, so I like the idea of being able to work from different places. I work best when I have a window and daylight. In Frankfurt, I find myself coming back to a few of the same places. One of them is Kaffeerösterei Wissmüller. It’s a really old coffee roaster with a cute little courtyard. I go there or to the park to do my phone calls. In my mind I have a picture of my favourite place to work. It’s in Kommetjie in Cape Town. I imagine a cottage with my office, with wide open space all around, overlooking the beach. One day I hope I will live in a place just like that.
Where do you find inspiration?
I can get inspired in a buzzy coffee shop or to the other extreme in nature; I love the mountains, beach and generally being in the wild. As long as it’s not always the same. I spent three months once with the people who run a camping and chalet retreat called Ottershaunt, near Johannesburg in South Africa. I was helping make a tourism map of the area. I was totally immersed in nature and got around by kayak. My ideal source of inspiration is to get lost in an environment where people with similar ways of thinking are together.
What is your favourite way to get around?
It depends where in the world I am. Cycling is my preferred way to travel in European cities like Frankfurt. It makes me feel free. It’s quicker than going by foot but still slow enough to see more than you would by car. And it means you can enjoy being outside, be a bit active, and grasp a better understanding of where you are. But when I’m somewhere like Cape Town, there’s nothing better than jumping in the car and going to the beach or generally exploring. I love the sense of freedom and mobility from driving, although you get this from cycling too, just on a more local level.
Name your favourite spot to hang out when you’re off work.
One of my favourites is the First Step ‘Green Gym’ which involves doing sport in the park with a group. I also love outdoor concerts. Every year in Frankfurt is Sommerwerft, an alternative, small theatre and music festival, with a lot of singer-songwriters, held along the river. That’s one place I love being.
Name and describe your favourite city.
It has to be Cape Town. It’s very spread out with lots of very different areas. There are beaches, mountains and vineyards. You get a city feeling and a seaside feeling. The people can be everything from posh to hippy. It’s rich and poor and there’s immense diversity. When I lived there, I would drive along the ocean road and up the mountain to work. On the way home, I drove into the sunset. Now that’s life!
Name one object you cannot live without and tell us why.
I’m not materialistic and don’t always like the modern dependence on technology. But I would have to say I can’t live without my laptop, since it enables me to do my work and be connected to do what I need to do.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve got coming up this week?
As well as sending volunteers to projects in South Africa and Thailand for Travel to Grow, I also work with the charity World Vision. I organise group sponsor trips, allowing people who sponsor children to visit their countries and meet the children they sponsor. It’s an amazing way for sponsors to truly experience the context of where the children live. Typically there are groups of 15 to 20 people, and I either accompany them or train people to lead the groups. This year I’m organising nine trips and this week I have one group coming back from Peru and another group departing for the north of Tanzania. So this week I’m excited to find out how the sponsors on the Peru trip got on, and to wish the Tanzania group a great time.
You have exactly one minute to share your vision with our readers about anything you want.
My vision for Travel to Grow is my personal vision. From my upbringing, school and studies, I have always noticed a big difference between people who have travelled and those who haven’t. They have different views on the world. I strongly believe that the more you get to know another country and culture, the more you understand, and the more tolerant you are. I’m doing this on a small scale through Travel to Grow and through the World Vision trips: enabling people to travel so they get to know a new country and culture. My ultimate mission is for my business to generate enough income to create a charity branch, to enable people who don’t have the money to travel to go on these trips too.
Website: Travel to Grow