Many of you might notice our new branding and improved site functionality that we introduced this week. I wanted to take a moment to explain where we’re headed as a company, and thank you for following along.

It truly means so much to have your support.  We don’t say that in some sort of cliché, shallow way.  You following along as a subscriber keeps dinner on our tables, smiles on our faces, and the hopes and dreams of our company alive.

With the travel industry slowing down over the summer, we decided to put all of our efforts into making a better Pomelo Travel experience for you.  We’re really excited about what we’re building.

First and foremost, the values behind our company are influencing the decisions we make.

My ambition has always been to remove some of the barriers that keep people from taking their first international trip. In my mind, the right kind of travel can be one of the most transformative life experiences, and I want to give more people that opportunity.  I think we’ve done a great job removing some of the costs of international travel, but we can do more to help you have a life-changing experience when you arrive at a destination. The changes we roll out over the next few months will help.   

One of our company values is inviting change.  As travel is changing more rapidly than it has in decades, we’ve had to adjust.  More changes coming, but for now, enjoy these features:

  • Customize Your Account
    With 60+ international destinations open or opening soon, there are some great deals for 2021 international travel popping up.  If you haven’t already, you can customize your account by logging in here so that you only receive deals departing out of your home airport. We now service 101 departure airports — deals from your hometown hub are available!  If you’re a free subscriber, you’ll have to upgrade for this feature.
  • New! Coronavirus Travel Forecast
    It has become much more important not only to know where we can travel for a good price, but where we can travel at all. Our travel forecast will include the best available flight prices to newly opened countries, and the important information that you need to know before making international travel plans.  If you’re a free subscriber, upgrade your account to receive all of these important updates
  • New! Domestic Flight Deals
    With international travel all but ending this summer, we introduced domestic flight deals departing out of select airports. Login to your account to sign up for domestic deals departing out of the following airports: Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City (JFK), and Salt Lake City.

One last note on the new branding. We wanted branding that reflects our goals to support rural communities, and connect you with the people there. We have a long way to go for my dreams to be realized, but we’re getting closer.  We’re working to find a more sustainable pathway forward for our rural communities across the world (and specifically Southeast Asia), that are affected by tourism. 

We recognize that the combined forces of modernization and the increasing popularity of travel pose considerable threats to the rhythm and way of life that is essential in many rural communities. At Pomelo, we believe in traveling in a way that not only minimizes the negative impacts that travel can have on these communities but also celebrates and supports rural ways of life.

More to come.

 

 

 

Chris Muhlestein

Founder, Pomelo Travel

What is Coronavirus Travel Forecast?

 During this unprecedented time, travel has changed. Starting Wednesday (tomorrow) we will start sending special alerts notifying you about which countries are opening and how to get there.  We hope you enjoy them! 

It has become much more important not only to know where we can travel for a good price, but where we can travel at all. Our travel forecast will include best available flight prices to newly opened countries, and the important information that you need to know.  Upgrade your account below to receive all of these important updates:

What will each email include?

  • The best available flight prices to the country in question (these prices won’t always be amazing savings like a regular alert, but up to date prices within a newly opened destination)
  • The requirements that need to be met for U.S. citizens to enter a country
  • Essential information about when U.S. citizens can travel, from which states, what sites and attractions are open.
  • Current active cases within the country. We want our subscribers to make informed decisions about where to travel based on their own situation and personal levels of risk

Why are we sending these new emails?

At Pomelo Travel, we want to continue providing our subscribers the best service, even during changing times. One of our company values is to Invite Change. We know that change is part of living, and adapting our service to provide more value and to meet these changing times is something that we’re excited about.

Example Information:

Although this is just an announcement, and not an active forecast, below are examples of information that we might include in a Coronavirus Travel Forecast email for Costa Rica, including best available flight deals and up to date graphs on active cases within the country.

*Example Rates, not real rates*

The Future is Bright!

The future is bright here at Pomelo Travel, and we’re excited to show you more new things in the coming months. The world might be changing dynamically but we will continue to change alongside it. Keep following along, and if you haven’t already, update your account below to sign up for all of the alerts from the Coronavirus Travel Forecast. Safe travels!

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Editors Note:  This article was originally sent via email on February 21, 2020 to Pomelo Travel Subscribers.  Some references may be outdated, but the heart of this message is just as important now as it was then. 

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Are you in quarantine? Here’s something positive! I’m inviting you to observe a special holiday with us this year. 

Nyepi, or the “Day of Silence” is part of Balinese New Year’s ceremonies and falls on March 25th, 2020. 

We’ve chosen to observe it as a company and I invite you to participate wherever you are by silently meditating, fasting, and taking a break from technology!  This year, as most of you are in quarantine, you’ll actually be able to easily participate with us! 


Every year we unite as a company alongside the Balinese and step away from our work to spend a day in silence. I think it’s important to come together as a society and reflect in silent meditation. Bali is a great example of this. The results for their society are beautiful, as I observed last year. 

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In the days leading up to Nyepi there are many ceremonies.  I took this photo after a village performed the Melasti ritual at Batu Bolong beach.

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What is Nyepi?


Long-time subscribers may have realized by now that I have a special fascination with Indonesia, and Bali specifically. In Bali, they celebrate Nyepi.  It is a day of silence, fasting, and meditation observed once a year. Activities all over Bali stop. The international airport, shops, and bars close.  The roads are empty and beaches deserted. No light or noise (TV, music) is to be seen coming out of your house. Internet and electricity is even shut off in some places. There are Pecalangs (traditional Balinese security men) on patrol to make sure nobody breaks these rules. Can you imagine if this happened in the United States?  I could never imagine this happening, until this year watching us respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

It is meant be a period of self-reflection: a day to make and keep a balance between nature and your actions, your inner and outer self.  While westerners begin the New Year with parties and noise, the Balinese start the New Year with silence. Many of you reached out last year asking how it feels to be part of Nyepi in Bali, so I wrote a 10+ page article about my experiences. You can learn more about Nyepi in Terra Ignota magazine.  



My Invitation


We want to invite you to participate in Nyepi with us, wherever you are. If you can, drop all electronics, travel, and regular activity and devote yourself to a day of silence. It doesn’t necessarily mean no talking – just slowing down enough to reflect on your life.  

As a result, our offices and customer service will be closed March 25-26. 




Live differently for a while,

Chris Muhlestein
Founder, Pomelo Travel

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Photo by Pomelo Subscriber and former employee, Holly Frogley, on one of our many trips to Southeast Asia 

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As the travel world nearly comes to a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our focus here at Pomelo is changing.  We’re not encouraging travel from March until at least the beginning of August, but we do want to remind you that the future will be bright!  We won’t stop sending flight deals, and here’s why: the world needs something to look forward to.  This moment will pass and the world will begin connecting in new and remarkable ways.  I think we’ll wake up at the end of this pandemic with a renewed desire to connect in the physical space.  We’ll crave connecting face-to-face with other cultures, and want to re-engage with our travel dreams after long restrictions. We’ll celebrate all aspects of life and culture.  

 In light of this, I want to explain a little more about Pomelo Travel and our ambitions.  


 

It’s not just about flight alerts 

Pomelo Travel was born out of a few months of self-reflection back in 2014.  I was, in some ways, frustrated with the way our society was headed and constantly thinking of what I could do to help solve some of the societal ills I saw in Utah, USA. I had just spent several months living in rural communities across Asia & the Middle East with my Sociologist uncle, Dr. Ralph Brown, who kindly mentored me on topics in rural sociology.  We spent much of 2010 – 2013 traveling together.  Rural communities, I found, had different challenges than bigger, more industrialized parts of the world. Often limited resources, opportunities, or lack of cultural recognition by the government led people to live much differently than their neighbors in nearby larger cities or villages.  As I got to know people, my outlook on life changed dramatically. It’s one thing to see how others live on the internet, but to talk with them, live with them, and eat with them is a much different experience.  

 I had little expectation for what I would encounter in places like Thailand, Indonesia, and Jordan. For example, I quickly found that the people in rural northern Thailand were open, connected to each other, their community, and lived with a certain happiness I hadn’t seen before. People were simply happy…  joyful even!  We would eat together into the late hours of the night, laughing about the things that happened that day, with no regard for time or what was happening the next day.  As people went about their work in the villages we researched, I would see villagers stop to talk with each other, in no hurry. In fact, they would often stop and talk to us, even if they were in the middle of agricultural work, not bothered by the fact that maybe they should be working!  This was remarkable, coming from a culture that values busyness and a certain degree of separation between strangers. To Northern Thais, a good conversation seemed much more valuable than economics.  It wasn’t “time is money,” as you often hear in the USA.  To them, life obviously had other priorities. Life moved at a pace I was unfamiliar with, and it took me some time to adjust to the new pace.  Some villagers joked, it’s “Thai time!” when they were late to an appointment.  As inefficient as it was, I began to see certain benefits to this new pace of living.  On the surface people seemed more relaxed, and not quite as plagued by the modern ills of our society:  anxiety, depression, domestic violence, heart disease, and more.   

 

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Eating dinner with a friend and his family in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 2013

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 A lot of those experiences were almost ten years ago.  I was a wide-eyed wanderer, ready to soak up any experience and squeeze any value from it.  I’ll admit — I was naïve to some of the challenges people had in the rural communities I visited (and lived in!), as any traveler is.  Living in a rural, economically challenged corner of the world isn’t always as worry-free as it may appear when first visiting.  The more you travel, the more you realize the world is nuanced, more complex, with unpleasant realities hiding just beyond sight.  

Even then, some of what I experienced was true.  Life was different there, and what I learned from my first few years of traveling changed the way I live, even today. I discovered something beautiful, and it infused my life with flavor! I live slower, I eat differently, I spend less on trivial things (so I can save to travel, of course!), I’m more spiritually minded, and much more connected to people that have different cultural backgrounds than I do. Travel made me ask myself difficult questions, but the answers I’ve found fill my life with purpose.  

 Those experiences led me to start Pomelo Travel.  I wanted to give others the chance to experience something like I had:  long international trips, with the chance to slow down and understand a different culture.  We started by offering home stays and internships in Southeast Asia, which was a lot of hard work, but the results were rewarding.  Each customer felt like family, and they each had personalized, unique trips!  These weren’t packaged tours: they were on-the-ground experiences, where we were eating with local people, living with them, and learning with them.  It was some of the happiest days of my life, and I think many of them would say the same thing.  I want to keep the spirit of those trips alive in what we do now.  


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“I wanted to give others the chance to experience something like I had:  long international trips, with the chance to slow down and understand a different culture.”  – Chris Muhlestein, Founder Pomelo Travel 

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Can travel improve the way we live? 

 My curiosity and desire to understand the world has led me on many trips, both before I started Pomelo and after. Even after years on the road, one of the ironic truths most of my close friends know is that I often enjoy being home more than traveling. The calm, meditative movements of home life, and connections with family and friends, keep me grounded and happy.  

 While that is true, what is also true is that I also want to push myself to understand and experience new ways of living.  I like connecting to people that think differently than I do.  I also love being outside, and a trip is a great way to live under the trees, in the weather, and in the sunshine of life. This motivates me to leave home and explore.  

 I’ve always been curious; how can travel improve the way we live?  

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Spending time with a Beduin family in their tent while doing research in 2010.  Northern Jordan

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I would be the first to admit that travel can be complete selfishness.  Just check out the travel section on your discover page on Instagram for a taste. We love to show others where we’ve been, to post constantly, and elevate our social status by traveling.  Now, I’d argue that traveling is just as much a sign of social status as owning a Porsche, living in a multi-million dollar home, sporting a designer hand bag or an expensive watch.  It’s one way to be seen, especially with the advent of social media. You can only post about your car, or your house, so many times, but you can post about your constant traveling with a perfectly edited photo every day of the year, always being seen doing something.  This is discouraging to me, both for the well – being of the traveler and the well-being of our planet.  To me it’s a certain vanity that we haven’t quite come to understand it’s complete impact.  

One must only take a trip to Iceland, Bali, Hawaii, or even Los Angeles to see what this kind of tourism has done to our economies, ecosystems and happiness. The Faroe Islands, a small archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean between the UK and Iceland, even closed down for a few days to tourism to clean up the mess left by the increase in tourism.  Local residents in these tourism hot spots must deal with unprepared and uneducated tourists infiltrating even the most rural parts of the country looking for a photo, or an experience they have seen on social media. Of course, they allow this because of the boost in economy, but that doesn’t make it any less concerning. A few posts by a celebrity, or ‘insta famous’ person can change the way entire countries live. Or, in my case, a cheap flight alert with prices low enough can lead a few thousand people to a place they are totally unprepared for.  This trend can impact rural communities and lifestyles are transformed.   

I feel responsibility for this.  

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Tourists overwhelming the Golden Circle in Iceland. Photo by Chris Muhlestein, 2017

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Paradoxically, travel can also do so much good.  Tourism improves conditions in certain places. It boosts economies. It educates us. It brings the people we travel with closer together.  It exposes us to new cultures, new food, and amazing experiences. It’s fun! It gives us hope, and something to look forward to. Often a single trip can be the highlight of our lives.  

But can it also be a selfless act, simultaneously improving our lives and the lives of others?  

If it can, how can Pomelo be the leader in a new, better kind of travel?  Can travel still improve the way we live? The answer is an unequivocal yes, but the path to get there might not be so simple.  

Pomelo Opens The Door 

For me, Pomelo has never been about how many people I can send on a trip, or where people go, or how many subscribers we have, or how much money we make. It’s not even completely about travel, for me.  It’s about improving the lives of our subscribers.  Travel may just be one way to do this, depending on the way we travel.  Here at our virtual office, we live by the notion that travel can – and should – be approached differently.  This unprecedented time in the travel industry allows plenty of time to explore our fundamental beliefs, and hopefully provide a unique service to you.  

There is no single ‘right way’ to travel.  There are so many different types of people, with an infinite amount of travel styles. That’s the beauty of our flight alerts – you can use them however you want.  They open the door to new experiences.  

We, as a company, are going to focus on a few ways travel can improve your life.  Some areas of focus may be:   

  • Travel as a way to connect with new cultures 
  • Travel as a way to connect with your family
  • Travel as a pilgrimage, as a spiritual journey
  • Travel as a learning experience
  • Travel as a way to help others
  • Travel as a way to connect with ancestors

 I want to explore this topic with you, together. I want to hear about how travel improves your life.   How has it improved your life?  Write me a letter: info@pomelotravel.com 

Address it to Chris, if you want me to see it.  I hope this provides context to our operations, and I especially hope you all are healthy and looking forward to a brighter future.  

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Above: A Pomelo Travel group after a long summer of work at an Orphanage in Thailand. 2015

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Above: A Pomelo Travel group in 2015 floating down the Mekong River in Laos

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Chris Muhlestien visitng former students near Chiang Mai, Thailand 2014

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Above: A Pomelo Travel group visits Angkor Wat in 2015

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Above: Dr. Ralph Brown in Jordan, 2010.  He inspired most of what we do here. 

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Editors note:  Would you like to travel from the comfort of your own home? Check out our new magazine!

 

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A highlight of some of our best moments from 2019, shot on Super 8 by Geoffrey McEntire:

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