Do you want to travel internationally but don’t want to go alone? Heights resident Alex Coleman and his wife, Elise, co-founded Here & Now Travel so you don’t have to.
Here & Now Travel is a group travel company for young professionals between the ages of 21 and 35. It launched in Houston in May and combines shorter trips with the freedoms of traveling by yourself without actually having to go alone.
“You go where you want when you want,” Coleman said. “You don’t have to plan with any of your friends. You don’t have to work around schedules, but you get the experience and the safety and some of the cool stories of traveling with people.”
Coleman is the first to admit that the concept of Here & Now Travel isn’t new, but he’s molded it to be unique by narrowing it down to people in a similar stage of life, the way the trips are set up and the way he makes sure that it’s not just Here & Now that benefits, but the countries they visit as well.
“We say 21-35 is a mindset, like generally, people that come on the trip need to be open-minded,” Coleman said. “They need to be cool being active on their feet all day.”
So while they won’t turn someone away for being out of the age bracket, Coleman said it’s important to be in that same mindset.
The three places Here & Now traveled this past year were Costa Rica, Colombia and Tulum. They’ll be going to the same three places twice throughout 2020.
The trips are five days long, and the most a traveler would have to take off work is three days because Here & Now utilizes weekends and holidays.
“Right now we’re in Central and South America,” Coleman said. “We know most of our travelers are coming out of Houston and Dallas, so we tried to make the flights under five hours so it’s super manageable. You’re not burning 13 hours on one of your five days flying.”
The typical cost of a trip is between $749-$999 and includes everything except flights and dinners.
Past experiences with other traveling groups also had a hand in how Coleman decided to run Here & Now.
“We started going on a couple of those trips just to try and see if it was something we liked,” Coleman said. “And we liked the people of it, but the actual operations of it were kind of iffy.”
During a trip to Costa Rica, the guide they had was from Connecticut and the company would charge an upfront cost and then charge extra for each activity.
“On top of that it felt disingenuous. We kind of go into their home, we trample on their land, but then like the locals aren’t getting the benefit of the tourism dollars,” Coleman said.
In building Here & Now, Coleman traveled to Costa Rica, Colombia and Tulum and found local guides and activities you won’t find on Google so that each traveler could walk away and say they couldn’t have done that on their own.
For instance, in Colombia, Coleman said he works with two women who started a tourism company to try and help change perceptions about Colombia being a dangerous place to travel.
“I got in touch with them before I went and asked if they could show me around and try to plan out some local authentic spots,” Coleman said.
Heights resident Amanda Retta traveled to Colombia with Here & Now in August and said that having it all planned out took the stress of traveling out of the equation.
She said that having local guides lead the group through the city gave them a different perspective of the city than what they may have experienced as solo travelers.
“The best part of the trip was seeing parts of the city that I probably wouldn’t have seen had I gone on my own,” Retta said. “We went through neighborhoods where there were beautiful murals on every wall and so many artisan markets.”
The group also participated in an event called Ciclovia, which happens every Sunday in Bogota, Colombia. The city shuts down major roads throughout the city and people come out to ride their bikes, go to food trucks and take classes in the parks.
“The idea we’re going for, I want it to feel like we’re coming, we’re meeting up with a friend who lives there, and they’re showing us around,” Coleman said. “It should feel really organic.”
One of the main focuses for Here & Now is sustainable travel, which is twofold.
Environmentally, Coleman said they are carbon neutral. Because airplanes emit carbon into the atmosphere, Here & Now partners with Trees for Houston, a nonprofit organization dedicated to planting, protecting and promoting trees, to mitigate its footprint.
Socially, Coleman said Here & Now makes sure whoever it hires is local and the attractions visited are locally owned.
“If we have impacts on the land, which tourism does, if they get the impacts they should also get the rewards,” Coleman said.