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Community Corner: Bay Area Man Offers Traveling Peace Corps Style

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Fruit sale on the streets of Kampot, Cambodia. (Keteka.com)

Fruit sale on the streets of Kampot, Cambodia. (Keteka.com)

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – If your idea of a great travel experience is going to remote villages and being the only tourist in sight, hanging out with the locals, and lending a helping hand to local communities, there’s a new site you should check out. Keteka is a new community-based adventure travel guide that’s offering these types of experiences and more.

KCBS’ Connie C. Kim talks to co-founder Adam Armstrong:

Co-founder Adam Armstrong temporarily left the Bay Area to work as a Peace Corps volunteer in Panama. Through his experiences abroad he realized there were many small, fascinating communities that were just hidden from the rest of the world.

“What we’re hoping [tourists] gain is the cultural experiences that Peace Corps volunteers get,” Armstrong described the mission of Keteka, “see how they live, learn part of their culture, sometimes language, food and also share some of your culture with them.”

“Our motto and what we’d like to do is try to get into these small communities that have something to offer the world, that have something to show and organize,” Armstrong said, and help them “get a presence on the Internet.”

Armstrong and his co-founders, fellow Peace Corps volunteers, started this new travel guide to offer “off the beaten path” experiences for the average tourist by leveraging their Peace Corps network. There are more than 8,000 Peace Corps volunteers around the world in 76 countries.

“One of the things that we found in Central America was that a lot of the tours were run by the people that had a lot of the experience already and people that spoke English and people that had money already really,” Armstrong described what he learned in Panama. “And so the small community-based groups were really getting the short end of the stick.”

By opening doors to these unknown communities around the world, they not only hope to expand the traveler’s experiences but also hope to help the locals economically.

Co-founder Jack Fischl said while working in sustainable tourism at the community level they were able to learn from the locals what unique experiences they could provide to offer the average tourist a more authentic travel experience.

KCBS’ Connie C. Kim talks to co-founder Jack Fischl:

“We’re not connecting you to foreign-owned tour operators… so you know that just by going there you’re making an impact and if you want to do a little bit more you can volunteer in some of these sites as well,” Fischl said.

The site, still in its beta state, offers adventurous outings as well as local volunteer opportunities.

The word keteka means, “to get close to” or to “come back around” in Ngäbere, an indigenous language of western Panamá. The Keteka founders hope to allow everyday tourists get closer to a country’s culture and people, and to come to a place they’ve never been before but somehow feel like they’re home.

For more information go to http://www.keteka.com.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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