A house across the street from Bogart’s Doughnut Co. is the new headquarters for Knowmad Adventures, a South American travel agency with a marketing person in Oregon, an accountant in Chile and husband-and-wife founders who live five blocks away.
Jordan and Tara Harvey recently converted a commercially-zoned house at 911 W. 36th St. into an office, getting creative with renovations to build an ADA accessible bathroom. (They had to beat six offers to land the house.)
Keepsakes from their travel destinations are on the shelves: close-toed stirrups from Chile that prevent toes from getting caught on trail roots, and bulls from indigenous Peruvians that traditionally sit on top of houses for protection.
Knowmad offers trips to Chile and Argentina in the Patagonia region where the couple once lived, as well as Antarctica, Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
Travelers can hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, fly fish the Rio Palena in Chile or learn from the Kichwa community of Añangu in the Amazon rainforest. At Lake Piuray in Peru, travelers can stand-up paddleboard or kayak while a chef prepares a modern spin on traditional native dishes.
“Foodie travel has gotten bigger,” Jordan said.
Back when Tara and Jordan rented a cabin on a dairy farm in Northern Patagonia, the general perception of the area consisted of a clothing brand and a vague notion of a mountain.
“It caught on,” Jordan said. “Nowadays you say Patagonia and people say, ‘I really want to go there.’”
The business has grown rapidly since opening in 2009. Revenue grew 115 percent from 2014-2015.
“It was all hands on deck,” said Tara, mother of a young child. “I was furiously typing over naptime.”
While Patagonia bookings continue to surge, they’re also seeing more interest in Salta and northwest Argentina, which Jordan described as a magical area with an authentic feel that’s relatively unknown.
They steer clients toward places they may not find in a guidebook. The Romahue Wildlife Preserve in Chile, which is working to rehabilitate the Andean pudu population, takes travelers through the rainforest by foot or by Criollo horse. And Knowmad travelers visit the most remote branch of the Lake Nahuel Huapi in Argentina, where they can sail along a glacier fjord, hike to waterfalls and bring along a chef to provide a five-course meal.
Knowmad has made Travel + Leisure’s A-List of worldwide top trip advisors four years running, and most of their clients are national. The Minneapolis office is open by appointment.
The owners are considering future trips to Uruguay, and they’ve got their eye on Colombia as well. They take on a grueling travel schedule when scouting locations, with up to 13 hotel inspections in a single day.
“It’s what a traveler would do times five,” Tara said.
Knowmad will appear at the Midwest Mountaineering Outdoor Adventure Expo April 28-30, offering presentations on Machu Picchu, Patagonia and the Galapagos Islands.