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Ecuador, 2016. Photo by Caitlin Murray.

Northeastern alumna Caitlin Murray co-founded Purposeful Nomad, a travel company that creates immersive experiences designed to empower women, in 2016 – and it has been gaining momentum ever since. The organization, which Caitlin started with fellow Northeastern alumna Jessica Scranton, grew out of their personal journeys and shared experiences as young global travelers. Filling the gaps that exist for women travelers looking for quality programs, the adventures offered through a Purposeful Nomad trip cover just about everything and encourage boundless exploration. While each experience is uniquely tailored to the location itself, at the heart of all of the trips is community engagement.

“In order to have a positive social impact when travelling, it is important to really learn about where you are going,” Caitlin described. “Before each trip, we work with our trusted contacts, vet the organizations we might be working with, and ensure these global partners are truly invested in their local communities.”

Caitlin, who graduated from Northeastern with a degree in Fine Art (concentration in Photography), is an experienced traveler – and she knows how to conduct thorough research before taking a group of women somewhere. This research and knowledge that she brings to each trip help successfully position her travelers to have a positive and lasting impact on the places they visit.

In many ways, Purposeful Nomad is re-writing tourism,” Caitlin added. “The women who travel with us come with an open-mind and willingness to try new things. The exchange often results in a positive impact for both sides – many times dissolving preconceived notions, fear and judgment. They connect with women globally, who have different backgrounds and experiences, and really create positive change.

The idea for Purposeful Nomad not only developed organically from a culmination of personal experiences, but also from a clear market for women wanting to travel with other women.

“Designing travel programs for women came so naturally to me,” Caitlin said. “Being a solo woman traveler in the past, I noticed I was often the only one buying tickets and going away, even among my friend groups. As such, I often felt isolated when I was travelling, and while I never let it stop me, I could definitely recognize that this feeling might deter other women from getting out there. So to me, it felt natural to nourish other women and encourage them to explore; Purposeful Nomad is a vehicle to help make that happen.”

Now in its fourth year, the organization is growing more quickly, with more connections being made around the world and as a result, an increased number of trips developing. While this growth and momentum is exciting, Caitlin’s approach to the trips remains strategic, continuing to choose destinations that will attract a lot of interest and where there are engaging, educational, and unique things happening.

As a student at Northeastern, Caitlin focused on her passion for photography (she now also runs her own architectural photography business, Built Photo), a skill that plays an important role in her work with Purposeful Nomad.

“I think photography and travel naturally go hand-in-hand. Being a photographer and a traveler, even while I was back in school, always just made sense,” Caitlin said. “Now at Purposeful Nomad, we offer access to the images I take after every trip, so when I am on the trips as a travel guide, I encourage the women around me to put down their phones and cameras and just enjoy the moment. We’ve got the photo-taking covered!”

The imagery that Caitlin and co-founder Jessica have captured throughout their travels has been great for building the Purposeful Nomad brand, helping to show future travelers (especially those who may be hesitant) what’s out there. Caitlin also shares the images she captures with the local non-profits she works with; many of them have no other way to secure professional photography, so these images help them boost their own branding.

Now looking ahead, the next Purposeful Nomad trip to Ecuador is coming up in late June, and it is a very special one; this destination was the very first trip that Purposeful Nomad hosted back in 2016.

“Ecuador is really, really magical… I have travelled to almost every Latin American country and Ecuador is always at the top of my list,” Caitlin emphasized. “It is beautiful, there is so much to do (you could be at the beach and then the mountains in one day), and there is a lot of wildlife, absolutely amazing cuisine, and of course, warm and welcoming people.”

The trip will offer a fresh, new itinerary than what was offered a few years ago, and some highlights of the adventure include visiting a chocolate farm, meeting local farmers, joining a cooking class, visiting an alpaca community, and relaxing at a cliff-side spa. This breadth of activities represents the Purposeful Nomad way of providing a hands-on, educational experience that has a little something for everyone, and provides a mix of exploration and self-care.

We look forward to seeing how Purposeful Nomad continues to grow. Check out upcoming trips on the site’s trip portal!