We founded El Camino with three pillars in mind-- create damn good itineraries, bring a talented photographer along to document the whole adventure + provide the traveler those compelling images in real time, and allocate 10% of our profits to a local social entrepreneur who is radically changing the countries we are visiting. During the trip, we honor this last pillar by organizing a salon style dinner where the selected social entrepreneur leads a dynamic conversation discussing their inspiring work. This unique opportunity deeply immerses our travelers into their current cultural surroundings through the lens of an optimistic and hopeful individual who is hustling to make
Step 1: Find a jaw-dropping venue, complete with good looks and delicious food. In Granada, there was no shortage of picturesque spaces to host our dinner party. After sorting out a few options we and our friends at El Camino settled on a gorgeous café and restaurant on Calle Real Xalteva called Café Espressionista. With its historic architectural details and super charming host and owner Andreas Lazar, Café Espressionista served as a beautiful backdrop and meeting place for our travel companions and the guests of honor: two local social entrepreneurs that are focused on bringing solar power to remote communities in Nicaragua, Carla and Sonia.
Carla Estrada and Sonia Diaz of Grid Alternatives spoke to us about their experiences throughout the country, working to bring solar technology to communities that would not otherwise have access to electricity, providing a sustainable source of energy that's safe for the environment and also prepares families and workers for jobs in the fast-growing solar industry. Their upcoming project for the new year, Women in Solar: El Guaylo, Esteli, brings together a team of local volunteers to install an off-grid photovoltaic system in a primary school: "As part of GRID's Women in Solar Initiative, this project gives Nicaraguan women interested in working in the growing renewable energy industry... a chance to gain experience.... While there are many universities with renewable energy programs in Nicaragua, hands-on training opportunities are very rare."
Carla, who grew up in Nicaragua, shared with us the local landscape of the tech and science field–especially from the perspective of a Nicaraguan woman entering a field with a vast majority of men. Sonia outlined her own personal experience as an American visiting Nicaragua for the first time on vacation, falling in love with the culture and people, and later, finding the right opportunity to be of service with her work at GRID.
We ate a delicious dinner with them. We asked them a hundred questions. It was a night to exchange ideas and exchange contacts. And of course, we made sure it all looked beautiful. We sourced all the materials and décor from local shops and markets. The menus, were handwritten for each of the guests on postcards showcasing the colorful signature buildings of Granada.
Centerpieces were kept minimal and authentic to the Nicaraguan aesthetic. Mix-and-match table place settings added to the charm of the space, and local fruits and foliage were used to adorn the center of the table and complement the menu. And just like Granada, we were not shy with the use of color.
Can you tell this cold winter weather's got us craving another trip to Central America? We met so many amazing people doing incredible things for the world, and it seemed like the trip was all too short. Para los hispanohablantes, you can find more information on Carla and Sonia's efforts here. For everyone else that has any questions or would like to find ways to get involved, feel free to reach out to us, and we'll be more than happy to make the connection.
Cone el sol y todas las sonrisas,
TINSEL + compañeros