We often hear the phrase, “traveling for work”. How about the concept of working for travel? Over the past 35 years, Dan and Rudi Taylor have done just that. They turned their passion for travel into careers. Between their online import business, Happy Mango Beads, and their Colorado storefront, Wishful Living, this duo travels the world in search of unique items to bring back to their customers. Maintaining a close relationship with dozens of craftspeople around the world, they directly support communities in a way that the typical tourist does not.

Written by Emily Taylor, photos courtesy of Rudi & Dan Taylor

It’s all about the travel

Seeing historic sites and places of cultural significance are certainly important to Dan and Rudi, but immersing themselves in the culture is far more important. Doing business in any country around the world gets them off the beaten path and fuels a sense of adventure. Often the families they work with will invite them over for dinner or tea, and in those moments they are able to gain exactly what they sought after in the first place: cultural exchange.
Village woman carries sticks in the mountain highlands of the Andes in Peru

Dan & Rudi’s import business model

For the Taylors, “it’s not all about making money, it’s about feeling good about your life”. They work on a small, global scale and know exactly where their products are made. They have become well-acquainted with the people behind the process also. For them, business goes well beyond monetary transactions; it’s important for them to build and maintain relationships with the people and their communities. They’ve helped fund home construction, a kidney transplant, schooling, a family computer, and countless other needs.
Rudi and one of their long time business vendors in Indonesia

 

Recycled Handicrafts

Many products Dan and Rudi sell are actually byproducts of larger industries. Scrolling through their webstore, hundreds of items (beads) are made from recycled materials: bone beads from water buffalo, recycled glass beads, recycled paper beads, brass beads cast from scrap metal, vinyl beads from well-worn out records, and so on. In their storefront, they sell wooden furniture from expired fishing boats, rugs made from natural fibers and dyes, and impressive wood carvings from scrap lumber. Sourcing beads and handicrafts in this way not only educates the end-consumer, but creates a more sustainable business.
Recycled metal beads from Happy Mango Beads

Economic impact

When Dan and Rudi show up to the Bomberos Market in Guatemala, the families there don’t all rush them at once. They know they’ll each have their turn because the Taylors always intend to spread the wealth between all vendors. They will load up on textiles there, then move to another market the next day. By spreading their dollars between several vendors, they help maintain a healthy economic balance. The craftspeople are proud of what they make, and sharing their heritage, culture, and craft with the world is important and empowering.
Dan and Wayan, one of Dan and Rudi's longest business partner of 35 years in Indonesia

Looking to the future

Holding so many years of expertise, Dan and Rudi plan to share their business model with fellow travelers. For other small business owners wishing to learn the trade secrets of importing, exporting, and conducting business in another country, they will soon offer shopping tours. The Taylors want to educate fellow buyers in a way that deepens that cultural respect, all while conducting business and still

being able to travel adventurously.

For more sustainable travel tips, check out Emily’s favorite travel hacks.

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