“We are expert travelers, dreamers, and doers working to shape a better world.”

That’s how photographer and traveler Yulia Denisyuk describes NOMⴷD + JULES, the new lifestyle travel brand she founded. Yulia created the NOMⴷD + JULES platform to promote travel to lesser-known or stigmatized destinations around the world, so I caught up with her to chat about the creation of the brand and her hopes for the coming year.

Where did the inspiration for NOMⴷD + JULES come from?

The idea came from my travels. I have been very lucky to meet wonderful people who always show me a side of their country that would be difficult to experience without local interaction. I’ve known since day one that people are what make travel a transformative force, so I wanted to create a way to share that experience with others.

After you had the initial idea, how did you actually bring it into the world?

Since I have a background in brand management, I’ve approached this project like a brand manager launching a new product. Stages such as design, identity, branding, and strategy took several weeks. I then reached out to my extensive network of fellow travelers for feedback, and secured an initial partner who ended up supporting NOMⴷD + JULES’ inaugural trips to Jordan.

What components were important for you to include in designing what NOMⴷD + JULES would be?

There are several pieces to NOMⴷD + JULES: experiential journeys, a Bazaar marketplace that carries small-batch products from around the world (coming soon!), and a WANDERER blog that features the voices of fellow avid travelers and their perspectives on destinations not commonly talked about (our newest post is on Jordan).

The common thread that runs through each of these initiatives is the idea of shining a light on places that may otherwise get a bad rap and showing a human side of these destinations to encourage people to think differently about them.

With our experiential journeys, this happens through local interaction. First, we never go to the typical tourist destinations. Or, if we do, we visit them in our own way. For example, we recently took the first NOMⴷD + JULES trip to Petra in Jordan, which is an incredibly crowded tourist site. But instead of visiting Petra the usual way, we hiked 10 miles from Little Petra (where Bedouins still live) to Petra’s Monastery complex. We met few other travelers along the way and interacted with locals freely while we hiked. Secondly, we work with local organizations and destination management companies to ensure that we utilize local knowledge when designing our itineraries. And, finally, we take care to be flexible with our plans and embrace the unexpected — this kind of openness often gifts travelers with wonderful experiences.

Can you tell me more about what these experiential journeys look like?

The journeys are designed to help other travelers feel the same type of wonder we’ve experienced while traveling. There are so many beautiful places to discover in the Middle East, in Africa, and in other areas across the globe that, unfortunately, have a bad reputation. In my experience, the people in these regions are some of the most welcoming and warm-hearted of anywhere in the world, and I want to share this with others. Additionally, these journeys are always intimate (comprised of just five to six people) and paced slowly to ensure that each group gets the most out of the experience.  

What are some of your goals for NOMⴷD + JULES?

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I want NOMⴷD + JULES to help people who are curious about these lesser-known destinations, but are perhaps hesitant to go on their own, to fulfill that curiosity. For the rest of this year, we’re focused on growing our brand and offering a total of three or four experiential journeys. Our larger goal (beyond bringing people to these destinations) is to utilize the incredible power of tourism and travel in order to lift up the communities we work with on the ground. This is currently in development but, eventually, the hope is that our trips will have an increased impact on both the participants and the communities we visit through tangible contributions such as volunteering and empowering of local artisans.

What kind of travel do you want to promote with NOMⴷD + JULES?

The type of travel I enjoy is one where the traveler brings humility, curiosity, open-mindedness, and flexibility in order to learn about the world and contribute to a cross-cultural exchange. NOMⴷD + JULES is small-scale in the sense that we aren’t bringing 20 to 40 people on a conveyor belt of tourist stops. We travel at a slower pace, we engage with the places we’re visiting, and we interact with the local communities — all with the goal of returning home with a better understanding of these destinations.

What’s next for you?  

We have just completed our inaugural trip to Jordan, which was an incredible experience. Now, we’re working on designing a different Jordan trip for the fall and creating new trips for other destinations later this year, including Morocco and Lebanon. It’s all very exciting.

Learn more about NOMⴷD + JULES on their website, and follow along for updates on Instagram.