Born and raised in Cusco, Peru, Mery Calderon started working at her mother's souvenir store at an early age, where she developed a passion to meet new people and learn about the world and other cultures beyond her own local context. When time came to find a career, it was natural that she chose to study tourism at the university in Cusco. After graduating, she worked for some of the best hotels and travel agencies around, absorbing a wealth of knowledge in how world travelers saw her region. With a constant passion to learn and evolve, Mery founded Kuoda Travel in 2004 after seeing the need for a company that would better serve visitors to South America, by offering truly personalized and unique travel experiences. With many years building real connections with local communities and other companies with similar ethical views, Mery has witnessed how her vision (to not only share her corner of the world with Kuoda’s enthusiastic guests, but to make a difference to those living in Peru as well) has now become a way of life with her trusted network of partners.
What do I do best?
I´m a people person. I can read people, I can really empathize with them. When I talk to people, I talk with respect and empathy, and I think people respond to that.
I´m also a problem-solver. There´s always a better way to do something and understanding what people need and how to help them before they even know themselves, is a strength of mine.
What makes me the best version of myself?
Reflection---when I do something, I think about every possibility for improvement. Everything is perfectable! I like to look for options, both for myself and other people.
What are my aspirations?
Learning, improving, growing as a better person—that is at the center of my aspirations. My personal goal is to continue learning as much as I can! I consider myself a student of life---learning little things makes me feel alive.
As for business, I want Kuoda to continue to grow in a sustainable way, without losing our values. I want to be involved in meaningful projects that improve people´s lives, and I want to do that with a company that the people who work for me can feel proud of.
Most importantly, I want to be a great role model for both my kids: I want them to learn to love what they do and to care about others.
My Biggest Success?
Having started Kuoda as a single woman fourteen years ago in a mostly male-dominated world, my biggest success is being where I am now: surrounded by great people on both business and personal levels---I consider myself blessed. When people think of a founder or owner of a company, they usually think of a man, not a woman. But here I am.
My Most Challenging Moment?
There was a point in the first years of Kuoda when we didn´t have enough clients, and we were tempted to sell group tours instead of focusing on custom, because that would have meant more immediate cash. Wisely, though, we decided to stick with our original plan---private, custom tours---and now we have earned a solid reputation and a good name in the Peruvian travel industry.
“It´s easy to worry about your old shoes, until you see someone without feet.” You might think you have problems with your business or your family, and then you see someone who doesn´t have those things---then you realize that your troubles are not really that bad.
My Favorite People/Role Models?
To be honest, my role model is every person who is strong. I like survivors, people who overcome difficult times. Often the best, kindest people are the ones who have
struggled through something. Specifically, my good friend Linda inspires me. She´s incredibly strong--- she is always smiling, despite the difficult circumstances in her life.
In business, I like visionaries. I admire people who conduct business for meaningful purposes, rather than just for money. Jose Koechlin (the owner of Inkaterra Hotels) is a really good example of that.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
My favorite place is the one I haven´t been to yet!
I do love the Galapagos, though, especially for families with little ones like mine! The nature there inspires so much awe and respect.
My Favorite Products/Objects?
My kids´ books! I buy tons of them, in English and Spanish, and then I read them to my children myself. I don´t spoil my children a lot, but if it´s for their education, like books or art supplies, then I´ll do everything I can.
My Current Passions?
Reading is one of my passions---lately, I´m reading a lot about management and leadership. Also, photographing my kids!