Staying Connected to our Roots
As travelers ourselves, we care deeply about our far-flung destinations. Our goal is to benefit and protect our favorite places by supporting and building the communities we care about. MIR fosters sustainable travel practices that help to preserve cultural and natural heritage.
From the beginning, MIR has been committed to connecting people. Our travelers don’t just pass through. They tap into the culture, and we provide them with uncommon experiences, like visiting with a children’s English class; or being welcomed into a private Russian home for a memorable meal and enjoying both home-cooked specialties and heartfelt conversations; or a visit to an artist’s workshop near the Silk Road oasis of Bukhara, where a master paints flourishes on a ceramic dish.
Embracing Doug’s commitment to connecting people, the fledgling company supported NGOs and special interest organizations in their attempts to negotiate the red tape that snarled travel to the Soviet Union. Some early MIR efforts included:
- Helping Hawaiian hula dancers take part in a local Siberian dance festival.
- Bringing LAPD officers to meet with Soviet police on the Moscow beat.
- Facilitating “healing through humor” missions that gained access to Russian hospitals and orphanages for Patch Adams and his troupe of amateur clowns.
An early mission to build a small peace park in Tashkent for the Seattle-Tashkent Sister City Association inspired MIR to open the first accredited travel office of an American firm in Uzbekistan. It’s still flourishing today.
Using Travel as a Force for Good
In line with our goal to benefit and protect our favorite places, MIR practices the following:
- We hire locally wherever possible, preferring to frequent locally owned businesses
- We plan imaginative itineraries that bring our travelers into close contact with the culture of the people who live here, expanding the horizons of everyone involved
- We seek knowledgeable and dedicated local guides to offer essential insights into the history and traditions of our destinations
- The guides, drivers, and tour managers who seek to work with MIR and MIR-affiliated partners value their roles as cultural ambassadors, and their stable employment empowers them to contribute to their communities
- In addition to contributing our time and resources to programs that benefit the peoples at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, MIR Corporation will donate all profits from the sale of gear in our Travel Gear Shop towards cultural and conservation projects we support
Some places on our roster of destinations can be more challenging and continue to be hampered by fluctuating flight routes, complicated visa regimens, and ever-changing border requirements. That’s why it’s so important that our Seattle travel planning staff is a hand-picked team of specialists dedicated to keeping up with the changes. Every one of our planners has a personal interest in the region, and has lived, studied, and/or traveled extensively in our destinations.
- The resourceful creative individuals who head up our affiliated offices in Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, and Uzbekistan spend countless hours to ensure that your trip is authentic, hassle-free, and extraordinary
- The principals of MIR have spent the last three and a half decades crisscrossing the area, traveling the backroads, sustaining long-term friendships, and developing important contacts that are put to use every day
MIR has twice been rated one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth” by National Geographic Adventure. Esteemed institutions from The Harvard Museums of Science and Culture to the alumni travel programs of of the top Ivy League schools and beyond, among many others, put their trust in MIR.
Memberships & Charitable Affiliations
We are proud to have supported a number of projects and organizations connected in some way to our destinations, such as:
SNOW LEOPARD TRUST
With programs and staff in five countries in Central Asia and support from around the world, the Snow Leopard Trust is a leader in the effort to secure the future of the endangered snow leopard by protecting the cat in partnership with the communities that share its habitat.
STOP GIRL TRAFFICKING
Every year, as many as 20,000 girls from the poorest parts of rural Nepal are trafficked: coerced or tricked with false promises, then sold into brothels, indentured servitude, or forced into child marriage. The way the American Himalayan Foundation combats this modern-day slavery is surprisingly effective: they prevent it.
MIR became involved in supporting this effort through the great photography work of Suresh Mehta, who has traveled extensively with MIR and is a longtime supporter of the Foundation’s work.
MONGOLIAN MONASTERIES APPEAL: THE LAND OF THE BLUE SKY
Once an integral part of Mongolia’s history and culture, Buddhism was almost eradicated during the Communist era. With the advent of the democratic era in the early 1990s, Mongolians began to revive their traditions and cultural heritage. Mongolia’s Buddhist Monasteries Project is dedicated to the preservation of the oral histories, photographs, and information about Buddhist temples in Mongolia.
Through generous donations from MIR and others, this collection of cultural knowledge is available for Mongolians and the rest of the world to learn about and share in the rich Buddhist history of Mongolia.
ONEWORLD NOW! RUSSIA STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM
MIR was a supporter of a study tour to Russia for underserved Seattle high school students offered by OneWorld Now! The students studied Russian language, history, and cross-cultural leadership in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and an internationally recognized artists’ community in rural Nikolo-Lenivets.
In the last 15-plus years, OneWorld Now! has sent over 300 low-income high school youth abroad on language, culture, and service programs around the world. MIR also contributes to their scholarship fund.
SEATTLE ASIAN ART MUSEUM’S IKAT EXHIBITION
In 2012, MIR worked with curators at Seattle’s Asian Art Museum as a sponsor of the popular exhibition Colors of the Oasis: Central Asian Ikats. The exhibition featured 65 gorgeous antique hand-woven robes from Uzbekistan.
SEATTLE-TASHKENT SISTER CITY ASSOCIATION
MIR is a sponsor of the Seattle-Tashkent Sister City Association’s Navruz celebration. Navruz, the spring equinox festival, is celebrated throughout Central Asia, as well as other Islamic countries. Seattle’s popular Navruz event features music and dance performances, authentic Uzbek dishes, such as plov, and a Central Asian fashion show.
“The event unites people from our community, regardless of their cultural, religious, or ethnic background, and celebrates the rich culture of Central Asia,” a spokesperson said.
The nonprofit Seattle-Tashkent Sister City Association was founded in 1973, when Uzbekistan was still a part of the Soviet Union. Today its mission is to build bridges of understanding between Uzbek communities and the rest of the world.
CENTRAL EURASIAN STUDIES SOCIETY (CESS)
MIR was a sponsor of the 18th Annual Conference of the Central Eurasian Studies Society (CEES), which took place at the University of Washington, Seattle. The mission of the society is to “facilitate communication and interaction among scholars of the Central Eurasia region … to promote cooperation among persons and organizations concerned with the scholarly study of Central Eurasia, and to promote general knowledge of and public interest in Central Eurasia.”
The four-day conference featured hundreds of papers and presentations on topics such as nomads, education and health care, cultures and languages, and environmental preservation, as well as a cultural program that included films and musical performances.