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Ed-Ventures: ‘It’s About Connecting’

About Paul Larsen  

Travel Company: Ed-Ventures is a leading tour company that offers faith-based travel to destinations around the world.

Favorite Bible Verse: “I have not one favorite verse but rather many. I love the word of God, as every verse has its place as they point to Christ and how he would like us to live and love him and love one another.”

Hometown: Rochester, Minnesota

Favorite Destination: The Holy Lands 

Hobbies: “Traveling across the room or over the ocean, fishing for walleye and people, giving back to my church and community.” 

“Every trip begins with a blank sheet of paper.” 

For Paul Larsen, president of Ed-Ventures Inc., a cookie-cutter template just doesn’t cut it for faith-based travel.

“Our tours are customized depending on what the group wants to experience and what memories they want to bring home with them afterward,” Larsen said. “Our trips aren’t just about seeing a site; they’re about experiencing the culture, the history and the people who live there today.”

Many of the trips Ed-Ventures builds are customized to a group’s specifications; therefore, unique and creative components can be added, such as having a priest or rabbi lead the group and including activities within the destination that bring a place and its history to life. For Larsen, a faith-based trip is more about the spiritual connections that happen on the trip than the destination itself. 

“It’s about connecting — all of the sudden, you’ll have a different appreciation and a lens for a place,” said Larsen. “When talking about faith-based travel, people automatically think ‘holy lands’ as the destination. But it can simply be a trip to the Grand Canyon — you can really have a faith-based trip anywhere.”

Larsen’s parents started Ed-Ventures in 1974 after taking trips with their high school German students. The trips eventually became so popular that they left teaching and launched a travel business. With their experience in Germany, their itineraries included important religious sites in the region, like sites from the life of Martin Luther and the Reformers. 

Before long, one distinguishing aspect of their trips was the inclusion of expert guides who did more than offer anecdotes about a place. For example, a group led by a priest can incorporate a spiritual element to the trip, whether that’s walking alongside the group in the footsteps of Paul in Greece or adding mission-based volunteerism to the trip. 

“It’s really the fellowship with the people where you’re visiting,” said Larsen. “Some of the stories of a place speak very loudly, like being in the area in Poland where Pope John Paul II came from, but every trip offers a different experience.”

The goal of Ed-Ventures trips is to do more than tour a place: It’s to give travelers life-changing experiences. Larsen recounted a story that he still finds particularly moving: While touring with one of the premier college orchestras in the U.S., the group visited a small Muslim village in Israel. They were rehearsing there in the city center when a group of children came and watched them and interacted with the musicians, sharing that they also played instruments. The orchestra encouraged them to bring their instruments back to practice, and both groups ended up performing onstage together, much to the delight of the parents. For the local children and adults, as well as the visiting performers, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

“That’s how powerful travel can be,” said Larsen. “It gets even more magnified on a faith-based trip — and that’s not uncommon for us.”

Travel Tips

1. Eat the local foods.

2. Take time to learn at least a few words in the language of the places you visit.  “Hello,” “please” and “thank you” will build a bridge, earn you respect and perhaps be the beginning of a new friendship. 

3. Plan your trip with a trusted travel professional who will have a wealth of practical travel tips and will help you fulfill the goals of your travel and not just reach the destination.