For me, travelling is more than exploring new places, hiking to unknown mountains or tasting exotic food and drinks. I see it as a great opportunity to push my boundaries and fears, leaving my comfort zone and broadening my horizon. Also, I am curious to meet new people during my travels and get inspired by their ideas and personal stories.
Being already three months on the road, Mirko and I had various inspiring and entertaining conversations with people from all over the world… For instance, on the West Coast Trail, we shared a campfire with a microbiologist from Hungary who loved to observe sea otters and marine animals. In Yoho National Park we talked to a Canadian-Norwegian disaster fighter about hiking and trail running. On a boat cruise in Valdez, the captain shared his in-depth knowledge about Alaskan wildlife and the Exxon oil spill in 1989 with us. In Fairbanks we hiked together with a lovely couple Faith and Daniel from Idaho, US, who invited us to a tasty dinner and told us about their dream of becoming physical therapists and yoga teachers. In Grand Prairie, Alberta, we spent three wonderful days on a farm run by the Swiss couple Erna and Kläus. We helped to fence in the cattle and drove a Quad through the mud. Their hospitality was second to none. In Radium, B.C., we spent two days with our friends from Switzerland; Joël, Mario and Mathias, together we baked twist bread and rafted the Kootenay river.
And at the Summer Solstice event in Fairbanks we talked to Homyna Curiel, the business owner of Tundra Tonics (see picture below). As Mirko and I are always curious about entrepreneurs, why and how they started their business, we asked Homyna a few questions. I am happy to share this inspiring short interview with you.
Who are you?
My name is Homyna Curiel, and I’m Alaskas’ first (or second, secretly or something) transgender business owner. I’ve lived in many different states, but am “from” Washington DC and Northern Michigan. When I was nineteen I got onto a greyhound bus and traveled out west to Oregon and Lake Tahoe, California, eventually moving to Alaska in 2008, with a half-year in Poland in 2009.
Why have you started Tundra Tonics?
Tundra Tonics was forged from spontaneous chance and a deep sense of powerlessness and indignity working for traditional tourist-scale businesses that often care nothing for their employees, customers, their product, economic development, or even the very health of our only remaining ecosystems. I don’t believe in traditional exploitative power structures, and personally need sincere motivation and honesty in the things I do or else I can easily turn into a depressed or apathetic person that doesn’t have enough energy to get out of all the traps of poverty and labor class life in general. So I’m opting out, but staying productive and public and visible, a landmark for LGBT people in Alaska, and helping the economy all at the same time. The first bottles I ever sold were to strangers at a previous job, like, before there was really a label or anything. I moved to Fairbanks Alaska in 2017 with less than a hundred dollars to my name.
What is Tundra Tonics?
The product is a raw apple cider vinegar tincture, made with onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, jalapeno, habanero, cayenne, peppercorn, lemon, horseradish, rosemary, basil, sage, and thyme. We use some local and wild Alaskan ingredients but everything else comes from our local co-op! Each batch steeps for 5 to 7 weeks before it’s done, so it’s really, really strong. The kind of thing that wakes you up and restores your vitality!
(Side note by Natalie: We also bought a bottle of Tundra Tonics. It is truly a power booster and I feel quite vitalized after drinking the spicy mixture with the iconic name “Dragon’s Blood” in the morning.)
Where do you see Tundra Tonics in five years?
In five years I see Tundra Tonics having its’ own commercial kitchen, giving people respectful safe jobs, and sold in every health food store in Alaska that’s willing to support our mission to give Alaskans healthy options.
What advice would you give others who start their own business?
My advice is to do one thing at a time, learn the hard and soft limits of various obstacles, learn from your failures but don’t carry them around, do something good, do it so that we can create our spaces and rhythm, and do something that’s an answer or even rebuke to the destructive cultures that dominate our planet.
What means success for you?
Success to me is being respected and loved, healthy, honest, having time and space to be able to create, and living my life with critical agency in a world rigged by power and corruption.
Would you start Tundra Tonics again?
Tundra Tonics is the best thing in my life, I would start it all over again in a heartbeat!
Thank you, Homyna, for your time and openness answering my questions. I wish you all the best with Tundra Tonics. I surely will follow your business and hope that one day, you will open a branch in Switzerland.