Cross Cultural Journeys Blog


Posted by Cilla Utne, February 18, 2019

We are excited to announce the launch our new travel series - Cross Cultural Journeys Signature Experiences!

CCJ Signature Experiences are unique. 

These journeys may not be for everyone. Building on the important pillars and cornerstones of Cross Cultural Journeys and our sister organization Cross Cultural Journeys Foundation, there are some familiar themes that are re-occurring from our close to three decades of travel, as well as some new, self-reflective activities.

Several signature components will go into each trip:

1. Cilla, President of CCJ as your journey leader. I'm so excited to launch this series! These experiences will be facilitated by Yours Truly - yes, ME! I draw from two decades as a cross-cultural trainer and world traveler who is passionate about intercultural exchanges. I partner with with a local, bi-lingual in-country guide to create a in-depth cultural exploration.
2. Daily Reflection Circles.
You will have a chance for daily contemplation, reflection and dialogue with your fellow travelers about how the culture shows up for you. What did you learn? What surprised you? What challenged you? Most importantly - what do you love about it?
3. Immerse yourself into the local community.
We are connecting with the local people, on a human-to-human level, so that we can learn directly from them in their own culture. We seek to understand, before we try to be understood. We are open to learn about cultural differences and new experiences.
4. Travel in a smaller group. 
We will cap these trips at 12 people, to keep it to an intimate environment where individual attention and self-reflection are important aspects of each day.
5. Stay with the locals. Travelers stay in rustic, but clean and comfortable accommodations, that are locally owned and run by the people in the town or village. In some cases, they could be boutique style, smaller hotels; and in some cases, even home stays. We will avoid large, 'cookie cutter' hotels, to the extent it is possible.
6. Eat what they eat. We will visit locally owned restaurants; that serve nutritious and healthy foods rooted in the cooking traditions and flavors of the host culture.
7. Learn from indigenous roots. Whenever possible, or journeys include a connection with its' indigenous culture and people. We learn from their original practices and find out how they connect to themselves, their land, and their spiritual ceremonies, beliefs and rituals.

Our signature experiences will allow for:

...a spacious itinerary where we first and foremost will “follow the breadcrumbs” and serendipity of each moment
… space for openness and understanding of people in other cultures, their way of living, understand their hardships, as well as what brings them joy for lingering when we discover a cultural gem
…space for contemplation and introspection about how this experience is enriching your life or transforming your ideas, on your own, and with your fellow travelers
… space for developing conversations and connections to enrich your life forever
....openness to the magic, mystery and serendipity that so often happens when you surrender yourself in the experience of the unfamiliar
…. space for authentic connection, dialogs you’ve never had before
....provide an opportunity to enter into conversations with people in your daily life at home you’d never have the chance to have before
....a lifelong connection with the people and their culture, that from this day on will form an important part of your life's fabric of experiences.

If you think you are the kind of world traveler who would enjoy our CCJ Signature Experiences, please call our office (800) 353-2276 today to ask what we have coming up, or email me directly at We will look forward to hearing from you!

Interview with Jazz Master Roger Glenn, Journey Host to CCJ's Havana Jazz Fest Jan 16-21, 2019


Posted by Cilla Utne, September 25th, 2018

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege to lead a trip to Cuba blues guitar Maestro Taj Mahal and friends. It was a musical and photographic intercultural experience that the 40 travelers will never forget! We are very excited to be running a similar, yet more intimate trip to the Havana Jazz Festival this January, hosted by Taj's good friend on his quartet, wind instrumentalist and jazz master Roger Glenn.

We had a little chat with Roger about his connection to Cuba, its' people and music. Here is what he had to say.....

CCJ: What is your invitation for people traveling with you on this extraordinary journey?

RG: A great opportunity to travel to Cuba and also attend the Havana Jazz Festival with myself (a 3rd-generation jazz master), you'll see and hear the mutual connections of the roots of Afro Cuban music, and American Jazz.

CCJ: What are your favorite places of music in Havana?
RG: "La Zorra Y El Cuervo, which is the club around the corner from the Nacional Hotel, every street corner and restaurants have musicians performing, the Corner Cafe where we jammed with Taj and the locals, and every day/night at the Nacional garden terrace. Fabrica de Arte Cubano in Havana was an amazing place not only for their different music venues within but all the art installations as well. We can carry-on about Jazz all day and into the night. There is a lot of history to be shared, and this being my 5th trip to Cuba - since the 1980s - I've an understanding of the people, culture, music, dance which I'm all very passionate about."

CCJ: What will the travelers have the honor of learning directly from you during this trip? With whom have you played there, and with whom might you be playing?

RG: "I'll share my sense of the history of Afro Cuban music, and the religious influence of Santeria in the music which also encompasses the dance. I look forward to sharing my observations on how their lifestyle has transitioned from the 1980s to today. In Matanzas we'll talk about the history of the dock workers and the origins of Rhumba. Hopefully we will get to meet up with Cuban maestro Bobby Carcasses, with whom I recorded with on our last trip in 2016 for his "Blues con Montuno" album."

"In Matanzas we'll talk about the history of the dock workers and the origins of Rhumba."

CCJ: What would you say to anybody who might be hesitating going to Cuba for political reasons?

RG: "While we have the advantage to go to Cuba right now, you can see with your own eyes there are no threats to American people. We're the only country that has this embargo and the rest of the world goes there as a summer resort. 

CCJ: What do you love about the Cuban people in general, and about Cuban musicians in particular? 

RG: "The Cuban people are so very warm and welcoming wherever you go. The musicians that I've sat in with and recorded with are amazing players whether you are on the street corner or in the recording studio or club. The student musicians we've met are so dedicated to the music, they are phenomenal musicians with less distractions than many young students have here in the US."

CCJ: Tell us about the Cuban food?

RG: "I like the Cuban sandwich as Sloppy Joe's, and Beth (Roger's wife) loved the chicken dinner at El Aljibe, served family style we had the first night at the open air restaurant, and the mixed-grill lunch we had in Cojimar."

CCJ: What else would you like to tell people who have not yet been to Cuba, but who might be considering going on this trip?

RG: "Imagine a warm tropical vacation in January filled with music, new cultural experience, great accommodations, traveling with a group of Jazz lovers!"

If you, or anybody you know is interested in joining us for this intimate immersive music journey to Cuba with Roger Glenn as your private host, please register directly at the Havana Jazz Fest Journey Page. Space is limited to 15 people and we are currently (Sept 25) about two thirds full.

If you have questions about the trip. please contact me directly at

Presidio Graduate School Field Study in Emilia Romagna, Italy, July 8-14, 2018


Cheese! Presidio Graduate students of Cooparative Management visiting the Parmesano Reggiano (yes, that parmesan cheese!) facility in Emilia Romagna.

Posted by Cilla Utne, July 29, 2018
Cross Cultural Journeys aim is (and always has been) to make sure that we during our journeys seek to find our common humanity, without diminishing our very diverse and important values differences across cultures. The most important aspect of such journeys beging with how we ourselves understand our very own cultural and personal contexts, in which we live our daily lives. We then learn from our neighbors around the planet, weather they are near or far from home, to listen, understand, sit, and observe, before jumping in with our own ideas and previous experiences. Our recent trips and our many upcoming exiting itineraries are doing just that: reflecting and dialouging with local people, being invited to eat their best local foods, staying in traditional but comfortable accomodations, and spending a lot of time on just leaning in and learning from who and what is around us. We can call it less ‘tourism’, and more cultural immersion and deep dive.

In that vein, our field study to the heart of the cooperative region of Emilia Romagna in Northern Italy with Presidio Graduate School earlier this month was a big hit, and I think we will be welcomed back J. A unique offering in CCJ’s trip roster, this is the only Master’s level course in the United States on Cooperative Management offered by Presidio, and we are thrilled to be able to provide a three dimensional and very dymanic content for the course. We even included a couple of my former professors in intercultural conciousness - Milton Bennett and Ida Castiglioni - in a conversation about what it means to learn and absorb information in a cultural context that is different from the one we are used to, different from home. You can read more about our visit in this article, published by one of our local Italian hosts at Legacoop.

If you, or anybody you know is interested in setting up an intercultural learning tour or field study for your college or graduate class, please contact me directly at We can without a doubt make that happen!

Posted by Phil Meadows on December 3, 2014

Finding the People in “People to People” Journeys

Of all the travel rewards, meeting local people and sharing a mutual understanding of our daily struggles and triumphs as humans are amongst the greatest lessons we obtain from stepping outside our comfort zones. Often times, we encounter a local child, an elder who catches our gaze- an exchange of a warm smile, a lasting connection. We learn quite quickly, a

Posted by Phil Meadows on November 21, 2014

The Pearl of the Southeast – Santiago de Cuba

Along the Southeastern coastline of Cuba, the port city of Santiago de Cuba greets the Caribbean each day with the hustle and bustle of a cultural capital full of Afro-Caribbean culture. A city rivaled only in population and size by the capital city of Havana, today Santiago de Cuba enjoys a culturally rich and exquisitely intriguing society

Posted by Phil Meadows on November 10, 2014

Zoroastrian Fire Temple of Yazd, Iran

In the city of Yazd, Iran burns a mighty flame. An Atash Behram (Fire of Victory) to be exact. Contained within the Zoroastrian Fire Temple is a flame said to be burning for over 1,500 years- since around 470 A.D. And not just any flame, but the highest grade of fire that can be placed inside the temple of

Posted by Phil Meadows on November 10, 2014

2014 Photo Contest Winners

A photograph has the ability to capture a single moment, yet is attached to infinite memories. Each year, Cross Cultural Journeys holds a photo contest titled “Share Your Journey”. Not only do we want to honor our travelers and the countries they visit, we also want to ignite others to seek out the people and