Guest Spotlight

Alicia Zambelli

We have the coolest guests! An adventure isn’t just about the itinerary–it’s also about who you share it with. We want to turn the spotlight on some of our guests and what projects they’re working on.

Sometimes the stars align to bring amazing people into your life–like when Alicia Zambelli joined an old college friend on his dentist’s yoga retreat with us in 2016! Talk about a few degrees of separation, huh?

Alicia is truly one of a kind–a veterinarian as compassionate and generous as she is wickedly intelligent and funny. She and two colleagues opened an independent, women-owned animal clinic just outside Portland, OR in May (and I know plenty of you live out that way!)

I got to see her skill firsthand when she joined our inaugural “Treat, Spay, Love” volunteer journey to Ladakh, India (photos here!), where she helped sterilize dogs around Thiksey Monastery on the Tibetan Plateau. (I’m hoping we can lure her back for another Treat, Spay, Love in Sri Lanka in the next few years!)

Hand pouring Shrine candles

Alicia had her hands quite full in Ladakh!

Shrine's Mushroom Arch packaging

Alicia giving a calf some love in Varanasi, India on our 2016 journey.

Tell us a bit about the projects you’ve been working on.

My latest insane adventure is building a start-up veterinary hospital with two other amazing veterinarians! It has been a heck of a ride already, but it is a dream come true to be able to create the culture, space, and team we have always wanted. Now, we are on the verge of opening our practice, and we could not be more excited!

I spent my earlier years as a vet working in emergency veterinary medicine, training veterinary interns, running an animal blood bank, and working as a medical director in general small animal practice.

How does travel inspire you?  

After spending my junior year in East Africa, I was hooked. I worked with some traditional animal healers in Kenya, and knew I wanted both veterinary medicine and travel in my life. I was fortunate to do some low-brow globe trekking in college and vet school throughout Africa and Asia, and spend some time in Europe with friends.

Then work and family put a pause on things, for the most part. But in 2016, I had the great good fortune to travel for the first time with BJ and Lauren!

Although I had travelled a fair bit, and never, ever thought I would join a tour group, now I would never travel any other way! They are really that special; the experiences they thoughtfully curate are unparalleled.

During her downtime on our 2016 tour, Alicia helped me restock our own street dog first aid kit, as well as make some purchases for Street Dog Care. She hopped right behind the pharmacy counter (after being invited, of course!)

Do you have a favorite memory to share from your travels with us?

Maybe it’s Lauren and me taking turns carrying a surprisingly heavy street dog, who would never think of walking on a leash, from Boudhanath to the Street Dog Care center for care. I am pretty sure Lauren did most of the carrying. We did our part to entertain the resident Nepalis that day…

My first RetreaTours trip through India and Nepal was truly breathtaking, with just the right mix of luxury and simplicity. I saw places where I had previously travelled in a completely new way, including hand-picked, outstanding local tour guides.

Then, a few years later, I returned with Lauren and BJ to the top of the world- Ladakh, India-for a spay and neuter campaign for local dogs. Lauren’s passion for street dogs (and dogs in general!) is second to none. She and BJ singlehandedly created an entire tour to help address Ladakhi dog overpopulation, as well as bring much-needed local attention to this important issue. Her dedication and enthusiasm is contagious, and the ripples from her actions extend to this day. 

Ralphie ABSOLUTELY rejects the characterization as “surprisingly heavy.” 

Where to learn more about Alicia Zambelli and her new practice:

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