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Aug. 7, 2022

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Washougal couple travels world, teaches others to do it, too

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Andi Crockford folds laundry while preparing her apartment for its next guest.
Andi Crockford folds laundry while preparing her apartment for its next guest. Nathan Howard/The Columbian Photo Gallery

A Washougal couple has developed their longtime passion for travel into two businesses. Kevin and Andi Crockford opened an Airbnb in their riverfront home on the Washougal River in 2014. Two years later, they started Kendi World Adventures, in which they guide mostly inexperienced travelers on trips to Costa Rica.

Kevin, 58, and his wife, Andi, 57, have traveled to 36 countries together. They started traveling to Mexico when their youngest child turned 6 and could carry her own backpack.

“It’s cheaper to stay and eat in Mexico than in the U.S.,” Andi said.

Kevin’s mechanical engineer salary supported the family. When Andi Crockford got a part-time job while the kids were in school, they continued living on Kevin’s salary and stashed all of Andi’s earnings into savings. When their youngest, Rachel Crockford, was in high school, they set a five-year goal: Save enough money to spend a year traveling the world together with their daughter.

Rachel Crockford got a part-time job and saved money, too. They committed their goal to paper. Andi Crockford created a binder with a world map, their monthly bills and this note: “Keep your eye on the goal.”

Information

Learn more about Kevin and Andi Crockford’s businesses:

Kendi World Adventures

360-335-0127

Email: info@kendiworldadventures.com

Web: KendiWorldAdventures.com

Next Costa Rica tours: Pacific Coast tour, Oct. 19-28; Caribbean tour, Nov. 9-18.

Cost: $1,499 per person.

Washougal Riverfront Airbnb

360-335-0127

Address: 36309 N.E. Washougal River Road, Washougal.

Cost: $105 per night; sleeps four.

Learn more and make reservations:  www.airbnb.com. The Crockfords’ apartment is called “Walk-out basement apartment on the river.”

They stopped buying extras and didn’t eat out as much. In five years, they saved $50,000.

“We are of the philosophy that every penny you earn either takes you closer or farther from your goal,” Andi Crockford said. “You make choices. When you buy $6 lattes, it adds up quickly.”

On Kevin’s 50th birthday, they flew to Cairo, Egypt.

“We kind of winged it,” Kevin Crockford explained. “We bought one-way tickets to Cairo and booked a two-week home stay with a Muslim family. That’s as far as we planned in advance.”

The Crockfords and their Muslim hosts became friends, and they stayed in Egypt for another two months, traveling around the country with their hosts’ youngest son, Wessam Sayed.

In the end, Kevin and Andi Crockford traveled for two years and visited 21 countries in the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

Their low-budget housing included about six months of couch surfing with local host families like the Sayeds, plus camping and staying in hostels. The Crockfords saved money on food by preparing their meals in hostel kitchens, buying food from street vendors and eating at restaurants packed with locals.

Although the couple speaks only a little Spanish and Arabic, they had no issues communicating.

“Kindness is universal,” Andi Crockford said. “As long as you have a positive attitude and show patience, I think you get that in return.”

Kevin Crockford’s most memorable experience was a 10-day Vipassana silent meditation retreat in Thailand. Andi Crockford’s was teaching English in China to middle-school-aged children.

Two businesses

Back home in Clark County, they found a beautiful property on the Washougal River, but the house was a shack. First, they finished the walk-out basement apartment, which originally had a dirt floor. Then they lived there while they renovated the house. When they moved upstairs, they set up their riverfront apartment as a short-term rental and listed it on the website Airbnb.

The Crockfords charge $105 per night for their riverfront apartment, which sleeps four. Hundreds of guests from all over the U.S. and the world have stayed with them. Airbnb does the marketing and booking and takes a small fee. The Crockfords pay taxes and insurance; they suggest that people interested in opening an Airbnb business check federal, state, county and city ordinances before committing.

Andi Crockford said: “We’re right on the Washougal River with a patio, fire pit, hammocks and even an outdoor bed tucked into a heated alcove. Our guests’ biggest complaint is wishing they’d booked a longer stay.”

When the couple shared their travel adventures with friends, many people made excuses for not traveling internationally: It’s too expensive, they lack a passport or visa, they don’t speak the language or it’s too dangerous. Then Andi Crockford had a brainstorm: Why not show people how to travel internationally, and to be with them in case people have questions or obstacles? Kendi World Adventures was born. So far, they have led eight guided tours to Costa Rica, but their plan is to expand to India, Thailand and Morocco.

Kevin Crockford said: “Part of our adventurous nature is to travel, and to start a business to help people travel grew from that. We teach them not just to travel to Costa Rica, but to become international travelers. To travel without fear.”

Andi Crockford took several research trips to Costa Rica to meet local guides, inspect family-owned restaurants, cabinas and gain first-hand knowledge of adventure tours. They interviewed potential drivers and guides. They offer two Costa Rica tours: a Pacific coast tour and a Costa Rica Caribbean tour. They charge $1,499 per person for a 10-day trip. The fee includes guides, hotels, all excursions, all breakfasts, half of the lunches and a van with a driver. The hope is that the travelers will venture out for dinner. Airfares are also extra.

“We only stay in family-owned lodging and at family-owned restaurants,” Andi said. “It feels good to know that the money we bring into that country stays in that community.”

Both of the Crockfords’ businesses have posed unexpected obstacles. Both are responsible for marketing Kendi World Adventures, but neither is a marketing or social media guru. Andi Crockford is the housecleaner for their Airbnb. They decided not to charge a cleaning fee because they thought guests would be respectful and not trash the place. But their minimum is a one-night stay, so sometimes they have one-night guests back-to-back for 10 days.

“Then I’m scrubbing toilets for 10 days,” she sighed. “Every single day.”

As far as the success of Kendi Adventure Travel, Andi Crockford said two sisters who were almost 70 years old but had never traveled outside the U.S. came on a Kendi tour. At first, they seemed wide-eyed and worried, but over the next 10 days, they blossomed and began planning their next international trip.

“Watching them become more comfortable with travel was a delight,” Andi Crockford said.

“International travel is easier than you think,” Kevin Crockford said.

To prepare for their next adventure, the Crockfords bought a shorty school bus and are renovating it into a camper with a shower, bed and kitchen. Their goal is to spend five years traveling the Pan American Highway from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Patagonia, Chile.

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