Sojourner Tours

A boutique tour company specialized in gastronomic sojourns in France. Go beyond the typical tourist trip: immerse yourself in French culture and discover authentic places loved by the French.

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Book early. SPACE IS ALWAYS LIMITED.

Groups are kept to eight guests so you can visit authentic places, stay in charming boutique hotels and eat in the real restaurants where locals dine. 

EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE CREATION OF SOJOURNER TOURS

Our story begins where the lives of the co-owners intertwine...

A TRADITION OF GUIDING BEGINS:

1995 Ireland

Francis home in France after a year in Ireland

Francis leaves France to spend a year in Ireland at the University of Limerick perfecting his English and falling in love with the country and the language.  Over the next decade he will return many times to introduce friends and family to the places that seduce him.

1996 France

Lisa leaves the States to spend a year studying in France in Francis' hometown Besancon.  While studying at the university, she shares an apartment with other foreign students, including two from Japan.  When one day an Irish friend invites a young French fellow to a party: Lisa meets Francis.

Francis takes Lisa hitchhiking across Ireland. Lisa then backpacks around Europe.

1997 Germany

Francis spends a year in Germany to complete his compulsory military service.

1998 USA

Francis and Lisa are accepted in Master's programs in Ohio. Lisa takes extra classes to complete the International Studies program in one year.

Lisa in Swaziland

1999 Swaziland (Southern Africa)

Lisa spends the summer in Swaziland at a teacher training college.

 

1999-2001 Japan

Lisa in Japan

Lisa spends two years teaching English in Japan and falls in love with the country. She travels from the south to the north and then begins organizing and leading excursions to introduce friends and family to the places that enchant her. She also writes a guide to the Ibaraki region which is published for other foreign teachers.

Francis joins Lisa in Japan for her second year and teaches French and English. 


THE SOJOURNER PHILOSOPHY IS BORN:

2001-2002 China, Southeast Asia, India & Nepal

Lisa convinces Francis to join her for a year of backpacking in Asia.

Spending at least one month in each country, they will visit almost a dozen countries. During the first month in China, they engage in intensive tourism with a focus on visiting the biggest and most famous tourist sights. Hopping from one tourist destination to another, they see all the big sights, are exhausted and realize that they have a lot of great pictures of important places but have learned very little about Chinese culture.

Francis (and Lisa) in Laos

Lisa (and Francis) in India

During the second month, in Vietnam, they begin to ease into "slow travel" and shift their focus toward food and culture.  They are rewarded with richer experiences and more contact with the local people by staying in one place for an extended period of time and taking day trips. They start asking local people and other travelers what they should see instead of relying heavily on a guidebook. They begin choosing restaurants based on how many people are in them rather than how attractive they look. Gradually these methodical changes grow into a full-fledged travel approach, the travel philosophy of "sojourning" is born. By the end of the year they'd: eaten in local people's homes; learned how artisanal products are made; had countless "off-the-beaten-path" adventures; and, were even invited to join a wedding!

Now, Lisa and Francis put "sojourning" at the heart of every itinerary they create both for themselves and for Sojourner Tours.


A PARTNERSHIP IS FORGED, THE FIRST JOINT TOUR

2002 France

Lisa & Francis' Wedding in France

Lisa & Francis' Wedding in France

On June 22, the day after the summer equinox and the official day of music in France, Lisa & Francis get married.  A life-long partnership begins.

Following the ceremony, the couple plans a week-long sojourn based in Besancon for guests who have flown from around the world for the wedding. This first itinerary will later become the basis of Sojourner Tours' signature sojourns based in Besancon (Best Kept Secrets & Off-the-Beathen-Path in the French-Swiss Borderland).


Fast forward ahead...

YEARS OF INFORMAL TOURS

2002-2008 USA (from Santa Barabara, California to Austin, Texas)

Francis completes his PhD in French Literature. Lisa has completed a second M.A. in Anthropology and gives birth to their first son.

Francis' father has left the antique business and has opened a hotel which is named "most charming hotel" in eastern France by a major national magazine "Le Figaro".

Francis chooses a tenure track post in the Austin area.

Lisa puts her PhD plans on hold to focus on being a mother for few years, teaching some French classes at a local university.

Lisa & Francis welcome a second son into their lives and continue to informally guide groups in France as the opportunities arise.

2009 France

The boys in Paris (2012)

The boys in Paris (2012)

Francis begins an annual summer routine of bringing the family to Paris where he can conduct extensive research at the French National Library and teach for an American summer study abroad program.  He is enthralled by teaching the students French history through visits to Paris' major historic sites.

Lisa & Francis add Paris to the list of places where they informally organize itineraries and guide groups.

 

2010-2011 Japan & France

Lisa & family in Japan

Lisa & family in Japan

Lisa gets a research grant to return to Japan to conduct research for her PhD project.

Francis is granted a sabbatical to complete his first book and accompanies Lisa to Japan to write and care for the boys.

Due to the Earthquake that year, Francis & Lisa leave Japan early.  They spend the next six months in France.

Francis's father opens a second boutique hotel in a former convent.

 


SOJOURNER TOURS IS OFFICIALLY INCORPORATED

2012 USA

Lisa decides to open Sojourner Tours.

Oddly enough, the 2011 Japanese earthquake was the catalyst for the creation of our French tour company. We were living in Tokyo because I had a research grant but, immediately following the nuclear incident, it didn’t seem prudent to stay to complete my work. Living through the natural disaster gave me a fresh zest for life that set me on a new career path: launching Sojourner Tours.

My co-founder and I are French-American and we both feel that the most marvelous things about life are: family, food and sojourning abroad. So, our mission became making cultural sojourns accessible so that anyone can experience the best life has to offer. For years, people had been urging us to guide tours abroad and so after doing it informally for years for small groups of family and friends, as well as formally with groups of students; it seemed natural to start a tour company… but not your typical kind. Our objective was to offer people the experience of a lifetime with each tour.

Sojourner Tours is based on our passions for travel, cuisine, education, and foreign discovery. Organizing high quality guided tours in France is just the beginning, over the next decade we will be adding similar sojourns in places like Japan. Wherever we take guests, Sojourner Tours’ philosophy remains the same: we believe that our guests ought to have the finest opportunities to experience the full range of a country’s culture which means hosting small groups in authentic places where they can experience activities that locals love and the luxury they deserve.
— Lisa Gustavson in an interview from the Taste Trekkers Expo
 

Lisa giving a talk on A.O.C/A.O.P. foods from the Franche-Comte.

 








SOJOURNERS: AT HOME IN THE WORLD