As children, Anika and Michael Funk would spend months at a time in Indonesia with their family. Their parents operated an import-export business in their native Canada. As a result, the family traveled to Southeast Asia every year for lengthy stints. On those journeys, they would meet local artisans and fully immerse themselves into the local culture. Little did they know that these early experiences would later inspire them to launch a socially conscious backpack company.
The Origin Story
After graduating college and taking time to travel the world, the siblings began to conceptualize a social enterprise that combined their two passions: travel and social impact. After years of traveling with backpacks that just didn’t seem to work well for them, they wanted something more. They envisioned better travel gear that looked good, made life on the road easier, but also had an element of social impact embedded in it.
Inspired by their journeys through Cambodia, Banana Backpacks was created to address the multiple problems the Funks had experienced firsthand while traveling. The company’s signature item is the Khmer Explorer Travel Set. Thoughtfully designed to optimize the travel experience in style, it doesn’t sacrifice the space required to carry additional gear. The set consists of a spacious, thoughtfully crafted socially conscious travel backpack with a three-piece removable packing system.
Ergonomically designed to take up to 80% of the weight off of shoulders, the backpack is also weatherproof. Some of the unique features include a secret interior compartment, mesh separators with built-in pockets and a hip belt pocket. There are even removable shoulder straps that can be tucked into the back compartment if the bag needs to be checked at the last minute.
One of the most personal details, however, is the name of a Cambodian student embroidered in Khmer on the strap of the backpack. Each backpack purchase provides an annual education for one student in Siem Reap. Despite the number of tourists that go there to visit Angkor Wat, it is one of the poorest provinces in the country.
While education is offered freely by the government, there are associated costs for items like uniforms, supplies, bicycles and meals that make it cost prohibitive for families to send their children to school. The Banana Backpacks contribution provides all the student’s meals for one year. This incentivizes families to allow their children to attend school and they have seen great success thus far.
“We felt that supporting education through each of our travel backpacks was a way for travelers to help empower local communities in their path towards sustainable development,” said Anika Funk. “We work with a local nonprofit partner, Caring for Cambodia, to support their students at schools across Siem Reap. Our belief in the positive impact every traveler can make is reflected on their backpack with the embroidered name of the child they supported.”
MICHELLE ARELLANO MARTIN