If you have walked down Main Street you’ve surely noticed the vibrant shop called Hands Around the World, where a cultural experience and a story tags along with each item sold.

Baskets woven by the Yekuana Tribe from Venezuela, hand-carved turquoise placed in sterling silver rings from Peru, and handmade nativity scenes from all areas of the world fill the store. Each item is created from artists in small villages from various regions of the world, each telling the story of that culture. Janet Browning, owner of Hands Around the World, is a true traveler. Her story began in an Indian Village deep in the Amazon where she met an artist selling his work. “It was a traditional sculpture, the one of a snake that is being caught by a bird,” Janet said. “I talked to him about it and ooed and awed.” “This was a motif a lot of people did so I found one that was simpler and more modern and I bought it. I saw his face when he saw me with the other one. He was devastated. He just had it in his mind that I was going to come back and buy that from him. And it made me think how important that sell would have been to him.” Janet continued. “It made me think about how they probably sit there all day and sell little to nothing, yah know? In that moment I looked to my daughter and said,

“Someday, I would like to come back here and buy everything that someone’s made. I want to make a difference for that one person.”

About 6 months later that is exactly what Janet did. Janet bought a great big hippie van and began traveling all across the southeast, and broke down all across the southeast. She was living her dream by selling items bought while traveling to numerous exotic locations. Continuing this tradition, Janet then opened Hands Around the world in 2001. Janet has since expanded Hands Around the World by offering her travel experiences to the public. Using her expertise and friends across the world, Janet plans the entire trip. It gives the opportunity to spend a day with a local family, see how they live and what their life is like. “You can go to these islands and it is real touristy.” Janet said. “They make boats out of reeds that you can ride on and such. But I told one of my guides I wanted to go to an Island where it wasn’t like that. I just want a family that lives a little away and see how they fish, gather reeds, make things with the reeds, and all about how they live. We came back with a real knowledge of those people.” The trips are designed to give a true taste of that culture- delve into it and truly experience it. “Typically, you’re the tourist and there’s the people. I want to mesh those. My business let me do that.” Said Janet.

“The most rewarding part is going back and visiting the same people.”

Janet believes travel changes people for the better because they’re not just seeing the American point of view. She strives to honor cultures that are disappearing and to provide people an outlook on tradition and unique ways of life.   If you would like more information on taking a trip call Janet at 423-737-1496, email her at janetwbrowning@gmail.com, or stop by her shop, Hands Around the World at 111 East Main St., Jonesborough, TN.  

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