Making a Positive Impact While Traveling Series: Interview with Mary Storrie, Founder and CEO of Think Pink Tuk Tuks in Sri Lanka

Over the years, Talk Travel Asia has regularly explored the topic of Responsible Travel. After all, we need to preserve the places we visit in order to enjoy them in the future, and to treat local communities with respect along the way. We’ve looked at the work of Andaman Discoveries, discussed Overtourism, learned about the Living Irrawaddy Project, chatted with the good people at Friends International, and many more. Today we’ll chat with Mary Storrie, who has started a charity that empowers Sri Lankan women to drive tuk tuks, earning much needed funds and slowly changing cultural gender norms.

Think Pink Tuk Tuks founder Mary Storrie on Talk Travel Asia podcast. Pink Tuk Tuks in Sri Lanka! (courtesy of Mary Storrie)

Rosie May: Her tragedy served as inspiration for this wonderful project.

Introduction: Trevor: After listening to Episode 117: Traveling by Tuk Tuk with Julian Carnall, Mary Storrie reached out to us about her tuk tuk project, Think Pink Tuk, and Scott and I decided to revisit Responsible Tourism. Today we’ll have Mary come on to talk about her foundation and how tourism continues to make a positive impact even in tough times.

Scott: We didn’t set out to focus on responsible organizations, but it’s happened organically and we’ve chatted with some really interesting people and organizations over the years. It sure is getting easier to travel with a purpose and have a positive impact than it was a decade ago. That said, pre-COVID, there are so many more people traveling, we need to really consider how we travel, or we’re going to quickly destroy the places we’re visiting.

Rosie May Foundation founder Mary Storrie on Talk Travel Asia Podcast (courtesy of Mary Storrie)
The Think Pink Drivers (courtesy of Mary Storrie)

Trevor: I’ve always lived in tourist towns and I studied Environmental Social Science at USC so I’ve always had a passion for responsible tourism. Once I started writing for Fodors and National Geographic, I obviously promoted responsible travel practices and activities. I think it’s great that so many of our shows focus on it. 

Scott: I’ve never thought about the fact that I live in one of the most visited cities in the world. I guess I live in the center of tourism! While I love all the causes and organizations we’ve featured, I really like Refill Not Landfill and drawing attention to less plastic waste in general. I also like Angkor Hospital for Children which we have not formally featured and Highland Farm Gibbon Sanctuary, as well as Phare the Cambodian Circus.

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Think Pink Tuk Tuks founder Mary Storrie on Talk Travel Asia podcast. Pink Tuk Tuks in Sri Lanka! (courtesy of Mary Storrie)
Mary Storrie: CEO and Founder of Think Pink Tuk Tuks

Trevor: We’ve had several great guests come on the show to talk about responsible tourism initiatives. Bodhi and Andaman Discoveries is great. I still want to do the Mokken Experience homestay on Surin island. Otherwise, there are so many here in Cambodia: Cambodian Living Arts, which we supported with tourism when I worked at EXO and Ameer is supporting with his project we’ll talk about today. Otherwise Free the Bears, which is in Laos and here in Cambodia is such a wonderful tourism experience and it really makes an impact on protecting endangered Sun and Moon bears. Love Free the Bears. I’m excited to add Mary Storrie to our list of great guests doing great things to make an impact in Asia.

Think Pink Tuk Tuks founder Mary Storrie on Talk Travel Asia podcast
Pink Tuk Tuks in Sri Lanka! (courtesy of Mary Storrie)

The Rosie May Foundation

Mary Storrie is the co-founder of the Rosie May Foundation. After the tragic murder of her 10-year-old daughter Rosie in 2003, Mary, her husband, and their two sons decided to create a legacy for their daughter and visited Sri Lanka in 2004 to plant a tree in her honor. But then the Tsunami hit, changing hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives in the process. The Foundation then opened a home in Sri Lanka for girls who lost parents in the tsunami, and their work has grown by leaps and bounds since then. Lucky for us, Mary reached out to us after hearing our Traveling by Tuk Tuk episode and we asked her to come on the show to talk about Think Pink Tuks in Sri Lanka, which is training the first women taxi drivers who specialize in driving for other women, children, and tourists to Sri Lanka! Today, Mary joins us online from Nothingham, UK.

Think Pink Tuk Tuks founder Mary Storrie on Talk Travel Asia podcast. Pink Tuk Tuks in Sri Lanka! (courtesy of Mary Storrie)
Pink Tuk Tuks success story (courtesy of Mary Storrie)

Listen to Episode 123 to hear Mary’s answers to the following questions: 

  • Hi Mary, the origin story of your foundation is both heartbreaking and amazing. Without completely reliving it, can you give us a quick overview of what happened and how it led you to start the foundation?
  • Why did you choose Sri Lanka and what do you love about it?
  • How long did it take for that first project to really get working well?
  • We’re going to focus specifically on your project – The Future is Pink – which is a tuk-tuk program in Sri Lanka for women. Tell us about it.
  • How has it been going so far – what are the challenges?
  • What does the typical profile of a driver look like?
  • Where does funding come from?
  • What do non-female Sri Lankans think of this program and women driving tuk tuks?
  • How can travelers get involved?
  • What other projects might our listeners want to learn about?
  • Where can people learn more about what you do?
Rosie May Foundation founder Mary Storrie on Talk Travel Asia Podcast (courtesy of Mary Storrie)

Click the link below to support the Rosie May foundation

Learn more about Responsible Travel in Asia

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