About Us

About CCJ

Cross Cultural Journeys (CCJ) and our foundation, Cross Cultural Journey Foundation (CCJF) travel  to more than 25 destinations worldwide and welcomes the chance to take you on an incredible journey.

Our team of travel experts is passionate about helping to create transformative and personal experiences that will last a lifetime. We explore the art, history and music of the contemporary and indigenous cultures that we visit. We spend time with the local people, experience the natural beauty, learn about social justice, the health of the environment and the practices of the land. We also take time to understand the underlying cultural values, beliefs and norms that drive the behaviors we see and experience.

Our Team

Cilla Utne, Owner and CEO

Cilla is the owner and CEO of CCJ since January of 2015. A native of Sweden and a world traveler, she has lived for extended periods in Spain, the UK, Chile and Guatemala and has been based in the US since the late 1990's. She holds an undergraduate in intercultural studies from Stockholm University and an MBA in Sustainability from Presidio Graduate School. Cilla also wears the hats of intercultural trainer and consultant and is also a facilitator of systemic and family constellations. A budding author, she is also working on a trans-generational memoir about her mother’s childhood. Cilla recently returned to live for a time in Sweden with her son, managing CCJ's Europe office. Cilla loves nature and the outdoors, good food, yoga, healing and meditation, watching her son's soccer games and taking long walks with her French bulldog Lola. The family lives in the picturesque archipelago near Norrtälje, Sweden, an hour North of Stockholm.

Kat Sorensen, Journey Operations Manager

Kat joined CCJ in summer of 2022, and has taken an important role to oversee and manage the 'backroom' coordination and trip-planning for most of our itineraries, as well as interaction with travelers for pre-departure logistics. Kat lives in Kingston, WA on a 10-acre hobby farm with her husband, Mat, and their menagerie of animals. When she's not chasing alpacas and goats, she can be found practicing yoga. Kat is a Certified 500-Hour Yoga Teacher with over 800 hours of teaching experience. She received trainings from schools in Bali and Costa Rica. In addition to farming and yoga, Kat loves to travel plan...almost as much as taking the trips themselves! You will see Kat on some future trips, likely including yoga, meditation, healthy food, and lots of adventure! She’s always game to lead our travelers in a morning yoga class!

Zuzana West, Executive Assistant

Zuzana has been collaborating with Cross Cultural Journeys since 2019. Originally from Prague, Czech Republic, she considers herself a global citizen. Zuzana has lived in Nepal, Bulgaria and Cambodia and travelled to more than 30 countries worldwide. With a career in the hospitality industry that spans over two decades, assisting with creating itineraries and arranging travel logistics. Zuzana has also worked for the relocation company Graebel. The mother of two teenage daugthers, she recently returned to Bainbridge Island, WA after living for a two years back in her native Czech Republic, where her daughters attended The International School of Prauge. She is passionate about environmentally and culturally responsible immersive travel and stepping off the beaten path while exploring new or even familiar places. 

Mark Lapiy, Marketing Specialist

Mark joined CCJ recently and has taken on the role of facilitating and implementing all marketing strategies; he is also responsible for maintaining and updating the website, social media pages, and e-newsletters, ensuring that our digital footprint reflects all the work we have done over the past 30 years. Mark lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, and was originally born in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Mark's family always made traveling a priority, allowing him to visit many countries across the world, including the Czech Republic, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Curaçao, and Cuba, just to name a few. In his free time, Mark enjoys exploring the outdoors by hiking, camping, and kayaking, but he also enjoys reading, playing the guitar, and spending time with his lovely girlfriend, Jada.

Shannon Raymond-Becker, Bookkeeper

Shannon created Pier 52 bookkeeping with a burning desire to grow Bainbridge Island’s businesses to the next level and to better support her family in the process. By providing personalized bookkeeping support and advanced financial advisory services, she helps businesses achieve their goals and run better, more sustainable businesses every day. In Shannon's free time, she spends most of her time with her amazing son and doing her favorite things in the great outdoors – running, hiking, camping, and gardening.

Away Team

Jesus Noguera Ravelo, Cuba Expert

Jesus is a sought after Cuba guide based in Havana. A graduate of the Higher Institute for and International Relations (ISRI), he has over 20 years of experience in the field. Jesus has an untiring curiosity for the world. A father of two beautiful daughters and one grand-daughter, Jesus speaks several languages and has visited over 30 countries worldwide. When he is not globe-trotting, or guiding international travelers around the hidden gems of Cuba, he spends his time living between Cuba and Italy.


Socially responsible travel for individuals and member organizations interested in global awareness, indigenous wisdoms and societies at the crossroads.