Patil Toutounjian, “The Armenian Traveler”

Patil Toutounjian ziplining in the homeland

Patil Toutounjian and I had “known” each other virtually, but we finally got to meet in person in late November. We had a delightful time at My Cafe LA on Artsakh Street in Glendale, California, and our conversation was tremendously enlightening and uplifting.

Toutounjian was born and raised in the Armenian community in Aleppo, Syria. In 2011, when she was 17, the family immigrated to Toronto, Canada. Moving at the age of 17 was very difficult for Toutounjian, as she was trying to find herself and her purpose. She focused on her education and career, and after graduating with a degree in business marketing, she started working as the marketing manager for a commercial real estate company in Canada. After five years, she did some self reflection and realized that something was missing in her life. She craved the sense of belonging that she had felt in Aleppo, surrounded by the Armenian community.

In 2018, she resigned from her job and got a one-way ticket to volunteer in Armenia with the Birthright Armenia program. She had no idea what to expect. “Feeling a little nervous but a lot more excited, I arrived in Armenia to begin this new chapter of my life,” Toutounjian said.

After four months of volunteering, she was given the opportunity to work for the Birthright Armenia organization as the alumni coordinator. She enjoyed being a part of every volunteer’s journey and making connections with Armenians from around the world.

In 2020, she visited Canada, planning to visit her family for a month. However, when the  coronavirus pandemic started and everything was shut down, she was not able to return to Armenia.

In April of 2020, she was at a crossroads—she could either return to her previous job in Canada or find a way to virtually stay connected to Armenia and the community she had there. She decided to put all of her marketing and e-commerce experience into play to support Armenian artists around the world. Thus, Tatik Streetwear was born. Tatik, meaning grandmother in Armenian, brings the work of Armenian artists to life through streetwear.

Artsakh is always near and dear

This work was fulfilling for her, not only because it empowers Armenian artists, but also because it helps tell the Armenian story around the world. During the 2020 Artsakh War, Toutounjian donated 100-percent of profits from the website to Armenia and Artsakh. “Artists from around the world donated their designs, designs that told our story, and brought the international community’s attention to what was happening. Together, they were able to donate over $85,000 USD,” Toutounjian said.  

As soon as the borders opened up and Toutounjian was able to travel again, she got on the first plane to Armenia. After her arrival, she received a lot of questions on social media regarding the current state of Armenia, travel restrictions and requirements from Armenians who were keen to travel to Armenia. She decided to make a small video to answer all these questions while showing the world her day-to-day life in Armenia. With every video she posted, she received many more travel questions like: “Is Armenia safe?” “Do I need a visa to travel to Armenia?” “What’s the average cost of living?”

She realized that there is a lot of need to show the world the beauty of Armenia and Armenian diaspora communities and spread awareness. This is when her YouTube channel was officially born, the Armenian Traveler.

“My channel is still very young, but my aim is to continue visiting Armenian communities around the world to shed light on their work, empower one another and grow the community together,” Toutounjian said.

Talar Keoseyan

Talar Keoseyan

Talar Keoseyan is a mother, educator and writer. Talar’s books "Mom and Dad, Why Do I Need to Know My Armenian Heritage?", "Tigran’s Song and "Our Tigran" are available on Amazon. She has been an educator for 26 years and resides in Los Angeles, CA. She can be reached at talar725@gmail.com.

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