With nearly 200 years of collective experience creating tours, the Ed-Ventures staff has gained the skills and earned a reputation for delivering top notch customized group tours to destinations around the world. We offer customized tour itineraries for adult tour groups, student tour groups and faith-based tour groups that are fully escorted and highly inclusive.
The “Ed” in Ed-Ventures stands for education, having started as a company offering tours for student tours. Times changed and our company expanded. Now, for nearly 50 years we’ve operated tours for groups of adults as well as students. What hasn’t changed is our emphasis on quality and an experience that is life changing. We customize every detail of each tour we operate, and our list of tours with available space changes regularly, so please check back regularly.
Ed, Spirit of Ed-Ventures
Ed believes that Americans have rights and that one of those rights is the freedom to travel. He is very approachable and listens to your wishes. He’s outgoing, friendly, and genuinely cares about others. If he is hosting a party, dinner, or tour, he feels responsible for making sure all his guests are having a good time. Ed is fascinated by anything relating to other cultures, whether it be language, customs or beliefs. This makes him not only an enthusiastic traveler, but a life-time learner.
Larry Larsen, Founder (RIP)
A former mathematics and German teacher, Larry first traveled with his own students in 1974. In 1977 he helped found a European tour company and there was no turning back. Larry had a B.A. in German from Concordia, Moorhead, Minnesota, and a M.A. in German from Mankato State College. He guided the growth of Ed-Ventures, reaching out to travelers from most of the 50 states. His spare time activities included church and community leadership. Larry and his late wife, Joanne, had 5 children, 14 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren.
Paul Larsen, President and Sales Manager
Paul brings a German minor from Concordia College along with 20 years of previous financial expertise to the company. He worked as a CPA and in the commercial real estate and transportation industries. He is the past Chair of the National Tour Association and sits on the advisory board of Explore MN. He helped create the Faith Travel Association. Since 2002, he has been with Ed-Ventures traveling and developing relationships in Central Europe, Egypt, Israel, and Central America. Paul currently serves in a variety of leadership roles in his neighborhood, community and church. He specifically enjoys projects that break down walls and bring people together. Music-based tours, service/mission tours and tours that build cross-cultural friendships are some of the ways Paul uses tours to help people experience significance.
Shannon Larsen, Co-Owner and Operations Manager
Shannon attended Mankato State University where she graduated with majors in International Business and Marketing along with a minor in Spanish. She is actively involved in the community, including Rochester Water Ski Shows and veteran’s organizations/events. Shannon additionally had the benefit of growing up in a family steeped in travel and tour tradition. As an MP, she served with the U.S. Army in multiple settings, and has traveled extensively. Between the Army, involvement with Ed-Ventures and family experiences, Shannon has traveled to nearly 50 countries. Her greatest strength is her knowledge of mainland Europe and planning unique itineraries and faith-based journeys. Shannon’s extensive travel to multiple European countries provides helpful resources and insights. Her favorite places so far range from the majestic Swiss Alps to the zebra-laden plains of Ethiopia to the calm waters of the Dead Sea back to home and Minnesota’s lakes.
Amanda Ako, Tour Coordinator
Amanda graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with degrees in Management and French. Already possessing the travel bug from studies in France, she enrolled in the U.S. Peace Corps where she served as a Small Enterprise Developer in a rural community in Togo, West Africa. After returning from her service she continued her travels by taking a job in China. After four and a half years in education management in China, she moved back to her native Rochester with her husband. She enjoys learning and speaking foreign languages, reading and playing guitar. She hopes to be able to keep up on her Mandarin skills and knowledge of China through coordinating tours there for Ed-Ventures.
Paul Andersen, Finance
Paul has been the accountant/bookkeeper at Ed-Ventures since Jan. 2001. He graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, after which he worked as a bank examiner. Upon retirement, he joined Ed-Ventures putting his vast banking knowledge to good use. Paul is very involved with his church, Community Bible Studies and charity work. He enjoys fishing and loves being Papa to his grandchildren.
Heather Anderton, Administrative Assistant
Heather grew up on a farm in SW Minnesota and has lived in Rochester for over twenty years. She began her college education at South Dakota State University and married her husband after her second year. She transferred to two more colleges as they moved for his job and graduated from Northern State University with a degree in Elementary Education with special interests in Music and Geography. She and her husband have three adult children who have scattered around the country, so they travel to spend time with their family. Heather has taught piano lessons, sings with her church worship team, tutored children, and been an administrative assistant. She enjoys reading, hiking, bicycling, making finger-crocheted blankets, and being involved with her church family. Heather and her husband hope to travel more now that the kids are out of the nest!
Meagan Cain, Tour Coordinator
Meagan grew up in the small town of Marinette, Wisconsin on Lake Michigan. Growing up in this part of the Midwest means that being a packer fan runs in her blood. During her young adult years, she moved to Minnesota and received her bachelor’s degree in Vocal Music Education from Winona State University. Meagan is a former High School Choir Director and Church Music Director. Her extensive musical background has allowed her travel experiences all over the world from Europe to China. Being a die-hard lover of music, faith, and adventure, her aim is to provide student music ensembles similar experiences and memories through travel as she has had. When she isn’t glued to a computer screen, she is spending time with her family, coaching high school colorguard, arranging music or practicing piano. Meagan currently resides in Iowa with her husband, son and two young daughters.
Makayla Krajewski, Tour Coordinator
Makayla grew up in Rochester, MN, and graduated with a degree in personal training and sports performance. She then spent a couple years traveling around the world as a professional figure skater with Disney on Ice. Through living on the road and out of a suitcase for months at a time, she made friends around the world, learned lots of travel hacks and got to see and experience so many beautiful places! She enjoys participating on global service/outreach trips, some memorable highlights were volunteering in a Guatemalan children’s hospital, and dancing to Bollywood music on the rooftops in the Himalayan mountains of northern India. Makayla also coaches figure skating and has an international certification in sports performance training for athletes of all kinds. She enjoys learning other languages, checking out local coffee shops, hiking with her two Siberian Huskies, Luna and Mishka, and of course traveling with friends and family!
Athena Loftus, Tour Coordinator
Athena graduated from RCTC with her associate degree and is working toward a major in Museum Studies and minoring in Italian at ASU. She travelled with the International Lions Clubs Ambassadors to England, Italy, and Switzerland where she learned the transformative power of travel. Athena previously worked as a cheese monger and gained an appreciation for all things artisanal: from street food to chef tastings. She has special interests in mythologies of the world, automotive history, Irish whiskey, archaeology, and storytelling. Next on Athena’s travel list is to visit South or Central America to experience the awe of pre-Colombian temples and craftsmanship. She cares about mental health, the LGBTQ+ community, and clear, intergenerational communication. Outside the office she spends her time reading, rock climbing, scuba diving, creating music, trying new things, and attending local events.
Debra Ruzbasan, Sales
Debra graduated from the University of Indiana with a double-major B.A. in Theater and French and an M.B.A. She spent a year as an exchange student in Dinant, Belgium and taught with the English language program at Hiroshima (Japan) Schools. Debra has worked for the tourist boards of Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Quebec, and as the U.S. representative for a German hotel chain. Her travels have taken her to at least 30 countries, with her next trip always in the planning stages.
Sonja Vogen, Finance
Sonja is our staff accountant here at Ed-Ventures, Inc. She graduated from Winona State University with a B.S. in Accounting. Outside of work Sonja enjoys bowling, MN Wild Hockey, NASCAR and relaxing with a book. She also spends as much time with her family and friends as she can and loves to dote on her nephews.
Michelle Wiegand, Tour Coordinator and Airfare Purchaser
Michelle graduated from University of Minnesota-Mankato with a B.A in Psychology and a minor in Sociology. In 1996, she went to Travel School at Carlson Travel Academy in Bloomington. She has been in the travel industry ever since as a leisure agent or corporate agent. Places she has visited are Holland, Canada, Mexico, a couple of cruises and several areas in the United States. She is kept busy with three kids and a husband. Free time activities include cross stitching, movies, creating digital photo books and just relaxing with friends and family.
Theresa Wilson, Marketing
Theresa's parents, who were both in the US Army, met while on an airplane from the US to France. She was only 3 months old when she experienced her first international flight (probably to the dismay of her fellow passengers!) Growing up as an "Army Brat", she attended 10 different schools by the time she graduated from college, including Heidelberg American High School in Germany. She is married to her best friend, Mark, and they are the parents of two adult children, and grandparents to two.