Howard Thurman famously said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
I set out to compile a list of “inspiring travel writers,” peers who shared some vague similarity with my own work and lifestyle. What I found, and what you see before you, is really a list of amazing individuals who have come alive.
This isn’t just an assortment of random people I’ve found off the internet. Each one of these people is doing something totally unique, daring, and miraculous. Everyone profiled here is doing something that I believe in, is working to uplift something greater than themselves, and is worth talking about.
Nomads, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, superheroes, healers, storytellers, activists, and Badass Jedi Warriors- that’s really who we are, or who we aspire to be. But for now, here are 13 “Inspiring Travelers” to watch in 2016.
Chris Guillebeau: The Art of Non-Conformity
A guiding light for thousands of freethinking nomads, Chris is one of my biggest influences. Author of the New York Times bestseller, The 100 Dollar Startup, Chris’ website, The Art of Non-Conformity, started as a humble travel blog, and grew into a multifaceted platform to document his (completed) quest to visit all 193 countries on earth. He also produces the World Domination Summit– a convergence of visionary entrepreneurs and travelers which takes over my home city of Portland every summer. At this point, the man is legendary.
Follow Chris at: chrisguillebeau.com/
Why do you travel? Partly out of compulsion- I simply don’t know any alternative But if that sounds negative, its not meant to be. Being on the go is where I feel most at home.
Most memorable travel experience? There are so many. Lets pick one for the sake of a story: in 2002 I arrived in Africa for the first time, sailing on a ship from Cuxhaven, Germany. I looked down at the dock and saw a sea of faces. I looked up at the skyline of Freetown, Sierra Leone- ravaged by war but beautiful nonetheless- and though, “this is going to be an incredible adventure.” And it was.
What is your dream? These days travel is much more of my lifestyle than a goal or dream I’m pursuing. My dream is to help more and more people live remarkable lives in whatever fashion is best for them. And generally speaking, travel is a great way to move that process along.
Danielle Elizabeth Werner: Live Wonderful
I love stories of transformation, and Danielle’s is very much a tale of self-discovery and empowerment through traveling. She’s a top-rate photographer, and a motivational teacher. Her message is simple: live wonderfully. With such a pure-hearted intention, grounded in some serious photographic and travel know-how, Danielle is a great example of living your truth, and helping others do the same.
Follow Danielle at: livewonderful.com/
Why do you travel? Travel is the best teacher. When I am in that space of uncomfortableness and uncertainty, I feel the most alive. I love the mystery, the magic and the heightened awareness that gives me an experience I could never know if I planned ever minute of my day.
Most memorable travel experience? Last spring I found a glitch on priceline and booked a one way ticket from NYC > Milan (2 weeks in europe) > Milan to Prague > Paris > Bangkok > Chiang Mai for all of $200. I ended up staying in Asia for over 7 months! I had no idea where I was going or what I would be doing. But I did it with no plans of creating a return until I was ready! This trip inspired the website, my new found passion for writing and my mission in life…
What is your dream? I love your concept. I feel the same way you do. Every day is a chance to be better. To find yourself again. The point of life is to EN-joy it and I have learned that the best way to feel that joy is to experience new things all the time. Therefore my mission is this: I want to always be inspired to inspire. I want to travel the world, experience life in all different ways, and share my experiences with everyone. I want to show others how to decondition themselves from societal norms and show them that the resources we have available to us today allow us to experience life with such ease and grace and beauty. I want to cut the bullshit, stop playing the “game” of work and life and live a life that I create fully.
Justin Alexander: Adventures of Justin
Justin and I met up one day in Portland, and went for a hike through the Columbia River Gorge. The rest was history. Justin is his own superhero, and acts accordingly. The man has a hobby of scaling iconic bridges and towers (Brooklyn and Golden Gate,) and has recently completed a motorcycle tour all over the US. Justin’s quest is a poetic evocation of man’s place on this wild planet, and shows us how living at our edge is often what can truly makes us come alive. Moto-warrior, ninja, survivalist, traveler- he also happens to be a very nice guy.
Follow Justin at: adventuresofjustin.com/
Why do you travel? The short answer is: I go to see what will happen. I just want to see what the world is like. I’m curious about almost everything. I’m limited by my brain patterns, culture, and language but I thirst for experience. I want to know what is, and I explore to learn for myself: Have long discussions with strangers. Live how they live and learn what they think about. I travel because this lifestyle is the best to provide these types of experiences.
Most memorable travel experience? One that pops to mind immediately is the time I helped save the life of a baby girl in the Himalayas by running 30 miles-to carry her to a doctor- in one day. I’ve never prayed to God until that day. It was one of the most physically and emotionally difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s a long story but she lived
What is your dream? I see my life as an epic adventure and where I am both author and hero. My dream is to live a good life, full of love, discovery, and adventure
Lucy Dablin: forestedearth.com/lucydablin
If hauling a giant anaconda out of the Amazon rainforest doesn’t qualify you as a badass, nothing else will. Lucy Dablin is a woman on a mission. Having worked in the Peruvian Amazon for 8 years, she is a traveler, scientist, and writer dedicated to the guardianship and enrichment of one of my favorite places on earth. Working with organizations like Bosque de los Ninos, Casa de la Selva, and Wild Forests & Fauna, Lucy’s work is truly a gift to the planet.
Follow Lucy at: http://forestedearth.com/lucydablin/
Why do you travel? I travel for love. I love the wild forests of South America. Trying to piece together the complicated threats and solutions to forest loss is a never-ending jigsaw, I love the challenges and opportunities my work presents me with. I have also experienced a positive feedback effect, the more I travel, the more I learn and the more opportunities for further travel are presented. On this journey I have discovered many of my strengths and weaknesses, achieved more than I dreamed was possible, and developed a more global perspective related to the concepts of need, want and happiness.
Most memorable travel experience? An important experience from my most recent trip motivated me to design my PhD research. I was travelling to Palacios, a small community in the Amazon department of Pando, Bolivia, one of the many communities engaged in an agroforestry project supported by the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew. The project had 4 hectares of cattle pasture loaned from a local farmer where there was an experimental trial of a type of tree known to be good at restoring degraded soils. My colleagues and I stopped to check on the experiment, but we were devastated to find the local farmer had removed the fence and the cattle had destroyed the experiment by eating all of the leaves off the trees! As we walked around the field I noticed the trees were already regrowing, putting out new leaves and resisting the heavy browsing of the cattle. I realized that if the cattle could eat these trees without adversely affecting their growth, and these trees were simultaneously restoring the soils, then there was a very interesting opportunity for more sustainable cattle farming in the Amazon. I will spend the next 4 years investigating this possibility.
What is your dream? I envision a world in which the value of ecosystem services are captured by the traditional economic model which enables us to move into a more sustainable paradigm. My dream is to find mutually beneficial outcomes for biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation.
Danny Flood: Open World Magazine
Founder of OpenWorld Magazine, an online publication for travelers, barefoot entrepreneurs, and lifestyle-design enthusiasts, Danny walks his talk. He’s devoted to helping others live lives of purpose and freedom, and achieve financial and location independence. Danny is actively creating a community out of this mish-mash of digital nomads and world travelers- a noble pursuit indeed. (He was too humble to promote it himself but OpenWorld Magazine currently finishing an indiegogo campaign: Check it out here.)
Follow Danny at: openworldmag.com/
Why do you travel? When I started traveling, I was inspired by The Four Hour Workweek and the adventures of its protagonist, Tim Ferriss. But before I even read that book, I was inspired by the exploits of adventurers like Lawrence of Arabia and former US president Herbert Hoover. Hoover became very wealthy due to mining operations he directed in Burma. Siddharta Gautama became Buddha when he left behind his life in a palace to travel and find truth.
At first, I tried to take “mini-retirements” as suggested in The Four Workweek. I took a two-month test run living at a comfortable guesthouse by the sea in Mexico. Then I booked a one-way ticket to South America for three months. Then another one way ticket for a trip which lasted six.
My original plan was to travel only three to six months out of each year and spend the rest at home. That hasn’t happened. It has now been 20 months since I last stepped foot on my home soil. Each month you spend traveling can easily equate to one year back at home. A lot of what I write about and feature on my blog and podcast focuses on personal growth and the inner journey.
Most memorable travel experience? I’ve had so many that it’s difficult for me to pick just one. I’ll always look back fondly on the wild nights in Buenos Aires. Or sailing across the South China Sea solo (I had limited sailing experience and going the direction I wanted was sometimes a struggle). Attempting to paddle upstream in Brazil (and losing one of the paddles in the process). Paragliding in Malaysia was an incredible experience… Wow!
My motorcycle trip across Vietnam was life-changing. So was my solo bicycle trip across Mexico… you quietly arrive along in the middle of nowhere, face-to-face with nature, viewing life in high-definition. Training as a Muay Thai fighter in Bangkok brought me discipline and a greater level of self-assuredness.
I’ve had so many experiences and met so many people all of which have rubbed off on me in some way and made me who I am today, that it’s hard to point to any one as being greater than any of the others.
What is your dream? I thumbed through Tony Hsieh’s book “Delivering Happiness” three years ago at a Kinokuniya book store in Bangkok and have used the main lesson from that he passed on in the book to guide my life’s direction ever since.
What Tony says is this: there are three levels of happiness: pleasure, passion, and purpose.
Since I read that book, I realized that by traveling and doing all of these adventures that I had long dreamt about I was merely pursuing pleasure with some passions sprinkled on the side. I realized that my purpose in life was to be more than my own experiences. I wrote a book, created a blog, podcast, and magazine to inspire others to embark on their own journey of self discovery and grow into who they are meant to become. This way my life experience could extend beyond just myself.
I used to think that purpose was the most meaningful level of living that a person could strive for. Then my friend Michael Costuros of “Entrepreneurs Awakening” told me in a conversation that there’s something even more powerful than your purpose: your essence.
Your essence is who you are, right now, in this moment. It’s the energy that makes up every cell of your being. He taught me how important it is to live and show up for every moment. And I’ve noticed that the entrepreneurs and travelers I’ve met who seem to be the most together live intentionally. They are too engaged in the present moment to worry about the past or the future. They are present wherever they are and do not suffer imaginary anxieties over security or events taking place thousands of miles away.
Scarcely a day goes by when I don’t devote attention and time to these last two levels: purpose and essence. I live intentionally, give myself fully to the moment, and stay focused on my direction and what I wish to create in the world.
Shayna Gladstone & Bryan Arturo: NuMundo, Earth Journeys
Shayna is the intrepid co-founder of the revolutionary, up-and-coming social media platform, NuMundo. Byran is the director of their Pathfinders program, and facilitates nature immersion retreats through Earth Journeys. Together, they are a couple-team that weave a vast and inspiring web of impact-oriented projects and individuals that all strive to move our world forward through sustainability and community activation. I can’t say enough good things about these two, besides that I’m grateful to have them as my allies and friends.
Follow them at: NuMundo & Earth Journeys
Shayna: Why do you travel? For me, travel is the choice I’ve made to be able to live in alignment with my values and live rent free which allows me to focus on projects I’m most passionate about. I travel so that I can push the edge of my comfort zone and be adaptable to any environment. I travel to learn about myself using my circumstances as a mirror to positively grow from.
Most memorable travel experience? In the winter of 2013/2014 guiding 2 buses and 23 earth warriors on a 4 month permaculture adventure through Central America was not only my first independent travel out of the country but also the biggest growing and culturally educating experience of my life. My leadership skills were quickly developed through having to problem solve quickly, listen compassionately and most of all act and live in integrity with our teams highest collective vision.
What is your dream? To empower people to reconnect with the earth and understand that we ARE nature by providing an outlet for exploration of our intrinsic gifts, ability to transform our perspectives on the world and become powerful change-makers on this earth. I’m doing this through my 3 organizations, NuMundo, Earth Journeys and Dream Activation.
Bryan: why do you travel? I travel to keep all my senses fine tuned and practice bringing my full authentic self to any situation. By breaking my routines and being open to new experiences I am accelerating my growth. Through travel I have discovered what my intrinsic gifts are which allows me to contribute to projects and teams in a more meaningful way. Experiencing different cultures allows me to think outside the box and challenge my basic assumptions.
Most memorable travel experience? My most important travel experience was a permaculture and appropriate technology apprenticeship I completed in the last remaining coastal jungle of Ecuador. My family is from Ecuador so I reconnected with my roots while being completely immersed in nature. The solitude of living in a village provided important reflections to my psyche and felt like a right of passage. I feel more confident and connected after thriving in such a different environment.
What is your dream? My dream is that each individual on the planet works together to live in a way that regenerates our wellbeing and the ecology. With a permaculture mindset, I imagine stacking functions by being a land steward who grows food and invites others to explore their relationship with nature. We can accomplish anything on the grassroots level by collaborating instead of competing. I have lived this experience at ecovillages around the world. I’m starting here NuMundo and here Earth Journeys.
Sahara Rose: Eat Feel Fresh, Saraswati Couture
“I was in LA for about 2 and half months, having a great time, and then something hit me,” begins Sahara in her video. She goes on to explain why, “I decided to leave my comfortable life and travel the world by myself.” This is a story that is being told over and over again in our generation, but few do it as eloquently as Sahara Rose. Writing about healthy living and spirituality on her blog, Sahara also started a clothing company using textile scraps to help support victims of sex trafficking in India.
Follow Sahara at: eatfeelfresh.com/
Why do you travel? I travel because it makes me feel alive. Because life is too short to be defined by a box, a job, a title or a mindframe. It’s meant to be experienced in all of its colors.
Most memorable travel experience? My most memorable experience would have to be traveling to the slums of India. I met many women who were formerly in sexual trafficking and wanted to find a way to support themselves so they didn’t have to go back into the business. I noticed in the slums, they were manufacturing beautiful saris with elegant cloths and ornate designs. The leftover material was being thrown away. Suddenly the idea clicked- I would make pants using the leftover sari material and teach the women in sexual trafficking how to make them. Thus Saraswati Couture was born, named after the goddess of creativity.
What is your dream? My dream is to share the mind-body connection and infuse ancient Vedic wisdom with modern nutritional science. My upcoming book, Eat Right for Your Mind-Body Type, is based on exactly that. I’ve dedicated the past two years to my life to writing this book and i truly believe it will benefit so many people, the way these Eastern and Western philosophies have transformed my own well-being. The book and a quiz to determine your mind-body type will be available on my website, eatfeelfresh.com.
Mike Sowdon: Fevered Mutterings
Few writers have made me laugh out loud like “traveling disaster” Mike Sowdon. This UK native has a true knack for storytelling, and teaches others how to use the magic of story to animate their own writing. Mike’s personality and humor so clearly shines through his pieces, and is unabashedly himself- a feat easier said than done in this age of digital personas. I haven’t met the guy, but I imagine Mike like a slightly disheveled, English Buddha, constantly chuckling at the cosmic joke that is life.
Follow Mike at: feveredmutterings.com/
Why Do You Travel? Because I’m English and the weather is foul here. Or, being less flippant and prosaic, because of the Socratic paradox: [ἓν οἶδα ὅτι] οὐδὲν οἶδα” / “I know that I know nothing.”
Basically, the more I travel, the more I realise I know too little about the world, and the more I have to write about. It’s a great solution for anyone who wants to be a writer but feels like they have nothing to say. Travel makes your brain hungrier.
Most Important Travel Experience Most of my personal revelations and idea-making sessions have occurred when I’m walking, and one of the best was a 5-hour stroll across Berlin one night in 2011, where I was attending the ITB travel trade show. My hotel was in the west of the city, I attended a tweet-up in the far east, and I got out of that bar after the U-bahn and S-bahn stopped running. I figured my only option was to walk (I didn’t know about the night buses), so that’s what I did. 25 years previously it would have involved bringing all my possessions in a wildly dangerous bid for a new life, and I probably would have been shot. Now it was a comfortable, atmospheric stroll in a light drizzle, carrying nothing more than a can of Coke and a rapidly disintegrating hotel-provided map of the city. How quickly things can change.
Walking has amazing power. It costs very little, it’s rich with experiences, it keeps you in great shape, and all you need is lots of time. With enough time, you can walk right across a whole planet, as journalist Paul Salopek is currently proving: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/13/opinion/exploring-the-world-on-foot.html?_r=0 My Berlin walk was where I first truly felt all that for myself.
What is Your Dream? I grew up loving narrative travel writing – and we’re in the middle of a storytelling renaissance. Seriously, the growth of ebook entrepreneurship, of podcasting, of new models for commercially sustainable blogging…it’s dizzying and exciting (and stressful and scary too, because the rate of change is so fast). Travel writing has yet to fully benefit. Hardly anyone is making a good living from travel narrative. Meanwhile, some people are carving out amazing careers telling stories to their ever-increasing audiences – and many of them are non-fiction (The Serial podcast, for example, with a listenership of millions.). Is there a way to bridge the gap between travel writing and commercially successful new-media storytelling? I believe so – and it’s my dream to be part of it. My own experiments start this year!
Jay Abdullahi: Jay on Life
Here’s the truth: traveling is a privilege. The majority of today’s “travel writers” seem to be able-bodied white men- myself included. Jay flips that all on its head. Born in Nigeria, she contracted polio at a young age, resulting in a leg disability. But Jay manages to find the gold in all of it (a true alchemist,) and tells her own stories of traveling, not just as a solo black woman, but “traveling while crip.” The word “inspiration” doesn’t do her justice. Watch this girl, because she’s going to be famous.
Follow Jay at: jayonlife.com/
Why do you travel? I travel because I can. I have the amazing privilege to pick up a map, choose a country and just go. And that is absolutely amazing. Many others in my position do not have the opportunity to do so, and I try to grab each chance I get with both hands.
Most memorable travel experience? Embarking on a 2 month adventure around the US, Canada and Jamaica all by myself. It is still the longest trip I have done, and really put me out there and allowed me to meet different people and trust in my own instincts and abilities.
What is your dream? My dream is to be able to go back to my home country of Nigeria and inspire and help others like myself to travel. I want disabled kids and young adults to see more of the world, and know that there most certainly is a place for them. They are welcome.
Ivan Kuxan Suum: Ancient Futures
Dedicating almost a decade to working with indigenous cultures of North, Central, and South America, Ivan is a documentarian, social entrepreneur, and indigenous rights advocate. With a focus on the intersection of ancient traditions, modern rituals, festival culture, and spirituality, Ivan’s blog is a visually rich resource which will transport you into realms you never thought existed.
Follow Ivan at: ancient-futures.com/
Why do you travel? Travel is my life. I grew up traveling with my family, spending part of my childhood in Africa and also Mexico, where I was born.
For several years I led adventure tours through Central America and then escaped to Asia exploring freelance photojournalism focused on festivals and spirituality.
I am not really interested in travelling for tourism but am now more focused on developing cultural bridges and environmental awareness and usually travel with specific projects and events. Share some of my experiences and projects as well as photojournalism work in my blog www.ancient-futures.org
Most memorable travel experience? As a kid, around 12 years old, I traveled with my family from Katmandu, Nepal to Lhasa, the ancient capital of Tibet, at a time when Tibet was mostly closed to tourists and under Chinese military occupation. Our journey was that one to visit the sacred places of Tibet and to come in contact with the living spirituality of the Himalayas. For 10 days we travelled across one of the most extreme landscapes I have ever experiences. We visited monasteries and temples of Tibetan Buddhism that profoundly impacted me and really opened my eyes to the beauty of human spirituality and recognizing the value of vanishing cultures and traditions.
What is your Dream? I believe that we are currently in the midst of the emergence of a massive global grassroots movement for the holistic regeneration of the earth. Thru my current travels and projects I have become engaged with a global community of planetary, networks, gatherings and collectives dedicated to the manifestation of an environmentally friendly, socially just and spirituality aligned reality on planet earth.
In the future I imagine clean water, clean air, abundant and healthy food, happy and healthy humans working together in flourishing communities in peace between one another and honoring the earth and its elements in a sacred manner. This is the world I envision because this is the world I want to live in and that I believe we all deserve to live in.
Dennis Walker & Becca Coe: Untethered Together
Traveling as a couple is not easy, but these two lovebirds make it look like a dream. Untethered Together is the shared journey of Dennis Walker (my friend from freshman year of college!) and Becca Coe- two like-minded nomads who found each other, and are doing the one thing that every couple should do before they make any other serious life choices. Captured beautifully through video and text, these two are an inspiration for anyone, not just couples, that wishes to, as Rumi says, “travel the way of the heart.”
Follow them at: untetheredtogether.com/
Why do you travel? We travel because it’s the best way we’ve found to understand the global village that we live in, and a ‘baptism by fire’ in the art of dealing with change. We travel as an alternative way of living; many people piously devote themselves to a 9 to 5 hustle, and then have little to show for it due to sapped energy and lifestyle expenses. We blog (and vlog!) to demonstrate that long term travel is a viable pursuit, and that there is literally an entire world out there to explore on your own terms — and you don’t need a trust fund or retirement skrilla to do it!
Most memorable travel experience? After more than a year of long term travel spread out over 5 continents, we have so many experiences to select from the ‘most memorable’ bin. One of our favorite stories to recount is when we were invited to an “Israeli Rave in the forest” near Pokhara, Nepal — of course we traveled 2 hours on foot, moto, pulley system and raft to arrive at a remote bamboo shack with an iPod (no speakers) playing western pop music to an empty dirt dance floor– and drastically overpriced beers. Our ‘guides’ quickly abandoned us after insisting that we spend the night there, so naturally our group of 7 commandeered one of their tiny boats and rowed away like a bunch of pirates singing sea chanteys and swigging cheap whiskey. The experience reaffirmed that it’s the journey that counts, not the destination.
What is your Dream? Easy! Our dream is to be location independent and to sustain this lifestyle indefinitely.