Inspiring Travel Alchemists to Watch – 2017

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.” -Henry David Thoreau

What is a “travel alchemist?” A person, who through passion, vision, and strength of spirit, is able to transform the raw and unruly experiences of world travel into something of value and benefit to themselves, and to the world around them.

As a traveler, one of the hardest things to find is a true sense of community. We are consistently uprooted, blown about the edges of the globe, landing in remote regions where nobody knows our name. The past few years, its been rare if I even unpack by bags at all.

Yet sometimes we converge, and develop bonds of kinship grounded in  mutual appreciation for each other’s path, mission, and work. Other times we meet only once, maybe at a hostel, a festival, or a conference, and stay connected for years.

This year’s list of Inspiring Travel Alchemists is all about community. Most of these folks I’ve met in person somewhere along the way, or have heard of them and their work through the grapevine of inspiration that the Internet can often become.

Everyone featured here is doing amazing things to uplift and build community in ways that leave me feeling not just good, but excited about the world. The people you find before you are world-class examples of how travelers can be transformational leaders and change makers in a world that needs all the help it can get.

Entrepreneurs, activists, filmmakers, event producers, photographers, writers- we all choose our unique paths through which our gifts are most easily able to shine. The question is: what will you do to transform the world’s problems into gold?

Trust your journey, follow your passion, take action, and in the words of Thoreau…


I’d like to dedicate this to my friend Justin Alexander, featured in last year’s list, who was lost this year while trekking in the Himalayas. Justin said he longed to see a stronger sense of community amongst us nomads, and this is a small step towards cultivating that. Ride on brother.


Kumiko Hayashi – The Roots Awaken

Kumiko is a cross-cultural filmmaker and world-bridger who has worked throughout the Americas to document the living struggle that indigenous tribes face today. This woman is a warrior, an artist, and a heartfelt activist who is devoting her life to working with indigenous peoples, from the Amazon, to Standing Rock. She recently released her documentary film, The Roots Awaken, about the rise of indigenous cultural and environmental movements in Latin America, and is planning on returning there shortly to share the film with many of the communities featured.

Watch the official trailer for her film, here.


Konrad Waliszewski – gokonrad.com, Tripscout

Founder and CEO of the Tripscout app, a former investment banker-turned-nomad, Konrad has lived a very interesting life. The son of Polish immigrants who were imprisoned by the Soviet regime for their political activity who then immigrated to the United States, Konrad’s background makes this guy all the more inspiring. Currently living in Cairo, Konrad is one of the most intrepid and humble travelers I know (he recently visited Papua New Guinea,) and is a shining example of how travel can become not just a hobby, but an entrepreneurial path and lifestyle which still allows one to have a family.

Whats your favorite place you’ve been this year and why?

I went to 34 countries this past year, so that is a hard question to answer! I will summarize it like this: Vietnam was the most delicious, Georgia and Ethiopia were the most underrated, Iceland and Namibia were the most beautiful, South Africa was the most fun, Laos was the most relaxing, and Somalia was the most eye opening. I also really enjoyed Senegal, Denmark, Sweden, China, and Turkey. How is that for a non-answer to a simple question?

How have you turned travel into a life path, career, or business? 

Prioritization and hard work. It’s not rocket science, you have to figure out what you really want, make decisions that support it, and work your ass off to make it happen. I’ve made scarifies and turned down great opportunities to make a life of travel possible. It’s easier now that travel is core to my day job (as the CEO/co-founder of the travel app, TripScout), but I’ve made this lifestyle work through a variety of other careers so I know there are multiple paths.


Maia Balam – Traveliving, Amerikua 

Maia is a Mexican pro-Indigenous Film maker, photographer and activist. She has been documenting the lives of Indigenous peoples across the continent for the last 10 years, supporting different eco-Indigenous causes and creating awareness by uniting different networks in the “Eagle-Condor-Quetzal” alliance. From the Huichol Wirikuta desert to the Mayas in the Lacandon Jungle, to the Salish First Nations up in Canada, Maia serves as a communication bridge, collecting stories from across the continent and giving voice to marginalized causes, which can be seen at: AMERIKUA- Indigenous Multimedia Network.

She is also the author of the recently released book, TRAVELIVING: The Complete Guide for Sustainable Travel in Latin Amerikua. 

Whats your favorite place you’ve been this year and why?

That has to be Squamish- a gorgeous natural location on the southwest of British Columbia, Canada. Its a nexus of multiple extreme sports, from wild salmon fishing, to rock climbing, kayaking, hiking snow covered mountains, camping besides hot springs, etc. Last time I was there with my partner, we camped in the forest for 4 days. The first day we went fishing with Jake, one of the First Nations Squamish park rangers who became our friend. We roasted wild salmon on a camp fire near some hot springs, and had smoked salmon for the rest of the trip. What else can you ask for?

How have you turned travel into a life path, career, or business?

Well, that began when I realized I didn’t wanted to subscribe to a 9 to 7 job in the city. I started traveling and doing photo expeditions in Indigenous towns in Mexico while I was still in Art school, exposing myself to new cultures and new ways of relating to the world because I was done with society. Since the beginning of my travels I knew I had to sell some kind of product to make a living on the road, so I started selling hand made jewelry and chocolates, then I kept investing in better materials, until one day I was able to travel to other countries thanks to my micro business and the other skills that I had developed through years such as being a Chef, Chocolatier, DJ, Filmmaker and Photographer.

This year I published my first book: TRAVELIVING: the complete guide for sustainable traveling in Latin Amerikua: a book that compiles the information that I accumulated through 10 years of being my own boss while living in different countries, pushing my limits to the max and developing new skills while adapting to always changing scenarios.


D’Arcy Lunn – teaspoonsofchange.orgHappy, Simply

If you need a serious dose of inspiration, look no further then d’Arcy Lunn. Founder of Tea Spoons of Change, d’Arcy is a man committed to doing good work in the world, and still manages to travel almost constantly. I can’t even keep track of how many awesome projects d’Arcy is involved with, so best check his website. Currently pursuing a masters degree in Japan, he can also be found living in a Tiny House in New Zealand, which he documents on his blog, “Happily, Simply.”

Whats your favorite place you’ve been this year and why?

23 countries, many roles and lots of learning in 2016 so it is cruel to pick just one place… However, I would have to say Paekakariki, Aotearoa New Zealand staying in my self-sufficient tiny house with my girlfriend for five days. With all the time I spend in so many different places doing so many different things it is lovely to come back to place I built with a community and has stories in the walls and almost a feeling of home (although I’m from Australia once upon a time ago). The happy, simply tiny home along with my favourite human (girlfriend, Serafina), mountains, ocean and where just enough is plenty and less is more, was certainly a favourite!


Melaina Spitzer – Inner Peace Building, Digital Nomad Lifestyle, Dance Adventures 

When I learned about Melaina Spitzer, I was simply overwhelmed by the diversity of talents and passions that she contains. A true digital nomad and community leader, Melaina is the founder of Inner Peace Building, and the creator of the Digital Nomad Bootcamp course, Melaina is a peace and conflict transformation coach who has a passion for making the world a better place. A conflict journalist, human rights observer, educator, coach, and a dancer, this woman is a one-stop-shop of awesomeness.

Whats your favorite place you’ve been this year and why?

Right now I’m loving Cali, Colombia- the birthplace of Colombian “caleño” salsa, nestled between mountains in the Cauca Valley. I’m here scouting for our next Dance Adventure, and so far it’s been a wild ride- One minute I’m dancing at the renowned salsa spot Tintindeo and next thing I know I’m on a chiva (party bus) shaking it with a gaggle of children and teens from a world-famous dance academy. Colombians are some of the warmest and kindest people I’ve encountered in my travels, and are incredibly resilient and positive even though the civil conflict has touched everyone’s lives.  I first came to Colombia to support cross-border indigenous groups in the Amazon region near Leticia, and later chose a peace community here as the focus of my field research for my masters’ thesis.  Colombia’s peace process that won president Santos the Nobel Prize is a complex, yet inspiring success story.

What role does community play in your nomadic lifestyle?

Community is everything as a digital nomad—but especially as a leader focused on building movements for social impact. When you’re a solo entrepreneur on the go far from home, community can make or break your experience. I run two online support communities to share energy, connection, and resources.  Inner Peacebuilding Now offers support, community and partnership for those seeking to create inner and outer transformation and positive social impact. Digital Nomad Lifestyle is a community for those who want to work remotely and travel freely by harnessing technology.


Becca Dakini – Protectors Alliance 

You can’t go very far in the transformational festival community without meeting Becca. An event producer and DJ who helps produce festivals across the world, ranging from Australia, to Costa Rica, to the U.S, Becca spent this past fall co-founding the “Protectors Alliance-” an organization focused on supporting the Standing Rock resistance movement with the logistical know-how of the festival community. Their first project was to construct heated, composting toilets to Oceti Sakowin (Sacred Stone) camp- a center point of the resistance. Becca is a dear friend, and a force to be reckoned with.

What is your favorite place you visited in 2016 and why?

Joshua Tree, California, USA. There was such a sense of peace in this place, and every inch was imbued with magic. The veils are thin at Joshua Tree, explaining why legends such as Jim Morrison and so many other visionaries, frequented this place regularly for inspiration and to seek answers. This is one of the most otherworldly places I’ve ever visited…the liminal space it created was potent for personal self-realization, and a natural reverence emerges for the ancestors of these lands – the Serrano, the Chemehuevi, and the Cahuilla people. There’s pictographs, petroglyphs and mortars dotted throughout the landscape from when these ancestors lived there – as well as portal-like caves you can crawl inside of to meditate and pray to the other realms. Joshua Tree to me was like a portal to another world.

How have you turned travel into a life path, career, or business?

As an international event producer & DJ, I travel the world to collaborate on large scale gatherings & DJ at all sorts of events. I made a decision 10 years ago that my work is meant to be global, and I consider myself a worldbridger- enabling the sharing of information from one side of the world to the other, and linking individuals and communities up so we can learn from each other. So being global rather than just local to one place is key to this. I believe travel inspires you to evolve, and grow – as your environment changes, so do you change also. And these days I like to think of us all as one big global family, rather than separated by invisible borders. Why not make the entire world your home?


Tayo Rockson- As Told By Nomads Podcast, Use your Difference 

When I first learned about Tayo Rockson, I knew I had to connect with him. Host of the As Told by Nomads podcast, Tayo is a self-described “TCK (third culture kid) on a mission. Founder of Use Your Difference, Tayo is Nigerian-born, was raised in Burkina Faso, as well as a host of other nations. A traveler, entrepreneur, and genuinely nice dude, Tayo’s work focuses on helping organization embrace diversity, become more inclusive and culturally sensitive, all while building better business cultures.

How have you turned travel into a life path, career, or business? 

For me it’s all the above. It’s a life path because ever since I was 10 years old, I have been studying global and inclusive leadership and my mission is to help inspire the next set of global leaders. I want to fix the globalization gaps that exist today. If you look around today, you’ll notice that even though we live in the most globalized and digitalized time ever, many of us still don’t know how to act global or digital so my life path is to change the conversation we have around leadership, cultural literacy, and diversity and Inclusion.

What role does community play in your nomadic lifestyle?

It has turned into a career and business because I travel to several places every year to consult with organizations and schools to discuss the best ways to incorporate diversity, inclusion and social justice strategies into their bottom line. My whole business is built in promoting cultural competencies and global leadership.


Tyler Wilkinson Ray –T-bar Films 

Everyone once in a while, people you knew years ago resurface into your world and make you go, “Woa!” I met Tyler while we were both attending the University of Vermont, in Tyler’s home state. Always a very kind and humble guy, little did I know that Tyler would go on to become a totally badass adventure filmmaker, and a National Geographic Young Explorer. Skiing the back country, mountain biking, and capturing the majesty of the natural world through an artist lens in Tyler’s forte, and its brought him across the world.

Whats your favorite place you’ve been this year (2016) and why?

That’s a tough one, but I’d have to say the Sacred Headwaters in Northern British Columbia, Canada. It was far from the furthest away place I visited but probably the most special for me. I did a 9 day bike-rafting trip though this massive section of wilderness where we didn’t see another person the whole time and were surrounded by black bears, moose, trout, and had one sketchy run in with a Grizzly. What was special for me was seeing thriving wilderness the way Lewis and Clark experienced it, and meeting the First Nations elders who have been fighting to protect their sacred hunting grounds. A film on the trip will be released this summer.

What the heck is Bike-rafting: Click here

Learn about the fight over the Sacred Headwaters: Click here

Learn a lot more about the Sacred Headwaters: Click here

What role does community play in your nomadic lifestyle?

There’s a handful of us young filmmakers and photographers that spend most of our time on the road and reconvene at film festivals and outdoor trade shows. Most of us are affiliated with National Geographic somehow and that community is a constant source of inspiration, but community is one of the biggest challenges of my job. I am rarely home so it’s difficult to maintain friendships when you’re only home one week out of two months. I think you can also approach social media as a type community, and it’s been a great way to maintain friendships in far off plance and also get connected with new people when I show up in a place. We often look down on social media, but if you approach it as a tool, and not your reason for traveling, it can be very useful.


Britt Basel – Ecothropic, Britt Basel Photography 

Britt and I got to know each other during a torrential downpour while trekking up a mountain in the backwoods of Vermont. A socio-environmental scientist working with subsistence-based communities to adapt to the challenges of climate change, Britt is also a storyteller, and travel guide. Her work spans from Cuba to the Soloman Islands of the South Pacific, where she works with local communities to cultivate climate change resilience. Britt has recently launched Ecothropic, a climate-based, travel & educational project based in her regions of expertise. Currently, she calls Chiapas, Mexico, home.

How have you turned travel into a life path, career, or business? 

Travel for me is like a boulder rolling downhill. In my case, curiosity is the force of gravity, combined with the fact that there is just so much good living to do- there is endless exploration, discovery, opportunities, to contribute and share, and above all, there is so much to learn.

I have created this life by constantly looking for what most inspires me and finding a path to get involved- through meeting people, through conversations, through taking the leap again and again. To be honest, more than once I’ve looked up- maybe from the deck of a sailboat deep in the South Pacific, thousands of miles away from anything familiar, or deep within a little-explored cave in the south of Mexico- and thought “What on earth am I doing here?” That moment of self-doubt usually comes just before the most memorable moments I have ever lived- like taking the dinghy from the sailboat to shore where the entire village waited to welcome us with songs and a feast, or rappelling into a new chamber to find it layered with pottery that was left as sacred offerings by the Zoque peoples hundreds of years ago.

So much movement has become self-perpetuating, and at times it can be frightening, lonely, and tiring, but the best thing I ever did was have the courage to push that boulder over the edge and start it rolling.


David Passiak – Empower

Sharing economy got you down? Don’t worry- David Passiak will change your thinking on what is possible when technology meets community collaboration. He is a nomadic start-up consultant, speaker, and author of the recently released book, Empower: How to CoCreate the Future, along with two others. Interviewed by the BBC about his nomad lifestyle, David is a cross-pollinator, spreading the gospel of co-creation to start-up communities across the world.

Read his profile by the BBC: http://www.bbc.com/capital/sponsored/story/20161116-innovating-in-the-digital-world-through-traditional-teaching


Tyson Adams – Jhai Coffee House 

Coffee. We all love it. Some of us owe our lives to it. Yet how many of us understand the humble origins and exciting potential of this globally beloved cash crop? I met Tyson through pure synchronicity at my favorite hostel in Bangkok, The Yard. The rest was history. As a co-founder of Jhai Coffee House  in Laos’ Paksun region, Tyson has made it his mission to put Laos coffee on the map while also improving the health and education of the people involved in growing it. To date, Tyson’s projects have provided books and clean water for thousands of people. If you want a clear picture of how travelers can really make change, look no further.


Cody McKibben – The Hero ProjectThrilling Heroics,

Every now and then you meet a kindred spirit on the road of life. Besides seeing him host the 2017 Nomad Summit, I first really got to know Cody on his porch overlooking Chiang Mai at dusk, talking about Joseph Campbell. Cody is the man behind Thrilling Heroics– an online community and brand focused on the entrepreneurial journey. He recently launched The Hero Project, a curated community focused on personal development, mythology, and being the best human (or Hero,) you can be. He’s also happens to be an incredibly welcoming and wholehearted guy.

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