National Geographic Travelers of the Year

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By Punch Pulse Correspondent Niki Clark

“Travel is our opportunity to put our stamp on the world and have the world put its stamp on us.” With those words, George Stone, Contributing Editor for National Geographic’s Traveler Magazine, opened the floor for the  2012 Travelers of the Year Panel.

Part of the National Geographic Live! Series, the panel highlighted four individuals selected by the magazine as the world’s most audacious and passionate travelers. And after listening to a truly inspirational conversation, their travels seem to have put their stamp on me as well. .

First up was Paula Busey, a Colorado high-school librarian who instantly clicked with her Maasai warrior tour guide during a family trip to Tanzania. Upon her return she created a unique cultural exchange system which brought her guide, Samwel, back to Colorado, to teach students first hand about the life, culture and people of Africa. Busey was followed by Heather Greenwood Davis, a globetrottingmama.com travel blogger who along with her husband and two young boys traveled the globe for a year, spending 12 months in 29 different countries. “It transformed our family,” she said and their experiences seemed to echo editor Keith Bellow’s sentiment that “a passport is the new diploma.”

Booker Mitchell, a 15-year old Manhattan high schooler and passionate skateboarder, created, along with his documentary filmmaker mother, a web series called Booker Travels. The show’s motto, which he very much subscribes too, is Live Life Outside. His first trip to the Amazon rainforests was at the mere age of 7 and he uses sports, particularly skateboarding, as an entry to making friends with people around the world, no matter their background or native language.

The last panelist was Theron Humphrey. After grad school, Humphrey found work in corporate photography, but after a bad breakup, the death of his grandfather and 60 hour weeks shooting Asian handbags, he decided a dramatic life change was in order. With a $15,000 Kickstarter grant, he packed up his truck and his dog Maddie and set out to capture the story of one person every day. For the next year, Humphrey traveled 66,000 miles and took 90,000 photographs, capturing the adventures online on his website ThisWildIdea.com. “I fell in love with life again,” he said. “I am so fulfilled, my soul is just full.”

The panelists admitted that not everyone has the luxury to trapse around the globe for a year at a time. But everyone can experience the extraordinary in the everyday. Whether you find yourself in Cairo, Colorado or just Columbia Heights, the opportunity to be a traveler exists. Mitchell said it best. “Even if I am just riding my skateboard to school, I will never have the exact same path. There may be different people that I pass; a different song on my headphones. Notice the moment. Because you’ll never have it again.”

Travelers of the Year is just the first in the Travel Journal Series put on by National Geographic Live ! For those who missed the panel, it will be available on nglivevideos.com. Check out “http://events.nationalgeographic.com/events/locations/center/grosvenor-auditorium/” nglive.org/dc for upcoming events.

About Niki McMillan:
Punch Pulse Correspondent Niki McMillan is a part time photographer; full time Red Crosser and 24/7 big sister to fellow puncher Lindsey. She loves travel, puppy kisses (especially from her own, ichabob) and invites to bourbon-orientated events.
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