Tambra Raye Stevenson
Photograph by Scott Suchman
Where some cooks see a root vegetable, Tambra Raye Stevenson sees a road map for discovering family roots. This nutritionist and culinary historian founded NativSol Kitchen, a Washington, D.C.–based learning community through which she teaches “Taste of African Heritage” cooking classes and challenges families to swap their standard American diet for a traditional African diet. “Food, like travel, helps me to gain a deeper compassion, understanding, and appreciation of people beyond borders,” says the mother of two.
Liz Zipse and Kip Patrick
Photograph by Cade Martin
Short-term volunteering works. Just ask Liz Zipse and Kip Patrick, who spent 16 months traveling 30,000 miles in 24 countries and volunteering at least one day each week. The wedded wanderers counted whale sharks in the Philippines, picked up trash in Borneo, practiced English with monks in Laos, painted schools in Uganda, and distributed shoes in El Salvador. Their mission is quickly becoming a movement, and their blog, 1 of 7, has morphed into an online platform “to show travelers and nontravelers alike that making a difference is not only simple, but it’s something we should and can do every week,” says Zipse.
Photograph by Claudia Sanches
Stuffed suitcases are nothing to be proud of—unless they’re laden with supplies for communities in need. Rebecca Rothney, a former schoolteacher in Raleigh, North Carolina, is on a mission to inspire travelers to turn extra luggage space into a philanthropic delivery device. As founder of Pack for a Purpose, Rothney oversees an aid organization that within five years has delivered more than 45,000 pounds of supplies to 425 community-based programs in 60 countries. She’s helped travelers drop off medical supplies in Mongolia, glue sticks in Ghana, books in Brazil, Frisbees in Fiji, and clothing for Qatar’s Red Crescent refugee camps in Syria and Lebanon.
Photograph by Dana Romanoff
Swaziland is about as far from south-central L.A. as you can get. But for Melinda MacInnis, a former English teacher, distance brought a perspective that her classroom could not. Seven years ago, she took a trip to southern Africa’s wilderness areas, where she witnessed both the devastation brought by poachers and the power of ecotourism to transform communities and save wildlife. “It sounds trite, but I had one of those clear-as-a-bell moments where I just knew I had to help,” she says. “But what was I going to do?” The teacher hit the books, researching conservation and poaching, focusing especially on rhinos, and returned to Swaziland to film The Price—a largely self-funded documentary about the global plight of the rhinos.
Photograph by Matt Cosby
For Joe Foley—a high schooler from Newton, Massachusetts, with a serious case of wanderlust—online fantasy games opened up an interest in exploring the real world. Foley suggested to his parents that the Internet can provide a safety net for solo travelers. To his surprise, they agreed, and in the past two years, he’s been on 11 solo trips, which he documents on his blog, The Travels of JoFo.
The Inion Family
Photograph by Jillian Mitchell
Home is where the heart is. For the Inion family (www.traveldeepandwide.com), that means everywhere. When Brent and Stacey-Jean set out from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on a family road trip in 2007, their goal was to explore the United States. As their itinerary grew to include Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Belize, and Mexico, so did their number. There are now 11 Inions, including four kids adopted from China, India, Egypt, and South Korea.
Photograph by Tricia Cronin
Every traveler carries a question. For Heather Finnecy, a Bay Area–based photographer, that question is, What is life like for women in other cultures? “As an American, I found there was a hole in the imagery and information that I received about the daily lives of women in the world,” she says. “So I decided to set out and see for myself what it was like.” Following an itinerary that many travelers would steer clear of, Finnecy set off for the Middle East in 2013 to photograph women in Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Afghanistan. Her project, From What I Can See, presents profiles in text and images of women driving cars in Dubai, taking English classes in Kabul, and surviving as Syrian refugees in Jordan’s Zaatari camp.
The Gilbert Family
Photograph by Tino Soriano
Travel is the art of being present,” says Christine Gilbert, who, along with her husband, Drew, has been on the go since 2008. That’s a long time on the road—long enough for the troupers to add a son (Cole, 4) and daughter (Stella, 20 months) to their tribe. Since turning to travel as an antidote to their former Boston-based workaday worlds, the family has practiced presence in some 38 places, including China, Costa Rica, and Morocco. “There’s this idea that traveling is something you have to do before you have kids, but there are huge benefits to doing it after you have kids, too,” says Christine. Their Wi-Fi–enabled careers inspired their new project, The Wireless Generation, a documentary film about people who have quit their jobs and turned to travel.
Photograph by Jessica Sample
Greg Gross has a dream. “Growing up, my life was split between two inner cities—New Orleans and Oakland—dreaming of becoming a writer and a traveler, surrounded by kids with no dreams at all,” says Gross. About ten years ago, he met a young woman in Natchez, Mississippi, who proudly told him she intended never to set foot beyond her city. “I suddenly realized how many black Americans felt as she did. Seeing the world was something for ‘other people,’ not them. It wasn’t just about a lack of money. It was a mind-set in which to be caught outside your cultural comfort zone was to be vulnerable, dangerously exposed. That was when I knew I had to write about travel—to take the mystery, and thus the fear, out of it all.” Getting travelers from here to there is the task this retired journalist has taken on with his blog, I’m Black and I Travel!.
Darlene and Peter Heck
Photograph by Roth and Ramberg
Their motto may be minimal—“No possessions. No plans. Just travel”—but their first task was monumental. In 2009, Dalene and Peter Heck sold everything and reduced a 2,100-square-foot home in Alberta, Canada, to 200 liters of backpack space. “We went from riches to rags,” jokes Dalene. Since then, the bloggers (Hecktic Travels) have volunteered in Bolivia, became godparents in Honduras, kayaked around Patagonia, swung a scythe on a farm in Romania, studied history in Turkey and Spanish in Argentina, witnessed a violent workers protest in Cambodia, and explored the nooks and crannies of Greenland and Jordan.
2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
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