Photograph by Raymond Patrick
Every traveler knows that learning the local lingo is part of the pleasure of getting to know a new place. But frontside lipslide … backside crooked-grind … kickflip? What language is this?
It’s the lingua franca of the skateboarding world, an international language that has permitted 15-year-old Booker Mitchell to take his homemade travel show to Spain, Nicaragua, and the Brazilian Amazon. With the help of his filmmaker mom and the support of his dad, Mitchell scripts and stars in an unconventional Web video series that tracks its gregarious star as he navigates foreign lands by skateboarding and surfing with local kids.
Although she’s a documentarian, Brazil-born Tania Cypriano is far from a stage mom. “Ever since he was little, Booker kept journals. Wherever we traveled, I took videos. One day we realized we were documenting the world as a kid experiences it.”
“Travel shows for grown-ups have these really excited hosts who talk about museums,” says Booker. “Our motto is ‘Live Life Outside.’”
—By George W. Stone
National Geographic Traveler: Why is travel important?
Booker Mitchell: Travel expands our world and influences our lives. I am inspired by the people I meet and how they live. For instance, I love sleeping in hammocks even if I am in New York City.
NGT: Can you point to one trip or experience that ignited your curiosity about the world?
BM: I have been traveling since before I can remember and I am really lucky to have parents that take me everywhere, so I owe my first curiosity about traveling to them. But I think that I’m still living my first influential experience, and every trip adds to it.
NGT: Who is your hero and why?
BM: Anybody who can feel comfortable wherever they go without bringing five pieces of luggage with them.
NGT: Do you have a personal motto or mantra that embodies your approach to life and travel?
BM: Live life outside. So many kids spend their days inside playing video games and watching TV. "Booker Travels" shows kids how to get out of the house and experience the world.
NGT: What do you never leave home without when you travel?
BM: A skateboard or surfboard, a still camera, and a notepad.
NGT: Do you have a favorite travel book or film?
BM: The film Sipping Jetstreams by Taylor Steele.
NGT: What was your most surprising food experience on your travels?
BM: Eating a different fish I had never heard of at every meal while I was on a boat in the Amazon River, surrounded by jungle and perfectly still water.
NGT: What is the most beautiful place you’ve experienced while traveling?
BM: Death Valley, California. I liked the different colors of the desert, the dunes, the salt mines, and the rocks. There was something about the landscape that made me feel like I was the only person on Earth. There was no connection to anyone or anything.
NGT: Name three places that you’d like to visit before you die and why.
BM: Since I am 15, I hope to visit a lot more than three places before I die, but:
Indonesia. The water there is so perfectly blue, the jungle goes all the way to the beach, there are reefs, perfect waves, and good fish. It’s basically the Amazon surrounded by ocean.
Australia. It’s a massive island with both jungle and desert.
Japan. It’s so high tech, with so many crazy things you will never find in the U.S. The major cities there are very good for skating and many people are beginning to surf there, too. Plus, I’ve heard many crazy stories about the sushi and other exotic foods there; it’s definitely a must.
NGT: What's one place you’ve been to that you think everyone should visit?
BM: Barcelona, because it has the best of urban life—amazing food, incredible architecture, and a beach.
NGT: What’s next?
BM: Not sure yet but definitely some place that will warm me up during the cold New York winter.
Introducing the 2014 Travelers of the Year
National Geographic Traveler celebrates individuals who travel with passion and purpose, have an exceptional story to tell, and represent a style of travel, motivation, or method that can inform and inspire us all. Discovery is the destination for these travelers, who are driven by curiosity and transported by passion to overcome any obstacle along the way. On Traveler’s 30th anniversary, our third annual list proves that there’s no barrier to entry for anyone on a mission to embrace the world and bring about positive change. Get to know the honorees in photos and interviews.
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