Words by Dalene Heck
We arrived in Guanajuato last March, and on our first visit to the historic centre we were both stopped cold by an unexpected sight. An iconic yellow rectangle, placed in honour of a nearby National Geographic photography exhibit, towered before us.
This was mere days after getting word from National Geographic Traveler magazine that we had been chosen to appear in their November issue (yes, we’ve had to keep this quiet for THAT long). It was our secret pleasure for the weeks that followed to sit and stare at it, hop up and down on it, take a hundred different selfies at a hundred different angles. We sent one of the photos to the editor who jokingly replied that it might very well be the first time they’d include a selfie in their magazine announcing a Traveler of the Year honoree.
And that is when it started to hit us – there was going to be an edition of National Geographic with our faces and story in it. Out of thousands of nominations, we were to be honoured as one of several Travelers of the Year.
Could anything else so wonderful happen to us in our weird little life? We cannot possibly imagine.
And so I’ve had over six months to write this blog post.
Plenty of time to stew, cringe, type, delete, and type again. The words followed the roller coaster that this award set us on.
They first came from a place of pure elation, for a brief period the narrative flowed with a bit of cockiness, but the vast majority of the time it reflected our staunch disbelief. Inside our little travel bubble – that of our community of digital nomads who similarly traded possessions for experiences and who also share their stories with the world – any one of us could realistically have taken this honour. Thus, the question of “Why us?” was relentlessly plaguing. I will always be able to name dozens of others who I think are just as deserving, and I even sent the editor a list of questions to extract some understanding as to why we were chosen. (Those questions were reserved until well after the photo shoot and interviews – just in case our disbelief translated into his questioning the panel decision as well.)
When we reflected on last year’s honorees, those who did such incredible things as buy land to save turtles or develop programs to ship bicycles to Uganda, our perplexity grew. It wasn’t until we opened up a little bit to our close circle of friends that some clarity was reached. A dear friend insisted that while what others have done is indeed remarkable, ours was a story that was more relatable and made travel seem achievable. Another stated that we had actually forced a change in her definition of happiness. When her recently graduated son made the decision to travel with scant plans for anything else, she found herself encouraging him (to the surprise and dismay of her husband). She did it because of what she read on our blog.
Inside our bubble, it can be easy to forget that what we do is kind of remarkable. When traveling becomes routine and you end up surrounding yourselves with like souls on a similar journey, it is easy to forget that being nomadic and traveling the world for a living is something not ordinary, not regular. And, even with all the missteps we’ve had along the way in both travel and in blogging, we can both firmly say, maybe for the first time, that damn. We are so very proud.
These words, from the very kind and helpful editor who humoured our numerous questions, will remain a glorious hallmark of our travel career: “Your story, your approach to traveling with a purpose, and your on-the-road inspiration will help our readers see that travel opens boundless possibilities and opportunities to improve the world. Congratulations and thanks for sharing your story with us.”
To celebrate with just the two of us can get a little lonely after awhile, and so to finally have this to share with you is a giant relief. No one achieves anything alone, and without our faithful readers, our friends and family who support us to the end of the world and back, our partners, and our community of digital nomads who we share this with – we would not be where we are.
Every word of encouragement, every comment, every click, every share, every “like”, every everything – every ounce of consideration that you have given us keeps us on the road and optimistic that what we are doing is bringing some positivity to the world.
Please accept our sincerest and deepest appreciation for making this happen. Thank you.
(And if you are interested in purchasing the magazine with our mugs in it, the November edition hits newsstands on October 22nd!)
so, how did this award come about?
It is actually a super cute story.
It turns out that one of the factors, besides living a life of travel with passion and purpose, is to get your Mom on Twitter.
Last Christmas, while visiting my Mom in Alberta, we encouraged her to start tweeting. She’s not on Facebook or any other social media network, she scarcely opens emails for fear of viruses and whatnot, but we had convinced her that Twitter would provide better customer service for some issues she’d been having (we’re looking at you, Telus).
We helped her set it up, she chose a photo of her cat as her icon, and we helped her follow accounts of things she enjoys – her fave magazines, Oprah, and yes, National Geographic.
The call for nominations came out in January. We missed them, but she sure didn’t, and she soon sent me this email:
She quit Twitter two weeks later, unable to understand what all the fuss was about, and went back to complaining to Telus the old fashioned way. No matter, her work in the Twittersphere was done. And I officially have the coolest and most supportive Mom on the planet.
one last thing…
From all of this comes one more exciting opportunity, but we need your help.
All of the Travellers of the Year honourees are eligible for an additional award: the Reader’s Choice. It would be an incredible honour to have everyone in our world consider us as perfectly fitting the title of “ordinary people doing extraordinary things” and vote for us to receive it.
However, after reading about the other honourees this year, we would completely understand if your vote went another way instead. There are some very special people doing amazing things in this world and some of their stories have completely blown us away – like the Inion Family of 11 who have been on the road since 2007, adopting four kids along the way and speaking in villages and schools about kids with special needs. Or Greg Gross, a retired journalist who documents his experiences as a black man traveling around the world, breaking down the perception that travel is for “other” people. Rather than just asking for your vote, we encourage you to read all of the profiles and make an informed decision. It will be a tough choice, we promise you that, but an inspiring process to get there. Read the profiles here, and cast your vote here.