Big Shared World started out of my fascination, and a bit of frustration, with the world we live in today. I had spent my education and professional career thus far thinking about my country’s engagement with the rest of the world. Sometimes I felt optimistic of the direction the world was heading, and sometimes I was pretty negative about the way people were interacting with each other and the planet we all call home. In an attempt to make sense of it all, I decided to embark on a fact finding mission to see what other people thought. Thus, the Big Shared World journey began.
Explore the interactive map to see where I went by clicking on the countries highlighted in red. From there, you can view albums that highlight the people I interacted with and the beautiful moments that made up the inspiring BSW journey!
SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO
After a night outside the capital, I head back to explore Copenhagen for a few days. Traveling around Western Europe, each city in these countries felt like a unique member of the same family. Copenhagen felt like the mother who wants the best for her children. For anyone who has seen the movie The Truman Show where the characters live in a moderated environment, this kind of was how Copenhagen felt given the cleanliness and overall feeling of contentedness. Regarded as “the happiest country in the world,” I enjoyed a handful of delightful interactions with local residents, especially my Airbnb host who was exceptionally warm - and brilliant as a retired cultural anthropologist. Overall, a beautiful visit. Also a bonus - the upcoming holiday season made for a magical holiday lights display on the downtown streets!
The second part of my stay in Brazil was in Rio de Janeiro. I stayed at an Airbnb in the hip neighborhood of Leblon, just steps from the famed beaches of this beautiful city. I could have sat for days just beautiful people watching. Rio was definitely a highlight for me for a number of reasons, but a big one being reconnecting with Marcelo, a man I had sat next to on an airplane five years before who had eventually introduced me to Mara, the filmmaker. He had no idea how his thoughtfulness and introductory emails had grown into an international working relationship. Over dinner with Marcelo and his wife Daniella, I was thrilled to reconnect and share the story since that short CHI-NYC plane ride those years back. Another highlight was spending time in the Rocinha favela, a place where life can be tough, but every person I came across smiled bright and gave a big thumbs up after answering the BSW questions. In the list of "places to go back after the BSW journey," Rio ranks high.
After Chiang Mai, I went to Thailand's capital city of Bangkok. A lot more crowded, the Songkran festival was a little more disruptive here than fun, but still a site to see. A huge highlight was my day with Tours By Locals guide Michai and all the interactions we had, but especially biking across a young boys Buddhist camp where we stopped to ask the questions of the older monks and learned so much wisdom from the sweet interaction. If anyone asks where to put on their bucket list, Thailand is certainly one spot I'd recommend!
After Manila, I flew to Dumaguete City, Philippines where my tour guide from South Korea's wife and son live. They had lived in Seoul for years, but now that his son is of school age, they wanted to have him start and finish in the same system, that of Philippines. This was one of those amazing surreal times for me where I never could have planned to have been welcomed into someone's home and life in a place I hadn't even known of a week prior. I had a lovely couple days there, and especially loved touring around Silliman University, asking students and faculty the questions along the way. I also recommend staying at a resort on Dauin Beach - we went for an afternoon and it seems like a lovely way to spend a vacation!
My second day in Seoul was spent talking with students from my Tour By Local guide's college class. I was delighted that even while my time in the country was brief, I was able to have substantial interactions with this next generation and learn about life in this rapidly changing place.
The journey took place from October 2014 through the end of 2015. My goal was to visit 30 countries and interview 300 people, asking three important questions. In the end, I reached nearly 40 countries, and asked the questions of hundreds more than I set out to connect with. (I also expanded my interview to include six demographic questions of each of my interviewees.)
The journey itself was incredible. But it was never meant to serve only myself as a fun travel adventure. It was meant to be an opportunity to learn from people around the globe, and ultimately to build community for understanding each other a little better in this Big Shared World.
In 2016, I spent time making sense of all the insights learned along the way, reflecting on lessons and interactions that help tell the story of the journey, and the takeaways to share.
Now, I am in the process of finishing and publishing a book about the experience, and creating ways for people to interact with the ideas that bring Big Shared World to life.