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Tuesday
Apr222014

BEHIND THE LENS with Shaun Fynn, Founder, STUDIOFYNN

Shaun Fynn, Founder, STUDIOFYNNIn this new and ongoing content series, MISSION is seeking out the best and brightest in the world of travel photography. Beyond curating photo-essays and featuring their work, we will be going ‘Behind the Lens’ with exclusive interviews, tapping into the mind of the professional photographer and their approach to their craft. In this premier addition, we spoke with acclaimed designer and photographer Shaun Fynn, Founder of STUDIOFYNN about his venture into photography and how he goes about capturing the diverse areas in which he travels to.

How did you first become involved with photography? Was there a particular moment that defined your desire to be a photographer?

For many years I have had my own design and research studio and the documentary work evolved from this. Today it has become a practice in its own right so I would say it has been a process of evolution more than a particular moment.  I find there are many commonalities between design and photography, as they both require you to be an observer. What differs is the way in which these observations are reflected. Both also require a level of engagement with the subject but for me photography is more immediate and can be more visceral. A single image can be a very powerful vehicle to communicate a story.  I think to some degree I have always been a photographer as I gravitate towards it as the way in which I can interpret the world and communicate what I see to others. Shanghai, China

As a world traveler, how does your perspective change when trying to capture the diverse places you work in and travel to around the world?

I don't think the camera changes my perspective of the travel experience but it can help focus on or intensify a particular aspect or observation. The camera allows me to capture the experience of travel in very succinct way. I see the world in very visual way so I am always inspired by how different cultures really do reflect their values in such diverse ways. I think we always have to be careful not to make the camera a barrier to experiencing the journey because of capturing the moment. I try to keep this perspective in mind.

Garment Factory - IndiaIn your mind, what constitutes “the perfect shot?”

I am not sure there is a formula for a perfect shot but for me I think it is the alignment of the events, subject and composition. Henri Cartier Bresson spoke about the idea of the decisive moment in an image where things come together only for a brief moment in time and then vanish, usually forever. I am a great admirer of the work of Bresson and also Marc Riboud whose photos of the 1967 Vietnam anti war protest in Washington DC are a great example of this, particularly the image of the young girl presenting a flower to the line of soldiers with raised guns. I am sure we have all seen this image but what I like is how this one short fleeting moment was captured and became such a powerful representation of the counterculture movement and atmosphere of an era. This photo is also not technically perfect, on close observation it looks like the shutter speed was a bit slow hence a slight shake but it doesn't matter because what he saw and captured was so powerful.

Much of your documentary photography is focused on exploring the ‘human condition’. Can youKumbh Mela, Indiadescribe what your philosophy of the ‘human condition’? 

I think the human condition is the collective result of our actions, policies and behaviors. Using the camera to investigate these results is a good way exploring and highlighting the complexities beneath. The human condition can vary by culture because the factors governing the collective result vary widely. That said, there are always commonalities of the human condition across cultures as in the big picture we are all the same species sharing the same planet so we are bound together by this whether we like it or not. There are other aspects of commonality too like community, spirituality etc. that show many different faces while sharing similar principles.

For those with a passion towards photography, what advice would you impart in relation to the field, their work and photography as a whole? 

Photography is certainly a passionate pursuit so first and foremost use it as a way to inspire yourself and then hopefully others. I think digital photography allows many more people to participate now and I personally think this is a good thing although some may disagree. There are many good photographers around so I think it's important to find you own voice or style in our media and image saturated world.

To view Shaun's work, check out his photo-essays Crossroads of High Asia, Maha Kumbh Mela 2013, and Blind School - Pathways.

For further exploring and inquiry, visit STUDIOFYNN at www.studiofynn.com.

Thursday
Mar272014

MEET: Leo Rising, Yoga Teacher who traveled to Kenya with Africa Yoga Project

Leo Rising is a New York City-based yoga teacher and cosmic personality who recently visited Kenya on a service trip with the Africa Yoga Project organized by his yoga center, Laughing Lotus. The trip participants were yoga teachers, yoga students and others whose primarily goal was to do service in communities such as the Kibera slum in Nairobi, a womens prison and Maasai community, all places in which the Africa Yoga Project has programs teaching yoga—they teach more than 300 community classes per week in Kenya.

What drew you to Africa and this project?

I always wanted to go [to Africa] and… I have always been struck by the tie to lineage and culture my Jewish friends had. There is a system set up where a Jewish person can go on a pilgrimage home, a birthright journey. I have always experienced a pause when I would hear about that—a quiet envy, as in what is my birthright, where I am from?

This is a whole longer conversation but there is a conditioning in the minds of many Americans of African descent. Maybe they’ll make stops at an island where long ago someone’s grandparents paperwork was processed, but not many can go to the continent of Africa and find that area of land they are from.

I think it’s important, it’s truly my genetic history. And when you come into the science of yoga you start diving into your genetic history and asking yourself some serious questions. I didn’t know there was yoga in Africa, so when the opportunity came for me to do yoga, in Africa, on this trip, I couldn’t pass it up. It felt like my birthright.

There are many who might question offering yoga in communities in which even basic necessities like food, water and medical care are scarce. What are your thoughts?

From my understanding yoga started in those types of scenarios. The developed world now has plumbing, supermarkets, and bottled water but yoga started when people had none of that. There’s a specific teacher I met in Kenya, Kevin Oguto. Kevin lives in a slum called Lunga Lunga and he doesn’t have much by standards of the American mind. He earns 6,000 Kenyan shillings (about US$69) for being a AYP teacher, that’s his allowance for the whole month. For his water he has to walk 2 miles. He and 6 of his friends are building outdoor plumbing since they currently have none. What Kevin does have is a ferocious passion to help others, that he discovered through yoga and the Africa Yoga Project. In any environment where there is human struggle, yoga is completely necessary and if it can be offered it’s nothing but a gift.

Can you talk about the service projects you did?

When we were in Kibera, which is the second largest slum in the world, in Nairobi, we visited an orphanage, called Flormina. To go on this trip, the participants each had to raise $4,000, and some of this money was budgeted to the service projects we worked on while we were there. There were 14 of us on the trip, and we went out to buy second hand clothes while the kids were at school. We all physically washed clothes for the kids, the old fashioned way, did you ever watch I Love Lucy? We scrubbed the clothes in the bucket and the water came from a faucet coming directly out of the ground. We visited a womens prison where Africa Yoga Project offers yoga classes. There is a full time school, home care within the prison, these are the children the incarcerated mothers. Yoga is taught in the prisons to give these women the self-sustaining practice of self-love and mindfulness of their actions, I would pray they learn forgiveness and deeper dive into faith.

How was teaching yoga different in Kenya from your NYC classes?

A lot more screaming! The Kenyans are very loud, like a lion's roar, a sound of praise for every movement. They are audible, and I love that. I am an audible person. Also, any time you teach a group of people even those you have never met before, before they even move you are very aware of how a class is going to go. And they are an electrifying and receptive group. They want it. They want yoga like a person in a drought would want water.

I didn’t do much teaching of yoga since the focus of our trip was service. My focus was connecting to the environment and connecting to the people, learning more about the Africa Yoga Project, why they were servicing these communities and how I could communicate their work back here to help service those communities… why it’s important not to just pour money into someone’s hand…. because people are not looking for superman to come and save them, they are becoming supermen themselves.

I did teach two times. I co-taught at the Shine Center with Dana Flynn the founder of the Laughing Lotus Yoga Center. Dana was downstairs and I was upstairs teaching her sequence and that was a phenomenal experience. I equate it to singing the Star Spangled Banner in a huge show. The Shine Center is the nucleus of the Africa Yoga Center, it’s the master ship. They have room for 300 yoga practictioners to take community (free) classes, and they feed everyone after every class with vegetarian food donated by the local Hare Krishna Center

You visited the Maasai communities In Amboseli National Park where the Africa Yoga Project has programs, what was that like?

Oh my god the Maasai are so freakin interesting! Their beads were from the Czech Republic, that was a hilarious moment for me, and their scarves were from China — it’s funny, but it doesn’t matter since that is how it is wherever you go.  They make the designs their own, they use the gifts of the world and put their spin on it. They are such a beautiful people because they keep so many of their customs and they are bold and honest about it. Even if some of the customs make some women clutch their pearls, like drinking cow blood. It was like looking at images from National Geographic in real life. But they are assimilating into the world too.  They are beautiful in their wonder and mystery. There are only 2 Maasai yoga teachers in the area of Africa where we were. One of them was Jacob one of our guides. Regarding yoga, the older generation, they accept and they want the younger ones to do it.

Yoga aside, what about Africa?

I am so clear that this is my life's purpose and I want to go back. I will go back and I will serve even longer for there is so much more to discover. There’s a horrible stereotype about Africa planted in the mind of a lot of African Americans and not an appreciation of it. If there was a means and a way for struggling youth in disadvantaged communities to make a journey or birthright to Africa, I think they would really wake up. For me, there was a genetic, spiritual and cerebral awakening, deep on a subatomic level. Just landing there was enough for my inner lotus to start blooming. So now I am at that stage where the plant is really budding. Something has really shifted. I didn’t have problems sleeping in Africa. I adjusted to the time difference as if I had lived there my whole life. I think that trip was actually the start of the best days of my life.

Connect with Leo Rising at on Instagram and twitter @leo_risingyoga and on his website www.leorisingyoga.com. Connect with Africa Yoga Project and with Laughing Lotus which will offer a similar service trip to Africa in 2015.

 

 

Saturday
Feb012014

MEET: Michael Marantz, Founder / Director, Already Alive

Michael Marantz is constantly in pursuit of stirring people to feel the same way he does, alive. To achieve this goal, he founded the digital storytelling platform Already Alive to do exactly that. His work has taken him on projects far and wide, from the renowned festivals of Bonnaroo and Burning Man, to the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Above all, Marantz’ philosophy is rooted in a thirst for authentic collaboration, which in is his mind, is the key to creating the awe-inspiring content he strives for. MISSION spoke with Michael about the foundation of Already Alive, his experience on the Playa in Black Rock City (Burning Man), plus the challenges, and rewards, of being a filmmaker. 

Who (or what) is Already Alive? What are you trying to accomplish through your work? 

Quite simply, we are a group of filmmakers with a shared belief system and a common mission. We want to create work that affects the viewer. Not just escapism media, but something you can experience and take with you as a tool for the rest of your life. We think creating more work like this in the world is important. Not just something that looks cool, but something that creates such a deep emotional experience, but something that will forever change you, even if only the tiniest bit.

Personally, it is important to have amazing collaborators to work with. Having an organization that is larger then any individual is so important to get these talented individuals together. I was sick or just making things on my own, as filmmaking is such a collaborative endeavor. Already Alive was a perfect way to attract people with shared beliefs and aesthetics. 

Can you think of an anecdote / story that embodies Already Alive as a whole and what you are creating? 

When I was in college I had a pretty intense experience in my life. I got cancer. A treatable form, but still cancer nonetheless. At 21 years old this was a complete shock to the mind and I had to start dealing with mortality and all sorts of other thoughts a 21 year old doesn't normally think about. It took years, but eventually this experience started a chain reaction; a motivation of sorts to really take advantage of life; to not waste it. I created an organization so that I could be reminded every day to do just that.

After having made the pilgrimage to Black Rock City (Burning Man) this summer, what would you say is the most important lesson learned from the experience? 

Let go. That's it. Such an incredible lesson to learn and an amazing practice in daily life. Being able to let go of pain, of expectations, of fear, this is such a huge part of leading a fulfilled life. Having ritual behind this idea of letting go is what Burning Man is all about to me.  

You see, on the playa, you can't communicate by phone. You run into people randomly, and you miss them just as randomly. You learn very quickly to accept that fact of life. That you will see whom you will see for that week and it is silly to make plans. That idea of letting go of what you plan on doing and a schedule I found to be one of the most liberating parts of Burning Man. And then of course there is the burning of the man and of the temple, both incredible experiences. Many people spend months planning and building these structures, just to burn them down. There is something absolutely beautiful about that idea. Appreciating the journey, not the end result. Knowing there will be challenges and accepting all of them.

I have tried to really make letting go a consistent practice in my life, and I must say, it has most surly helped.

If you had the choice to film any event, country, region, people, etc., is there something in particular that comes to mind? Why? 

Oh, wow. That is a difficult question. I am going to give you a little bit of a different answer. 

I'm going to say that I'm not sure yet.  

I truly accept all experiences that come my way. And I really embrace them. I want to film anything that I can come into with new eyes. Experiencing it for the first time with my camera and a mission to tell a good story. I think that is the most exciting way to choose something to film.

For the aspiring filmmakers out there - what piece of advice would you impart on them as they pursue their dreams? 

Don't stop. If you truly love what you do and you are doing it for reasons that you can believe in, don't stop. I can tell you that I have had so many challenges in my career. I have failed so many times. I have been in great bouts of depression and in every single project I have ever done, I doubt the legitimacy and quality of the project that I am doing. 

These things are normal.  Don't let them stop you.

You have to keep pushing. And the most important thing that I have learned is that failure is not an excuse to give up.  It is a reason to learn.  There have never been situations where I have learned more in such a short amount of time then in my failures. Sure, they hurt a whole hell of a lot when they happen, but if you can try to pull back, if you can try to learn from them… man, that's what it is all about. Getting perspective, not making the same mistakes again, letting go and moving on.

It's so much work. And you will be mentally exhausted for so much of your experience.  But that's okay. Learn to love the challenge.  

In the end, life is so much more rewarding when there is a good challenge to rise to.


ANDREW BRIDGE

@Bridgin_TheGap 

Andrew is Managing Editor of MISSION.tv. He is a global enthusiast with a passion for the road less traveled. This fascination with the world at large has taken him to over 20 countries (so far) through studying, volunteering, and writing about his travels, with no signs of slowing his globetrotting nature down. For story inquiries, ping him at andrew@mission.tv. 

Thursday
Dec192013

Guerilla Filmmaking 101 with Sebastian Lindstrom: Co-Founder, What Took You So Long?

Sebastian Lindstrom - Co-Founder, What Took You So Long?Mobile, fast, fearless – these are just a few words that come to mind when thinking of the Guerilla filmmaking collective What Took You So Long? (WTYSL). Over the past few years this backpacker-style group of young filmmakers has landed their feet in more countries than most could visit in two, even three lifetimes – from Qatar to Haiti, and everywhere in between. Inspired by a vision of telling the stories that often go unnoticed, WTYSL has positioned itself as a sought after collective, primed to disrupt a growing niche within the guerilla filmmaking world. We spoke to Co-Founder Sebastian Lindstrom about WTYSL’s beginnings, their affiliation with camel milk (yes, camel milk), and what it takes to become a guerilla filmmaker.

For those who are unaware, who is What Took You So Long? (WTYSL) and where did the inspiration to start the collective come from?

What Took You So Long? is an international-ragtag-team of make-shift-Guerilla filmmakers with a burning passion for telling appealing stories in places that are ‘less traveled.’ Inspiration came from the will to find grass-root stories in the world that didn’t know they needed to be told. Our collaborative drive has led us to work with a range of organizations, unsung heroes, and youth.

How would you describe guerrilla filmmaking and WTYSL's approach in executing it? 

Guerilla filmmaking is like guerrilla warfare without the violence. We are global citizens, ready to film whenever needed, extremely mobile and quick. Every project is a new challenge, a story that we co-create with our client / partner. We are ready for anything, everyone with a camera in their hand.

You mentioned WTYSL transitioning from previously being a 501 (non-profit) organization to a hybrid, B Corporation. Can you elaborate on why this decision was made and how it has affected WTYSL as a whole?

We grew up thinking that we should be a 501c3 non-profit since it is widely respected as organizations doing good. However, we had trouble believing that the strict structure of a 501c3 would necessarily be the right format for us to mature. Luckily, we found out about the Benefit Corporation option, which is just a few years old, and decided that this was a better fit for us. It means to give the most value to work that is for the benefit of society while still operating as a business.

Having traveled to, and filmed in over 60 countries to date, can you highlight some of the most powerful projects WTYSL has been involved in? Are there any that have left a profoundly lasting impression on you and the collective as a whole?

Earlier this year we were working in Somalia with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Our video, “A New Somalia” has nearly 42k+ views, which is more than any other UNDP video. The video is a positive picture of a nation that is most widely criticized as being the most dangerous place in the world. We think that this video has had a huge impact in changing that perspective, as the country is going through an important re-birth.

WATCH: 'A New Somalia'

What's up with the camel milk?

Camel milk is said to be the next big thing and is known in some corners of the world as the white gold of the desert. Camel milk really deserves more credit from the majority than it gets right now. We spent a year filming camels, from Asia to the gulf to West & East Africa to Europe and the US. We found everything from markets to tradition and poetry surrounding the camel. They shall forever be a constant for us and we will 'televise the revolution' however we can.                          

If you could impart any advice on aspiring filmmakers interested in Guerilla filmmaking, what would it be?

Go somewhere, talk to people, get inspired, and create. Collaborate or be a one-man-band. Work for yourself, work for someone else, work for the sake of work. Be a leader sometimes, and be a follower. Respect the craft. Treat it like art. Practice. Don’t be afraid, make smart decisions, and live in the present because this opportunity might not come again.

ANDREW BRIDGE

@Bridgin_TheGap 

Andrew is Managing Editor of MISSION.tv. He is a global enthusiast with a passion for the road less traveled. This fascination with the world at large has taken him to over 20 countries (so far) through studying, volunteering, and writing about his travels, with no signs of slowing his globetrotting nature down. For story inquiries, ping him at andrew@mission.tv. 


Saturday
Dec142013

Kalu Yala: A Sustainable Jungle Settlement for Entrepreneurs and Tropical Cowboys

Jimmy Stice, CEO of Kalu Yala

Deep within the jungles of Panama, an hour outside of the buzzing city life of Panama City, a new, different kind of buzz is being generated through the sustainable settlement of Kalu Yala. Self-described as “a sustainable jungle settlement for entrepreneurs and tropical cowboys,” Kalu Yala is a new values-based community working to grow into a thriving town.

For the founders, the key to Kalu Yala is fostering a deep understanding of the unique environmental, cultural, and social elements particular to the mountainous tropical valley in Panama where the town will grow, and building a community of people who want to invest their ideas and passion into sustainable solutions that meet the unique needs of the region.

Over the next several years, Kalu Yala hopes to become a model for other tropical cities to flourish in the 21st century, which would be an important step toward reversing the long-standing trend that has seen capital and innovation concentrated in temperate zones, while tropical regions remain impoverished. We spoke with Jimmy Stice, Founder / CEO about how Kalu Yala came to be, and what we can expect as the community continues to evolve.

How did your path lead you to where you are now? 

I grew up in a real estate family. My father was a Senior Vice President of a renowned real estate firm and eventually founded his own private equity firm in the early ‘90s. Between the way I was raised and his background in real estate I translated that into my career. Real estate represents 35% of the United States’ assets and often 40% of someone’s income is spent on their homes. The build environment is really the infrastructure of civilization that connects (or disconnects) us physically and has a huge impact on us. I meshed what my father taught me about business and what he taught me about what I believed in together to form this idealistic real estate development community focused on building value-based communities for people.

Were there any specific moments leading to Kalu Yala coming into fruition?

There were a few moments along the way.  The first was my upbringing with my family. Around that time Sim City was big and it dawned on me that this isn’t just a video game, that there are people in the business of building the world. I thought how cool it would be to build a world that’s better than the one I felt I was being ripped off in, in the suburbs of Atlanta.

From there, when I was 18, I went to a place called Seaside, Florida, which is the birthplace of new-urbanism. New-urbanism really is simply traditional neighborhood development. It’s actually not anything ‘new’ except for the fact that they didn’t practice it for about 30 years. Urbanism was in the dark ages a bit when Seaside came along. What I saw there was that when we create density within communities, we suddenly create a much more enriching environment because we’re seeing people on our streets. It’s more fun, it’s more engaging, and this is the way places are supposed to be built. At that point in time I was still in a slightly selfish teenage mindset of ‘I want to build an ideal environment for me because I don’t like this one that has been handed to me.’ 

After that I went to Costa Rica and saw the exportation of the US model of suburbia being applied to affordable and social housing. What I witnessed was people becoming segregated into monocultures of their own demographic where they don’t even have the chance to interact with other narratives of where they can go in the world. They were isolated in this dated housing with people of the same income and education as them. It clicked to me that the way we build our world truly affects the potential for who we all are as individuals, and therefore the potential of our society. That’s when it really became a social undertaking for me.

You have a vision of building an ethos-first community. The ‘community before the community.What core values are you intending to hone in on during the building process? Why do you believe this to be so important as you continue to move forward?

The build environment is essentially an exoskeleton of our culture, what we believe in and what we value. Therefore, to build a place that has no values driving it is constructing a place in a vacuum. You end up with something trying to be all things to all people, which therefore the result is being nothing to anyone. 

We really are in an emergent state where the interns are defining the values in a large degree. I am not sure if there are new values emerging so much as how we are gaining insight into the application of those values in the real world and what’s realistic there. For us those values tend to be: believing in stewardship, self-reliance, collaboration, transparency and a responsibility to the surrounding region. Those are our five big core tenants of values. On one hand they are values, and on the other hand they are really efficient system components that helps created a stabilized evolutionary system.

Can you provide an anecdote that you believe personifies Kalu Yala in a nutshell? 

There was a moment in Spring 2012 when we were early in the internship. I decided to go for a hike asking if anyone else wanted to tag along. We hiked up into this beautiful narrow river canyon, covered in rain forest and a new intern said to me “Jimmy, how do I stay here?” All I could think to respond was “Zach, you’ve got to figure that out man, but I’d love to have you if you can.” He ended up becoming the camp cook the summer after his quarter and stayed with us for about a year and a half.

At times, people have accused me of building ‘Never-Never Land’ and the fact that it’s not ‘real life’, it’s just a place that is an embodiment of ideals. I don’t think that ‘Never-Never Land’ means that we are not going up because we are doing back-breaking labor and dealing with issues and limited resources in the jungle, which a foreign environment creates. I do think it is ‘Never-Never Land’ in the sense that it is a place where you don’t have to compromise your ideals to be able to function as an adult. 

How do you define the concept of ‘Never-Never Landin general? How is this being applied in relation to your goal of alleviating poverty in tropical climates and engaging with local Panamanian culture? 

Never-Never Land is how you create the most desirable lifestyle in the most affordable and practical manner possible. That concept ends up becoming universally applicable and adaptable to different situations. As much as we’re building this for ourselves in terms of how it functions, what we’re learning in order to do that is valuable to any community, but particularly to the tropics because the environment plays such a role in what your inputs and outputs of the system are. 

Originally we wanted to integrate everybody. We were building a village that was for Americans that shared common ideals and local Panamanians as well as city and country people in order to establish a melting pot that resulted in a single culture. What we’ve learned though is that we really believe in cultural pluralism and that we are different. That is what makes us great together and what makes us so much stronger as sister communities.

What are you hoping to have 5 years down the road with Kalu Yala? 

We’re trying to establish multipliers. We are not trying to just be organic food; we are not trying to just be sustainable architecture. We’re trying to value-engineer what happens when you are focused on everything that goes into a complete life. To put it bluntly, being able to create what might be categorized as a ‘Whole Foods lifestyle’ on $1000. That includes everything; from your house, to your clean energy, socializing, to your amazing organic food and how it’s prepared.

The solutions that come out of this sense of value engineering have the ability to be applied across the tropics and into other areas of the world. I think it will really end up being a beehive of activity; the most relaxed, busy place in the world.

 

Connect with Kalu Yala to learn more about their growing movement, student internships, and how you can become involved.

Saturday
Dec072013

Conscious Capitalists: Chistmahanakwanzika Gift List

The holidays are here which means it’s time to buy, buy, BUY!

Of course, for many of us this message is getting old. For some, the concept of no holds barred consumerism is downright sickening. For others, we’re looking for gifts with more meaning this season. With this in mind, we have handpicked from our series of social entrepreneurs, Conscious Capitalists, a series of gifts that carry meaning for more than just the recipient. These organization are set to provide this holiday season with gifts that truly keep on giving.

 

Sevenly T-Shirts

Sevenly is perfect for that person on your list who wears their opinions on their sleeves - literally. The company began as a custom T-shirt designer-for-good. Their in-house artists hand draw fresh designs each week, and seven dollars of every sale goes toward supporting a specific charity. If your special someone supports a specific cause, keep an eye out for the Sevenly's Seven Day's of Christmas. Kicking off Monday, December 9th, Sevenly will support a different charity each day for a week. New customers will see designs championing a variety of charities supporting a diverse array of causes. Sevenly veterans can get stoked about the one time return of old designs. Even if your person is not a T-shirt-kinda-person, Sevenly is worth a look as you can buy everything from hats to jewelry, to ties and bags - all with the same social benefit attached. Get ’em while you see ‘em because once these hand made designs are gone, they’re gone for good. 

Check out our interview with founder Dale Patridge to see how Sevenly routinely raise five and six figures a week for charities around the globe

 

Footwear That’s Bad for Running (Worse For Fighting)

You remember Matt Griffin, right? The guy who ran with the bulls in Flip Flops? His crew is bringing stability to war torn regions through locally made crafts. Right now you can buy hand crafted jewelry from Laos, made from the melted down shells of unexploded bombs. Each piece purchased helps fund the clearing of more unexploded ordinances in the area, literally saving lives and limbs. If you’ve got a snow-bird on your list and they’re getting ready to flee the cold, consider sending them off in a pair of sturdy, USA handcrafted Combat Flip Flops. Each purchase helps the company towards rolling out their Expeditionary Production Facilities. Check out their website for more crafts from all over the world. 

Take a look at our interview with Matt to find out more about how your purchase will help them bring stability to some of the world’s most dangerous places.

  

Enjoy Handplanes

A new toy for the beach bum on your list. A handplane is basically a small surfboard for your hand. It’s designed to make body-surfing a whole lot more fun by raising your torso slightly out of the water, reducing drag, and pulling you into waves a lot easier. These ones are made by Ed Lewis and Kipp Denslow from the foam of old broken surfboards. Cleaning up beaches and returning surfboards to their rightful place in the water. Each one is custom made, and one of a kind, turned out in their brand new shop just outside of San Diego.

Check out our interview to see how this unlikely duo came to be business partners, stumbled across this idea, and turned it into an eco-friendly economic powerhouse.  

 

 

Give the Gift of Education with Change Heroes

Of course, some people prefer not to exchange gifts at all during the holidays, focusing instead on what they can do for others. If that describes you and yours then you’ll love Change Heroes - an online platform that makes it easy for you and your friends or family to fund the construction of a school in the developing world. If you’re tired of waiting for one big day of giving, jump in on their 30 Days of Giving Bootcamp - a thirty day challenge to warm up the holiday season by committing to one simple act of kindness per day throughout the month of December. This one’s a lot of fun. Sign up on their website, and you’ll receive daily emails challenging you to give a little something each day. Challenges like give a random stranger a high-five, or write a handwritten letter to someone you care about. Simple things that promise to deliver one of the best gifts of all - connection to the people around you.

Read our interview with Taylor Conroy to find out more about his brainchild… SPOILER ALERT: It costs less than the price of a daily coffee.

 

Life Edited

Founded by internet millionaire and environmental journalist Graham Hill, Life Edited is a great resource for the person who’s already got everything. After riding the high of the world’s largest consumer culture many of us are starting to look around at our hoards of collected stuff - DVDs, Kitchen Appliances for every imaginable task, blankets with sleeves and pockets - and yearn for an escape. That’s what Life Edited is about. It’s about re-focusing on the important things in life. The things that actually make you whole. Everything else is reduced, and reconfigured until only the best remains.

It’s not about having no stuff, Hill said during our interview, “just have less of it, and try to have great stuff that you really love. That’s built well, and repairable, and will still look good in ten years.”

Hill has learned a thing or two about this, living quite comfortably in - and regularly entertaining as many as twelve at - his 480 square foot New York City efficiency apartment. His is a refreshing mantra for anyone burnt out by the mall stampedes and purchase-propaganda.

Now you can’t actually give someone Life Edited. That would be against the spirit of it all wouldn’t it? But if you check out the site or sign up for their newsletter you’ll get great tips on modern minimalist design and living delivered straight to you and you can use those to inform your gift buying strategy.


And there you have it. Socially responsible gift giving options for just about any type of person on your list. If you’ve found some others, and you think we should cover the companies in our Conscious Capitalist section drop us a line in the comments box. We’re always looking for feedback and new story ideas.

 

ETHAN BROOKS

@EthanDBrooks

Ethan is a Contributing Writer for MISSION.tv, a traveler and an entrepreneur. In addition to writing for MISSION.tv, and SocialFinance.CA he blogs about all sorts of things over at An American Afoot. His recent work focuses on people who are using business to change the world for the better. Always interested in new and fascinating stories, he can be reached via twitter or at ethan@mission.tv

 

 

Monday
Nov252013

Seven Steps to Becoming a Spontaneous Explorer of the World

Greetings future explorer of the world! In this post we will be introducing you to Spontaneity and his mischievous cousin Serendipity.* They have faithfully accompanied many great explorers throughout the ages and we can guarantee that befriending these two on the road is bound to lead to unexpected wayward adventures and happy coincidences.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. — Lao Tzu

* On an intriguing historical note, the word ‘serendipity’ was conceived entirely by accident. Back in 1754, the wonderfully named Mr. Horace Walpole recalled an old fairy tale of the ‘Three Persian Princes of Serendip’. According to Mr. Walpole ‘these brave Princes were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of…’

Inspired by Guerrilla artist Keri Smith’s delightful book on ‘How To Be An Explorer of the World’ and also some of the wonderfully creative ideas listed in the Lonely Planet ‘Guide to Experimental Travel’, we have compiled a short, illustrated field guide with seven ideas that we hope will encourage you to succumb to your spontaneous urges, adopt a healthy caution against over-preparation, embrace serendipity, shed the heavy cloak of routine, chase down happenstance, and invite chance to be your chaperon as you follow in the footsteps of the three aforementioned Princes—Onward! ¡Vamos! Allons-y!

 

1 | Spin the Globe

Guidelines

The timeless ‘spin the globe’ technique is one of the most well known methods for inducing spontaneous travel and is wonderfully demonstrated by James McAvoy playing Dr. Nicholas Garrigan in the 2006 film ‘The Last King of Scotland’. Committing to travel to the first place your finger lands on takes a whole lot of ‘cojones’, so for first timers we would recommend giving yourself three strikes—two practise spins if you will—before committing yourself to actually going to the country that your finger lands on.

For added panache, we would suggest first pouring a glass of single malt whisky and spinning one of the rather fine hand-painted globes from the talented team at Bellerby & Co based in London, England.

 

 

 

2 | Put Your Trust in a Furry Companion

Guidelines

If you live in an urban area, either take your own dog or ask to borrow one from a friend. If however you are living in central Asia, perhaps you might consider commandeering a yak. In Western Africa? Try a camel. In the Australian bush? Jump on a kangaroo… you get the picture. Whichever your mammalian companion of choice—turn the tables and let it take you for a walk, you never know where you might end up! 

 

 

3 | Flip a Coin and Take a Trip Down Memory Lane

Guidelines

This is one for the whole family and perhaps your elderly neighbours too. Politely ask them to dig around for an old half-penny coin (or equivalent out-dated coin depending on your homeland), perhaps a vintage travel guide (such as one of these) and if you really want to commit yourself, a vintage bicycle or Penny Farthing from an antique store—complete with a set of retro trouser clips.

Once your intergenerational team has rounded itself up, set off down your local road at a moderate pace and at each junction take it in turns to flip your coin. Heads = go left. Tails = go right. Repeat this process for an afternoon and along the way ask each other about memories from each place or junction—what did these places look like 10 or even 20 years ago? What has changed and what has remained the same? Enjoy the leisurely ride down memory lane. 

 

 

4 | Embark on a Microadventure

Guidelines

Surely you’ve heard of Al Humphrey’s microadventures by now? His premise is simple—you do not need to fly to the other side of the planet to find wilderness and beauty—adventure is only a state of mind. Anyone can embark on a microadventure. Simply put the kettle on, pick up a map and find somewhere rural that you’ve never been to, despite it being close by.

After work, jump on a train or cycle there. Sleep under the stars on a hilltop, swim in a river, wake up in the sunshine. Return to your desk, a few twigs in your hair but happy to the core.

 

 

 

5 | Seek Points of Confluence

Guidelines

A point of confluence occurs at the integer degree intersections where a line of latitude meets a line of longitude. There is a confluence within 49 miles (79 km) of you if you’re on the surface of Earth and there are 64,442 latitude and longitude degree intersections in the world (counting each pole as one intersection). Check out confluence.org to find out how many fall in your country.

These confluences are interesting because they represent the randomness that emerges from strict order, they are an open defiance of the order our culture imposes on us. As author Tim Vasquez says, ‘[Points of confluence are] curious places that embrace you in their history, character, and ecology, surrounded by people who are locals in every sense of the word.’

 


 

6 | Up Up and Away

Guidelines

This idea was pioneered by the legendary Larry Walters whose spontaneous misadventures inspired the Pixar classic UP. We do not advise that anyone actually attempts this at home, but Larry’s story is so spectacular that we felt obliged to include it in this compendium. Larry was an American truck driver, who on July 2, 1982 took flight in a homemade airship named ‘Inspiration I’.

His beautiful ‘flying machine’ consisted of an ordinary patio chair with 45 helium-filled weather balloons attached. It was reported that Inspiration I rose to an altitude of over 15 thousand feet and floated from its take-off spot in San Pedro, California into controlled airspace near Los Angeles International Airport. Slightly safer alternatives to Larry’s method would include paragliding or attaching a GPS to a helium balloon and following it with your feet placed firmly on the ground.

 

 

 

7 | Teach Yourself to Lucid Dream

Guidelines

Lucid dreaming is simply being conscious that you are dreaming. Tibetan Buddhists have practised dream yoga for centuries and there is a lot of literature behind the art and science of lucid dreaming—we found the simplest methods outlined in a post here on the 4HWW blog. It requires a lot of practise to master lucid dreaming in the beginning, but once greater control has been developed you can use your normal hours of REM sleep to visit anywhere in the world.

Quit your 9-5 job to fly over the Egyptian pyramids on the back of a giant eagle—check. Explore the depths of the ocean reefs without an oxygen tank—check. Base jump from Mt. Everest with Barack Obama—check. As with most things in life the only limits are those imposed by your own imagination—have fun!

Now, what are you waiting for... get out there and start spontaneously exploring the world!


THIS ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON THE MAPTIA BLOG

Maptia is a new platform designed for thoughtful, inspiring stories that make us want to get out there and explore the world. It was founded by three backpacking, travel-loving, design-obsessed friends who believe that storytelling can help make the world a better place. They are on a mission to build the most inspirational map in the world.”