After two extraordinary years working for Google, my girlfriend and fellow SBE alumna Judith Enders and I decided to leave the search giant to go searching for some answers for ourselves. Answers to what? We were not sure at the time, that was the tricky part.
Leaving a job at a great company without even knowing what you are looking for never seemed like a solid plan to me and that is probably why it took me so long to master the courage to make such a decision. I just felt that something important was missing from my life and that I wanted to do something about it.
In the end, the actual trigger for quitting was a generous travel voucher that I won in a video competition.
Searching for answers through travelling
Travelling being a part of my life, I thought that I maybe would find some answers that way. We planned a five-month overland trip across Africa, from south to north.
I have always grown when visiting other countries, especially when the visits were part of a larger journey across a region, exploring places, staying with locals, trying to live like them and learn their perspectives on things.
Travelling has at least three very positive effects on me:
1- Decluttering: Every time I travel I am forced to declutter my life. I bring with me only what I can comfortably carry on my backpack. When you have too many things it get harder to see which are the really important ones. Decluttering also meant no internet access, an almost complete disconnection from email, Facebook, smartphones and other media that sometimes can become a bit overwhelming. It can be nice to live in the “now and here” for a change.
2- Gratefulness: Travelling helps me appreciate again the small things that I take for granted at home. In our journey across Africa, a few of the things I found myself unusually happy about were a pillow after 10 days of camping in Namibia, a cold shower after three days of hot dusty roads in the Ethiopian border, a piece of cheese at a supermarket in a small village in Kenya (it became my birthday present). I am sure this sounds like a nightmare for some people (my parents included), but I find it a liberating exercise that helps me enjoy my life even more when I go back home.
3- Openness: When you are away from your normal pattern of living, your routine, your habits, your comfort zone as we can call it, everything changes, the landscapes, the language, the food, the climate, where you sleep, even how you should dress in some places. But the most important change is the people you meet. You get to share experiences with people living very different lives, locals and fellow travellers, with different backgrounds, ages and professions. Being exposed to all these different people opens up new alternatives. I find it broadens my mind and gets me thinking about changes I would like to make in my life too. It makes me reconsider things while some of them hold the test and stay.
Besides these three points, I also think that travelling, especially to places where the language and cultural barriers are bigger, also helps you to become more patient, understanding and resourceful. You just have to, if you want to get anything done.
Why did we choose for Africa? Well, a quick answer is that the continent had been on our wish list for a long time, although it always seemed like a bit of challenge to do an extensive trip across Africa. Besides that, we were attracted by the idea of being in close contact with nature and getting to know very different cultures (from each other and from our own western one). The prospect of living out of a backpack on a truck (and tents) for five months covered all my points, it was perfect for us. Would our experience have been the same if we had taken the trip somewhere else? Maybe. I guess that crossing some parts of south- America or Asia could have had the same effect. We wanted to be away from western culture for a while, closer to nature and in places with few tourists.
The adventure really started on 18 October 2012 when we flew to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. Five months of overland trip were ahead of us. We would be crossing 14 countries by land: Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.
This turned out to be an eye-opening, once in a lifetime, 20,000 km drive during which we got to see a myriad of different ways of living. It is hard to summarise the impressions we derived from meeting the San-Bushmen and the Hammer tribes, witnessing religious ceremonies by a river in Ethiopia or bargaining at a camel market in Sudan. We came back with images of immense natural beauty, vast spaces, friendly and curious people, challenges and very diverse cultures.
Maybe this short video gives you a better impression of our journey.
With the overland truck as our basic transport, home and kitchen, our trip involved a lot of camping, sometimes for many days in remote areas. This meant that we needed to be self sufficient in terms of sleeping and eating supplies. A 300 liter water tank helped us go through the long days crossing deserts in Namibia, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.
Producing a travel documentary series
I can say now that the adventure also turned out to be a great internal journey for me. Although during the first weeks it felt just like a pleasant holiday, which made me have terrible second-thoughts about quitting my job, after some time I started to realise important things about myself and the path I wanted to follow in life. In my case this involved considering a career change.
I have always been interested in producing video content. I consider myself a visual story-teller and I love sharing with others what I see with the lens of my camera and encouraging them to see things differently.
It was probably more of a gut feeling than a premeditated plan that led me to take my camera equipment to Africa. I had bought a new HD camera, lenses, tripods,microphones and other accessories, but at first, I did not have a plan on what would I be doing with this equipment. During the trip I relaxed and just tried to capture the extraordinary experience we were living just as it was unfolding, to keep it honest, fresh and authentic.
We managed to capture our journey from a very personal point of view. Since my return to Argentina, I have been working on converting the 15,000 files of HD footage we brought back into a travel series of eight episodes covering our entire adventure.
I want to show both the wondrous places and people that we encountered on our journey, but also the personal transformation and lessons we got out of it.
Producing a video series, however, is far from easy or cheap. In the beginning of December we launched a crowdfunding campaign on the Indiegogo website to try to raise 6,000 euros in individual contributions. This money will allow us to start producing the series professionally.
Indiegogo is one of the biggest crowdfunding sites in the world and we were very happy when our project was chosen to be featured on its homepage for over a week. It was a great sign that the community was interested in knowing more about it. At the moment we are the second most popular film project on the site and on the brink of reaching our goal.
If you have ever entertained the idea of taking some time off to travel the world to find some of your own answers, you will enjoy watching this true story.
Also, if you found our video worth sharing, please go ahead and post it on your social networks, your help will be greatly appreciated and will help us share our story with the world.
By Nicolás Bori
Nicolás Bori is an SBE alumnus who went on to work for Google’s European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. In June 2012, Nicolás won an award for a video that he created “40 countries, 1 student budget”. The prize was a USD 16.000 travel voucher that he used to fly from Capetown to Cairo in five months.