WASHINGTON – With his iPhone in his hand and his dog,Maddie,by his side,Theron Humphrey drove through all 50 of the United States with a mission to meet one new person every day for a year. Beginning in Florida and ending in Hawaii,the 29-year-old now has 365 stories to share.
Humphrey,of Atlanta,was one of 15 individuals or families who were recognized Tuesday as National Geographic 2012 “Travelers of the Year.” Several of the travelers told stories about their trips to a paid audience at the Geographic’s museum. The rest were traveling,which didn’t come as a surprise to the audience.
Humphrey took photos and recorded audio of everyday people on a blog called “This Wild Idea.” He had three main reasons for doing the project,one of which was the end of a relationship.
“A broken heart is like the greatest catalyst in human history to go do something new,” Humphrey said.
He spent about 200 nights sleeping in the back of his truck. Other nights he slept on someone’s couch,with Maddie by his side the whole time. His trip across the United States was funded by donations from his website. He said he lived on $15,000 in his year of travel.
“Meeting new people,it’s exhausting. But I love it,it’s beautiful,” Humphrey said.
Humphrey already has his next adventure planned. He’s going through all 50 states again with Maddie,this time working on a project he’s calling “Why We Rescue.” He will share stories about why and how people brought an animal into their lives.
“We wanted to make sure they thought of the world as their neighborhood. We wanted something bigger for them,” Heather said.
Ish,45,was on a paid sabbatical from the York Region Public Health,and Heather,40,is a travel writer and was able to work during their yearlong trip. Cameron and Ethan missed second and fourth grade,but when they returned from a year of traveling,they started third and fifth grade,alongside their peers.
“It brings the education home for them. Over the next few years and into high school it’s going shape not only who they are as people,but their educational experience as well,” Heather said.
The Davis family traveled to 29 countries and they said it brought them closer. One of the challenges they faced was the language barrier. They speak French and English.
“We found China difficult. But once we were outside of China,we were so glad and excited that we had done it because we had amazing experiences in China,nonetheless,” Heather said.
The family plans to make another trip around the world in five years,when Ish can earn another paid sabbatical. By that time Ethan and Cameron will be teenagers,and the family may consider education abroad.
Other Travelers of the Year include Booker Mitchell,a 15-year-old from New York who,with help from his parents,makes documentaries from a teenager’s perspective as he travels around the world with his skateboard. Paula Busey connected with a tour guide,Samwel Melami,in Tanzania and together they organized a cultural exchange program that has been going on for three years.
Amy Russell is in Africa raising money for clean water,Robert Pennicott is an ecotourism specialist in Tasmania and Diana Gross is in Cambodia bringing technology to classrooms.
Mary Jean Jecklin and Kelley Rea created a website with advice about encounters with poor children and what makes a good gift and what doesn’t.
National Geographic plans to make “Travelers of the Year” an annual event.
Reach reporter Amy Slanchik at [email protected] or 202-326-9865. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.