This time last year, Matt Harding was named traveler of the year by World Hum. His video, “Where the Hell is Matt?,” the one funded by Stride gum had gone viral earlier that year. No wonder. If there’s a secret to world peace, Harding had found it.
Start dancing a silly, but engaging dance and people will dance with you-most people. The guard at the DMZ in North Korea won’t dance.
In his book Where the Hell is Matt? Dancing Badly Around the World, published earlier this year, Harding tells the stories behind the video. The book is as real and honest as the video version. What makes Harding’s brand of world travel work is his lack of pretense.
This is a guy who likes people who people are drawn to by the droves.
What is made clear in the book is that Harding was as surprised by his success as anyone. He merely started out dancing at various spots around the world and filming his flailing. It was a spontaneous gesture. Once that video gained recognition, Stride gum approached him about round two and that’s when Harding’s life changed.
His book, as well as being an engaging and humorous look at the stories behind the story, delves into issues that can haunt the traveler using the people in various parts of the world for personal gain.
Harding, along with his girlfriend Melissa who held the camera for part of the video, was uncomfortable knowing that he was earning money for his efforts while some of the people he filmed were living in dire conditions. A guy with heart, Harding came up with solutions he–and Melissa, could live with. For example, at the school in Madagascar, Harding made a donation to the school as thanks for allowing the children to participate in his creation.
Making a video of dancing badly is not the easiest endeavor, even though the dancing looks as easy as pie. The shot snorkeling in Vanuatu was a feat in perseverance where a couple of minutes are, thankfully, all that was needed. That’s just one example.
The book also makes clear that Harding had no idea what a treasure he was creating. Even after the video was finished and Harding began promoting it, he had no idea. It wasn’t until he sat down one night to watch it over and over that he knew. When Harding saw his creation from the rest of our eyes, he did what most people who saw it did. He cried.
If there’s a book that will keep you engaged and give you the motivation to keep up the good work of honest, open world traveling in 2010, it’s this one.