National Geographic Introduces ‘Travelers Of The Year’

For years National Geographic has honored some of the world’s top explorers, scientists and humanitarians with the distinction of being called Adventurers of the Year. That title is generally reserved for men and women who climb the highest mountains, plunge headlong into the deepest jungles or sail to the furthest points on the map, all in the name of exploration and science. Making the annual list of Adventurers of the Year is a feat that few ever earn and it brings with it a tremendous amount of respect and admiration.

Nat Geo is hoping to bring that same level of distinction to the travel world by announcing its first ever recipients of the Travelers of the Year award. According to the National Geographic website, this honor is given to “individuals who explore the world with passion and purpose,” which seems a bit arbitrary at first glance. After all, who amongst us doesn’t fit that description, right? But once you read the bios on the inaugural winners you start to see why these particular people were chosen from a list of hundreds of nominees sent in by readers.

For example, Paula Busey and Samwel Melami were given the award because of their unique cooperative relationship, which has been fostered over the past few years. Paula, who is a high-school librarian, met Samwel while on safari in his home country of Tanzania. While on that trip, Samwel served as the guide, impressing Paula with his knowledge of wildlife conservation, ecotourism and tribal history. When she returned home, Busey thought that the students in her school could benefit from meeting Melami and learning a few things from the young guide. So, she raised enough money to bring him to the States, where he spent a week teaching more than 1500 students about African traditions and culture. In return, the students raised funds to help Samwel build a modern kitchen in a school back home. The venture was so successful, that it has continued over the past three years.Other recipients include Diana Gross, an educator who used her sabbatical to connect students and teachers in diverse and distant places, and Theron Humphrey, who spent a full year visiting all 50 states, taking over 90,000 photos along the way. Fifteen-year-old Booker Mitchell earned his spot amongst the Travelers of the Year by starring in a series of videos that show him skateboarding in different destinations around the globe, while Aussie Robert Pennicott gets the nod for his circumnavigation of Australia in a tiny dinghy, raising funds and awareness for the eradication of polio along the way.

These are just a sampling of some of the interesting travelers who have taken home this honor for the first time. Considering most of the men and women on the list are not unlike many of us, perhaps a Gadling reader or two will make the list in the future as well.

[Photo Credit: Dana Romanoff]