“I’m not supposed to be here. I make every single day count.” ~ Alison Wright
Today’s conversation is with Alison Wright.
Alison is a documentary photographer, the author of 10 books and an adventurer who’s been to 150 countries.
In 2013 she was named National Geographic Traveler of the Year and recognized as someone who travels with a sense of passion and purpose – and really, that’s putting it mildly. She’s also the recipient of a Dorothea Lange Award in Documentary Photography and a two-time winner of the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award.
I think I first met Alison when she was in Seattle many many years ago at a book signing. She was speaking at a small event at a bookstore where she told the story of nearly dying in a bus crash in Laos. She survived, of course, but I remember her amazing story and remember completely admiring her sense of adventure and her desire to continue traveling despite this horrendous event that, really, changed her life.
You’re going to hear some great stories from her in this episode. But my big takeaway from this conversation is how, from a very early age, Alison knew exactly what it was that she wanted to do. She wanted to travel and she wanted to document the human condition including the world’s indigenous and endangered cultures.
When I describe myself, traveler is always the number one thing I identify with. I like to think that I put this passion of mine to some use by helping other people see the world and by showing them possibilities of personal growth through travel.
But what I’ve done in the world of travel pales in comparison to Alison. She is an incredibly talented photographer who has put her passion for travel to use by documenting her experiences in an incredibly artistic way.
As you’ll hear in this conversation, it’s obvious how singularly focused she was and still is on this goal which has become her life’s purpose.
I don’t want to say she’s seen it all, but after 150 countries, she’s seen a lot.
I’m sure she’s got a million stories that could fill many more hours of conversation, but for our purposes, we chatted about some of the highlights from her adventures including that bus crash in Laos, her befriending the Dalai Lama (and publishing a book about him) and, more recently, being thrown off a horse in Mongolia and how she thought she was going to die (again) when that happened.
Before I get to this conversation with Alison, I want to remind you to check out the tours I offer at WanderTours.com (W*A*N*D*E*R). If you find the least bit of inspiration from today’s conversation with Alison, you’ll likely want to jump on board my trip to Papua New Guinea in 2019 – and there are just a couple of spots left on that tour.
This tour coincides with the Mt. Hagen Singsing festival. This is where about 75 tribes gather to sing and dance in a cultural performance like none other. The festival includes about 1,000 local tribesmen and women and maybe 300 tourists. It’s a photographer’s dream, for sure. But you don’t have to be a photographer to enjoy and take in this unbelievable event. And as a side note, even those who don’t consider themselves photographers end up with such amazing photographs that they’ll be mistaken for photographers.
Not only does this tour include the Mt. Hagen Show, but it includes a private mini-singsing in the mountains just outside of Mt. Hagen town where about a dozen tribal groups perform for a small amount of tourists. And it also includes another small but budding singsing festival in the Sepik River area. This one has maybe 10 – 12 groups performing and at that event maybe 20 – 25 tourists. In 2019 I’m told that that Sepik River singsing will include a very special ceremony where we’ll get to see the crocodile cuttings where boys are initiated into manhood. (Google it for more info.)
The access to these groups and the ability to photograph them so up close will change your life forever. And I don’t say that lightly. After my first few trips to PNG, I came home speechless. Just really kind of culture shocked in the most amazing kind of way.
It’s worth noting that I am working with Alison on the possibility of her leading a photography tour to Papua New Guinea so if you’re interested, you can let me know by sending an email to [email protected]
One final note, be sure to listen through to the end of this conversation as I feature a question from a listener and answer her travel-related question.
With that, please enjoy this conversation with the amazing, Alison Wright.
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