The biggest lesson that traveling has taught me is that the best trips are either the ones you make yourself at home — or ones that make you extremely uncomfortable because they involve taking big risks. My parents took some big risks taking me to Cuba and the Amazon when I was really young. I’ve been traveling since before I could walk. But that’s how Booker Travels was born.
I’m Booker, a 15-year-old from New York City who hosts a web-based travel series that’s meant to encourage kids to get out of the house and explore the world.
My relatives and friends are spread out all over the globe, so visiting them at a really early age got me started. What better way to experience a place than to spend time with the people who truly know the local ins and outs?
Besides, when you take risks and put yourself in unfamiliar territory, you end up discovering some amazing underground food market or finding yourself at a tea plantation at the top of a mountain. You also wind up having the best stories to tell.
Sometimes when I share my experiences with other people they complain about how they don’t have the time or the money to travel. But you don’t need a lot of money to have an adventure.
Traveling is a state of mind. It’s about throwing yourself into situations and hoping that you will come out with some amazing experiences. It’s about trusting your instincts. That’s why I believe traveling can be done anywhere, even right outside your door. If people can be “travelers” when they’re visiting where you live, why can’t you?
One of the things that’s really special about our show is how genuine it is. We didn’t just pick up a camera one day and say “Let’s get on a plane.” We put an insane amount of thought into our locations.
I’m very lucky to have parents who not only take me around the world, but let me choose where we go. But I work to get that. Before every trip, I have to make a list of the places I want to see and name at least five reasons why. That way, wherever we go, I already know about the culture, food, music, and scenery, all of which play a MAJOR role in our show.
When my mom first began editing all the footage she had accumulated from my first trips, we realized we had something worth exploring. From there we went on our first official “Booker Travels” trip to Barcelona, where we roamed the streets in search of interesting foods, saw FC Barcelona go head to head with Getafe, skated with local pros, and listened to live music on rooftops and in parks and alleyways.
Our second trip was about as far as you can get from Barcelona: the Brazilian Amazon. We took a small boat down the Arapiuns and Tapajós rivers, tasting delicious fish and juices while meeting amazing people from remote villages along the way (I even skated in the heart of the Amazon with some enthusiastic locals!).
Next, we went to Nicaragua where we met up with a surfer named Andrey who showed us around and took us to some amazing local restaurants where we ate gallo pinto. We took a trip inland to see the incredible Masaya volcano and traveled to Granada to learn how to make chocolate. It’s the place, but even more than that, it’s the people who show you what makes their place great.
We just wrapped up a series on Montauk, began a new series on San Francisco, and will be coming out with episodes about our latest trip, to Sri Lanka, by the summer. Sri Lanka was the most exotic place I’ve ever visited in my life, and my experience there has made me want to see more of Asia, especially after finding out how nice it is to surf in warm water.
Last year I was honored to be named one of National Geographic Traveler‘s Travelers of the Year, and was invited to come to National Geographic Society headquarters in D.C. this past February to speak in front of a live audience.
I talked about how my travels have influenced how I live my everyday life. At home I ride my skateboard to school, never taking the same route, always listening to a different song on my iPod, and always noticing the faces I see and the different things happening around me. Life is fascinating no matter where you live, or where you happen to be at any given moment. You just have to look at it the right way.
Booker Travels has a motto: Live Life Outside. And that’s exactly what I want to keep doing.
I hope you’ll join me.
Booker Mitchell, host of Booker Travels, is a curious globetrotter who never leaves home without a skateboard — or a surfboard. Catch up with Booker on Twitter @Booker Travels or on his YouTube Channel.
Do you know any passionate people who travel with purpose? Nominate them to be one of our Travelers of the Year for 2013!