Much of this blog was drawn from a conversation with Dr. Rick Quinn on our Talking Apes podcast, and from his wonderful book, Just Like Us: A Veterinarian’s Visual Memoir of Our Vanishing Great Ape Relatives.
One of my favorite quotes is from Saint Augustine, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” My alternate version would read, “Life is a book, and those who do not travel read only one chapter.”
Travel has been more than something I occasionally do, more than a couple of weeks holiday break from my everyday life, in many ways it has been what I do. It has been the only thing I have ever truly wanted to do. For those of you that have traveled with me, you know my passion for traveling, exploring new places, food, culture, natural history, wonderful people, and of course apes and primates. But what travel has taught me more than anything, especially this past year having it quarantined away, is how it adds experiences and memories to the everyday. Travel ensures every day is a punctuation mark on the timeline of life. In turn, every year is indelible.
Those indelible marks can add up – changing everyday life forever. As itinerate traveler Anthony Bourdain remarked, “The journey changes you; it should change you.” I feel like I have been on an eighteen-month change fast. I am so ready for change. Mostly I hunger for those indelible moments missed — it feels as though someone cruelly ripped pages from a chapter of my life book.
The Magic (and Science) of Inspired Travel
Travel with eyes wide open and it works its ultimate magic, an everyday change changes your life every day, forever. Travel has introduced me to an amazing handful of people that have been so changed. With physical travel arrested, my travels this past several months have been vicarious, through the tales of adventure shared by the guests on Talking Apes. Recently one of those guests was Dr. Rick Quinn, a kind and caring Canadian veterinarian ophthalmologist, whose passion for wildlife photography and curiosity of mountain gorillas turned into a travel adventure to the Virunga Mountains of Central Africa, an adventure that would change his everyday life forever.
A decade ago, inspired by a 2007 National Geographic article about the attack on and death of mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virungas, Rick was determined to experience gorillas, and see where his years and skill as a vet might contribute to the work of the Gorilla Doctors, the famous veterinarian team that has for more than a quarter-century been attending to the healthcare of the Critically Endangered Mountain Gorillas. He did travel to the Virungas, and did meet with Gorilla Doctors, and did share his ophthalmological knowledge, but he discovered much more. Rick discovered great ape conservation is a truly multifaceted experience.
For Rick, that inaugural trip changed everything. In 2012, it was meant to satiate a need to connect and help, but the journey brought clarity, it triggered change. He set off on a seven-year great ape odyssey to answer his insatiable curiosity and see how his life could support those risking their lives to save and protect great apes. Profoundly he came “to understand that each species of great ape faces different threats, and local people have different challenges and needs… We need to accept that no one government or organization can come up with the definitive way in which to protect great apes, a giant jigsaw puzzle… Small victories, taken together, create momentum.”
“The journey changes you; it should change you.”
In the Epilogue to Rick’s book he says, “Many of us regularly hear the call to do something that might make a difference. It’s important to listen to what resonates within you, what stirs you, what seems to awaken you from complacency and push you from the sidelines into engagement. My journey began in my study when seemingly unrelated interests collided deep within me. For once, I refuse to ignore the spark it created and made a plan based on a whim.” That plan turned into change, inspiring Rick to found Docs4GreaApes: a charity dedicated to a vision of a world community that is passionate about improving the health of Great Ape populations, the communities that surround them, and the ecosystem that we share.
What has always inspired me about travel, and the desire to guide others into places unknown, is that travel-unknown holds potential for self-change like virtually nothing else we do as humans can do. Travel has always done that for me, and I have seen it over and over in others. From children to adults. Travel, real travel, not holidaying, can and does change people. Sounds anecdotal, as hundreds of travel quotes imply, but there is some science hiding in all those quotes by itinerant wanders. A travel study in 2018 by a team of social scientists at Rice University, Columbia University and the University of North Carolina revealed that people who live abroad or travel for long periods of time have increased “self-concept clarity” – essentially, they understand themselves better than people who never live in a different country.
Join Us In Change…
We created our Travel with GLOBIO program to inspire the kind of change that Rick Quinn and others have reacted to. That program is instrumental to us creating greater awareness and understanding of what is at stake. Our travel goal is exactly to, “awaken you from complacency and push you from the sidelines into engagement.”
This past year has been a rollercoaster, it has had us shuffling our GLOBIO team travel to our partners in the field and the trips we had planned for you to join us. Our priority as always is safety, yours as well as the species we are seeing. If you would like to join us once we are back in the air and on the road, sign up for our travel-specific e-newsletter. A monthly update on incredible adventures we are planning and the opportunities for travel to change your everyday life.
“The shortest path to oneself leads around the world.”
— Hermann von Keyserling
Catch our latest episode with Dr. Rick Quinn by clicking the photo below!