Inspiration at the TNT travel show

by Carmen Allan-Petale

Yesterday, Dave and I went to the TNT travel show. We’ve been before but never as travel bloggers, more from the view of an Aussie looking for a good travel deal.

But amongst all the tour companies we found a number of people who were as passionate about exploring the world as we are. And that’s when we realised the main motivation for going to the event this year; to meet people who were keen to share their inspiring stories.

Most people attend the TNT travel show to grab a great deal for 2013

Aaron Jones, Director of Fikay Fashion, was one of these inspirational people. A few years ago, he travelled to Cambodia to work for a charity as a photographer. The poverty and the tragic history of the country struck a chord and he knew he had to do something to help.

It wasn’t long before he took over the management of Fikay Fashion, a social enterprise that takes rubbish polluting Cambodia, such as cement bags, and turns them into fashion accessories.

It’s such a great idea and the products look beautiful – plus each piece is unique. Because the accessories are handmade by the local community, many of these people are now receiving a source of income. Not only this, but other profits generated from the sale of the accessories are going towards building schools for Cambodian children, so those living in poverty have a chance to be educated.

The purse I bought from Fikay Fashion

Another inspirational story came from Juan from The Inca Rally. He runs a charity where every year he goes to South America with a team of adventurists and drives from Peru to Guyana, stopping off in Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela along the way. During the three week trip the team travels in old beaten up cars, like VW Beetles from the ‘60s. This, Juan assured us, is part of the fun.

Last year both cars in the rally broke down at the same time in a dangerous section of road in Colombia. It was 2am. Fearing the worst, Juan knew he had to get his team out of the area safely and as quickly as possible. Luckily, he managed to befriend a local family who took them into their home until their vehicles were repaired. The family even found them trucks to transport their cars to the garage!

But his adventures aren’t just for explorer’s sake – Juan uses the annual rally to drum up media attention on this underprivileged part of the world. The teams film their journey and share their experiences; shining a spotlight on countries in need. Juan has support from British charities, including The Prince’s Trust, and next year he’s aiming to take youths from London on the journey with them. He wants 18-20 year old Londoners who themselves come from poverty to experience a journey a lifetime. Many of these young adults haven’t been outside their own boroughs, let alone London.

Juan talks about his adventures from The Inca Rally

Another adventurer we met was Huw Miles from Miles Away Ltd. Years ago he was working in New Zealand as a river boarding guide and decided he wanted to explore other spots around the world where he could ride rapids. For those who don’t know what river boarding is (I had no idea before meeting Huw) it’s like white water rafting although instead of sitting in a raft to travel down a river, you use a body board to surf the rapids and flippers to help you manoeuvre through the swirling water. Yes, it’s as crazy as it sounds, but I still feel inclined to try it!

Anyway, after New Zealand, Huw travelled the world in search of the best rapids to ride. Many people hadn’t ever seen river boarding before and he became somewhat of a novelty, with kayakers he met taking him to their local pubs to show their mates what this crazy adventurer was doing. It was then Huw had an idea – why couldn’t he get a team together and travel down a river in Nepal, one that had yet to be explored by river boarders?

Huw talks about his crazy adventures as a River Boarder

He flew back to New Zealand and over the next 18 months fundraised and drummed up support for his adventure. Mostly these supporters ‘thought he was crazy’ but they still donated to his whacky adventure. He set off with eight of his tour guide mates and over the course of a week river boarded down through Nepal, camping on the banks of the river at night. He said it was the best thing he’d ever done.

Huw now takes tour groups every year to the country to get others into river boarding, only on a slightly altered journey. He said he’s changed the itinerary because some of the rivers he ran with his tour guide mates on their first trip ‘scared the shit out of all of them’, and they didn’t want to attempt those routes again!

The TNT travel show in full swing

All the three men I’ve mentioned have had vastly different adventures but the one thing they have in common is that they’re extremely passionate about what they do and they want to share this passion with the world. All three probably don’t earn a vast amount of money, but money is not what motivates them. What inspires them is the chance to better the world and encourage others to share that journey with them. And this is why I found them so inspiring.

As Huw states on his website, “Miles Away was set up so that I might share my passion and create unique and lasting memories with others through exploratory travel expeditions.”

And with someone with a passion, no matter how small or different from the norm, there were never truer words said.

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