When we think of getting a degree, a traditional educational experience comes to mind. But for Michael Graziano, Natalia Anja, and Film Production grad Alex Hennessy, a degree means anything but traditional. For them, it’s all about a trip of a lifetime that, by the end, will have taken them around the world. And if that’s not enough to set your curiosity ablaze, get this: they’re looking for a fourth member to join their team.
The “Greatest Contest in the World” is open to those interested in Canada (January 30), the U.S. (February 29), and Europe (March 15). As the fourth, you’ll be responsible for contributing to their digital diary – a stunning visual log that combines photos, videos, and written accounts of their epic journey as part of Discovery Channel’s digital platform. If you’re looking to mix up your usual routine and experience new cultures, this is definitely something you’ll want to check out.
We had a chance to speak with the members of “Global Degree” about their travel experiences, current contest, and what’s next. Read on, adventurers!
What is “Global Degree”?
Natalia: Global Degree is similar to a university degree, except you need to visit every United Nation to graduate.
How did this all start?
Mike: After spending only 3 weeks on a solo trip through Thailand, I learned how inexpensive, friendly, and safe traveling really is on a budget. I made a promise to visit every country in the world before the age of thirty, or die trying. Soon after that, I met Alex Hennessy through a mutual friend on Facebook. We met once in Vancouver, and Alex soon left his job, sublet his apartment, and traveled two continents. All of this with a guy he just met.
Alex: I had previously filmed two travel documentaries and was headed to Central & South America next, anyway. When I met Mike, I felt our goals aligned for the project and the trip was heavily sponsored. So I went for it.
Where has it brought you thus far?
Alex: We’ve filmed 42 countries so far. We visited all of Central & South America last year, and every country in Asia this year, finishing in Australia.
Alex, you’re in charge of documenting this journey. How has your training in the VFS Film Production program helped you?
Alex: The cinematography portion of the Film Foundation program gave me a strong understanding of use of lenses, lighting setups, proper compositions, and exposure. All of this is important for a quality production.
What made you decide to run a contest to find a third person (Natalia) to join your adventures around the world?
Mike: When we discovered that no woman had ever visited every United Nation on record, we saw a huge opportunity to set a milestone in history.
The trip was also very testosterone driven at this point, so we could have used a female character to balance it out a little -- Lol.
Tell us what the process was like to find local photographer Natalia Anja. What made her the perfect person to join your team?
Alex: We were very impressed by Natalia’s work, and it turns out she had a bigger lens kit than we did.
Mike: She seemed like a very down-to-earth person and a relatable character for all female travelers. After watching all the contestants’ videos, our sponsors unanimously decided she would be the best fit. So we picked her.
How has the dynamic changed since Natalia joined?
Mike: She has added a massive photography element to the project, which has gained us about 40,000 new fans on Instagram. We also had zero issues this trip, which the two of us can attest is due to Natalia’s responsible behaviour.
What has been the greatest moment?
Alex: Hang-gliding over Rio de Janeiro.
Mike: Skydiving while skyping with my parents in Sydney.
Natalia: Over coming my fear of water and learning to scuba dive in Koh Tao, Thailand with a turtle swimming beside me.
What has been the most surprising?
Natalia: How delicious fermented camel milk was in Mongolia.
Alex: Watching 3 million bats fly out of a cave in Malaysia.
So far, which country/culture has affected you the most?
Natalia: India. The culture in Varanasi especially was very interesting and different from anything I've ever experienced.
Mike: Philippines. People there are so kind and always want to help you.
Alex: Cambodia. I remember seeing 3rd world poverty and felt sorry for these people at first. But after getting to know them, I realized they were incredibly happy and content with their simple life and what they had -- more so than some of my friends at home.
By doing this, do you hope to change the perception that travelling can be a) dangerous and b) expensive?
Mike: Absolutely! That is the mission of the entire project.
Alex: We spent more money in 2 weeks living in Vancouver than I did a month traveling in Asia. The world is much safer than we're told and there are plenty of misconceptions about it. There are good people everywhere.
What are your best travel tips?
Mike: Pack light.
Natalia: Always wear a smile and carry an open mind.
Alex: Put effort into documenting your trip. There’s no better way to perfect your craft while creating long lasting memories of your epic journey.
You’re hosting another contest to find a fourth traveller. What are the parameters of this contest? Who/what are you looking for? What do you want to say to people interested in applying?
Team: Yes! You need to send us a 2-3 minute video explaining:
- Why you want to travel every country in the world, getting your global degree
- How you could benefit the team
We are very interested in finding someone to add to our production and with a background in photo, video, and editing. Skills in writing, and a passion for travel and the world, are great as well.
To anyone interested in applying, always remember: you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. So take a shot and send us a video!
Anything else you’d like to say?
Team: Really looking forward to meeting you, and introducing you to a community of soon-to-be global degree graduates!
Thanks, Team Global Degree!
The deadline for Canadian applicants is coming up fast, so APPLY HERE for your chance to travel all 50 countries in Europe in 8 months -- Good luck!