From the heights of the Himalayas to the heart of the Amazon, Daniel Bury is on a mission to experience reality from the point of view of diverse people around the world, sharing first-hand encounters with distinct cultures and communities in immersive 360-degree virtual reality.
Kelsey Johnson is a longtime friend of mine and has worked with me on award-winning travel television projects in the past (“Chasing the World” before it transformed into a cutting edge virtual reality series).
It was the Fourth of July 2011. I was sitting underneath a table in our backyard while my college roommates screamed at each other overhead. We were playing a game of beerpong. I’d lost the previous game which meant that I was now “trolling,” a cruel and unusual rule which banished me to stay under the table for the remainder of the game. Even though it was a holiday, the whole scene felt redundant. We did this everyday, and as I sipped my red cup of Coor’s Light I began to daydream about where else in the world I could be at that very moment.
I’d only been out of the country twice—both times to Rosarito, Mexico but that was back when you didn’t even need a passport to cross the border and I’d been there to do community service only, not sight-see. My friend Champion had recently talked about moving to Australia and although I only had pennies to my name on that day, I vowed that I would move to Australia (or somewhere) too.
I got some art supplies and began decorating a piggy bank which I labeled “GTFO”—my “Get the F*ck Out Fund.” My first deposit was of $7.86 and for several months after that my piggy still did not feed on much more than pocket-change.
Once I finished with my last semester of school, however, I was able to get a job. I signed up with an environmental organization where I would have the extremely difficult task of converting strangers in the street to monthly donors. I had a weekly quota for how much money I’d have to make—a dollar amount that was just bellow intangible. The pay, on the other hand, was a good deal higher than minimum wage and with these earnings I was able to save.
Alas after several months of moving back in with my mother and living like a monk—no social life and no frivolous spending—I almost had the $3,000 that I’d set out to earn. On one fateful Friday afternoon, though, I didn’t meet quota for the second week in a row and I suffered what I referred to as the “Noble Quota Death.” I had failed to meet the mark and I knew, standing in the cold outside of a Best Buy in Culver City, CA that I’d lost my job right then and there.
I could hustle to find another job and risk spending all my savings to support myself in the interim, or I could take a chance and move to Sydney with what I had. I’d heard it was easy to find a job in Sydney and that the wages were high. Wouldn’t that be better? I wasn’t sure of the answer to that question. All I knew was that it would definitely be a crazy risk, but that weekend I bought my ticket and knew that in less than a month I would be on my way to a world 8,000 miles away from anything I’d ever known before. The over-calculating “proceed with caution” Virgo in me was dying, but the adventurer inside of me was just beginning to breath for the first time.
Was this a good decision? The answer to that is one with mixed realities, including the downside periods of near-homelessness, credit card debt, and homesickness. But on the Fourth of July 2011 I’d only been to one foreign country in my life and by May 2013 I’d been to eleven. Plus, one of those expensive “vacations” resulted in my helping to make a travel TV show pilot which has connected me to people around the world.
By no means do I intend to say that this whole journey was easy. Success and failure are two sides of the same coin– different combinations of calculation and risk-taking with no set end. But, the way I look at it, no matter what side a coin lands on—the coin itself still has value. I will tell you what happened to me once I got to Sydney another time. In the interim though you can ask yourself: what would you give up to travel the world?
I went to high school with Katy in Phoenix, Arizona and we are lifelong close friends. She has a passion for altruism and has spent time living in remote Tanzania to spread medical knowledge.
SAFETY FIRST, THEN TEAMWORK!
Here’s the top 12 essential items that every adventure-seeker should carry with them at all times for their wanderlust companions.
As much as I would like to say I’m a trained professional, I am far from your Bear Grylls survival expert. Honestly, I am just an adrenaline junkie with some accident-prone friends, so I’ve listed below some of the items I recommend for a First Aid Kit.
1. Compression Dressings: What does jungle trekking in Indonesia, hiking in the Outback, and exploring ancient Buddhist temples in Burma all have in common? The potential for a bloody mess, given the group of flat-footed hooligans I travel with! Compression dressing is critical for any major blood loss trauma, cleaning sensitive lenses, passing love notes on an airplane and creating a MacGyver-rigged tampon in extreme cases. Literally, compression dressings could be used in a million different ways- each one as important as the next.
2. Sunscreen: A sunburn is a sure fire way to ruin your delightful beach nap after a hard day of drinking bottomless Mai Tai’s on a secluded beach in Thailand. Plus, sunscreen insures keeping that fresh face fit for a television show 😉
3. Water purifying tablets and water flavoring packets with sugar: I know this sounds extreme to carry around water purifying tablets but water is the key to survival. The tablets take up very little space, are easy to find, and reasonably cheap. The water flavoring packets are a refreshing way to change it up from the bland water taste. Carrying flavoring packets that contain sugar are for ‘just in case’ moments where someone you are traveling with needs a sugar lift. ‘Hangry’ is a real thing.
When you are so hungry that your lack of food causes you to become angry, frustrated or both.
4. Motion sickness tablets: All amazing travel destinations are pretty much guaranteed to have some sort of unsightly mode of public transportation. In our first episode of Chasing the World the cast and I spend two and half hours in the back of an “open air off road vehicle” … an old pick-up truck equipped with a metal cage mostly there to transport animals (I’m assuming)… however, in our case budget-friendly travelers. The only thing worse than being motion sick is being stuck in a vehicle with someone who has just projectile vomited over you because they were motion sick. #gross #holdthevomit
5. Hydrocortisone cream: There are a million different bug repellents sprays, home remedies, and what-nots to try and prevent bug bites, but at the end of the day (unless you are willing to travel completely wrapped in saran wrap from head to toe) carry copious amounts of extra-strength itch cream. This is not an item I go generic on either… it’s well worth the extra couple of bucks to get the name brand.
6. Band-Aids and moleskin: Honestly, I only use Band-Aids on my feet to help against blisters. I’m a firm believer in the “let it breath” method of cuts and scrapes as long as they have been properly cleaned out. Moleskin is also an amazing way to help heal and prevent blisters and tends to hold better than Band-Aids.
7. Chapstick: I would take a broken arm over having chapped lips while traveling. I HATE chapped lips.
8. Scissors: Standard First Aid Kit and basic travel necessity. I will probably write my next blog post on twenty different ways a scissor will save your travel trip, scissors are that important! Just don’t accidentally bring them on a plane.
9.Zip-Ties: Odd for this to be in a First Aid Kit, but it’s guaranteed that this will be the number one most used item in your First Aid Kit. Zip-Ties can be used for almost everything, from locking the zippers shut on your bag to protect from thieves, or even having to use it as a tourniquet in the case of major blood loss.
10. Aspirin: Again standard First Aid Kit item, I get the extra-strength ones with caffeine mostly because when I’m hungover, it gives me that extra boost to continue on with the ridiculous travel itinerary Danny, Arielle and the crew have set out for the day.
11. Anti-bacterial wipes, sprays, and pills: Germ-free is the way to be. I am such a huge fan of any sort anti-bacterial no matter if it comes in liquid or pill form. Always use antibiotic hand wash before and after each meal and antibiotic spray to coat a hostel room. In extreme cases, I use an everyday body mist spray to de-germ myself. As a precautionary before each travel adventure, I visit my family practitioner and get a prescription for a wide spectrum antibiotics in case of emergencies. It could be days before you are able to receive proper medical attention and this precautionary insures a bit of comfort and will potentially save your life.
12. Latex Glove for the Love Finger (Condoms): Traveling the world finds you in the most romantic spots around the globe, so don’t miss out on an opportunity to get bit by the love bug! Best to be safe and prepared…cue sexy mood music: bow chicka wow wow!
Check out the link below to the page for the American Red Cross First Aid Kit suggestions:
Before I filmed an entire season of Chasing the World in cutting-edge virtual reality, my closest friends and I set off to create a separate project of the same name. It was a television pilot that we made right after graduating University in the Sumatran jungle, and it even won the Independent Television Film Festival.
This is the story of how that project came to be, which subsequently led me to create the virtual reality travel series today.
Well, I wish I could tell you that we fell into a windfall of funding. That would have made everything so easy! But the real story is much crazier— a chaotic mix of irrational decisions, blind optimism, hard work, and maybe even a little bit of fate.
Let me begin with a question:
What did you do when you graduated from school? Many people dive straight into a career. Or sometimes, they apply to go back to do more school. To us, both of those options just don’t seem right. I mean, we’re young, and we’ll only be this young once. There must be a way to escape a life sentence of doing what everyone else is doing. But… how?
Our Answer: Australia.
“What?! You’re moving to Australia?!” was the consistent reaction among our family and friends. But the six of us made the decision together: me (Danny), Arielle, Patrick, Kelsey, Katy and Champion. That’s right, we were temporarily moving to Australia, and with the purchase of a one-year working holiday visa ($350) we were departing the “Land of the Free” and entering the land of higher wages and no worries. Champion was the first to depart, proving to all of us that it was possible. Then, after a few months of penny-pinching until each of us managed to scrape together $3,000, our adventure down under began.
But we knew we wouldn’t last long unless we found a job in Sydney immediately.
The gritty details of our time together in Sydney will be saved for another post, so I’ll summarize by saying this: we lived in shitty accommodation and worked ridiculous odd jobs. We applied to a myriad of temp agencies and bounced between the weirdest jobs imaginable— cereal factories, hospital offices, beach bars, bakeries… you name it! We were backpackers living a carefree adventure and each weird experience was a chance to step out of our comfort zone. Furthermore, we soon discovered that Australia pays all of its employees generously ($25 an hour to stand on a street corner and gather signatures?! I’ll take it!)
Suddenly, we found ourselves saving some money in a way we never could in America… too easy! We were on the other side of the world and we had each saved an extra $1,000 to do something crazy. But we wanted to create something in the process. Before long, the obvious conclusion came to us: a travel show.
I mean, think about it– what travel show out there actually captures what it’s really like to travel as a broke young backpacker? Most travel shows are scripted and revolve around a celebrity, or have massive film crews following them around. The stars had aligned for us to self-document and create something truly unique and real.
We soon discovered that round trip flights to Singapore were only $300 due to a lucky promotion. After scouring the depths of the internet in search of an exciting off-the-grid travel destination near Singapore, we stumbled across a message board where a lone faceless man recollected his remote adventure in the Sumatran jungle with a mysterious guide named Obi Wan.
Patrick Gooing has been a close friend of mine since freshman year of college and he is a very talented film, TV and documentary producer.
Upon graduating from film school, I had already interned at multiple production companies in both film and television in Los Angeles. I knew I wanted to produce and fully commit to my career in film, but I wasn’t ready to settle and plant my feet in LA until I had tried something a little daring and outside the box first.
So…I said f*ck it – I decided to move to Australia! Honestly, the way I looked at it, I had nothing to lose – I didn’t have a job, a girlfriend, or any other obligations, and the worst I could do is fail. I knew gaining international contacts and relationships in a foreign film industry would be invaluable and would help me stand out when/if I returned back to the states. Also, Champion was already living in Sydney and he assured me that Australia’s economy was Re-Donkulously better than ours. He said finding a regular job that pays better than most mid-level business jobs in the states would be easy to find. SERIOUSLY, I got a job working at a telemarketing agency making $27 after taxes with two days of looking – HA!
So I gathered as many contacts as I could from my colleagues in LA, and I prepared to make my move. It’s crazy when you realize what it takes to move to a foreign country when you have no idea if you’ll ever move back. I had to cancel my cell service, modify my credit cards, and I had to obtain Australia health insurance– which really paid off (I’ll get to that later).
Right before I was about to buy my ticket, my friend Mike Tacca asked me to produce a documentary in Calcutta, India about a non-profit organization called Operation Straight Spine while also focusing on differences between private and public healthcare in India. It’s an organization run by orthopedic spinal surgeons who perform life saving surgeries for families who cannot afford the treatment. After filming for two weeks, I flew straight from India to Sydney where I started taking meetings everyday with executives in both film and television– it became very clear they were a little resistant about hiring non-Australian employees because of visa restrictions. Within two weeks of being in Australia, I had to have my appendix removed, which was awesome because it was all free and I stayed in the hospital as long as I needed. PLUS if it had been two weeks earlier, I would have been in India. And if it was two weeks earlier, then I would have been in the U.S. where I had no health insurance whatsoever hahahaha for the win!
It took me a few months of searching to find a job working in film. I reached out to a friend of mine who knew a veteran Australian actor named Jack Thompson #Legend – HUGE FAN (if you haven’t seen it yet, go watch BREAKER MORANT…now!). I read an article the day before we left to start shooting our CHASING THE WORLD pilot. The article informed me that Jack was producing and starring in a film in Sydney and it started production in a week. As I was waiting to board our flight to Singapore, I made a call to my friend and asked him if there was anything he could do to help me work on the film. He came through big time, and he arranged for Jack Thompson to come and pick me up from my apartment the day I returned from Indonesia. He took me to the set, introduced me to the producers and director, and I was working as an Assistant Director for the rest of the film! From that moment on I had consistent work working in film production (commercials, short films, GREAT GATSBY, etc.).
My overall goal was to make industry contacts in Australia and everyone thought it was a pretty daring thing to do, so I was happy that I succeeded. I ultimately decided to move back to the states because I had been trying to find an assistant job working for a producer at a production company while I was down there– I had no luck because of visa sponsorship issues. One of my dream jobs was and STILL is working for Emile Sherman at See-Saw Films!
Look for my follow up article about transitioning back to life in the states.
Until then, safe travels and…try to break out of your comfort zone every once in a while – you’ll be thankful for it later.
One of my favorite things about my trip to Sumatra as a whole was discovering how much the locals and I had in common as far as music tastes. I was so surprised the first night when we walked into the bar and they were playing “Welcome to the Jungle.” I had my ukulele and quickly befriended the “musicians” of the village and would often sneak off to have little jam sessions. One night Katy and I were at one of the tiny restaurants after hours. One of the guys was playing guitar while I sang “Lighting Crashes” by Live. Suddenly it started raining this incredible downpour and the power went out; the only light was from the tiny red ends of lit cigarettes. We kept on singing and right as we got to the “lightning crashes” chorus part this huge zap of lightning hit down. The whole room was lit up and everyone was smiling. I had been debating staying back from the jungle hike but one of the guys told us “well now you gotta go- Mother Nature she’s calling you!”
What happened in the jungle was even more amazing. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am not the most athletic person and the trek was definitely turning out to be a bit of a challenge, complete with mud and bugs. We’d crossed our fingers that the jungle had gotten all of the rain out of its system in last night’s storm but the sudden rumbling of deep thunder told us we were wrong. The rain came quickly as ever. Everyone else put on their ponchos but I was overheated and welcomed the lukewarm water on my skin. I remembered, though, that my ukulele was exposed and I needed to cover it. Our second guide stayed back with me while Obi and the others continued ahead. I put my yellow poncho on over myself and my backpack and realized that this actually felt better. “I feel so warm and fuzzy!” I thought to myself, a bit delerious from the day’s rough terrain workout. But I realized something was off– I literally felt warm and fuzzy.
I looked down and saw in my hand… another hand. The hand was orange and hairy. This hand belonged to an orangutan! She held her baby in her other arm and I realized that her protective instincts could be triggered easily. I stayed calm and kept walking forward, the three of us hand in hand but it didn’t last for much longer as Champion had come back to check on me and screamed “monkey!” The orangutan let go of my hand and everything slid into chaos. Our guide quickly pulled out a long stick of bamboo which he tried to bait her with, but she took our backpack full of supplies and food instead. He screamed for us to run and I ran up this muddy, steep mountain faster than I’ve ever gone in my life. You would have thought a velociraptor was chasing after me.
At the top of the mountain, Obi, Danny, Arielle, and Katy were waiting for us. I told them all what had happened and they told me to sit down– thinking that I was literally out of my mind with exhaust! Our guide came up shortly after, with the backpack safely in tow, and he explained that everything that we told them was true. I know that Obi Wan has experienced a lot of crazy things on these treks but the look on his face told me he was truly shocked. I still laugh when I think back at this wondering exactly how long had we been walking like that. I realize how lucky I am that nothing worse happened. I know one thing: that 24 hours is something I will never forget!
Traveling in many ways is like the ultimate sport.
There are time changes to deal with, illnesses to avoid, languages to comprehend. Traveling presents you with a load of physical and mental challenges that you get better with over time. I am no travel pro, but there are a few things I would do differently the next time I travel, minor tweaks I’d make to improve my personal experience.
The 5 Things I Will Change the Next Time I Travel:
5) Be More Physically Adventurous
I’ve never been great at sports so doing athletic activities on holiday has always seemed daunting to me. Before our jungle trek in Bukit Lawang, Indonesia, my stomach was a volcano of roaring nerves. I almost considered staying back but after chatting with the locals I decided to go, and going was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Sure I may have been one of the slower members of our group, but that is actually the reason why I had a crazy chance encounter with a wild Orangutan (more on that later). Plus, you get the best travel pictures in the places that take the most work to get to. That being said…
4) Take More Pictures
I really can’t stand when someone has to pause a trip every few moments to take a photo. Like, “A trash can, wow, let me instagram this– just give me 20min to choose a filter.” My disdain for these people has led me to be someone who avoids taking pictures altogether. That, however, sucks when you get home and have nothing to show for your travels. The next time I travel I want to stop being so cool and embrace my inner tourist. Who cares if you slow down the group for a minute to grab moment. Remember the rule: Pics or it didn’t happen.
3) Pack Less
There’s a part of me that feels like Occam’s razor rules my life. You know the rule that says that if I don’t pack my dressy gown and motorcycle boots, Brad Pitt is going to show up at my hostel door and offer to take me to an evening gala on the back of his bike. Fortunately/unfortunately this has never been the case. Instead I’ve usually ended up lugging around a giant backpack full of unnecessary outfits and styling tools (oh my god, what if I want to crimp instead of flat iron?). I’ve begun practising the Parisian fashion mindset of bringing a few items that can be styled many ways. I know my back will thank me and I’ll have that extra space for anything new I do pick up along the way.
2) Take Myself Less Seriously
It was only towards the end of our trip to Indonesia that I finally decided to get my carefully posed hair wet and let the Afro out. I was so worried about what people would think or how I’d look in pictures, but swimming in a natural waterfall washed all those reservations away, along with the makeup off my face… Traveling is the perfect reason to let go of self consciousness, forget about how you appear, and try new things. Who cares if you don’t get the hang of using chopsticks right off the bat… you will feel like a king when you finally reach your mouth without losing a noodle.
1) Tell Myself Not to Sweat the Mistakes
Getting lost, running off schedule, and booking sub par accommodations are all a part of the travel experience. Things like this can be especially stressful when you’re traveling in a group or running on a tight budget (or are a plan-obsessed Virgo, like me), but mistakes are also inevitable. There are so many times where I’ve looked back at myself and thought “Man, why was I tripping over that?” Remember what Pumba said.
Breathe in: hakuna breathe out: matatta.
What’s your 20/20 hindsight on traveling? Share your wisdom in the comments!