We always love sharing behind-the-scenes profiles of our staff — from our friendly Dominican cooks to our enthusiastic founder — but this interview has to be one of our favorites.
Meet Erik, who works side-by-side with our local guides to lead cultural trips to Cuba. A true renaissance man, he climbs, guides, dances, and writes — all with a smile! His curiosity about the world and zest for life make traveling to Cuba with us truly special.
We think you’re going to love reading his story — though not as much as you’d love traveling with him!
Hi Erik! Tell us a little about yourself
I’m based out of North Conway, New Hampshire, but these days that’s really just were my PO Box is. I love art, the outdoors, mountains and the ocean, and those things have me constantly on the move. I also love to write — I spent five years working as a newspaper reporter and editor — and do it both personally and professionally.
What got you into traveling?
I started traveling the moment I finished high school. I didn’t know what I wanted in life, but I knew the usual answer — go to college, get a job, settle down — didn’t fit for me. Instead in my first year after high school I took a road trip across the U.S. and hiked the Appalachian Trail. That was my introduction, and I loved it.
You’re also an avid climber. How are traveling and climbing similar?
Traveling and climbing share one heart — they are about exploring the unknown, about finding out what is out there, what true possibilities exist. I love them both, and I also love how well they fit together — much of my travel includes an element of climbing. From Europe to South America, everywhere has mountains, and climbing is an incredible way to connect with a place, to meet people. The adventures are intertwined.
How long have you been working with Discover Corps?
I started working with Discover Corps’ sister organization, Global Leadership Adventures, in 2014, leading youth service trips in Peru. When the opportunity to partner with the same people came up again in Cuba in 2015 I jumped at the chance.
What made you want to work with DC?
If you haven’t met the people behind Discover Corps it’s hard to explain. Simply put, they understand that life is an adventure, something to be experienced fully, not to be squandered behind a desk in some office that doesn’t feed your soul.
And that’s the energy they bring to their trips — one of possibility, of discovery. It’s not about going to look at places, but interacting with them fully, dancing almost. That’s an approach I can get on board with.
[bctt tweet=”‘Life is an #adventure, something to be experienced fully'”]
What’s surprised you about traveling in Cuba?
The Cuban people are SO WARM. They want to know about you, want to hear your story. It’s not uncommon for people to just start conversations with you in the street, and if you struggle to speak their language they encourage you rather than walk away. It is their genuine interest in who you are that first made me fall in love with Cuba and now keeps me coming back.
What’s your favorite part about traveling in Cuba?
I’ll be honest, for me it’s the art, music and dancing. It’s like the only options open to these people caught inside a communist/embargo pressure cooker was to create stunning beauty, to express themselves in the few mediums left free. The result is incredible. And each visit I see something new. I can’t keep up with the Cuban dancers yet, but it is fun to try!
What’s one thing you *always* pack in your suitcase?
My notebook. I’m always writing, drawing, taking notes. They become travelogs of my thoughts more than of the day’s activities, but the end result is always cool to look back on.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from traveling?
That we are surrounded by amazing things, incredible people and stunning beauty. To see it we might have to leave what we know, shake up our neat lives to stare in awe, but it is always worth it.
What would you say to someone who would like to travel abroad, but is afraid of taking that first step?
I get it. Every time I get on a plane headed to a new destination I have the same fear. And then I land, I look around, I get my bearings, and I see something wonderful. There is so much of the world to see. Go. Just go. You’ll understand why when you get there.
[bctt tweet=”One man’s #travel philosophy: ‘Go. Just go. You’ll understand why when you get there.'”]
A big thanks to Erik for sharing his inspirational story and words with us!