My journey is all about capturing the soul of the earth.
Nicolás Marino is a photographer, an architect by profession, a 3D artist, an avid story teller... but at heart, he is a simple traveller passing through life; "a nomad, an adventurer wandering the world in search of understanding life and existence, trying to make sense out of it all," as he puts it.
He has spent the last 22 years of his life dedicated to the art of traveling, visiting 88 countries and hundreds, if not thousands of cities, towns and villages -- each of which has contributed something to the shaping of the person he is today.
Though he has wandered the Earth in many different ways, his preferred mode of transportation has become the bicycle -- having ridden 87,000 km (49.710 miles) so far. Traveling on bicycle has allowed him to fully immerse himself in the land through which he rides, helping him to relate very intimately to the places and the peoples he encounters along the way.
Driven by a fascination in what it truly means to be human, his mission on the long road is to engage with people that see the world through a radically different perspective than the one that he was brought up with -- he explains that such an openness to other ways of being "keeps both my heart and mind fresh, open and alive. It helps me find my own path and make my life richer. It is in that intimacy that is built through the empathetic connection with other human beings where my spirit thrives."
Through his experiences on the road and with these remarkable people, he has come to viscerally understand the fundamental truth that "no matter how different our cultures are and how far apart from one another we may seem to be at first sight, underneath we are all the same. We all seek the same basic needs. We all share the same instincts, we all laugh and cry, smile and glare, fall in and out of love. However, what is astonishing is to discover how essentially similar we all are at creating and reacting to any of these emotions. Ultimately, what we all seek is happiness."
Through his stories - documentations of his own experiences - Nicolás seeks to portray the human condition, the people, and the environment that they live in. He does so "in the uttermost dignifying way, because behind every single person in this world there is an underlying dignity, there is humanity, there is something inside every one that intrinsically links them to me and links me to them."
Nicolás is an inspiration to us at Untrodden. He has lived the majority of his adult life honing the art of immersive travel, learning from the places and the people he has encountered, and pondering the important questions in life - who are we? and what is this all about?
He shows us the immense potential for growth and the development of wisdom that can result from traveling with an open mind and heart.
There is much to be learned from Nicolás about how to travel meaningfully and intentionally. We are honored to have had the opportunity to speak at length with Nicolás, and are thrilled to share his insights...
Can you tell us a little bit of your life story? How did you end up here?
I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and lived there until I was 28. I have always been driven by an insatiable curiosity and thirst for knowledge and wisdom. Even though I am an architect, I have multiple other skills that I have put to use throughout life in order to make a living while truly enjoying what I do -- which I think is one of the foundations of a happy life.
I have been traveling the world for about 23 years now, in many different ways. After growing up traveling with my parents and driving across all of Argentina and neighboring countries, I started traveling as a young backpacker with very little money. After 10 years of backpacking, I converted to cycle-traveler, which was a true turning point in my life. Since then, I have cycled about 55,000 miles across 4 continents. Since leaving Argentina, I've been living and traveling mostly in Asia, Africa and in Australia (where I'm currently living). I have been to 89 countries so far.
What makes you tick? What drives you in life?
Curiosity has been the driving force in my life from the very beginning. I've always been an extremely curious person, and it was that very curiosity that drove me to discover what truly makes me tick: which is humanity itself - people.
I have a true fascination for people. I grew up thinking that it was a good thing to be independent, as we live in a world that constantly feeds this idea of independence. And if you were to ask those that know me or read about me, most would tell you that they consider me an independent person.
Well, nothing could be further from the truth. I happily and proudly consider myself an extremely dependent person. Throughout my life, both while traveling and while stationed somewhere, I have learned that there's a big difference between having an ability to be self-sufficient (ie, to do things on your own) and being independent.
Nobody is independent. We must banish this idea of independence because it doesn't exist. We are all intrinsically connected. We are all interdependent -- that is the way of the world.
And we are as much dependent on others are others are dependent on us. We could not exist at all if it weren't for absolutely everything and everyone that surrounds us. I learned this through my spiritual practice, but it was through my travels and the endless stream of experiences along the way that I understood this interconnectedness clearly, coming as a revelation.
I believe that we have a deep responsibility towards others -- because you understand that every single action you perform has a direct and indirect impact on others and others' actions have an impact on you as well.
Understanding this has made me more open, more caring, more loving, and more compassionate. As this transformation occurred, I realized that these values are the true sources of happiness -- and they are the ideals that drive my entire life and the ones I cultivate on a daily basis.Type here
What are the most valuable lessons you have learned from your years on the road, immersed in cultures vastly different from your own?
If there's anything that I have learned from different cultures, it is that we are all pretty much the same. You can put hundreds or thousands of layers on top of people, you can dress them differently, you can hear them say different things in different ways, but in essence we all share exactly the same basic needs -- which are love and happiness. From all people, all over the world - all cultures alike - I learned that lovingkindness and compassion are the most important things in life and the true sources of lasting happiness.
To frame the question differently, what can we as Westerners learn from the traditional, nature-based peoples and perspectives you have encountered? Pieces of “Ancient Wisdom for the Modern World,” as Wade Davis puts it...
Let me say first that as critical as I can be of our over-esteemed Western culture, I realize that in the end, we can and should all learn from one another.
I used to be convinced that we, as white Western men and women, were mostly evil. Not anymore. I believe we all evolve through life and our paths are different. What you learn in one, you miss in another -- so ideally we should all exchange our experiences thoughtfully and willingly to learn, keeping our hearts and mind open to enrich each other.
So while I believe that we've got a lot to learn from traditional cultures, I also believe that they could learn a bit from us as well -- from our good things of course, which aren't a few either.
That being said, I think that the most remarkable feature of the perspectives that I have seen throughout traditional nature-based cultures is a deep sense of community.
They seem to understand the importance of community in a way that we do not in the West. And why is that important? Because of what I said above: interdependence. In most traditional cultures, they clearly understand that they all need each other to thrive and survive. Thus, they are more caring, more loving and more hospitable to each other.
So, again, I think it is imperative that we banish this idea of independence. We could do ourselves a huge favor if we re-connected with these values that still prevail in traditional and less materially-advanced cultures. Note that I say re-connect, because we used to be more like them -- we come from what they still are!
It is not foreign to us, we just diverted from the right path. Fortunately, once in a while some events happen and they bring us naturally together: unfortunately, it is almost always due to a catastrophe. But the point is that when we truly need each other, we do come together. We just need to do this more often on a daily basis and not only when tragedy strikes. That's something we could definitely learn from the collaborative space of communities.
Do you have any insight or words of wisdom pertaining to how we should travel in such a way that our tourism is a benefit to the communities we visit? As individuals, what can we do? Have you discovered best practices for respectfully engaging with local communities?
This is a very difficult topic that is getting even more difficult as time passes, population grows bigger, and we all become closer. As a well-seasoned traveller, I reflect on this issue very often. It is a very deep concern of mine, since I've seen across the entire world the catastrophic effects of tourism (and not only mass-tourism as it was usually the case but now many other forms of tourism too) on local communities, especially in regions of the world deeply affected by material poverty, where local people become more vulnerable to the temptations of quick cash.
There are many ways in which I have tried to improve myself as a traveller. First of all, I strive hard to minimize my impact everywhere I go. I think one way to do this is to keep reminding myself that wherever I go, I go as a guest, and I should behave as such. When I get angry or frustrated at things that happen, I think it is critical to remind myself that I put myself in that situation in the first place and that nobody forced me to be there. Thus, I should be the one adapting and not the rest to me.
In a nutshell, my approach to traveling is one of humility and openness. It does not mean that I will accept or condone everything I see, but it means that I will listen from a position of respect and that I will not try to impose my view of the world on others, let alone judge everyone and everything based on it.
I do not hold the ultimate truth of anything, so I believe in listening first and sharing if asked. When you approach people with true respect, openness, humility and willingness to truly listen, most people will embrace you as one of their own (because that's what you are in the end, right? another human being).
I think the best way to benefit the communities we travel to is to minimize our impact through this humble and open approach, mixed with a genuine interest to engage with honesty and respect. Also, we shouldn't go anywhere believing that we have to give them something or necessarily do something for them (unless we are going there to help in something specific in which case it's not about traveling). This Western play-god notion that we must save others - that we always know better - is rooted in a feeling of unfounded superiority and has lead to numerous huge cultural catastrophes.
Finally, it is of utmost importance to comprehend that wherever we go, we are meeting people like you and I. It isn't and should never be a circus experience. It is not a human zoo. People might dress or think differently and practice different rituals but they shouldn't be there for your selfish entertainment. The experience should revolve around engaging people, connecting with them, exchanging, sharing. Not about giving and taking, it is not a commercial transaction but just another human encounter.
We believe that travel and immersion in different cultures has the power to reveal assumptions and biases engrained in our own perspectives. Have your experiences with other cultures led you to identify and challenge any such assumptions that you wish to share? Such stories can provoke similar introspection in our readers.
When you travel with an open heart and mind, you allow the world, the people, and the experiences to change you.
It is one of the most enlightening experiences to allow yourself to change, to prove yourself wrong (or truly confirm that you are right), to finally understand that you have no ultimate truth.
You are evolving. I have seen my beliefs and my perspectives challenged way more times than it is physically possible to remember. It's one of the healthiest exercises that anyone could put herself through and I highly recommend it to everyone.
In the end, biases will always be there, but that's not the issue. The issue is what you do with those biases. Will you let them crystalize and shape forever what you think? Or will you always be willing to tear them apart and reshape into different ones that will lead you to a broader and more open mindset? I believe the latter is the best and, speaking for myself, it has definitely made me a happier person.
Do you have anything else to add that you wish to share with the Untrodden Community?
Be thoughtful, caring, loving and compassionate when traveling (and always in life, of course). Open your heart and your mind to others, let others and experiences change you, let yourself change.
Be a sponge! Pursue your curiosity with honesty and care -- inquire, absorb, learn. Listen more and talk less.
Step out of your comfort zone as many times as possible in your life. Try to live more often there than where everything is easy and comfy. Otherwise you'll grow way slower and maybe even start going backwards.
Understand that you are not independent. You are interdependent, you wouldn't exist without others, and nothing would have any meaning without others. You need everyone as much as everyone needs you. Be responsible about that!