Top 5 Inspirational TED Talks About Travel

I’m assuming you love to travel if you are reading this, and if you’re like me you also love the pre-travel experience of sending your mind to explore ahead of you in time and space. Imagining the travel is part of the travel experience itself.

Sometimes I get wanderlust, but I have logistical reasons I can’t immediately pick up and go. For instance right now I’m planning a cross-country move (from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh), and that takes priority over my planning a trip to walk the Kumano Kodo and becoming a dual pilgrim.

So while I pine for the pines, I do what every other nomad does… I reflect on travel and I dream about the next great adventure.

In that mindset, I’ve created a short playlist of my favorite travel-related TED Talks.

Top 5 Inspirational TED Talks About Travel

1. Why bother leaving the house? by Ben Saunders

Saunders poses a question he was asked during an interview, “Philosophically, does the constant supply of information steal our ability to imagine or replace our dreams of achieving? After all, if it is being done somewhere by someone, and we can participate virtually, then why bother leaving the house?”

I’ve often answered this question with a blank stare into the face of an earnest interrogator about why I bother trekking hundreds of miles or flying across continents for a different set of cobblestoned streets. I usually say something dense like, “because life is short.” And I wonder if the interrogator marks down a secret score of my sanity in their mind’s gradebook (because surely this type of person keeps score)? While I induce all of my faculties of language against the task, I believe I typically fail to persuade the inquisitor of the absolute truth and freedom that I find in the experience of travel.

Saunders discovered a better way to answer this question.

He quotes the intrepid mountain climber George Lee Mallory, who attempted to summit Mount Everest in 1924, “What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy, and joy, after all, is the end of life. We don’t live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means, and that is what life is for.”

It’s a good 10 minute TED Talk that may help you feel inspired or at the very least affirmed.

I have the incredible fortune to work for this little travel company (BootsnAll) and while I agree with the quote from Mallory above, I might also add that we believe travel is humanity’s best peacemaking tool. Seriously, we all sit around and talk about how we are all doing this because “love and world peace.”

2. For more tolerance, we need more … tourism? by Aziz Abu Sarah

In this short talk (4 1/2 minutes) Abu Sarah confesses about how “a wall of hatred, anger and ignorance separates us” and how he has dedicated his life to tourism, media, and education in order to bring down those walls. What if the 1 billion travelers in the world every year had real connection with people across our borders of anger and hatred and ignorance?

Travel’s the great driver of making meaningful connection, so we want to encourage people to travel, but we also want to encourage the voices and stories from people who have unique stories to tell.

3. The danger of a single story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


In this talk, Ngozi Adichie tells the danger and power of hearing stories from everywhere around the world.

“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”

This isn’t a talk specifically about travel, but it is woven throughout in the subtext. As a young student from Nigeria, Ngozi Adichie traveled to the United States for university and encountered surprise from her roommate about how well she spoke English (Nigeria’s national language is English). She highlights many other narratives of the pitiable Africa that were shattered by her very presence in a different culture… and her subsequent encounter when she herself went to Mexico with a single story of expectations for Mexican culture.

This talk helps me see the power of travel and of hearing the voices of “otherness” in stories – which is why a main focus of BootsnAll is to generate guest contributions from travelers like you (want to write for us? Click here).

Don’t be silent! Unless you’re going to do a vow of silence like John Francis (below).

4. Walk the earth … my 17-year vow of silence by John Francis

Francis took a vow of silence, walked the world, and got a master’s degree during that time. He taught graduate school in Missoula about environmental protection, and became the world’s expert on oil spills – before the Exxon Valdez.

Guess how he started? By traveling. He stepped out of his car and just started walking and listening (and sailing sometimes too). Years later he had become Dr. Francis, a UN Ambassador, and he had walked the world.

I myself am a walker – a trekker. I collect trails. Every time I walk, I learn new ways to become a citizen of the world.

5. What does it mean to be a citizen of the world? by Hugh Evans

Evans shares that some people are seeing themselves outside of the borders of national citizenship, as global citizens. He argues that our global issues need stakeholders who think globally as opposed to nationally. His own inspiration came from a trip to the Philippines, when he became engaged as an activist to end global poverty.

Travel is often the common catalyst in Evans’ stories, but he insists we all have the capacity to help immediately.

He even says “we don’t need to create global citizens from nothing. We’re already everywhere. We just need to be organized and motivated to start acting.”

Obviously that is what we do here at BootsnAll. We hope you’ll join us in making meaningful connections through travel, sharing your stories and wisdom, and building world peace as a global team of citizens.

If nothing else, enjoy these TED Talks!

Photo by Unsplash Zac Durant