National Geographic’s Young Explorer Grants

If you’re 18 to 25 years old, and have adventure in your blood, one of the best things you can do for your career AND your personal evolution is to apply for one of National Geographic’s Young Explorer Grants. That’s right. Dream up something really cool, then go do it on their dime.

I’m not kidding. Last May in Telluride, I interviewed the newest crop of “Young Explorer” grant recipients and they all had a blast doing exactly that. Here’s what we found out:

By far the most wide ranging expedition was taken by polar explorers Eric & Sarah McNair-Landry (top photo) who kite skied some 3,300 km and 85 days across the fabled Northwest Passage (read kite skiing the arctic). Kite skis are relatively new in the world of polar exploration, and nobody seems to have more fun or cover more ground than this brother-sister team who grew up on Canada’s (very far north) Baffin Island.

anand varma

anand varma, national geographic young explorer with his kite camera in Patagonia. photo courtesy Ananda Varma

Anand Varma got to document the wetlands of Patagonia, using his own extremely clever kite mounted camera system. I guess Nat Geo didn’t want to pay for a helicopter, so the biologist turned photographer got inventive. And learned a lot about the kindness of strangers in the process. (Anand’s photo site).

Becca Skinner, our favorite traveling photographer, got her first ticket out of the US for her project. After documenting the devastation brought by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, she got curious about what was happening with the tsunami survivors in Sumatra. So she went! Using her mentor (James Balog’s) images from right after the tsunami as her guide, Becca reshot the landscapes, seven year later. It’s amazing to see what seven years can change. “Thoughts about rocks” is Becca’s blog, a virtual traveling road show of her ongoing adventurers. It’s awesome.

O'Shannon Burns_Telluride 2012

O’Shannon Burns, Program Officer, Expeditions Council for National Geographic

Finally, shepherding these young explorers into their group photo show was National Geographic’s O’Shannon Burns. O’Shannon has worked at Nat Geo since interning there, so they really do like young people (hint, hint). Her job is to dig through the grant applications and champion the winners. She is super cool, smart, and enthusiastic about adventure and getting people out into the world. That’s also our core mission at Xpedition.TV so whether it’s with Nat Geo, or with our own “Gap Year Challenge” there are ways to get that expedition paid for. And to learn a whole lot about the world and yourself in the process.

NOTE: Environmentalist/Photographer Shannon Switzer was also a grant recipient, but was not interviewed due to time restraints in Telluride. But you can read about this “Freshwater Hero” on Nat Geo’s site.


Info on the Young Explorer Grant Program is available at Nat Geo.
Info on Xpedition.TV’s Gap Year Challenge (coming next year) can be found here.