It is not every day that one gets the chance to pack all their bags and embark on the most remarkable journey of their life and career. For Kelsey Hipkin, Kelsey Chadwick, Katie Turner and James Paton, four Mount Royal University journalism graduates and journalism professionals, it became reality this past September. The four friends met at university and have been talking about travelling to far-away parts of the world in search of real life stories since then.
BeatRoute caught up with the voices behind Humanity Unscripted and how they’ve decided to share stories of people they meet along the way via blogging, photography, videography and social media. We get a glimpse into their first travel stop in Mumbai, India, the overbearing heat, among other culture shocks they’ve encountered thus far, and the equipment they’ve garnered for their trip.
BeatRoute: Who is Humanity Unscripted?
Kelsey Hipkin: Kelsey Hipkin, 30. Previously a reporter for The Cochrane Eagle and most recently the CREBNow Real Estate News. Personal goals: To capture what I’m experiencing and relay that the best I can to the people following our travels, I want them to be able to experience what we’re experiencing as much as possible through watching our videos, reading our stories and looking at our photos.
Katie Turner: Katie Turner, 24. Former digital reporter/photographer with Metro Calgary. My goal for this project is give a glimpse into people’s lives to show that we, as people, really are more alike than we are different. In terms of my personal goals, I hope through telling these stories, meeting new people and experiencing different cultures, I can become a more rounded person and learn more about myself.
Kelsey Chadwick: Kelsey Chadwick, 25. Currently on leave from CTV Regina where I am a reporter/anchor. Personal goal for this adventure is something very personal. [I’m] trying to figure out what I want in life beyond my career. It’s the first time in my life I’m doing something completely and 100 per cent for myself. It’s been a long time coming and I’m excited to see how I change and grow. As a team, most importantly, I hope we are still best friends at the end of this! Just kidding… sort of. No, I hope that we find stories that impact our lives and hopefully stories that engage people back home. I hope more than anything, at the end of this, we are proud of the work we’ve created.
James Paton: James Paton, 28. Former coordinator of photography and videography for Hockey Canada. My goal for this project is to open the eyes of the Western world up to the stories of everyday people living in the countries we are going to visit and hopefully show that we are a little more similar than we are different. I think our team goal should be that we grow as professionals and individuals and come out of this thing loving each other even more.
BR: Let’s talk about the unknown and how all of you quit very secure jobs to become self-employed travel journos. How does it feel?
KH: When I got my last paycheque and realized it would be at least six months before I got another, I had a minor freakout. But now that I’m here, it’s quite liberating. I’m living in the now, on a great adventure with three of my best friends doing the work I love, it’s an awesome new chapter in my life.
KC: I have a very understanding boss who gave me a leave of absence from my job. I think that he sees that the project and this trip will only help me as a journalist. And, in turn, I’ll be a better reporter in his newsroom. But there is still unknown out there and that’s the way I like it. Planning out the rest of your life simply means you won’t be open to the greatest thing, the unknown. I’d like to keep my life unscripted.
BR: Biggest challenge as of yet? Challenges you feel you may encounter down the road.
KH: After all the reading and research and quizzing people who visited [India] before, there was still a sense of culture shock upon arriving that left me with a feeling of bewilderment. That, coupled with the heat, made for an interesting adjustment period.
KT: For me, the biggest challenge has been figuring out how to go about fulfilling our goals for the project. Even after working as a professional journalist for the past three-and-a-half years, it’s a real struggle to approach people and ask them to share their stories. However, we’re only a couple weeks into the journey so I’m sure it’s something that will become easier as we go.
JP: I agree with the girls on the challenge of the project and work we are trying to complete with the added pressure of travelling. There have been times where it has been difficult to adapt to both, especially since India is our first country. It was a huge culture shock to all of us.
BR: What’s been the biggest accomplishment/satisfaction to date?
KH: A piece we haven’t edited/uploaded yet — our first interview subject, Ganesh — meeting him, having him be so willing to put up with us putting a mic on him, waiting patiently while we snapped photos and shot video, then ending the day with a new friend. It’ll be the first piece we’ve done with someone we chanced upon on the trip so it’s a big deal.
BR: Describe an eye-opening moment/situation you have witnessed so far.
KT: There have been a lot of eye-opening moments so far in only our first couple weeks. I would say the most impactful moments came when we visited Dharavi in Mumbai, which is one of the largest slums in Asia. It was amazing to me that in one of the most impoverished areas in the country, the people could be so warm and welcoming to outsiders. At one point on our tour, we rounded a corner and found three little girls all likely under the age of five who were yelling, “Hi!” and waving furiously at us. It brought a tear to my eye and [it] was the first time I really felt welcomed in this country.
KC: I agree with Katie. The slum tour tugged at my heartstrings for sure. After walking these dark narrow alleyways, we came to an opening where there were some mothers and their children playing about. These kids were no older than four and their “playground” looked similar to a landfill. The kids had made the most out of it and crafted a kite out of a plastic bag and some string. It was flying no higher than three feet and they were laughing and playing just like kids do. I remember feeling some tears swell up in my eyes. These kids and their families know, no different. This is their reality. That moment has already changed the way I view my happiness and my life. I wish I could have taken a picture of those kids that touched me so profoundly.
JP: Slums of Mumbai for sure, I think it has been said. The only thing I could add would be that about 30 minutes before we went to the slums we drove past the most expensive single family home, a skyscraper for a family. The juxtaposition was very surreal to me.
You can follow the adventure at www.humanityunscripted.com.
By Claire Miglionico
Photo: James Paton