A Beer With: Michael Graziano of Global Degree
You can get to know someone pretty well when you share a meal or drink with them. Food and drink are some of the most important cornerstones of any culture, and the more time you take to enjoy them, the more you learn. That’s the spirit behind our new interview series “A Beer With”, where we’ll be sitting down and sharing stories with travellers from all over the world.
We couldn’t think of someone better or more inspiring to kick off this series with (or have a cold one with) than Michael Graziano of Global Degree. If you haven’t heard of Global Degree yet, you’re going to want to check out their epic youtube channel ASAP. Mike and his team are travelling the world with the goal of seeing all 193 UN nations, and they are documenting the entire incredible experience for your viewing pleasure. You too can earn a Global Degree, all you have to do is visit every country in the world within 60 months. Now before you decide to drop out of school, there’s no actual degree yet…however there are big plans to make this all official in the very near future. Where can we sign up?
EVERY COUNTRY IN EUROPE – TEASER TRAILER
FIRST THINGS FIRST, WE SAW THE TRAILER FOR THE NEW SEASON. LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE EITHER JUMPING OFF CLIFFS, OUT OF PLANES OR DIVING IN THE WATER. DID YOU SPEND ANY TIME ON LAND?!
SO, WHEN DID YOU LAUNCH GLOBAL DEGREE?
We launched in April of 2014, right after my 25th birthday. I had exactly 5 years to complete the mission of visiting 193 UN nations before age 30.
BERLIN, GERMANY. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GLOBAL DEGREE.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START GLOBAL DEGREE IN THE FIRST PLACE?
The idea was sparked on a solo trip to Thailand, where I noticed 3 things…
Originally, I was really afraid to travel alone. But in those three weeks I made more friends than I knew what to do with. I overcame that fear of loneliness, and realized I can go anywhere and have a great time.
I also noticed how inexpensive it was. I was spending more as a ghost in Vancouver (with car loan installments, cell phone bills, fitness memberships, subscriptions, etc.) than I was living like a KING in Thailand. Still to this day it’s cheaper for me to travel the entire world than to live in Vancouver.
People told me to not go alone because I was going to get drugged, robbed, kidnapped, or even murdered! After going, I realized just how wrong those people were, it was absolute paradise. When telling people about this, they encouraged me to come visit their home towns in Kenya, Israel, Iran, Colombia, etc. Then I wondered how many misconceptions there are in the world, and ‘how deep the rabbit hole goes’. What if people are good everywhere in the world and I have nothing to fear?
It all combined into a cocktail of emotions and on the last day of my trip, I publicly declared on my facebook wall that I was going to visit every country in the world in 5 years, or die trying. That’s it. I’ve found my life purpose.
I then got some sponsors to help pay for the trip, and connected with videographer Alex Hennessy, and we were off!
DO YOU EVER WISH YOU COULD TRAVEL WITHOUT A CAMERA?
Yes and no. The benefits to holding a camera and describing your greater mission and purpose is it compels people to show you the best of their country. And you end up saving a lot of money with receiving sponsorships in exchange for content.
The downside is that we’re always in such a rush to film everything, we sometimes forget to ‘stop and smell the roses’. Which is a beautiful and important part of travel.
KYIV, UKRAINE. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GLOBAL DEGREE.
HAD YOU TRAVELLED AT ALL BEFORE STARTING GLOBAL DEGREE?
Yes, I had visited 17 countries in Europe while on exchange in Denmark. Our videographers Alex Hennessy and Andrew Santos had done some of Europe and Southeast Asia.
HAVE YOU HAD A FAVOURITE TRAVEL DESTINATION SO FAR?
Not really, everywhere has been incredible. Saying that, we have had a few pleasant surprises in each continent. So far, we’ve loved Mongolia, Philippines, Colombia, Guatemala, Malta, and Turkey.
IS THERE A MEMORABLE PERSON, MAYBE TOTAL UNEXPECTED, THAT YOU SHARED A BEER WITH?
Haha, yes a few. We hung out with billionaire investor Jim Rogers at his home in Singapore, we relaxed on a private island in Panama with Graham Hughes (the first person to visit every country without airplanes), we took photos with NFL receiver Terrell Owens in Portugal, and I went snorkeling with Steve Aoki in Hawaii.
It’s quite amazing the people you come into contact with while constantly in motion.
DELHI, INDIA. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GLOBAL DEGREE.
ANY PLACES YOU’VE BEEN TO THAT YOU FEEL COULD BECOME HOME?
I could live in Barcelona or Hong Kong because of their vibrancy, energy, weather and they’re both major flight hubs (allowing me to easily continue traveling).
YOU WERE RECENTLY IN ISTANBUL, TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE THERE.
Incredible. The people were so kind and welcoming.
I’ll never forget it, I had one of the best days on the trip walking around the city, and returned to the hostel thinking “wow, Istanbul is amazing”. But then I opened my laptop and saw CNN covering a motorcycle bombing with title “Another Terrorism Attack In Turkey”. They kept playing the same clip over-and-over of swat teams rushing to the site and smoke and dust in the air.
It made it look like it was World War 3 over here, which was the opposite of the truth. Five people were injured in this bombing in a city of 10 million. But I wonder how many Muslims were harassed in the US that day. I wonder how many votes Donald Trump just gained.
It’s moments like this that make me incredibly excited to see all of the middle east this year.
INLE LAKE, MYANMAR. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GLOBAL DEGREE.
WE SAW PRESIDENT OBAMA ON “PARTS UNKNOWN”. ANY CHANCE GLOBAL DEGREE GETS A LITTLE POLITICAL THIS YEAR? MAYBE A MEETING WITH PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU?
Wow, just watched it for the first time.
Sure. Why not? I’ll go send them an email now.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR CRAZIEST TRAVEL EXPERIENCE!
Depends what you mean by ‘crazy’…Like watching 15 bodies burning while sacred cows eat flowers off the wrapped up bodies in Varanasi India, crazy? Or having a pet vulture on your shoulder dressed as a Kazakh eagle hunter in the Mongolian desert, crazy? Or are we talking bungee jumping wearing nothing but a spider man mask in Cairns Australia or firing a chain gun from an armored jeep in Vietnam, crazy?
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE BEST THING ABOUT TRAVELLING IS?
Getting to know the world, and getting to know yourself in the process.
GOZO, MALTA. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GLOBAL DEGREE.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF GLOBAL DEGREE? WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE?
We want to show that you can travel anywhere on your own, and that you can have the experience of a lifetime. Now we’re currently a film crew trying to capture this trip properly, but we do try to display the candidness of interactions with locals that you would experience on a solo trip.
We also want to prove that you can travel the entire world on a budget, and don’t need to ‘hit it big’ and become a millionaire. Sadly, some people work their whole life to try and accomplish a freedom that they had all along.
Most importantly, we want to emphasize that people are good everywhere, and they shouldn’t be judged by the actions of their governments. If you have a big smile on your face and common sense in your mind, the world is your playground, classroom, and workspace.
DOES YOUR CREW DO ANYTHING SPECIAL OR HAVE ANY ROUTINES WHEN YOU ARRIVE AT A DESTINATION OR WHEN YOU FINISH FILMING AN EPISODE?
We typically email tourism companies a week or so in advance to arrange the best activities. Sometimes we just show up with no plan and end up on a wild adventure. We often just go with the flow because that’s the beauty of travel.
WHAT WILL YOU DO AFTER YOU’VE COMPLETED YOUR GLOBAL DEGREE, AND YOU’VE TRAVELLED TO EVERY UN NATION?
Create a real ‘global degree’, allowing students to visit all 193 UN nations while obtaining a University diploma online, all for the same price as visiting a traditional University.
IF YOU COULD GIVE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO FUTURE TRAVELLERS, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Remember that the little voice inside of you whispering “just go” is doing it for a reason. Steve Jobs reminded us that you’ll never connect the dots moving forward. You can only connect them looking backwards.
So just follow your gut, and do what feels right. It will set you free, bring you happiness, and allow you to change the world.
SARANDA, ALBANIA. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GLOBAL DEGREE.
Cheers to you Mike and the rest of the team at Global Degree for not only taking the time to share your stories, but also for the great work you guys are doing. You truly are an inspiration, and envy to all of us here at Kosan, and we can’t wait to see where this adventure takes you next. Maybe one day we too will earn our Global Degree!
Follow along with Global Degree’s adventures and see where they are headed next!