Africa Travel Week

A case of insatiable wanderlust

Hi, I’m Michaela Guzy, Executive Producer and Founder of the series and socially conscious content company, OhThePeopleYouMeet. Our productions also include, the award winning “Michaela’s Map” and my new IGTV show in response to COVID-19: #InspirationStation.

I didn’t grow up with a lot of money, but I had a large family that enjoyed celebrating together. We continue to get together for the holidays and as many of us that can squeeze, head to #CampGamp (our family cabin in Northern Michigan) every summer. It’s the time and togetherness that people allow themselves to create on vacation that I love. It’s because people are more present. The digital disconnection allows you to reconnect to what’s important, those you love and yourself.

From an early age, I remember sneaking TV programmes with my Grandpa Buzz (a pilot in WWII).  I remember seeing Dr. Jane Goodall on TV with him, animals on safari and even Ethiopian men jumping over cows for the chance to win their brides. With wide eyes and the most excited of voices, I would turn to my grandfather and would say, “One day, I’m going to go to Africa and I’m going to meet those people and see those animals and I’m going to meet that lady (Dr. Jane Goodall).” Grandpa Buzz nodded in full support, he said he believed that I would. 

This midwestern girl has been hooked on travel ever since. I’ve had a case of insatiable wanderlust as long as I can remember. My international travel opportunities really started to begin when I begged my way into my first sales job to help launch the luxury publications, Town&Country Travel and Town&Country Weddings in New York City. The publisher had no reason to give me the job, I was totally unqualified compared to the other candidates. But, he was married to a hardworking midwestern woman – he knew our work ethic and said he’d give me a chance. 

When you believe in someone, when you give them a chance there is literally nothing more empowering. Guess what? I’ve never wanted to work so hard for someone or be so loyal to them. I’ll never forget him calling me to his office to ask me to kindly attend a Virtuoso conference on a cruise ship on his behalf – would I go? I mean, I couldn’t believe what I was being requested of me.

I took the travel category from the last position to the second revenue producing ad category for the whole portfolio in under a year. It’s because I LOVED what I did, I wanted to work hard to prove my loyalty to the person I worked for, I believed in what I was selling, what we were creating and I was totally addicted to the travel industry. I felt like I was a part of something important, bigger than myself. Almost like I had been reconnected with my heartbeat.

That was 2004 to give you an idea. The funny thing about travel is, for me anyway, isn’t about ticking boxes or how many places I’ve been to. The world doesn’t become smaller, in fact, I realise how much more of the world I’ve yet to see and get so excited about the people I will be lucky enough to meet.

When I decided to leave my corporate publishing job as the VP/Global Travel and Strategic Development for American Express Publishing (Travel+Leisure, Food&Wine, Departures and Executive Travel) eight years ago, it was because I knew the advertising model was inherently broken. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my brands, but the editorial wasn’t speaking to why I liked to travel – which is meeting new people. No one that I worked for, my competitive set or even the company about to acquire us had a solution I believed in. So, I left to explore what new media looked like and I knew it had to have a DEEPER MEANING. 

I spent my first three months travelling around seven African countries by myself covering only people that inspired me, sustainable companies and how travellers could be more responsible in their decision making.  On my first night in sub-Saharan Africa under those African skies, I met a Kenyan designer and my conversation with her has become more or less a life motto for me, most certainly as it relates to Africa: “Travellers may come to Africa for the animals, they fall in love with the landscape, but they return for the people.”

Travellers may come to Africa for the animals, they fall in love with the landscape, but they return for the people”.

And oh, the return trips to Africa I’ve made and documented, including an award-winning film featuring a she hero of mine, Dr. Jane Goodall’s return to Sierra Leone. I only wished I could tell my Grandpa Buzz, but deep down, I know he’s proud.

While meeting Jane ticked off a life goal for the midwestern nine-year old Michaela that once only dreamt of meeting her, I realised that I meet super inspiring people almost every single day. People that love what they do, who want to share their home with strangers from around the world, protect our animals, give back to the planet and empower their communities. These are the people who make up the travel industry – all 75 million travel and tourism folks across the planet. I am so humbled and honoured by the people I continue to meet and who trust me to share their stories on broadcast outlets, digital platforms, magazines and stages across the world. 

Michaela with Dr. Jane Goodall

Eight years in, OhThePeopleYouMeet has grown into a global collective of content creators who care about the true transformation that happens when you meet someone a world away that shares their home with you. Our editorial focus of inspiring people, doing inspiring things has never been more relevant than it is today. Human connection as the world emerges from COVID-19 will be our social currency.

I am disappointed that I could not travel to South Africa for ILTM Africa and WTM Africa where I was to deliver some talks. I am honoured to support these shows and I hope to see you in human form, next year at these award-winning travel events.

I’ve been in social isolation in my home of 20 years in New York City since early March. I think it’s the longest I’ve been grounded in my adult life. Between us chickens, because I feel cooped up like one – I cannot wait to travel! One of my first stops will be to the African continent. You see, I keep leaving pieces of my heart there that you just literally can’t get back. It’s not a lack of love, rather my heart keeps getting bigger to accommodate all the awesome humans I keep meeting and holding space for.

So, for now, I count the seconds until it’s safe to travel again and invite folks that inspire me from around the world to join my new IGTV show called: #InspirationStation to transport me through their stories from across this great globe.

In the meantime, please pack your proverbial bag and journey on with me on Instagram and YouTube.

Michaela Guzy

Michaela Guzy is a New York based American media executive, entrepreneur, and on-air show host. She is best known for producing an online series called 'OhThePeopleYouMeet'.