After months and months of preparation, Tour the World is finally happening and I get to introduce the world to the two winners going on this global adventure. On my way to meet them, which entailed a flight across the continent to a destination not yet disclosed to the public, I was both apprehensive and eager. If I was nervous on the plane ride over, I could only imagine how they must have been feeling.
In February of 2019, TourRadar teamed up with Intrepid Travel to find people that were willing to put their regular lives on pause to jet off on an all expenses paid trip around the globe. For fifty glorious days, two lucky travellers would find themselves exploring five different countries in five different continents, with just one catch: they would be doing it with a total stranger. Thousands of people auditioned for Tour the World, and after countless hours spent watching their submissions (yes, we really did watch every single one), the judging panel chose the two winners.
Although both possess an overwhelming desire to travel, they couldn’t be more different. Jessica Husson is a 32-year old from San Diego who didn’t properly read the instructions before applying, whereas 23-year old Joan Alemany watched all the other auditions prior to coming up with his own plan of attack for Tour the World.
They may be the lucky ones selected for Tour the World, but I’ve got a front row ticket – and having met them individually, I can’t wait for them to finally meet each other. And of course, for you to meet them!
Meet Jessica Husson – a woman with a mission
For Jessica Husson, Tour the World finally felt like an opportunity to do something for herself and to connect with people on a journey like no other.
The air has a bite to it, I give a little shudder and pull my scarf closer around me, Husson doesn’t miss a beat. “Are you cold? Do you want my gloves? Take them.” I smile and shake my head. “Okay, well let me know if you need them,” she says, before flashing me her million-watt smile. It always goes straight to her eyes.
I first noticed Husson’s smile when she spoke of her family. “I do a lot for them, and they do a lot for me.” Laughing, she explains that her father, Frank said the chances of winning something like Tour the World are slim. “He’s so proud. My Mom, Jackie is the one who saw Tour the World, she told me to apply to it, but it’s my brother Frankie who inspires me to travel and connect with people.”
“My life at home is mundane. I work in an office for Dad. I love his company and what it does but I feel like there’s something else out there for me. I’ve been seeking out opportunities by applying to jobs all over the world. I know there’s something coming, I don’t know what it’s going to be, but Tour the World is a very exciting next, so I hope this opens up doors up for me.”
We’re walking through the cosy courtyard of a blue-doored hotel adorned with two large gold lion handles, Husson loves these doors. It’s probably too cold to be outside, but having worked inside all day, I want a little fresh air and Husson is happy to try it out for my sake.
Her sleek blond hair is tossed up in a bun, and she’s wearing a puffy jacket over a sweatshirt with leggings and sneakers. Although she’s donning athleisure chic, her ensemble is entirely functional and ensures she is ready for whatever we throw her way. The minute she settles on the chair, she exclaims, “It’s cold.” I agree, so we set off for the warmth of her room.
Once inside, she opens up a zip-locked bag of Cheez-Its. Munching on salty crackers, we perch ourselves on her bed in a pile of pillows, and it feels more like a sleepover than an interview.
From the way Husson talks, you can tell that Tour the World came along at the right time, it was a challenge she could not resist. Creating her audition for Tour the World was a deeply personal experience. Husson delved into almost a decade worth of travel memories to get to the end product. “I was thinking about why I love travelling, what makes me want to get on a plane and go connect with people. That’s what went into my video.” All of this is food for her soul.
“I don’t know how long I’m going to be in the world. In the time that I am here, I’m going to figure out what I can do. The more I understand people and experience the world around me, the closer it brings me to figure out what I can do to make a positive, everlasting change.” She goes onto to explain that making connections with people, understanding what makes them tick and learning about how other people experience is incredibly important to her. “This helps me relate to others through a gained understanding. Connecting with people from all walks gives me increased awareness and empathy to navigate life and make sounder decisions.”
Husson is not afraid of experiencing emotions intensely. It’s hard for her to hold back the tears as she sheds light on everything this trip encompasses for her. “In general nothing in life is just about us, everything we do has a ripple effect, we all impact each other. But the steps that I’ve been taking and the things I’ve been doing in my life haven’t always been for myself. Tour the World feels like I’m finally doing something for me. I feel like it’s the universe’s way of saying it’s time for me to do something I’ve always wanted.”
Husson is incredibly humbled that she was chosen for this. “Thousands of people applied and everyone is so deserving. I’m grateful to have an opportunity to seek fulfilment. I think Tour the World can help me to build on my passions and find more purpose. It will give me perspective on how I can contribute. I just want to connect with people and see what’s out there.”
Since she won, things have been hectic. “Twelve days to prepare for over a fifty-day trip around the world? Especially when you don’t know where you’re going? I got a comprehensive packing list, but it’s given me lots of questions that won’t be answered for a while. So I’m just really excited. I got very well aquatinted with REI, and I have toilet paper and a pharmacy if anyone needs it.”
Close family members and friends who know that Husson is one of our two winners, and even me, have asked her what she’s most nervous about. “In the interview process for Tour the World, they asked me what I was most afraid of when it came to travelling with a stranger. I’m not scared of it at all. It might be uncomfortable, and I don’t know how this is going to unfold. I don’t know if we’re going to get along but that’s when growth happens, and that’s when you learn about yourself and other people and the world. I’m ready to meet my travel companion and to begin.” Husson smiles again, but this time her eyes say more, this is a woman on a mission.
Meet Joan Alemany – the man who’s trying to hug the world
Alemany wants to travel, the condition doesn’t matter. He would have dressed up as a flamingo if it meant he could go on an adventure across the globe, and he’s more than happy to Tour the World with a total stranger.
Alemany and I keep missing each other. We’ve been wandering around the hotel looking for each other, messaging on WhatsApp. Are you back yet? Yes, I am. Where are you? When we finally spot each other across the landing, he throws his arms up in the air as if to say, ah there you are!
As we walk towards his room, he pushes up the sleeves of the navy blue sweater he’s sporting over a t-shirt and pair of jeans. Once inside he shuffles some things around to make space for me and my laptop. There’s a book, his ukulele, some other bits of paper. We both sit down, he ruffles his hair, scratches his beard, and smiles.
It’s hard not to be aware of details around Alemany, as he’s a stickler for them himself. The smallest of things fascinate him (even the colour electrolyte powder turns my water). He’s not afraid to ask questions, and today is no different. He starts with his signature “So?” Vowels sound more interesting in his Spanish drawl.
For the record, Alemany isn’t actually trying to hug the world, it’s a joke between us based on his audition. It’s one of the first things I asked him. That and how many times a day he says wow (because he says it a lot). He laughs at the latter and says, “not that much. I don’t get impressed as easily in my day-to-day, I appreciate things but with Tour the World it’s different, everything is exciting, which is why I’m saying it a lot.”
In his audition, Alemany positions himself on Spanish streets with a sign offering people hugs. Those that take him up on the offer are in for a surprise, as out of nowhere, others run into the scene for a massive group hug.
Alemany spent a day trying to figure out how he could show the world who he was and convince the judges that he was the right person for this opportunity. “I always try to be different. I love bringing people together and pushing myself outside of my own comfort zone, that’s just who I am and that’s what I tried to show in my two-minute video.”
People often say these things, but for Alemany, it’s more than words. There was a time when he wanted to play music on the street but didn’t have the courage. A friend asked him what’s the worst that will happen? You won’t get any coins? “It’s important to try something out since you can always go back to your comfort zone if you don’t like it.”
One clear way to do that is of course by travelling, and Alemany wanted to travel badly but didn’t know how. It was actually scrolling through a Google Feed that first introduced Alemany to Tour the World.
“The universe was like hey, here’s your chance. I think it was meant to be. I’m not someone who believes in destiny or fate, but everything aligned. Mentally, physically, and emotionally I was in the right place for this experience.”
Several months before Tour the World began, Alemany was at a crossroads. He’d been planning to take on a job in a more official capacity, but then his contract wasn’t renewed as the company was moving in a different direction. “If I had to thank someone for this, it would be them because Tour the World wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for that. If I had a job I loved, I probably wouldn’t have applied.”
After hearing he’d won, Alemany felt both relieved and excited. With just over a week to prepare, he spent his final days at home visiting the coast, horse riding and closing chapters. He explains that his mother, Rosanna, father Miquel, and brothers, Guillem and Jordi are most concerned about the fact that he has to avoid Game of Throne’s spoilers for the entire trip. Having kept up with the final season myself, I assure him he’s not missing out on much.
“There hasn’t been enough time to watch any episodes. When TourRadar told me I was one of the two winners, there were only days to prepare. I wanted to close as many open things in my past and make sure everything was taken care of so I could start on a new blank page.”
And he’s a man raring to go. All he’s packed for fifty days is a backpack. He’s ready to meet Husson and get this show on the road. “It’s bizarre. For the past month, there’s been another human being on this planet going through the same process as me in their own way. Maybe they are feeling the same ups and downs. I don’t know this person, but sort of know what they are going through. I was in the interviews, I also made a video, I also was packing in a frenzy, and now it’s here, we’re about to go on this crazy adventure together.”
Alemany has no idea what’s going to happen over the next few weeks and is genuinely delighted about that fact. What he wants is to be bombarded with as many experiences and memories as possible. “At the end of this, I want to lie back on my bed, totally exhausted, unable to walk, but with one of the biggest smiles of my entire life.” After we’re done speaking Alemany hugs me, but then I suppose he would.
What will happen after fifty days of travelling the world together? Will Husson come closer to her purpose? Will Alemany still be smiling when this all comes to an end? The first chapter of this story premieres May 30th, 2019. Head over to Tour the World to subscribe and follow along as the journey unfolds.