Storyteller Michaela Urban | Travel Intense

Today’s Culture with Travel interview is with Storyteller Michaela Urban of Travel Intense

Tell us a bit about yourself! Why do you love travel? How do you think travel unites us or teaches us more about the world?

I’m a travel & fine arts photographer from Germany. I travel the world for about a third of the year to gather stories and pictures for magazines, newspapers and my blog www.travelintense.com. I love to travel as I think it really broadens your horizons, makes you understand our world’s problems from firsthand experiences instead of rumors, and shows us that people are humans no matter where you go. By talking to someone from another culture, you learn so much more than you ever could from just watching TV.

michaela urban flyfishing for trout
Photo courtesy of Michaela after a successful first day of fly fishing for trout — at Smith Fork Ranch, Crawford, CO

What surprising aspect of culture do you love about where you’re from (your specific town/city) that travelers may not be aware of?

I live in a very rural part of Bavaria and what I always find surprising is that the whole world comes to Munich for the Oktoberfest, but nobody seems to know that we have countless beer festivals the whole summer long. These festivals are on a much smaller scale in small communities or the woods and so much more real, traditional and fun than the big, commercial event in the city.

Which dish do you feel best represents where you’re specifically from? Share a picture and tell us why you love it!

There’s only one answer to this: Schweinebraten (pork roast) with dumplings and Sauerkraut. There’s nothing better for a Sunday lunch, when you have all afternoon to do nothing and digest.

Art and dance can tell a deeper story about local culture. Tell us the story of a specific artwork or dance that has a meaning for you. Share a photo, if you can. 

I once was on a project in French Polynesia and happened to attend a small family restaurant totally off-the-beaten-tourist path on an island that most visitors don’t visit. We had traditional food prepared in an “earth” oven, and the already-amazing meal was topped with an outstanding performance of local dancers and musicians. The dancers told us the story of their ancestors through their performance.

I was captured by how kids who normally run around with their smartphones during the day and dress like you and me, find their way back to their roots and are so proud of their traditions. The joy they radiated was absolutely mesmerizing. After they stopped, I realized I had smiled so hard for their entire performance that my face hurt.

storyteller michaela urban
Photo by Michaela Urban

Languages not only give us the power to communicate but also can unite us across cultures. Share a favorite saying you have, or teach us something in your native language. 

“Dahoam is dahoam.” Bavarian, meaning ‘home is home’, and no matter how beautiful or ugly a place is, it’s special because it’s where your friends and family are.

Have you ever met a stranger during your travels who made an impact on your life in a certain way, or maybe it was you who helped someone else? Share the story! 

Many years ago, when I was a finance manager in an international corporation, I needed a break and went on vacation to Costa Rica. While I was trying to take a picture of a small anteater in the jungle, a guy came running around the corner, chased by the very animal I was trying to photograph.

We spent the rest of our time in Costa Rica traveling together. I learned that he was a writer, and we decided to work together. I quit my job and the rat race, and we started traveling, writing and photographing the world’s great natural wonders.

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