Storytelling has always been a part of my life. My grandfather, Jacques Cousteau, told stories to millions of people through his TV shows and books, reaching a population of individuals who, for the most part, had no idea of how human activity was negatively affecting the ocean. Since my days growing up on the Calypso and having its crew as my extended family, I knew storytelling had the powerful ability to inspire change. It was through my unique experiences as a child and growing up in a family of environmental activists that I came to the realization that every day that you wake up, you have a choice. And once you have knowledge of the problems in the world, you simply cannot ignore the importance of those choices anymore.

Through filmmaking, I’m able to bring back stories of humans living in harmony with the environment, who demonstrate our connection with the natural world. To be human is to have compassion and that creates a drive to do more than sit idly by while others suffer. Whether it’s freeing an entangled whale in the ocean or delivering medical supplies to remote communities of the Peruvian Amazon, my work allows me to personally give back to the places I travel to, but also share the issues with a great audience.

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Reaching a Wider Audience Through Collaboration

Inspiring Change Through Storytelling and TravelSarah Duff/Contiki
 

As a firm believer that through collaboration we become more effective advocates for a cause, I have acted as a sustainability partner for Contiki Holidays, a travel company for 18 – 35 year olds, for the past 5 years. Through their not-for-profit Contiki Cares program, they support ocean conservation initiatives around the world, from SharkSavers in the Galapagos to their newest partnership with Surfrider in Australia.

I’m lucky enough to be able to travel and meet incredible people working tirelessly to solve environmental and social issues. That privilege to travel and share a story of conservation brought me to Tortuguero Beach in Costa Rica, where I found myself under the night stars with a group of young storytellers, watching the incredible process of a nesting leatherback turtle laying her eggs. We all discovered what is being done to help save an endangered species who cannot save themselves.

The Power of the Millennial Storyteller

Sea turtles are wanderers, travelling miles and miles, and in essence, Contiki travellers do the same. This past Earth Month, the people at Contiki asked me to head to Costa Rica for their new partnership with The Sea Turtle Conservancy – it was an exciting new project that I just couldn’t resist!

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Inspiring Change Through Storytelling and TravelSarah Duff/Contiki
 

Joining me were 12 young social influencers from around the world with different storytelling abilities, from vloggers to photographers to songwriters to Instagramers (which I didn’t even know was a job description!). Their social media reach was impressive — many in the hundreds of thousands of followers — which really shines a light on how immediately influential the stories of the Millennial generation can be. I lived in Costa Rica for several years in my 20s and had fallen in love with the bio-diverse country, so I was looking forward to going back and sharing that experience with the young storytellers, guiding them on their journey and helping them to hone their crafts.

 

They spent just over a week exploring the lush country, taking on one adventure after the other. The most magnetic experience for everyone, however, was when we headed out at night to trek along the beach in Tortuguero in search of nesting turtles. The Sea Turtle Conservancy staff patrolled the beach at night, tagging turtles as they lay eggs to track their migration. They also kept an eye out for egg poachers, currently the biggest threat to the existence of sea turtles, of which 6 out of 7 species are considered critically endangered.

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Inspiring Change Through Storytelling and TravelSeattle Dredge
 

To be hands-on with conservation gives us all an opportunity to not only better understand the project, but it gives us an increased sense of participation and responsibility. The reactions from the storytellers is something I’ll never forget – the quiet sense of awe that overcame each bubbly personality as they witnessed this incredible natural process was truly a special moment, an emotion they managed to evoke through their individual storytelling platforms.

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Sharing the Story

A powerful story doesn’t just talk about the problems – it highlights the solutions too. It inspires the people listening to take action and help in whatever way is feasible for them. When I take on a project or share a story through my filmmaking, I always think of Patty Webster’s words, “Whether I’m helping one person or 10 people or 100 people, at least I’m doing something.”

My hope when we began our journey was that each one of the storytellers left Costa Rica not only with a feeling of gratitude and a desire to do a bit more when they returned home, but that they’d actually do something with that desire. Through their own unique storytelling talents, these young travellers highlighted an issue that many of their peers weren’t even aware of, and in the end, have inspired me. The different ways that each of these storytellers interpret their experiences and share with a wider audience is a testament to how each one of us has the powerful ability to bring about change.

Inspiring Change Through Storytelling and TravelSeattle Dredge
 

In sharing our story with the world, we hope to inspire young people to see that as travellers, we can do something more than just visit a place but instead actually partake in giving back. It is up to us to tell the story – now it’s up to all of you to continue to share it.

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*For each 250,000 view benchmark of the video, Contiki has pledged to sponsor another sea turtle in the annual Tour de Turtles migration event.

To learn more about the Contiki Storytellers, check out their website here.

Lead image source: Sarah Duff/Contiki