In our new Venque Traveler series we go one-on-one with modern day adventurers and culture explorers as they zig-zag across the globe seeking new adventures and real-life connections.
We recently got in touch with freelance photographer and seasoned traveler Natalia Anja from Vancouver, Canada.
Her journey has taken her to over 30+ countries in Europe, Asia and Central America—what a ride! Here's a bit of perspective on her travels thus far.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and why you love travelling and photography?
I was raised by very adventurous parents who loved the outdoors. Our family moved from Poland to Greece and eventually called Canada home. Our whole life was documented through film and video. I fell in love with adventure and the outdoors as a child and that love and curiosity grew stronger into my adult life.
I moved to Italy in my early 20’s and my dad gave me his DSLR before I left and I absolutely fell in love with photography. I found my niche and realized I love taking photos of people, especially people who don’t enjoy being photographed or who have never seen a photo of themselves.
In 2015 I won a YouTube contest to join the Global Degree travel series.
"I spent two years capturing content and travelling throughout 24 countries in Asia and 8 in Europe."
That opportunity re-ignited my love for photography, travel and being outside of my comfort zone. Those experiences inspired me to start a blog of my own - Foreign Grammar. We wanted to highlight each country in it's own way and showcase that the world is a lot safer to explore then what the media leads us to believe. There are so many misconceptions out there. Throughout my experience, I fell more in love with this world. The beauty is has to offer and the incredible people I have met along the way.
Could you describe your upcoming trips to Ethiopia and briefly describe the community work you are involved in? Why are you on this mission?
I am going to Ethiopia with a team that has raised money to build a clean water well with a non-profit organization Run For Water. Run for water is a clean water movement that has helped people become active in bringing clean water to our world. They help build self sustainability for rural communities in Ethiopia.
"Girls and women in rural Ethiopia travel an average of 8 hours per day carrying a jerrycan weighing 50 lbs."
While we’re in Ethiopia we will be doing a water walk with a community that does not have access to clean water and seeing the impact a water well can make on people’s lives. This means girls and women would no longer have to walk miles every day to collect water. Instead, they are free to attend school, have playtime, and pursue other interests. I’m on this mission because I feel many of us are born lucky. I have felt extremely fortunate my whole life and I would like to use my skills and voice to help those who may not have the same opportunities. We had a goal to fund-raise $10,000 and our awesome community of 72 backers helped us do that! Find our Fundraising Page here.
What has been one of the most memorable aspects of your recent travels and fundraising projects abroad?
One of the most memorable projects I had the privilege of being a part of is building homes for a community in Guatemala. I took part in a Travel With Purpose trip through We Journey, which partners with local non-profits such as the Techo organization for 2 days of sustainable impact work. A group of us got our hands dirty with the families and communities involved in the project. It was an eye opening experience to see that people were living in such unsafe and unhealthy conditions and making the best of their circumstances.
What's a valuable lesson you've learned along the way during these fundraising projects?
I wanted to use my birthday as a day to fund-raise and pay it forward. Whether it be a simple act of service like a smile, a compliment or a monetary donation. I believe every one of us, regardless of our circumstances is capable of paying something forward that will spread love and kindness. I personally find fundraising extremely difficult and very rewarding.
Whether I meet the fundraising goal or not, I am always completely blown away by the love and generosity people have for humanity. I find it to be one the most rewarding and loving feelings out there. Knowing that people want to help complete strangers and provide an opportunity for others completely warms my heart. I absolutely love human connection!
Do you have any advice or tips for others who might also want to give back and make an impact within their communities or abroad?
I always like to do research on organizations to see if they align with my values to make sure it’s a good fit. There are so many ways to pay it forward and so many awesome organizations to choose from. One of my favorite ways to get involved locally is getting a group of friends together and each contributing anything from $5 or more. You can either make sandwiches or put winter bundles together to give out during the cold winter months for people living on the streets.
It get's really freakin' cold out there! I also think it’s such a great bonding experience for friends, coworkers and family to work together in giving back. My biggest recommendation is to not get discouraged with fundraising. Every bit of support goes such a long way and people want to give and help each other.*
To connect with Natalia visit her channels below!