Austin and Andrew, 21 and 23 years old respectively, where born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. They became friends through photography, a common passion that a year ago guided them to a spectacular project: a journey around the world, passing through 19 countries, boarding over 20 planes, traveling over 60,000 miles, and engaging with close to 300 different strangers.
When it was all said and done, they had shared 70 meals with people they had never met, exchanged contact information with close to 250 different individuals, and had close to 1TB footage on hard drives. Passing through food, they collided with the stories of people in their path, often in non-verbal ways. "With food as a universal language, we intend to engage individuals from multiple socioeconomic backgrounds using the bistro table as common ground", they write on their site called 50 days, 50 meals: "Everyday for 50 days, we will seek out an individual or family with whom there is no connection (perfect stranger) and engage with them by either purchasing and/or preparing a meal for them.. "
Part of their trip is documented through the website, while the rest is revealed in this interview, where Austin talks about the more personal side of their experience.
How long did it take to prepare your trip?
We started preparing back in December 2011. The preparation went straight through to when we left June 28th.
How did you choose the places to visit?
Some places we chose because we had contacts in them. Others were chosen because they were on the path of travel. Some were chosen because we both had dreamed of going there before.
How did you meet the people that you had lunch with?
We let the place we were dictate and determine our interactions. These, of course, occurred at a variety of scales. We typically let the organic flow of wandering yield people to talk with and hang out with.
What did you expect to experience before starting your trip?
We expected to get a free new perspective of the world and people. We were excited to take life as it came our way! We learned that people are even more beautiful than we originally thought. We experienced and grew to appreciate the power of story, and how willing people we encountered are to care and listen.
Did this project create any new opportunities for you?
The project was entirely personal but work like this directly informs one’s professional work. Of course a project of this scale opens up all sorts of opportunities. We are in the process of designing a publication and editing a medium length documentary that will be released in 2013.
On your website there’s a section dedicated to food partners: How did you source the little restaurants that offered the meals to your random guests?
We approached local business owners & stakeholders within the community that we believed in. Often times these contacts and relationships were formed over the course of many months in preparation to the journey. They partnered with us because they believed in what we were doing!
Which is the single most exciting meal that you had?
Hot pot in China, it's a big hot bowl of oil in the middle of the table. You sit in a circle with your guests and servers bring out different food to put in the oil over the course of around 2 hours! Its very relational and exciting to try different ways of experiencing food.
Will you ever repeat anything similar?
Of course right now the thought of undertaking a project of this scale again seems daunting, but we are considering doing a 50 days 50 meals stateside in the future.