Creativity without purpose means nothing

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In Venezuela, an organisation promoting the development of sustainable tourism is empowering communities and transforming lives.

The lesson we have learnt from the pandemic is much more profound than we can imagine. As the days go by, we are increasingly committed to looking around us and understanding that the balance that allows us to stay alive is fragile and subtle. Our unbridled creativity and ‘progress’ pushed the planet to the edge of a cliff, and it was just then that the world turned around, looked us in the eye and asked, ‘Is this really how you want to end this story?’

Then everything stopped. We allowed ourselves to reflect. We saw living nature reclaiming its spaces. We reinvented ourselves a thousand times, and the full weight of the importance of sustainability fell on us. We understood that our creativity is worthless if we do not link it to a purpose – to something that makes this world a fairer place for everyone.

Living in Venezuela is seeing creativity run through the streets every day. This creativity materialises differently depending on the direction taken by each creative practitioner. Sometimes, it serves the sole purpose of overcoming the many adversities that stem from daily life in Venezuela, a country where a third of the population lacks food security; where inflation, at 686.4% at the end of 2021, is the highest in the world; where the diaspora numbers some 5.5 million people. Venezuela is a country where people lack the means to escape poverty, where fuel is scarce, where efficient public policy is absent, and where there are no coherent authorities or essential services.

This country is like a video game in which each challenging level is followed by one still more challenging. And the truth is, we love it. Getting bored is impossible: you must constantly assess your options and jump from platform to platform, hoping never to get splashed by lava. The great magic of Venezuela is that, when you think you are about to lose all your lives, an unexpected exit always appears – and, if you try hard enough, you can unlock a whole new level of possibilities.

At Eposak, we immerse ourselves in some of the most absurd realities out there. We go deep into rural communities living in environments that can simultaneously be the most beautiful and the most hostile. We wake up to magical mountains, sacred beaches, sounds of ancestral drums, colours that illuminate paths and encounters with unique cultures. And we help people face challenges such as crime, illegal mining, prostitution, lack of access to education, lack of opportunities and the highest teen pregnancy rate in South America.

Our creativity unites with our purpose by virtue of each of these places. Because, in them, we see harmony despite the chaos. We see the drive and desire to create better realities. Each of the projects we have developed in these indigenous, peasant and fishing communities has brought about immense challenges. Regardless of the nature of the project we are delivering (infrastructure, musical tourism, solar energy, virtual tourism, sport and more), the number of challenges we have to face is gigantic. Our problem-solving skills have accelerated with every passing year, with every new community. They have grown with every reinvention of the sustainable tourism of these places, with every traveller connecting with them and returning home with a smile and a new gleam in their eyes. The satisfaction is immense. It adds years to our lives.

We understood that our creativity is worthless if we do not link it to a purpose – to something that makes this world a fairer place for everyone

What makes us different is that we are not afraid. For over a decade, we have worked without fearing lack of time, lack of resources, political instability, insecurity or uncertainty. So far, we have delivered more than 35 experiential projects, offered more than 2,000 hours of training, impacted nine rural communities, benefited 3,000 people directly and more than 26,000 indirectly, hosted more than 4,000 face-to-face and virtual voyagers who have travelled with us, and, since May 2020, designed and delivered more than 35 online experiences.

Today we can tell stories that have transformed lives, such as that of Birongo, a disenfranchised community plagued by crime. Our first project there started with the youth music group Las estrellas de Birongo. Through our projects Conectando Raíces and Acción Turística, the entire community has been visibly empowered. People have found spaces to coexist and resolve their differences. Today, Las estrellas de Birongo is a symbol of unity and resilience. The group has made presentations at the national and international level; has appeared on TV and the radio; has its own social media presence; has made a professional video clip; and has brought many new tourists to Birongo. A music school that carries the group’s name is being built in the community. More than 75 children and artists receive classes every day and are granted access to satellite internet to promote culture, tourism and education.

At present, we work with nine communities, but we aim to reach more than 40 in Venezuela and an additional 50 in other countries in the region. And, with this work, we soon hope to achieve our most audacious goal: to extend our online experiences in these communities to a billion virtual tourists worldwide.

What if the answer to sustainable development was to find our purpose? This purpose enhances our creativity, makes us go further, and does not allow us to surrender.

And how hard it is to find our purpose in life. Mark Twain said the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. Even before we find that purpose, we are sometimes tempted to stop looking for it. Because that is much more comfortable: to allow the world to carry us along and our lives to somehow be ‘lived’, empty and meaningless.

For now, we can’t tell you how or where to find your purpose. But we can invite you to travel sustainably, learn about what we do at Eposak and understand how sustainable tourism can transform millions of lives. Because travelling does not only help communities, it also helps you. It is often in these experiences that our creativity is awakened, and this energy helps us to stay alive.

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