Yesterday we had our last meeting of the North America section of our nine month journey from Alaska to Argentina.

It was with Bibop G Gresta and his team from Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, who are developing an entirely new sustainable transport system that will allow people to travel between cities at the speed of sound. The meeting was on Labour Day, a public holiday for most Americans, but not the Hyperloop team.

When we arrived at their semi-circular corrugated hanger with smart glass doors in Culver City LA, we were greeted by members of their communications and marketing team who were gathered around their collaborative open plan workspace. They gave us an awe-inspiring tour of the office and a run-down from their tech engineers on some of the very exciting (not to mention confidential) cutting edge projects they are working on as part of Hyperloop. It was really cool to be invited into their world!

Whilst the ink was still drying on our favourite Hunter S. Thompson quote we had written on the message wall in their office, Bibop arrived. As we have many times before on our journey, we immediately felt a connection with Bibop and his vision. We were struck both by the sheer scale of the technologically advanced challenge they are working to solve, but also by the fact that they embody our mission: to update a broken system and change the world for the better.

Virgin Unite, MacroAdventure, Entrepreneurship, Hyperloop

It was a poignant meeting to have at this milestone moment in our journey. We spoke at length about how and why there needs to be a new way of defining business and, in turn, sustained societal happiness. Bibop’s story about how he crowdsourced the Hyperloop team and brought together ground-breaking scientists and engineers from around the globe, was truly inspiring. It is the perfect working example of a powerful but intimate community striving to do good on a global scale. We took energy from the passion his team has for what they are doing, and we look forward to contributing to their story.  

As we come to the end of the North American leg of the MacroAdventure journey, we find ourselves reflecting on a number of things. The places we've been, the people we've met and what we have learned from our journey so far.

Fear still reaches us often, as it does us all, but for now it only motivates us to work harder

When we started, Jo and I were grey-skinned, worn-out Londoners who had a dream. We had pulled together our life savings and energy to start our journey towards it. We arrived in Alaska still tying up admin back home, learning how to use our new equipment, and figuring out where to stay. But we had one clear objective: to change our lives so we can change the world around us for the better.

Having travelled through Anchorage, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and LA, meeting change-makers, we now sit on a bus heading East from LA through the Nevada desert. We’re on our way to meet our family and friends for the first time in four months. We are fitter, wiser, (slightly dustier) and stronger for our journey so far. We haven’t yet found all the answers, but we have a much greater sense of our purpose in this world. We still face some huge challenges but it feels like we are better armed to face them.

We knew this journey would challenge us in ways we couldn’t imagine, but our greatest fear was whether we would be able to return to our old lives if it all went wrong. Did we have a safety net? Now it feels like we have flown over the safety net and our greatest fear is not our ability to return, but whether we will have grown wings in time to achieve the new lives we have seen are possible.

Now that we have seen a better path, we must find a way to sustain ourselves financially so that we can stay on it. As entrepreneur Devon Brookes taught us in Vancouver, fear is an important indicator. Knowing how and when to listen to it is an important lesson. Fear still reaches us often, as it does us all, but for now it only motivates us to work harder.

Virgin Unite, MacroAdventure, Entrepreneurship, Hyperloop, Bibop

This project has allowed us to meet some of the most amazingly hard working, passionate and inspiring people - all with unique stories to tell and different ideas of success. Each meeting we've had has forced us to reflect on our own lives and ask, ‘Is this what we want in our lives?’ 'Is this what society wants?’ ‘Is this what the planet wants?’

Trying to change the world is a challenge, and trying to change your life to do that at the same time is even greater.

One of the basic truths that was, and still is, abundantly clear from our journey is that the way we as humanity currently view success is not sustainable. Society has nurtured a story that success is directly linked to growth and the accumulation of wealth. The biggest question is where does our growth model end? Our planet has a population of 7.4 billion people, with 80 million more mouths to feed every year. If growth is the only measure of success then there is, by definition, no end and business, mankind and energy production must grow infinitely and exponentially. The problem is, on a planet with finite space and finite resources this simply does not compute. The current model only fuels inequality, environmental degradation and social unrest and will collapse if it doesn’t change. 

Virgin Unite, MacroAdventure, Entrepreneurship, Hyperloop

The most incredible thing for us has been meeting people everyday that share these views and are working hard to affect change for the better – people who not only see that the system is broken, but more importantly are working on solutions to fix it.

One of the basic truths that was, and still is, abundantly clear from our journey is that the way we as humanity currently view success is not sustainable

Lindsay Smalling, the Director of Programming for SOCAP, for example, told us that their annual conference in San Francisco has brought together more than 10,000 investors, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders, all united by the desire to solve the world's toughest challenges. Lindsay quite rightly highlighted that all investment has impact and it’s up to the investor to decide if that impact is positive or negative. 

Virgin Unite, MacroAdventure, Entrepreneurship, Lindsay Smalling, Socap

Two San Francisco-based companies that are enabling positive investment are Toniic and Universal Giving. We met Adam Bendell and Dario Parziale from Toniic in San Francisco who are running a global impact investing company.

  • Toniic is a peer driven community that empowers impact investors to tailor their portfolios, and find and support deserving impact business around the world in line with their social and environmental beliefs.
  • We also spent time with Pamela Hawley, founder of Universal Giving - a company that raises money for international charities through its web based marketplace and is funded in part by revenue from their CSR consulting arm, Universal Giving Corporate. Impressively, this allows the organisation to pass on 100 per cent of donations from the public.

These are clear and working examples that people’s desire to affect change is being felt across generations, across business sectors, and across continents. Investment is no longer solely about financial return. It is about nurturing sustainable growth in its truest form. This excites us.

Virgin Unite, MacroAdventure, Entrepreneurship, Adam Bendell, Toniic

As a planet we have never been more connected to each other as we are today. We have never been more enabled to think collectively and to problem-solve faster. The question is, how can we nurture these connections?

The diversity of people we have met on our journey so far has been incredible – people from a huge variety of backgrounds united by the idea that business is the world’s most powerful force and should be harnessed to make good things happen. Jo and I consider ourselves extremely fortunate to be part of this community.  

We are now preparing to begin the second leg of our journey in Mexico, heading southwards through Central and South America. Our focus is now on growing our community so we can dig deeper, reach further and share more valuable and inspiring stories. We will be incubating ideas that we hope will allow us to sustain the MacroAdventure mission indefinitely. We would love to hear from you if you would like to support us on our mission. 

You can follow MacroAdventure’s epic journey from Alaska to Argentina on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. 

- This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

Comment