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Austin Simmons and Andrew Vanover: Coming Home

December 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Special Features


Coming HomePrashant worked as a computer consultant for a leading telecommunications company with networks across Europe and most of Asia. We ran into Prashant during an afternoon stroll in a busy city park in Mumbai. He spoke English fairly well, so we were able to engage him in conversation about a typical week in his life: 12-hour days, meagre earnings and a constant flow of people around him. He explained how he had been offered a job in Europe with better pay and fewer hours, but he had declined it simply because he couldn’t give up what he had here in his country. It occurred to us as we sat in that city park — with trash piled everywhere and a fountain in the middle of a garden constantly spurting oily black water — that Prashant was a living, breathing reminder of what home really is. We realized that home is more than beautiful landscapes, city attractions and social status, and it’s not where you lay your head down to sleep. This became clear to us after a few minutes of talking to him.

We met Prashant during the course of our journey around the world, passing through 19 countries, boarding over 20 planes, travelling over 60,000 miles to engage with 300 different strangers. Throughout our experience, we had 70 meals with people we had never met before. Although food was at the core of our project, it was in no way what it was all about. The heart and soul of our search was an honest attempt to collide with the stories of people, with the belief that everyone has a tale to tell. We sought to engage with individuals from all walks of life and all types of locations on the map. Our mission was to love and serve the stranger, not because we wanted to change the world, but rather because we thought the smaller, more intentional encounters are the types of interactions that actually matter.

Prashant had the power to remind us that home is made up of the things that matter the most: relationships, family and memories. This was at the root of Prashant’s joy, and it would resonate more clearly with us throughout our journey. We soon found that we longed to be in no other place than the tiny little city of Raleigh, North Carolina, our hometown. It didn’t really make sense. Here we were soaking up the dazzling landscapes of India, the South Island in New Zealand and beyond, and we couldn’t seem to get Raleigh out of our heads. Homesickness isn’t a bad thing — it brings you back to what you hold close to your heart. Prashant loved his family. He loved his country. And he wasn’t going anywhere. What a refreshing perspective: to be where you long to be. Prashant, and the many other people we met along the way, helped to shape our new definition of home.

Austin Simmons and Andrew Vanover, Guest Travel Editors
50 Days 50 Meals was a simple idea born from a love for people, an ear for stories, an appetite for food and a desire for travel. Bloggers Andrew Vanover and Austin Simmons set out on a journey around the world earlier this year, with hopes to fill in the gaps of a socially disconnected world by connecting with strangers through meaningful interactions. Based in North Carolina, Vanover, a filmmaker and photographer, and Simmons, a photographer and designer, are now back home after their curious adventure, and hope that they can inspire others to engage in conversation, whether it’s sitting down for lunch with someone eating alone or talking to the bus driver on your way home. Vanover and Simmons are currently sifting through a massive collection of content, images and stories for an exhibit and documentary of the 50 Days 50 Meals project, which they plan to launch in 2013.


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