Vancouver photographer Natalia Anja has been chosen as the winner of 2015’s Global Degree contest – she will now vie to become the youngest women to ever visit all 193 countries in the United Nations, traveling with program founders Michael Graziano and Alex Hennessy.
Anja will go walk-about for the next four years, journaling their exodus on Global Degree’s YouTube channel, where Graziano and Hennessy (also from Vancouver) have filmed nine episodes so far. The pair have already visited South and Central America, and Anja will join on for the show’s Season 2, which starts in Asia.
Anja is a photographer with her own Vancouver-based company – Natalia Anja Photography – and, in the winner’s announcement video, Hennessy said he’s excited to add her camera-wielding proficiency to their company.
“I’ve ridden the emotional tidal wave over the past month – from insane anxiety to extreme happiness,” Anja wrote on Facebook on Monday, when she was unveiled as the contest’s winner. Anja beat out 180-plus other female contestants from around the world, who had applied on Global Degree’s website and were voted on by the show’s audience.
“I know it was a lot of work and you have no idea how grateful I am for it,” she told everyone who supported and voted for her. “That thank you also goes out to the awesome female contestants who are also a part of the Global Degree family, their video’s (sic) were super inspiring and they are all incredible women that I can’t wait to meet. During this experience we formed a little sisterhood which is super rad because what contest have you ever entered where you became friends with the other contestants and they cheered each other on? I’m going to do everything in my power to try and help each girl achieve her dreams of travelling the world as well. I believe there is always a way to achieve something we’re passionate about… we just have to take the first step forward.”
While the contest was running and attracting international eyes, Graziano repeatedly said he wanted to add a woman to their Global Degree program, to detoxify some of the stereotypes women face when visiting other countries – namely, that it’s too dangerous for a women to travel on her own or even with friends.
“The reason we’re bring her on is because, there’s so many reservations for females to be travelling on their own, or even with a friend,” Graziano told Global BC, in an interview last week. “I want her to be exposing these places, for better or worse, and hopefully be an inspiration.”
Global Degree will hold a castaway party this Friday in Vancouver. After that, Hennessy, Graziano, and Anja will fly to Tokyo to begin Season 2.
Sponsors for their trip include Hostel World, Flight Centre, and Monstercat.
Photo/Video: Natalia Anja (via Facebook and YouTube)
Photo: Michael Graziano (left) and Alex Hennessy (from Global Degree Facebook)
VIDEO: Global Degree in Argentina (Parts I and II)