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Sharing the gift of travel

Whistler couple captures a motorcycle odyssey across Africa in slideshow

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In fall of 2004, the pair left Whistler, traveling for 19 months and hitting every country in the Americas. After returning home to Whistler, the adventurous duo still had the travel bug.

"We had such an incredible outpouring of love and acceptance from the Latin people," Lawson recalled.

After returning from their trip, they decided to share their experience with family and friends, and fellow travelers, the only way they really could - through photography.

"People always ask us when we're on the road, 'why are you taking my picture?' and it's just to share with our friends and family and people back home, so they can understand the different cultures," he said.

They decided to host a slideshow at the GLC, which raised an unprecedented $4,000.

"We didn't really know the response that we were going to get, and it was really overwhelming, people were just kind of blown away," Lawson said.

They decided to tour with the show, traveling throughout the Sea to Sky corridor, then on to Edmonton, Winnipeg, Fernie and Nelson and continue raising money.

In the midst of the tour, they formed the Sean Lawson Young Travellers Foundation, with the mandate of taking children on educational journeys, taking them out of their villages and classrooms to promote education through experience, rather than a textbook.

"It's sort of passing on Sean's inspiration, as well, because he encouraged us to do what we've done," Tottle said.

The tour had raised a substantial amount of money for the foundation, so the pair decided to go to Africa, but this time, they wanted to give back a bit of the love they had received on their first journey.

So why not simply use the money for a more traditional development project, like opening a new school?

"For us, travel is our education," Tottle explained with a slight shrug.

So last December, they used the funds to take 10 children, ranging in age from 9 to 14, from the Arua Hill Primary School in northwest Uganda on a special, educational field trip.

"It just opens their eyes and gives them a bit of a spark, shows them what else is out there," Lawson said.

They took kids to a game reserve at a national park, where they saw rhinos, elephants, hippos and baboons, and learned all about conservation and wildlife tourism. They enlisted the help of the principal and teachers in selecting kids that best deserved the experience - not necessarily the ones with the best grades, but rather, the ones that showed the best appetite for adventure and learning.