Getting Tea with Shantanu Starick
A Global Trader, Photographer, and Doer

September 17, 2013 - Comments

Shantanu Starick is an Australian photographer and adventurer. He’s currently traveling the world without any money and surviving by trading his photography skills for the necessities in a worldwide photographic project called Pixel Trade. Last week, Shantanu was here in Berlin giving us the chance to swap a Pro subscription and a bite to eat for some photos of Wunderlist in action. Over lunch, he took the time to sit with our community manager, Simon and discuss the project, his expeditions so far, and how he uses Wunderlist to keep it all organized. Here’s the lowdown on Shantanu and his adventures:

Shantanu and I were sitting at St. Oberholz, a favorite hangout amongst Berlin’s startup community. It was overflowing with as much coffee as there were people with open Macs. He had just finished a photoshoot in the 6Wunderkinder office and it was time for a part of our deal, lunch. This is where Shantanu began to share with me the story behind his project and how it brought him all the way from Melbourne, Australia to Berlin.

“I am doing a photographic project where I am trying to get to all 7 continents of the world without using any money, and I am doing that by trading,” he told me. “I trade people my photography services in return for the necessities, which is food, shelter, and transport.”

“I've been doing it for 15 months now, having started in Melbourne at the end of June 2012.” But what surprised me more than how long he’s already been taking part in this bold project was his initial reason behind it. “I was doing it for a few reasons,” he explained. “Initially the driving force behind all this started from a relationship I screwed up because I chose the money and comfort I had instead of taking a risk.”

“So, to teach myself a lesson not to do that again, I decided that all the things I would have lost had I pursued the relationship, I would lose anyway by doing this project by giving up my comfortable, well paid job and status as a photographer in Australia to go around the world. So I decided to start this.”

“The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that it was actually quite a great idea for creating new value systems based outside of money, which is really important to me,” he exclaimed. “Realizing and experiencing this has been probably the greatest discovery with the project.”

At this point, Shantanu was finishing the last of his green tea as I was staring into an empty glass with nothing more than a few shriveled mint leaves resting at the bottom. Our conversation, though, was only beginning. I quickly jumped up and ordered two more cups.

"Traveling the world without using money is probably not something that you’d really say is on your bucket list"

“Traveling the world without using money is probably not something that you’d really say is on your bucket list,” he went on. “You usually want to travel with an endless amount of money so you can do whatever you want. But interestingly enough, by not having money at all, it almost feels like you have a lot of it because you never look at exchange rates and never have to think about the cost of things.”

I think he saw how not only amazed I was about his method of moneyless travel, but also impressed. “It’s all an agreement between the trade and I of what happens and the cost is all taken on by them. It’s almost like living a rich man’s life.”

“When people only have to take care of three things, they take care of those three things really well,” he said. “They make sure you’re comfortable wherever you’re staying and I don’t think I’ll ever eat as well and as frequently as I have over the last 15 months.”

I asked him about one or two of his favorite highlights from his journey so far. He took a long pause, thinking over all locations and experiences he’s been through over the past months, and decided. “If I had to choose a moment that was quite nice, it would be two trades, one after each other that were completely contrasting to one another.”

“I started shooting a cookbook as a trade in New Zealand for a winery,” he began briefly. “They put me up in a luxury hotel, we were eating fresh food from farmers, and had the clean air of New Zealand. I was surrounded by the most incredible landscape. It was one of the most beautiful, pure places I’ve ever experienced.”

He shifted, and moved on to tell me about the second trade. “And then, I flew from New Zealand to Sydney, and then Sydney out to Darwin to start another trade in the indigenous communities, and it was the complete flipside of that. It was shitty food, the air was thick, and it was like counsel work as a combination in a tin box.”

“It was this absolute contrast, but I loved both of them equally for different reasons,” he continued. “But I remember laying there in the second location and thinking, ‘this is incredible. This isn’t something that you plan for. This is something that has to happen and it only happened because of the project.’”

Along the way, though, Shantanu told me about how organizing so many trades through notebooks was extremely difficult. “Around a year into the project I started to realize I needed to organize things in a better way across all my devices, like my iPhone and computer,” he said with a smirk seeing how I saw where this was going. “So I looked up what could do it simpler, something that could do it effortlessly. And I found Wunderlist.”

“The organizing that goes into a trade depends if it involves international flights, if it involves other sorts of transport, and sometimes it’s only a few blocks away to a friend of someone I’ve just traded with.” he explained. “Now, one thing I always do anytime an email is sent to me requesting a trade is to straight away go to Wunderlist and I type in the city, the person, the email, and how they got in contact with me.”

He went on to tell me about how many requests he gets and the process of setting up each trade. “What happens is that I get so busy, I can’t do all the trades, and so the list of requests builds and builds and builds. But now, I go through Wunderlist and I say, ‘okay, now my trade’s flying me to Berlin,’ and I go back into the list and I see all the people who are in Berlin, why they contacted me and then I can follow up with them with what to do.”

“I also started using it for other things like making lists of all the flights I've taken, and the more statistical things for the project,” he continued. “I can now say in 15 months, I’ve had 42 flights and I’ve been to almost over 35 different cities and towns. I started to make all these lists of different factual things, that I know will be sort of interesting to look back at at the very end of it. Wunderlist is definitely very good for that sort of use.”

This leads us to where we are today. “After falling in love with Wunderlist, I got in touch with you guys to see if you wanted to do a trade where I’d take some photographs for you in return for the Pro version and a meal.” Of course, we said yes. And so he came.

It’s funny how easy it is to lose track of time when you are engulfed in an interesting conversation, especially with someone who’s experienced as much as Shantanu. Opportunities like this, where two paths can meet and share, make our world ever more enriching. By this point, the lunch crowd had emptied and the next wave of caffeine hungry Berliners were rushing in for their afternoon fix. We said our goodbyes, and hopefully if he ever makes it back to Berlin we’ll invite him once again for another trade, next time for a photoshoot of our new office at the Factory.

You can follow along with Shantanu’s project, Pixel Trade on his Website, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

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