By: Naomi Matlow
Photo ©Wayne Culpepper
Where in the World is Wayne Culpepper?
But First…How Did He Get There?
A childhood friend of Unsettled co-founder Michael Youngblood, Wayne Culpepper grew up amongst the greenery of Greenville, South Carolina before attending the College of Charleston. Aside from his liberal arts studies, Wayne really majored in surfing and epic adventures. His studying and adventuring came to a crashing halt during his junior year of college where we contracted a vigorous case of Lyme disease that went misdiagnosed for a year.
As a result, Wayne had to leave college and move back home for treatment. The lethargy and fatigue caused by the illness was severe for many years of his young life. Fortunately Wayne’s health slowly improved and he ultimately took his first job at a commercial photography studio and bought his first home in South Carolina’s picturesque countryside. Still not feeling totally healthy he began training with the goal of competing on American Ninja Warrior, believing that this could help him overcome the remaining Lyme symptoms. His health improved, and he ended up getting accepted on the show and competed for 2 seasons!
After Wayne’s experience with severe illness, life never felt so precious. He would listen to the crickets out on his front porch dreaming of traveling the world, something he always wanted to do. Before he could fulfill his dream of traveling with his passion for photography and videography, life would take another unexpected turn for Wayne when he adopted a homeless man named Trung he met on the streets of South Carolina. A double-leg amputee bound to a wheelchair, and having no local family or close friends, Trung had been homeless for around 20 years.
Wayne felt a conviction to help and started to work on finding him a place to live. During this time, Wayne let him crash at his place one cold winter weekend. That weekend turned into a few weeks and soon Trung said he would be willing to quit drinking if could continue to stay in Wayne’s home. Wayne agreed and what he once thought would be a weekend turned into five years!
For the last two years, Wayne’s brother has been taking care of Trung, allowing Wayne to pursue his dream of traveling the world as a filmmaker. Wayne and his brother recently built him a wheelchair-friendly tiny house where they hope he can live more independently. Trung suffers from PTSD and has a hard time adjusting to change. The transition to the tiny house has been difficult and they are hoping with more time he will embrace it.
In the very early days of Unsettled, Wayne reached out to Jonathan and Michael about shooting a video for them. Wayne wanted to document Unsettled and create his first showcase video that related to his true vision of the kind of work he wanted to produce. He turned away some other lucrative corporate projects in his home state of South Carolina and headed to Buenos Aires for Unsettled’s first month long retreat in Argentina. In the end, the video was a success, and it was this very video he made for Unsettled that led to him getting hired for other travel related videos ever since.
And so begins Wayne Wandering Productions.
Where in the World is Wayne Culpepper Now?
Wayne has been living in Medellín, Colombia for the past 4 months and will soon venture to Mexico City. Since Unsettled: Buenos Aires, he’s been doing almost all travel related video and photography work and has been on the road 10 months per year of the last 2 years! His work has mostly been contributing to an organization called BetterWorldEd.org which came directly from a referral from Unsettled! The organization creates short day in the life videos of people from all around the world and the videos are used in classrooms to spark students’ curiosities about new places, people, and ways of thinking, while incorporating academic objectives like math and science. With Better World Ed, Wayne has traveled to 8 countries throughout Asia and the Americas creating content for them over the last few years.
We Asked Wayne A Few Questions…
When do you feel you’re living Unsettled in a positive sense?
When I am living a life that keeps me inspired, learning, challenged, and growing. When I have clarity about the direction I’m going in terms of knowing that what I’m doing in the present is still keeping me inspired, but not having to be attached to exactly where that will lead or what that has to look like in 6 months. Being open to change from what I thought the future would look like, but always holding true to the conviction that it still needs to inspire and challenge.
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How does travel spark your creativity?
I find I have the most creative sparks when I let my mind wander and don’t force it, and my mind wanders most when I’m actually physically wandering. Especially in new places exposing the senses to new people, sites, sounds, and tastes. For me travel is the perfect recipe for sparking creativity. It’s even what inspired my company name, Wayne Wandering Productions 🙂
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What helps you maintain a sense of work/life balance while you travel?
I prefer to stay in one place for at least 2 weeks; ideally one month. This gives me time to feel like I live there rather than passing through in a rush. In the first weeks, I explore many places and settle in on some places that really resonate. After this I may visit the same cowork every weekday during the same hours. Then I’ll often eat a meal at the same spot every day for a week until I get to know that staff by name, or join a gym and go at the same time each visit. Building in a few routines in the midst of all the spontaneity and exploration, helps me feel more balanced and less in transition. It makes me feel more part of a community as I spend enough time in one place that I am able to make some local friends and venture off with them for experiences that are hard to come by for tourists passing through. For example, a few weeks ago I went to a freestyle rap battle and graffiti contest with my barber in a little town up on a mountain outside Medellín. I’d been in Medellín for 4 months and purposely gone to the same barber each time. By the 3rd haircut, we’d built enough rapport that he invited me on this adventure.
Thank you Wayne for showing us what it means to Never Settle, and the epic beauty and meaning that a journey like yours can hold.
Do you have your own Never Settle story that you would like to share with the Unsettled community? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.