Room For Thought is brought to you by American Express Canada.
After months of preparation and build-up, the American Express “Room For Thought” program has come to life, open to the public at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto.
Toronto native Evan Malach’s vision of transforming a space in the city into an interactive environment for travel and adventure received the most votes from American Express Canada Facebook fans and the panel of mentors.
Malach’s project, “Second Chance Travel” gives survivors — of disease, abuse, narcotics, or other harsh circumstances — the opportunity to both enrich their lives through travel and give something back to each destination they visit.
The idea came after Malach’s own life-changing survival experience on a snowboarding trip at Whistler’s Blackcomb Mountain. After diverting from the trails and getting lost further and further into the backcountry, he faced hypothermia when he found himself having to spend the night outdoors. Inspired by the survival skills he learned watching Survivorman, he managed to build a fire and, after 22 long hours, found a trail to a nearby village.
Who better than Survivorman star Les Stroud himself, to mentor this vision and make it a reality? “The point of Second Chance isn’t to get through something,” says Stroud, interviewed by DailyXY at the Four Seasons Centre display. “The point is, ‘We’ve been through something; now, how can we utilize that for the greater good?’ Evan’s idea looks at survivors — people who have survived something, anything, gone through an ordeal — and can take their experience and capitalize on it in a positive way.”
Malach’s interactive display is built around videos of Stroud giving survival tips — including information on proper food, clothing and equipment — broadcasting at elaborate stations depicting Nepal, Kenya and Ecuador — potential future destinations for Second Chance Travel.
“Everything changed for me when I started travelling,” says Stroud. “We get caught in such a bubble and a microcosm of where we live and where we are and what we’re doing. You can get lost in that for life and never see what is out there beyond the borders of even your own Canadian city.”
One of the key reasons Stroud decided to get involved with the program was to give people the guidance that he lacked when he was younger. “I never had any mentors when I was growing up, nobody leading me by the hand and saying, ‘Watch out for these pitfalls.’ My mentorship was gleaned from quotes and books. I really wish I had had a mentor.”
Prospective Second Chancers will apply via a submission process that allows them to tell their survival story and explain why they want to get involved. After reviewing the submissions, a committee will choose the participants. Malach is optimistic about the program’s benefits reaching beyond those immediately involved. “[We’re] bringing the story back once it’s said and done,” he says. “There are so many people who don’t necessarily have this major experience in their lives, they’re just leading their day-to-day nine to five; but that doesn’t mean they can’t be inspired by this message.”
To learn more about the “Room For Thought” program and to get inspired yourself, please visit American Express Canada’s Facebook page.