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A Travel Filmmaker Shares Stories from Tanzania

Photos courtesy of Marissa Chabria and Brian Rapsey/World Nomads.


A new short film highlighting responsible travel was just released by World Nomads in partnership with OneSeed Expeditions. A product of their annual Travel Filmmaking Scholarship, the film features local Tanzanian entrepreneurs that are directly supported by OneSeed’s local partner Anza, an organization that enables businesses in Tanzania to grow. Last fall, OneSeed Expeditions hosted the scholarship winner, Marissa Chabria of Costa Rica, on an all-expenses-paid trip to Tanzania to complete her own film during the trip.

Hear from Marissa about her experience in Tanzania, what’s it’s like to live and work abroad, and the power of film to tell important stories:

How would you describe Tanzania to someone who has never been there?

I remember reading various articles on what a magical continent Africa was and to be honest I did not understand this until I experienced it for myself. Tanzania is such a mesmerizing country, you can feel its energy as soon as your feet touch the ground. The beauty the country portrays goes from the cultural diversity, to the happiness in the locals and their cheerful spirit, the lush landscapes, the wildlife that makes you feel you’re filming a documentary, the bold and rich sunsets, but mostly, the simplicity in life. You’re able to experience how happy the people are and how welcoming they make you feel into their beautiful country. You can be sure that you’ll feel at home even though you’re away from home. It’s a feeling and energy you experience only in Africa, but specifically in such a magical place like Tanzania.

How did you get your start in travel filmmaking?

I was always interested in creating art at a young age, be it through music or moving images. I had a lot of curiosity for technology and editing softwares, and loved going to electronic stores to have a look at the cameras because it seemed fascinating to me to tell a story through one. I started making videos during my High School Senior Year and then for some courses in college. I became more serious about filmmaking on my first trip to Tanzania, where I remember calling my mom and telling her “Mom, I want to be a travel filmmaker,” and she said “Okay great, what’s that?”. It was there I realized I wanted to become a storyteller to immerse myself in the different cultures and document stories that have a strong impact on a community and that maybe one day, could change the world through social awareness. The most exciting parts about filmmaking are the places you get to see, the people you meet, and the connections and memories you make along the way.

How did filming in East Africa challenge your expectations and what was your biggest takeaway?

Filming in Tanzania was literally a dream come true and there are a number of lessons I learned through this unbelievable and breathtaking experience, but the number one thing I understood on a more profound level, is to never give up because dreams do come true.

In 2017, I went to Tanzania as a volunteer for three months and I absolutely fell in love with the culture, its people and the beauty it has to offer. It became my home away from home and it was a very emotional and spiritual journey for me. Before leaving Africa that year, I promised myself I’d come back some day to this magical place to film a documentary in order for people to witness its culture, and how exotic of a country Tanzania is. Little did I know my promise was actually going to come true exactly a year later with the opportunity of the World Nomads Travel Filmmaking Scholarship. The people closest to me knew what it meant for me to come back, and this time, I would be going back to the place I love the most to do what I love most. Once being there, it was unbelievable to connect with the locals, interview them and listen to their stories. It was definitely one of the most challenging experiences I’ve ever been through because there were so many technical concepts I was not aware of and I wanted the outcome to be remarkable, but I had to remind myself that I was an aspiring filmmaker and I was being mentored by a professional who would guide me throughout the whole process.

The editing stage was one of the most tedious yet exciting experiences ever, and I had to surrender to the idea of a slow paced process and fall in love with it. I think one of the biggest takeaways is understanding the importance of having that drive in life and a passion for what you do.

What role has travel played in your life personally and as a filmmaker?

Travel changed my life, both as an individual and a filmmaker. My first solo trip was a volunteer trip where I traveled alone from Costa Rica to Tanzania in 2017 and spent three months volunteering there. It thoroughly changed my perspective on life and redirected my purpose. I decided I wanted to be a filmmaker to bring stories to life and give a voice to people.

Travel changes lives and broadens one’s horizons. When you travel you grow as a person and learn to live the present as it is: no past and no future, just the exact moment you are experiencing. You let go of fears and turn them into curiosities and discover parts of yourself you didn’t even know existed. You develop humility as you realize how big the world is and how small we actually are, you understand and respect other cultures, you connect and meet people who become life-long friends, you collect stories to tell, explore places and landscapes that seem too surreal to be true, and make memories that will last forever. The feeling I get at an airport or when I’ve buckled my seatbelt on the plane is indescribable. It’s like I’m actually able to grasp freedom in my hands. I believe that every trip adds value to your life and you learn something new about yourself.

Do you have any tips for people thinking of traveling to Tanzania for the first time?

I would tell people who are thinking of traveling to Tanzania to have an open mind. I did not get culture shock because some things were similar to my home country Costa Rica, but be open to anything because you might see things you’ve never seen before. I was very surprised by how warm hearted and welcoming the locals are. Be prepared for Africa to steal each tiny part of your heart and make you fall in love with the place. You’ll be amazed by their essence, generosity, happiness and strength. Believe me, you’ll feel at home and you’ll want to come back.

You can hear more from Marissa on the World Nomads blog. The 2019 Travel Film Scholarship contest is now accepting entries! Click here to learn more.