Travel. Adventure. Passion. The Open Window Exchange is all about bypassing the big picture to celebrate the beauty in the little details.
For Stephanie Barnhart '13 and Zach Davis '13, traveling is less about the destination and all about the journey. Journeys to Argentina, Cambodia, Ireland, Rwanda, Scotland and Turkey – just to name a few.
But it’s not about the sightseeing. Or even the passport stamps. It’s about the stories.
Enter The Open Window Exchange, an online collection of submitted short sketches influenced by culture and travel.
“Zach and I have a shared philosophy that says the most meaningful parts of travel hide themselves in the small corners,” Barnhart explains. “We’re more interested in the story about the woman we talked to at the base of the Eiffel Tower than standing 100 feet away to take the same photograph of it that millions of people have taken.”
When the pair traveled to Istanbul, they skipped the Blue Mosque to enjoy tea with a welder named Murat. Instead of riding a hot air balloon in Cappadocia, they opted to live on a sailboat for four days with 12 other backpackers and three Turkish crew members.
“It just seemed like the things that happened away from the 'postcard' experience made for the best stories,” Barnhart says. “The Open Window Exchange focuses on sharing these small moment stories because, for us, this is where you learn the most about what a culture is truly like.”
Fittingly, the concept for the project was born abroad, over dinner and conversation in Bodrum, Turkey.
“The conversation evolved into us dreaming about what it would be like to curate travel-focused art from other people and publish a journal,” Barnhart says. “We reached a point where I looked across the table and said to Zach, 'let’s start that.'”
So they did. And stories began to pour in: cliff diving in Greece, taking a long walk in Ecuador, eating at McDonald's in Rome, visiting a cemetery in Brazil. Stories, poems, photos, videos – all capturing moments and memories, and giving tiny snapshots of a larger story about human experience.
“The knowledge that a single idea or movement with purpose can have a large-scale impact is something I feel was stressed at Concordia,” Davis says.
At the heart of the project is the genuine desire of two storytellers to share beauty that resonates and, ultimately, helps build a better world.
“Concordia and its focus on BREW made me hungry to create something that matters,” Barnhart says. “For now, we’re working on something that definitely matters to us, and we hope it matters to others, too.”