Justin Best is one of those dudes you instinctively know has so much love and positivity to give to the world. His gorgeous moments captured on Instagram are always accompanied by words that demonstrate his ability to find so much good in the places he visits and the people he meets.
For the next week Justin will be taking over the EL CAMINO INSTAGRAM and sharing some of his favorite travel moments with us. We're excited to see where he takes us and the stories he has to tell! However, before we begin our Instagram journey, let's learn more about the man with the big heart.
So, tell us a little about yourself.
I was born a baby. And after that, I grew up in the small town of Bruceville-Eddy, Texas; I developed a worldview so shallow that it was just deep enough to drown in. I escaped small town Texas to the suburbs of Washington D.C. in the summer of 2004. During my first year of school in Virginia, my Junior year, I met the woman who would become my wife. I spent five years in Philadelphia after high school studying Anthropology as an undergrad and International Development as a graduate student. During grad school, I got married on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. Afterward, we moved to Miami and Rwanda for 4-5 months each and then moved back to Virginia with $100 to our name after an exhilarating month gallivanting through Europe on a belated honeymoon. About a month ago, we moved to Northwest D.C.
I'm a huge nerd and could talk about theology, philosophy, anthropology, politics, religion, social issues, photography/Instagram and a many more topics for hours on end. I love talking to people and learning their story. I suppose that's what happens when you are trained as an ethnographic anthropologist, but it's become much more than an intellectual discipline for me and is now a life giving passion.
What inspires you to go and explore the world?
These days it seems that everyone likes to travel. It's popular, enjoyable, and often a sign of luxury. Not that any of those things are, or ought to be, problematic. I love travel for the same reason as any other person: I love experiencing and learning new things, being in exotic places, trying new foods, and taking in otherworldly views. But for me, traveling has become a means of meeting new people, learning new cultures, and viewing the world through a different lens. I was blessed with the opportunity to travel as a young boy to various places and I always hated the actual act of travelling to a certain place. I simply wanted to appear at the other place. I dreaded long plane and car rides. However, now I cherish those moments as well. I view them as yet another opportunity to observe the world around me. Instead of sticking to the main roads when I'm in an unfamiliar place, I try to take notice of what's behind the most popular place, the alley behind. Having been lucky enough to travel to places both near and far, I am continually inspired to do so by the people I meet both at the destination and along the way. The journey is the point for me, now. There are so many stories to be heard and learned; I try to provide an eager ear and a willing mind in order to marinate in the lives of others.
What is one place you loved to visit and one place you’d love to visit?
I love Rome. I have spent about a month total in Rome over two different trips and have never been bored for a minute. There is so much to explore and each one of the thousands of Roman churches is like its own little art museum. I have friends in France that have travelled to Rome over 80 times and they say that they find something new and exciting each and every time. I don't have nearly the breadth of experience that they do in the "Eternal City," but boy do I love it.
As for a place I'd love to see, I'd have to say either Iceland or French Polynesia. I don't know what it is about either of those places, and obviously Iceland has been a pretty popular destination lately for many travellers. The pictures I see from my friends' trips only fuels my desire to travel there. I've also wanted to visit French Polynesia since I've known it existed. Again, not sure what it is about that place but look it up, it's gorgeous. And finally, I think I'd love to see the Isle of Skye. The reason being that my beautiful wife wants to visit Scotland again with all of her being and in addition to the Isle of Skye being something I've love to see. I'd also love to see her filled with glee as an added bonus to the beauty of that land.
What is a quote that continues to inspire you?
“Slowly by slowly, all shall be well.”
This quote is actually a mixture of two quotes that my wife and I have tattooed on our bodies that we fused together as a family motto. “Slowly by slowly” is the base of Ugandan proverbs that my host mother used to tell me when I was studying abroad in 2008. The words that follow afterward are almost always different, but the meaning remains. To me, it always meant that there was hope in perseverance. That times would change and things would get better. “All shall be well” is a quote from 13th century mystic named Julian of Norwich. It's just a good reminder to us that things won't always be pleasant, or fun, but that somehow, things will work themselves out well. So we just have to keep breathing and taking baby steps until they do.
What has been one of the most authentic moments you have experienced?
I firmly believe that the most authentic moment I can experience is the one at hand. Sure, it's cliche, but I've got a bad memory and have learned recently that I cannot and should not take today or tomorrow for granted. However, aside from my own wedding, the most authentic moment I can recall was during my time in 2008 when I was studying abroad in Uganda. During that time my group spent 10 days in Rwanda. During one of those 10 days we visited with and learned about the culture of pygmy tribes in the bordering Congo and how, due to poachers, these roaming bands were being forced out of the forest and into a domesticated village in Rwanda. While there, they asked us if we would be willing to help them finish putting mud in one of the houses that they were building. We, due to our distinct height advantage, were able to help them complete the highest part of the walls and then afterward shared a meal. I can't exactly recall how it happened, but before I knew it we were all dancing. Children, the elderly, students, teachers, people from across the U.S., Rwandans, Congolese pygmies, and a Nepali danced. And we danced. With no shame or a care in the world. There was a moment shortly thereafter when I stepped back behind an old man who was kneeling down to smoke. As I looked up smiling, I looked beyond him into the lens of my friends' camera. It was a really special moment to me and was the beginning of a formative time in my life. That moment. Those few hours. I learned a lot. Most importantly, I learned what it looked like to put my guard down and become vulnerable with those close to me and those I had just met.
Justin will be taking over the EL CAMINO INSTAGRAM for the next week where he will be sharing more of his journeys near and far.