The pursuit of wealth and status will only take you so far. It’s time to refresh your outlook on life and opulence what it truly means to be “Rich.”
So what does it mean to be rich? As more and more people are realizing, the answer is not necessarily to do with money. This shift in attitude has inspired the creation of the first ever “Rich List” created by San Miguel and the Guardian Newspaper, comprising of 19 inspiring individuals living life on their own terms.
I am so honored to be named as one of the “richest people on Earth” amongst these other talented, curious, globetrotters with fascinating tales of discovery. Alongside amazing entrepreneurs who are relatable and have made a difference to their local communities, artists who have made their work their life, and offbeat outliers who have defied convention. San Miguel has quite literally traveled the globe to put together this list, which is only fitting for a brand with such a long history of exploration.
The arrival of an alternative rich list to counter the annoying Forbes Richest people in the World list couldn’t be better timed, as more and more people realize that the path to a happier, healthier and more balanced life is one that takes in a depth of life experiences and not just the accumulation of material wealth.
Driven by a millennial mindset, earning bragging rights on social platforms such as Instagram depends on seeking out new unique experiences that have integrity. Consider what you choose to share or “like” on your own feeds. Perhaps it’s an epic view captured on a once-in-a-lifetime road trip; a snapshot of an authentic meal enjoyed in a hidden-away restaurant; or a candid crowd shot taken at a concert.
The travel industry has reacted accordingly, with package holidays reimagined as experiential escapes, and itineraries moving away from sightseeing to opportunities like ‘live like a local” or “giving back.” Today is about crafting immersive and transformative journeys, either physical or emotional, that enhance life, and making memories you’ll want to pass onto your loved ones, as well as your social media followers. Enjoying yourself and living in the moment is the ultimate prize.
It’s a positive life philosophy that I and the other 18 inspiring individuals that are included on this list all identify with and share. We come from all walks of life and bring a range of perspectives and because of our life experiences, we all have a different definition of what it means to be rich and successful.
For cold-water photographer Vivienne Rickmanpool it’s simply about having the time to appreciate the beauty of your surroundings. For British Cave explorer, Robbie Shone, it’s about shining a light on the beauty to be found beneath the surface. And as for me, it’s about capturing the different cultures, colors, traditions, and vanishing arts that are still prevalent, yet hidden on our amazing planet. It’s about connecting us all through images and life experiences.
This is not a traditional “Rich List” where the individuals are ranked. There are no winners or top 10’s either because it is almost impossible to champion one life experience over another. Instead, we were all grouped into one of four categories: Pathfinder, Life Swap, Game-changer, and Creative. As much as I would like to think I fit into all four categories, they put me in Pathfinder.., because I was not listed as just a photographer, but rather a “Treasure Hunter” through my lens; constantly searching for hidden cultures, living treasures, and new life adventures to embark on and uncover.
Of course, it’s one thing to resolve to live a rich lifestyle and a completely other thing to actually put the mission statement into practice. I am here to tell you that you can start RIGHT NOW in creating ways that you can enrich your life today, rethink your routine, and gain some life experiences on your own. The only limit is your imagination!
The key? Start SMALL!
National Geographic Award winner, Alastair Humphreys pioneered the concept of “micro adventures,” which can be summed up as an adventure that is close to home, inexpensive, simple, short, yet very effective. It could be anything from waking up early to watch the sunrise before work to devoting one night a week to star gazing, or shaking up your usual weekend plans to try wild camping.
As you take your adventures further, consider the path less taken. Our memories favor the unusual, the exotic and different. Many of us on the rich list all have certain qualities in common, that we all find ways to find independence and that it is rewarding. But tied to the enjoyment of many adventures is adding a social element to any adventure. Making it a group trip, having someone to share your stories, and documenting and writing about your adventures. One of the most challenging things about embarking on a quest for new experiences is to find the time to do them, but if you are creative and flexible, there will always be a way to do it. So many people use their full-time jobs as an excuse for not expanding their horizons but work around it. Just because you are busy during office hours doesn’t mean the rest of your day is lost. Swap your lunchtime for a new culinary experience or hike. Use your downtime more wisely and try something new everyday or weekend. Curiosity is all you need to get more out of your day!
Remember, if this “Rich List” tells you anything it is this: while not everyone has the means or confidence to follow their dream career or has the answers on how to do so, we can certainly learn a lot from those who do. Take Horse Whisperer and riding coach, Simin Nadjafi Hinrichs, for example, who was feeling unfulfilled in her former career as a journalist and then as a lawyer, until one day she had the courage to pursue her first love- horses. She now spends her days coaching horses and riders in natural horsemanship and classical dressage on the stunning beaches of Spain.
But it’s perhaps another of my fellow Rich List Alum, marine photographer, Goran Ehlme who sums up the spirit of this group of people perfectly. “There’s a richness in life that has nothing to do with money. It’s about filling your heart with wonderful experiences”. And for me, capturing the photos to go along with them as well.
So I am proud to announce the San Miguel Rich List and to introduce you to the 19 incredible people on this list and learn short lessons from each of them about their philosophies on success, wealth, happiness and the true meaning of life.
1. Valerie Cook & Tim Boffe (Hostel on Wheels)
Valerie and Tim transformed a Guatemalan school bus into a hostel and shipped it back to Europe to start their European mobile adventures. They originally met both working in ski resorts in the Alps and together they decided to see the world. In Guatemala, they noticed the colorful school buses and were inspired to buy a bus and turn it into a house on wheels for others to enjoy.
After setting up a crowdfunding campaign raising over $30,000, they brought the bus to Belgium and transformed the bus into an incredible space with beds, a kitchen, living room, and even a compost toilet! The Nomads Bus took it’s first booking last July and has been pretty much full ever since. Sometimes small groups take over the whole bus or a group of strangers become fast friends, but either way, it’s a family atmosphere driving through some of Europe’s most beautiful landscapes.
For Cooke and Boffe, it’s the small moments that make life precious, like lying on the bus looking at the stars or raising their young daughter on the road. “Investing all the money we had was a very easy decision for us because we were sure this was what we needed to do. That was what we felt would make us the happiest people on Earth. Don’t listen to people around you, just follow what you want to do.”
2. Steve Wheen (Pothole Gardener)
Flourishing in the potholes of footpaths and cracks in walls, Steve Wheen’s tiny masterpieces burst with flowers, leaves and charming little props, like swings, bringing a smile to the face of even the busiest commuter. “I wanted to turn something that’s dull and grey like pavement into a source of happiness.”
As an Australian living in London, he says that he watched in horror at how people walk around in their little bubbles, glued to their phones and not talking to people. He loves to watch people’s reactions when they are confronted with his art. “At first they are puzzled, then they smile.” His philosophy on life is simple, “I just love to create- whether that’s a garden, a film, or drawing something. It’s not about the finished product for me. It’s all about the process and that’s what really challenges and drives me.”
3. Sarah Kundi (Professional Ballerina)
After training at London’s Central School of Ballet, Sarah Kundi has worked with some of the UK’s best-known ballet companies. She is currently the only Indian dancer working in a major British ballet company.
She was brought up in a Sikh family and loves being a role model for other young girls from an Indian background. She said following her passion wasn’t always easy, but that she has tried to make the most of every challenge and opportunity that has come her way. “A rich life is staying happy in whatever you choose to do.”
4. Göran Ehlmé (Marine Life Photographer)
Marine photographer, Goran Ehlme of Gothenburg, Sweden, spends his days in some of the most beautiful parts of the planet, diving deep underwater to take pictures of rare and extraordinary sea life.
His cinematic images offer viewers a hidden glimpse into this immersed world. He has documented the Arctic and Antarctica for National Geographic and BBC’s The Blue Planet Series. “There is a richness to life that has nothing to do with money, it’s about filling your heart with wonderful experiences.”
Ever since these two met on the island of Zanzibar, Karyn and Boris dreamed of building a house on a desert island. Nine years ago they found their paradise on the tiny island of Fofoa, in the Vava’u island group near Tonga in the Pacific Ocean.
They built their home using materials found on the island and then another house for guests to stay. They both grew up in the countryside and had their happiest memories in the wild. Their plan was to escape the “western lifestyle” and they did. For Boris and Karyn having a guest house doesn’t feel like going to work. “Everyone has to live their own life and find their own path.”
6. Catherine King and Wayne Adams (The Floating Islanders)
Building an eco-friendly home and garden has become a labor of love for married artists Catherine King and Wayne Adams. In 1992, the couple began to work on their own floating island near Tofino, British Columbia which they have named Freedom Cove. It’s an installation art project that transforms every year.
The extraordinary structure comprises of greenhouses, boathouses, a gallery, a lighthouse, and a generator building where their solar panels sit. It may not be the most conventional set-up, but it suits them perfectly. “We want to live here until the end of our days. A Rich life is living in a way that resonates with your soul.”
Wild swimming was part of artist and photographer, Vivienne Rickman-pool’s life from a young age. Her mom was born in the 1930’s and grew up in the Orkney Islands where they were always swimming in the rivers or the sea. When her mother passed away, Vivienne started swimming a lot more. Her stunning photos of her wild swimming adventures around her home in Llanberis, Snowdonia, are just one facet of her artistic life.
She has been featured in several films and experiments with different kinds of cameras. For her, life is about appreciating your surroundings. “ I can go out and swim in a mountain lake on a stunning day. It’s about noticing those things and having the freedom and health to enjoy them.”
8. Jedidiah Jenkins (Cycling Novelist)
On his 30th birthday, LA-Based Jedidiah Jenkins quit his job and went on a huge journey. He cycled 7,000 miles in 16 months from Oregon to Patagonia, writing along the way. “I read that extraordinary people achieved expertise in their field after 10,000 hours of doing one thing. It got me thinking, what would I be happy to spend 10,000 hours doing?”
And the one true thing that came to mind was writing, but he didn’t have the confidence that he would be a good enough writer unless he created a weird and wild adventure to write about. He is now a travel writer and speaker and working on a book of essays. “ We know that the best things in life are free, but we all seem to forget this. I saved up what money I could, streamlined my finances and responsibilities, kept my life simple and nimble and have never been happier.”
9. Ben Schaschek and Hannes Smutje (Sailing Conductors)
Meet the sound engineers who set sail to find new musical talent. Thirty-five countries and five continents later, the pair has compiled and album like no other! The idea was born one day lying on a beach in Australia. They decided to buy a boat when their plane ticket expired and sail back home, meeting musicians along the way. At first, they found a guitarist in Australia, then a bass player in Papua New Guinea, then a drummer in Thailand and so on.
With some family money and supporting themselves through writing for magazines and books, it took them 4 years to make it back to Germany, but when they arrived they brought with them 60 original songs. A year later their project is still very much alive. They are about to release an album called, Songs from Marianne (the name of their boat) where they went on tour playing 45 shows in three months and are looking forward to their next great experience, whatever that may be.
A shared love of nature inspired married couple Claire and Richard Rees to relocate to Sweden and set up their business Wild Spirit Bushcraft and Husky Tours. The couple who run courses and sled dog tours live in an 18th-century cabin with no running water or electricity in a vast area just a few miles from the Arctic circle.
Richard initially offered survival courses in Wales teaching skills like foraging and tracking. It was always Richard’s dream to live off the grid. “you're not chasing after materialistic things, but it’s not for everyone. “When you’ve sorted out the dogs, it’s -20 outside and -5 degrees in the cabin and you still have to go get the wood, your job never finishes!”
11. Dave Cornthwaite (Yes Man)
Back in 2005, London-based Dave Cornthwaite was a graphic designer unhappy with his life. He was yearning to travel and wondered what might happen if he decided to say “yes” more. Turns out, quite a lot. After various experiences, including skateboarding in Australia and paddle boarding along the Mississippi, he returned and set about inspiring others.
“The more I talked about saying yes, the more people got engaged.” Last year, he invited his Facebook group to meet him for an evening’s camping. In the first week 19 people turned up, then 25 the next and by the end of the summer over 200 had joined and formed the “Yes Tribe”. They held their first festival and the second will take place this year. Since then 200 members have traveled 10,000 miles and raised over $1 million for charity.
12. Paul Zizka (Landscape Photographer)
13. Tony Plant (Artist in Landscape)
Cornish artist Tony Plant’s mysterious sand drawings take landscape art to a whole new level and scale, often inhabiting entire beaches…until the tide comes in that is. At 53 years old and married with 2 children, deciding to scratch beaches for a living, something that seemingly has no purpose or commercial value, wasn’t necessarily seen as a good career move by many, but it made perfect sense to Tony.
A lifelong surfer, he was interested in art and landscapes at an early age. Creating these large scale pieces requires a lot of patience and perfect weather conditions. He has had to wait for years before to draw on certain beaches and has produced pieces in Cornwall, Bermuda, Australia, Indonesia, and across Europe.
As a child, it was obvious that Simin’s exceptional ability with horses went way deeper than being a skilled rider. Growing up in Germany, she begged her parents to take her riding as often as possible and by age seven was attending residential horse camps on the tiny island of Fohr on her own.
She lived among the horse and even rode them from island to island at low tide. Since then she has carved out an incredible career as a horse whisperer in Andalucia, Spain using the calming power of the sea and gentle training tactics to achieve amazing results. She uses eye contact, non-verbal clues, and can read the horses body language rather than use a more traditional dominant approach to training her horses.
15. Robbie Shone (Cave Explorer)
British cave explorer, Robbie Shone’s expeditions have taken him to destinations including China, Borneo, Uzbekistan and Sudan, where he has observed some of the largest and longest cave systems discovered. Now based in Austria, Robbie is driven by his personal mission to introduce these beautiful caves to a wider audience. “I want to show the public that there is more to this planet than just the surface.”
He has explored the largest known cave chamber in Borneo, carefully negotiated a shaft in China that was higher than Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers and took him 6 hours to climb into the bottom and then back out again, but his most fascinating subterranean experience took place at Cueva de Villa Luz in Mexico, where the fish have adapted to life underground in total darkness.
16. Javier Lopez (Change-Maker)
A decade ago, the village of Fanzara in the Valencia region in Spain was not a happy place, with only about 300 inhabitants. The council wanted to build a controversial toxic waste incinerator to create jobs, a plan that led to bitter family feuds. Luckily, in 2011, a new council including Javier Lopez was elected.
He wanted to do something to bring the villagers back together. So the council decided to invite a few artists to create street art and get the locals involved too, creating the Museo Inacabado de Arte Urbano (MIAU) and to their great surprise the project took off right away. In 2014, 21 artists came and painted 44 works. Now they have over 105 paintings on their buildings which has turned their village into a tourist attraction. Thanks to Lopez and his team, Fanzara is thriving again!
17. Tinja Myllykangas (Arctic Dog Breeder)
Tinja Myllykangas, Arctic Dog Breeder, hosts sled dog safaris and “mushing voyages.” Living in harmony with nature and working with her beloved animals everyday are all of the riches Tinja could wish for. Growing up in Northern Finland, Tinja favors a simple lifestyle.
Her home that she shares with her partner Alex, a former professional skier, is a small cottage with no running water. In the summer they use solar panels to charge their mobile phones. For Tinja, the best part of her life with Alex is the chance to be surrounded by nature and close to her animals. “We don’t see it as a job. It’s not about making money or profit- this is our life.”
I grew up in Indonesia with two CIA parents so I’ve had a wanderlust from an early age. At 13 my mom suggested that I try the art of photography because it would give me the life adventures and freedom to travel and pursue my passions that I was craving and I have embraced it ever since. Today, I travel the globe seeking out ancient cultures and art forms, and my photographs and stories have been published all over the world. In my work and travels I have encountered the oldest living Mayan descendant, one of the last ancient flute makers of their kind in Bali, and lived with Quechua Indians on a floating grass island in Lake Titicaca, Peru to name a few. I love to teach and inspire women from all over the world to follow their passions through photography and to be fearless travel explorers and pioneers.
To me, every day I am seeing something new, capturing something beautiful, and writing and telling different stories. Having my adventurous partner-in-crime, Winston Cordes, along with me sharing in my adventures makes my life that much more rich and meaningful. Doing what I love every day, making a living at it, and traveling and experiencing new places with the man I love to me is what being rich in life means."
19. Sarah Begum (Filmmaker)
Film-maker and intrepid storyteller, Sarah Begum, doesn���t want to just show you other cultures, she wants to immerse herself in them. When she was a child, Sarah was fascinated by the Amazon and all of its indigenous tribes there. She dreamt about journeying to South America someday and at age 21 she decided to make it happen.
Originally a Fashion design major, Sarah switched to filmmaking and used all of her savings to fund a documentary film project called “Amazon Souls” about the impact of the modern world on the culture of the Huaorani tribe in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest. During the making of the documentary, she had to live with the tribe in challenging conditions and that experience defined her. Begum’s mission is clear; she wants to explore the world, studying tribes and different ways of life, while investigating current affairs and making a humanitarian effort along the way. It is for this reason that she co-founded the Adventures Club, a community organization dedicated to connecting and inspiring women through their experiences and is also a fellow for the Geographic Society.
Over the years Sarah says her definition of what it means to be a fulfilled person has evolved. “It’s someone who is absorbing knowledge through experiences and understanding the importance of their journey, their purpose, and having made marks along the way to make the world a better place.”
And this is where I completely agree with Sarah and her philosophy. And for anyone who is thinking of following in her footsteps or any of the other intrepid outliers on this list, her advice is very simple:
“You only have one life, so you might as well live it the way you imagined. It’s nice to have money and if you can find a way of doing what you love for money, that’s great. But if you are unsure, follow your heart.” I couldn’t agree more.