The ultimate goal is peace,” an energetic Bruce Poon Tip says from his office in Toronto. “There’s no faster path to peace than people getting to know other cultures, and the way other people live in this world.”
Poon Tip knows the power of travel. In 1990, following a backpacking trip through Asia, he launched the travel company G Adventures. From a one-person operation, this Canadian success story has grown to more than 1,300 employees and has serviced some 100,000 travellers. In 2013, Poon Tip garnered acclaim with his memoir, Looptail. Still at the helm of G Adventures, he’s ventured into the publishing world again with a new book, Do Big Small Things, released late last year.
While Looptail adhered to a traditional format, this new endeavor is anything but. Full of illustrations, pages meant to be sketched and written upon, thoughtful stories from around the world and pullout postcards, Do Big Small Things is designed to get dirty, forge connections and be filled with tactile memories of far-away travels.
“It’s the small things that add up to big things in life,” Poon Tip says of the seemingly contradictory title. “Too many people are worried about the next big thing, when it’s the small things along the way that make you a better person.”
Poon Tip hopes the book will inspire people to travel in a way that pushes them outside of their comfort zones, experiencing the world in an authentic fashion.
“The travel industry, at the moment, is trying to convince people that they can go travelling without ever leaving home. There’s a constant push for giving people all the amenities—whether on a cruise ship or in a compound village—to give you a feeling that you have all the comforts of home,” he explains. “It’s kind of contrary to what travel should be. Travel should be experiencing other cultures and other people, to give you a better understanding of where you come from, and give you a greater appreciation for your home, not make you feel like home.”
In an age when we’re all snapping reams of digital images, his hope is that this book also leads to more emotive documentation of one’s travels. As such, the pages of Do Big Small Things feature prompts like, “A stranger showed me this kindness;” “This was my rite of passage;” and “Who did you meet? Draw the details in their faces.”
“I wanted to create something that can first document a moment in time for people, but also inspire people to be creative. We need all kinds of things to become well-rounded, great people, and expressing yourself creatively is one of them,” says Poon Tip.
While crafting Do Big Small Things with a team of designers out of Portland, Oregon, Poon Tip recalled his father’s stories of a trip he had taken from Trinidad to New York City in the late 1940s (his family immigrated to Canada in the ‘70s). He imagined his father filling out this book, its pages rich with emotions and memories from that journey, a thought that guided him through the creative process.
“How valuable that would have been for me!” he says. “Imagine if you filled out [this book] on a random trip… the people you met, the faces you saw… Imagine your children’s children seeing that as a memory of something you did.”
And while it reflects the heart of G Adventures, he insists the book is no corporate vanity project.
“If you look at the overriding purpose of the book, it’s about finding your place in the universe,” he continues. “Travelling gives you that opportunity to find your place—you see how other people live in the world, you bring home a greater appreciation of where you come from, what you have and where you fit in.”
Coincidentally, the book also hit a trend. When Poon Tip began writing it in 2014, he had no idea adult colouring books would become the rage.
“People think I had this genius timing—but I didn’t know that would happen when I pitched it to our publisher,” he laughs. “What surprised me was that people are, for the first time in a long time, connecting to something a bit more organic. Everything we use to connect right now is electronic. Organic connectivity is a beautiful thing.”
Do Big Small Things
A blend of scrapbook, colouring book, journal and inspirational prose, Bruce Poon Tip’s Do Big Small Things encourages readers to travel, connect and reflect. Peruse the pages to find anecdotes, quotes and loads of creative workspace. 216 pages; $30; dobigsmallthings.com