Q&A with Trip Leader Ricky Qi
Trip leader Ricky Qi has documented Shanghai’s nascent jazz scene, China’s last matriarchal society the Mosuo, and the effect of China’s bourgeoning cities on migrants expatriates, locals, and minorities. As a freelance filmmaker and photographer for National Geographic Creative, Ricky has also shot commercial projects around the world.
What do you do when you’re not leading trips for National Geographic Student Expeditions?
I’m a director and producer working in the Chinese film industry in Beijing.
What has been your proudest achievement so far in your career?
It’s hard to pick just one, but recently while filming a commercial in Shanghai, I couldn’t believe what my team pulled off. On a typical day during a film shoot, we run about 20 shots, but for this four-day shoot, we finished a total of 140 shots…which is just an insane schedule. It was just so tough physically–we were running on fumes towards the end, but we did it!
You’ll be leading our China expedition and Paris photo workshop this summer. What is your connection to these parts of the world?
Because I’m in a highly visual field, art history and architecture is a key interest of mine, and was what first led me to travel to Paris. Paris is such a focus of fashion, film, art and photography; it’s a place of continual inspiration for me, and it’s what keeps on bringing me back! China is a place of my ancestry and the current place I am based out of for work. In China, there’s so much to see, especially in the remote western regions–the places where I did my work for my National Geographic Young Explorer’s Grant. Because China is so culturally different from any other place on Earth, to me it’s a place of constant cultural exploration and challenge!
What part of the trips are you most excited for students to experience this summer?
I am excited to take the students through the Marais in Paris, and through China’s deserts of Gansu where parts of the Great Wall are covered in sand dunes!
What is your favorite local food in China? Paris?
When I travel, my favorite food finds tend to be unexpected. One of my favorites in China is “Over The Bridge” rice noodles from Yunnan. It’s served in a bowl of piping hot chicken soup which has been slow-simmered for 48 hours. In Paris, my guilty pleasure is falafel served in the Marais. Simple, but so good!
What do you hope students take away with them after traveling with National Geographic?
I hope students come away from their trips inspired to look at the world and themselves in new ways. There are so many ways of living, and I hope that through seeing and experiencing how others live we can be more empathetic to each other.
Where is the first place you traveled that left a lasting impression on you?
One of the first places I ever went was to that left a huge impression on me was Taiwan. It rained tropical storms when I was there, and I had never before experienced a place that was both tropical and a bustling metropolis. It was just so different from the flat, sunny parts of Southern California where I am from.
What are your hobbies, aside from traveling and sharing your insights with National Geographic Student Expeditions travelers?
Surfing, climbing, and generally staying active are the things I love!
What is the next destination on your travel wish list?
The next destination is definitely Dzungaria, northern Xinjiang, in China. It is nestled between the Altai Mountains and the flat grasslands of the former Mongolian empire.
What item won’t you leave home without when traveling?
My camera. It’s heavy, and clunky, especially when backpacking, but it’s always with me and I never regret the images I take afterwards.
One fun fact about yourself?
I can hold my breath for over 2 minutes while diving!