Lonely Planet Writer

When connections change worlds: Malawi's windmill inventor


Have you heard of William Kamkwamba? I hadn't until this morning.

In a world full of 'amazing' stories, his is truly extraordinary. As a boy in Malawi, he was too poor to afford school. Undeterred, he went to the local library to learn. Captivated by a book on windmills, he went home and cobbled together an electricity-generating mill using only the diagrams from the book. In doing so, he transformed his poor rural village.

What struck me profoundly about his tale was that a simple connection - between an idea in a book and the creative spark of a teenage boy - was all it took to reshape an entire community. The idea of a windmill was not a new one - but it was a new one to William.

Pondering on this, I wonder about the thousands and millions of connections created by the worldwide travel community every day.

We view travel as going to a place, but it's just as validly about going to people. What connections could we spark - have we sparked - in the process? What if every journey was viewed as the potential to change lives?

Many of us are deeply affected by the people we meet on the road. How, in turn, do we affect others? And is there the potential for an idea exchange to lead to something truly epic?

Has anyone out there experienced something like this? Have you changed the world, in ways large or small, through the connections you've created?