My road to Mountainfilm was long — seven airports, five countries and a lot of in-flight entertainment brought me there. I traveled to Telluride from Cambodia, where I currently live. I grew up in the messy streets of Manila and spent time as an adult exploring the Philippine islands. So Telluride, in its vastness and its snow-capped mountains, was the complete opposite of the worlds I felt most comfortable navigating in. On my second morning, I woke up at 5 a.m., jetlagged and confused, and saw all of Mountain Village covered in snow. The town was empty. I was alone, and everything was white. I rushed out, taking photos and jumping about. I had never seen the world look that way.
This was how Mountainfilm began for me. I was jetlagged, cold and nervous (this was the first time I would speak in front of an American audience), but somehow, even with all that, I felt right at home. Everyone I met was a storyteller. I heard Asher Jay speak about her time in the Serengeti, spoke to Carsten Peter about losing colleagues in tornadoes, and listened to David Holbrooke’s stories of being in Mindanao. I teared up as I watched Farzana Wahidy tell her story as a woman photojournalist in Afghanistan.
Telluride, during Mountainfilm weekend, is filled with stories. Stories were told about the mountains and the adventures that took place in them. Stories kept the memory of Dean Potter alive. Stories were told in whispers or on screen, in photographs and over cold beers. They were told in so many different ways by so many different voices. I even got to tell a few of my own.
There is something that clicks for me when I see people gathering to share and — just as importantly — listen to stories. At the final dinner with National Geographic, we talked about how much we had learned from being in Telluride. On the long way back home, I couldn't stop thinking about how much more I could do and how much farther I could push myself. Being around so many change makers, who also happened to be great storytellers, did that to me.
I traveled far to get to Mountainfilm, but as I write this in Phnom Penh, the stories remain with me.
—Hannah Reyes, National Geographic Young Explorer and Mountainfilm 2015 artist