Why I Started the Talking to the World Project

Laura Vasilion
May 3 · 3 min read

Talking to the World Project

Pixabay photo

Over the course of my 30 years as a writer, I’ve written features, essays, profiles, and lengthy articles on a variety of subjects. I also spent close to a decade researching and writing a novel. Started another one. Took a stab at short stories.

Most of my paid writing work, however, involved conducting interviews. Thousands of them. Patiently, I listened to people share their successes and failures, explain the intricacies of their jobs. This required me to pay careful attention to the spelling of their names and the titles they used to define themselves in the world. Quote them accurately. Back them up with “outside voices.”

I loved working for newspapers, especially The Chicago Tribune. I learned so much. But by 2000, I sensed a change coming. Sections were slowly being discontinued. Editors, with heavy hearts, were cutting back on the amount of content submitted by contributors like me. Then those editors, some of the best people the newspaper industry produced, began losing their jobs. It was heartbreaking to witness.

Out of necessity, I took a job at a nonprofit food industry association. For 17 years, I wrote for the association’s magazine as a columnist and staff writer. But in 2017, budget constraints and a turn over in management brought my time there to an end.

After 30 years, I found myself facing another reinvention. This time, though, I wanted to do something for myself. Make a small difference in the world. So I brainstormed with my son, who lives in Denver. After I hung up, the idea for Talking to the World came into focus. The challenge I set for myself was to see if I could talk to one person in each country of the world. Ask them universal questions about their lives and worldviews, free from any political, religious, or societal agendas. The only desire I had was to learn, listen, and share their words. Prove, that the people living on this planet are more alike than different.

In 2014, I pitched my idea to ChicagoNow, The Chicago Tribune’s blogging community. The community editor loved the idea. But when he asked me how I was going to find these people I told him I wasn’t sure. He just laughed and said he was looking forward to my journey. Eventually, I realized I needed to rely on trusted intermediaries, (family, friends, neighbors, colleagues) who could put me in touch with people who would be willing to talk to me, via the Internet. There have been a couple of failures, a few slumps, but for the most part, people are eager to participate.

In 2018, changes in Internet security in Europe signaled another change for me. Because ChicagoNow had no intention of complying with those changes, I found out the people I was interviewing couldn’t read their interviews in their home countries. They were being blocked from reading content from ChicagoNow and The Chicago Tribune. If this project was to continue, I had to find a new home for it.

Late in 2018, I began shifting Talking to the World to Medium. On this platform, my international followers have access to all my interviews. I am so grateful to Medium for its advocacy of writers. With the ability to create a separate Talking to the World publication (see above), I can finally organize, house, and display this project in a cleaner, easier to read manner.

There are currently 258 countries and island nations in the world. To date, I have interviewed people in 50 of those countries.

I have a long way to go.

Talking to the World

A One-on-One Global Conversation. Focusing On Our Commonalities, Honoring Our Differences

Laura Vasilion

Written by

Editor of Present Tense and Talking to the World. Author, blogger, novelist. Would rather be living in Iceland.

Talking to the World

A One-on-One Global Conversation. Focusing On Our Commonalities, Honoring Our Differences

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