Presenting: Paul A. Teolis – World Traveller, Successful Hollywood Animator and Travel Photographer

Paul’s story is an interesting one since it combines extensive world travel and an interesting life journey – a deliberate switch from a successful career in the heart of Hollywood to a quieter life in Toronto. Paul Teolis and I linked up recently some time after a seminar he taught on travel photography at the G.A.P concept store in Toronto’s Annex.

I really enjoyed connecting with Paul and seeing another individual on an interesting life path away from the fast life towards a more meaningful, fulfilling way of living and a slower pace. I am delighted to say that Paul will also be sharing some of his travel photography techniques with us in a future article as well. Here is Paul Teolis, sharing his insights about life and work in Hollywood, about travel and his new life in Toronto.

1. Please tell us a bit about your background.

Okay, where does one begin. I attended Sheridan College from 1983 to 1987, completing both Art Fundamentals, the college’s fine arts program, and then Classical Animation. I got my legs working in special effects animation at a lot
of small Toronto studios jumping between live-action commercials and then moving into the more traditional environment of animated cartoons, mostly
for commercials.

I took a year off in 1994 to explore the growing and still small world of computer animation as I saw change happening within the industry and wanted to make sure I could benefit from it. I ended up being recruited to work for DreamWorks in early 1995, when Steven Spielberg launched the studio and moved to Los Angeles, so everything paid off big for me in the end. Good timing and perseverance went my way for a change.

The next 7 years in California were easily career highs and career lows within the world of animation. It was a boom-bust period in our business due to the failure of some very expensive films and Computer Animation was the new flavour for studio heads. So finding my contract with DreamWorks over after 4.5 years, and being in a position to not have to work I explored other opportunities in Los Angeles as I
reinvented myself. Photography and writing were at the top of my list, so I did some more travelling, got my work stronger and tried to see if I could make a go of it. I went to UCLA for some journalism courses to better understand travel writing and took a break from animation.

It wasn’t until I returned to Toronto in late 2002 that all this work would begin to pay off…yet again.

2. You have travelled extensively, to about 30 countries on 6 continents. What are some of the places you covered?

I began travelling in 1993 and hit my 6th continent in 2005 which was Antarctica. I was traveling every 12 to 16 months. How I chose a destination depended on which way the wind was blowing. Every time I decided I wanted to do a certain region I ended up going the furthest from it. With Australia looming as my last continent to set foot on, and I’m not in a rush either, I am happy returning to Asia and South America which to me are very rich cultures in their own ways.

I am conscious of what a region is photographically which is why I went to Namibia and Botswana, and I love ruins, so central America gave me my Mayan fix. Vietnam, Mongolia and Antarctica are by far my most favourite destinations.

3. What type of travel do you generally do?

Any kind..I love road trips. I have explored a lot of Canada and the United States by road usually for stretches of a month or so. Internationally I have done some heavy hiking in Borneo which was pretty down and dirty. In Africa I camped, across four countries, the rest is pretty much just getting into the local culture and their way
of doing things. I avoid resorts, 5 star chain hotels, eat with the locals stay local and you will enjoy yourself far more than through the window of a tour bus.

4. Why have you travelled so much with G.A.P Adventures?

I discovered GAP Adventures in 1993 when they were small and very much on the fringe of eco & sustainable travel. I got hooked with their style of travel from the start and have stayed with them since because of their philosophy. I generally don’t have much time to plan my travelling and frankly prefer to travel with like minded people. I became good friends with Bruce Poon Tip, GAP’s owner and CEO, and over the years many of their trek leaders as well. I guess you could say I am a bit of a GAP groupie!

5. Please tell us more about your trip to Mongolia and Pakistan. What struck you about this experience?

I did a long Silk Road trek with Bruce of GAP and some of his friends, I think we were 5 in total. Overland from Beijing to Islamabad Pakistan, through Mongolia. This trip was an exposure to two very different religions for me; Buddhism and the teachings of Islam. Mongolia has to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It’s remote, had few tourists and frankly more livestock than people. It was my first exposure to a people who are still nomadic. Living off the land and moving with the seasons. The few remaining monasteries in the country are stunning architecturally, but very remote and hard to get to.

There is no greater experience than sleeping in a traditional Yert, (a large circular home) in the steppes and be woken up by herds of sheep and goats grazing
outside your door.Entering western China to cross into Pakistan you don’t feel like you are in China at all. The market in Kashgar is incredible. And because the region borders many of the “stans” the influence is incredible. Mosques instead of monasteries and writings in several languages over every store front.

Pakistan in 1998 was a very different region than today. The civil wars still raged in Afghanistan, the Taliban ruled that country, you saw lots of refugees in areas like Peshawar. It was a bit of an eye opener. Beautiful people, and the Hunza Valley
in Pakistan is nothing short of breathtaking.

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