Fueling Wanderlust

For one student, persistence and old-school, handwritten letters were the keys to obtaining the opportunity of a lifetime.


In late 2017, Axel Tuxen ’19 came across an article in Forbes about a five-year-old girl who had written a letter to Google requesting that they consider hiring her older brother, because he was such a big fan of theirs. Google replied to the girl’s letter and ultimately hired her brother.

“When I first saw that, I was incredibly surprised; however, I also started thinking that nothing is impossible,” said Tuxen, a business administration major in the Cameron School of Business. “I thought maybe I could do the same thing and simply reach out and ask for a life-changing opportunity…which is exactly what I did.”

Through research, Tuxen learned that National Geographic offered a program for high school students that allowed them to travel the world and participate in photographic projects. However, there was a small problem: he wasn’t a high school student.

Tuxen sent National Geographic a handwritten letter asking for an opportunity, pitching his idea to document an adventure. He provided a summer travel itinerary and offered to take photographs in exchange for the cost of his travel and accommodations.

“My first two letters did not receive a reply, but after sending a third letter, I finally got a response,” he recalled. That determination helped Tuxen secure a 59-day adventure traveling throughout Europe last summer.

In June 2018, Tuxen set off for Portugal with his father’s photography equipment. He toured Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Italy and Montenegro. He took a day-trip to Verdon Gorge, a river canyon in southeastern France, and “ash boarded” down a volcano in Italy (a sport also known as volcano surfing). Along the way, Tuxen met new people, sampled different cuisines and learned about new cultures.

“It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that allowed me to connect with the world,” he said. Tuxen has proven that the age-old adage is true – it never hurts to ask.

-- Venita Jenkins