Joe Diaz gave his TEDx talk “From Fear to Fearless: The Transformational Power of Travel” at the TEDxWilmington Salon: Lust for Life: Adventure, Travel, Hospitality on
June 7th 2017 at The Queen Theater

What TEDx Taught Me
Joe Diaz

“Ever since I attended TED Global in Oxford, I’ve always dreamed of giving a TED talk. The ideas were inspirational and they fed my curiosity. The speakers were so accomplished and their stories were beyond compelling. That was 10 years ago. On June 7th that dream became a reality.

​I was approached several months ago by an organizer of TEDxWilmington to apply for a speaker slot. I enthusiastically applied and was accepted based on a couple of ideas I had been thinking about.

​Looking back on the experience, getting accepted was the easy part. The next two months of preparation would alter my lifestyle, sleeping patterns, work-life balance, push me out of my comfort zone, and fill me with self-doubt. I cursed TEDx, kicked and screamed, and asked myself, “Why on earth would I say ‘yes’ to this?” That’s when the real work started.

​I had the basic outline of a talk but was nowhere near the point where I thought it was an idea worth sharing. Sure, I believed in the power of travel and I had experienced firsthand how traveling helped me understand more and fear less. How could I present this in a way that reminded me of those very first TED talks I had been exposed to ten years ago?

​My first breakthrough came when I realized the story had to be mine. If I didn’t own this idea 100%, I should call it quits. It took me a month of agonizing, drafting, redrafting, talking to friends, and hiring a story coach to push me through the initial hurdle of answering that key question in a crystal clear ten seconds, “What is your idea worth sharing?”

​I spent another month, writing and rehearsing my talk. Every time I rehearsed I thought to myself, “It’s fine, but it’s missing something.” That something was me. My unconscious fear of delivering this talk without notes on a world stage was preventing me from tapping into me. The mere realization I needed to deliver this talk with my heart rather than my head helped me transform this script I found myself parroting back time again into a calling I felt compelled to share with the world.

​Four days before I was to give my talk I reached out to a fellow speaker and asked if he wanted to rehearse. I knew he was struggling to get ready and I needed more practice. After delivering what I thought was my talk he asked, “Do you mind if I take the gloves off?” “Sure,” I responded, caught a bit off guard.

​Over the next two hours he tore my talk apart—literally turned it inside out, rearranged some paragraphs and obliterated others. I thought to myself, how in the heck can I afford to do this four days before my talk?! It was nerve wracking walking home that Friday night. I was dismayed. Sitting at home that eve recovering from the stun I realized that my time with Mike was some of the most important time of the entire process. I had three talks. He helped make it one. I buried the lead and he helped uncover it.

Standing on that stage in Wilmington, I can’t really remember much. I recall bright lights and staring into the faces of an anonymous audience with anonymous thoughts. I knew I shared the idea I wanted to share. I’m thankful for the opportunity and curious to see what the universe hands me next.”


Co-founder, Joe Diaz, launched AFAR in 2009 with co-founder Greg Sullivan. AFAR has quickly become one of the world’s most critically acclaimed travel media brands. Its flagship magazine is the only travel publication to be nominated for three National Magazine Awards with its most recent nomination in “Best Overall Photography.” It also the only travel publication to be named “America’s Best Travel Magazine” every year since its launch. In 2016, AFAR.com was considered the Best Overall Website in Travel by Folio. Its digital platform is designed to provide frequent and discerning travelers with the best in content and tools to inspire, enable and guide deeper, richer, and more fulfilling experiences.