Taking a leap of faith

Travel helps Cameron Mofid, B.B.A. ’22, M.B.A. ’22, manage his obsessive-compulsive disorder. He’s just 23 but has already visited 119 countries—a journey that has amplified his advocacy for mental health awareness and awakened his philanthropic spirit on behalf of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
Taking a leap of faith

Cameron Mofid in the ancient Sudanese city of Naqa, December 2022. Photo: Cameron Mofid

In fourth grade, Cameron Mofid would spend class reading time absorbed in a geography book, exploring the countries of the world in his mind’s eye.

In the garage of his family’s home in San Diego, a giant world map spanned one wall. “My grandmother would call out a country, and my brother and I would compete to see who could be the first to point to the country,” Mofid recalled. “It’s safe to say I’ve been a travel nerd for a while,” he laughed.

It wasn’t all enjoyable exploration. In middle school, Mofid began exhibiting signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), in which an individual’s unwanted thoughts, or obsessions, lead to repetitive behaviors, or compulsions, to a degree where the individual is significantly impaired.

Mofid is candid about his struggles. “Hiding what I was going through during my teenage years ultimately led to severe bouts of anxiety and depression,” he said. “It got to the point where I wasn’t able to function properly during the day and going to school across the country in Florida was my way of escaping.”

Talented at tennis, Mofid left home at 17 to attend Academia Sánchez-Casal, a boarding school for aspiring Division 1 and professional tennis players in Naples, Fla. There, he made friends with young people from all over the world, acquired a deeper understanding of his peers’ cultures and interests, and sharpened his appetite for travel.

With the help of the academy’s founder, retired Spanish tennis great Emilio Sánchez Vicario, Mofid launched Legends United, a platform where tennis pros could donate signed memorabilia to raise money for various causes.

Thus began Mofid’s advocacy and philanthropy journeys—and his literal ones. Taking a gap year before enrolling at the University of Miami, Mofid pursued his charity work in partnership with the Nick Kyrgios Foundation and visited 46 countries across six continents.

At the University, where he studied finance and management at the Patti and Allan Herbert Business School, Mofid made the most of Miami’s location. “Miami is one of the world’s biggest travel hubs, being a gateway to the Caribbean and Latin America,” he remarked.

“I liked the energy and diversity in Miami, which is something a small college town would not have offered,” Mofid continued. “Between the quality of the education, potential for personal growth, and opportunities to travel, it made perfect sense.”

Mofid earned his bachelor’s degree in three years and his master’s degree in another seven months, graduating magna cum laude with the former and as valedictorian with the latter. And he packed a lot of travel into those years.

“I owe a lot of my success to my professors, who were extremely supportive of my travels [by providing] me with the necessary flexibility to make up work, if need be,” Mofid said. “[And] I traveled throughout the long weekends and breaks.”

Mofid recently returned from a three-week trip through West Africa and to Yemen, country number 119. And throughout the past five years of intensive traveling, he has gained much insight into mental health awareness around the world.

“I’ve learned that mental health disorders don’t discriminate,” Mofid explained. “It’s estimated that over 10 percent of the world’s population suffers from such a disorder. As a teenager, I felt like I was the only one struggling in the way I was. By having conversations with people all over the world, it’s been comforting to learn that I’m not alone.

“While I’m able to talk openly about my experience now, I’m well aware that hundreds of millions of people are not. I’ve made it my mission to break the stigmas around mental health disorders, and I hope that by sharing my experience I can help others become ready to share theirs,” he added.

In 2021, Mofid gave a TEDxUMiami talk titled “Three Lessons Learned from a Leap of Faith.” Among his observations: saying “yes” in a moment when saying “no” would be easier or more sensible can open unexpected life paths—like spending a gap year developing his charitable platform, traveling the world, and resolving to be one of the youngest people to visit all 195 United Nations-recognized countries.

Mofid’s most recent trip included a visit to Makoko, an impoverished community built on stilts in a large lagoon adjacent to Lagos, Nigeria. There, he became involved with a primary school that has 351 students, 30 of whom are orphans. In Ghana, Mofid met Marcus Naazi, who grew up in the streets of Accra and who now runs a makeshift orphanage that he dreams of transforming into a school and vocational training center.

These encounters inspired in Mofid a new mission: to raise funds so that the pupils in Makoko have access to clean drinking water, books, uniforms, and other supplies, and to help the orphanage in Accra build a proper home. His online fundraiser has realized more than $67,000 so far, with support from NBA star Kyrie Irving and hundreds of other donors.

“Some of the poorest people in the world are the ones who have looked out for me the most,” Mofid reflected. “They are the ones who pick me up when I hitchhike. They are the ones who invite me into their homes or shops when I’m stuck in a rainstorm. They are the ones who offer me their food or a glass of tea when they see me walking by. … It sounds trite, but the first lesson I learned is that people are inherently good.”

Travel has given Mofid healing, purpose, and an unquenchable sense of adventure. And as he pursues an entrepreneurial career, he is never far from planning his next trip. A sushi aficionado, he’s not yet been to Japan and is “beyond excited” to explore that country’s cultural and culinary heritage.

Mofid believes that a person need not go to the farthest corner of the Earth to be a traveler. “Someone can get tremendous value out of traveling around their own country, or even their own city. Traveling is about pushing oneself out of one’s comfort zone and growing as a result of that challenge. It has its own magical way of connecting you to people you never knew you needed in your life.”