Archive | June, 2012

On Finding Your Passion

28 Jun

[Also, see CNN article here.]

“Without passion, no one can fully express their talent or define who they are.”

The guy in this video is Larry Smith, a Canadian economist.  His basic message, delightfully delivered, is that people who have truly great careers are fueled by passion.  A great career is not about finding a good job and working hard.  A great career is about finding a passion.

Contrary to popular opinion, chances are that your destiny won’t seek you out, you won’t just happen to stumble upon it.  You need to search for your passion.  Smith suggests a methodical and persistent search in which you shift your mind into high gear and place yourself in intensely stimulating, intellectually exhausting environments.  This may be reading voraciously, seeking out people and engaging them in intense conversation, or otherwise immersing yourself in the human experience (traveling, anyone?).

As discussed earlier, perhaps this search comes more naturally to children.  Ultimately it’s adults, too often young adults, who abandon the search because they make excuses: they “self-sacrifice” themselves on the altar of family/personal relationships or resign themselves to the fact that they must “grow up.”  Searching for your passion requires you to stand against popular culture, Smith says, to be independently minded and forcefully committed.

How do you know when you’ve found your passion?  “The rule of passion is simple: the mind cannot stop thinking about that which it loves.”

Which brings us to the second of sad souls: those who find a passion but cast it aside, dismissing it as impractical or foolish or as but one of a string of loves to follow.  They eschew their passion, just as those who eschew the search for passion, under the hollow guise of self-sacrifice and self-virtue.

I’m not saying that everyone should take a RTW trip (of course everyone should! everyone shouldn’t).  But my naive hope is that everyone — especially everyone as blessed as we are —lives deeply.  We should question convention; we should question the “wisdom” the world spouts.  We should not be afraid to listen to our hearts.  And make no mistake, that’s the hard part — the listening part.  Following your heart is easy.  Listen hard.  And don’t be afraid to take the big risks in life: the big leaps of faith that the wind whispers into your ear.

Did I Tell You I Was from the Country?

28 Jun

Please no one call Becky or Bob. They are my Aunt and Uncle, and I love them dearly.

While cleaning out my desk tonight, I found this invitation.  And yes, folks, I own a 22 and a .357, and they will both be making the Big Trip with me!

Joke, joke.  I will still be the stereotypical American even without the guns (have I told you about my picture book yet…?).

But seriously, one of the things I really value about my life — one of the things that makes me who I am — is the fact that I’ve been afforded so many different, broadening experiences.

I grew up in a rural, blue-collar town, baling hay at my grandparent’s beef cattle farm and selling their sweet corn at a roadside stand.  Since then, I’ve done a stint in the military.  I’ve played beer pong, and I’ve played polo.  I’ve rubbed shoulders with ivory tower elites and DC power brokers and undocumented farm workers.  I’ve toiled in a horse barn and in a paper factory and in the White House complex.

My life has taught me time and time again that there’s so much more out there than you can possibly imagine.  It’s that lesson that, in large part, compels the Big Trip.

Something I Wish I Would Have Learned Earlier

27 Jun

Me at an earlier age.

A thought I had today:

No matter who you are or what you do, not everyone in life is going to like you — sometimes for a reason, sometimes for a good reason, and sometimes for no reason.  That is okay.  There is nothing you can do to change that (to include being quieter, smarter, thinner, prettier, or more fun).  Don’t confuse being a good, worthwhile person with being universally well-liked.

I then asked my co-workers, “What is something you wish you had learned earlier?”  Their answers, paraphrased:

  • Bert: Time is limited.  You can’t do everything.  A lot of life is about making choices.
  • Ernie*: Some bad decisions are inevitable, no matter what you do.  Also, life is hard; your parents made it look easy.

*These names are pseudonyms.

Bon Voyage Postcards and Childhood Dreams

27 Jun

Front of the Postcard.
Also, FYI: the cut on my eyebrow is the result of running into a door knob, and yes, I still have the scar.

Back of the Postcard

I love cards and note pads and stamps and stationary of all sorts.  Though a romantic notion these days, I’ve always enjoyed writing letters and notes — mostly to various pen pals and to my grandparents.

Which explains, perhaps, why I just ordered postcards to announce not only my departure on the Big Trip (which, by now, many people know of) but also to announce this blog to my family and friends (yep, that’s right — literally no one I know is aware of the existence of this blog yet — I’m writing to myself).  I ordered the postcards on Zazzle.  They cost 75 cents each — and shipping was free!

I used a picture of myself as a child because, during the course of this trip, it’s precisely the spirit of a child that I’m hoping to embody: trusting, gentle, adventurous, full of wonder and awe.

Which gets me to thinking: we tell our kids to dream big, but too often we don’t teach them to.  We ask Little Johnny what he wants to be when he grows up — and buy him fire trucks when he says fireman and rubber stethoscopes when he says nurse and a deck of cards when he says magician.  Dreams are fine-and-dandy for our kids as childhood folly, but then we’re all-too-ready to nod in agreement when they abandon them — when “life happens” and certain “practicalities” emerge.  As the seasons change, the curtains close on the dreams of our childhood chapter, and we are ushered into an age of different values: responsibility, obligations, the dictates of “the real world.”  Then we start making choices, in line with those values, that tether us down: cars, loans, mortgages, families — and our dreams are forever relegated to the dustbins of our youth.

What are your childhood dreams?  I don’t remember any specific ones, but I do remember dreaming of doing something great — something that would feed the seemingly-limitless “fire in my belly.”  Twenty years later, I may be no closer to that dream, but I’m proud to say that it’s still the biggest and brightest thing on my radar screen.

K-k-k-k-k-k-Kathmandu

21 Jun

I think I’m goin’ to Kathmandu
I think it’s really where I’m goin’ to
Hey, if I ever get out of here
That what I’m gonna do

K-k-k-k-k-k-Kathmandu
I think it’s really where I’m goin’ to
Hey, if I ever get out of here
I’m goin’ to Kathmandu

-Bob Seger, “Kathmandu”

So the big news is that I depart Washington, DC on September 4.  Flying through London Heathrow to Doha, Qatar, where I’m spending the night.  And then on to Kathmandu, arriving on September 6.

Where I’ll be staying for five months.  Volunteering my legal skills at an NGO fighting child trafficking.

Wait, what?  Luce, I thought we were going galavanting around the world.  Laying on white sand beaches, drinking pina coladas for pennies.  Half Moon Parties.  Windsurfing.  Skydiving.  Laughing and drinking and shagging and laughing.

Yeah, so did I.  Then I read a few books and decided it would be cool to add a volunteer stint to my trip.  Then I realized that a lot of “voluntourism” is a glorified charade: paying money to pretend to volunteer.  Then I set out to find a real volunteer gig.  Then I found this one.  Then they wanted me for five months.  And turns out it’s in Nepal, one of the world’s most impoverished countries, and which the New York Times just called “On The Brink of Collapse.”

Electricity is spotty.  The city is clouded in pollution.  A civil war just ended not too long ago.  Democracy is looking shaky.

And I’m going.  For five months.

String up your prayer flags, folks!

But seriously, I think this will be a fantastic opportunity to get to know the ins and outs of a complex social issue in a developing country.  It seems to be meaningful work that will, perhaps, forever change the way I view the world and the people in it.

What’s the Price Tag of the Big Trip?

20 Jun

Who the heck knows.

I intend to keep costs down by:

  • Going to cheap places (South Asia, Southeast Asia, South America)
  • Spending an extended amount of time in a very cheap place (Nepal… more to come on this front)
  • Not buying shite

I don’t want to skimp on:

  • Experiences/activities (when else am I going to have the opportunity?)
  • Good health insurance and everything safety-related (this is a mandate by my Dad)

That being said, who the heck knows how much it’s really going to cost me.  Some Canadian dude named Daniel Baylis went on a RTW trip in 2011.  He spent a month in 12 different countries on 6 continents (New Orleans, Costa Rica, Peru, Buenos Aires, South Africa, Morocco,  France, Scotland, Israel, India, Laos, Australia).  Total cost?  $13,931 USD.

His basic plan was to exchange work for food and accommodation.  Here’s his budget:

Main Costs:

Flight costs: $7399
Accommodation: $2431
Reciprocity Donations: $904
Entry/Exit Fees (visas, etc.): $264
Health Insurance: $471
Membership Fees: $112

  • Couch Surfing: $25
  • WWOOF (Central America): $33
  • HelpX.net: $30
  • WorkAway.info: $24

Subtotal: $11,281 USD

Approximated extra costs:

Food (when not provided by host organization): $1500
Local Transport (taxis, trains, buses, boats): $500
Activities (cultural activities, museums, tours): $350

Subtotal: $2350 USD

Total (approximated) cost of a year of travel$13,931 USD

Under $15,000 seems ambitious for me.  But I’m going to try my best.  After spending my last 3 years paying $60,000+ per year for law school, $15k for the ultimate educational experience — a trip around the world — seems like a steal.  I’m hoping to keep pretty detailed records of where my money goes.  So stay tuned.

The Greatest Part of the Adventure Is the First Step.

20 Jun

Over the past ten months, since I left school behind, I have rediscovered reading for pleasure.  The books have really started to stack up on my nightstand, and, yes, unsurprisingly, many are travel-related.

The stack includes the following two, both about real-life RTW trips.  The first, The Lost Girls, follows a trio of almost-30-year-olds who quit their jobs, leave the familiar, and embark on a RTW trip in search of inspiration and direction.

The second, Journeys, is written by a middle-aged mother, who after seeing a “vision” (no joke), snatches up her 13-year-old daughter and goes RTW in an attempt to realize dreams long cast aside.

I enjoyed both books, because they allowed me to dream about my own trip, and, most importantly, because they built up my confidence that I could do this.  Neither books are literary works of art.  Little in the books is truly, truly exciting or fantastically interesting — neither the travel stories nor the narrative personalities nor the self-realizations.  But, in a weird way, that’s cool.  I get it.

It seems like some people set off on RTW trips with romantic notions of “finding themselves” out there in the world: purpose, meaning, a lover, a life, a cause, a career.  I’m not one of those people.  I don’t expect to find what I’m looking for.  And that’s because I’m not looking for anything.  Yes, I hope the Big Trip is a tale, perhaps epic, of wanderlust and self-discovery, but I expect to find no answers to the great questions of life that ruminate inside my head.  What I expect, the only thing I expect, is to feel deeply — to cry, to scream, to belly laugh.

My co-worker, who has endured hours on end of discussion about the Big Trip (bless his heart), says I’m going because I don’t know what I want to do, because I have nothing else lined up that I want to do.  He predicts that I will come back one year older, with less money, less options, still alone and still grappling with the same issues (unsure about what I want to do with my life and career).  And he’s probably right (as he usually is, groan).

And yet I still go.  I have no expectations, no grand ambitions (hell, I don’t even have an itinerary).  Almost literally, I’m hoisting my sails and letting the winds of chance catch me and carry me onward.  [Of course, the winds could also bury me in the sea, but I will ignore that possibility.]

Like the people in The Lost Girls and Journeys, I’ll probably come back with a good story or two.  And I’ll probably learn a thing or two about myself.  But that’s not the point.  It’s what happens at the very beginning that really matters: the surrender.  The total and near-unconditional surrender of yourself to the powers that be.  That’s the special part.  That’s what sets you apart.  That’s what changes you.  It’s not about finding answers; it’s about having the courage to ask the questions.