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“To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation.” -Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Disclaimer

Disclaimer: The chapters are meant to be read in order for better understanding, but with that said, each chapter can also be read on its own.

I wish tonight’s sleep was going as planned, but unfortunately I’m wrestling with my pillows and blankets like I’m fighting for the heavyweight title of the world. I’m repeatedly body-slammed with fear each time I close my eyes.

Just a few hours ago, I had been so sure I was going to follow my dream and travel around the world that I would’ve jumped on the next flight out – but now, each toss and turn seems to only realign me with reality.  A reality that says hey, in order to be a jet-setting travel journalist you, at minimum, should probably own a camera and have some sort of writing background.  I have neither. I have never written so much as a short story in my life, and I don’t know the first thing about how to focus a camera.  So when I readjust my pillow for the umpteenth time, doubt attacks once again, and I continue to fight to relax.

As the morning starts to bleed through the color-coordinated curtains I used to be so proud of, I wake to a body dominated with excuses.  Fumbling my way to the bathroom, I question the motivation behind every step.  I’ve lost all that energized me the day before.  I know returning to my 9-5 has completely lost credibility, but I’m dead, no momentum.  I stand there in the shower, water cascading off the chin I inherited from my mother, excuses squabbling inside my head.

I can’t spell, I don’t know how to work a camera, and even if I did know how to work one there is no way I’d make any money doing that sort of thing.

I linger around my apartment for most of the day, trying to disconnect the parts of my old life, and continually finding reasons why I can’t.  Looking for a distraction I reach for a magazine, but as I lift it, a stack of credit card bills topples onto the floor.  It feels impossible to get out of this never ending cycle of bills and work.  I plead for divine intervention in the form of a million dollar check, but as expected, my request is only met by an apathetic bark from my neighbor’s dog.

Even though resentment sets in, I begin to accept this fate because writing, filming, and photographing my way around the world with no experience seems so utterly ridiculous anyway.

But before I could return to my copy and paste life – a long, deep breath.  And this is the one I need.  My heart steadies, my thoughts stop whirling, and the dream I seemed to have given up on floods back into my body.  On my next inhale it sinks deep, like a broken wave returning back to the sea.  It tends to the wounds from the battle I lost last night, by reminding me how irrational it is to give up on a dream that I haven’t even attempted.

I turned my living room wall into a giant vision board and I listed all the things I needed to learn in order to transform my life.

I turned my living room wall into a giant vision board and I listed all the things I needed to learn in order to transform my life.

It’s in this breath that I stop thinking about how far I have to go in order to become a writer, filmmaker, and photographer – and start thinking about how quick my growth could be, since I’m a complete novice.  When I realize that I don’t need to become an expert overnight, and that the road can teach me everything I need to know – I smile.  Racing over to my desk, I frantically push aside spreadsheets and service records before remembering that what I’m looking for is in the metal filing cabinet beneath my desk.  I dig though several manila folders until I find the world map that has gathered as much dust as my dreams.  I hold it up against my chest like it’s the Holy Grail, and then hang it on the wall in front of me.  Have I mentioned it’s huge?  It’s huge.  It’s all I can see when I look up from my laptop.

Then I start from the bottom and begin to search the internet.

I type in photography for beginners and then do the same for filmmaking and travel writing.

Next, I google how to build a website and asked the internet questions like, What is a travel blog?’ and What kind of immunizations does one need to travel around the world?’.

As day turns to dusk, I write down all the things I need to learn in order to meet my dream halfway.  I write my filmmaking to-do list across the top of North America, and Southeast Asia becomes home to my photography checklist.  As my black permanent marker begins to lose its permanence, South America takes ownership of my travel writing, and Africa agrees to keep track of all the things I need to do in order to build a website.

After I break everything down into manageable sections, I put the most important thing right in the center of the Atlantic Ocean: a postcard I was given in Kenya by an Indian couple I met in between the bumps in the road during a three day safari in 2012.  They had seen the world apart and then together, and everything they said over the course of our time together danced along a rhythm of deep inner peace that was as simple and timeless as a Hemingway novel.

I can still remember the sincerity behind Roshan’s words as she read her wish for me when we said goodbye, “Give to the world the best you have and the best will come back to you.  Live long, laugh often, and love much.”  As I stepped back and took in the blueprint for my future, I promised myself that I would make her wish my new reality.

 

 

Episode 1 is an inspirational video about how and why I decided to quit my job and my first attempts at becoming a travel writer, filmmaker and photographer.  All videos are available in HD by clicking on the settings cog in the bottom right hand corner of the video.  

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.  It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln

Caption

“People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.”-Thomas Merton

I feel like I’m going to vomit.

It’s Tuesday afternoon, and both my hands are gripped tight around the steering wheel as if I’m trying to throttle it.  I just parked outside of yet another Miami Middle School, and I already can’t remember if it’s Thomas Jefferson, George Carver, or John F. Kennedy.   The reason they all blend together isn’t because I’ve been to over 100 schools this year, or because they all share the same 1970’s cookie-cutter facade – but because I’ve given the same presentation at every single one of them. I’m Bill Murray in Groundhog Day – but nobody’s laughing.

As I reach onto the passenger seat and pull my laptop bag onto my lap.  The scripted speech I’m about to deliver yet again is making me physically ill.   Over the past three years I’ve said the same thing so many times that I’ve forgotten how to think for myself.  A lifeless feeling floods through me, heavy with dread.  I’m doing this again? Really?

Yes, really.  This is what I do for a living – if you can even call it that.  My job requires next to no creativity, and the routine is maddening, worse every day.  Sweat breaks out across my forehead – as if my body is rebelling, reminding me I’m living the wrong life.

I crack the window in search of relief, but Florida’s humid spring air creeps in with a different agenda.   It nestles up against me and its suffocating.  The knot of my tie cuts deep into my throat, effectively turning my tie into the noose that is.

Then it hits me, I’m dying: dying in the car that’s meant to be a symbol of my success.

As I reach up and pry my fingers in between the collar of my shirt and my five o’clock shadow, all I can think about is the headline in tomorrow’s newspaper: Man Killed by His Tie: A 9-5 Gone Awry.

But before I can enjoy the wry side of all this, my eyes glazes over and everything starts to fade away.

As I drift away into a stale silence, my whole life seems to flash in front of my eyes.

Memories of family vacations, childhood birthdays, and my Senior prom, like a reel of old black & white films.  As they play in front of my mind’s eye, I realize that somewhere along the way of trying to make more money and buy more things, I conditioned myself to believe that it was okay to not follow my dreams.  Even Sundays have become a muted hue because they mean I’m only one day away from returning to the status quo life that has left my brain permanently stuck on autopilot.

Truth is, I don’t know what my dreams are anymore.  I’ve forgotten how to dream.  Dreams need courage and determination, and I’ve ignored the act of living for so long that I’ve become passive, weak, inert.

Caption

My life lacked spontaneity, creativity and color.

I loosen my tie, thinking thoughts that maybe this would all be a bit easier if I didn’t know a better life existed.  I wish I could just be content with a well-paying job and a nice apartment that has all the matching accessories.  Or just be okay with pursuing the next rung on the corporate ladder pretending that once I reach that I’d finally be happy.

Isn’t that the defintion of a safe, comfortable life?

However, it takes only the next breath to reveal that I don’t wish this at all, and that I never did.  Experience has taught me there’s more to look forward to than this.  So has travel.  From meeting people like Rajinder, the enlightened cab driver from New Delhi, Khosi the African woman that overcame extreme poverty and racism to become a doctor, and even from people like my Buddha-bellied Italian uncle, leaping through his apple fields with an irrespessible zest for life.  Because I know such things exist, I can no longer accept my present reality.

As I twist around and check my backseat hoping to see Yudy’s enchanting smile from Peru or Chanita’s charm from Thailand, I’m brought back to reality by a backseat that’s filled with manila folders and empty coffee cups.

There aren’t enough trips to Starbucks to get me excited for what my life has become.  I have ignored my intuition and accepted this 9-5 life, even after getting a glimpse of the world’s most vibrant secrets.  Instead of feeling the beaches of Zanzibar on the soles of my feet or sipping drinks atop the gleaming Sands Casino in Singapore, I’m stuck here filling out service records and spreadsheets, daydreaming as a flimsy substitute.  It’s the price to be paid for easing back into safety, instead of pursuing any real personal growth.

By the time I finally open the car door, something has changed.  I begin to feel a deep gratitude for this restlessness, I feel its value, because it’s showing me I’m more willing now than ever before to act.

As I step onto the pavement I notice something for the first time that I’ve seen many times before: tiny blades of grass defiantly sprouting through even tinier cracks of heavy cement.  Thoughts of what I might accomplish with even a glimpse of such resilience begin to revive me.  I feel a trickle of rebellious energy, building with every step, becoming something I can’t resist…

By the time I arrive at the entrance, decisions have been made, and I can see them in my reflection.  My posture seems to have found a way to correct itself.  The look in my eye is different.  I don’t look defeated – I look defiant.

I am face-to-face with the man I need to be, if I’m going to have the life I want.