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The “Why” Behind The Ask

“Once a Year Go SomePlace You Have Never Been Before”

                                                                         Words to live by from the Dalai Lama

I’ve always had visions of pinning a large map of the world to my wall and then grabbing a few darts.  With eyes closed and bags already packed, the idea of throwing a handful of these darts to determine the next destination would be exhilarating.  With a few extra to spare to account for these vast oceans :).

I never quite took my travel planning to that extreme, but I am a big believer in following your passion for unique events, even if you have to travel half way around the world to experience it. A recent example, was flying to Chile for the Total Solar Eclipse this past July and just prior to that event, experiencing a 5 day trek to Manchu Picchu in Peru.

So after some of those most recent experiences it is time for me to take this gratitude to the next level. This gratitude also exists today, as March 7th, 2020 marked 33 years since my family moved to the United States and originally settled in Arvada, CO.

Now fast forward to today.. I started thinking about my little travel blog, it was in the mid part of 2016 just prior to my United Airlines flight taking off from La Guardia, New York to Olso, Norway.  The plan was to take a 6 week backpack trip, much of it solo, through Europe. Even though the blog has really only been updated when I’ve travelled over these last four years, it has been a greater mindset that I have created in everyday since that has been the true life lesson.

I used that window of time to reflect on what was really important in this lifetime of after birth and before death, especially since this wasn’t long after my marriage had ended.  To hold myself more accountable to expanding my mind, I told myself I would write, since I figured this solo time would give me plenty of time to take a breath on the next chapters.

Then the crazy idea was to write FOR OTHERS to read it. Typically, I didn’t put much on social media but I told myself that to hold myself accountable this was the only way as I had to seek a little discomfort. It then dawned on me, if I could create any sort of IMPACT and help one person then it was worth it, even if that person was simply me.

Instead of sharing pictures of cool sites, beautiful sunsets or unique cultural idiosyncrasies, I found myself in these posts talking about life’s greater purpose told through the lens of my day to day observations on my trip.

Through this self-reflection, it allowed me to understand what a small place we occupy on this planet.   However, in telling this story of cultural connections, I realized was how much influence and impact we can have by taking small steps to bring people together.

“Easy to do, easy not to do” in the words from a few motivational leaders like Peter Thurin or Larry Kendall.

When we slow down in life and start caring for others, we start to realize how significant small actions are and how they compound over time to make a difference. Even if that compassion is just for ourselves.  Each person I met along the way shaped that trip, even if they didn’t know it, I was able to step back and observe.

Full circle to when I came back to the US on that 2016 adventure and that was the nudge to start thinking more critically about my career and creating impact. The idea that good karma has a beautiful domino effect and I wanted that to continue once I returned home. Over the next 3.5 years that thought never left, which led to eventually changing careers into residential real estate to allow me to connect with my community, while giving back to causes I continue to support.

The idea of paying it forward isn’t just monetary, it is a mindset. It is creating value in your sphere of influence, whether that be 5 people or 500. 

It is the belief a positive attitude “pays off” in a multitude of ways, many which aren’t always clear on a day to day basis.

I vowed then, as I do today and tomorrow, to leave it better.

Make an Impact.

Pay it forward.

I want to share the causes I love and hear where my networks passions lie as well.

In the next 4 days there will be an ask with the dart in mind, now you know my WHY.

#4Causes4Good

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The Domino Effect of Meaningful Actions

“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important.  You have to do the right thing.  It may not be in your power, may not be in your time that there’ll be any fruit, but that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result.” 

Mahatma Gandhi.

A powerful message from the immortal man and a general theme of this annual blog as I continue to prioritize my yearly travels, trying to make a positive impact at home and on the road, while I jot down a couple of thoughts that these journeys seem to inspire. Continuing the idea from Gandhi, if you do nothing you get nothing. If you do something, whatever it is, you get a result. So, you have to take action.  With that in mind, I have been giving my long-term career a ton of thought for the last 18 months, pretty much along the same timeframes as these couple of eclipses.  I seem to do the most long term planning when I travel, I get out of my daily whirlwind of job and life.  This past May it was time to take action and let the dominoes fall where they may. 

Days, weeks, and months have their ebbs and flows but the feeling I kept coming back to was thinking about passion for my job.  Sure I’d love to drop everything and simply travel, maybe write, work from classy cafes and coffee shops, take some photos and call it good, but that isn’t really sustainable long term.  As it relates to my job overall I am very satisfied, but even through all of the good I kept challenging myself to what this looks like longterm.  Of course I’d love to travel and do my job, but that doesn’t allow for dating and in the future kids/family focus.  Even though I enjoy the adventure of travel, I still love to come back to Denver, it is home. These yearly adventures seem to check off the box for putting the day to day into perspective.  The new places validates that I enjoy the journey but I also love my city, I feel very lucky to live in a place that supports my lifestyle.

It came down to that I didn’t need a chance in location.  I needed a change in my work life and it was time to be a little selfish.

In May 2019, after 13 years in technology / IT industry I put in my notice to OneNeck. 

 It actually felt like an odd time to make a big decision as my job was probably the best place it has been in a very long time.  Wonderful managers, clients, key strategic responsibilities with my company doing work I enjoyed and got my fair share of praise in both private and public settings within the organization.  However, when I looked at current passions, market opportunities and independent, long term flexible of schedule the one piece that clawed at me was the 24x 7 nature of the IT industry, especially as it related to being tied to my phone for support that could be quick issues or events that lasted for hours and hours.  I am a big believer in hard work, but I crave flexibility of schedule as well.  I am happy to work all day/ night on a Saturday when it is scheduled, but then a few weeks later, on a whim, I want to be able to take a Wednesday off.  On my death bed I won’t be thinking about the times I helped customers at 3am on a Sunday when I’m up in the mountains, that work/ life balance just had to change.  I realized I still had a thirst for customer service, going all the way back to my high school jobs and even through my work at Marriott during college doing room service.  In keeping with that theme, I have been buying some properties and renting them out in various fashions since I bought my first condo in 2009.   Account management in a different form, but when the Airbnb SuperHost status is granted that is still a proud moment to validate you are doing something right.

 As this side gig continued to get busier and the interest in buying more places continued, it has only made sense to me that I jump in with both feet and get my real estate license.  I want to be moving closer to that “in” crowd when it comes to real estate in Denver, I didn’t feel I could get there by just doing it passively.  As I looked to buy more income properties, these upcoming purchases alone will justify this change but I don’t want it to stop there.  My feeling is if you only dabble then I’m just not giving myself the opportunities to really see what this industry can do for me.  Maybe there is a wonderful cross-over between technology, real estate, Airbnb’s and how younger age groups search, finance, visit and ultimately stay at or purchase property.  We’ll just have to see where it all leads.

I mulled over other opportunities in IT, even at my current employer, a thought about non-profit, social work, therapy type of endeavors since I’m always trying to think about “leaving it better / making an impact on personal level.”  However, at the end of the day being a little selfish isn’t a bad trait it is self care.

There is a real passion for my little side gig of real estate, connecting with people, making business as personable experience, possibly within my little niche of Denver in Stapleton, as area I obsess over when it comes to growth and potential. 

I am taking a leap of faith, hoping their will be the net on the other side. 

This is scary but something in my gut tells me it is right.  I have very few regrets in life, but I need to “give it a GO” as an Aussie might say.  I know I can always go back to Information Technology if this proves not to be the direction I need to go for the long term.  In making this decision it was really important to me that I wasn’t running away from my job, as I never want to close the door on all that it has offered me over the years.

 I’d rather fail at something I love and live and learn, then not at least give it a try.  That is being a little self-fish, but as Oskar Wilde said “you have to fall in love with yourself first.”  Travelling mostly solo overseas has taught me that over and over and over again.  The more comfortable you can feel in the most uncomfortable situations, generally in other languages, the easier it becomes to take that chance in your day to day life. 

Taking it slightly a step further, true growth is being comfortable in the uncomfortable.  It allows for some risks but it holds you accountable.  A corporate job in Denver gives you the stability that 99.5% of people on this planet would love to be in that situation, but what it didn’t do for me was fuel my mini entrepreneurial spirit at this point in my life.  I’m not here to re-invent the wheel, but I am here to do it my way.

Even when you don’t have all the answers you have to follow your heart, your gut and your passion even when you haven’t done all your homework.

I have learned not to live in the “negative” as past experiences can bring you down. To focus on them prevents people from acting in the present moment and take chances. You can only make a change if you concentrate on today, that’s how you can make a different future.

Seize the opportunity every today brings.

So with that I will go forward and close this post with another more succinct quote, also from Mahatma Gandhi

“The future depends on what you do today.”

Knowing those brilliant words, I won’t look back, I’m glad I took the action.

Featured

Umbraphile Status takes flight

As I reflect on blogs in the past sometimes I would kick myself for not spelling out the details of my travels, as my philosophical discussions on life seem to get in the way of the day to day events.  For this version, it seemed most appropriate to the “why” of the trip before getting too deep. 

As I look back on planning this trip to South America, it all started on August 21st, 2017, this was the date of the last Total Solar Eclipse that crossed the USA.  As soon as the event was over, it hit me that I’d use this little phenomenon when the Moon passes between the earth and the sun as a good starting point.  The whole “Umbraphile” mentality seems to weave its way into many of my blogs, but if I convince one person to be inspired to travel to such an event then I’ve done my job. J

I always get the question.. “Why Go Watch something that last just a few minutes?”   I’ve never really had a concise answer to the question but just like a golf event in the UK, or a soccer tournament in Russia, the solar events puts a destination on the map and creates priority for me to add to the life experience bucket.  Probably the most exciting planning moment is pulling up the NASA map to see the path of totality as that creates a date and location.  I’ve always wanted to just throw a dart at a world map and head to the airport.  Maybe I’ll start a group that is willing to take me up on little game of chance.. With some ground rules so we don’t spend a fortune or end up 2000 miles from an inhabited city lampooned in the middle of the Pacific, but until that happens I’ll settle for hunting down total solar eclipses. 

Thus my imaginary dart landed on Serena, Chile, north of Santiago for July 2nd, 2019.  My annual “Summer” trip turned a bit Wintery as I would be crossing south of the equator.  As I did more research, Lima, Peru was much cheaper to fly into than Chile and that meant hiking, camping and Manchu Picchu.  I came to find out winter is preferred since it is out of their rainy season.  So between Lima, Cusco, the hikes and a the eclipse/Santiago a trip was born. J

Highlights from Peru Part 1:

  • Cusco, Peru..  After a flight in Lima from the states, another short flight across the Peruvian Andes and onto the starting point of my Intrepid 7 day group trip.  The city sits at 3,400 meters so needless to say I was happy I live in Denver as many struggled with the elevation, some right off the bat others at the journey continued.  I came to learn, this amazing place was once the capital of the Inca Empire with its mix of archaeological remains and Spanish influenced architecture
  • The Peru stero-type of Llamas and Alpas don’t get old.. Always enjoyed seeing them inside and outside the city, although the llamas at Machu Picchu are purely there at the end of the tour for tourist purposes and to snap a few pictures.
  • Chocolate, Chocolate, chocolate and a Piso Sour or two were on offer across Peru and Chile.
  • The CopaAmerica Football tournament was ongoing while I was in both Chile and Peru, probably the 2nd most significant national tournament after the World Cup.. it was great that both countries have fantastic tournaments, including Peru making it to the final. I’ve long learned it comes to following sport.. grab hold of what an area/city/region country cares about and that will be a wonderful local experience. 
  • Some long hiking days through the Black Mountain Range / Cordillera Negra on the “Quarry Trail”.. The famous Inca Trail to Manchu Picchu gets sold out a year plus ahead of time but I loved that we barely saw another soul on our multi-day hiking / camping trek.  The views, the views the views.. Spiritual moments in the clouds even before reaching sacred Manchu Picchu.
  • Ollantaytambo, Peru.. A town I’m still struggling to say in the local language of Quechua.  I think if I ever get a dog that shall be its name.. “Olly” for short. I don’t think I could subject my kid to the same struggles of spelling that one out or fitting all the letters on any standardized test or form they have to fill out for the rest of their life. I could have stayed in that gem of a town for a week.. The cobble-stoned streets in the Scared Valley of South Peru on the Urubamba River surrounded by an Inca fortress, stone terraces and surrounded by those epic mountains we camped and hiked and got to know our group a little bit better
  • Shout-Out to the entire Intrepid Quarry Trail Team a great group and beautiful connections for years to come… There was me the “Quasi-Aussie” and full fledged Aussies with real accents.. J

I do love how Aussies travel they appreciate exploring the world and most have jobs that support such endeavors. Although we did have a few Americans from Indianapolis, Indiana the rest were Aussies, from Melbourne, Brisbane, and multi people from the Sydney area.

  • Our local tour guide for the trek and then our Manchu Picchu visit was Quechua native Marcia… I affectionately called her “Marcie” as I have a lovely friend in Denver with that name.  Seemed only appropriate. What an amazing guide and person… she made a great trip even more spectacular and was sweet to tell me I came with great energy and attitude for the trip.  It was sad to have to say good-bye, but another facebook connection.  I think one day she will visit Australia and I’ll be the tour guide.  Sometimes you just have to put things in writing and it will come true.
  • Other memorable activities in the Cusco/ Treking time was visiting a local village to review customs, tools, local dance, the porters/ horses carrying our packs, playing football with the local kids, giving them chocolates, while Melissa in our group giving the kids stickers through-out the villages we passed through
  • Yoga at 12,000 feet… Our resident Yogi, Melissa, gave us a 30 minute session at our camping tents.  I have done a session of Hot Yoga before but rugged up in my Patagonia jacket, sweat pants and thick socks was a unique experience for a little chilly yoga.  A memorable experience none the less.  Our other guide Josh probably got some funny videos and photos of this amateur group strutting our moves.
  • One of many stories of the great people on this trip.. Just taking the time to understand someone’s background is always a perk of the group get togethers and each person adds their flair to the dynamic of the group.
  • The morning breakfasts with breath-taking views in the clouds and the epic hike day that saw us get to some 4500 meters.  Believed we hiked from 7am to 5pm that day… Up steep mountains and down slippery slopes and there were a few causalities that needed horses or a re-route to get to our camp site for the evening
  • Peru continuing to win football matches in the tournament as we drove past restaurants, bars and any place that had a TV
  • Our last camp-site on June 28th was close enough to town to allow for the local to stream the football and even more important I flipped over my airplane mode and was able to FaceTime my Mum for her Birthday, that was a wonderful conversation as I didn’t think I’d have service when the day started
  • The Hot Springs in Agua Caliente, the name says it all.. Was a perfect way to end the hike and prep for Manchu Picchu the next day.
  • Manchu Picchu was the capper and it didn’t disappoint.  After hardly seeing a soul for our trekking trip it was crazy to be around tourists again.  Climbing the stairs to the Sun Gate for the late sunrise just one week after the winter solstice, with just a trickle of people was another spiritual moment. The Inca Trail tourists had already arrived, and most had passed that point walking down to the ruins.  The view above makes you appreciate the beauty of the surroundings and the monumental effort.  The nice part of visiting in winter it is outside the rainy reason and just a week after the winter solstice the sun doesn’t hit the SunGate until closer to 7:30am.
  • After getting back to Cusco I was in need of a little catch-up on responsibilities back at home, I went to a coffee shop to get a little work done I met a local man that for the last 5 years has been running a guided tours for handicapped individuals. I felt very blessed as I was able to hike this journey on my own two feet, with lungs that can handle the elevation, but we talked about his concept and we are going to stay in touch.

Highlights from Chile:

  • I somewhat questioned the journey sometimes and in an effort to save $$ I took a late night flight.. No matter what times there was always going to be three flights. Cusco>Lima / Lima>Santiago, Santiago> La Serena.. The middle flight was on a plane that they would be using for the “tourist flight” for the eclipse so our plane had all the appropriate signage. The best part was queuing up to get on the La Serena flight as I heard English everywhere again. NASA shirts, badges from different astronomy groups, kids with their parents.  I met a guy in his 80’s line that had seen 12 of these.  He couldn’t sleep the night before he told me.. worried the plane was going to be late, since they were one day behind after flying in from the states.
  • July 2nd was the eclipse, the day was clear and pretty warm in the low 60’s, cloud less skies, which was key since the sun was lower in the sky with the shorter days. Words won’t do the eclipse justice.  After being almost smack dab in the middle of the USA in August 2017 it was pretty cool to be on the beach with thousands of onlookers.
  • With the eclipse being late in the day, I actually had a chance to get a few errands done.. Laundry was goal #1 as pretty much everything I owned was dirty or damp from the camping and trekking.  I was custom to hitting up a coin-laundry in many parts of Europe, which never seemed to be as seamless a process as it should be. However, it was lovely in this case to go to the local shopping center drop off all my laundry and for $7 get it all cleaned and folded.  The simple things when you are travelling mean a lot.
  • With the extra time after stopping by the “high end” tourist area in La Serena was to work my way back towards the beach/ accommodation and grab a few extra layers before the eclipse later in the afternoon.  Since this was my second eclipse, I knew what to expect in terms of temperature in the lead-up and during the event.  It is not often that you can have a 15-20 degree temperature drop in such a short time period, but that happens when the sun’s rays are completely blocked from reaching this particular part of the planet, at this particular day and time.
  • As I wondered around the many mile beach front watching the crowds build, I took a few seconds to stop and pinch myself a little… In the last few days I had experienced some of the most impactful “take your breath away” moments from the mountain tops of the Quarry Trail, to the SunGate walk at Manchu Picchu, and now this afternoon.  It simply felt right where I was suppose to be.  Washed away were any of the many hours of planes, transfers, jetlag.  I was lucky to be here.
  • Ahead of this event I wanted to make sure I had my eclipse glasses in hand.. In the lead-up to the Wyoming Eclipse getting these shades proved difficult and many fake ones hit the market.  I had the idea I would buy hundreds of these from Amazon and sell them to all the tourists on the beach, at 50 times the price, to make some $$ back.  At the end of the day I bought a small 10 pack online and that proved meaningful enough.  It allowed me to seek out a few kids here and there and give them my extra glasses.  One experience that will stay with me forever, was two brothers (maybe 7 and 9 years old) and their Mum were walking down a gravel side street near my place as I approached the beach in the opposite direction.  There was something about their energy as I passed them that caught my attention and before I got too far, I turned back around and asked them in Spanish if they wanted these glasses.  I think the Mum thought at first I was trying to sell these to them (which on the beach were going for about 2000 Chilean Pesos (about $3US), but as I handed them over to the kids I could see her and them light up.  The kids gave me a high-five, big smiles on their faces and walked away as I turned to watch them look at the sun with their new toy, still hours ahead of the event. That moment alone made my day, but then 10 minutes later I saw the oldest one running towards the beach and me as fast as he could.  As he approached, I was trying to think how I would convey in Spanish that “he could keep the glasses, they were a gift” or that “he didn’t have to pay for them.”  As he opened his hand he didn’t have the glasses but a  “La Serena Total Eclipse July 2nd, 2019” sticker.  He had run back to his house, then to me to handed it over.  He gave me a hug and said “Thank You” 

as I watched his Mum and brother watch in the distance at the end of the block.  I was really moved by this gesture and for a guy that rarely buys any souvenirs I may have received the best little token ever from this young kid.

  • My last day in La Serena was a decision making day.. As I considered the bus ride back to Santiago, renting a car or booking a flight the following day once the bulk of the tourists had departed.. I opted for the car rental and to work my way down the coast road to the capital
  • The traffic heading south which was initially busy leaving La Serena, as I expected.  However, the next few hours the drive was perfect so I figured it would be smooth sailing.  It was anything but as multiple toll boths, construction and the insane influx of traffic overwhelmed the main highway back to Santiago.  So many were running out of gas and pulling off to spend the night.  Little towns along the way got overwhelmed with people trying to stay.  I made 4 bookings that night and finally pulled into a little beach town where a nice old lady woke up when the neighbor who was having a BBQ next door called her up, two hours past her check-in window at 1am.  Needless to say I was thankful to get a bed and not sleep in my car that night.  I thank her again for her kindness the next day and gave her a little memento I collected from the eclipse.

Through-out the awful traffic… I kept reminding myself that this was all part of the experience and “How Lucky Was I” to be stuck in this mess.  We all had the same goals to witness something spectacular and I was luckier than most having a reliable rental car as hundreds and hundreds of older vehicles were broken down on the sides of roads

  • After a travel day that should have taken 2 hours, took 10 hours plus, I spoiled myself a little the next day as I was heading to the coastal areas of Concon/ Valparaiso.  That is the food capital of the region and the views were epic from the room, the pool and the beach front walks, especially for sunrise and sunsets.. A lovely area it would be in the summertime, as I thought about friends and their summer BBQ’s as today was the 4th of July.
  • From the coast I rolled into Santiago.  The drive was easy that morning, just a few hours. Even getting into the city was pretty simple, however, once I dropped my bag off at the hotel the drive to take the car back was humbling.  Through all busy one ways and traffic pitfalls I told myself how lucky I was to have experienced this event, and the city traffic was just the last step in the process.  I have major respect for people that have to spend all days in their cars delivering goods or taxi drivers.  Mentally draining with no assistant.
  • I got a feel for the city with some of the major parks, their tallest building and a few unique artsy areas along with all the important historical stops in the center of the city
  • With Peru continuing to win in CopaAmerica I cut my Santiago time short to start the journey North, so I left late Saturday night to be in Lima for the final on Sunday with my Peru friend.

Highlights from Peru Part II:

  • I followed Australia to the World Cup in Russia last summer, it was a wonderful experiences meeting people from all around this planet, even if their team wasn’t in the tournament.  As I wrote last year, Sport has a powerful way to open doors, create trust, start a conversation with a game the world treats like a religion.  For the world it is the good book of Football.

Among the wonderful people I met in Russia were multiple groups of Peruvians. After they gave me a beer, and watched a little World Cup action in the common area of the hotel, we chatted about my desire to go to South America and my plans for the upcoming Eclipse in Chile. I grabbed lunch with Juanacho from this group the next day.  Great guy and we stayed in touch post Russia.

  • The last full day after the football and catching up with Juan I simply wondered the city all day.
  • I spent most of the day in the MiraFlores district which is full of hotels, cafés, pubs, restaurants and shops, which draws large crowds of the local population on Sundays. Parque Kennedy (filled with way too many cats), Miraflores’ central plaza, regularly has flea markets and art exhibitions. Larcomar, a shopping mall overlooking the Pacific coast.
  • Nestled in the modern tourist attractions include an archaeological complex called La Huaca Pucllana.
  • Then it was back to Denver late that night for a red-eye.

#4Causes4Good Contest / Rules

THE WHY

One day I just want to throw some darts towards the map and go.. Details in previous post.

THE ASK – 4Causes4GOOD

  • List at LEAST FOUR (4) CAUSES, CHARITIES, NON-PROFITS that you are passionate about and any relevant details about their mission (if you have their social media handles add in)
  • Describe at least one reason why each cause is important to you
  • Vow #4Good with a donation of time, raising awareness on social media or a financial donation prior to 4.4.2020
  • Now the DART… Detail FOUR (4) locations you have never been to on your destination bucket list, outside of your home country of residence
  • Reveal an impactful moment from overseas travel and lessons learned
  • My example below…

THE RULES – 4Causes4GOOD

  • Submissions must be submitted by 4.4.2020 @ 4:44pm MDT
  • Reply to hashtags “#4Causes4GOOD” “#leaveitbetterblog” within facebook, Instagram, twitter, linkedin prior to above entry deadline
  • Forward or Share this with FOUR (4) contacts

The FORM and my 4Causes4GOOD

  • The CAUSES and your WHY:
    • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado (@biglittleco), The power of one on one mentoring
      • Big Brother for the last three years within the Sports Buddies Program
    • Ability Connection Colorado (@abilityconnectioncolorado) providing inclusion opportunities for young adults with disabilities
      • Mentoring and Career development guidance
    • MetroCaring Community Service – Addressing Hunger with Education
      • Group volunteer days each month/ Local Food Kitchen
    • New South Wales Rural Fire Service – Australian Bush Fire volunteers
      • In wake of the devasting Fire Season across Australia
  • FOUR LOCATIONS ON MY DESTINATION BUCKET LIST:
    • Country of Georgia
    • Bora Bora
    • Antarctica
    • New Zealand
  • An IMPACTFUL MOMENT from past travel
    • Lengthy conversations across multiple cities in Russia during the Soccer World Cup, the beautiful connections that we can have when we are willing to engage, with a lot of help from modern technology  (Google Translate App)

THE PRIZE – 4 Causes4GOOD

  • The Winner will receive at minimum: Nathan Urquhart will donate a United Airlines / Star Alliance Ticket, in the name of the Selected Winner. Up to 80,000 roundtrip United Miles.
  • Destination will be limited to One (1) of the FOUR (4) choices and will be covered to closest airport wherever United and/or Star Alliance Partners Fly as of end of the contest.
  • All other costs will be responsible of the Winner unless other prizes are donated
  • Independent Review Team members won’t be eligible to win and will not know the entrants

Moments in Russia that even Rubles Can’t Buy

“Duration of Experience Does Not Equal Impact.”

“One weekend, one conversation can change everything, cherish those moments of connections with other people and make them a priority.”

Unforgettable words  about life and how David Baron relates this mentality to Total Solar Eclipses, during his Denver TED Talk in 2017.

 

I thought about these words as I considered earlier in 2018 about attending the Football World Cup.

I am not a big football fan.

I appreciate the game, but usually only watch a portion of the event every 4 years.

I am somewhat guilty of the same thinking as the rest in the US, even though I’m sports obsessed there is only so much time.

Coming from Australia, I still love many Aussie sports, but as the years go on and priorities change it gets down to checking scores and not watching the games.

Throw in an obsession with Denver Broncos and too many other sports, the calendar gets filled up.

I try to attend at least one Broncos Away game each year, although tracking down Australia in Russia was the ultimate away game.

This will also be the 5th year in a row that I will be back-packing around Europe and attending the Golf Open Championship this July, usually played in Scotland.

The one constant, which I knew from an early age is how important Football is to the world.  I didn’t have to arrive in Russia or a World Cup hosting city to see that.

I saw it in Munich.  Walking around the city I saw jerseys from many nationalities and hundreds of club shirts probably from the German Bundesliga that I could not name.

The national pride only intensified as I went through Austria, in Slovenia, through Croatia and Bosnia/Herzegovina. It has to be noted out of those countries I visited only Germany and Croatia are actually playing in the World Cup.

That is THE STORY of this tournament, it is people coming together.

These national teams may or may not be participating, but it is the people that are seeking each other out,, even from nations that have political or religious issues at higher level, with smiles/high-fives/hugs/handshakes and exchanging flags to take photos.

The jerseys identify ourselves with a nation but it is also the means to start a conversation at the personal level, even if there is no common language.  That has been evident with all my conversations, people seek to understand each other at a deeper level, at least modern technology can facilitate that language barrier.

I even had the pleasure to meet to guys in Moscow from Tel Aviv.  They bought a handful of games around Moscow area, even though Israel wasn’t competing.  They told me great stories of their discussion with other Palestine’s

They handed me two more tickets to the Australia/Denmark game in Samara. It was going to be too much travel for them.  I ended up paying it forward to someone I met on the plane coming into Samara from Moscow. Even though there were two tickets given to me, I knew my single seat was in the Australia section and I wanted to be part of that party.

Of course there is competition but this game is the one that unites.  There might be corruption, there might be a lot that FIFA is doing behind the scenes to cover up ills, but for anything that is wrong about the process there is far more that is right.

For hundreds of millions of people around this great planet, Football is the ultimate cultural expression, almost a universal language.

Liverpool Manager Bill Shankly once said “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

I had to look up the date, but I remember right where I was standing when I heard the announcement on December 2nd, 2010 that Russia was getting the World Cup.  It screamed corruption and high $$$$ in my mind.  Now since moving to the United States at an early age, there has always been many stigmas about Russia, so attending never crossed my mind, oh and just a little fact that I don’t watch much football.

However, as you have come to see in this blog, my life and past travel experiences, it is all about having authentic experiences, especially when I travel, so that got me intrigued.

Then as you already know the Aussies (SoccerRoos) qualified.  So the question moved to “Why Not?”

You could say the planets aligned for this trip to Russia, which ties back to the Total Solar Eclipse quote that I heard as part of a larger weekend series at the Mile-High X TED Denver conference in July 2017.  Myself and the capacity audience got to hear from at least three dozen speakers. Some parts invigorating other parts mentally tiring as new presenters would bring often a very different topic.

It is a format I love since that is how my brain works and it allows for amazing variety of ideas.

 

All were fantastic and next time I go I vow to take a note pad to jot down quick snippets as each topic that is presented.  Just like one of the TED talk podcasts these discussions inspire and usually make you appreciate all the good in the world, especially when the news media paints such gloomy pictures of the other 0.001%.  No matter the topic there is this prevailing theme of people connecting with people.

I have thought about that mentality almost non-stop pre-arrival in Russia and during my time following the Australian football team, it has taken me to cities that never would have been on my travel itinerary.  To start you need a valid reason to come to Russia and the Football FAN ID checks that box since it is a temporary Visa.

For me travel and TED talks have a unique cross-over. As I tour through many of these amazing cities on this trip, one can only retain so much detail, especially when there are language barriers.  Through all the details there are always some great perspectives but what I get excited about are those “Those Moments,” that make you want to stand up and cheer like any sports match.

That is where one presentation stood out from last year, about Eclipses, by David Baron, just 6 weeks prior to the Total Solar Eclipse that passed through the middle of the nation, just north of Colorado.

My sense of adventure with nature was already peaked since I had already been considering driving the 8 plus hours to watch the Total Solar Eclipse in Central Wyoming.

I just hadn’t requested the day off work.

After that presentation it was a no-brainer and just came out to figuring the logistics.

At least, unlike the World Cup, this one required no tickets, flights, or a visa.

Travelling solo to the Total Solar Eclipse on August 21st, 2017 did not disappoint.  The next evening I’d meet Sidney and then in the weeks to come after we started dating. Seemed to me like take care of yourself and things just fall into place. Life doesn’t always work that simply, but it is a great mentality to have.  Hopefully I didn’t talk her ear off about the Eclipse or the TED talk, must of been ok since we would date for the next seven months.

Without me going into many more details here is David’s full talk, hope you give it a listen:  https://www.ted.com/talks/david_baron_you_owe_it_to_yourself_to_experience_a_total_solar_eclipse#t-725079

Here are the total Solar Eclipses coming up.

I just have one simple question.. When and where are you going?

Just like cities that Australia is playing in Russia, it is exciting which locations could be selected.

Let me know as I might just join you.

  • Jul 2019
  • Dec 2020
  • Dec 2021
  • Apr 2023
  • Apr 2024
  • Aug 2026
  • Aug 2027

I’ve had a few of these strong “ah ha moments” in the last 12 months.  The one common theme to these flashes of brilliance, was it got me to stretch my thinking of my purpose and longer-term plans of what is really important and made me evaluate direction in life to make sure it follows a passion.

It made me appreciate what I have in this life and try not to be so damn worried about the items I can’t control.  These biggest moments of awe that stand out:

  • Sitting in the high boat canopy, high above the Pacific Ocean off west Mexico coast of Cabo on a Marlin Boat, by myself, but with many friends down on the deck below.
  • Sitting in a camping chair in the middle of central Wyoming watching the Total Solar Eclipse, by myself, but with the many people that stretched out across the line of totality
  • Standing by myself watching the sunset over coast and down to the ancient city Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • Standing in Samara Russia, when I got to see my first World Cup goal by Australia, I attended by myself, but being in the Aussie section for that moment was sheer joy and I made lots of new connections

These above “big” moments of awesome, always seem to have me reflect on more recent decisions and direction.

  • I was really proud that after many months of contemplation I took the first small step and signed up for the GRE Master in Psychology entrance exam in October.
  • Validated that I spoke up with my job and ask for an extended amount of time-off covering two separate three week trips this summer, I was very appreciative that they accepted.
  • Even though things ended in May, I was really proud that Sidney and I gave it a shot to date, since the end of last year. So many wonderful memories with her, she is a beautiful person. She taught me a lot, I met her great friends/family, and I have a ton of new perspectives on life.  It is all about just putting yourself out there, being vulnerable, and listening to your gut along the way.

So just like David Baron’s words got me over the hump to make sure I prioritized a unique experience over obligation, I want you to do the same.

He states “Before you die, you owe it to yourself to experience a total solar eclipse, it is the ultimate experience of awe.”

I would now say the same thing about the overall World Cup experience.

I questioned a few times why I had spent hard earned money on two games across the globe on a sport I didn’t really watch. However, when national pride is on the line, this great event has a way of capturing your imagination.  If you didn’t already follow this game against Denmark it finished a 1-1 draw, in ways this was fantastic in others it was a letdown as Australia seems to outplay them in the second half, but I would not have changed that experience, it was more than just the score.

Before the game kicked off I thought about how unreal that I was in that Samara Arena and the steps and the priorities I had put forward to make this happen.

The entire time in Samara was amazing due to meeting so many great people, but it also gave me time to connect with fellow Australians, a luxury I don’t have as often anymore.

The game was amazing, the time went way too fast, I never have been so energized by a game of football.  Denmark scored pretty early which was disappointing, in a brief moment I thought to myself I was silly to come all this way.  Then I thought as excited as I am to watch this game, I felt so lucky to be here and told myself anything that happened game-wise would just overflow that cup.  I was here, I did the tough work already.

Cheering loudly on every place, I just went back to enjoying the beautiful game, standing in unison with the sea of Gold.

Then it happened, that moment you never forget. A handball called against Denmark after video review. Penalty Kick awarded to Australia. Just the announcement of that foul the Australian fans lost their collective mind.

After what seemed like forever to complete.. Penalty kick by Mile Jedinak for the Aussies and …. GOAL!!

Hugs, high fives, and empty flashing light beers cups were tossed about in the air.

I got to attend my First World Cup Game.

I got to proudly wear my birth place’s Green and Gold.

I got to share stories with fellow Aussies, even if my accent was a little different.

I got to witness my first World Cup Goal.

That goal was my moment of awe and celebration like I was a child running down the stairs at Christmas, but more importantly in the years to come that moment will remind me of all the impactful experiences I had in Russia, with good people from all different backgrounds.

So I challenge you to go, block it off on the calendar in 2022 or 2026. As luck would have it, similar to the that Total Solar Eclipse crossing over the middle of the United States this past August, and a few more times in North America over the next decade, the World Cup is coming to the continent.

So cross a state or a national border and go see it for yourself, not so much for the football, but for the people from all walks of life that you can gave a wider perspective.

For an Eclipse viewers the wait is 12-16 months between his awe-inspiring moments.  The world Football community has to wait 4 more years for the next World Cup.

As I got in my Uber to head to the airport to fly west to St Petersburg, I thought my memories of Samara were coming to a close.  I was happy and a little tired, but it was a great 3 days in this city on the Volga River. As I have come to appreciate on these travels, you never know where your moments of inspiration will come from.  I got in the car and met a local who goes Logan to make it easy.  First, I learned that Uber only has recently started in Russia and Logan spoke very little English, but his kindness and joy in our conversation will remain.  I thank technology and voice dictation that even while he was driving we were able to have a great connection.  Naturally, we started with Football then about our backgrounds, impressions of Russia, his coin collecting, details about the USA/Australia, travel, etc.

As we got closer to the airport I was getting myself organized and got a little extra money out for him, since the Uber App here doesn’t have a feature to add gratuity, it made me think back to the last few days in his city.

Tipping is very American but as you travel through Europe a lot of tourist areas are slowly getting to rounding bills up or 10% for excellent service.  Well that practice has not reached places like Samara.  The man at the front desk at the hotel gave me my bills back after he retrieved my pack from luggage store, the front desk lady did the same when I tried to pay for the FULL load of laundry they did for me during the football match, the nice lady at the grocery store “re-handed” back my change that I tried to leave.  Surely, I should have learned by now, but when I got to the airport I tried to pay Logan a little extra cash for his kindness, heart-felt conversation impressive driving, needless to say he refused as well.

In that moment, I tried to come up with something significant.  For the guy that collected coins if only I had something cool to give him as a small token.

As he went to get my pack from the boot, I dug through my various foreign currency from this trip, in the holder in the back I luckily found $1 and $5US bills.

In Google Translate I quickly wrote “I don’t have any US Coins on me but hopefully these will add just a little to your money collection.” My rubles may not have been accepted as a tip or payment of service, but they were not turned down as a gift. He smiled and accepted.

When I think of my time in Samara I know the first question I will generally answer will be about Australia / Football game, but as David Baron said “one conversation can change everything.”  I will remember that Australian Goal as the moment of joy but I will remember this conversation as the true moment of significance.

I like to think that was the best $6 I have ever spent.

Only Time Will Tell

How do you measure a YEAR?

In mid-April 1999, I was asked by my Aunt, Vicki, to go see the Musical “Rent” as it was coming through Sydney.  It is a about a group of New Yorkers dealing with love, loss, drugs, disease, and modern life issues in the East Village.

The key song, with a few lyrics below, stands out since it frames the timeline of the story set over the course of a year, 1989/1990.

“How Do You Measure a year in a life?”

“In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes”

“In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes so dear”

“In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes”

“How do you measure,

Measure a year?”

“In daylights?

In sunsets?

In midnights?

In cups of coffee”

“How do you measure a year in the life?

“How about love?”

“How about love?’

“How about love?”

“Measure in love…”

“Seasons of love…”

“Seasons of love…”

The backstory to me getting this invite was I was living with aunt and my uncle while I went to St Patrick’s College (high school), in the south suburbs of Sydney where my Mum and Dad both went to high school.

I’m not really sure if it was the show itself or the fact that a bunch of her friend’s daughters, around my age, were going was the motivation for her inviting me.  At first thought it was a hard, “no.”  I knew nothing of Musicals at the age of 17 and I had visions of a bunch of old Italians singing Opera-like songs that I probably wouldn’t understand and I didn’t give a damn about.

Outside of a concert, I mean if there wasn’t a scoreboard and a winner/ loser was it even worth it?

Also, going with a bunch of girls, to a non-sports event, that scared the shit out of me at that point in my life.  If I couldn’t explain the nuisances of a rule or a backstory of a team/ player what the hell were we going to talk about?

I was scared, I felt like my world was going to end if I had to spend a day like this.  Which, as I got older I realized how silly this feeling was at the time, but we are only as opened-minded as our sphere of influence, view-point and experiences allow.

You see when my family moved to the United States in March of 1987 and I started primary school, I felt an outcast.  Now back in Australia going to school I felt the same way with my American accent, but I appreciated that this trip was on my account.

As I arrived in Australia and started attending this high school, the thoughts of me being this terribly shy kid, with an Aussie accent, resurfaced.  I just remember the way I felt when I was getting mocked by the other kids to “speak Australian to us.”

“Nathan, what is the word for “Pencil?” kids would ask me….

Me: Ahhhhh, sorta shaking my head.  “Pencil”

“Nathan, what is the word for “Desk” ?”….. Me: Shaking my head again.  “Desk”

“Nathan, what is the word for “Pizza” ?”….. Me: Getting annoyed.  “Pizza”

“Nathan, what is the word for “” Water Fountain”….. Me: Shaking my head again.  “Bubbler” followed by HAHAHAHAHAHA of non-stop group laughter, which usually would end the conversation and everyone would walk away.

When you are young and impressionable you feel like those digs are more laughing at you then with you, but they shape you.

In the long run all for the better, even if I have to fly half way around the word and wear an Australian soccer jersey to validate my Aussie blood still runs deep J.

From those early days of getting made fun of I vowed to try and sound and “talk” like everyone else.  As you get older this sounds absurd, but my primary school classmates may have succeeded, but I know now how truly lucky I am to have those wider international experiences.  I believe it also made me a very compassionate person especially with other backgrounds and cultures. I thank my parents for opening up my perspective to this great planet/people, a trait, if nothing else, to pass along to my kids one day.

That is why I feel 1999 was my biggest growth year.  To go and see that show was a tiny step but it was the fact that I took a risk to go to Australia in the first place.

The events just a few days after this show is what gave me a more “real perspective,” even though I was half a world away.

The date was Wednesday afternoon April 21st in the afternoon (Australian time).

I was coming back from the day of classes and just before I got to the train station there was a late afternoon edition of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, the only words on the paper read.

“Mass Shooting in American High School”

“Hostage Situation continues in Denver area”

My heart sunk, I asked the worker at the news agency if they had additional details, but they had none.

This was probably just before the cell phone got “smart” and outside of getting back to the house I didn’t have s fast way to get immediate information.

I knew the gravity of the situation as soon as I turned on the TV and CNN International was using a local Denver station’s coverage.

And unfortunately for that community around Columbine High School they will always have the scars from that day.

You know the rest of that sad story.

I felt a bit lost in the days/week that followed.  I wanted to be there with my friends from my high school as we supported another school and this Denver community.   Instant Messenger was just in its infancy to be able to have an online conversation with friends about the events.  I wasn’t the most outgoing person so I had issue with “burdening” someone else with my sadness with the events that were now past.   What I truly discovered about myself that week is to put everything into perspective and shaped my attitude going forward about a wide variety of issues, including gun control and mental health, some of which I have touched on through this blog going back to 2016.

Since I said Yes to go to a school in 1999 that was the first domino.  Although I still had my struggles I knew this was a foundation.  A taste for what this planet has to offer, a sense in the adventure, riding out the bumps and getting out of my comfort zone.

Which led to another, much easier decision, to study “abroad” in Wollongong, Australia in 2003, which proved to be the most fun 11 months of my life.

It is a great feeling when you have the satisfaction of knowing that is exactly where you are supposed to be.

That to me recently was Ljubljana, Slovenia.  It was going to be one of those “pass through” cities along the train line on the way to spending 5 full days in Croatia.  Well the beauty of solo travel and not having everything booked is the flexibility it affords you along the way.

The energy of this city on the river, the cafe culture, the winding old streets, an epic wine tour followed up by a sunrise bike adventure.  A clean city, green culture that would rival any city I have been to.

The locals were proud of their young country since Independence in 1991.

By pure accident I walked through that park on the edge of the river with thousands of locals already gathered to watch the performance. The first handful of shows in a month-long festival of free summer activities in this park.

There was only dialogue and then music, all in Slovenian.

I was lucky just a few months earlier that Sid and I went to see Rent for their 20th anniversary tour through Denver, I knew the songs well, even if they were not in English.

As I watched the show and listened to the music I couldn’t help think of that performance I heard back in Sydney with my Aunt Vicki, who has since passed.

Even the most recent show I went to with Sidney.  A great passion we have shared for the arts.

Those were both fantastic days in entirely different times in my life.

However, even though I had no exact translations at I watched this show just off the Ljubljana River, and I could barely pick out a few words, i understood it all.

It was not an understanding of the small details, but the themes, the emotions and the story. I now measure my years in my unique experiences and the love all sorts of people shown me when we meet along the way.

So under the stars, on this perfect summer night, I knew , right then and there I fit into this city just fine, even if only for those 90 minutes.

It was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Riding My Wave

The Quick Hits from the first few cities:

Munich, Germany

  • My flight from the states landed here.  It was probably the longest direct flight to get as close to Russia as possible.
  • The breakfast that was included in my booking and the nice courtyard at my hotel to enjoy that food or relax, was a great way to start a couple of days.
  • The Beer Gardens – I can see just a tiny taste of what Oktoberfest is all about
  • Marienplatz Square – It is the first stop most tourists lists for Munich, it has been the city’s main square since 1158.
  • Viktualienmarkt – Food Market – Just very impressive then energy was fantastic, then by 8pm that area is silent
  • The Eisbach Wave in English Garden Park was probably my favorite discovery, stumbled upon it without a map.. I saw a Billabong surf shop many hours earlier, then later a guy with a wet-suit, but in a big city you don’t question anything you see. “The Surf” was amazing!
  • English Garden Park, Schloβpark, Nymohemburg Palace and a host of other parks. Munich and it public spaces, very impressive. Might discuss that in a blog
  • BMW Museum – In fairness I only had time to walk around the grounds as I had scheduled a tour next door at the Olympic Park
  • The tour around the Olympic Park where Munich hosted the 1972 Summer Olympics
    • As with many Olympic sites the whole area had to be created, including the large hill that surrounds that stadium, the base is from debris from World War II
    • Practiced my foosball skills on a 12 person table.. we had slightly less playing
  • The train ride next was to Slovenia, directly to the SouthEast of Munich was a little bland but as the train starting climbing next to rivers and closer to the Austrian boarder the Alps view was spectacular. I had an entire first-class cabin, to myself. Door closed, Spotify playing, window open. About as relaxing as travel gets.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

  • When a place that was supposed to be a stop along the way to Croatia turns into an experience that is why I love the journey. For the second time in my travels to this region I was going to go through Vienna, but that city will have to wait for another day.
  • 280,000 proud people live on the curving Ljubljanica River. Ljubljana is Slovenia’s capital and largest city.  It is a University town with 50,000 students and green spaces.  Outdoor cafes/bars galore, young, vibrant, hip, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.  The river divides the city’s old town. Ljubljana has many museums, very kind people and a place that captured my imagination.
  • It reminded me of a smaller/ quieter Prague. When you head about this city on the world must sees, you heard it here.  Where do I invest in an Airbnb to capitalize on this place.
  • If you ever go, do the Wine Tour through their castle, I will buy a bottle at the liquor store soon enough
  • I poured my own milk from a vending machine, that was great to have cereal and a coffee at my guest house
  • On the final night I passed through the main park, with a gigantic stage for a month long summer festival. Tonight they were performing the musical Rent and one of the few musicals I was able to enjoy and know what was going on. It was all performed in Slovenian.
  • The sign out-side the visitor center said “WOW,” and this place was my favorite city on the trip thus far, “sLOVEnia” this stuff just writes itself.
  • More to come on this city in the blog.
  • With Slovenia completed I headed into Croatia and the capital Zagreb.

Food for Thought.. While headed from Munich to Ljubljana‎, Slovenia

“Travel isn’t always pretty.  It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you – it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, on your body. You take something with you… Hopefully, you leave something good behind”

Words from the late Anthony Bourdain.  He committed suicide in France just a few days ago.

The same day I set-out on my own adventure from Denver.

Not sure of his notoriety internationally, but he is a travel/food celebrity of sorts with various shows, one most notably on CNN regarding unique foods from around the world.

I did a search back through my blog and I found I quoted those opening words while on a train from Hamburg to Frankfurt in 2016, where I caught up with my cousin Emma.  When I started writing this, I was on a train going from Munich to Ljubljana, Slovenia, passing through specular mountains of Austria as we head through the Innsbruck area, back in the day with the 1964 Winter Olympics.

I had passed through Salzburg, a city I travelled with cousin Lauren and her friend Jacqui.  The “Hills Are Alive,” you might know it from The Sound of Music.

Back to Bourdain, I never really watched many of his tv shows but over the years as I have thought about his travel mentality, his quotes sure have a way of popping up all over social media. Check a few of them out, hopefully they inspire you to keeping moving, meet people from different walks of life and keep an open mind.

What I have always appreciated that Bourdain’s comments were one of savoring moments and what it does to the soul, without sugar coating that there are still a lot of bumps along the way as we push to get out of our comfort zones.  He wanted us to drink with a stranger. To love, to swear, to sweat, and above all, connect with our fellow human beings.

However, after all the positive reflection about Bourdain’s life one can not simply move past how he died.  Suicide.

I know very little of his backstory but in the coming weeks and months, I’ll be interested to understand the series of dominos that got him to this low point to take his own life.  Without knowing any details I’m not in a place to comment, but I do have some opinions on mental health.

I’m a big believer that the overall system in the United States needs to change in terms of how we judge mental health.  For the western world the United States has some of the least amount of paid time off.

There is this silly warrior mentality of working and not taking mental breaks from work.  I truly worry for those individuals that just want to grind it out. I understand personal life decisions but the lack of balance makes me sad.  People are losing PTO days that they have already earned, all so they don’t fall behind? Just know the work will always be there.  There will never be a good time, so just book your getaway.  Even if it just a few days to yourself in your own city.

I am a big believer in working hard but I have to get that thrill of planning the next adventure. Some are epic some turn out just ok… But life doesn’t happen just staying in the safety of your comfort zone or on your couch watching Netflix.

From an overall mental health perspective.   Bottom-line, when an athlete breaks a bone there is the understood agreement that despite these individuals being “really tough” they are required to go through a healing/rehab period.  Only in the last 10 years have leagues like the NFL started to take the same approach for head/brian injuries, after it seemed like they were denying the correlation for years. The research showed conclusively repeated head trauma leads to CTE, Alzheimer’s and depression.

 

Now in our everyday life a more proactive, life coaching type emphasis needs to be found in our schools, criminal systems, sports teams and even from an employer perspective.

Therapy need to be looked at in a POSITIVE manner, like going to your doctor to get a physical.

Proactive measures that not only boost the individual, but also can help their interactions and outlook with their family and their employers.  A more supported worker is better for the company’s bottom-line, a more content citizen is more beneficial to their family.

First step is to being opened minded to want to better oneself.  It is all about showing strength by being vulnerable.  This is an area I have always been weak, but over the last 5 years I have put focus around expressing myself more openly.   That is why this blog was important to me.  I wanted to reduce the stigma that men can’t express their feelings openly.  In addition, sharing motions is a powerful, cathartic tool. It is these steps that I know when I meet the right lady for the long term and have kids that more heighten emotional intelligence will serve me well.

There is a healthy balance between the types of sharing that we do in our lives. In this endless realm of connectivity with a smartphones that are more powerful than computers that landed the space ship on the moon.  We simply have so many platforms to let people into our worlds.  However, one of the biggest contradictions that I discuss with close friends is the way certain individuals portray themselves, their family or their relationships on various social media platforms.  In the process of showing off our lives we provide content usually in the best possible light.

I recently saw a post “May Your Life Be As Awesome, As You Pretend It Is on Facebook.” Weird I actually saw it on Instagram but that would be splitting hairs. J

Nothing inherently wrong with that, however, this lofty self-validation though the dopamine effect of social media “likes” and our device addiction, that takes us down an ugly path for this generation.

https://edition.cnn.com/2016/08/03/health/distracted-driving-addiction-brain-impact/index.html

On the flip side there is a lot of sadness in the world that seems to get reported in the news. From a social media perspective so much feels fake “good” these days that I come to appreciate when someone posts a variety of “real.”   Not for empathy but for support, because once you hear “yes I have been through that before” and that person has come out stronger, then that is positive support.  That feeling lives as a foundation for growth in a tough situation.

We are a generation that have grown up literally attached to our personal internet devices.  For all the progress, tools, efficiencies that have been created, I worry that my age group and younger has a lot of unreal expectations of what really is important.  One hour, one day even one month I don’t believe can do a lot of damage but these little negative marks year over year can take a toll.  I want to spend time with people who are willing to put their phones away an treat our in person connection as something that matters.

To be in the present.  I try my best to live in that head space, even though 24×7 IT account support and other personal demands don’t always warrant that.  We have become an on demand generation, but liking a cat dancing video or even sending that work email that wasn’t urgent has to sometimes wait.

We are addicted to our phones, that is why going off the grid to some degree is so important to me.

With all the social stimuli, distractions, task switching, it is a wonder we can get any real work done these days.  The internet has brought so many advancements of ways to connect us all, but just like Facebook has shown us, where your information goes can be downright scary.  Even if you believe Facebook was being responsible and simply trying to make your experience better, that little “red alert” in the bottom right corner, that magically pops up after a few minutes, is addictive.  Next time it pops up try NOT to click on it.  Usually it is simply a random post from one of the hundreds of groups we probably follow, but it is all code to keep you on the site.  That hook tactic probably is nothing in comparison to all the little bits of information Facebook has been selling to “partners” in regard to your data.  We are all guilty since somewhere in the super tiny print of acceptance agreements we gave our ok at some point.I was thinking about this situation as it relates to going to the grocery store, my local one being King Soopers.  For years grocery store tactics have been pretty much the same from unique deals and pricing strategies, to putting the milk/eggs in the back of the store so you have to walk past many more hooks. However, the game changed when your loyalty number, gets combined with our purchase history and that starts to be data mining to the extreme.  Ohhhhh you haven’t bought that expensive make-up or you are getting low on dog food.  How convenient that virtual coupon for one of those products showed up in your Facebook feed. 😉

Finally, I don’t know what the contributing factors that led to Anthony Bourdain to take his own life but I do know things could be different if someone close had the courage to ask how he was doing.

We have to tell others if they are broken, they are not alone.

We have to ask the seemingly strong if they are ok too.

For those that are struggling, if you don’t know which way is up, you’re not alone.

There just simply needs to be more caring.

Let us take time for the messy, the broken and the imperfection that is life.

That is what growth is and that is a connected world I can get my head around.

The point is our lives are online and it is time to move slightly in the other direction.  Getting way from our devices in moderation has never been more important. It is all about balance.

You don’t have to travel around the world to get some equilibrium back, but if that is your passion it is not a bad place to start, which made me think of another quote from Anthony Bourdain, so I’ll give him the final word…

“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody.  Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.”

The Road to the Soccer World Cup – Russia 2018

United Flight to Munich Germany. 6/9/18

10 plus years ago I was sitting in a planning meeting with my first job in the IT industry. At a high level, it was a business discussion between a sales manager and a director along with a few others in the customer service function.  The conversation was normal business talk, but much of the meeting was not what I would consider very impactful.

The topic was a cost/benefit discussion regarding fiscal decisions for adding more technical head count.  Specifically, ideas getting brainstormed were focused around adding individuals with specialized expertise across multiple focus areas and empowering them for first call resolution. Those resources, in tandem with lower skill level phone agents, the theory in practice would lead to a higher level of customer satisfaction and less escalations to management teams.  This model contrasted with similar industry competitors, they focused on lower skill level/cheaper resources, as the first touch point, for their 24×7 support.  Obviously, there was always going to a be a cost trade-off, as most business decisions tend to be, and in the end a hybrid model of both philosophies was installed in the months to come.

Thrilling right?  Well no, not yet. While somewhat interesting to me in my earlier career as I worked with Enterprise customers over the years, I would not consider it “blog worthy” until I discuss one key comment.

SO when did I hear this and what was this impactful quote? It was pretty much the last word during  that initial brainstorming session, and it has stuck with me then and to this day.  However, as you’ll see I guess l prefer to talk and write in tangents, so I’ll try to circle back with the answer shortly. J

I mean the line wasn’t really all that earth-shattering anyway, just a few simple words.  However, because I connected with the phrase without knowing the importance at the time, this quote has probably has turned into my life motto of sorts, fueling my drive, energy and ultimately where I devote my recharge time and extra money.

This phrase has turned into a philosophy of how I see my influence in the world and look for in others.

This phrase fuels a passion of wonder to learn about what make people’s passions, culture and explore new places.

This phrase is How I Leave It Better.

I am the lucky one, not everyone on this planet gets to have the luxury of choices on how to spend their money and free time.

For being in that privileged group, I do not take it for granted so I owe it to myself to give back.

We all have our stuff, but for most reading this they are First World problems (#FWP), and you know what that is OK!

In the same manner, that we should not compare our friend or families’ hardships to our own we should not do that on a global basis either.  The point is not to judge, but to embrace by doing your small part.  That is where an open mind for all people on this planet comes for me no matter background, cultural, religion, ethnicity or language. We have to be willing to listen for how can we expect to understand anyone else, if we only hear our own voice.

Influence where you can and do your part where you are able, that is a small piece of my mentality behind this blog.

I have written about some of my own hardships in in this space previously.  I feel like the only time I truly get generous amounts of time to reflect is when I travel abroad solo over the last couple of years.  If I didn’t write something down I’d probably think my mind was blank the whole time because I’m a visual person to the extreme.

This might sound crazy but on the lengthy international outbound flights, I actually wish they were just a little longer sometimes.. unless I don’t get an Economy Plus Aisle seat, then I won’t speak so glowingly.

It comes down to just a little more time to think, to write, to be disconnected from the rest of the world.  Even with the offer of free internet on the flight there was simply no interest  Our lives revolve around one of the great inventions / advancements of humankind, but for 11 shorts hours to Munich, “Airplane mode” puts me at peace. Its also not a bad place to get a few free alcoholic drinks and watch some shows that I never seem to have time for in the daily whirlwind.

We all have our life baggage and insecurities, which should be embraced and not frowned upon. To be open and vulnerable is a point of strength not weakness.

Those are the people I want to have in my circle.

Those are the people that give me new ideas, instead of simply pandering to my own.

Those are the people I learn from the most since they aren’t hiding behind a superficial social media post.

Give me others concerns/struggles/goals, the good, the bad and the bazaar that are hidden behind the curtain, as that is the space where I will thrive.

I have learned to embrace my set-backs to a higher degree than in the past with the right friends, even though each time it is never easy. Even though it is very cliché they do turn into growth and my new-fangled definition of maturity.

I have found myself over the last five years embracing new people, whether it be friends, ladies I’ve dated or anyone who is willing to be just slightly more open. The ones saying they are fucking “fine” or saying they are “good” I just don’t connect with anymore.  Fine is boring, Good doesn’t lead to anything substantial, I want substance to connect…. no correct that, I NEED substance.  I need emotional intelligence, energy, passion, warmth, soul ,all bundled in fun, goofiness, sarcasm, and to be around people that don’t take themselves so damn seriously.

I mean this could sound like an online dating profile for myself or what I look for in relationships, maybe something that I have got all to familiar with over the past few years, but really it is a state of mind that fills my emotional glass. The glass is refillable.. Hopefully with a Titos/Sprite, Bacardi/Coke or a nice Shiraz on regular occasions.

Life is too short to sweat the small stuff, but I too am guilty of this, so that is when I turn to my passions to reset myself.  I often tell myself that if you can’t change a situation you CAN change your perception of it.  Most of our stress come from the way we respond and not the way life actually is. I think of that when I’m at work solving customer and internal issues.  Including my full week of On Call right up to the moment I left on this trip.

Just like the problematic equipment in one of our datacenters, a reboot goes a long way.  That is precisely where my (mostly) solo travel has come in over the years. My yearly summer reboot.  Fortunately this year I got approved to do this in July too so I’ll try and keep the blog going.

Since I am one of the lucky individual, the least that I can do is throw a few words in my virtual journal.  If it helps one person, including myself, I have fulfilled my role.

Assuming you are one of the lucky ones on this planet that has a roof over your head and you know where your next meal is coming from, to me it comes down to a simple question..

Once all the bills have been paid and hopefully a few bucks thrown in the virtual piggy bank…..

Where do you spend your energy?? I know where I spend mine as I write this at 37,000 Feet.

Which leads me to one of my favorite quotes from that ho-hum meeting more than a decade ago.

“Don’t TELL me where your priorities are.  SHOW me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.”

I truly felt those words could be applied to my life every day.

So after 5 plus years of various European back pack trip to various sports and other events, the idea came to me last summer to go to the Soccer World Cup in 2018 in Russia, if Australia qualified.

With a couple victories in early part of this year the Socceroos were one of the last teams to qualify but punched their ticket to Russia to be among the 32 countries represented. I’m excited to attend two Australia games. One in Samara and another in the sea-side city of Sochi.  Remember the winter Olympics in this sea side town?

So for this guy who wants to get out of my comfort zone and explore the great cultures on this planet, the choice was all very simple for June 2018.  Even though previous to the thought of the World Cup, Russia really wasn’t on my radar.  It was a reason to just go, from there you figure out the logistics in life.

I smiled when the Aussies won the last game to qualify, as now the choice had been made for me and it felt like the planets had aligned.

As I thought back to my key quote about where my priorities sit…

The specifics turned out to be seat 17F on this United flight, but the bigger picture told me right where I need to be in life.

Spend the Money.

Getting Away while feeling right at Home

July 25th, 2017

Malcolm Gladwell hates Golf and he wants you to know his loathing for this game.

I had to laugh a little when the next item on my iPhone podcasts, the following day, was Gladwell’s, “A Walk Spoiled,” as part of his “Revisionist History” series.  Just as Gladwell likes to do he takes an oddity of society, supports with solid facts, but he then extrapolates those details to further drive home his point.  For the “hating golf” conversation he focuses first on the inefficiencies of the number of golfers vs the actual size of the property/golf course, since they normally take up many city blocks.  He then goes on to discuss the processes by which golf courses in California have circumvented property tax loop-holes by not officially having the clubs “change ownership,” therefor keeping them in a tax shelter of sorts since their property sizes are so expansive.

Apparently the “rich boys club” has been pushing these rules through for the last 75 years. Still, I don’t really connect with his foundation on why he really hates golf, but I suppose the podcast description would not yield as many clicks or downloads if Gladwell simply claimed..  “Private Golf Course Taxes are too High”… That just doesn’t seem like a real page turner , especially in audio form J.. He concludes that courses in other parts of the world, like St. Andrews Scotland where golf started, is a shared area and is treated like a public space for all to enjoy.  So his ask in the USA, is around private golf clubs allowing some limited access to the public based on the cities not getting enough revenue from their tax loopholes.

My time in the Liverpool area was coming to a close after an incredible few days of golf around Royal Birkdale. As I packed my stuff up from my apartment in Bootle, with golf replays being shown on the TV, I pinched myself a little when I heard discussions regarding the historical rise of Jordan Spieth and statements like “ 2017, this event was one for the ages.”  I mean I had heard those comments about the 2016 Championship, which I attended, and I still had memories of 2015, when Australian Jason Day almost won the event at St. Andrews.

So I took a step back and realized how lucky I am to be able to travel and attend these top global sports events with thoughts of already booking something for the following year.  That for me is a perfect blend of enjoyment in the journey, with a reason to go.  Maybe, just maybe, one day I could turn my passion into these type of endeavors into an actual living, which would be the ultimate.  When it comes down to it, the question gets asked when are you truly the happiest.. the answer for me is having genuine and but also silly experiences with friends and family while learning about culture, being extremely active and sometimes combining that with playing or watching sports.  It would be my dream to experience that type of “active/ backpack” type of trip with the girl I love, catching up with friends, while meeting new people along the way.  This type of thinking was driven home to me when I studied in Australia for university in 2003.  A philosophy that each person you meet adds to the quality of your experience, which is a big statement for a guy that is pretty introverted until I meet someone.  These “loose connections” tell a small part of the story and for that I’m very thankful.  So for all the criticisms that can come out from social media, I use a platform like Instagram to connect with people that I meet along the way, so I too can be a very small part of their journey today, but more importantly follow their path in the years to come.  That is why it is so important to me to treat everyone with respect, no matter the situation, you just never know when Karma will come back and bite you in the Ass.

The whole journey shows the goal isn’t to help everyone, some of it is self-fulfilling too and it would be exhausting, unrealistic and an impossible task to not be somewhat self-serving.  What the journey does tell me is to control the controllables and that is why doing right in places I go and in my normal day to day life in Denver is also so important to me.

I want to be able take these memories, even if they come in form of a photo or video, and tell a great story, my story.  It is never about trying to show-off in the next facebook or Instagram post, but to share with those interested in your journey, but also to others that might not have the time, interest or the means to make these trips. Thus, the inspiration for these writings and the LeaveItBetter name in the first place.  So each day, I wake up this earth, I challenge myself to reflect on what I can do better to influence my small sphere. Who knows, maybe taking those steps I’ll continue to get good karma thrown back my way, whether that be continued professional opportunities,  good health or maybe an introduction to that special lady who I might spend the rest of my years helping me raise a family and have more than a few epic trips along the way.

Leave It Better Blog... Overseas Observations from this Aussie American

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