“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.