One Year

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365 days.  And what an incredible year it’s been!  On this day last year, April 9, 2017, I returned home from my 5-month jaunt to South America.  I have no problem admitting that I was homesick and missed family and friends like never before.  I craved NJ.  That’s something only a select few can ever say with any honesty.

After an action-packed and adventurous trip, I managed to find my way back into a ‘normal life’, even though that term lost some meaning.  As I found a temporary then permanent job, I was plagued with questions.  What did this trip mean? Did it mean anything?  Am I a different person for it?  Good news is I’m still myself. Bad news, I still don’t have the answers.  But what I do have is a stronger realization of the trip itself.

One of the difficulties I had coming home was just recognizing that I even went on a trip at all.  It felt like a dream for a long time, but it is finally starting to resonate.  It has been one of my greatest accomplishments, just for the blunt craziness I needed to pull it off.  Leaving a job that gave me comfort and a life that gave most anything I needed wasn’t easy.  But as I’ve mentioned, one of the best things about traveling is that the memories gained can never be taken away so long as you are alive.  Many many thanks to all of those who I was fortunate enough to cross paths with on this amazing journey 🙂

$85 a day

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How much can $85 give you in one day?  A cart of groceries?  A fancy dinner and movie for 2?  An iPod?  These things sound good, even great.  But what if I told you that with $85 a day, you could travel the world?  Well…now I’m telling you!  $85 a day is plenty enough to see all of Machu Picchu, the Caribbean coast of Colombia, the nature filled Galapagos Islands, the ridge-lined Patagonian steppe, and much more.  All you need is an adventurous spirit, a little financial discipline, and desire to travel.  Not sure if you have the financial discipline?  Think again.  There are plenty of tools available out there to help you out.  Even as a CPA, I never would have been able to maintain my budget if I didn’t have the right tools.  Here are a few tips and tricks to use along the way.

Setting Expectations – Spending $85 a day traveling shouldn’t be a blind goal.  Setting realistic expectations while stretching for the experiences you travel for in the first place are both equally important.  If you’re traveling to London or Paris, $85 is unrealistic.  If you’re going to most places in South America or Southeast Asia, that’s very possible.  Researching costs where you plan to travel is key.

A Little Insurance – Give yourself a little wiggle room.  You never know what may come up and you don’t want to be strapped for cash when you just have to try that once in a lifetime…twice.  Budget an extra 10% for incidentals and emergencies.

Budget, Budget, Budget – Use a good budgeting tool.  Trail Wallet is a smartphone app that does the trick.  It allows you to budget with any currency and doesn’t require an internet connection.  Those are key functions for any travel budget app.  It also has some fun characters who keep you on the right track. (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/trail-wallet-travel-budget-app/id547171665?mt=8)

Beyond all of the effort that goes into a successful trip, make it that much better by living through it fully!  Just forget it all and smell the flowers.

One Thought: Transition

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Change is a dread all of us feel many times in our lives.  Whether it’s changing a job, dating someone new, or graduating school, change comes during all phases of life.  No one can control change or prevent it from coming, but we can control how we approach change.  It just takes a focused mind and some practice.  Let’s think through a few examples together.

You’re at work.  An email comes through telling you about some new software that is being rolled out.  You LOVE the old software, but your bosses don’t like it and decided to get rid of it.  It’s pretty easy to get upset or just rebel against it altogether.  Who needs the new software?  You’ll be more productive anyway, right?  Maybe, but maybe you’re missing out on a feature you didn’t know existed.  Maybe you can spend even less time on this new software, even if it seemed difficult at first.  But how can you know unless you commit to it?  Here’s a hint, you can’t.

You just graduated high school.  Maybe you had a great time in school, maybe you hated it, maybe you are indifferent. Regardless, maybe you’re nervous about college because you’ve heard of the long papers you’ll have to write, the long chapters you’ll be required to read, the new friends you’ll have to make.  It can be daunting.  But what is the benefit of avoiding the change and sulking into the past?  While that may be a natural reaction, making a conscious decision to dedicate yourself to this new life can have irreplicable benefits.  Those new friends you just made, they’re your friends for life.  That knowledge you forged, that’s the basis for the job you’re about to earn.  None of which would be possible without a commitment to change.

You just had a brilliant idea.  This new business could make it BIG.  Or, it could fall on its face.  Here’s the catch.  You need to quit that cushy job with reimbursed travel, lots of free happy hours, and a great set of coworkers. Interested?  Maybe, maybe not.  A big part of the hesitation is not wanting to deal with the change.  Change in lifestyle, change in people around you, etc.  But without embracing change, you could be forgoing an even greater sense of purpose in building something from the ground up and creating a new team that will do great things.  All foregone because of that pesky resistance to change.

Would we have different reactions to these circumstances if any details changed?  Unfortunately, probably not.  Change, though initially painful, is the breeding ground of all progress and growth.  The next time you find yourself in a state of resistance, remember that the next best version of yourself is just beyond the horizon of revolution.

One Thought: Memories

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Anniversaries have long been a source of nostalgia, remembrance, and reasons to celebrate.  From Christmas to July 4 to the passing of a loved one, anniversaries are our way of acknowledging a significant event some number of days or years ago.  This week happens to be the very week that I quit my job and took off on a journey I’ll never forget, one short year ago.  It is the anniversary of the birth and death of tangential chapters in my life.  But I look back on that time with a fondness irreplaceable, despite its ever lengthening depth in my memory.

The same memories that vibrantly ring in our minds during the moments, hours, and days that follow something memorable will sink back over the weeks, months, and years thereafter.  And so the Andean ridges and mountains and whispering oceans ring heavily in my mind like the echo of a cavern.  I miss those memories as I recall them but I don’t live in them.

Living in the past is not advised, but if we can look to our past to dictate our future, reminisce onward.  In fact, reminiscing is known to give some health benefits if done in the right fashion.  So maybe its flipping through an old yearbook or photo album, reading through your facebook stories of years gone by, or just daydreaming of youthful summer days.  Whatever your memories are, don’t be afraid of them.  Embrace them and make them into greater tomorrows.

One Thought: Positivity

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Optimists, dreamers, idealists, unrealistic, impractical, etc.  Those are a few thoughts some may have applied to those flooded with that positive personality gene.  Positive people can easily be disregarded for their seemingly ungrounded position.  But if you’re a positive person you’re certainly not worrying about these things, because they aren’t…well…positive.

But therein lies the true beauty of positivity.  It’s not about ignoring the important things in this world just to put the mind at ease.  It’s about the focus on what matters in a positive light.  It’s also about putting a higher priority on making life more enjoyable by making the best of even the bleakest situations.

In this world we can be confronted by a range of provocations.  From that guy (or gal) cutting us off on the highway to the roommate who doesn’t change the damn toilet paper when it runs out.  There are so many opportunities to have the negative voice shout louder.  Change the script.  Think different.  Wave to the driver, hug your roommate with a smile, change the interaction.  More often than not that you’ll be surprised by the reaction.  Especially when they wave a smile back.

One Thought: Breathe

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Going to start a channel here to organize different thoughts on improvement and growth. Welcome to the inaugural One Thought!

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy filling every nook and cranny of the calendar with dinners, excursions, etc.  While that can be a great way to expand your friend group or try new things, each wonderful ambitions alone, it can be a choking hazard on your own life and happiness.  Making time for others takes away time from yourself and in the end, that is what keeps you going.

On one of those rare weekends when time to breathe miraculously does appear, don’t be wary of the emptiness by filling it in with a last-second wine and paint night.  Take a walk.  Or a run.  Read a book.  Or write one.  And most importantly, breathe.

The Return: (North) ‘Merica

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Well, it’s late July.  Not sure exactly how time travels so quickly but if we could monetize that speed none of us would need to work ever again.  In this short time, I realized a few things.  First, I kinda sorta needed a job.  Second, a shower and haircut were imminent.  And third, I was BACK.  But what was this strange new world, (North) America?  Whatever it was, it was very welcoming.  In case you haven’t already seen the video, here it is.

For the first few weeks, it was a surreal and very glossy view.  Nothing seemed to fit reality.  Half of my heart and mind sat here at home while the other sat wondering why his twin had left him in South America.  So many incredible memories still do sit down there.  In between jagged peaks and flowing valleys and rushing rivers.  I don’t think I was struggling to come to grips with the realities back home because I was afraid of anything, I was actually excited to start work again.

No, there’s something else.  There’s something about a place that can have such a big impact on who you are and become.  I lived among 6 countries in South America and the Caribbean for 5 months.  I spent 248 hours in some form of transportation.  I visited 27 cities, towns, and villages.  Over 200 miles of hiking trails, roadsides, and city streets were crept across by tired feet.  I took nearly 10,000 pictures and videos.  But does any of this mean anything?

This was always an interesting question I tried to answer, what happens after the trip? I’m still not quite sure how to answer it, but I think I’ve come along a bit further than where my thoughts were on April 9th.  More than ever, it’s about people and how I decide to interact.  Making the most of every moment.  Appreciating EVERYTHING you have.  Because you never know when you might drop everything and search for 5 months for those very things you missed so much right under your nose.  It’s about spending life with the people and things that mean more to you than anything else.  It’s a cliche, but for a good reason.  I knew the cliche before.  Now I feel it.