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.

A Reunion in Haiti – vol. 1

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140 days past.  Countless memories.  Countless people.  Countless blessings.  It’s pretty incredible up to this point that I haven’t lost anything…or worse.  My mind is everywhere.  Riding a taxi to the airport after a nice final morning walking the streets of Santiago with a friend brought so many thoughts to the fold.  My final hours in this new world, now a very familiar world, were waning down and I was trying to suck up each moment, each sight, each person I met with the absorbency of a thick dry sponge.

Funny enough, that’s how I felt before long in the dusty hot weather of Haiti as I touched down in the airport of Port-au-Prince.  I was the first member of the team to arrive and so me and Alexa, the Haiti Connections Director of the Wings of Refuge childrens’ home.  We went to a brand new cafe that has become a central meeting place for volunteers since I last visited this poverty stricken country.

After running a few errands, we returned to the airport to pick up the rest of the team.  I knew our team leader through some limited meetings, but everyone else was new!  Nothing new for me as I’d been in a similar situation the last 4 1/2 months, but there were plenty of differences in this final week of the trip.

This place, as opposed to all the others I had seen on my trip, was home.   When I returned to the childrens home I felt a coziness that I hadn’t felt since I first embarked to Peru to kick off this adventure.  Walking into the home, a few things had changed but the feeling was the same.  I saw the kids and there were mumblings.  I had doubts.  I wondered if any of them would remember my name or who I was.  How could I doubt.

As we went around the room and all introduced ourselves, I readied myself for my turn to speak.  But as I was about to say my name, I heard it around the room followed by whispers and giggles.  They remembered!  As we all socialized with the kids, I ended up running and playing tag with some of the younger boys before talking with Sarah and nabbing a picture with this young sweetheart.

For those who don’t know, this was the girl who stole my heart by giving me a birthday card on my 22nd birthday during my first trip to Haiti.  It was the precursor to my return for a second trip and the inspiration for this 3rd trip after a 4 year hiatus.  Being surrounded by all the kids on the first day was a dream come true.

Over the course of the next few days, we settled into our new home for the week and also helped a friend living there to move into his own apartment!  It was a big moment for him and we were all so thrilled to be a part of it.  We painted a large room in the childrens’ home and spent more time with the kids.  Running around you in circles laughing and screaming, they make you forget about everyone and everything else.

As we drove around the city those first few days, I noticed less rubble.  Less garbage.  A few more paved roads.  Just a few.  For a country that has been among the most impoverished in the world for many years, progress comes slow.  But progress seemingly does still come, especially with organizations working together to bring benefit to the people.

We met many of these organizations as one of the biggest pushes the childrens’ home has made since I last visited is to partner with other charities to bring greater awareness to various causes.  We visited jewelers who would make beads out of cereal boxes, old glass bottles, and clay.  Ingenious reuse of otherwise indiscernible trash.  We even got to make our own bracelet with a hammer, brass fastener, and some leather.  Far flung from my days of calculating numbers on spreadsheets.

It was a memorable start to an endlessly thought filled ending of the grand adventure that began a short 5 months earlier.  Only a few days remain, but in my mind, it feels like an eternity until I can finally return home!  More on those days in the final post of the trip!

Also, check out this post I wrote for the Wings of Refuge website and some more insights into my trip back to this wonderful world!

Wild Galapagos part two

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Beyond the vastly different lifestyle the Galapagos afforded me, I also saw so much great wildlife and incredible views. On weekends, all of the volunteers would share a taxi to the main city on the island, Puerto Baquerizo. You don’t need to go far to see plenty of moaning and groaning sea lions. It’s quite an orchestra really. They’re everywhere and they can take over beaches and boardwalks. Less frequent but still not difficult to spot are marine iguanas. These ones were really amazing to see for me because I had an iguana named Greeny when I was a kid!  Before you make fun of my lack of creativity in pet names, just recall that I’m an accountant. Though these guys are trying to change that perception.

Anyway, back to the wildlife. There is a small rocky bluff of an island just off the western coast of the island where I was staying. The name of this bluff is Kicker Rock, though it’s known as Leon Dormido (sleeping lion, which it resembles) to locals. But that’s not the special part of this rock. It’s the marine life just below and around it. I did a snorkeling trip there and swam 30 feet above hammer head and Galapagos sharks!  Also, there were sea turtles, more sea lions, marine iguanas, and many fish. But I think the best part of that excursion was the part we didn’t pay for. As we were beginning to leave the rock, a HUGE pod of dolphins started swimming past us. We followed them and they ended up jumping out of the water all around us. It was an amazing experience to be among those incredibly smart and gorgeous animals.

As my trip began to come to a close, I said goodbye to my fellow volunteers whom I’d been living so closely with for so long. To finish things up, I decided to take an overnight trip to the next island, Santa Cruz. But here’s the twist. My largest bag holding most of my clothes and a few other things was left in the first island right on the pier. I realized as I arrived in Santa Cruz that my bag wasn’t there and put it together. I began to freak out in my mind a bit, but then I thought about it. I had my passport, laptop, phone, and all other valuables. I would be seeing my girlfriend, Nessie, in just a few days and I could ask her to get me additional clothes for me before she left. The biggest issue would be getting a new bag, which would merely set my budget back a bit. Not life altering. So I made a decision. I was going to forget about this for 24 hours until I returned to the island and enjoy Santa Cruz as much as possible. So I did just that.

I saw the Charles Darwin research station where lots of exhibits of current projects were on display. The islands are working very hard to become totally self sustaining, not an easy task. I also saw lava tunnels, giant tortoises (a few of which were trying to show off baby-making skills), and a beautiful beach know as one of the nicest in all of Ecuador. It was a great time. Thankfully, when I returned to San Cristobal there was a police officer waiting for me. No no, not because I was caught breaking any laws. They had found my bag and searched it for security reasons and found out I was returning on the boat that morning, so they brought me to the station and gave me a bag. But not before taking a picture to memorialize the moment they got to interact with a real life gringo!

And so I made my way back to mainland Ecuador in Quito for a quick one night reunion with the wonderful family that housed me on my way into the islands. Ecuador was a beautiful place with kind people and incredible wildlife. I didn’t get to see very much of the mainland but I cannot complain about any of the experiences I had there. I could only bask in them and look forward to more great times in Colombia!  Stay tuned for the next post on what I consider my favorite stop on the trip!