Thailand

21 days in Thailand with Ottilie and Maxine.

Began our journey in Bangkok, visiting the major temples and the Thai National Museum. Boarded a bus to Mae Sot and from there, hopped on a songthaew headed to Ban Tha Song Yang for a weeklong visit to Safe Haven Orphanage on the banks of the Moei River. Technically visited Myanmar, but only for a moment. Continued on to Chiang Mai for a week, visiting temples there and the nearby elephant sanctuary, before taking a train back to Bangkok and ultimately ending our travels in Phuket, kayaking around the islets of Phang Nga Bay.

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Currently Self-Employed

Six hours ago, my life as an employee came to an end. Nonetheless, the reality of it has not completely set in yet. From this point forward, I will no longer be answering emails, returning missed calls, or receiving paychecks. Even though I have had this point in the forefront of my mind for six months, it still feels rather unreal.

In August 2011, I began working for my mentor and employer. My first real day on the job began at a Paradise Bakery on Scottsdale Rd and Mayo Blvd. The week before, I had interviewed for a job at Office Max, and that morning, they had called me to offer a job. If everything had occurred three weeks earlier, I would have accepted the job, and it is interesting to think now about where my life might be today had that happened.
From that first day on, my mentor taught me about business and instilled in me a sense of confidence upon which no price can be set. He motivated me to start my first business in November 2011 and reminded me of my goals when I sold it in March 2012. That first taste of business imparted a hunger for entrepreneurship, and I started my current company in April of 2012.

In time, both my confidence and my company grew. In a manner that has been rather bittersweet, the business grew to the point where it became difficult for me to prioritize my work for my mentor over my business. Obviously, this state of strained focus could not last forever, as it created a good deal of friction between my mentor and I, and I began seriously entertaining the thought that I would need to leave by the end of this year for the sake of us both about six months ago.

It has always been a very tough decision for me. If not for my mentor, I really have no idea where I would be right now. Honestly, I am so excited for my future that I really do not think I could be in a better place. If not for his generosity, I would have never had the opportunity to climb the highest mountain in Africa. If not for his knowledge, I would have never known where to start in creating a business. How can one repay something like that? I think the best way would be for me to go forward, succeed, and provide as much value to someone else as he has provided to me over the years.

So today has been a rather bittersweet day. Out of seemingly complete circumstance, my employment ended in the same place it began – the Paradise Bakery at Scottsdale Rd. and Mayo Blvd. How fitting! The reality that I am now my sole source of income is both exhilarating and slightly terrifying. The journey for which I have been planning for two years is finally happening! Over the past year, I have amassed enough capital to make the transition and I know where I am going and how I am going to get there. The journey has begun and it will be exciting, of that I am certain!

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1SE – 2013

I do not miss the days before the 1SE app when creating a video meant manually importing, timing, and splicing individual clips in a video editor, but I do love looking back at this first 1 Second Everyday project from 2013.

Why 1 Second Everyday? A sight and sounded of a single captured moment can trigger deeply hidden memories within one’s brain, reminding you of things you would have likely forgotten. Stringing them together into a continuous video helps create a chronology for those memories, helping to capture memories of the trends and patterns of that time in one’s life.

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South Dakota

3 day visit with Michelle in South Dakota’s Black Hills region

Flew Allegiant Airlines from Mesa to Rapid City, then traveled to home base in Spearfish. Spent the weekend visiting Mount Rushmore, historic Deadwood, Black Hills National Park’s many lakes, forests, and prairies, Wyoming’s Devils Tower, and capped the trip off with a tedious winter hike up Black Elk Peak, the highest point in the world east of the Rockies and west of Europe’s Pyrenees

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Serengeti + Ngorongoro + Lake Manyara

5-Day Private Safari operated by Peak Planet

After descending from Kili, spent the next five days traveling from Arusha to Lake Manyara (day 1), Ngorongoro Crater (days 2 + 3), and Serengeti National Park (days 4 + 5). My guide was incredibly experienced and managed to spot all of the Big 5, which is quite astonishing considering how difficult it can be to spot a rhino. Even though much of the time in the truck is spent straining through binoculars in between swatting away those spawn-of-Satan tsetse flies, getting to see – even momentarily – so much unique flora and fauna is well worth it.

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Kilimanjaro

8-Day Group Climb with PeakPlanet.com

Flew KLM from Phoenix to Arusha, Tanzania via Montreal and Amsterdam. Spent two days acclimating in Arusha at 4500′ before my rendezvous with the rest of the group and getting bussed up to the Londorossi Gate at 7800′ to begin the climb.

Spent six days trekking up the Lemosho route to Barafu Camp at 15300′ before beginning the midnight ascent to Uhuru Peak at 19,341′, the summit of Kilimanjaro, reaching the peak an hour after sunrise. Despite starting Day 2 with a 100 degree fever which did not break for 24 hours and despite developing a pulmonary embolism during summiting which necessitated an expedited descent all the way down to Mweka Camp, the climb was quite a fun experience. The climb is worth doing once, and once you forget the negative aspects, something successful climbers think they would want to do again. Highly recommend Peak Planet or Ultimate Kilimanjaro to anyone thinking about doing a Kili climb.

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A Boy’s View of Life

About a month ago, I was on a red-eye flight from Phoenix to New York. On my left, a 20-something-year-old art student from New York whose only goal on that flight was to sleep from the time we left the gate until the wheels touched down on the tarmac at JFK. In front of me sat dozens of passengers in various stages of dozing off. And behind me, in the last row on the plane, a young boy, maybe 4 or 5 years of age, sitting alone (though rarely wanting to actually sit) and heading to meet his aunt from The City.

Throughout the flight, the young boy’s eyelids did not even droop a bit. Though he quietly observed the blackness from his window seat for the majority of the flight, every now and then he would let out a loud cry of excitement. “Oh, wow! I can see the clouds! We are in a cloud right now!” The exasperated middle-aged couple to my right eyed the flight attendant with indignation. “Excuse me, young boy, please try to be quiet. The other passengers are trying to sleep, ok?” the flight attendant pleaded. The boy replied in a loud whisper, “I know, but we’re flying!”

I could not help but feel a sense of envy for the way in which this boy saw the world. In his eyes, the state of flying in a plane in the sky was one of the most exciting things to have yet happened to him, an event generally considered mundane and a waste of time by the majority of regular passengers. I imagined that most things the world considers boring, he probably found to be exhilarating and I felt a bit jealous of that.

A month later, eager to return home from Tanzania, I boarded KLM flight 571 at Kilimanjaro Intl. Airport. I located my seat, 35G, an aisle seat on the far right of the center row. In 35F sat an older woman in her mid-60s, I would suppose. “I cannot believe this! These are not our seats!” the woman proclaimed. “We selected aisle and window seats on the website in May and now we have center seats!” The woman asked if I would be willing to switch seats with her husband who had been assigned seat 35E. I replied that it would be no problem. I generally do not particularly care where I sit as long as I am on the plane and my duffel bag is as well.

When I finally got situated and the plane left the ground, the older woman continued to demand of the flight attendants an answer as to why her seats had been changed. The flight attendants obviously had no power in the situation and I could not help but feel sympathy for them as she was wont to making their lives miserable.

When she finally tired of making her demands, she sat in her seat and asked, “Why do we have to go to Dar es Salaam anyways? We are going to Amsterdam and this stop is in the completely wrong direction.” I replied to her that it was because the flight from Kilimanjaro was not usually a full-enough flight and it would be inefficient for KLM to have two separate flights for Kilimanjaro and Dar es Salaam. Why not kill two birds with one stone?

I turned to the woman on my left with whom I had been conversing and told her that I was happy to be going in the wrong direction because every mile south we flew towards Dar es Salaam would be the furthest south I had ever traveled in my life, even if it would be by plane. I was also excited because Dar es Salaam is on the East coast of Africa and even though the plane would be enveloped by the black of night and I would have no window to look out of, the thought of being that close to the Indian Ocean, a body of water I had not seen with my own eyes, would be quite cool.

On the flight home, much of the time I spent either not reading Twain’s The Innocents Abroad or watching Good Will Hunting, I spent staring at the map of the flight path, showing our exact location in the sky above the Earth. At one point, I marveled at the fact that we were directly above the city of Alexandria, about to cross over the Mediterranean Sea. Flying over Europe, I wondered what cities and villages, ancient battle sites, and intimidating mountains we were passing over. And then it hit me. I realized that I was basically the little boy on the first flight from home. Here I was, thrilled about things that had probably not crossed the minds of most of the passengers on that flight, but that would have certainly also thrilled that young boy. And I could not have been happier than to have known that.

I hope that I live the rest of my life as the young boy. I imagine that the older woman probably once had the attitude of that young boy, like I think all young children do, but she let life change her attitude. I am determined to not let that happen.

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Mieux en Mieux

Dear Future Self,

It has been quite some time since I last wrote, but I have not felt a burning desire to write. Not a lot has changed since November, but the keyword for the past five months would simply be, “progress.” To give a little overview, I will go through the changes that have occurred in the areas that I wrote about in my last post.

French.
The French lessons are going very well. A week ago, I managed to awkwardly, but effectively, work my way through a twenty minute conversation about my first time dancing. It could have probably been a five minute conversation if the vocabulary vault in the nether regions of my mind were more accessible, but believe me when I say that it was twenty minutes of 100% focus. I have been burning out a bit on some of the tenses, so I am reviewing them all very heavily this week and I hope to thoroughly impress my teacher, come next Wednesday. On a side note, I will be going to Europe in May and will probably be passing through France along the way from Italy to Ireland, so now is the time for the last straightaway sprint in preparation for that trip.

Refugees
In the past few months, I have felt very at-home with The Welcome to America Project. I cannot think of an organization that I would rather be involved with and being engaged with them has been both a blast and a very humbling experience. I have not felt as truly useful in a very long time. I only wish that I did not live so far from the east side, which is where most of the organization and its members are located. It may very well influence my decision on where to move to once I move out (which I will talk about more later in this post). In the meantime, I am currently in training as a delivery lead and am contemplating getting involved with a couple of committees, so hopefully I can expand my usefulness to the organization.,

Dancing
In my last post, I mentioned that I was going into dancing almost full force, but I actually delayed that goal a bit. The time and distance to drive to Tempe every weekend was just too much for both my schedule and my wallet. However, in January, I began taking a Latin dance class at Paradise Valley Community College. I am not saying that I have the hips of Shakira, but I will say that it is pretty incredible what a few hours of works and a great teacher can do. Rumba is my favorite style of dance by far, but salsa and cha-cha are not far behind. I will have to figure out what my plan is for the summer, as I still think I am at the stage where I could lose most of my progress if I drop out of the scene for too long.

Soccer
This has actually been the most fun goal. Just a couple weeks ago, I started playing with a group of guys (mostly) in the east valley and getting back into the sport has been the best decision I have made in a long time. I will admit, my first week was terrible. I did not warm up and I was literally heaving, but I survived. My mind knew how to control the touches, but my feet were just not doing what my brain was telling them to do. The group of guys, who are from all over the world (mostly Iraqi and Libyan, it seems, but also a few English, Colombian, etc.), were understanding, however, and invited me back for the next week. While a lot of my skill is still gone, I have been playing decently. It is so exhilarating to be back out on the pitch.

New Goals

Fitness
Prior to starting soccer, I decided that getting into shape would be my most important goal, so I signed up at the closest gym the first week of December. After a couple days of limping around after workouts, I decided to look into getting a trainer. It was an expensive decision, but in my mind, the cost of an injury from incorrectly working out would be far greater than the cost of the trainer and the accountability and mere presence of a trainer is very beneficial. I am nowhere near Schwarzenegger status, but I am gaining muscle mass very quickly and even my uncle noticed the size of my arms the other day. If you knew my uncle, you would know that is a big deal. More importantly, all of the ailments that I had pre-December are completely gone. I feel a million times better. The looks are just a bonus, although I would be lying if I said that I don’t stand in front of the mirror, wondering what I will look like in another three months or another six months.

Piano
After three weeks of having not played the piano, I sat down at the bench two weeks ago and discovered to my horror that my right pinky would not function correctly. I literally could not play any song correctly and I could not will it into doing anything properly. After putting so much time and effort into this skill over the past ten years, this terrified me. How could I lose so much in just three weeks? In an effort to recover what I had lost, I spent two hours each day from that day forward and have since gotten back to normal, but I know I cannot let that happen again. To motivate myself, I have set a goal of learning six new Yann Tiersen songs in the next month or two to expand my repertoire to a total of twelve Tiersen pieces.

Business
In January, I started working from home for Peak Planet and it has been excellent. I can work twenty-four hours a day if I want and I can deal with clients a lot more effectively. This month has been a bit slow, which isn’t unusual for March, but January and February were excellent months. As this month has been slower, I have been able to spend a lot of time on my mosquito netting business. The new site is fully operational as of this morning, I am currently working in a dropshipping capacity for a store in Australia, and I am preparing to wire four grand to a manufacturer in China for a huge supply of mosquito netting. This will be the biggest investment yet, so I will have to make sure it pays off. I am excited to see the direction that the business is going in though.

Possible Future Goals

Painting
I have recently been feeling an urge to get back into painting, but I will have to see whether it is something I want to seriously get back into. Maybe it will be my summer past time, depending on what I do with Latin dancing.

THE BIG GOAL
Although I have been making quite a bit of progress in all of these areas, I still feel like I am stagnating a bit in one area of my life, and that is responsibility. I do not feel like an adult yet, even though I just reached the “milestone” of 21 years. I also feel little motivation to make anymore money than what I am making right now as I am able to do just about everything I want to do with straining my wallet. I think this means that it is time for me to start planning on moving out. This will be my goal for 2013. I think this is the only way that I can force myself to become a responsible adult and put myself in that sink-or-swim position. Of course, I do want to be responsible in buying a house, so in the meantime, I will be building up as much of a nest egg as possible, and hopefully this will give me enough motivation to really go full force and challenge myself financially.

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Living Uncomfortably

In my last post, I wrote about how I was constricting and downsizing my belongings, but I did not write so much about how I was constricting and opening my time. I want to cover that and how I am in the process of restructuring my life and overcoming my main fears at the same time.

For the past 4 or 5 years of my life, I have lived from day to day very comfortably. Although I have stepped outside of my comfort zone and attempted small challenges on occasion, I can honestly say that besides working really hard to get on the soccer team at the local high school in my junior year, I really have not made any effort to move toward the life that I have always wanted.

Every day, I have looked in the mirror and wished I was muscular, but I have not made an effort to work out simply because it has been more comfortable not to. Every day, I have looked at pictures of Croatia, but have not done any of the things necessary to get me there because it has simply been easier to sit in a chair and stare at a screen. Every day, I have watched my friends live exciting lives, but I have chosen to waste my time playing stupid computer games from my childhood instead because my childhood was where I was most comfortable. However, regardless of my comfort, this was not the life I wanted to live, nor the life I ever wanted to live. So upon my return from Vancouver, I decided that things had to change at the risk of never living my life.

Now, very, very few people know this, but I had what I considered an addiction to video games. Although I did not buy a single video game for almost five years, I still played the games from my childhood, such as Age of Empires 2 and Axis & Allies RTS. It is almost shameful for me to admit this in a public realm, even when video games are a very common pastime for young American males, but it was a reality in my life. At times, I spent 4-5 hours a day, and 15+ hours a week playing games, which for all practical purposes, were completely pointless and got me no closer to my ideal life.
Therefore, my first decision was that the video games had to go. Because I was too attached to the games to break the discs, I actually threw them behind a heavy bookcase that I knew I would not move for quite some time but where they would not be heavily damaged. In retrospect, I should have just broken them, but oh well. For now, they are gone.

This was probably the most dramatic and quickest change, but I also removed other parts of my schedule throughout the months of August and September until it actually got to the point that my parents asked me whether I was ever going to leave the house. Little did they know, I was just preparing for a bit of restructuring.

As my life was almost completely devoid of any sort of social schedule, I began filling it with new “programs” in the same way that a network television executive fills time slots. These new programs were to be long-term goals that I would start on at two month intervals until my schedule was full once again.

My first goal was to begin learning a new foreign language, which I began doing in September. In the past eleven weeks, I have increased my vocabulary from maybe a dozen French words to almost 850 words (not including conjugations) and can read, write, and speak in five tenses. Not bad for only eleven weeks, but I would have to say that 95% of this is due to the patience and excellence of my tutor. If it were not for her, I do not think that I would have made it even half as far as I have.

My second goal was to get involved in a refugee program again. Since I feel that working with refugees could be considered my life’s calling, I got connected with The Welcome to America Project here in Phoenix and have been helping them out as often as they need me. It has been a very uplifting and humbling experience and it consistently reminds me of how fortunate I am.

My third goal was to learn how to dance. To be honest, I have always wanted to learn how to dance. Every time I have ever watched a couple dancing in perfect unison, I have been filled with admiration and envy. But I have never shown my interest in dancing because I have always been fearful of appearing less masculine than I already perceive myself to be or of being an inept dancer. In the past two months, I have decided that these are completely irrational fears and could be easily overcome if I just made an effort and tried to learn. Last weekend, I began my first dance class and it was exceptionally fun. I have a feeling that the next few months will only get increasingly more fun.

My fourth and final goal for the near future is to get back into the beautiful game. For almost four years, soccer was my passion and I devoted nearly every waking moment to it. In the past three years, I let that passion go, and every time I see a soccer match, I regret having ever walked off the pitch. Last night, I rode my bicycle to the store and bought a soccer ball. My goal is to be back in top shape by January with plans to join a Peoria or Glendale adult league in the spring season.

While talking with my best friend last week, we were discussing the topic of procrastination, and she reminded me of the idea that I had heard many times that procrastination is simply the result of being too afraid of success or too afraid of failure. In a semi-epiphany, I realized that this is exactly what has been stopping me from moving towards my ideal life. My comfort bubble is the result of being afraid. Fortunately, I no longer feel that I have anything to be afraid of and I feel that I can begin my new life, which is well underway.

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