Have you ever noticed how God always agrees with you? Not as often with your neighbor, your congressman, your family or even the pope. But he (or she, or it,) definitely agrees with you. Other people just aren't enlightened enough to realize that. Yet.
Funny how that works.
Was the Christian God cool with slavery? Slave owners sure thought so -- and had plenty of Biblical canon to support it. Abolitionists disagreed. Did God want women to vote? Not according to anti-suffragists. Suffragists were convinced otherwise. If society continues this descent into level-headed compassion, fifty years from now people will be claiming that God is pro-fur and factory farming. When one cannot defend a belief in the current context, moving the framework back a few thousand years and putting the blame on God is a pretty good fallback strategy.
I know, I know. There's only one God and he is not at all ambiguous: he agrees with you. It's all right there in the Bible or whatever holy book you believe in, as you have decided to interpret it. It's perfectly clear, right?
Except to all the people it isn't. Assume that you are a member of (depending on your definition) the largest religious denomination in the world, the Latin Catholic Church. Around 1.15 of the world's 7 billion people share your belief system, if we assume (very wrongly) that local churches are uniform throughout the system. The rest of the world thinks that you're crazy -- or at least misguided on some pretty key points.
A week and a half late is better than never. I blame my lack of lack of life on the delay.
Last January I made one simple goal --- to live every day of the year with no regret. There was no “get in shape,” no “swear less,” and no “reduce stress.” Just live life with no regrets, which turns out is much easier said than done, but makes everything a hell of a lot more interesting. I would need more hands to count the stupid shit I did in 2013, but 30 fold more to count the things that would have been impossible if trapped inside some cubicle.
I visited 10 countries; worked on a boat; farmed rice (drank too much rice whiskey); visited America; rode a train through rural Tanzania; learned to scuba dive; motor biked across SE Asia; paid homage to the world’s (current) longest reigning king; gave bikes to school children; swam with manta rays; attended a funeral in Thailand, a wedding in Vietnam; was a best mate’s groomsman; bet in an underground boxing club; bungee jumped more than a football field; saw 2 natural wonders of the world, one 1,000 feet above in a glider, and one swimming through it; went sky diving with my dad; obliterated my bank account…; ran a marathon (kind of); played with monkeys and snakes; and moved to a new country, to name a few.
Of course I also was lucky enough to have my parents and friends visit me abroad, became closer to my brother than imaginable, made some great new friends, learned heaps equally about myself and others, and arguably more regarding business than was learnt whilst professionally consulting.
But everything wasn’t cheery: the grandparents are aging fast, an old friend committed suicide, one family member was diagnosed with lymphoma, another located a tumour, and friendships have most certainly been lost. Communication with folks back home could definitely have been improved; although, conversations become more and more difficult as time progresses, and I’ve got to admit: I think we all forget that conversing works both ways.
In pictures: Learnings from the first 60 days in Zambia (and the that whole last year spent travelling)
*** Author's Edit 1-January-2015 -- pictures removed due to new blog website
With everything that’s happened, it’s hard to believe it’s been 60 days since I left the now very wet world of Vietnam for this hot and dusty Zambia. From bike distributions to safaris, from South Africa to Zimbabwe (which turns out isn't really far), from hostels to a temporary home, and from racquetball to nightclubs – it’s been a fast paced and jam-packed 2 months. Since I left America, I've picked up on a couple of things, and I've written them below. Read at your own discretion...
1) People are people are people, and those people are good.
Having "lived" in 5 countries across 4 continents --- not vacationing, not backpacking, not dressing out of a suitcase, but paying rent on a flat --- this one point is certainly consistent. I've lived nearby (not to be confused with “as” or “with”) the multi-millionaires in Australia, and then months later in electricity-less shacks with the (to be confused with) poverty stricken side of Thailand. Despite all of our cultural differences, we all have the same core. Basic human goodness spans and breaks down any cultural barriers that we've put up amongst ourselves. Too bad the greater population doesn't always see that.
2) The truly broke never complain.
Don't let the lack of income, house, electricity, or occasionally food fool you for these people hating their lives. It's not that they're jumping for joy at their hand, but over many conversations, not once did I hear a complaint about the 10km walk to water, the roof leaking, the pit that serves as a toilet, or the siblings sharing the cot to sleep on. These people were just happy to be alive. A friend was right when she told me to "never mistake poverty for a lack of quality."
3) Seeing how business is run across the globe is the best education I’ve ever received.
And unfortunately, the most expensive. Nothing I learned in my few years of consulting compare to the real-life experiences learnt from trying to grow a business only a few years old. The next step is trying from the ground up...anybody want to start a business?
Fun fact: I've always timed my trips, no idea why. But as of now, I left Atlanta 32 hours, 27 minutes, and 53 seconds ago. That's apparently the time it takes to get from ATL to LAX, via 3 completed flights, 7 missed flights, a connection in Vegas (...damn) and 1 lost piece of luggage, which turns out to be not ideal when you only have 1 piece of luggage to your name. But they have 12 1/2 hours to find it before my 13 hour flight to Sydney... I joke, but for the price of this standby ticket, I'd easily do it all over again.
It's been a great few weeks visiting friends and family --- who have mostly become one in the same --- in America, but I'm ready to hit the road again to get back to Australia to see my f&f there. Between the wedding, lunches and dinners, sleepovers, Braves games, and everything else, it was great catching up with the dozens of people I was able to see, whether it be intentionally or by luck.
There were 2 toasts made that I'll warrant as being decent enough to write:
First, I told Wes at his wedding, if you were to look at our past 5 years, we haven't seen each other that much. Sure, we grew up together; but he went to Georgia, and I to Tech; he works 80 hours a week making movies, and I traveled with consulting; he moved to Atlanta, and I to Australia. A couple of trips here and there for football or a general visit, but for the most part, life has changed so much since we saw each other every single day back in high school nearly a decade ago --- after all, the purpose for the entire trip was the wedding. But the beauty in friendship is that it does not matter if you saw each other last week or last year, you pick up like it was yesterday. I love that and consider myself lucky to have such good friends where that happens. It's like we never missed a beat.
The second was said at Plishka's "surprise" birthday party. Here's the gist: I've made some great friends all around the world. Hell, I could circle the globe and not pay for a bed if I needed to. But having lived in 3 continents, I'm still amazed how absolutely incredible my friends in Atlanta are. I fear the day when we're all "too busy" to get together each week to eat, hang out, and generally crack jokes at one another. And to be fair, after learning about what everyone has accomplished in the past year, whether it be a new career, a new partner, or even a new kid, that day could be coming upon us quickly. (Not that I disagree with careers, partners, or kids.) But as we were talking that night, I sure as hell don't want to be 40, sitting at my child's baseball game, look around, and think "how the fuck did I get here?" and "where did the last 15 years just go?" pop into my head.
So, a simple ask. Make the extra effort to get together once every week or two for a dinner. Have a movie night. Go to a Braves game. Travel. We are all living in the prime of our life right now --- let's not let it pass us by.
Probably one of the few places you can go and eat with deer heads, framed hunting pictures, and maps of lakes on the wall; with 2 liter jugs of sweetened sweet tea put on your table alongside the self-service paper towels; where everything comes on plastic plates and in Styrofoam cups; where you sit family-style; where the family across the room walks around and offers the entire restaurant some of their birthday cake; where everything on the menu is battered and deep-fried; where it takes you 10 minutes to get to your seat because you have to say hello to everyone you know; where it would be easier to just yell "hello y'all!" when you walk in because you know everyone there; and where they've had the same paper menus for 15 years.
There's no way I could live there at 26 years of age --- I'd go mental. But having lived there for 18 years, and been away for another 8, I can say that Albany ingrains in her own some of the best etiquette and great friendships. It's a place where "no ma'am, no sir" ends every sentence; a place where family reigns supreme no matter your circumstance; a place where everyone waves and says hello to each other, and they actually mean it when they said "how ya doing?."
I guess what the Lost Trailers said so many years ago is true: "I guess the reasons that I left here are the reasons I come back / Sometimes you've got to leave to find out what you have."
It's fair to assume that Albany is not the only place like this. But it's my place, and I'll be damned if I don't love it deep down. Sometimes we all just need a reminder of where we're from and how we were raised. Or at least I do.
And I'm not saying I'm perfect --- even half-way for that matter --- but visiting is a good reminder of what I should try to do a bit better each day. What we all should try to do. But I guess I'll just start with me.
I think it's quite evident I didn't do too much blogging in my near-year in Australia. I promise the people who bug me about my lack of writing that there will be more to come over the next few months. A firm believer in one-way flights, I have no idea where those next few months will take me, but I assure you, they will be exciting and fruitful for my own development and for those living vicariously, hopefully yours as well.
If there's one thing I learned in Australia, it's that I have developed a list of rules for living my life (like what I did there?). You can take them literally like some do the Bible, or loosely like hippies do "no drugs allowed." Honestly, I don't care if you don't agree with any of them. This is my blog.