On April 9, 2008, my life was irrevocably changed. Every risk I’ve taken in the last two years has been a direct result of almost a single moment in time. I remember looking at one of my best friends, Brad, and saying “I am going to quit my job and travel the world.” To hear Brad describe this moment is somewhat shocking, because he could see in my eyes how real this was, and he knew it would happen.
It started out, as it always does, with a small risk. Brad wanted to do European Delivery on a new BMW and spend a couple weeks driving around Europe – for me to join him would require taking the longest amount of consecutive vacation from a job I had ever taken in my life, an entire two weeks. Our trip would end in Amsterdam, where some of the guys on my team worked, so I was able to justify it by finishing up with a week working out of our Amsterdam office. Brad’s brother Adam joined us for what would turn out to be a whirlwind tour across most of Western Europe and a defining experience for all three of us.
A few days into this trip, we arrived at the Rugenpark Hostel in Interlaken, Switzerland and met Chris. How many cracks there were in the external structure of my life at this point I can’t say, but all it took was a few minutes of conversation with Chris to bring the entire thing crashing down.
When we first talked to Chris to check in, I complemented him on his fantastic English and we were all shocked to find out that he was actually American! We asked him how he came to be running a hostel in Switzerland and he explained how many years ago he had done the typical backpacking trip through Europe after college – but unlike most, he had fallen in love with Switzerland and simply decided to stay. He loved to ski and spent years doing whatever jobs he could to raise just enough money to pay for that day of food and skiing, finding the ideal job was washing dishes in the midday so he could ski in the morning and the evening.
It didn’t make sense to me. Everything I had been taught about how to be successful in life was that you had to grind every day, work hard, plan your career, and slowly improve. That you couldn’t really stop to enjoy life until it was over and you retired. The idea that someone could just do what they wanted in life didn’t make sense. As we walked up to our room, I realized how wrong I was, and by later that evening I had convinced myself to find a different way to live.
It may seem like a simple interaction, a simple set of knowledge gained which really should have already been there. Maybe it’s a truth you already know, maybe it’s a false hope you don’t agree with. Whatever the case, it’s part of the reason I share my adventures with you. I don’t hope to make you “crazy” like me, but I do hope that I can show that it’s not always as hard as you think to do something you want to do. We should define our success and happiness in life internally, not by external pressures from society – we shouldn’t give up our own happiness because people around us want something different.
Often when people hear about what I’m doing, they tell me about something of their own that they’ve always wanted to do. When I ask why they don’t do it, the most common response is this: “It’s not that easy.” This makes me sad. Here is the truth as I see it…
It may not be that easy, but it’s not too hard. We build walls around our hopes for all sorts of reasons, and the first step to breaking them down is to acknowledge them. From there, it’s all about taking action, training ourselves in small steps to reduce fear. The world is full of inspiring stories of people who have done and are doing amazing things – it’s not that easy for any of them… but it’s not too hard.