Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Kilimanjaro and Young Life Africa

(I'm on the right)

I leave for Europe in about 12 hours, and I've got about 12 hours worth of things to do before then, so this will be brief and undoubtedly inadequate. But I wanted to put a few thoughts and images down about my amazing trip to Africa before my next adventure begins. The images might not necessarily go with the words, but whatever, you get the idea. So here goes...

(With my dad and brother Michael)

We spent two weeks in Tanzania beginning July 1st, and I'm still mentally digesting the incredible things we witnessed. I hiked through 5 levels of forestation, saw the sunrise from 19,330 feet and stood next to some of the only snow in Africa (and on the equator, to boot). I had the privilege of experiencing it all with my dad and brother, both of whom I love, as well as some fantastic friends, new and old. But what really blew me away was the kind, humble, professional service of our guides and porters. From what I understand, to climb Kili you're required by law to bring with you guides and porters. This ensures both that the local economy is sustained (jobs created) and that silly foreigners don't get lost or injured on the mountain. I'm not accustomed to hiking in such conditions and wasn't sure at first how to react. But the people were truly inspirational -- their work ethic, their abilities, their smiles, kind hearts and stories won over every member of our party. Not only would we not have made it to the top without them, but neither would we have had nearly as much fun along the way.

(Michael, me, water pump, awesome porters)

(Hiking long days at altitude makes you a bit kooky)

I'm grateful for photos and the journals of others to jog my memory about the experience. The combination of high altitude, long days, and the incessant pursuit of that which lays before you makes for a terrible remembrance of even the most recent past. Looking at the images has reminded me of the details, but I never forgot the feeling of joy every day when I put on my boots to do the most enjoyable hiking I've ever done. The final ascent was a brutal task, I will not lie, but it was just a small part of the overall journey and a necessary component of the adventure. I recommend the trip to anyone interested.

(Top of the World)

We climbed and descended a total of 15,000 vertical feet on a few hours rest over the final two days (from 13k, to 19k, then back down to 10k).

Soon after we came off the mountain, we headed to Dar es Salaam on the coast of the Indian Ocean, still attempting to process what had just happened. But we didn't have time. Instead we were greeted in Dar by over 40 remarkable Africans from 13 countries and even more tribes. Each of them works with kids in their respective countries, and many volunteer without salary, all of it done in the name of Young Life Africa. I've been involved in Young Life in the U.S. my entire life and seen firsthand the wonderful work that they do in kids lives. Yet I was BLOWN away by the infectious energy of the African staff and their hearts for the young people in their countries. As amazing as the Kilimanjaro climb was, the YL Africa meeting was its equal. It's hard to explain (and in some ways impossible), but I'm grateful that I had the chance to meet so many wonderful people and hear the stories of what they are doing in their countries. (Unfortunately I don't have many photos or video from it. Maybe I'll find some more later.)

(Young Life Africa's incredible staff with guests from around the world)

Next thing I know, I'm on a plane, dazed, exhausted and trying to process the now multitude of various wonderful things I've just seen. After 30+ hours of travel and a short night's rest, I was then sitting at a desk in an office in hot, humid Texas, wondering what in the world had just happened. I'm still trying to process it, actually, and probably will for some time.

(Lunch at 15,000 feet)

Well, that's a glimpse. Maybe too much, maybe not enough. I'm glad I wrote it before I forgot, and maybe I'll fill in details later. Now I need to pack some bags, book plane and train tickets, contact potential hosts or travel mates and finish my responsibilities at work before I leave! I'll be in Italy for a week with family, France (and maybe Spain) for two weeks with my brother Will, Germany (perhaps?) with a couple friends, then to Florence to celebrate the wedding of some other friends. All or very little of that might happen, and who knows what else. I'm grateful for my life and this opportunity to see another part of the world and meet the people in it. If nothing else, the "Best Job" experience lit a fire of excitement under me and reminded me how much I enjoy travel and adventure. It was a great catalyst for my current exploits (though I still want desperately to go scuba diving on an island sometime soon).

That's all for now. Best of luck to you and your adventures, wherever they are.


(Hiking to base camp)

PS. And yeah, yeah, I know this blog needs to be rebranded and probably moved to wordpress, etc. Some day. Maybe. More interesting things to do right now.

Monday, June 29, 2009

One last bit of "Best Job" media coverage...(and the new adventures)

Well, in lieu of flying to Australia this week to take care of an island, I'll be traveling to Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro! It will be an exciting challenge, and we're using the climb to raise awareness for Young Life Africa, an impressive organization working with African youth. (More info on YL Africa below.)

Australia would have been incredible, but I'm going to make the most of whatever I do this year -- starting with a little 19,330 ft. hike. I'll also be traveling through Europe in August, so let me know if you'll be in the area.


All the best from Texas,


Young Life Africa
I've been involved with Young Life in the U.S. my entire life, and I've seen firsthand the way they build-up and encourage young people. I can't wait to see the work they are doing to train and equip young leaders in Africa

It takes just $3/day to send an African kid to YL camp for the experience of a lifetime. If you'd like to learn more about YL Africa or if you want to financially support the great work they are doing, please let me know.

Link to: YL Africa website

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Kilimanjaro Expedition

My summer plans (part A): 

We leave Texas on July 1st. Hope to summit July 8th. I'll be 19,340 feet above the beaches of Australia (though I hope to visit those sometime soon as well).

Also, this morning I went back to visit the 3rd Grade Students at Austin Elementary (see "15 Minutes..." post). Their last day of school is tomorrow, and their teacher asked me to come speak with them about my trip to Kilimanjaro and the students' various summer plans. They asked lots of good questions, and it was a great deal of fun (though I can't imagine trying to control 25+ kids every day). 


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Congrats Ben!

Congratulations to Ben Southall, winner of Australia's Best Job in the World! Out of all the finalists, Ben was one of the ones I knew least -- and to my great detriment, apparently. Everyone sings his praises and has nothing but kind things to say about him. So, Ben, congratulations, and I'm thrilled to hear it happened to someone so deserving. You can follow Ben's adventures here

It seems as though all 16 finalists had an incredible trip filled with fun, challenging, and exhausting experiences. Many have had the chance to relax and vacation after the interviews, and I wish them all the best, wherever they're off to next. 

As to where I'm off to next, it's currently in the works...



Sunday, April 19, 2009

Final Thoughts (and future thoughts)

Hi everyone!

Though I'm no longer a candidate for the Australia job, I'm still pursuing adventure and the best job, wherever it happens to be. To those who followed the blog, thanks for your interest and support! If I decide to revamp this one or start another, I'll be sure to let you know. For now, here are my final thoughts on the Australia campaign and a few on life in general. 

Opportunities come, and opportunities go. 
They always have, and they always will.

In November I was offered a position on the board of directors for some local radio stations. It was a unique chance to work alongside some impressive, accomplished men and women, but deep down I knew it wasn't the right fit or the right timing. So I turned it down.

6 weeks later I came across the "Best Job in the World" campaign and was immediately enamored. I knew I was a good fit for it and, more importantly, that I could present myself in the right way to get selected. And I was right! Well, at least for a little while. The point is, if I'd taken the board position last fall, I wouldn't have had the freedom to even consider the Australia job. That's the way life works. Every opportunity, no matter how good, carries an opportunity cost. And when one door closes, another always opens. 

I'm not sure what the next 7 months of my life will entail or what new "open doors" I will discover. But already I've got a trip planned to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro at the beginning of July in support of Young Life Africa, and I'm hoping to visit the Mediterranean with my family later this summer as well. Those are things that never would have been possible had I been Island Caretaking, and I can't wait to see what else is in store. Plus, I've got a good job in a tough economy, and there's plenty to be thankful for.  God is good. Always has been and always will be. 

I extend my thanks to Tourism Queensland for coming up with the brilliant idea and for letting me be a part of it for so long. I now wish the final 16 all the best as they fly out this weekend for interviews and adventure on Hamilton Island. The ones I've gotten to know are fantastic people, and I hope they enjoy every minute of the trip. 

That's all for now. We'll see what happens in the future. 

Kind regards from Texas,


Me as a baby in Benin, Africa (where the world travels began)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Getting dumped by email...

Sarah Louise wrote a brilliant blog post correlating her interaction with Tourism Queensland to a bad relationship. One of the drawbacks she listed was that it would end by email. Last night I had the displeasure of receiving that email. They said they'd also follow up with an explanatory phone call, but I have yet to receive it. [It took a few weeks, but I did receive a call and had a very nice chat with TQ representatives.]

I've since experienced a weird combination of emotions. Devastation at being rejected for something I felt qualified for; relief at being done with such a time-consuming, stressful process; excitement at the new possibilities now available; regret at watching an exciting opportunity slip through my fingers.

To tell you the truth, I felt a bit like Eddie from the film "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" after he realizes he's lost a fortune in one hand of cards and stumbles bewildered into the street with the weight of that reality. It's a bit dramatic, but that's partly how I felt.

The negative thoughts will pass in due time, and what is left will be the excitement of new adventures and opportunities. I'm interested in everything from the film industry, to private equity, non-profit work, and world travel and cultures, and I'm eager to find the right fit in any of those areas. If you've got any ideas, please leave me a comment and let me know.

It's a big world, and I'm eager to explore it.

All the best,


Hiking with friends in Malibu, CA

Monday, March 30, 2009

"15 Minutes of Fame"

Regardless how long this 15 minutes of quasi "fame" actually lasts (hopefully beyond Thursday!), I'm trying to put it to good use while I can. Last Friday, I went and spoke to the 3rd grade bilingual students at Austin Elementary here in Tyler.

The kids were amazing, and it's definitely the most fun I've had throughout this process as a "Best Job" finalist.

I had been planning for a few months to speak at one of their classes and encourage the kids to study hard and go to college. Once I became a finalist, however, their teacher and I saw it as an opportunity to excite them about the benefits of education.

If I hadn't graduated from college, I wouldn't have been qualified for the island caretaker position, and we wanted the students to make that connection.

I tried to show them that education, physical fitness and staying out of trouble are all key ingredients to living a successful life, regardless what you do. Hopefully some of them took it to heart.

In the end, the kids seemed most excited about kangaroos, back-flips and the fact that I could speak to them in Spanish. But I hope at least a few will remember the more "educational" aspects of the message as well.

After crowding around for handshakes, hugs and some autographs (ha!), the students were excited to show off their pet corn snake.

It was an appropriate finale to their many questions about the animals in Australia, including whether or not I would be afraid of the sharks, kangaroos and tigers.