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)

video
(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).

video

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.

Steven


(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.

Here's the story: NEWS STORY ABOUT THE CLIMB!

All the best from Texas,

Steven


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). 

Steven

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...

Cheers,

Steven

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,

Steven

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,

Steven


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.

:-)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

April 2, 2009

Well, once again we're playing the waiting game. On April 2nd at 6:00PM CDT, I'll find out if I'm one of Tourism Queensland's top 10 finalists. Those 10 (plus Clare, the wildcard vote winner) will fly to Australia in May to interview for the job - quite an experience in and of itself.

A big "thank you" to everyone who voted me into 14th place! What an honor. We'll find out soon if Tourism Queensland thinks it was good enough.

Yesterday the Dallas Morning News ran an article (here) in the sports section. It was a bit late for votes, but still good press for the islands and lots of fun in general. The photo at right was featured in the print edition. It was taken at the 2007 U.S. Open Triathlon in Dallas, where Australian Greg Bennett won after an unbelievable performance. I finished far behind him, but it was still a great race.

Thanks again for the votes, kind words and support! I'm eagerly anticipating the results on Thursday, and I hope you are as well.

Steven

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Video Response

Hey everyone,

Thanks for the great support! So far, 58 countries have visited the blog, and over 4,500 people (and counting) have voted for my video. Thanks so much!

Check out the response video below, and keep voting until March 24th. After you vote, go to YouTube (by clicking on the video below while it's playing) and upload your own short video response. I'd love to find out who you are, where you're from and anything interesting about you!

Hope to hear from you soon!

Steven



PS. The Tyler azaleas are in bloom! Aren't they beautiful?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Media Interviews (edit +2)

Hey guys,

Here's a list of my recent interviews. It's been fun to have some of the local media (finally) interested in covering the story. The Tyler paper still hasn't decided if it's "newsworthy" (ugh...), even though the Dallas Morning News did. I guess there are more exciting things happening in Tyler than I thought. :)

*NEW - Dallas Morning News article: CLICK HERE

*NEW - ESPN Outdoors article: CLICK HERE

ABC (KLTV) news piece: CLICK HERE...and article: HERE

NBC (KETK) interview: CLICK HERE

CBS Early Show (my video is featured): CLICK HERE

CBS (KYTX) news piece (article only): CLICK HERE

Thanks, everyone!

Steven

Friday, March 13, 2009

Thanks!

Hi friends,

Thanks so much for the great support! I appreciate each and every vote and kind word. Keep 'em coming until March 24th! (You can VOTE HERE.)

The next few weeks will undoubtedly be just as crazy as the last two (except there won't be an essay to write), and I'm hopeful to get some more media attention. This story from the CBS Early Show was fun, even though they just played a few clips from my video. If something else interesting happens, I'll be sure to let you know! Some of the other applicants have had WILD media coverage (perhaps people find the island story more intriguing in colder parts of the world, eh?). But it's all good. I'll take what I can get, and hopefully things pick up soon.

Also, soon I'll be posting a short "video response," so be on the lookout.

Until then, keep voting!

Steven

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I'm in the top 50!

Hi everyone!

I'm thrilled to be a finalist for Australia's Best Job in the World! I greatly appreciate the kind words, support and votes. You can vote once every 24 hours, and please get others to do the same! Living in a small town, I might not have the most extensive media coverage or an entire nation behind me, but I'm grateful for the wonderful support I have received from around the world. Thanks; keep it up!

You can vote here - www.islandreefjob.com/Steven - and please send the link to your friends and family and post it on Facebook, MySpace, websites, blogs, etc. 

This has been such a fun process, and I'm honored to be considered with the other finalists. If I'm hired for the job, I will explore the Great Barrier Reef from top to bottom and find exciting ways to share my adventures with the world!

More updates to come. 

Thanks, xie xie, gracias, merci, grazie, multumesc, danke and cheers!

Steven

¡Y también, muchísimas gracias a todo el mundo por su apoyo! Es un privilegio representar a la comunidad  hispanohablante. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Island Caretaker Video


For those who haven't seen it (or care to see it again), here is my 60-second video for Australia's "Best Job in the World." It made the top 50 out of 34,684 applications, but, alas, I was not selected.

THE VIDEO

video

I wrote, directed and edited the video by myself and finished it in about 3 days (then stressed about the best way to submit it for 2 weeks!). Thanks to Blake Stowe for the camera work.

The water in the lake that day was 8°C (47°F)! That part of the shoot was very cold but lots of fun.

Also, thanks to Australian artist Gabriella Cilmi for "letting me" shamelessly loop part of her single.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Best Job in the World


Welcome!

My name is Steven, and I've applied for the best job in the world – Island Caretaker on Australia's Great Barrier Reef!

This blog was set up to introduce you to the beautiful islands of Queensland, Australia, and show you why I am the perfect candidate to watch over, appreciate and promote them.


THE REEF


The Great Barrier Reef is home to an enormous and eclectic group of the world's most exotic plants and animals. It is comprised of over 2,900 individual reefs and inhabited by over 1,500 species of fish. As a swimmer, scuba diver and snorkeler, I can't wait to go exploring.


All my life I have enjoyed water sports – from kayaking to skiing, from rowing to surfing. And I'm always up for something new.

With over 600 islands in the Great Barrier Reef, I could explore a few each day during my employment and never see the same one twice!

Also, I've always wanted to travel the world by boat, and sailing around the islands of the Great Barrier Reef would be a wonderful way to start.


THE HOPEFUL APPLICANT

I graduated cum laude with a Bachelor's Degree in Media Communication, and I have experience in marketing, public relations and video production.


As Communications Director for an international company, I currently write and edit newsletters, update websites, and shoot and edit photographs.

It would be an honor to use these abilities to communicate the beauty and excitement of Queensland to the watching world.


I love to travel, explore new places and meet interesting people. In addition to English, I speak and write in fluent Spanish and know greetings in eight other languages.

I've been on every continent in the world but Australia, and I can think of no better way to see it than this!


THE NEXT STEPS

For Desley Boyle, Anthony Hayes and those of you with Tourism Queensland, please, by all means contact me for more information. You're not going to find a more eager and qualified applicant.

For those of you just wondering what it's like to wake up every morning in paradise, maybe it's time to take the next step and go see for yourself.

Island Photos Courtesy of Tourism Queensland

For media inquiries, contact: americas.communications@tq.com.au