Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…
Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
– Rainer Maria Rilke

As I sat down to write Thoughts on Coming Home on January 6, I realized there’s no way to boil the whole experience of coming home down to one post. So I split it up and expanded it. A whopping 8,500+ words later, here we are, part five in a five-part series. Yes, I had a lot to share. But I was also buying myself time. You see, I needed time to answer the all-too-obvious question that sits on the tips of the tongues of everyone I meet: “What’s Next?”

Over the past several weeks, I resolved to come up with a perfect answer to such a simple question, and in doing so, placed a heavy burden on myself. I needed an answer that would convince both you and myself I’m a sane person. Something that proved I had it all figured out.

After a couple weeks of beating myself up, I finally relaxed a bit. Aren’t we all still figuring it out? Isn’t that what makes life exciting? Would there be any reason to go on if we had all the answers? Show me someone who has it all figured out, and I’ll show you a liar, a fool, or the most boring person alive.

So let’s get it out of the way: I’m still figuring it out.

The Story of an Unplanned Pilgrimage 

In my post A Few Reasons to Love Lithuania, I talk about meeting a Lithuanian girl upon landing in the capital, Vilnius. The two of us spent an evening walking around the city, eating, drinking, dancing, and talking about life, love, ideas, and everything in between. It was a perfect night. A few days later, I marched onward to meet new places, new people, and new experiences. And so sings the sweet song of the solo traveler.

A couple months pass when I receive a message from my Lithuanian friend: “How’s Matt, the pilgrim?”

The word pilgrim stuck with me. I was on a trip through Europe, of course. An epic journey, absolutely. But a pilgrimage? I wasn’t so sure. For giggles and grins, I looked up the word pilgrim on Wikipedia:

“A pilgrim is a traveler (literally one who has come from afar) who is on a journey to a holy place…the concept of a pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to the experience of life in the world or to the inner path…from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude.”

Strong religious undertones and dramatic vocabulary aside (“wretchedness” is a little extreme), the definition piqued my interest. I went on to read Aleph by Paolo Coelho, the story of a pilgrimage along the Trans-Siberian railroad. I studied other writings on pilgrimages. I wrote The Art of the Pilgrimage. I shared my story with Paulo Coelho, with whom it resonated enough to share with his 5.8 million Twitter followers. All signs pointed to the notion that I was on some unfulfilled and unplanned pilgrimage.

I came to craft a more generalized definition of a pilgrimage: “any act where you purposefully remove yourself from the day-to-day to take back control of your life, intentionally carve your own path, or reclaim your kingdom.” It’s the intentional act of going from a lesser place toward a greater place. From a place of lack toward a place of abundance. From a place of turmoil toward a place of calm. From a question toward an answer. I purposefully use the word toward because while there’s a destination in mind or an answer desired, the emphasis is on the journey to find the answer.

Although many things led to me taking this trip, the impetus was the unexpected passing of a friend. It lit the fire under my ass to transform my dream list into a to-do list. But more importantly, it forced me to reflect on my own mortality and ask important questions that I neglected or forgot about. Questions like: Am I spending my fleeting time on earth doing things that matter? Am I inching closer to my best self, the self that exploits my gifts and embraces my passions? And what are my gifts? What are those passions? All of these questions led to the overarching theme of: Who am I? Who am I meant to become? Why am I here?

I learned that the moment you ask such questions and care enough to find the answers is the moment you embark on a pilgrimage of sorts.  Until you ask, you have no chance in finding the answer. And when you do journey out, there’s  no guarantee you’ll reach your destination; but you sure as shit won’t get there if you never leave the house.

There’s no doubt that not asking questions leads to a much easier existence. She who asks questions enlists herself in a gut-wrenching journey. Asking the questions means welcoming the uncomfortableness of blood, sweat, tears, discontent and indigestion. It’s frustrating. But it’s also liberating. It’s a self-proclamation that you care enough about yourself to want to grow into the answers. No questions = No frustration = No growth. Living with questions and being frustrated by them is actually a good thing because it means you’re growing. The beauty is in the question itself and the desire to find the answer.

My physical journey started on June 2. But the actual journey began the moment I asked these questions. The moment you seek an answer is the moment you become a deliberate journeyer.

Photo: Skógafoss, Skógar, Iceland
Photo: Skógafoss, Skógar, Iceland
Quote: Betty Smith
Click here  or on the picture above to download a High-Res poster. Feel free to share or print.


What’s Next for GiveLiveExplore: Tales from a Deliberate Journeyer?

Although I admit I don’t have everything figured out, I shouldn’t sell myself so short. I do have a few things figured out.

First, I decided to leave IBM. Last May, I negotiated a seven-month sabbatical so I could travel. I reported back to work on January 3. Several weeks later, after a heavy internal debate, I put in my resignation. Since traveling, my self-bullshitting meter has become way more sensitive and much less tolerant. As in, I have a harder time faking things that don’t feel right. And going back to work didn’t feel right. Perhaps I went back to the “real world” too soon. Regardless, my heart wasn’t in it and I accepted it was time to move on.

Second, I will continue to write. In staying true to the types of posts I’ve delivered in the past, I won’t do standard “blog” stuff, like top ten lists or SEO-baited bulleted pieces. I may use lists or bullets, but the goal is not to drive traffic. Of course, I welcome traffic, but the goal is to provide quality, meaningful content. I’ll probably write two to four pieces a month.

I will write pieces that could be classified as essays, stories, or better yet, Tales. I’ll tell tales of life, philosophy, travel, self-awareness, personal growth, influential books, and inspiring people. I’ll share the things I’m learning. They’ll be thoughtful and introspective and will often have a lesson imbedded inside, blatantly or discretely, or both. Almost all will be thought-provoking tales that cause pause and reflection. It won’t always be light reading, and it certainly won’t be for everyone.

Third, I will continue to develop GiveLiveExplore into the virtual home for my personal platform and professional projects. GiveLiveExplore started as a platform to share my physical journey through Europe. Similarly, it will continue to be a platform to share the continuation of my broader journey: A journey in designing a life of creativity and freedom. A journey to do work that matters and to pursue worthy projects. A journey to create art. To craft masterpieces. To live a legacy. To be a story worth sharing.

This website will be the living, breathing scroll upon which I’ll document my personal and professional pilgrimage. It’ll be a journey of learning and growth, inching closer to the answers and destinations. I’ll explore various projects that interest me. I’ll try some things that might not work and you might see me fail. Hopefully you’ll also see me succeed, and we can enjoy those successes together. Through it all I’ll document it here. For your information, your inspiration, or maybe just your entertainment.

By sharing my personal journey, I hope to be an inspiring and comforting voice for others on a similar journey. I hope my story provides others courage to become deliberate journeyers, to care enough to ask questions, and to have the confidence to live with those questions.

GiveLiveExplore will be the overarching entity for my writing, ideas, projects, and my personal legacy. It will be my contribution to the world. A contribution that, I hope, will give the world a reason to dance.

“Kid President” giving the world a reason to dance:

The Deconstructed, Deeper Meaning of GiveLiveExplore

As you may have imagined, there’s deeper meaning behind each component of GiveLiveExplore. They represent the values that guide me personally and will guide any GiveLiveExplore endeavor. Here’s my definition of each, with a corresponding Kid President quote to emphasize the value.

…is about giving freely without expectation of reciprocation. The definition is much broader than physical or financial giving. It’s about giving thanks. Giving a compliment. Giving a listening and caring ear. It’s about sharing your story and the story of others. It’s about spending your time doing something worthwhile. It’s about being a part of something bigger than yourself. And remembering that Give always comes first.

Kid President says: “And if life is a game, aren’t we all on the same team?” GIVE is about realizing we’re all on the same team. Let’s help each other.

…is about living intentionally and with conviction. It’s about being present and embracing the concept of living wherever you find yourself, not merely visiting. It’s about completely immersing yourself in culture and human connection. It represents having the courage to do bold things that make you feel free and come alive. It’s about doing those things which excite you the most.

Kid President says: “You got air comin’ through your nose. You got a heartbeat. That means it’s time to do something!” LIVE is about constantly reminding ourselves we have the privilege of being alive.

…is about being a relentless explorer of the world around and within. It’s about being forever curious. It’s about fostering a growth mindset and believing that every new encounter is an opportunity to learn. It’s about deciding to be a deliberate journeyer, to have dreams, and to never give up on those dreams.

Kid President says: “Get a better dream and keep going. Keep going, keep going, and keep going.”  EXPLORE is a call to action to dream big, relish the journey, and never, ever arrive.

Photo: Lake District, England Quote: Robert Frost
Photo: Lake District, England
Quote: Robert Frost
Click here or on the picture above to download a High-Res poster. Feel free to share or print.


GiveLiveExplore Goals for 2013

I’ve learned how powerful it is to share your story and communicate your goals and dreams. Here are my major goals for 2013. I’ve broken them down into measurable goals and parenthesized the underlying purpose of each.

1. Read and review 50 influential books (Read more to learn more and keep growing; share influential books to help others grow). I’ve read 7 books already, so right on pace. But I’m falling seriously behind on writing book reviews, having only completed 1 so far (APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur).

2. Meet and/or interview 50 inspiring new people (Connect with inspiring like-minded people; share their stories to inspire others). I’ve met some really fascinating and inspiring people over the couple months, including:

  • Ramit Sethi, NYT best-selling author and founder of  I Will Teach You To Be Rich
  • Victor Saad, founder of The Leapyear Project
  • Priya Parker, founder of Thrive Labs
  • Nora, Google’s soon-to-be Head of Branding Solutions for the Nordics.
  • Carla, Social Media Marketing Manager of KIND Healthy Snacks
  • Many others. It’s incredible how once you become clearer on your life’s direction, like-minded people seem to magically enter your life.

Side Note: I’m thinking of starting a series of posts where I profile inspiring people doing remarkable things in work and in life. If this sounds interesting to you, let me know.

3. Spend 50 days abroad (Maintain a traveler’s mindset and keep exploration a high priority). I’m still settling back into the US, but I have my sights set on spending some time abroad soon.

4. Write 50 posts on GiveLiveExplore (Share my story with those who care; improve my writing skills). This is post 5, so I’m slightly behind pace.

5. Write or make another contribution to 50 other blogs and publications (Share my story; amplify my voice). I’ve done several guest posts and contributions, but I need to do more.

6. Perform 50 acts of kindness (Give more; develop a lifestyle of giving). This is more a personal call to action to do more acts of everyday kindness. I saw the magic of this while traveling. Since this is more of a personal thing, I don’t feel too inclined to share the details behind this. So unless there’s a lesson that can be gleamed from it, consider this a private goal.

7. Attract and build a community of 500 deliberate journeyers (Inspire and encourage more people to become deliberate about their journey). We’re 244 strong on this email list. I hope to build it to 500 by the end of the year (with your help!)

8. Publish and promote a book. I’m currently working to publish and promote my friend’s book about our trip to Iceland. It’s the hilarious and (for better or for worse) true account of our trip to this magical country. You can expect to hear more from me on this soon.

9. Write a book. I’ve started to write the entire story of my journey through Europe. I believe I have an important story to share, the most intimate details of which I never openly discussed on this website. Side note: As a previous non-writer, I’m learning that writing a book is a sonofabitch.

10. Design and develop a physical product. Although I’m perpetually coming up with ideas daily, there’s one idea in particular sticking with me. As I pursue this, I will share more.

11. Generate enough money to fund my ideal lifestyle. Yep, this is a big one. I can’t do any of the above if I don’t have enough money to live comfortably. And hopefully all of the above will contribute to this goal.

If you made it through this beast of a post, Thank You! You’re the best. And as always, thanks for joining me on this journey.

Do you have any questions for me? Is there anything you’re stuck on and need help with? Is there anything you wish I would write about? Please email me if so:

This is Part 5 of a 5-part piece called Thoughts on Coming Home.

Part 1. Was That Life? Very Well, Once More!Initial thoughts on coming home after a 6+ month wander.
Part 2. Reverse Culture ShockFirst impressions on being back in these United States.
Part 3. These Things Traveling TaughtThe most important lessons I learned on the road.
Part 4. Art, Creation, and Getting Naked: How writing and creating art changed my life.
Part 5. The Journey Continues: 
What’s next for me? And for this website, blog, and email newsletter?

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