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10:31 am

Aqaba, Jordan

This morning I woke up and briefly mulled over taking my cab driver Hamdan's offer to drive me to Wadi Rum, a desert of mountains roughly 30 minutes away. He had a familiar quality about him and seemed to know virtually everything about this small port city. “Here is my card. Call me. I take you to Wadi Rum. I give you good price,” he said and then proceeded to hand me a brochure. “Wow, you have everything,” I chimed in. “Of course, I been a cab driver for 15 years. What do you think?” he schooled me. I then wondered if going to the desert was such a good idea when it was 107 degrees near the water.

I walked the streets of Aqaba on three different occasions and took as many showers upon each drenched return. Almost nothing was open. It felt a bit like the American Rustbelt, a town now forgotten that had seen all of its jobs and stability shipped to some happier place far, far away. I naively thought all was quiet because of the overbearing heat, but soon remembered it was still Ramadan. God takes precedence over the sun, I thought. At least in these parts.

The word I’ve been turning over in my head these past few days has been “ambition.” I’ve always thought myself to be so, but have redirected my consideration of its meaning. I suppose in the American vernacular we consider, “ambitious people,” those who have accumulated a great deal of money, possessions, or titles. Admittedly, I hold many of the same associations and even long for some of those very things.

Yet, now I questioned why the man on my bus to Petra who’d visited over 100 countries would not find his name on the same short list as the Elon Musks, or Richard Bransons of the world. Are there not different types of ambition? Is there not the ambition to see more? Experience more? Try more? Taste more? Live more?

Would any of the world’s richest CEO’s and founders trade their titles and summer homes to be less fearful, to know a little more about a lot, to be versed in in 5, maybe 6 languages, to return home after seeing the world now being able to briskly reprimand someone for conjecturing in a loud bar what Muslims believe, or Asians eat, or what the “third world” looks like? What wealth to be able to tell someone, “I know it so because I saw it so and you should too.” Isn’t that wealth as well? Isn’t this “ambition” also worth pursuing?

Today, I reflected on a piece of advice my friend Andy, 50, from London, England recently shared with me. “My father told me, you can’t quit anything until you’ve done if for at least 10 years.”

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