What I've Learned...so far

5:05 pm

Sarajevo, Bosnia

When I first set out to take this trip I told friends and family it was an opportunity for me to do a little soul-searching, and figure out the next chapter of my life now that I’d officially decided to pivot away from my pursuit of acting professionally. I planned and re-planned the trip more times than I care to remember, typing away each day on a neatly arranged travel itinerary on a Word Document. As the names of the countries glowed off my laptop during many late nights, it all felt a bit like a fantasy. Egypt, Israel, Morocco, Spain – the likelihood of visiting each place on one trip felt as far away as the countries themselves. It all seemed too ambitious.

Bus as the leaves of autumn faded away making way for a mild California winter, then all-too-brief spring, and finally the start of another very hot summer in Los Angeles, the journey finally took shape, fantasy giving way to reality. It was going to happen. Already I’d learned, if you want something in life you must at the very least begin.

Still, a bit of unease washed over me each time I’d share the details of my upcoming expedition. “A soul-searching world journey? Wow, must be nice to be able to that,” they’d likely say. I was globetrotting to figure out what most must simply conclude wherever they’re standing. My hopes began to feel prosaic, out of a movie almost. I prepped myself for the barrage of judgment and criticism.

But as they often do, people surprised me in the most wonderful ways. They were supportive beyond reason, wishing me well and hoping I'd find whatever it was I was looking for. Yet again, another valuable lesson, which reminded me of a famous Eleanor Roosevelt quote: “You wouldn’t worry so much what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”

Now, as I write from a quiet coffee shop just off Ferhadia Street, a bustling avenue full of shops, restaurants, and street performers, I reflect on the halfway point of my travels and what I’ve learned thus far. What wisdom has Jordan, Israel, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Bosnia imparted on me?

What is quite extraordinary is the clarity I sought is actually taking shape. I have proudly become a walking, talking, traveling cliché. I’ve thought long and hard about my strengths. I have come to grips with many of my failures, flaws, and shortcomings. I have discovered the arenas of my life where I have been dishonest, even bullshitted myself for years. I’ve even taken proud inventory of my achievements, while truly coming to appreciate my mortality.

But perhaps most importantly, I have given serious consideration to the type of man I still want to be and how I'd like to play out the remaining back nine. It has been excruciating, exhilarating, frustrating, eye-opening, maddening, rejuvenating, and glorious.

What’s been my secret sauce for stumbling upon these realizations? Hard, hard work. Months ago I pictured clarity striking me like a 2 x 4 across the forehead as I sauntered down Ben Gurion Avenue, or knelt in St. Mark’s Church. But this I assure you is not how it happened.

Working on yourself and the life you want to create requires tremendous effort. You must attack! Read interesting books, profiles, articles, and interviews with folks who have walked in your shoes. You must allow for solitude and free-flowing thought. You must make yourself available to the world and the people in each country you visit. You must be bold in your pursuit of meeting new people and listening to their stories. You must make a promise to yourself that you, under absolutely no circumstances, will budge an inch from the life you want to live, courageously shooing away the vague notions of living the life others might have in store for you, however well-intentioned they may be.

You must also commit yourself to forever raising your standards of being in every avenue of your life. Your job is then to figure out what exactly that all means and then take bold action. You must TRY. And if you do, you will soon discover however courageous you think you’ve been living each day, it is still far smaller a life than what you are capable of, even what you deserve.

Your life really is what you make of it. Excuses are trite and a tired way of deflecting life when it challenges you on the things you really want. One must not ever settle, live small, or take solace in the belief our time on this planet is infinite. Let these harsh realities propel you to live, live, live. This much I have learned.

My friend Karen, a 30-something mother from Hamburg, Germany shared this bit of advice: "Concerning your question, I have to admit, that I often doubt that I am a "good" mother because parenting is sooo mean. They really drive me crazy and sometimes I'm desperate...but my mum told me once: "I am probably not a perfect mother, but no one is...you are good the way you are... and if you or your kids once think you have made a mistake, don't forget: You did it the best way you can..." It helped a lot because sometimes you regret what you said or did...but in a certain situation you are not able to do it in another way. It doesn't mean you are totally bad;-) I don't know if it helps for your blog...but it is what concerns me every day...and what helps not to drown in self-doubt... with one kid I was the mother I wanted to be-but now with three I am not at all."

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