January 27, 2007

Moo Cards

If there weren't already enough reasons to love Flickr, there is now at least one more. Moo MiniCards have caught my eye and also taken a little bit of my money. They are like business cards, but have the added awesomeness of being pictures on one side (the side that would usually be blank on a business card) and regular, cool, business-style stuff on the other. I am going to try them out, to share with friends and family (especially when sending out invitations to graduation on May 14th) and I think they will be a hit. It's worth a shot anyway, that's for sure. Don't they just look awesome?

Taken from Flickr

January 24, 2007

Motivation Statement

Service to others has been an important part of my life for a long time now. In high school, I chaired youth councils, led a Boy Scout troop and created service projects including a $3,000 amphitheater affecting hundreds of people. In college, I co-founded the largest service club on campus, volunteered hundreds of hours to my community and created even larger service projects; these affecting thousands of people. Bigger meant better. If I could positively impact dozens of people, I would go for hundreds, and if hundreds, I would go for thousands. However, when I went to Costa Rica a lot of things changed. I saw the interaction of people in small communities and they helped me understand, for the first time, that I had been obsessed with quantity over quality. I had always thought bigger meant better, but after seeing wonderful people in the small families around me, I realized I had a lot to learn. Better, I found, was helping people, person by person, one by one.

Maybe it’s because I’m young and feel so powerful, but I have always struggled with a saying by Confucius that to change the world we must first change ourselves, then our families, then our communities, then our countries and then eventually the world. I have always felt a strong urge to skip ahead and try to make change at the highest level possible. When I arrived in Costa Rica I wanted to tell other people how to change, how to become happier and how to be more successful. However, what I found was, as many Peace Corps volunteers have said, I had a lot to learn myself. My new family and friends in Costa Rica taught me what it takes to make them happy and their examples were very different from the world view that I brought into their country. Because of that experience, I was able to bring quite a different world view back when I came home.

I want to serve others, as I have wanted to for a long time, and I think loving other people is one of the greatest ways to serve them. I have built many things, founded many organizations and held many titles, but now I would like to build relationships with people, one by one, and cherish the many close relationships I already have. I would like to create a solid foundation for myself emphasizing compassion and service to others, and I would like to hold the title of Peace Corps Volunteer as I try to do both of these things. Visiting with Peace Corps Volunteers in Costa Rica, talking with so many people who have been positively affected by Peace Corps, and living with new friends and family in Costa Rica transformed me in incredible ways. I can only imagine what two years in the Peace Corps will do.

Cross Cultural Experience

When I arrived in Costa Rica this summer my host family picked me up from the airport and drove me to their house in Alajuela. As we passed through the city square, I listened. I listened to my family explain the history of the city's buildings, I listened to the sounds of the people in the street and I listened to my own thoughts, converting Spanish to English as fast as I could. I talked, but barely; there was just too much to take in all at once. As we drove into the country, I watched. We zoomed around curves without lines of any sort and beside cliffs without any railing. There were dogs in the street, houses arms reach from one another, people walking inches from cars on the road, and no speed limit signs or police to enforce them even if there were. It was almost too much for me to handle. If only this place were more like America, I thought, everything would be so much better.

Two months and dozens of incredible stories later, my family and I were zooming around the curves of the mountains once more. After spending months with my new family and friends, sounds had become words and English had become as much a memory as the need for railings on the cliffs that we drove along each day. The dogs in the street became friends I would look forward to visiting, and I, myself, became one of those people walking inches from the cars on the road as I made my way to volunteer at the National Children’s Hospital in the mornings. At last my family arrived at the airport once more, but this time they were dropping someone off. It was almost too much for me to handle. As we cried together, I realized how much I had learned from them and everyone and how much I would miss them all. If only America were more like this, I thought, everything would be so much better.

I would say my world turned upside down when I got home from Costa Rica, but it's probably better to say I just started really seeing it for the first time. Even six months after returning, I am still trying to make sense of the differences in values and the differences in myself. I tried to explain this disconnect to my friend Zoe and she said me: “Some people just get it. They have traveled the world and seen what life is like for other people. They have seen need, difference and culture in a new way and when they come back, especially from a non-industrialized nation, they come back different. They get it.” By saying this she had described in moments the exact feeling I had been trying to put into words for months. It won’t be easy, but that is the kind of person I want to be. I want to get it, and I think I’m beginning to.

January 21, 2007

The Rose

The first day of school our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn't already know. I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder. I turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.

She said, "Hi handsome. My name is Rose. I'm eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?"

I laughed and enthusiastically responded, "Of course you may!" and she gave me a giant squeeze.

"Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?" I asked.

She jokingly replied, "I'm here to meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids..."

"No seriously," I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.

"I always dreamed of having a college education and now I'm getting one!" she told me.

After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake. We became instant friends. Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this "time machine" as she shared her wisdom and experience with me.

Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up. At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I'll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium. As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor. Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said, "I'm sorry I'm so jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I'll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know." As we laughed she cleared her throat and began, "We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing. There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success. You have to laugh and find humor every day. You've got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die. We have so many people walking around who are dead and don't even know it! There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up. If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don't do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight. Anybody can grow older. That doesn't take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding opportunity in change. Have no regrets. The elderly usually don't have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets." She concluded her speech by courageously singing "The Rose."

She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives. At the year's end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago. One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep. Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it's never too late to be all you can possibly be.

- Thank you to Josh Kimball who shared this story with me


I am learning that permanence is an illusion. When I began college I did not understand this and I certainly didn’t believe it. When I created an amphitheater, a service club, relationships and projects I imagined them lasting forever. Realistically, however, what I am doing is creating constructs that will last for a finite period of time.

I think I am learning from experience that the only things that last are relationships and ideas. You can share with others through these both, giving love, knowledge and experience. Family, friends, our communities, our regions, our states, our countries and our world will go on after us and to help these things to go on in the best way possible I think we can offer ourselves as sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends, neighbors, citizens and volunteers in service to others.

I do not believe our world will last forever, but instead that we have a choice to make about how we want to interact with it while it is here. We can take care of the planet and act responsibly toward our impact on it or we can ignore it and act irresponsibly, narrowly escaping self-destruction or being engulfed in it all together. Likewise we can take care of each other and act respectfully toward each other or we can ignore our possibilities and hate, fight and kill each other until the end.

To believe this world will exist as it is or better regardless of what we do is, in my opinion, irresponsible, ignorant and crazy. We will decide our collective destiny and we can either ignore that or act. Either way, we are making a decision.


Peta bothers me. The videos they show are horrible, the change they request is large and the evidence they use is powerful. Every person is making a difference, whether they are eating animal products or not. 100 animals are not killed every year for every 1 human that is a vegetarian, they quote on their website. And for every reason a person might not become a vegetarian, they have answers. Peta bothers me not because anything they do is wrong, but because what I think I am doing is wrong. I am going throughout my day not thinking about my impact on the world around me. I am claiming ignorance, or wanting to, while at the same time knowing there are videos a few clicks away which can show me the true darkness of my ignorance. I used to turn off videos on the Peta website because I couldn't handle watching them, but I don't think that's good enough any more. I think I want to change my way of living to reflect what is important to me. I don't want to be ignorant any more.

January 16, 2007

Who Am I?

Who Am I? (Or, How I Stand Behind Myself)
By: Travis Hellstrom Age 13 for Period 5 English

In writing an autobiography I thought I should talk about my neighborhood, friends, and my family. Hopefully I can keep it in that order. My neighborhood is known as Police Foundation, but we still don’t know why it’s called that. When you come into the neighborhood on a road named Circle Drive, the Police Foundation Park is just on your left. The park has a big, clear blue pond right in the middle and beautifully tall trees all around it. I think that the park is a very nice, clean and peaceful place to go. The park was also my bus stop for my 7th grade year at Central Jr. High. My house was half a mile away and the farthest away for the bus stop. It was always a long walk home after school, but a very quiet one I must say. There was no one I could talk to on my way home from the bus stop and it was a boring trip home because of that. When I would walk home I would usually think about what I would do later. Which was usually....doing my homework. Although I couldn’t complain about my homework in the past, because it was never very hard or extensive. I always had time to do other things I like to do such as Nintendo 64, talking on the phone with my friends and lifting weights (which I have just recently started).

I always enjoy doing things with my friends. I never really consider how lucky I am to have the friends I have, because they are all wonderful to me and I would do anything for them. The saying “It’s hard to find good friends,” is a very, very true saying. A lot of my friends have been with me all my life and have always stood by me and helped me through tough times, even though they might not know it. Just to know you have someone behind you helps you stay up with a clear focus on everything around you. Although, to have friends that stand behind me, I must also be able to stand behind my friends and myself. In standing behind my friends I must never forget to stand behind my family, because all of my 13 years of values have been learned through my family and I will be continuing to learn for the rest of my life. For one day I will be that person that teaches their children about values and all that is important. I will be teaching my hardest then.

Who Am I?

Who am I? Am I meant to go through high school from age 14 to 18, college from 18 to 22, Peace Corps from 22 to 24, a masters program from 24 to 26, a graduate school from 26 to 30, a fellowship from 30 to 32, developing a professional career from 32 to 36, gaining experience in the field from 36 to 46, offering leadership and management from 46 to 56, mentoring from 56 to 66 and teaching maybe from 66 to 86 with Peace Corps and other leadership positions? First, what’s with all the sixes? Second, am I thinking about things a bit too much? The only answer I’m really sure of is the last one, which probably is yes.

In college most people define themselves; we find out what we are not, what we are, what we stand for and what we believe in. Or at least, as is especially the case with me, we find out a little bit about each of those things. I am not sure who I am or who I am going to be, but I think it has a lot more to do with smiles, friends, adventures and love than it has to do with days, numbers, years or titles. I hope I live in a way that makes me an incredible and wonderful person regardless of my age, occupation or status. I don’t imagine that will ever change.

January 15, 2007

Truth and Einstein

I believe in truth. I believe truth is accessible to anyone. I believe powerful ways of understanding truth include traditional education through scholarly learning, personal experience and the wisdom drawn from that experience, the recognition and appreciation of synchronicity in my daily life and the mindful meditative reflection that I can engage in at any time by only quietening my mind and listening below all of the other clutter that fills up within it throughout the day. I believe it is also important to recognize truth may come in forms that I would never predict and that to be humble I must constantly admit that I could be wrong in my thinking.

I do not believe any religion has a monopoly on truth. I have studied a limited amount of Christianity, Buddhism, Atheism (and the moralistic humanism that often accompanies it), Agnosticism and Eckankarism and believe they have a great deal in common. I believe religion exists to answer deep questions about meaning, purpose and proper behavior. It uses hope, faith and optimism to help people move through seemingly insurmountable challenges and it helps us treat other people with compassion when we might otherwise forget that that is the best course of action in the long run.

I do not believe science has a monopoly on truth. I have studied science throughout my life and dedicated my undergraduate education to the understanding of biology (interestingly, itself the study of life). I believe science exists to answer deep questions about process, origins, existence and the universe of which we are a part. It uses observation, critical analysis and scepticism to help people explain seemingly incomprehensible challenges and reminds us that, regardless of the temptation, it is better to understand something as it really is rather than hope that it is something it is not.

I agree with Albert Einstein when he says that “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.” In my mind, they are to be used together, not in opposition, as a means of understanding truth in our world.

The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as all serious endeavour in art and science. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all that there is...A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death. More available at www.einsteinandreligion.com

January 14, 2007

Virtual Insanity

One of my favorite videos ever is Virtual Insanity by Jamiroquai. The video itself is crazy (off the wall, if you will) but it fits the lyrics well and I love the lyrics too. If I had to guess at the point of it all, I would say that if we get too wrapped up in the future and forget about what is truly important, what has always been important, we won't be going anywhere. We will feel like we are moving forward because the things around us are moving but, just like the ground in this video, we won't be moving at all.

January 11, 2007

In The Water

I am very impressed with M. Night Shyamalan and his vision for his films. Lady in the Water, which Chase, David, Pawan and I watched tonight, was an incredible movie. It has the bedtime story behind it which makes it comforting and frightening, just like the stories my dad told me when I was younger. It’s not easy to predict (which is a hallmark for M. Night Shyamalan) but instead it was gripping because I was right there when the characters were discovering things. It kept me on the edge of my seat, made me cry toward the end and left everyone touched in the story a different person by the end. Some characters found their purpose, some knew what would happen with their lives and some stepped up to become who they were meant to be; they had to.

I don’t think we are meant to know everything about our lives. In fact, as my dad asked me over the break, who would prefer a life that was already laid out for them? If we could design our own lives and we could write our own story, how would it go? If all of our suffering, our triumphs, our strengths and our disappointments were there for a reason, what reason would that be? And what kind of life would we then make for ourselves, knowing we were designing it? I don’t think it’s easy to answer these questions but it is important. I think we are designing our lives right now, whether we like it or not.

January 9, 2007


It has been hard for me to synthesize all of the experiences that have culminated here my senior year. This was the case for me in high school and it has been the case for me now in college too. As students and young adults I think we do so much, work so hard and have so many experiences that it is hard to sum them all up and then move on. Especially when it comes to resumes and applications for our next step, it seems like I don’t have the time to do it all.

When I watched the Florida Gators play tonight I got a similar feeling. Most of the seniors have been on the football team for four years now. They, the coaches and the fans have been there year after year as they have won, lost, grown and strengthened as a team. As the season came to a close some teams went to conference championships and some went to bowl games, but only two teams went on to the national championship. There was a lot of talk about who was the best, the most talented and the hardest working. People debated who earned the spot the most, who played the greatest games and who would win it all. They quoted records, percentages, ranks, point spreads, totals and all manner of statistics. But then it came down to it. Just like it is in my life, it came down to today and how I will perform now. Excuses, titles and experiences aside, when given a shot to stand out my hard work will either pay off or it won’t.

I like to think that my life will be filled with many experiences and my resume will be full by the end of it all, but I think synthesizing everything together is a lot more about enjoying life and playing hard than it is about winning. Ohio State and Florida both played hard tonight. I think they enjoyed the last game of their season and I think their hard work paid off. I’m proud to support the Florida Gators because they work hard every season and they always have, ever since I can remember saying “Go Gators!” as a little boy in Florida. They had a chance to stand out this season and I think their hard work paid off. They enjoyed the game, played hard and also happened to win the National Championship. Congratulations you Florida Gators you.

January 3, 2007

Denzel Washington

I don't know what I was thinking. Somewhere in my journal writing over the years, I could have sworn I gave an Inner-Peace-A-Gram to Denzel Washington. Actually, I even thought I inaugurated the Inner Peace Award by giving one to the man. To my dismay, however, I have realized Denzel Washington was never sent an Inner-Peace-A-Gram nor was he ever officially given an Inner Peace Award (though I did write like he did). It is time to correct this vast oversight.

Denzel Washington (also known as Denzel Flippin' Washington and Denzel Freakin' Washington when I'm really excited) is a two-time Academy Award-winning actor, a rising director and a recent author. He has acted in over thirty films including: Deja Vu, Inside Man, The Manchurian Candidate, Man on Fire, Out of Time, Antwone Fisher, John Q, Training Day, Remember the Titans, The Hurricane, The Bone Collector, The Siege, He Got Game, Fallen, The Preacher's Wife, Courage Under Fire, Devil in a Blue Dress, Virtuosity, Crimson Tide, Philadelphia, The Pelican Brief, Much Ado About Nothing, Malcolm X, Mississippi Masala, Ritochet, Mo' Better Blues, Heart Condition, Glory, For Queen and Country, The Mighty Quinn, Cry Freedom, A Soldier's Story and Carbon Copy. Although I have only seen those films italicized, I plan on seeing them all. With few exceptions, Denzel Washington always provides an incredible demonstration of acting ability in all of his movies and he is a joy to watch on screen. Not only that but, from what I have seen of him off screen, he seems to be an incredible man in his personal life as well.

For his incredible past accomplishments, it is my honor and privilege to send an official Travis Hellstrom Inner-Peace-A-Gram to Denzel Flippin' Washington and to award him an honorary Inner Peace Award. I have no doubt your future accomplishments will continue to astound me. Thanks for being awesome Denzel, keep up the good work.

January 1, 2007


After reading Goal-Free Living, I have been inspired to create themes for my months, and for the first time, for my years. Stephen Shapiro mentioned this in his book as a way of keeping oneself in focus and reminded of what we are going through in life and why. For me themes for past months have included Breathe and Warmth. These were reminders to me to relax when I knew the month ahead was going to be very busy and and also to be thoughtful about my interactions with others, especially those very close to me. After having found quite a bit of good experience with these two past months of themes, I am going with Discover as my theme for 2007.

To discover is to find, explore and accept new experiences. Whether in school, a career, relationships, travel, or personal thoughts, it is about finding things that were uncovered and about seeing things for the very first time. I can picture this happening in my personal life as well as my professional life during 2007; I will be graduating college at Campbell, serving overseas in the Peace Corps, further developing close relationships with many important people and finding out a great deal about myself. As I watched the 2007 New Year's ball drop over New York City's Times Square tonight, I thought about the Mark Twain quote and my theme:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

As the ball hit the bottom of its run at midnight the numbers light up like I have seen many times before. They flashed in yellow, outlined in red, and the crowd of hundreds of thousands below celebrated together. I smiled at the ball, the numbers, and the crowd, but mostly I smiled at something new I hadn't ever noticed before. In yellow, right below the 2007, it sat there in bold print: Discover. I smiled because I really saw it for the first time and I smile now because I intend to.