September 26, 2007


When you serve your mother and father it is okay to try to correct them once in a while. But if you see that they are not going to listen to you, keep your respect for them and don't distance yourself from them. Work without complaining.

It’s been hard knowing how to be with my mom and dad as they have gone through their divorce. With my dad it has been like growing up and becoming an adult, seeing things from his perspective and offering advice when I was asked to or felt it was applicable. This was new and difficult sometimes, but I figured it out pretty quickly. In a lot of ways I think that’s because he and I are so similar in our personalities. However, with my mom that hasn’t been exactly the case. We have always been different, but it has often been very helpful for me. She is the spontaneous, carefree, moment to moment and loving kind of person that I often have a hard time being myself. I am loving, but in a consistent and thoughtful kind of way, not spur of the moment or feelings-based sort of way, if that makes any sense. I am also a planner, a decider and a days-ahead sort of thinker. So, that has always been a challenge for us. Yet, we have still always remained very close until recently. For about a year and a half my mom has felt like we haven’t been that close, and we haven’t been. I think, looking back, it’s because I expected our relationship to change like mine had with my dad. But after talking with her for a while I understand now that that isn’t what she wants at the moment. I am her son and she is my mother and that is as far as she feels we should go right now. I understand that. It might remain that way for quite some time, or it might not, I’m not sure. But I think I distanced myself from my mom because I expected things to change and I think it will be better to stay the same with her regardless of outside influences and situational changes. It’s not ignoring reality, but instead choosing how I want to respond to it. At the moment I would like to keep my respect for my mom and for my dad and work together with both of them lovingly.

September 20, 2007

Highly, Highly Unusual

In July I received an invitation to serve in the Peace Corps in Turkmenistan, leaving in October of 2007. It was tempting, especially considering that the next invitation to Peace Corps would probably be sometime in 2008, but after several days of thinking it over and discussing it with my friends, family, and other Peace Corps volunteers I decided it was not the kind of experience I was looking for. There are a lot of reasons, including misunderstandings regarding how the invitation process worked, but as I called my Placement Officer Yung-Mei to decline I knew it was the right thing to do. I wrote her an e-mail explaining my reasons and then I didn’t hear anything from Peace Corps for two months.

Then, this past Thursday night I received an e-mail from Peace Corps:

Dear Travis,

My name is Patrick and I am the Placement Officer currently reviewing your application materials now that Yung-Mei has assumed other responsibilities within our office. I’ve reviewed your application and I have read your past emails to Yung-Mei.

It is highly, highly unusual for our office to extend a third invitation to an applicant. That said, in reviewing your explanations for declining the first two invitations, and with a good word from Yung-Mei, I am willing to consider you for one more assignment. I have transferred your application into consideration for a health extension assignment departing for Asia/Central Asia in early June. The delay won’t affect either your medical or dental clearances.

Although your file is currently “clear” in every way (legal, medical, etc.), we don’t begin issuing invitations to the June programs until mid-November so please keep us updated if your contact information changes. If not, then you can expect an invitation at your Hickory address in November.


After pulling my heart out of my stomach and re-reading the words “highly, highly unusual” and “June” I started to appreciate where I was in the process. It’s true that the process to get into Peace Corps has taken longer than I anticipated and patience has been very important, but I think it’s also true that all of this waiting and thinking and preparing will be worth it. I am very excited about what’s coming next and about receiving my third invitation in mid-November. If I had to guess, I would say it’s for Mongolia and that would be fine by me. : )

September 9, 2007

What's Right

“What is moral is what you feel good after,
and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.”
– Ernest Hemingway

I don’t think this is too simple. I think this really hits the spot. Sometimes I kid myself and think I feel bad because of other people, but usually after a while I can’t kid myself anymore. I know something is wrong, maybe not right at first but soon after. I sit back and hope that I don’t make the same mistake again, regardless of my immediate emotions, and sometimes I succeed. It isn’t easy or simple when it comes down to it. I think living right is a moment to moment challenge, but definitely one we can handle if we're honest with ourselves.

“When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad.
That’s my religion.” – Abraham Lincoln

September 5, 2007

iPod touch

Hold the presses! Okay, use the presses! Press the presses! It appears that Apple has amazed me yet again, and most likely the rest of America, with the iPod touch. For all the Mac users out there that have wanted a Pocket PC, but didn't want to fork over the dough for an iPhone, comes the iPod touch. Did I mention that I love Pocket PC's?

The iPod touch holds 8GB ($300) or 16GB ($400) compared to the iPod classic which can hold 80GB ($250) or 160GB ($350), but it offers the ability to...touch it, and therefore revolutionizes not only the feel of the iPod but also the features. You can access and edit information in your music, contacts, calendar and more, surf the internet, and even download songs from the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store. Apple, you're crazy, but we love you. I think you might be in the running for the seventh-ever Travis Hellstrom Inner Peace Award.

September 2, 2007

For Your Country

This week's headline article for TIME is The Case for National Service and for the most part I really enjoyed it. TIME calls for our next President (hopefully Barack Obama, in my opinion) to encourage our nation's citizens to be involved in service to our nation and to our world. "Devoting a year or more to national service," says the article, "whether military or civilian, should become a countrywide rite of passage, the common expectation and widespread experience of virtually every young American." The article does a good job of collecting thoughts on creating a Department of National Service and even a U.S. Public Service Academy, the later also suggested by Hillary Clinton and others. I couldn't agree more that Americans of all ages should give two years of service to their community, whether they consider it their world community or neighborhood community. You can serve in schools through Teach for America, in local communities building houses through AmeriCorps, or in grass huts through Peace Corps. All are paid for and only require your time and your effort.

The one suggestion I have for TIME is that it should have mentioned Peace Corps more clearly in the article. I wrote the following letter to the editor to explain:

I was thrilled to see your headline article this week was National Service, but I was very disappointed to see that Peace Corps only received a sentence and a John F. Kennedy picture on the first page. Over 187,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have answered the call since 1962 not only to "ask what you can do for your country" but to "ask what together we can do for the freedom of man." Next time please give Peace Corps more than a mention. It is currently the fifth "most ideal employer" for college graduates and there is a reason why.

Thank You,
Travis Hellstrom
Peace Corps Invitee
Hickory, NC

Whether or not it is published, I hope the magazine sees my point. I appreciate what they are doing and I think a lot of wonderful organizations are helping our country and our world in great ways. I am proud to be taking part in one of our country's proudest moments, I think, and I hope it remains a moment we live in for a very long time.