May 29, 2009

Think About The Box

Think outside about the box. That's what it said, the little piece of paper I picked up in the store. If I had to sum up everything I am thinking about in America, that would be it; it's the box.

It's the box that tells us success is achievable through some jobs but not through others, that happiness is comparable and purchasable, that celebrities are more valuable that everyone else, that doing is better than being, and that we have to have running water, electricity and bills.

Why don't we pursue happiness in all of our jobs regardless of how "prestigious" that job may appear? Why aren't we happy with what we have, not what we will have or when we have what someone else has? Why don't we turn off the news, movies and shows forever and start making our own lives so incredible that it makes all those things look silly? Why can't we just be happy with sitting in silence, with ourselves and others? Why must we always have something to do, somewhere to go, something to play, or else we get bored? Why have we forgotten that in almost all of the countries of the world, people live every day with no running water, no electricity and no bills? Why do we pity these people when we should pity ourselves?

There are people in the world who love their jobs, love what they have, don't want, don't covet, don't follow the media, live incredible lives, are never bored, love silence, can be with others and be alone and love them both, can do something or nothing and be content, and live every day fetching just enough water to live, use solar or self-powered utilities and don't have possessions that require any bills at all.

We shouldn't pity these people because if paradise is an idyllic place or state, they are living in it everyday. We have been inside the box so long we forgot what we have always wanted.

May 25, 2009

Slowing Down

I am in the habit of only putting up blog posts that are press release style, with a positive spin and a lesson learned. This is mostly how I live my life, especially when I’m in the zone. But I’m not always in the zone, sometimes life comes at me faster than I can take it and it feels like I barely have time to breathe. That’s hard for me right now, especially after being in Mongolia for a year. There I can breathe, look around, smile and then breathe some more.

I tried to hit the ground running here in America, with a full itinerary (maybe busting at the seams, as Carrie so eloquently put it) and a lot of people I wanted to visit with and hug. I tried not to fill my schedule with too much, just a few highlights. But even so it has still felt like a lot to me. I still can’t tell if that means I need to step it up and get better at doing more things in a day or slow it down and just take on less each day. In Mongolia I do very few things each day and I am able to put a lot of focus and care into each of them. Things are grouped into hours usually, an hour for lunch here, an hour for class there, an hour for a meeting, an hour for working out and so on. This makes it easy to keep track of things and makes for a very relaxed lifestyle. If the length of our lives were all equal in the number of heartbeats, I think Mongolians would live longer because their hearts have calmer, slowly beats on a regular basis. We live fast in America that’s for sure, but I think that increased heart rate of ours might cost us in the end. I feel like it’s just all a bit too much too fast.

Henry David Thoreau said, “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumbnail.” I think I agree with him.

May 23, 2009


My most wonderful sister in the world gets married in just a few hours and I could not be happier or more excited for her. She and her new husband (my new brother) Chess have been waiting for this day for a very long time and I am very glad to be here experiencing it with both of them. It is an occasion that has brought together everyone in our family, from grandparents to distant uncles, aunts and cousins, as well as friends that have been with us since kindergarten. We have all grown a lot since then, especially my sister who has grown from a sweet wonderful girl into a sweet wonderful woman. I'm sure a lot of thoughts will be going through the minds of everyone during the wedding tomorrow morning, but I think I can say with confidence what will be going through mine. As I stand next to our brother and fellow groomsman Elias, watching my sister and Chess join their hands in marriage, I will be about thinking this: how much I love her, how much I support her and how much I hope she will always be happy.

May 22, 2009

Hard to Explain

I haven’t had a lot of time to write down my thoughts during this trip home to America, even though I have probably had more complex thoughts in the last few weeks than I have had in the last several months; my year in Mongolia, the new ways I look at America, happiness, success, wealth, relationships, family, friends, home…I think about everything differently. It has been nice to talk about everything with all of you who I have been lucky enough to see, really nice in fact, but it still feels like so much to sort out. All at once I am overwhelmed, elated, proud, disappointed, amused, saddened, afraid, appreciative, smiling, shaking my head, talking and yet wanting to say nothing at all. It’s confusing for me, and even harder to explain. It’s also not good or bad, it just is.

I suppose my point in writing this is just that I think we all go through significant experiences in our lives and they help us to better understand our place in the world. We find out who we are and what we believe in. I have learned so much in this last year, it just blows me away. I feel very fortunate and hope I make the best of all the lessons I have learned. Maybe someday very soon I will write them down as well as share them individually with each of you, about which I am very excited.

May 21, 2009

That Tall White Guy

In America I think it’s a little harder for me to know who I am. In Mongolia it’s a little easier; for one, I am one of maybe 30 tall, white, American guys in a population of 3,000,000 people. I am also the only person named Travis in the country, so far as I know. Here in America I smile at people, ask how they are, tell them thank you and that I hope they have a great day yet they still may never know who I am. In Mongolia people say the name “Travis” and people I have never met know who I am. I am that guy.

It’s not good or bad though, it's just different. I am more than my name, tallness, whiteness, Americanness or guyness. Sharing kindness, appreciation and love is more important than me and definitely just as important here in America as it is in Mongolia. Whether or not people know me, I hope that they are able to experience those things through me. I bet if I wore a clown suit here in America I would get the same looks that I get in Mongolia. Also people would definitely remember me. I would be that guy… -insert amazed stare- Yeah, that’s the one.

May 20, 2009


I hadn't thought about it until recently, but pursuing something doesn't always mean there is an end in sight. When I hear the word "pursuit" I automatically think of cops and robbers, or hunters and animals. You capture someone or something at the end. That's not the only kind of pursuit however. What about the pursuit of medicine or pursuing excellence? You do this more daily, never ending. You pursue medicine by practicing it and you pursue excellence by practicing it. This is a very important thing to note, especially when you consider our Founding Fathers' groundbreaking statement in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The pursuit of Happiness is daily, never ending. You pursue happiness by practicing it too. Every day, every moment, we have the opportunity to be happy. Make it a continual habit, a practice, and enjoy it.

May 18, 2009

The Now

Tunga is teaching me a tremendous amount about impermanence and change, and consequently appreciating and living in the now. Nowhere is this more true than when our hospital asks her to take trips to the countryside or surrounding provinces on little to no notice. This is standard in Mongolia, to receive a call thirty minutes ahead of time to pack your bags because you are going on a trip, but it is still a little bit of a shock to me. It's very rare to know even a day in advance about a trip you'll be taking or even know how long the trip will take, so you just have to be ready, flexible and understanding.

In a relationship this means being ready to drop your plans and accept the fact that anything could happen at any time. This can be very refreshing, considering that I have lived much of my life in anticipation of future events or in reflection upon past events. It forces me to stay right where I am. I appreciate the hug I am experiencing, the presence of the person I am with, the fun I am having at that moment and the appreciation I have of someone being just who they are. I don't worry about how I will miss their hugs when they are gone, or about how long they have before they have to go, or

May 17, 2009


I'm learning a tremendous amount of lessons from the people around me here in America. My friends and family have been very kind in listening to all of my crazy stories and life lessons from Mongolia and sharing their very insightful feedback with me. I feel like I have a lot to say and I really appreciate them giving me the time and space to say it. I am trying to keep track of the best ideas so that I can write them down and share them with more people, but until then I am having a lot of fun just talking about them and figuring them out with all of you. Thank you all very much for your kindness and openmindedness, it has been very comforting and very helpful.

May 8, 2009


I’m trying very hard to stay present and appreciative of the moment, though things are moving quickly. I feel very lucky to be seeing so many people that I love one after another. I just hope that I am showing them how much I appreciate them and how much I love them each moment that we are together. So far I have mostly been with my family and close friends, but now I am attending Campbell’s spring graduation where I will see lots and lots of people that I haven’t seen in a very long time. I’m very excited and thankful for the opportunity to visit with everyone.

May 4, 2009

So You Are Happy?

I haven't been in America more than two days, but it feels like I have been here for a week. It's crazy! Things move so fast here and there is just so much going on. Everything in the media is like an action movie: commercials, television shows, radio, whatever. BAM! BOOM! YEAH! AWESOME! BUY IT! NOW! YOU'LL BE HAPPY! HI YAH!

I'll tell you what I think, life is far more interesting than the drama. Life is far more satisfying in small ways than big and a life filled with love and simplicity is way better than anything on a screen.

Alex, my wonderful Peace Corps sitemate (we live together in the same city) in Mongolia, caught me on Google Chat this morning and asked how I was. I said I was doing good and then she said, "So you are happy?" I thought to myself, yeah, well, I think so, right? Hahaha The fact is in Mongolia it's easier to answer that question day to day. Life is simple and it's much easier to keep track of the fact you are happy. Plus no one tells you that you aren't happy or that you could be happier (like the media?), which helps a lot. I smiled and said back to her, "That's a really good question Alex." Probably the most important question I have heard in a long time. I think the more I ask that of myself and everyone around me everyday, the better off we all will be.

May 2, 2009

Freak Out List

I anticipated being freaked out in America and started a list a while back of things that I thought would do it, but I am surprised at how many of the things that are getting to me are really small. It’s more societal, systemic. Speed. Seriousness. Work. Cleanliness.

It’s going to be a mentally complicated trip for me. I am trying to take it in stride and stay focused, but it’s pretty intense. Things freaking me out so far: People Talking Schedules Unimportant Words Appearances over Content Media Massive Amounts of Disposable Stuff Quality Disposable Stuff Worries about American Politics/Economy My Head Feeling Full After A Two Hour Conversation with An American Understanding Everyone’s Conversations Americans Talking Really Fast International Airports Wanting Me To Pay for Wireless Wanting to Speak Mongolian a Lot Beautiful Bathrooms Pizza Hut Pizza So Many White People So Many People Made Up All Pretty People Too Busy To Smile Back People Not Enjoying Work Free Toilet Paper Sinks with Soap and Paper Towels Punctuality Shrimp and Fruit Smoothies at Pizza Hut (Ate Here Twice) Americans Only Knowing How To Speaking English Americans Doing The Same Disrespectful Ignorant Stuff People Have Done To Me Like Silly Sign Language and Talking Louder Instead of Slower, Sigh, I Will Never Do That Obesity How Important Smiles Are Getting Tired of Talking Getting Tired of Listening How Much I Enjoy Silence Starbucks Still Being Way Expensive People Sitting Alone Serious Employees A Life Is Good Store Little Privacy Lots of People Catchy Business Logos and Phrases Blonde Haired People Listening to “A Long Way Home” The Fact That It’s Only Been 24 Hours “Yanaa” (Wow in Mongolian)