October 25, 2009

A New Space

After three weeks of waiting and working, I will be sleeping in my new apartment tonight. This experience has taught me a lot of things that I needed to learn: patience, flexibility, optimism and lightheartedness. Coming to Mongolia over a year ago I was much better at all four of those things, however, over the course of that year here I got more and more comfortable and set in my ways. I liked my apartment, I liked my life and I was beginning to get attached to things in a way that was making my experiences with them more expectation-based and less appreciation-based. It’s the difference between getting a brand new computer and getting tired of it, loving your new car and wanting a newer one; enjoying getting new stuff and having a bunch of stuff I "sort of" like. The stuff hadn’t changed, just me. I have wonderful things and am experiencing a wonderful life, but I just forget that. I am really grateful to have had this reminder, that what I really need is very little and what I have is more than enough. This goes for the things in my life, but especially it goes for the people. I want to make more space in my new apartment and in my schedule for the incredible people in my life.

October 20, 2009


I recently came across some very good articles and websites on minimalism and found them very motivating. Simplicity is about taking life down to its bare essentials and making sure we are spending our time (the only thing we ever truly have) on what we believe and love. Being in Peace Corps I have few belongings and commitments, yet still I have far too many. I want to live a simple and meaningful life. It's nice to have some inspiration and help along the way.

October 18, 2009

10 Questions & 15 Facts

I am always behind on typical societal trends. Exhibit A: I just watched Slumdog Millionaire and am listening to Jai Ho for the 17th time (singing the chorus as "Dalai Lam" at Tunga's suggestion which I think was genius). Exhibit B: I have finally written my "15 Things You Might Not Know About Me" thing 5+ months late. I did listen to your encouragement (Michelle, Jenn, Leslie, Nathan, Chase, Matt and Anna) but I wanted to make it more intense. I'm pretty predictable in that way, I will make things more intense and "productive" if I think I can. I may take a long time (5 months and counting) to do this sometimes. So here it is, with 10 Questions from Brian Johnson's great Big Idea newsletter and 15 Random Facts interspersed between...
  1. If you were absolutely guaranteed to succeed, what would you dare to do? I would build the Advance Humanity Foundation dedicated to making our world a better place and convince incredible people to be on the Board of Directors. I will also meet the Dalai Lama.
  2. Random Childhood Fact: My dad wanted to name me Gauge and my mom wanted to name me Travis. How different would I have been if my name was Gauge? I like Travis, but I think being named Gauge would have been insanely awesome. You can call me Gauge if you want to.
  3. Random Big Goal: I have been wanting the address AdvanceHumanity.com for a long time and finally got it in 2009 after talking with the owner for years. I still have TravisHellstrom.com but will start using that for only my personal stuff soon. Advance Humanity is way bigger than me.
  4. What are you most passionate about? I love the idea of helping to create a peaceful world.
  5. Random Childhood Fact: I have always wanted to either be an Astronaut, President of the United States, or Secretary General of the United Nations. Those are in alphabetical order, I still can't decide.
  6. Random Regret: When I was in 1st Grade, I won a drawing competition for the local EMS service because I drew a picture of a emergency medicine helicopter flying into a sunset over our city. I thought I would get the picture back, but I didn't I just got a plaque and ribbon. I've always wanted that picture back.
  7. What are your greatest strengths? I am very optimistic, focus on the good in people, always focus on changing myself before expecting change outside myself, enjoy organizing things, public speaking and keeping up with people over long periods of time.
  8. Random Current Fact: I've never been the tallest and whitest person in a province of over 50,000 people. It's a lot of pressure. I try to smile a lot, say "hello" to everyone, play basketball like a fiend and give lots of hugs. I think that's helping.
  9. How White Am I?: On the current list of Stuff White People Like I like 67 out of 129 the things listed. (Most notably Apple products, Barack Obama, awareness, not having a tv, Asian girls, Wes Anderson movies, dogs, Juno, the Daily Show/Colbert Report, study abroad and hating on corporations)
  10. How can you get paid doing what you love? I plan to get involved with international organizations dedicated to world peace like the United Nations and Peace Corps. I would also like to work on behalf of the Advance Humanity Foundation.
  11. Random Love: I love lists and goals, a lot. Maybe too much? I'm not sure.
  12. Random Vice: I bite my fingernails, like bad. I have done it for as long as I can remember and have been trying to stop forever. I haven't been able to stop yet.
  13. When (In what circumstances? Around what people?) Do you feel most alive? Whenever I read the words of people who inspire me (Barack Obama, Buddha, Dalai Lama, Emerson, Jesus, Gandhi, Thoreau...), when I spend time around incredible people who I admire (Amy, Alex, Chase, Jessica, Jonathan, Michael, Shaw, Taylor, Tunga...), when I am involved in an incredible idea and whenever I am able to pull back from my ego and see the world of possibilities around me.
  14. Random Fact: My favorite car was my first one, a Jeep Cherokee stick-shift which left my life too early because of internal problems. I want that freakin' thing back.
  15. My Favorite Show: And in my opinion the best show ever made by a human being, is LOST. I want to be like John Locke. I think he's the man. In addition to Barack Obama. And the Dalai Lama.
  16. What were your 5 greatest accomplishments over the last 5 years? Starting Circle K at Campbell ('04), being an RA in Lynch House ('06), joining the Peace Corps ('08), getting into the best shape of my life ('09) and dating Tunga ('09).
  17. Your 5 greatest accomplishments over the next 5 years? The next 25 years? Being an outstanding Peace Corps Volunteer and Peace Corps Volunteer Leader, working for the WHO and United Nations, establishing the Advance Humanity Foundation, earning a graduate degree, becoming a husband, becoming a father, becoming enlightened, and becoming a nominee for the Nobel Prize.
  18. Random Scar: When I was a few months old I had my head cut open to stop my plates from fusing together. I have a scar that runs over a foot from my forehead to the back of my head. It's not too uncommon for kids. My surgeon had the same surgery when he was a kid.
  19. How White Am I?: In the Song White & Nerdy by Weird Al, I match 22 out of 47 things referenced. (Most notably I've got Stephen Hawking in my library, will ace any trivia quiz you bring on, I edit Wikipedia, memorized holy grail really well I can recite it right now and have you ROTFLOL, I love doing websites, and I'm nerdy in the extreme...whiter than sour cream.)
  20. How can you best share your gifts with the world? I would like to work with my fellow American citizens to engage in international politics and bring us together as a stronger and more peaceful world. I think this can involve development projects and education initiatives both at home and abroad. More than anything else, however, I think I need to become an enlightened person and become everything inside myself that I hope to see outside in our world.
  21. Random Vacation: I have always wanted to visit northwestern America: Washington, Oregon and northern California.
  22. Random Number: I love the number 12 and use it all the time, whenever I can.
  23. What would you do if you weren’t afraid? I would appreciate what I had and not want for more. I would free my mind from hatred and worry, live simply, love more, expect less and give freely.
  24. Random Plan: I hope to hike on the Appalachian Trail with Tunga and my mom for a while late next summer.
  25. What other questions should you be asking yourself?!? What more could I do today to get where I want to be?

You Too Can Become Great

Great men and women, people who have made a difference in our world and did everything they could to make it a better place, had a knack for not getting distracted by little things. Buddha, Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Lama, Barack Obama all watched less television, movies and celebrity gossip than the average person. They dedicated their lives to spiritual awakening, loving kindness, non-violence, human rights, world peace and hope for our future. Those things take time and energy and they were wiling to give it. I call these people inspirations because when I think about them and what they have done for me and my world, I can’t just sit and do nothing. Their examples get me off the couch, make my mind race with possibilities, and most of all show us that we too can become great.

October 9, 2009

Nobel Laureate Barack Obama

Barack Obama was just yesterday awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. Unlike the other Nobel Prizes, recognizing completed scientific or literary accomplishments, the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to people and organizations that are in the process of resolving conflict or creating peace. Throughout its 108 year history the Nobel Committee has said that is has, "sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman. [We] endorse Obama's appeal that 'Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.' "

Barack Obama has been recognized for creating a new climate in international politics, emphasizing the role of the United Nations, dialogue, negotiation, and the vision of a world free from nuclear arms. "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," said the Committee, "His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population."

In response Barack has said, "To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize... But I also know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes."

"I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations. And that's why this award must be shared with everyone who strives for justice and dignity... all those men and women across the world who sacrifice their safety and their freedom and sometime their lives for the cause of peace. That has always been the cause of America. That's why the world has always looked to America. And that's why I believe America will continue to lead."

Thank you very much, Mr. President, for representing our country, our people, and me. I have been very proud of you for a long time, for who you are and for what you represent, and I continue to be proud of you every day. There have always been and will always be doubts, of what can and can't be accomplished, and of what will and won't happen in our world. However, I will always be on the side that believes that we can achieve world peace and I will do everything I can to make it happen. "Some men see things as they are and say why," said Robert Kennedy, "I dream things that never were and say why not."

To read more visit (BBC, White House, Wikipedia, Nobel Release, Nobel Laureates)

October 6, 2009

United Nations Response

We have been working on a fun project this past week here in Eastern Mongolia: two weeks ago the Secretary General of the United Nations made a challenge to the global community to make videos on YouTube to tell world leaders what we think can be done to make our world a better and safer place. After lots of thought and discussion with fellow Volunteers we thought one good suggestion might be to create an international network of programs similar to the Peace Corps, dedicated to world peace and friendship.

We posted our video, "Peace by Peace" and hope that it might be helpful and start some good discussion. I would love to read your comments on the video and I hope you like the idea!