March 28, 2011

Getting Married

I am very excited to announce that Tunga and I will be getting married this summer in Mongolia. We have made a small website together saying a little more about us, the celebrations we are planning for this year and next year, a little about how you can help us and most importantly, a guestbook for you to sign so we can look forward to seeing you! 

We feel blessed to have the support of our wonderful families  and friends at this very special time in our lives, and we are excited about all the things that lie ahead for us in the coming years. We look forward to hearing from you, and of course, seeing you soon! Thank you!

March 27, 2011

TEDTalk Bob Thurman

Inspiring and light-hearted TEDTalk by Bob Thurman on how we can all be Buddhas.

Have you joined our growing community on Facebook?

March 26, 2011

Consider this your bailing out…

It's so loud inside my head with words that I should have said.
As I drown my regrets, I can't take back the words I never said.
I think that all the silence is worse than all the violence,
Fear is such a weak emotion, that's why I despise it,
We're scared of almost everything, afraid to even tell the truth,
So scared of what you'll think of me, I'm scared of even telling you,
Sometimes I'm like the only person I feel safe to tell it to,
I'm locked inside a cell in me, I know that there's a jail in you,
Consider this your bailing out…

I feel very grateful for being surrounded by incredible people who inspire me, but more importantly people who accept me for who I am and encourage me to be true to myself. I'm talking about you. Thank you.

My dream when I started writing this blog seven years ago (seven years ago!) was to share my experiences with others who I cared about - friends and family I was away from during college, my new friends I had just started meeting and people I hadn't met yet. I wanted to write about things that mattered to me, things I believed in and dreams that I hadn't quite figured out how to achieve. It was easier in the beginning when I knew no one was reading. I wrote a lot. But, as more people read what I wrote, it got harder.

The lyrics above come from Lupe Fiasco's new album, which my friend Todd shared with me. They remind me of how it feels to be nervous, to hold back, to sit in silence. Admittedly, I haven't always written everything I've wanted to. It's surprisingly hard to just be yourself.

But then, people come along who push you. Encourage you. Tell you to try. As Albert Schweitzer famously said, "In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit." I feel lucky to have the support of those kind of people, some of them have been friends for years and some I just met today.

It can be difficult to put yourself out there, to really speak your mind and search after the truth, but I think it's important that all of us take that chance and try. I'm right here with you, seven years and running.

March 24, 2011

Free Rice is an unique online game that provides food for the hungry managed through the United Nations World Food Programme, the largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. It is a growing community of hundreds of thousands of people across the globe who, like you, are committed to feeding the world's hungriest people. So far enough rice has been donated to feed 4.6 million people. That's why we've added it to our Resources and Inspirations on To play yourself and learn more, visit and Below is a YouTube video by the World Food Programme.

Have you joined our growing community on Facebook?

March 22, 2011

TEDTalk Clifford Stoll

This is one of my all-time favorite TEDTalks by Clifford Stoll on all kinds of things!

Have you joined our growing community on Facebook?

March 21, 2011

What is TED?


I've received a lot of interested and excited feedback about the TEDxUlaanbaatar event since the last post about it! Thank you all for your support and excitement! I also noticed there were some questions about TED, so I thought I could write a little bit here about what exactly the TED conference is and what we will be doing at TEDxUlaanbaatar.

200234_200695353288819_199018770123144_651593_657257_nTED started in 1984 as a conference about technology, entertainment and design. Today it brings together people from all walks of life: experts in their field, visionaries for the future and interesting people who have done amazing things. The TED conference happens annually and brings together thousands of participants in person and hundreds of millions of people online through amazing TEDTalks that are available for free to everyone in the world. TED inspires me and has inspired me for years.

TEDx events are independently organized events that happen all around the world, inspired by the TED conference format. They can be organized by anyone, but are licensed by TED. For two years I have been wanting to do a TED event in Mongolia, but it wasn't until I met Mende that I saw how it might be possible. We met late last year and began planning the event and just this month were liscened by TED to hold a TEDx event here in Mongola this year. Mende is an outstanding and accomplished man (and just as young as I am!) with an incredible team supporting what is sure to be an incredible event. TEDxUlaanbaatar will be an event by Mongolians for the world, bringing together composers, economists, teachers, organization founders, and visionaries who will be speaking about the past, present and future of Mongolia. I am very proud to be part of this first event, the first of its kind in Mongolian history.

I hope I answered some of the questions out there about what TED is and what TEDxUlaanbaatar will be. To learn more about TED, visit and check out a video or two to hear what a TEDTalk is like. And be sure to visit Facebook to keep up with TEDxUlaanbaatar as it continues to develop. Thanks!

Have you joined our growing community on Facebook?

March 17, 2011

Are you easily distracted when online?

I just read this great suggestion from Litemind. Luciano writes:

Imagine you have some important work to do at the computer. I bet you know the drill: you sit down to get it done... but then resistance kicks in. You want to check that last email ("just this one, really!"). And then you go for that last news check ("quickly, I promise!"). And Facebook. And Twitter... You know how this story ends: suddenly, your day is gone. It happens too often, doesn't it?
To avoid that problem, one trick that works really well for me is to set the 'start page' (or 'home page') in my browser to a page that reminds me to focus on what I should really be doing.
Every time I open the browser, I have an extra checkpoint -- yet another chance -- to escape from automatic behaviors that could sidetrack me.
To understand exactly what I mean, check the start page I use:
Granted, sometimes the urge to procrastinate wins regardless, but this saves me from getting sidetracked almost every day. The advice on the byline is just too wise to ignore -- the reason it works so well for me is because it reminds me it's all about choices, not about forcing myself to work.
If you like the idea of having a "focus start page" and don't want to create your own, feel free to use the one I created. You can even steal it and save it locally to a folder on your computer so that it loads even faster.

I definitely stole his idea and made my own page with a few additional suggestions: Whatever you choose to do, I hope it reminds you that you always have a choice. Good luck staying focused!
Have you seen our growing community on Facebook? Check it out:

March 16, 2011

Organizing TEDxUlaanbaatar

Hosting a TEDx event in Mongolia began as a simple idea between two friends who had never met: American Peace Corps Volunteer Travis Hellstrom and Mongolian The New Media Marketing Agency Founder Mende-Orshikh Amartaivan. They both loved TED, had been inspired by dozens of videos over the years and on opposite sides of the country were thinking the same thing, "We should do this in Mongolia."

Months later, after finding each other thanks to the online community, they have gathered together a team of talented Mongolians from all over the country and been officially licensed to organize TEDxUlaanbaatar. The conference will take place in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar and be the first event of its kind in Mongolian history. Speakers from all walks of life will come together to share their expertise and vision in areas ranging from modern economic strategy to ancient musical performance. The deep wisdom of Mongolia, drawing from centuries of tradition and practice, will be brought to centerstage here at TEDxUlaanbaatar and we couldn't be more excited to share it with the world.

This article was also posted on the official TEDxBlog

March 1, 2011

Peace Corps 10 for 3 (10 Things for 3rd Goal)

My friend Erica Burman, who works with the National Peace Corps Association, shared this idea on Facebook. She hoped it would encourage other Peace Corps Volunteers, in honor of the Peace Corps' 50th Anniversary this year, to take a few minutes to reflect on their Peace Corps service and come up with 10 great memories to encourage the 3rd Goal of Peace Corps: to bring the world back home. Here are ten memories that came to my mind.

Country: Mongolia
Years: 2008-2011
Assignment: Health

  1. Starting from day one, I swore we had the best training group. We were also the biggest, most diverse, intense and hilarious group ever. This included Matt bringing a three-man balloon launcher just because.
  2. In our last week of training, our entire training site went out to a special camp to have a celebration. By the end of the night, a flash storm hit that was so bad it ripped apart what seemed like half the fences in our community, tore roofs off buildings and knocked power out for several days. That night was also one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen.
  3. Travis isn't very easy to say in Mongolian, so I have been called everything from Choibalsan (a city/former president's name) to Tarvis (watermelon). 
  4. After losing sixty (unneeded) pounds in my first year, my hospital director saw a picture of my family before I left America and said, "Wow, your older brother looks just like you, just fatter!" I told her that was true, and that was me. That's the only time I've ever seen her cheeks red.
  5. The worst day of my Peace Corps service involved stomach problems and an 11-hour bus ride that made three stops.
  6. At the end of our first year, the idea for Peace Corps Merit Badges came up and in one year it was able to help a small group of elderly women earn two years' salary. This was very rewarding and cool.
  7. At our COS conference we were lucky enough to have RPCV photographer Richard Sitler coming through Mongolia, so we got probably one of the best COS pictures ever. Everyone thinks it's fake.
  8. It took four years to write, but when I finished my 27th month of Peace Corps service I finally self-published the Unofficial Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook. It's sold hundreds of copies and raised hundreds of dollars for Peace Corps projects worldwide. This was also very rewarding and cool.
  9. At the end of language training during PST, my language instruction said I was a very good student but I could have been better if I took notes. I just listened and stared at her every class. Today, three years later, my speaking and listening in Mongolian are pretty good, but my writing is terrible.
  10. Connecting with the National Peace Corps Association while still serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer has been incredible. I know the world is different from what it used to be, but I feel lucky to be in this digital age where Skype, blogs, Facebook and everything else allows us to engage in the Third Goal every step of our Peace Corps journey. Thank you all!

Our Crazy Training Neighborhood Group (Summer 2009)

Our Sacred Mountain Altan Ovoo in Sukhbaatar (Summer 2009)

Home for My Sister's Wedding with Little Tunga (Summer 2009)

Close of Service Conference Photo (Summer 2010)

Tsagaan Sar Celebration with Tunga's Family (Spring 2011)

You can comment on Facebook here  
You can learn more about Advance Humanity here