When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me. - Erma Bombeck
Even prior to leaving the States I had several friends that were my age that were very curious as to what I would do if I were to return to the States and in need of a job. I told them even at tat time that I felt good about my position in life, if you had to equate it to that, since I felt as though I had a career resume of someone in their late 30s or even older–almost 12 years continuous employment with the same company (HDNet, which is now AXS.tv) in broadcast television–but as the same time I also felt that with this great journey I never knew where life may take me or lead me. I also felt that, and told my friend, if I were to return to the States and be in a job interview situation I know the first question would be regarding the potential gap in my work history. I told him that regardless if I were to get the job that I would most likely be the most memorable candidate that they interviewed for that position based upon what I was up to for the past x amount of years traveling round the world. I realized this when I began telling complete strangers about what I was preparing to do, such as my doctor, dentist, even random strangers out having drinks with friends before I left. And, every time people were very curious and sat and talked with me for a minimum of 30-minutes, which surprised me. Well now I feel as though I’ve changed from that anxious, scared, sort of uncertain individual that left Colorado on a one-way flight to Belize and have become more of an experienced backpacker and traveler. One night while sitting around talking at a hostel in Mancora, Peru with the typical group of backpackers from all over the world. We began a discussion of what skills backpacking particularly could be transferred to say a more corporate or professional career, this is just a brief list of what we came up with:
When you find yourself (especially as a solo backpacker) thrown in the middle of a new city or town it’s sink or swim friends. You have a variety of issues to deal with and this will test much of your skills in a matter of minutes. Everything from navigating to your destination, currency calculations, the obvious language, cultural, and custom differences to learn, and plenty of others that randomly occur.
Again this can be an ambiguous situation since each backpacker has a different daily budget, amount saved, and duration of their travels. Since I am backpacking without a time limitation and without an endless trustfund full of excess cash, I’ve learned to do everything I can to save money. Often one of the easiest is walking as opposed to taking buses or taxis. Since one of my largest advantages is time, I don’t mind walking 30-minutes versus taking a 5-minute taxi ride that could cost $5, because that $5 could be dinner and even breakfast the next day. Plus I feel that you get a better idea of a place by hitting the pavement, sidewalks or dirt roads. I’ve always said that if I were a project manager and given a specific budget to get a job done, I feel as though not only could I get the job completed on time (obviously depending on the scale and how many people are involved) but I could also get this project done within budget if not under budget just because I have learned how to budget incredibly well. And, as an example when I had my career life in the States I never balanced my checkbook.
3. SOCIAL SKILLS:
Once again traveling solo this forces you to become more social and improve your communication skills immensely.
4. GLOBAL NETWORKING:
This is something that many companies would consider to be highly valuable. Since I have been backpacking for almost 2-years I have made close to 800 new friends (as I’m a nerd and keep this stat) with friends on every continent (minus Antarctica, I’ve yet to befriend a polar bear) and with these new friends their professions run the gamut from bartenders to doctors, lawyers, engineers, construction workers, teachers, etc etc etc. As the old saying goes, often it’s not what you know, but who you know. And I feel like I know A LOT of people.
This continually is a building process, and let me say you will have many days or nights that you may spend alone and this does take a bit of a toll at times, but through this as well as the very social times, the self-confidence you build is another excellent skill that can easily be transferred to a professional career.
I suppose this may fall under the category of problem solving skills, but I’ve certainly learned to be more innovative whether that means repairing gear on the road or talking business ideas with others, which I really enjoy doing for those that know me.
While there is the freestyle living that is associated with backpacking, you do become a bit more organized, whether that’s taking advantage of a good hostel to do some hand washing of clothing, balancing your time (research days, activity days, volunteering, looking for potential paid freelance work, etc).
I have certainly become more of an entrepreneur with having more free time, thinking of new and interesting things that may equate in to a business idea or model.
You will be tried over and over with dealing with a variety of situations, and you can either continue to get upset over a situation that you cannot control or go with the flow and look for the positive side of life. I know that when I was in the States I was still quite organized but I also had a limited amount of patience, whether that was with things at work or even with friends during social situations. Now I feel that I’ve definitely become more relaxed and patient with people and circumstances.
My level of compassion has certainly grown after seeing and experiencing some of the poorest countries in the world, and I feel that this could go hand-in-hand with the level of patience and stronger communication skills I’ve gained.
Last night was a bit of a wrestless night’s sleep since we have several pesky mosquitos in the house that are a constant annoyance–buzzing directly around your ear–it seems exactly at the moment you’ve just fallen asleep. In spite of this, I have a bit of a chance to sleep in since my birth mom is not arriving in Seoul until12:30pm so I’m able to try and sleep in a bit. Wanting to be at Eastern a bit early I arrive there at 12pm, and unfortunately there was a miscommunication or she arrived early as she was there at 11:20am. Feeling bad, I apologize, but she shrugs this off as she is just excited to see me again. Our translator for today in Seoul and will also be accompany us tomorrow to Yeosu is a wonderful woman, Soon-Young, who saw the posting for volunteer translators for Eastern and this is her first translating experience for an adoptee reunion. Even though she feels her English is not very good, I assure her that it is very good and that we are very thankful she is spending her time to assist us. When I first walk through the double doors on the third-floor and see them sitting on the couch waiting, the translator tells me that she says, “awe my baby is here.” As we walk down the staircase I am told that she does not use the word son, but baby, because she said that my mother, in her eyes, will always see me as her baby boy. Even at 31, I cannot argue this, but I continue to feel that she has missed me for so many years and has always wondered about me as I have with her. I think we are just both extremely thankful that one another is in good health and for myself personally that she is not living in poverty but has a very good job and is financially stable with an active social life.