“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves, and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again—to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.” – Pico Iyer
There was a television show I was watching in which this beautiful story was told paraphrasing William Faulkner. In the story, a father gave his son a watch that had been handed down through generations. The father told the son that he was not giving him this watch so that he could remember time, but rather so that he could forget it once in a while. And to not spend his entire breath trying to conquer it.
The ticking clock… We all have it. Especially in American society where we have this idealism bestowed upon us from such a young age. It contradicts our entire ideology of the pursuit of happiness. How do we know what will make us happy when we are so young? How do we know what to be, or who to be? And what happens if it doesn’t work out?
Think for a second and answer: What truly was the happiest time in your life? Mine was probably on a huge family vacation when I was 16 in Mexico. Not a care in the world. Surrounded by family, friends, and an open bar (which also resulted in the worst hangover of my life).
And maybe again when I was 18-years-old, the first time I was actually in love. But I was told that I have to figure out my life. I have to pick a college. I have to go and study. So I left. I went to school and she stayed behind. I carried the thought of if I made the right decision for several years as I moved into this new identity within a university.
Slowly I moved on and I did my schooling, eventually graduating. I traveled for a semester abroad, I interned in New York City — I did what I could but there was always an end in sight and a next move being planned.
Once I graduated, I finally thought, “Okay this is it, I have a true break.” And I ran with it. I backpacked around Southeast Asia for a couple months and it was one of the greatest experiences that changed my life.
But you know what, this clock kept ticking, and while my friend continued on for another month or two, I went home because it was time to get a job.
How insane is that — as if the job market would dry up in my one extra month traveling? But I was 23-years-old and that’s what society was telling me. This pressure building (all my friends were working and growing up and I was traveling) until I was in true paradise and only thinking of what job I will get. So I ditched the backpack, moved to Los Angeles, and got a job.
This was in 2010; 5 years later and I have been working almost every single day of my life. Sure, I had weekends and holidays, but with the exception of a 2-week Christmas/New Year’s break in which I’ve done a solo backpacking trip two years in a row (life changing!), I never had time to just be. To wake up and just breathe in the day and enjoy it without the worry of tomorrow…
I don’t know about you, but I am not wired to exist that way. I think there is a reason that so many other countries have a society in which true vacation time is an essence of their being and culture. Australians get 6 weeks a year of vacation time. Europeans get at least 4. Switzerland 5. And America? We get 2 and not one person I know ever feels comfortable asking for time off… As if we are doing something wrong.
“The US is the only advanced economy with no national vacation policy. One in four workers, typically in low-wage jobs, have no paid vacation at all. Those that do, get, on average, 10 to 14 days a year.” – The Washington Post
It’s an ever-mounting pressure of Monday through Friday so we can cram a weekend full of dinners, drinks, and late night pizza (and man, do I love pizza).
Then we blink and it’s Monday. 5:2 ratio. And Sunday barely counts because I get so bummed out by 5 pm knowing I have work the next day that I may as well just go into the office.
That is no way to live.
For the past year, I have been thinking about quitting my job. But knowing that I will be met with so many questions and concerns — what will I do, where will I get money, what if I can’t get another job, what is my plan? The insurmountable pressure of this alone led me to stay complacent for an entire year.
Do you know what being complacent does to your creative soul? It absolutely crushes it. You clock in, you clock out. You simply live within a median. I literally was living for the weekend. So I could go on an adventure, explore something new, be with friends, travel… Try new bars, restaurants, experience culture from outside a computer screen.
I moved out to LA for a reason. A purpose. To pursue this dream of following in Anthony Bourdain’s footsteps and creating my own food and travel show… And I wasn’t helping my case by working a dead end job.
So… I quit.
Back to this ticking clock.
Thanks to Facebook, all I see are engagement photos, baby photos, family photos. And here I am in Los Angeles, 4000 miles from my family and so very single (which at least helps my financial situation).
I haven’t had a girlfriend in two years, and the past few I did have, well… I can leave it at that. Maybe it’s my fault, though, because I wasn’t who I should have been. I was bored in my life. Who I am deep down is an extremely energetic and full-of-life person. I believe it to be contagious.
And it was, only once they took it, I had to go and find it again. I guess I have been looking ever since, picking up a piece here and there. But finally I realized that I needed more — and I don’t need a person to make me happy — I just need to hit the reset button and get back to who I was all those years ago, before life happened. Before the ticking clock. Before the girls. Before the job. Before the surmounting pressure. Just get back to me and the simplicity of enjoyment in life.
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller
When I have thrown caution to the wind and broke the norm of American society, I have met some of the most amazing people and discovered some of the most amazing places I could’ve ever dreamed.
The girl I met in Chaing Mai at Muay Thai Boxing Match, the girl I met while getting lost in Cusco, Peru. The strangers I celebrated my 28th birthday with at a bonfire on the beach in Costa Rica. These are people and memories that will stay with me and shape me as a person — stories I hope to one day tell my kids and encourage them that time should be forgotten once in a while.
So my plan? I will be focusing on Locals Only full time, trying to make this dream a reality… But first, I am doing what America was founded on: exploration. I am road tripping up through the Pacific Northwest into Vancouver, over to Banff and Calgary, and then down through Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona and back to LA. I have the first 3 nights booked (camping in Big Sur and Yosemite) and then I will be playing it day by day.
I’ll have the luxury of time, which is a gift none of us should ever overlook. The luxury of doing what I want, when I want — stopping here or there, breathing and taking it all in. I will get to be my truest self. I will get to meet strangers and make friends. Eat new foods, drink new beers, and see things I have never seen.
And to me, that is what life is about. That is living.
So when people ask me, what am I doing? I’ll simply tell them, “I’m pursuing happiness.”
After the road trip, I will give all my effort and time to making Locals Only the best it can be. It really is a full-time job since I produce it myself, host it, direct it etc. But I love doing the work and I think the finished product speaks for itself.
Food has always been a major part of my life — I think it feeds on the curiosity and the social aspect of who I am and who we are as people. It is one of the universal traits that bring people together without having to say a single word. You throw some beers in a cooler, some hot dogs on a grill and some music on a jambox, and you’re golden — nothing else is needed.
I was a fairly picky eater growing up, and once I learned to stop being such a little bitch, I grew to love trying new foods, recipes, and cooking whenever possible. My rule is to try anything once, at least then you’ll know. So yes, I have tried Rocky Mountain Oysters (if you don’t know what they are, look it up). And no, I will not be eating them again. So. Chewy.
I would also factor booze into this equation of social atmosphere — there is no greater tension breaker than getting shit-faced with someone. Your drink says a lot about you — I mean sure we all had our 30 racks of Natty Light, but for the occasions outside beer pong and flip cup, a Jameson on the rocks can cure any problem. Or at least help you forget it.
Now how or why did I get into this food/travel world? Well, there are two major events responsible for this path, that made me want to work within the food and travel world.
1. When I was 15, I lived in New York City and we had some ghetto TV set that only got two channels. ABC and Food Network. We also discovered a weed delivery service. Needless to say, I watched a whole lot of Food Network, and what better place to try food than Manhattan? Especially since I was just some kid from St. Louis, Missouri.
After that summer (I was one of those child actor-model brats), I went to school and enrolled in any culinary class that was offered. I learned the basics of food and the outlet to culture. Since then, my passion for travel has been as strong as my desire for food, leading me to study abroad in Florence where I took several cooking and wine classes.
2. When I went on my first solo backpacking trip through Peru, I did a trek to Machu Picchu, a boat around Lake Titicaca (try not laughing when you hear that 100 times in a day) and explored the city by train, plane and automobile (and foot).
I met a girl and we would explore together, getting wasted by day and eating amazing food by night. It occurred to me that this is fucking awesome. I wanted to do this forever. So when I got back to LA (where I was living and still do), I came up with an idea to try and make this my life.
I put an ad on Craigslist, hired a crew, researched a bunch of places throughout LA and filmed our first episode of Locals Only. And after the first day of shooting, I knew, this is it. I found my calling. And I haven’t looked back since.
We now have two episodes (you can watch them here) and some more Bite Sized Segments coming out. I’m in the beginning stages of planning our third episode and hoping as our content increases, so does our viewership and the possibility to make this dream come true.
Besides, Bourdain is like 65-years-old… He has to retire soon, right?