vacation

A Tourist in Latin America

Special thanks to Helpguide.org for using portions of my blogs to create articles about networking, job search and resumes. Helpguide is one of the world's leading sites to empower you and to assist you in surmounting the challenges of life. A great resource for the entire family. 

First of all it's nice to be back home after traversing South America for last 14 days. Went through Peru and saw the remarkable Machu Picchu. (one of my "bucket list" items) Then went to see Chile and my oldest daughter who is studying down there. Like any trip out of your neighborhood and country, you see and experience things that force you to examine your values and your own worldview. Hard not to have your ethnocentrism tested when you are a tourist. Traveling can be a trip into introspection and self evaluation.

Standing at the foot of the great redwoods, the edge of the Grand Canyon, traversing the Great Wall, or ascending the Eiffel Tower, stunning natural or man-made phenomena give us pause to consider our significance and insignificance. How vapid our lives can seem when we are so focused on the accumulation of material goods that never will be enough. What am I doing here? What will my contribution be? Out of the box travel can be a type of mentoring. You are forced into reflection by shared experiences, by what you see and what you think. That's the way it works. Your experiences create thoughts and those thoughts have emotional content and if you pay attention, they can shift your perspective and your future plans and actions. That's powerful mentoring! 

I had two modest goals for this trip:DSC03483

  1. To get my teenage kids out of their little electronic cocoons and be inspired by reality, without technology. 
  2. To see and experience a little of different cultures, to understand and appreciate our commonalities and differences
I realize that as a tourist you most often see a highly skewed part of that world. Your view is warped by the magnetic economic forces between the tourists and tourism. Yet, if you venture off the path and explore a bit, you will see more reality and more truth. I could easily argue that most of us are de-sensitized to the special qualities of our own home towns and neighborhoods, which in turn excite tourists. We do not stray from our routines and similar to tourists we see and know only a limited view of our worlds. As a visiting tourist you have fresh eyes and you can ask questions that often stump the locals. Putting on the tourist hat even when we are home could yield many benefits. 

That disorienting feeling when you have little competence in the language or where things are definitive parts of being a tourist. However, there is an overwhelming tendency to seek comfort in things we know and trust. In the extreme, when abroad, we stay at the Hilton hotels, get coffee at Starbucks, and never try to utter a word other than English. All of the trappings of the ugly American. When I travel I awkwardly try to converse and understand what I see, eat, and experience. That was my focus this time too. My kids would say, Dad you are still ugly! All of us tried to resist our less adventuresome impulses, try new things, and show respect for the new cultures.
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Without getting off on a giant historical and anthropological tangent, the Incans have always impressed me with their accomplishments. But ascending to the top of Machu Picchu brought my admiration to pure awe. The innovative technology, the sheer devotion to precision, the respect for nature, and the focus over a long time horizon. Not fully understanding the hierarchical systems and the means by which "incentives and motivations" were sustained, the results are stunning. No surprise why this is one of the seven modern Wonders of the World. Our guide Fabricio kept urging us to see beyond the images. Imagine what effort and work it took to accomplish these feats. Think about the journey rather than the destination. What sets Machu Picchu apart from many other extraordinary wonders, is the treacherous location of this complex agricultural and urban development. It sits atop of a 8000 ft mountain.

In the end, we return to the beginning and we are different. (apologies to TS Eliot) We accomplished our goals. We have traveled far and our experiences have altered our perspectives. We have an appreciation for Peru and Chile, that heretofore did not exist. We have a greater appreciation for what we have. Our respect for the Incans and the inspiration of Machu Picchu will not fade. But will the mentoring we received from our travels last? Will it make a difference in how we act or what we do with our lives? That's up to us to maintain that slightly uncomfortable, curious, and experimental tourist frame of mind. Our journey continues. 

Thanks for traveling along with me. John


What I did on my summer vacation to enhance my career?

J0432982 One of the funniest things I hear from young people, especially those who just graduated is: "I am just exhausted from college and I have to take some time off this summer to rest and re-energize before I go to work or graduate school." What?!!! As Shaw said, "Youth is wasted on the young." When we were in school we can remember the lazy days of summer interrupted by summer school, camp, chores and maybe a summer job. Those were the days. I watch my kids and can remember the angst over the question, "'what are we going to do today?"

Now that we are all growed up, summer can be busy but a time when we typically put off things until to the Fall. Many excuses are generated, other people's vacations, the warm weather, or the gravitational pull of our childhoods. But summer is an ideal time to tune up your careers. It is a time to to think and reflect. It is a time to plan. You were thinking you were going to be planful in the Fall? Yeah, you will have so much time then! Wrong. 

Po Bronson has said in his What Should I do With My Life series that we tend to procrastinate by using dates, seasons, and milestones. This time is not good because: its summer, my kids are busy, the holidays, my birthday, things are up in the air etc etc. He concludes that the "right time" should not be the objective. That the people that have found their passions and success were never hindered by the time or the season.
 
This is the greatest time to make a change or to venture outside of our little cocoons. Change is afoot. Everything is changing. Literally everything. All assumptions about the future are being questioned. And there are so many opportunities. Do you really think that the strategy and path you have chosen can be followed without any adjustments? The first space shuttle made approximately 1500 course corrections to stay on its seemingly linear path. And you want to wait until the summer is over? Really? 96px-STS-31_Hubble_launch_roll_and_pitch

Why do we live like the mythical lemmings and just follow each other over the cliff? Why don't we break the habits that cause us to be stuck? How can we differentiate ourselves if we robotically follow the seasons like a career Almanac? Lemming

I am just saying, take the summer to step back and think and prepare. Ask yourself a few questions:
  1. What do I want to change about my life and career? 
  2. How will my life and career be different next summer? 
  3. With whom do I need to spend more time? With whom will I reconnect?  What am I waiting for?
  4. What can I do to strengthen what I value, enjoy, and love? Download SWIVEL new 2009
One concrete step you can take is to volunteer for a cause or charity that you deeply care about. An hour a week will make a dramatic impact on your life. When you align yourself with your values, you will feel better about yourself. A weird thing happens when you give, you receive. I will give you the John Kobara guarantee :-), that if you engage as a volunteer for a cause that has personal meaning to you, you will be transformed. You will be transformed by being with like minded people. You will be transformed by your own fulfillment. And you will help transform that cause and that organization and the beneficiaries of that work. 

J0441048 Don't waste your summer. When summer is over, and people ask, "What did you do on your summer vacation?" You can tell tell them how you took your career and life to new places.

Thanks for reading. John