Addressing The Million Dollar Question

The one question I’ve been asked by almost everyone is Why? This seemingly simple question is often followed by a myriad of other inquiries–Why are you going on this trip? Why don’t you just want to go work? Why did you choose Central America? 

In the spirit of candor, I think I have failed miserably at answering these questions. I’ve often been defensive, upset, or just missed the mark completely. Thus, the objective of this post is to explain the logic behind my decision. I want people to know who I am,  where I’m coming from, and most importantly why I am doing this.

The Desire To Travel

I have an unfulfilled want to see the world. At the risk of repeating the About Me page of this website, I want to see every country on this planet. I want to see all walks of life. I want to experience culture. I wholeheartedly believe that travel will open my perspective. I have had multiple professors throughout college who travel the world as their hobbies. To me, every single one of these people are incredibly captivating. Their stories. Their thoughts. Their outlook. Everything. With the exception of a few horror stories here and there, traveled people only speak of the unlimited diversity of this great world. They endorse the unending kindness and the underlying similarity of basic needs and wants across all humanity. They juxtapose these commonalities with tales of immense cultural diversity. All of these things are depicted with lit up eyes, ear-to-ear smiles, and crackling laughter. I don’t know about any of you, but all of those behaviors are contagious to me.

The Desire To See Other Cultures

I took an Intercultural Communication class my second-to-last semester and loved learning about cultural idiosyncrasies. That same semester I was also taking an introductory Spanish course and an International Business course. Together, all of these courses created what I like to call my “International Semester.” It’s safe to say that even though I was at home, my mind was exploring far away places. I developed an unprecedented appreciation for the diversity of our world without even seeing it. So much so that I decided to finish my college education with a semester long independent research study in Cross-Cultural Marketing. My research guided me to read almost 50 published academic journal articles examining the impact of culture on business. I discovered the foundations for cultural differences through the lens of Geert Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions. I manifested an area of great interest for myself that will irrevocably grow in the future.

The Desire To Be Excellent At Business

We are living in an increasingly globalized world each and every day. Technology advancements and infrastructure improvements continue to accrete the speed at which we can communicate across national boundaries. Dominating businesses of the future will be those who can successfully control domestic markets while simultaneously driving foreign sales. In order to do this, however, firms will have to understand both cultural differences and be able to leverage the technological tools at their disposal. Moreover, even within my own national boundaries, the United States is and always has been a gigantic melting pot of different cultures. Thus, to be successful in domestic markets it is still critical to understand cultural differences. With all this being said, I asked myself “How can I possibly be successful in global business if I haven’t spent more than a week out of the United States in my entire life?” “How can I possibly pretend to understand diversity when I’ve made no effort to actually see it firsthand?”  Even though my objective for this trip is just to have fun, I think my experiences will help me in business.

The Desire To Be Centered

We are a sum of all our life experiences. Fortunately, my life experiences have been shaped by growing up in one of the richest countries in the world. I am by no means spoiled, but my parents have always taken extraordinary care of myself, my brother, and my sister. We have been very lucky to grow up in a loving and nurturing household. My internal home environment has been complimented by growing up in safe, growing, and happy Fort Wayne, Indiana. With that being said, I think that if I continue to live my life the way it is I will lose sight of how great I have things. Over time, if I fail to experience less privileged lifestyles then a paradigm shift will occur and I will undoubtedly lose my center. I will lose my perspective and outlook on life. I will not understand what true happiness is. I will become materialistic and worse yet, I will not have a true understanding of myself. All of these things are some of my biggest fears. I believe this trip will alleviate some of those things and make me a more centered person.

The Desire To Be Unique

I have lived what I think is a painfully average life. I’ve gone to high school. I’ve gone to college. I’ve played sports. I’ve had hobbies. I’ve had professional experience. I’ve had late nights and early mornings. All of these things have been fun and I am not by any means expressing ungratefulness for what God, my family, and everyone else I care about has blessed me with. But here’s the catch–so has almost everyone else I know. I’m a naturally competitive person and so I constantly find myself comparing myself to others. That’s probably not the best strategy to ensure my own happiness. It does, however, help create my thirst for always wanting more. It drives my motivation. Resultantly, I want to be different. I don’t want reflect twenty years from now and suddenly realize that all I ever did was follow what everyone else was doing. Instead I want to be able to look back and say “Yeah, I did that” with a smile on my face and happiness in my heart. Even though I know I stated that I’m competitive, I want to iterate that this desire for uniqueness is not coming from a place of ego or arrogance. I firmly believe that you can learn something from everyone in all situations. This desire is just about wanting to be different–not better, not smarter, just different.

The Desire To Be Challenged

I’ve always told people that I don’t really believe I am smart. I think I work hard and my hard work shows through most of the time. I may catch on quick sometimes compared to others, but I don’t believe I am some intellectually gifted genius. I often forget things that others seem to remember with ease. But, because of my work ethic I do not believe that I have every been completely challenged. Whatever the task is–a research project, a test, even an oil change–I have found that if you put forth your best effort and ask the right questions, anything can be accomplished. This trip reflects the complete opposite side of that spectrum. No matter how much I prepare–and I have for almost two years for those of you who are concerned about that–I will never be fully ready for what I am about to do. This is going to be the hardest thing I have ever done. I am going to fail every day. I am going to embarrass myself. There’s a decent chance I will even be robbed or injured. Central America is one of the most dangerous areas in the world outside of a war zone. I’m not an idiot and I am aware of these things. The monumental challenge these factors possess have attracted me to this adventure with relentlessness. I honestly don’t know if I can do this, but for some reason that is the most exciting thing in the world to me.

The Desire To Find Myself

I recently wrote an extra credit assignment about how I plan to make an impact on this world. As I wrote this passage, I realized something important–I still have no idea who I am. Every plan I’ve had for my life over the last three years has been altered or disregarded completely. Currently, I see myself as a pile of puzzle pieces that have not quite been put together. What I do know now after four years of higher education and professional work experience is what I am good at—marketing, applying numbers, leading others, and continuously learning. I also know what I care about—achieving happiness, success (whatever this means), and a rewarding life. Lastly, I know what major global issues I deeply care about—education and poverty. The question that remains is how to put these pieces together to make a positive impact on this world. I see the bigger picture but I am not certain I understand how to get there. Perhaps this is not something I am meant to know at this time. Or, perhaps this trip will answer all of these questions.

 

For those of you who read this entire post, I hope I have been able to finally answer your questions. If not, then I don’t have to explain myself to you (I’m sort of joking but not really). Anyways, my flight leaves in 13 hours so I’m going to get back to my family now. I probably won’t sleep tonight so if anyone has any last minute advice feel free to text, call, or leave a comment on my post!