I’m Dan. I really like stories, and I really like building things. Right now, I’m working on Stry.us [http://www.stry.us/], a nimble news organization I founded back in 2010. This summer, I’m leading a team of six in Springfield, Mo., doing reporting, telling stories, and working with partners around the state to build stronger communities around news. And on the side, I’ve got three other projects: BooksAround [http://booksaround.org/], a social literacy experiment; JStart [http://jstart.wikispaces.com], a wiki of resources for entrepreneurial journalists; and Very Quotatious [http://veryquotatious.com/], a site for inspiration, thought and other wisdom suitable for quotation.
What’s been a pivotal point in your journey?
It was a Tuesday. I’m not sure why I remember that, but I do. It was a Tuesday, and I went to work — I worked at a TV station in San Antonio at the time — and told my bosses that I was leaving my job at the end of the month to go start my own reporting outlet.
Then I went home and booked a flight to Biloxi, MS.
This was the summer of 2010. I’d been seeing all these changes in the news industry, and I thought I could build a better newsroom. A more mobile newsroom. A newsroom without overhead. A newsroom that wasn’t easily distracted by headlines or news of the day.
But I needed to prove my idea first. So I decided to move to Biloxi.
The five year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was coming up in a few weeks, and I’d hardly heard anything about it. The Gulf Coast economy was floundering. There was still oil gushing out of the Gulf of Mexico.
Biloxi was at the center of it all.
I’d never actually been to Mississippi, though. I figured that if I was going to start a small media empire, and the thing was going to begin in Biloxi in a month, I should probably visit there first.
I made a lot of strange decisions that summer, but looking back, I’m almost shocked at how sensible that one decision was. Without that initial trip to Biloxi, the project never gets off the ground.
I went home, and booked a flight from San Antonio to Houston to Biloxi. This was on a Tuesday. I left for Biloxi Thursday morning.
What did you discover after taking that flight?
I have this theory that the best experiences are the ones that come out of the worst travel. If I have trouble with a visa, or the subway breaks down, or my flight gets unexpectedly cancelled and then rescheduled but I don’t get put back on it due to reasons that can only be explained to me in rapid-fire Spanish — true story — then I know I’m about to do something amazing.
My flight to Biloxi? I was switching planes in Houston, and Continental was kind enough to give me a full 12 minutes to cover a mile of airport in order to get from gate to gate.
I sprinted through that airport in sandals. I ran with one carry-on on my back and another over my head. I nearly collapsed on an escalator out of exhaustion.
I made the flight.
And my reward was this little plane, flying over nothing, landing into nothing. You land in Gulfport, MS., and all you see is a Home Depot and a Wendy’s. And that’s it.
I’d decided I wanted to take a massive leap forward, and here’s where I would take the first steps: In the kind of town where a Wendy’s was one of the landmarks you recognized upon landing.
And then I landed on the coast, and I couldn’t even get cell reception. It took the whole weekend for my phone to find the satellites. This happened every time I flew out of the Gulfport/Biloxi airport.
I was going to start a small media empire in a town where even cell phones went off the grid.
But I knew I had to be there. Exploring the coast, it felt right. Well, more accurately: It terrified me. I knew nobody there, and nobody had ever heard of me. And I was going to come here and convince people to tell me their stories?
I did it anyway.
I flew back to San Antonio at the end of the weekend. A month later, I put my life in a car and drove back to Biloxi. That’s when I actually launched Stry.us, the news organization I’m still working on today.
Everything I’m doing now came out of that Tuesday when I went home and bought a flight to Biloxi on 36 hours notice. Because Biloxi led to three months of reporting and many thousands of words. I don’t know why, but people there really did want to talk to me. Their stories led me to a fellowship at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism this past year. And that fellowship’s led me back to more reporting this summer in Springfield.
But it all starts — not with the idea for the company, or me telling my bosses that I was quitting — but with that flight. That’s when it became real. That’s when I knew I couldn’t back down from this dream. Stry.us came out of sprinting through Houston Intercontinental in sandals. It came out of getting to Biloxi. It came out of accepting that to get to where I wanted to go, I had to start moving.
By day, I am the Digital Manager for the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, the largest soccer coaches’ organization in the world. When I’m not immersed in soccer, I explore the world by running and I run marathons/ultramarathons, pushing myself to the limits and raising money for Comfort Zone Camp in the process.
What’s been a pivotal point in your journey?
During my senior year in college I studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain and it changed my life. After graduating I took a job full time working for the YMCA in order to figure out how to get back across the pond. A few failed opportunities later, a Scot by the name of Owen and his Spanish wife Lola contacted me about an opportunity working for them in Villacañas, a small town in Castilla-La Mancha, Spain (pop, 10,000).
I was offered the job on a Friday. I threw up an entire pile of papers on my desk, walked into our director’s office, quit my job and left two weeks later.
What did you discover after taking that flight?
I discovered more about who I was in those nine months than I thought was possible. I worked with an amazing set of bosses, developed a second set of family, became fluent in Spanish and assimilated into the Spanish culture so much that somedays I feel more Spanish than American.
My time in Spain rekindled a love for soccer and upon coming home, I volunteered with a local minor league soccer team and thus began my now five year career working in the soccer industry. Since then I’ve owned three minor league teams, worked with countless projects and people and continue to work in the game I love.
Taking flight is a decision in the heart. Actual flights on planes are just long, measured acts of endurance. They are a means to an end. Follow your heart and, at least once on every trip, WALK across the land to get somewhere.
Drew is someone I found out about last year, when Colin Wright had just launched his online forum, Most Interesting People in the Room. On the blog there, Drew had written an incredibly insightful piece on being “ExPoMod,” or Ex-Post-Modern, theorizing about the direction the world is taking. After a couple of back-and-forth responses and digging up what type of interesting stuff Drew was up to, I knew I’d have to feature him on Take Flight. Funny thing is, Drew’s a guy who prefers walking across continents, but we all know one generally flies across seas.
A little about you
I’m a priest of the gods of nature, and an adventurer. In August 2011 I quit my job to live a traveling lifestyle. For years I told the sacred myths of the ancient heroes. One day I realized it would be more fun to actually live those myths, and I set out to have a Great Adventure of my own.
All of my travels to date have been training. They’re getting me ready for my big walk. In June 2012 I set out on a 7,000 mile walk from the United States to Brazil.
The purpose of this walk is to meet the gods: in the eyes of the people I meet, in the lands that I walk across, and maybe even face to face.
What’s been a pivotal point in your journey?
One of the most pivotal times for me was coming to Mexico City. There was a lot of risk in what I did - I had an invitation to stay for two months with a friend there, who I had never met in person. The purpose of my time in Mexico was to learn Spanish, a language I’ll need every day for most of my big walk.
When I arrived, Mauricio met me at the airport. We hit it off just as well in person as online. The two of us are like brothers, and it has completely changed the nature of my trip. What I thought of as two months of language learning has also become a time of refuge and renewal. Being surrounded by great friends in a peaceful home is a welcome rest on my journey. It fills me with energy and it opened my eyes to just what a source of strength my friends are. It also reassures me that even as I cross a dozen countries I can meet kindred spirits anywhere.
What’s your business all about?
Alongside my freelance work and my blog, Mauricio and I made a pact: both of us will start our own minimalist business in 30 days. We drafted our ideas and started work on January 15. My business, Alt+Magic, will create beautiful handmade scrolls enchanted with real spells. Altmagic.com launched in February.
If you’re a fan of Drew Jacob, check out Rogue Priest and send him a tweet with love!
I reached out to the amazingness that is Ashley Ambirge a while ago. Since those early days, I’ve seen her consistently serve up some of the most witty, cleverly-written commentary on a whole host of issues on her blog, whose namesake comes from the act of displaying a certain finger to the status quo. Ash is a huge inspiration, her writing is always thought-stirring and giggle-inducing, and her ability to work from her laptop means she’ll have taken many a flight. This story talks about a first one.
A little about you
I’m the founder of The Middle Finger Project, a marketing education company that teaches sassy small business owners how to effectively leverage the web to increase visibility, make mo’ money, and have fun while doing it.
Professionally speaking, I’m an online marketing expert with a corporate background in the email marketing industry, as well as a seasoned copywriter specializing in helping companies go from mega bland to major brand, and I’m passionate about creating small businesses that feel good for your soul…and your pocket.
I’m also infatuated with Latin dance, strongly believe that coffee tastes better through a straw and am disturbingly terrified of purple velour.
What got you on that first plane bound for Costa Rica?
Actually, I will always credit my very first trip to Costa Rica, when I was 19 years old, as setting the foundation for everything that I do, believe, feel, think and am today. I know that sounds like a brash overstatement, but it’s not.
I was young, impressionable and from a small town in rural Pennsylvania. I knew I wanted to experience another country - a Latin American country, because I was studying Spanish - but was scared out of my mind. People from my town didn’t go live in other countries.
However, it was that experience that was the real game changer for me. It was that experience that helped me realize the value of human connection, of exploration, of seeking understanding. Everything I’ve done from that point forward has been in the pursuit of connection, exploration or understanding - and it’s been those principles that have underscored the business that I currently run.
What’s your business all about?
The Middle Finger Project is underscored by the values of human connection, exploration + understanding. That’s really why I launched it - I wanted to help others see that there IS more to life…if you choose it. Developing and running an online business is one of the solutions that I promote as being a fantastic way to carry out those values - human connection, exploration and understanding, because online business requires no particular location, therefore freeing up the business owner to pursue those goals in a way that’s meaningful for him or her.
I met Nina Yau just 6 months ago in Bangalore, India. As coincidence had it, Nina’s yoga instruction academy was just a few blocks from my own aunt’s house. We made plans to meet up, and discussed life, places, inspirations, food and plenty of other stuff over coffee that was far too sweet for our likings. My history with Nina goes further back, though, when I stumbled across blog - Castles in the Air - and was pulled in by her excruciatingly gorgeous writing and highly refined view of life. You’ll see more of that in her responses below.
Her journey out of the traditional American career and life setup began with a few travels - the first step of which involved a flight out of O’Hare Airport.
A little about you and your story
Hi, I’m Nina and I’m a Truth-seeker. And, a ninja yogi. :) One can find me nowadays exploring the external and internal world, inspiring others to fearlessly be who they really are.
Before all this, however, my life was drastically headed towards self-destruction and muted complacency. I didn’t realize that I didn’t need to live my life according to what was proper, respectable, or right, until the day I found myself curled up in a tight ball in the bathtub with hot turn warm turn cold water raining upon me from the shower head, as I sobbed stinging tears of pain and confusion.
I didn’t see the point of doing things because I had to, for what possible life could I live if it was not the one I chose? So with that notion armed, I completely changed my life around. I quit my well-paying job, booked a one-way flight to the world, and haven’t stopped traveling and exploring since. There is no looking back and every day I wake now is a glorious day I look forward to enjoying and living. There is such a thing as being really happy and now I know what that feels like.
What happened after you left your past life?
After I quit my corporate day job in November 2010, less than two months later I was on a one-way flight to Taipei, Taiwan with a simple bag that carried all the belongings I had in this world.
Two weeks after I landed, I booked a one-way flight to Bangkok, Thailand and begun my Southeast Asia adventure that took me to thirty cities in six countries in three months. I saw horrific things, I experienced the expansiveness of human kindness, I laughed loudly, danced wildly, sang mightily and had the most amazing and brilliant time in my life, filled with wondrous experiences even dreams would be fond of.
I practiced Yoga on the sandy beaches of south Cambodia overlooking the staggering sunset and discovered I really enjoyed it. A few months later, I was booking my flight to Bangalore, India to begin my yoga teacher training’s course.
Every act taken in my life is at the same time deliberate and spontaneous. There is no overarching plan or timeline. There is only now and what I experience. So long as what I’m doing, where I’m at, who I’m with and who I am jives well with my inner spirit, I couldn’t be any happier.
How has this been a catalyst for you, and what’s happened since?
I left Chicago and made my home wherever I happened to be. For the better part of the year, I’ve been living in the south Asian countries. I started self-publishing my experiences of human nature as I travel. Now, I’m a certified Yoga teacher with training from India that will undoubtedly help me grow as a person and help others realize their true potential as well.
I’m Bud, and I’m a 20 year old college student. I enjoy reading, writing, and getting to know people.
Since a very young age, I’ve had the privilege of traveling all over the globe. As you can imagine this has taken me many flights in my time here on earth.
While traveling can certainly be stressful, there’s something about flying that brings me alive. When sitting thousands of feet in the sky I can’t help but feel a since of gratitude and appreciate for the many
How’d you get to the point of boarding a life-changing flight?
While I’ve been on many flights, probably the most memorable for me was when I boarded a flight from Houston Texas to Shanghai China for the first time.
I was 15 years old. My dad had just accepted a new job that would take me to the great continent of Asia.
While I had lived in The Netherlands when I was a young boy, my venture to China was the first time I had left my comfy home in Texas in over eight years.
The thought of moving to China scared me. I mean really scared me. How would I fit in? What’s Asia like? Will I ever see my friends again?
I didn’t want to fly.
The flight was over 14 hours, and quite honestly I don’t remember the exact details of how I felt. But the flight remains memorable to me for several reasons.
Sometimes in life, we’re scared. And that’s OK. The flight symbolized my journey in facing that fear. The fear of starting over. The fear of making new friends. The fear of making it when you don’t have a map.
Secondly, the plane ride planted the seed of my soon to be travel obsession. My obsession with seeing all sides of the world.
Tell us about your move to Shanghai?
Moving to Shanghai was rough at first. There were many times I wanted nothing more than a plane ticket home. But as the days passed, I slowly began to embrace my new life. And almost as if by magic, the lens in which I viewed the world began to shine.
Since that flight I took from Houston to Shanghai, I’ve experienced tremendous highs and tremendous lows. I’ve met dozens of people from all over the world. And I’ve lost a best friend.
I’ve had conversations with people that I will always remember. And I’ve fought many battles inside my head.
While a single flight may not seem like much to many people. That flight to Shanghai forever changed my life.
And to this day, every time I board a plane, I can’t but help and smile at how far we have come.
If you’re inspired by Bud’s flight, check out his site and shoot him a Tweet.
Flight Route Paris (CDG) —> Beijing (PEK) —> Seoul (ICN) —> Tokyo (NRT) —> Hong Kong (HKG) —> Bangkok (BKK) —> Sydney (SYD) —> Melbourne (MEL) —> San Francisco (SFO) —> New York (JFK) —> Santiago (SCL) —> Buenos Aires (EZE) —> Sao Paulo (GRU) —> Paris (CDG)
While I was scouring the pages of the internet doing a bit of research on the next iterations for Take Flight, which involve a healthy dose of travel and project-building, I came across The DODEQA Project - the brainchild of Thibaud Clément. With a few clicks and scrolls, I started feeling giddy looking at what this guy had done - and what I was planning on doing myself. Here was a dude from France, who, to combine a passion for traveling, learning and entrepreneurship, had created his own one year-long project, whereby he’d travel to one major city in the world every month, accomplishing one objective at a time. I promptly sent Thibaud a few tweets, which led to emails and finally a Skype conversation last week.
So with a bit of crackly internet and plenty of note-taking on my end, Thibaud and I exchanged info, stories and plans for what we were up to. And as you’ll see, his what he’s been up to involves a lot of flights.
A little about you
I am a 24-year old MBA + MSc. graduate. I’m a native of France, and I’m currently traveling around the world to study eCommerce in a creative way, by meeting experts on the road. This is The DODEQA Project: 12 months, 12 cities, 12 objectives. I’m passionate about marketing, entrepreneurship and web technologies, and I’ve launched my first eCommerce website: Candyscovery. When I’m not blogging or reading books, I love running, photographing and cooking. My motto? Do Your Best & Fix The Rest!
A bit about DODEQA and the idea behind your travels?
The concept of The DODEQA Project is to use travel to learn what I did not get from school. So, I booked a Round-The-World ticket to fly to twelve cities over the year, respectively in Asia, Oceania and the Americas. In a way, the pivotal time took place way before I took off, when I was still living in Canada, planning for the trip.
As far as I can remember, I have always wanted to start my own business. After a master degree in Marketing and an MBA focusing on leadership, I wanted to learn a couple of additional things to be able to launch my eCommerce website. So, I decided to build a project around the idea of learning, so that travel would become a vector for discoveries. This led me to launch two eCommercewebsites, to take part in TEDxYouth@Krungthep, to write articles for L’Entreprise.com - the largest online magazine for entrepreneurs in France - and to prepare the creation of a more prominent company in France, to be launched soon.
Kelly Byrd submitted her Take Flight story a little while ago. While I read her responses, I was intrigued. Here was a person who had a great job and friends in New York, the dream city of millions, and had tossed it all up not necessarily to start a business, rally around a social cause or work abroad. She left for love - and with that came a priceless life experience that’s led her diametrically between hemispheres and lives between New York, New Zealand and California. What’s also awesome is that Kelly’s headed back Down Under, this time to Australia, as of May 7. And Air New Zealand’s her catalyst.
A little about you
I am a 20-something traveler, New York native, marketing, PR and social media professional, avid music lover, yogi, techie and psychologist.
I’m intrigued by learning and development, emerging technology, eco-friendly and sustainable products, various psychological disciplines and the way social media is transforming communication.
What made you get on that cross-hemispheric flight? And what’s happened since?
I left my comfortable job and apartment full of college friends, and took off from New York to New Zealand with a boy I fell in love with. I was in search of new beginnings, to find a new side of the world, in tandem with a new side of myself, and to get to know myself better - my interests, desires, goals, dreams, wishes.
I have always been a planner. I love the art of organization and the feeling of success when something you’ve spent time and energy meticulously outlining comes together.
I now live in another beautiful place, and am figuring out my route from here as spontaneously as possible. Although my path and route has changed drastically from what I had planned, I have never been happier and healthier than I am right now.
And yes, I’m still in love with that boy.
If you’re inspired by Kelly’s journey, check out her blog and shoot her a Tweet.
Justin Miller’s a dude who submitted his story to Take Flight not too long ago. As I read through his responses, I couldn’t help but feel energized by his boldness and what he’s set out to do for himself and others. While Justin’s journey began a while ago, a trip around the world, several airports and flights involved, brought him to where he’s at now.
A little about you
I’m a professional trouble-maker. I’ve been practicing since birth, honed the skill through out high-school, and now try to teach the craft as an adult.
I also am a lifestyle coach focusing on health and wellness. I pursue optimal living for myself, clients, family and friends.
I am passionate about adventure, tackling fear, and most importantly, learning form those experiences. Travel, sky-diving, bungee jumping, cliff jumping, are some of my favorite things to do.
I’m a knowledge junkie and avid reader and I’m currently on a quest for 52 books in 52 weeks.
I run a blog called limitless365.com where I discuss many health and wellness topics, lifestyle design, challenging the status quo, and generally kicking ASS and taking names later.
How’d you make the first decision to take flight?
I spent a good 40K on grad school to tell me exactly what I didn’t want to do with my life. It didn’t take me to long after that to realize I needed to make some changes. To take some risks, get out of my comfort zone, and to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
I did something similar when I was 19, when I packed up my car on a whim and left Virginia for California. At that time, I was just tired of doing the same thing, being around the same people, hearing the same stories. I needed to shake things up in order to grow as a person.
This trip, however, was a little different. I had just got to work and I realized that this is not where I wanted to be. I asked my self the age old question: “Would I be doing what I am doing right now if I had all the money and time in the world?”
My answer was a big fat NO.
So I proceeded to pull up a map of the world online. It took me all but 5 minutes to figure out what I wanted to do. I wanted to visit some of the world’s greatest cities and see some of the worlds most precious sites. I wanted to do it alone. I wanted to get as uncomfortable as I could be.
The very next day I was on the phone booking my trip around the world. Japan, India, Thailand, Egypt, and France. 3 months away. No family, no friends, just me, myself, and I.
How’d that series of flights catalyze your passions into action?
I wouldn’t call it my passion as much as I would call it my purpose. I feel like I have a lot of passions but only one purpose in this world. Funny thing is it took me 2 more years after my trip to get started.
I think I was in culture shock when I returned. Still a little lost as to what I was here to do. But that experience opened my eyes to a world of people, personalities, and experiences that I wanted to participate in. Not only for the good of myself but for others as well.
Too many of us are perfectly okay with the comfortable. It’s natural to play it safe. But it’s important to remember that personal challenges are where character is born.
When you start acting on your purpose the universe rewards you. It wants you to succeed. It wants you to contribute because it knows what you are capable of.
If you’re inspired by Justin’s journey, check out his blog and shoot him a Tweet.
Sean Ogle was one of the first people I stumbled upon during my fledgling days of exploring work I love last year. He and I exchanged a few emails, I helped him a teeny bit with his then-upcoming Location Rebel launch, and it was obvious to me how passionate he was about location independence.
Sean recently spoke at TEDxCMU on the future of the American Dream, where touched on how a lot of the thought-origins for his current work came from a trip he took to Brazil in 2009. Turns out Sean took a flight there ;)
A little about you
I’m Sean Ogle, and, in short, I help people live more fulfilling lives through entrepreneurship. A few years ago I was in a job I didn’t like, so after an interesting chain of events, I left and moved to Thailand, where I learned how to build the skills necessary to run a web-based business. It’s been quite the journey since then, and I’m at a point now where I can solidly state that I travel whenever I want, and generally have the freedom that traditionally has only been associated with retirement.
My latest project, Location Rebel, is somewhat a result of the evolution, where the goal is to help people to reach a similar state.
How’d you make the first decision to make changes?
In February of 2009, after 10 months of begging my boss to use my very own vacation time to travel to Rio de Janeiro for Carnaval, I took hopped on a plane and 3 airports and 2 layovers later, I was in Brazil. And for two weeks, I had the time of my life in South America.
It was on one of the last days of my trip: I was sitting on Copacabana Beach, drinking a coconut and all I could think about was how great the last two weeks had been. And it hit me: “I should be able to do this whenever I want.” I was getting ready to go back to a job working 50 hours a week as an investment analyst, which I really did not like. I had never consciously decided what I wanted to do with my life and leading up to this, I had simply been following the path of least-resistance.
So it was sitting on that beach that I made a decision to make a change, and ever since that moment my life has never been the same.
Lot’s happened since the Brazil trip - how?
I’d had this idea of creating a bucket list for a long time. It had always been floating in the back of my mind, and the trip to Brazil was more or less the first time I’d been able to cross off some major things on that list.
Over the past few years, quite a few more items from the bucket list have been crossed off - largely due to the confidence and inspiration I gained from that trip to Brazil. It’s what led me to trust my gut and move to Bangkok not too long afterward, where I learned a ton of web business skills and met awesome people. Now I’ve set myself up online to work on the projects most meaningful to me and helpful to others.