KEY TAKEAWAYS: Chris Guillebeau, “The Happiness of Pursuit”

Nearly a decade into my career (am I dating myself here?) I decided to pursue an MBA, believing that it was my best option of advancing further up the corporate ladder. However, during my first year in b-school, it dawned on me that the only way to make tons of money was to work for myself. Since then, I have been contemplating the idea of turning my travel photography hobby into a business. Somehow, work always got in the way. That is, until I was laid off…

And so begins the story of “Live East of Eden”. This isn’t just a travel blog with pretty pictures. My hope is to inspire personal growth – be it from travel, good books or good eats. OK, OK…I don’t know how food is supposed to bring about spiritual transformation, but life is about good eats with good company, right?

In researching popular travel blogs, I came across Chris Guillebeau’s site, “The Art of Non-Conformity”. One of Chris’ many accomplishments is having visited every country in the world (193 in total). Oh, and by the way, he is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author (“The $100 Startup”) – all before turning 35.

Chris Guillebeau Happiness of Pursuit Book Tour

106 Miles & Startup OC Speaker Series (Photo by Dave Luong Si)

When Eventbrite suggested the 106 Miles Speaker Series that Chris Guillebeau would be speaking at, I signed up immediately. (Being unemployed, it helped that this event was FREE.) FYI, 106 Miles is a network of startup founders, engineers, and friends – and their mission is to strengthen the connections between SoCal tech startups and Silicon Valley resources.

Tonight, Chris was back in town to talk about his new book, The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life,  in which he reveals how anyone can bring meaning into their life by undertaking a quest. He shared his three biggest lessons:

  1. You must believe in your dream, even if no one else does.
    Quest: Nate wanted to walk across America. After 7 1/2 months, he made it from Maine to San Francisco. Nate realized that all he had to do was put one foot in front of the other and eventually he would reach his goal.
  2. Unhappiness or Discontentment is a very powerful force for positive change.
    Quest: Sandy was laid off from GM. She always wanted to travel along Route 66, and so she used the time as a sabbatical. Along the way she took pictures and wrote about her experiences. Soon she received offers to write for magazines. (My story is sounding very much like Sandy’s…except for the offers pouring in from publications.)
  3. Thinking about the end of our lives can help us with the rest of our lives.
    Quest: Adam, a widower took on his late wife’s bucket list. He was doing so to honor her, but the process also helped him to grow. While Adam was more cautious, Megan always went all out; she never held anything back for she lived life with that urgency.

Chris Guillebeau's new book, "The Happiness of Pursuit"A quest is something grand and involves transformation, and is different from a hobby, in that a quest is something deeper, longer term, and has parameters. The quest must be feasible! It should be difficult, but not out of the realm of possibility (like playing for the NBA or walking the runway as a Victoria’s Secret Angel).

From his quest to visit every country, Chris learned how a quest could bring meaning into life. And once you go down the road of adventure, you don’t know where you are going to end up (but it’s usually a good space). His greatest transformation was going from doing this on his own to realizing the sense of community.

“By the time I came to the end, I was a very different person. As I learned, this is a common feature of quests. You set out to accomplish something, and hopefully you do—but something else usually happens along the way, too.”

As far as travel goes, there are not that many countries that are difficult to get to. Only 8-10 that are problematic (N. Korea, Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia, Cuba, to name a few), but there is always some way to get there. Of all the countries Chris visited, Bhutan stood out because he found it peaceful and comforting.

You don’t have to be rich, or marry rich, to travel around the world. It cost $30k for his first 100 countries (that’s cheaper than a year of b-school!). And then Chris learned to travel hack with frequent flyer miles and points. He also worked, consulted, and halfway through the quest, discovered writing.

Chris Guillebeau, Happiness of Pursuit, Book Signing

Photo by Dave Luong Si

Remember to enjoy the process and looking forward to the destination. Chris met the most interesting people along the way, and realized that his quest was becoming something else – less about him and more about community. One of the universal truths is that people long for a sense of connection as a community.

Celebrate the milestones and the wins, and celebrate others’ successes. It’s OK to give up if the quest is no longer enjoyable or if the outcome is not important anymore. Think more about the underlying values of the quest, and alter the parameters if necessary.

The challenge is the essence of the story, and a quest can bring meaning into life. Find a way to cultivate adventure in your own life!

What will your quest be?


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