A couple months back while attending a summit in New York on global philanthropy, I sat in the audience listening to the stories of individuals who had recently done something different with their lives. Something off the mainstream, beaten path. Something that was worth sharing with a room full of people who cared about using their lives for social purpose. I’ve listened to a lot of lectures and speeches, but something about that day was different. My wheels began turning as I wondered – what could I do that would be meaningful enough to share with people?
For the past several years, especially past six months or so, I’ve been wanting to write a book. I thought it would be a fictional novel based around my life, a millennial young woman from Minnesota with global interests and ambitions trying to find herself, and find the perfect job, friends, significant other along the way. I started to write it, put together an extensive outline, aggregate past journal entries. I found that most of my journal entries were written when I was frustrated by the most recent guy situation, so I started to edit the stories to color a more positive spin for the readers, with lessons learned from the perceived relationship failures. The main theme was a coming of age, finding the humor while growing into oneself. I wrote alongside my other work, but something wasn’t clicking. That book, while entertaining, didn’t feel like the right fit with the life I was working toward. It would touch on social phenomena, cultural norms, global connectivity, the ways of today that are defining my generation’s relationship with each other and the world. But for some reason, the book took a backseat, while my desire to share the story line remained strong.
That day in New York after the morning sessions, I was talking with my friend who had also attended. We had spent the past few days together and I was about to head to the airport to fly back to DC. While I still don’t remember the exact way the conversation started, he suggested the idea I write a book about all the people I meet on airplanes. My mom’s airline employee benefits have me flying more often than most people, mainly roundtrips from wherever I live back home to Minnesota for family time. Due to the frequency I find myself in the air combined with a love of good conversation, I have met some pretty awesome people and had amazing conversations while sitting next to strangers on airplanes. To the point that my current job marketing a film on social entrepreneurship is thanks to a man I met years ago on an airplane from Chicago to New York. Little did I know at the time that showing him every photo from my recent trip to a rice farm in Kenya would result in him remembering my passion for global development and connect me with the Brazilian based film director when she needed someone in the US that could help manage the international demand. I’ve remained friends, at least through Facebook, with several other people I’ve met in the sky and always find myself happy getting off an airplane after a pleasant conversation between destinations.
My friend’s idea was clever and immediately I liked it, but thought there needed to be more to it. I suggested, maybe I ask everyone I sit next to the same three questions and see what people around the world think. And with that alteration, I was hooked. The social psychologist in me was so excited to travel around the world with a purpose. Within 24 hours of having this conversation, I had told my best friends back in DC later that night, then my parents in Minnesota the next day. I was expecting some critical response, skepticism of the idea or plan, reality checks that flying around the world talking to people was not a solid reason to leave my apartment, friends, professional life behind for several months. Instead, to my pleasant and grateful surprise, I received nothing but support and feedback to help make the idea even better. My friends helped me expand the idea beyond airplane travel, with maybe some conversations happening on planes, but the majority on the ground, in the heart of the action where people from all walks of life meet in cities around the world. My parents and siblings, knowing me better than any others on earth, helped me own the idea as a perfect experience to embark on at this time and place in my life. My professional colleagues, and a bunch of people that I hardly even knew, helped me to hone in on the purpose of my adventure, the depth that it could take, the impact it could have for me and others that I share it with along the way and after. The plans evolved, the questions evolved, and the Big Shared World journey was born.
The worst case scenario is that I travel a bunch in the coming months, meet cool people, see cool places, eat cool foods, and have a great personal experience. The best case scenario is that this experience is a lot bigger than that. My hope is that my friends and family come along with me. I’d love for some to actually join me along the way, but even as I travel solo, I want to share this adventure. And as I go, I hope I meet more friends and people who want to follow the journey. People who are curious about what other people around the world think and care about. Because ultimately, my goal for this experience is to explore this big world we share, and how we as members of the global community, can work together to make it a more wonderful place for all who call it home.
This blog will host the stories from my experience and serve as the way for me to stay connected. I plan to share updates from the road, stories from meeting people around the world, insights from ideas I interact with along the way. In the end, I will culminate the insight from the entire experience. For now, I will focus on setting out on this exploration with an open mind, heartfelt enthusiasm, and genuine curiosity to learn how each of us as individuals can make our time on this shared world as good as possible for ourselves and each other.
So from me to you, wherever you are, thank you for coming along with me – let the adventure begin!!
(Written in flight from MSP-SFO)