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“How could you go back to living a mundane life?”

Cassie de Pecol is on a quest to become the fastest woman to visit every country in the world. We sometimes exchange notes about visa issues, long flights, and drinking a bottle of wine while stuck in no-man’s-land transit zone for eight hours or more.

There aren’t many people who’ve gone to every country. Cassie is pursuing a Guinness World Record (I like those too!) but for me, I wasn’t trying to be the youngest, fastest, or any other adjective. In my case, I did it for myself.

She said something to me recently that I really liked, and I’m sharing it here with her permission. For context, we were talking about the dreaded “What do you do after completing a big quest?” question.

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Five Weeks with Syrian Refugees: One Man’s Quest to Promote Cultural Intelligence

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Having lived abroad both growing up and as an adult, David Durham has dedicated his life to promoting cultural curiosity. Most recently his adventures took him to Greece, where he and his wife, Becky, observed the refugee crisis in Europe first hand. Though they were already veteran travelers, they were profoundly impacted by this experience.

I am a lover of culture. I write, speak, and podcast about crossing cultural bridges with a goal of promoting cultural curiosity. I teach French, Spanish, and Global Studies; my wife teaches World Geography. Between the two of us, our students have little hope of remaining indifferent to international cultures!

Ever since the trips back and forth to Australia, where I lived with my family for five years as a child, I have been infected with an insatiable curiosity about other cultures and languages. I spent 12 years in Europe and continue to travel there on a regular basis which includes leading cultural tours with my wife, Becky.

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The 12 Most Common Questions I Get About Traveling the World (Part II)

I’m no longer going to every country in the world (mission accomplished), but I’m still traveling at least 200,000 miles a year.

As such, I get a lot of questions over and over, both from people who want to travel far and wide and those who just want to learn a few things to make their lives easier.

This series of three posts provides some attempted As to the Qs.

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A Quest to Visit (and Illustrate!) Every U.S. National Park

Technical mapper turned visual storyteller Karla Sanders met restless Colombian web designer Andres in Italy and fell in love. Now, they’re back in America and on a quest to visit all 59 national parks in the U.S.—with a twist.

About a year into having an Etsy store, I was also working as an in-house graphic designer in Cleveland. To sustain our outdoorsy natures, Andres and I would go hiking in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Our online shop was doing fairly well, but something was missing.

While on one of those hikes, the idea just came to us: why not combine our love of the our local national park and our illustration skills? Our first masterpiece for Hike & Draw was our illustrated map of all 59 natural national parks.
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One Man’s Quest to Draw 900,000 Buildings in New York City

It’s difficult to pin down the exact number of buildings in New York City. One source estimates 860,000, another source pins the number at 1,053,713. Whatever the number, we’ll know eventually, thanks to Australian-born James Gulliver Hancock, who has made it his mission to draw every single one of them.

When I moved to New York City, I really wanted to get to know Manhattan better, beyond a traditional tourist experience. New York was my new home, and I needed a way to understand it. Drawing every building is my version of a diary of my experience in the city—and it doubles as my own personal map. When I walk by the buildings I’ve drawn, it’s like seeing old friends.
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“People Are Seen As Part of Your Wealth”: A Quest to Interview 365 Strangers

Ebele Mogo stepped outside herself—way outside herself—when she decided she just had to know what people around her were thinking. So she grabbed her iPhone and asked.

I am a scientist, writer, and entrepreneur originally from Nigeria. I am both analytical and artistic, and I tend to be childlike—so I’m always laughing and I’m always curious.

My curiosity is actually what led me to my quest: to interview one stranger every day for a year.
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Adventure Is Worthwhile In Itself

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"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward. Adventure is worthwhile in itself."
-Amelia Earhart

You often hear about how we regret the things we don’t do more than the things we do. Looking back at the experience of traveling the world, this belief shines through whatever hardship I encountered.

Sure, I can remember the struggles. I can remember sleeping on the ground, running out of money, missing my flights. I remember not being sure if I’d make it, if I’d have to give up somewhere.

If I think about it, I can remember sweating it out in Eritrea, detained by the police overnight before I was put on a plane to Cairo. I remember flying to Angola and Pakistan without the required visa, wondering what would happen on the other side.

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The More You Improve, The Harder It Gets

I always love a good quest. While flying Southwest Airlines recently (it’s a long story) I happened to pick up the in-flight magazine and read about a guy who’s trying to become a professional golfer.

DanPlan3 The whole article is interesting but isn’t the easiest to read in online format. The short version is that Dan, an ordinary guy from my hometown of Portland, Oregon, is trying to become a professional golfer despite never having much of an aptitude for playing golf before.

Dan pursues the quest partly because he wants to see if it's possible. Does talent come about entirely through "putting in the hours"? Here's a real-life case study to find out.

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Will Travel for Vegan Food: A Quest to Visit 547 Restaurants

KL8 One day, Kristin looked around at the life she thought she wanted—the job, the relationship, the stuff—and realized her heart yearned for something else. So she decided to do something big: travel the country in an effort to go to every vegan restaurant.

My name is Kristin Lajeunesse. I'm a 32-year-old, self-employed business clarity coach and creative marketing strategist for small business owners and entrepreneurs. I work from home (or rather, my computer), and enjoy picking up and moving every few months or so to explore new locales.

My quest was to promote and share vegan restaurants and eateries from around the world. Between October 2011 to August 2013, I lived in a van and entirely off of donations in an effort to eat at and write about every vegan restaurant in the United States. I called my quest Will Travel for Vegan Food.

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Surfing the Entire West Coast of the Americas: A Quest of Love and Discovery

Conscious traveling, a quest to surf the entire west coast of all the Americas, a van, and a dog: Jade Heilmann's experiences on the road were too good not to share.

I'm Jade. Together with my better half (aka Gabriel), our Westfalia (aka BigBlu), and our pup (aka Phi), we make up the We Travel and Blog team. Currently, we’re on a mission to surf the whole west coast of the Americas, from Tofino to Tierra de Fuego.

As an added challenge, we’ve pledged to make it to creating zero waste by the time we reach the tip of Chile. Gabriel and I see all water as holy; surf is our baptism. That’s where the zero waste pledge comes in. We’re tired of seeing trash rolling in the waves with us.

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Man Takes More than 1,000 flights Without Leaving the Airport

For more than twenty years, he flew to a different European city — every Wednesday. He never missed a week. Mr Mul (born in 1932) made more than 1,000 flights over a period of 20 years.

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Travel is what you make it. In the early days of my travel quest to visit every country, I would get defensive when people asked why I only stayed in most countries for a relatively brief period of time. Unlike this guy, I left the airport and usually spent several days in a place—but still, I totally get why someone would love flying for the sake of flying.

It was all about an experience, about losing himself in the window seat and venturing to a different place. No matter that the place was "air world." Some of us like air world just fine.

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All-Female Film Crew Hikes 338 Miles of the California Aqueduct

This is a quest case study. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

Drought is on the minds of every Californian these days, but Samantha Bode took the water shortage a step further. First, she began to think about the water of Los Angeles itself—where it comes from, and why. This thinking led her on an exciting journey.

My name is Samantha. This summer, I'm backpacking all 338 miles of the Los Angeles aqueduct, from Owens Valley in Inyo County to Upper Van Norman Lake in Granada Hills.

The city of LA gets most of its water from hundreds of miles away, often leaving ecological destruction in its wake. On top of that, California is experiencing its worst drought on record, and people are not conserving water at the rate they need to in order to preserve this resource they need to live.

We’re taking the journey and making a documentary, The Longest Straw, to raise awareness of water importation and management. We hope to encourage people to form a personal connection with their water by seeing where it comes from.
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Going Back to Kindergarten at Age 28: Melia Dicker’s Quest

This is a quest case study. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

Have you ever wanted to go back to part of your school days knowing what you know now? In her part-Billy Madison style, part-personal development quest, Melia Dicker did just that.

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I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a kid, I loved to write stories and draw, but as I got older, I began to focus on school at the expense of everything else. I put immense pressure on myself to get perfect grades and test scores.

I operated under the assumption that doing well in school would lead to a life as a happy, self-assured, and financially stable adult. But six years out of college, I realized that I was none of those things. The habits that had made me an excellent student were the very habits that made me terrible at being an autonomous adult.

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How a Fortune Cookie Changed My Life: On the Road with Jessica Darling

Jess7 This is a traveler case study. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

We all travel for different reasons. When I heard Jessica's story of hoping to find herself—and how she went about it—I knew you'd like it, too.

Hey there. I’m Jessica, and a fortune cookie changed my life. Shortly before my 33rd birthday, I read the fortune, "You will never reach your full potential unless you try." Within six months I had resigned from my job, was single after years of being with a partner, and was entirely on my own.

So I decided to try.

I gave myself an open-ended "sabbatical" to really get in touch with what deeper meaning my life had and what work I was meant to do in the world. I wanted to find out what that "full potential" was.

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