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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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What Remains in the Quest for Literary Permanence


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From Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher:

I am always taken aback when students confide in me that beneath their desire to write lies a quest for permanence. It’s odd but touching, I think, that even during this disposable age, while consigning great mountains of refuse to landfills and to atolls of plastic in the Pacific, these young would-be novelists and poets believe that art is eternal. Au contraire: we are in the business of ephemera, the era of floating islands of trash, and most of the things we feel deeply and inscribe on the page will disappear.

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Writing 150 Musical Compositions Before Turning 50: Stephen P. Brown’s Quest

Rejection didn't dampen Stephen P. Brown's inner fire. Instead, being turned down from achieving something he wanted flamed his desire to grow and change. Here's his quest.

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As a conductor of orchestras, bands, choirs and musicals, it has been my privilege to see thousands of people laugh, cry and directly connect with live music, whatever language they speak. My life journey has taken me from a small village in the English countryside to the sunny shores of Florida via Europe, Africa, South America, and much of the USA and Canada.

Through all my travels I occasionally needed to compose music specifically for the ensembles I worked with, and I dabbled in some formal composition training here and there, but I never considered myself a 'composer.'

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Around the World on a Yellow Motorcycle: Leon Logothetis’ Quest

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

Some people like a challenge. Some like a really big challenge.

Leon Logothetis went for big when he decided to travel around the world, fueled only by the kindness of people he'd never met.

I was born in London, where I worked as a broker. But I felt disconnected and uninspired with my pursuit of a traditional life. So I quit my job and moved to America.

My quest was to travel from Los Angeles all the way around the world, returning to LA, on my vintage yellow motorbike named Kindness One. There was a twist: I had to make it around the globe without money. I had to ask for help from people I met along the way.

The journey was not just about my traveling the world on the kindness of strangers. I also wanted to show that by truly committing to living our dreams, anything is possible.
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Writing a Three-Line Poem Every Day for a Year: Yvonne Whitelaw’s Quest

As I wrote in The Happiness of Pursuit, a quest need not be an athletic struggle or travel adventure. I loved this story of how this former medical resident wrote a haiku every day for a year.

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I'm Yvonne Whitelaw. I was born in Britain, but raised in Nigeria and the United States. I’m a stay at home mom and former physician. I decided to tweet a haiku a day for 365 days, even though I barely knew what a haiku was and had never actually written one.

Interestingly, the practice of daily haiku writing has helped my ADD. Haikus have trained me to focus and express myself succinctly.

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30 Peaks Before Age 30: Ashley Gossen’s Quest

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

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In The Sound of Music, Mother Reverend sang "Climb every mountain." We're not suggesting that was Ashley Gossen's inspiration for tackling 30 peaks before her 30th birthday—but it came to mind when we heard her story.

I've been fascinated by mountains and the outdoors since I was a little girl growing up in rural Pennsylvania. As I got older, I dreamed about moving west and spending time in the beautiful places I only ever saw on television. When my dream became a reality, and my then-boyfriend (now husband) and I moved to Seattle, I became hooked on hiking. Spinning on that love, I decided to hike 30 peaks before I turned 30, the last peak being on my actual birthday.

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A Tale of Two Rivers: New Film Documents Journeys in Iran and Patagonia

And as far as I can recall, I’ve seen Tom Allen in Los Angeles, London, and Portland. The guy gets around!

He's also a prolific filmmaker. Tom is returning this year with another big documentary project, this one produced with a partner with whom he undertook major expeditions through Iran and Patagonia—two places that are different in many ways.

With only 5 days to go, here's the trailer for the Kickstarter project to fully produce two feature-length films:

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40 Years Later, I Set Out to Walk the Camino de Santiago: Nancy Liddle’s Quest

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

Nancy wasn't sure she could complete an 850-kilometer walk on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. But she did, and discovered something about age in the process. Here's how it happened.

My name is Nancy and last year I fulfilled my 40-year-old dream to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Being 56, relatively unfit, single, and never having walked more than 10 kilometers in my life was intimidating, but I did it.

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Oregon Woman Learns to Speak Six Languages Fluently

The six official languages of the United Nations are considered the most geopolitically important languages in the world—not to mention that native speakers of those tongues represent about a third of the global population. Emily Liedel decided to learn them all to fluency.

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Introduce yourself and your quest.

Professionally, I'm a freelance journalist, translator and language entrepreneur. I write about international affairs, urban issues, food and language. Personally, I'm on a quest to learn all of the official languages of the United Nations (Spanish, French, Russian, Chinese and Arabic - English which is my native language) to native-level fluency by my 35th birthday in 2019.

Currently, I speak everything but Arabic, and I'm still finishing up becoming fluent in Chinese. I also speak fluent German and Swiss German (the dialect spoken in Switzerland) so I like to say that German is my bonus language.

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Taking an Upright Piano Around the United States: Dotan Negrin’s Story

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This is a reader story. (Read others or tell us yours.)

Dotan Negrin likes a challenge. Three years ago, he started taking his upright piano with him everywhere he went. Here's how he tells the story:

I didn’t know piano playing was a goal of mine. I didn’t even learn to play until I was 19, and when I hit the road I was in no way ready to start performing. But I did it anyway because I realized the biggest thing standing in my way from living an extraordinary life was myself. Once I became determined to live differently, it was impossible not to.

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Hiking the 7,910-Mile Triple Crown of American Trails: David Getchel’s Quest

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

Earlier this week, David Getchel began the second leg of his three part quest to hike the Triple Crown of American trails: the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. Here's how it all began—and what's coming next.

I'm Dave, and I call Northern California home. Originally, my quest was to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (affectionately named the PCT ), a 2,650 mile trail spanning California, Oregon and Washington. Starting near San Diego I hiked through desert, lush forests and mountain ranges, encountering all types of weather. The PCT ends at the US/Canadian border. Most people hike for 4-6 months. There's a little bit of everything: alpine lakes miles from any road, long stretches without reliable water sources, and wide ranging wildlife. But while on the PCT, I decided to tackle the Triple Crown which includes the 2,160 mile Appalachian Trail, a 2,160 mile and the 3,100 Continental Divide Trail.

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“Normal Guy” Pizza Manager Stays Overnight in 48 States


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

Currently a manager at Sbarro, Chris Strub is a be a pretty "normal" guy who had an idea - to spend at least one night in the lower 48 states - and made it happen. Here's how:

Introduce yourself and your quest.

I'm a 29-year-old native New Yorker currently living in Greenville, South Carolina. As I grew up, I was constantly told I could “be whatever I wanted to be.” I sat at my college graduation listening to successful people offering vague advice like this, rife with buzzwords. But I’d never pigeonholed my career goal. Even though I’d had great jobs, I felt like I still had an open book ahead of me. I didn't want to be defined by my vocations - I wanted to be defined by my dreams.

And pushing the limits of social media through travel was my calling. So I decided to take a 90-day solo road trip around the lower 48 states, staying a night in every state.

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Billy Ulmer’s Quest to Visit 10 Tiny Houses Across America

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

When I heard about Billy Ulmer's quest to interview people living in tiny houses, I couldn't help but think of Dee Williams, one of the 2014 WDS speakers. Funny enough, she was one of his first interviews! Here's Billy's story.

Introduce yourself and your quest.

My name is Billy and I’m a writer and photographer from Portland, Oregon. In 2014, I completed the first phase of what has become an ongoing quest: I visited 10 tiny houses across America, did in-depth interviews with the people that designed, built and live in them, and shared their inspiring stories.

I met people in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, New Mexico, Texas, Ohio, New York and West Virginia, and learned how choosing an unlikely home changed their lives.
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The Wall Street Banker Who Became a Monk: Rasanath Dasa’s Quest

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

Sometimes when we get what we want, we realize we were wrong about our own ambitions. Rasanath Dasa spent his entire young adult life getting a great job in finance only to realize that a frenetic, money-driven lifestyle wasn’t for him. Here’s what he did to change it.

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Tell us about yourself.

I had wanted to work on Wall Street since ninth grade. Living in Mumbai, I saw Wall Street on TV, and immediately dreamed of owning a yellow convertible and a blue motorboat (yes, I was very specific about the colors!). I graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, worked for Deloitte in New York City, got an MBA from Cornell, and finally landed a job at Bank of America as an investment banker.

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