“Live! Live the wonderful world that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing,” says Lord Henry in Oscar WIlde’s masterpiece The Picture of Dorian Gray. Easier said than done, Mr. Wilde.
We’re living in the United States of America. There is plenty to be afraid of. We can just keep our heads above water in this rapidly changing world, or we can look at the possibilities. No doubt there’s plenty to fight, but amid resistance, in the face of what we’re up against, comes opportunity to create who and what it is we want to be, both as a collective society and as individuals.
A few years ago, I found myself at a precipice. I could sense the daily, tiny cuts of self-inflicted, fatal receptiveness and I knew something had to change. I’ve been fortunate to make a living in front of the camera, but I dreamt of turning the camera onto the world. I allowed myself to wonder again, and to imagine what a life led differently might look like.
It’s crazy how life works. A certain film premiered around this same time. A film asking each of us to buy a ticket, to explore, to venture out into the world. “Be a scientist of your own spiritual experience. You’re not here as a tourist or a journalist; you’re here as a seeker. So explore it,” writes Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the novel Eat, Pray, Love. At first glance, Gilbert, or Julia Roberts, who plays Gilbert in the film adaptation, and I have little in common. But in the darkness of the theater, with a tear or two rolling down my cheek, I was reminded of the fire simmering deep inside of me. The fire that years prior led me across the country in pursuit of grand dreams. Where had this zest gone? More importantly, how could I reclaim it?
There’s this belief that to change your life, you must change your physical activity. The simple act of moving our bodies changes our state of mind. With the decision to commit to physical activity, change then becomes inevitable. I took up running and in so doing, I found a new perspective to interact, engage, and view the world. I became curious again. Curious about how far and how fast I could go. Curious about what I could do when my body, mind and spirit work in unison. And curious about how others are passionately living out their lives. This curiosity has led me to some truly unique places.
On the last day of a 10-day run across the state of California, I stopped to snap a photo of a mileage sign directing me to Parker, Arizona, my finish line. Isolated except for the occasional passing freight truck, suddenly a white Jeep Cherokee pulled over and out stepped a woman in her mid-60s. She too snapped a picture of the road sign, then turned to me and questioned, “What on earth are you doing out here? You’re having too much fun!” I explained to Eleanor from Saskatchewan, how some friends and I left Huntington Beach days prior and were running 300 miles across the state. Unexpectedly, Eleanor began telling me her story. Her husband of decades recently passed away. In her grief, she packed her car and began to explore North America, seeking out towns named “Parker,” her grandson’s name.
As we parted ways, Eleanor reached into her pocket and left me with a small Canadian flag pin. In that moment, I realized there’s no real destination for either of us. Two strangers on the shoulder of a two-lane highway in the middle of the California desert, both on a search for what else is out there.
In my experience, adventure leads to the desire for more. As we open ourselves up to new ideas, to uncertainty, to learning from others, new questions arise. Life seems more complete, yet simultaneously, I’m aware there is so much more to do, see, and experience.
Recently, I found myself in a cozy London hotel room. The floor to ceiling windows framed a typical English, October evening. Classic street lamps illuminated a gentle fog. Pedestrians bustled in their overcoats. The glow of the West End marquees flickered from around the corner. It was the perfect evening for a new idea to brew.
Staring at me from the coffee table was a travel magazine. I began thumbing through the pages and something happened: my heart sank at images of a camel caravan crossing a desert. I turn the pages again and there sulphur springs boiled onto the ground surface that resembled that of an alien landscape. Then a picture of lava flowing from Erta Ale into the world’s longest-existing lava lake. This was a feature story on the Danakil Desert in Eastern Ethiopia and it held me hostage. The temperatures reach 127°F and ground level is 150 feet below sea level. In this desert, three giant tectonic plates meet but are slowly drifting apart. And here the indigenous Afar mine salt, the oldest currency in the world. Reading the story, I was transported back to that golden time as a child, when awe and adventure outshined any lingering dangers.
A land unlike any others I have ever seen before. That curiosity bug kicks in. One day soon, I will cross the desert on foot. That night I committed myself to.
In the spirit of creating life, rather than passively accepting what comes my way, I’m stepping up to meet this challenge. In doing so, I am excited about the like-minded souls I’ll meet along the way, but even more interested in the ones that may not look, act or come from backgrounds like mine. Knowing we are more connected than divided, the differences only adding flavor.
To choose to live life fully, full of curiosity, and connected to our world and neighbors, near or far, this is the ultimate act of rebellion in our country today. It also feels like the right thing to do.
Originally published in Beverly Hills Lifestyle