Saturday, November 8, 2008

EDUARDO INFANTE: Travel, Work and Poltics

Hi there! I'm still struggling with a bit of a delay in posting that I'm planning on cutting this weekend. Here's my answers to last week's questions. Again, better now than never! (Or is this another typical example of this young Mexican's "maƱana" culture?... Sorry for the delay, is all I can say)

1. Can you describe a favorite travel memory? It doesn’t have to be extraordinary - simple is good, too – but what is a memory of some travel experience that you treasure?
Like some of you FQOF (Five Questions On Friday) authors, I did a year of traveling in this wacky organization called Up With People. Well, some of you did more than a year, while at least one of you did a little less than a year. Anyways, I guess that the time in Up With People gives us plenty of inspiration to write about a favorite travel memory.

But my favorite travel memory is not related to Up With People. At least not this time. This story is about a trip I did back in high school.

Back in those days, when I was a teenager and life did not seem as complicated as it now seems sometimes, a bunch of friends and I made this trip to Zacatecas, one of Mexico's most beautiful colonial towns. We won a contest at our school (don't ask details, but we cheated, I must admit) that allowed us to come visit for an entire day (the trip from home is really short) instead of going to school. So we did.

Among the many episodes of that particular 1-day trip, the one that comes to mind right away is that of myself standing in front of a crowd of total strangers, at the town's main square, and me babbling nonsense. These people probably thought that I was a comedian of some sort. Perhaps, they were waiting to hear something intelligent coming out of my mouth. But nothing rational did come. As my friends and I were walking down the street, I just felt the urge to ramble. And so I did. Words started flowing, people congregated, and all of a sudden there it was, an audience in a show in which I was the main character.

The plaza was filled with doves, there were plenty of them. And the show was about me trying to convince the listeners of purchasing those doves from me. White doves were for making peace. Black doves were for making war. (I know, my writing doesn't make sense, thus far. I know. My talking didn't either, back then) Either I was a damn good dove seller, or these people in this highly touristy town had just too much time to spare, for the crowd reached a couple dozen people in its best moment.

I was 17 then. 16 years afterward, at the age of 33, I think about this younger version of me, in a time when I wasn't afraid of making a fool of myself, nor was ashamed of stepping out of my comfort zone, and could not care less for public exposure.

Perhaps, the reason why life seemed brighter than it sometimes seems today, is because I was not so aware of people's opinion's on me back then. Perhaps, one starts feeling (and acting) old when one begins to take life seriously, forgetting about adding some foolishness to one's life every now and then. Perhaps, this serious approach won't necessarily make you smarter.

2. What is something you've learned from traveling - a lesson that you've tried to carry with you in the rest of your life?
The two things I've learned from traveling that I think I've tried to carry with me in the rest of my life is 1) never trust tourist guides, and 2) you can learn amazing things by simply walking.

I won't get into details with point number 1. It's self explanatory. I'd rather get deeper with point number 2.

When I was 15 years-old I did my first trip to the other side of the Atlantic, entirely by myself. Well, sort of. I was part of a large crowd en route to Roma, Italy, in order to celebrate the 50 Anniversary of the foundation of Legion of Christ, a religious congregation in which I participated vividly in my younger years. The point, nonetheless, is that I was traveling by myself, without my parents. It was also my first trip abroad.

We spent about a week in Rome, participating in several religious services, and having the chance to greet Pope John Paul II three times during that week. But we also had plenty of free time to hang around and do the typical sightseeing tourists do. Even though I was part of a group of people, it was not like I was supposed to be with them all the time. I remember that one day, on a Sunday morning, I simply took off my hotel and started walking.

I walked and walked without really know where I was going. It was not even the touristy kind of walk, in which you're following map directions in order to hit a certain sightseeing spot. No, this was more of a get-to-witness-real-Rome-and-its-neighborhoods-with-no-tourist-attractions walk. I remember greeting people on the streets, just for the heck of it. Some of them would look at me with awe, but would still smile back. Some of them ignored me, instead. Just as it would happen in any other street back in my country, I thought. I went to churches, saw buildings, smelled the food, fought the traffic - which in Italy, it's a real challenge for any pedestrian -, and got lost. But I did find what real Rome was all about in the end.

Later in my life, I've done the same things in many of the places I've been. I've just taken off and have walked, to have a better feeling of what life is in other corners of the world. And every time that I visit a new place, I try to walk. And so I've walked in Toronto, Canada; in Ciudad Obregon, Sonora; in Hamilton, Bermuda; in Helsinki, Finland; in Paris, France; in Mexico City; in Caracas, Venezuela; and in many other interesting places around the world. I just did not walk in Tucson, Arizona, last Summer. It was too hot.

3. I've been doing a bit of reading about work and careers lately, and came across with this quote: "Jump, and a net will appear." What does that say to you, if anything, and does it apply in any way to your own life?

I think it's a rather true statement. I was just reading the story of a farmer who losses his only cow, and after some months, becomes a rather successful person doing something completely different than milking his cow. The reason why this happened is because this farmer, when losing his cow, jumped, and new things were there to greet him.

Does this philosophy apply to my life? One could say it does not, since I've been working for the same university for the past ten years of my life, without risking to attempt a change in direction, apparently. Yes, I reckon I'm more of an averse to risk individual. But I know that there is always a new window of opportunities if we only dare to attempt looking at the other side of the hill. And I so need this philosophy in my current stage of life...

4. Here is another quote about work and life choices that I recently discovered: “I must simplify my life, and whittle down what I do to the things that I am absolutely the most passionate about, or else I risk being stuck in mediocrity.” Similarly, what does that say to you, if anything, and does it apply to your own life?

I could not agree more with it. In fact, I teach my students something like that, called "The 3 Circles and the Hedgehog Concept", by Jim Collins. I like to show my students a video on Ethan Bortnick, a 6 year old kid who has has found the intersection of the three circles in his life. In order to be happy, he just has to keep exploiting this core for the rest of his life. I think that's the way it should work for everyone. In my case, I thing that I'm passionate about communicating with people, perhaps in the training industry. Perhaps that's where I should be heading next?

5. The U.S presidential election is on Tuesday. By the time you have to answer this question, we’ll know the outcome of the vote. How do you think the result of this election affects how the world views the U.S.? (Or, if you prefer, how you personally view the U.S., or how the U.S. might view itself?)

That's a very interesting question that I'd rather answer in another posting, if you allow me to do so. Can I do it like that?

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