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One Year Lived
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FROM THE BACK OF THE BOOK: "I'm not angry. I don't hate my job. I'm not annoyed with capitalism, and I'm indifferent to materialism. I'm not escaping emptiness, nor am I searching for meaning. I have great friends, a wonderful family, and fun roommates. The dude two doors down invited me over for steak or pork chops--my choice--on Sunday, and I couldn't even tell you the first letter of his name. Sure, the producers of The Amazing Race have rejected all five of my applications to hotfoot around the world--all five!--and my girlfriend and I just parted ways, but I've whined all I can about the race, and the girl wasn't The Girl anyway. All in all, my life is pretty fantastic. But I feel boxed in. Look at a map, and there we are, a pin stuck in the wall. There's the United States, about twenty-four square inches worth, and there's the rest of the world, seventeen hundred square inches begging to be explored. Career, wife, babies--of course I want these things; they're on the horizon. Meanwhile, I'm a few memories short. Maybe I need a year to live a little." FROM THE PUBLISHER: During his 29th year, spending just $19,420.68, less than it would have cost him to stay at home, Adam Shepard visited seventeen countries on four continents and lived some amazing adventures. "It's interesting to me," he says, "that in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Europe, it's normal for people to pack a bag, buy a plane ticket, and get 'Out There.' In the U.S., though, we live with this very stiff paradigm-graduate college, work, find a spouse, make babies, work some more, retire-which can be a great existence, but we leave little room to load up a backpack and dip into various cultures, to see places, to really develop our own identity." Shepard's journey began in "the other Antigua"-Antigua, Guatemala-where he spent a month brushing up on his Spanish and traveling on the "chicken bus." During his two months in Honduras, he served with an organization that helps improve the lives of poor children; in Nicaragua, he dug wells to install pumps for clean water and then stepped into the ring to face a savage bull; in Thailand, he rode an elephant and cut his hair into a mullet; in Australia, he hugged a koala, contemplated the present-day treatment of the Aborigines, and mustered cattle; in Poland, he visited Auschwitz; in Slovakia, he bungee jumped off a bridge; and in the Philippines, he went wakeboarding among Boracay's craggy inlets and then made love to Ivana on the second most beautiful beach in the world. His yearlong journey, which took two years to save for, was a spirited blend of leisure, volunteerism, and enrichment. He read 71 books, including ten classics and one-slowly-in Spanish. "If you can lend a hand to someone, educate yourself about the world, and sandwich that around extraordinary moments that get your blood pumping, that's a pretty full year," Shepard writes. Can everybody take a year to get missing? "Maybe, maybe not," he says, "though that's not really the point. I'm just concerned that some of us are too set on embracing certainty. We want life to be cushy and regimented, but that's not how we can create a lasting impact on our lives or the lives around us. There's only so much you can learn in the classroom. Sometimes you have to get out there to experience it, to touch it, to feel it, to see it for yourself. It's fascinating the perspective we can gain when we step out of our bubbles of comfort, even just a little bit."
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