Tag Archives: Travel

I See France in the Mirror

Eiffel towerI have often wondered what history lessons are like in Germany about the period between 1900-1950.  From an outside perspective it is easy to characterize Germany as the villain of that epoch.  Is it viewed as period of shame?  Or glossed over as unfortunate past events?  Often people and nations have a hard time seeing themselves as others would see them.  When looking at others, it is easier to make judgment that we believe is right.  We can see their faults, shortcomings, idiosyncrasies and failures.  Or we laud their beauty, strength, courage or “perfection”.  Self-reflection is usually skewed in either a positive or negative direction.  People, just like nations, have a history that they must reconcile in order to move forward.  Recently upon thinking of Germany’s past and looking in the mirror, I reflected on what nation I represent.

At first I though Switzerland, a neutral state that is willing to keep the currency of others in secrecy.  It had some possibility but fell short.  Then I considered my ancestral homeland of Poland.  It has been overrun by many others and despite almost disappearing at certain points, it keeps coming back with resilience.  This would be nice and comfortable for me but unfortunately it’s not true.

Unfortunately I’m France.  Man, it pisses me off to write that!  There are many things to love about me but I give off an air of aloofness that puts people off.  At times, I’ve let my enemies take parts of me without much of a fight and needed the support of close friends to make me whole again.  I can be characterized as lazy but generally I work to live, not the other way around.  My reputation for being standoffish is justifiable but also location based.  If you truly want to get to know me, don’t do it where the crowds are.  I’m much better off the beaten path and rich in areas that you didn’t know were there.

What country are you?  Please don’t search Facebook for a quiz that tells!  Figure out that story for yourself.  If you don’t like what you’ve found (as I don’t), then make the necessary adjustment.  Despite being France, I can change my actions and therefore my story about who I am.  You can too.  Just because you were beaten, trampled, torn apart and considered unworthy in the past, does not mean that your history needs to continue on that path.  Your history cannot predict your future, unless you let it!

Have a great day!

Pete

Quixote’s Box

QuixoteDon Quixote is a fictional character famous for fighting windmills and doing other absurd things.  His basic story is one of taking a fantasy world and trying to imprint it onto the real world.  The results are comedic for the outsider but almost tragic for Quixote himself.  As I was reading his story in college, I always pictured him sitting Indian style in his armor with a child’s toy box trying to hammer the square peg into the round hole.  It is easy to label Don Quixote as a “fool” but personally I identified strongly with the character and his trials.  Around the time that I read the book, I was on my own Quixotic adventure that put my mental image of the world into question.

I am Peter Huryk III, named after both my father and grandfather.  Due to my name, I have always identified very closely with my father.  My parents met when my mother was going through a divorce and leading life as a single parent to my older brother.  My father became the answer to her prayers.  Within a short time, he was a husband to my mother and a father to my brother.  This narrative was inside of my subconscious in college when the world offered me the perfect Quixotic situation.

At the time, I was taking a full course load in college, had a full time job and renting a townhouse with two friends.  It was then that the universe served up a perfectly ridiculous challenge to my self-image.  A young girl with two sons (2 & 1 years old) started working at the sub delivery place where I was employed.  In short order, we ended up in a relationship.  Unfortunately, the script was far more complicated than my father’s.

The custody of her children was being contested because she didn’t have a stable place for them to live.  They had been nomads between different family members’ homes.  So I took it upon myself to pay for an apartment for them.  Every problem that the world and the situation served up, I responded with my knight in shining armor script.  It made no sense but I pressed ahead anyway.  At 21 years old, I was a full time student, full time employee, renting two apartments, caring for two kids and handling it all.  Luckily the ridiculousness of the situation knew no bounds and she broke up with me.  I remember the older boy balling the day that I left.  He’d never done that before.  It was as if he knew I wasn’t coming back.  Getting into this situation was probably the worst decision of my life.  It was foolish on so many levels and could have been long term disastrous.  So it still feels odd to say that it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

In those few months, I figured out exactly who I was and what I was capable of.  The script of my father was not my own.  I needed to follow my own path for my own sake.  It also let me know that I could handle almost anything.  At 21 I had handled more weight from the world than I thought was possible.  Although it was reckless and stupid to heap it upon myself, it didn’t crush me.

The stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves are extremely important.  They, rather than conscious thought, will often make the decisions about what we will or will not do.  So my suggestion is that you get your story straight.  Who are you really?  Or better yet, who are you ideally?  If you are creating yourself (and you are), why not decide what it is that you want, need, value, love, without the interference of the world.  Then when you see your round peg, you’ll put it in the right spot and leave the square ones for someone else.

Go be you today.

Pete

Accidentally Mummifying Yourself

KilimanjaroThe world is filled with things that cut.  Like walking through a patch of thorn bushes with exposed skin, injury is an almost certainty.  In the short term, bandaging the cuts is the right strategy.  In time, the wounds will heal.  If too many cuts pile up, the bandages become wrappings.  You become a mummy.  Movements constrained by the bandages on wounds that never healed.  Avoiding cuts completely is an impossibility but choosing a new path and learning how to wield a machete are both options.  Band aids are not a long term solution, they are a short term fix.  This concept is obvious when thinking about real wounds but with metaphorical wounds, this is a common strategy.

The key has always been preventative medicine/measures.  Solving old problems with solutions that minimize or eradicate the issue is the best way to get better problems.  That is an understanding that everyone needs to have: PROBLEMS AREN’T GOING AWAY!  The most that you can hope for is to have the best problems possible because you’ve solved the old and boring ones.  Why would you choose to flail around in that same old thorn bush when you can figure out how to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

I know that many of you out there are bleeding and it hurts.  My heart goes out to you and I hope that this message will help you move on.  Break free of the thorns and find the path to the mountain where you can see for miles.  It won’t be easy but it may be worth it!

Have a great day!

Pete

 

Early Seinfeld

SeinfeldSeinfeld is one of my favorite TV shows of all time.  It has so many memorable episodes and characters.  Despite my love for the series, I’m not a huge fan of the early episodes.  Many of the episodes, I just don’t find funny at all or they feel forced.  This is not surprising in the slightest.  It took those early episodes in order to get to the later ones.  Early failures lead to better episodes later.  A few of the story-lines were even repeated with better effect the second time around.  The early episodes of Seinfeld were not a good indication of where the series was going.

JKRowlingDespite all of the examples of enduring early hardship, there is still a pervasive desire for instantaneous results.  People want to be hit right away, if not sooner.  The perception of overnight success is usually due to the glossing over of the hard work done before the big break.  Sylvester Stallone was a breakout start with Rocky!  After he was a starving actor who had to deny a big pay day in order to star in his own movie.  J.K. Rowling had the blockbuster Harry Potter book series followed by movies.  After she was on welfare and had her book rejected by many publishers.  Most of us are looking for the triumph without the trials.  It seems that it doesn’t usually work that way.

The road to success in anything will most likely be filled with potholes, detours and poorly constructed bridges.  The sports car or limo that you’ve imagined yourself arriving in will probably not make the trip.  In fact you’ll probably have to go most of the way on foot.  Are you willing to make that trip?  Or will you take the easy road to Nowhere Near Where You Want To Be?  It sounds like a town that many people live in while they dream about being someplace else.

Get on the road today!

Pete

Might Never Get to Poland

polandFor the past six months or so, I’ve been learning Polish using a program called Duolingo.  It is a completely free online language learning tool.  I started using it to prove the point to my students that you can learn a foreign language by using such a tool.  When summer hit, I took a Polish hiatus but now I’m back on the train.  The funny thing is that I’m not sure that I’ll ever get to Poland.  It is the homeland of my ancestors and I love to travel but it is not a huge priority.  So then why bother to learn the language?  There is no foreseeable return on my daily investment of time and energy into this language.

Return on investment is an almost pervasive calculation in the modern world.  Kids and adults alike seem to be in a never-ending calculation of whether or not things are “worth their time or effort”.  This is not particularly the troubling thing.  Time is a nonrenewable resource.  So being conscious of how you are spending it just makes sense.  Energy is renewable but often feels like it is linked to the time.  As if the addition of energy to invested time multiplies it and can magnify any possible waste.  “I’m only applying if I know I’ll get the job.”  “I’m not going out for the team unless I’m on varsity.”  “I’m not going to ask her out, she might say ‘no’.”

The problem with this almost ruthless avoidance of wasted energy/time is that very few limits get pushed.  Possibility is viewed as a negative rather than a positive.  Life tends to shrink into a smaller and safer box that confines and disillusions us.  Investing in only sure things expends nothing extra.  It is a transaction of time and effort for a result.  In this type of mindset, there is no room to give true gifts.  People become hoarders because giving of themselves is too risky and scary.  In the end giving of one’s self is the best way to come to know yourself better.

The sure thing may be comforting but it is not progressive.  Putting ourselves outside of our comfort zone or spending ourselves in an uncertain endeavor are the places where we become a new version of ourselves.  Much like a software update, we have the possibility of becoming more but it requires some risk to the old version.  Perhaps I’m throwing away ten minutes per day by learning Polish.  Or maybe risking that small amount of time each day will take me somewhere that I never would have imagined.  In my eyes, I win either way because of who I’ve become; a person willing to move forward.  Where you are is most likely not where you want to be forever.  The opportunity is there for you to move forward but you have to risk the time and energy of the step.  It’s time to step up!

A funny little reminder

 

Life is…

1998In 1998, my best friend, Schaefer, and I spent a month in Europe.  We truly went to watch five matches at the World Cup but we also traveled to England, Spain, Germany and France.  In many ways you could not have picked a more perfect vacation for me: soccer, best friend, Europe and soccer.

We actually arrived prior to the Cup starting and did some traveling in England and then headed to Barcelona, Spain.  After spending about three days in Barcelona, we were scheduled to take a train to Paris on Sunday in order to pick up our ticket and start the soccer part of our trip.  That Saturday, we were taking the Metro down to the Las Ramblas area.  We sat on the bench waiting for the train.  Schaef was rearranging some things between his money belt and backpack when the train arrived.  Thirty seconds after the train pulled away, Schaef realize that he’d left his money belt on the bench with his passport in it.  (Don’t judge Schaef here, out of character moment.)  At the next stop we turned around and went back but the money belt and everything in it was gone.

We figured out where the US Embassy was and took the train to get there.  Please bear in mind that the internet was not as widely accessible at the time.  Upon our arrival we were hit with the next problem, it was Saturday and the Embassy was closed.  The only person at the Embassy was a guard who only spoke Spanish.  I explained the situation to the guard and he put me on the phone with an official from the Embassy.  In order to cross the border into France (pre European Union), we needed a copy of his passport (we had) and a police report explaining that the passport had been stolen.  My Spanish abilities were put to the test by filling out a police report.  So the next day we went to the train station with our flimsy documents and a great deal of hope.  Luckily we made it across the border.

On Monday morning we had our next hurdle to clear.  We needed to pick up our tickets before 5pm at a hotel on the outskirts of Paris.  Since the tickets were in Schaef’s name, we needed his passport first.  We went to the US Embassy in Paris and spent hours waiting.  I don’t recall what time we got there but I know what time we left 4:30pm.  As fast as we could run with our large packs on our backs, we got to the Metro.  We found the street we needed on the Metro map.  There were two stops on that street but we had no idea which would be closer to the hotel.  50/50 chance and we blew it!  The hotel was about a mile up the road and it was 4:55.  So again, we ran as fast as we could and with our packs on our backs did about a 7 minute per mile pace.  At 5:02, we reached the hotel!  Upon entering we were informed that the pick up time for tickets had been extended two hours.

From a month long trip to Europe with my best friend, going to the biggest soccer event in the world, this is the story that I’ve told the most.  I remember who won all of the games that we saw but I can’t remember the scores.  How is it possible that my favorite part of the trip is when everything went wrong?

Life is not a spectator’s sport.  It is intended for people to take what God, Allah or nature has given to them and do the most that they can with it.  The times when you are going to figure out what you are truly made of are the times when things fall apart.  ANYONE can take the guided tours at the Louvre or Prado.  It takes little thought or ingenuity and it teaches you very little about yourself.  The limits of you are not found on the guided tours.  Easy, comfortable and failure-free are the lives of spectators.

We spend much of our life avoiding something that we call “failure”.  Usually failure is associated with mistakes and we try to avoid making big ones at all costs.  Schaef made a pretty big mistake.  It wasn’t fatal and it allowed us to live in a scenario with an outcome that was uncertain.  Uncertainty is something that we need at times in life.  Balance between certainty and uncertainty is what makes life interesting.  The thing is that we spend so much time trying not to fail that we often fail to live.  Anything that is truly worth having is a gamble on some level.

Life is a scenario where the outcome is uncertain.  That is part of the deal.  If you are looking for a life without failure, discomfort and difficulty, then you are looking for boredom.  Don’t go looking to fail but don’t avoid it either.  Failure is often where you learn the most about yourself and what you’re made of.  Make yourself better by learning from failure.

Get out there people!

Pete