I’ve been blessed with a wealth of experience in my life- they’ve taught me everything I remember and helped chisel me into the person I am today. I’m blessed that my parents even let me go chase most of these wild experiences, I guess it got easier to handle after the insanity of Kenya. They are the most supportive flexible parents that a round son in a square world could have ever asked for, I am truly blessed. I’ve had every opportunity to learn, achieve, travel that people would kill for. I’ve gotten a world-class education from a top-tier university, I’ve studied abroad five times, interned abroad twice, I’ve been to international conferences, had tons of random backpacking trips and it’s taken me across more than fifty countries spanning the globe.
Most recently, I spent a few months in Central America where I had initially gone to disconnect from the craziness of the world and my numerous failures at starting ventures. I thought I needed to go back and reconnect with myself, remember who I am, what I’m about and I feel most myself when I’m lost traveling in a foreign land. I decided to go on the inaugural Under30Experiences trip to Costa Rica and stuck around for a few weeks after to continue exploring. I ended up with some great company from Colorado named Nick and Emil and we had a wild time adventuring down the Pacific Coast, learning to surf, crossing rivers in the dark, getting lost and laughing so much my stomach hurt. It was here that I gave myself the physical and mental space to really be present and open. On this trip, I started to have a vision of this sustainable tourism ecosystem with off the grid closed loops and connections to communities, something for people who really wanted to travel as opposed to being tourists. By some cosmic happenings, I stumbled across Rancho Margot the last night of that trip and it was trying to do everything I had scribbled down about this half baked tourism idea.
I returned home with this idea buzzing in my head thinking about all the possibilities and the scale of this opportunity to disrupt the trillion dollar tourism industry. I thought, if I really want to build something like this, the best way is to go work there and see how it all comes together from an insider’s perspective as a volunteer. Not long after, I returned to Costa Rica to serve as a volunteer. I thought I was just going to learn about running a successful eco-lodge, I didn’t realize that I was going to be welcomed by this growing community of conscious living folk. I was telling Fred, a French designer who was also a volunteer there about the idea I had and he was like, “oh you mean like permaculture?”
I exclaimed, “You mean there’s a word for this?! This is like a thing that people do?!” Fred continued to educate me on the principles of permaculture as we walked around through the Rancho chemical free organic farm. My mind was blown, I was ecstatic about the fact that I wasn’t alone in thinking like this. Permaculture is systems design thinking, it’s all about observing the natural ecologies of our world and trying to mimic them to provide for human needs. There’s tons of practical applications to things like agriculture, construction, urban planning, consumption, community building and resource management. I think of permaculture more as an attitude – let’s look to nature’s three billion years of evolution to help us solve problems for humanity, she really does know best.
I looked into permaculture as much as one can with a jungle internet connection and felt Nicaragua call my name, this was my time. I really didn’t even have a choice in the matter, I had to explore this further. I ended up changing my flight, missing dear friends’ weddings in pursuit of more experience. I made my way to Project Bona Fide which is an experimental permaculture farm, doubling as an NGO teaching the local community a more sustainable way of farming and life. It proved to be another incredible experience where I connected with myself and got in touch with the earth unlike ever before, I really felt I had found my deepest self inside, the best version of myself I could possibly be and it’s beyond words to know he’s in there and feel what he’s like.
While I was in Nicaragua, I learned a lot from reading books also. I’ve never really been so good at reading books, I was much better at reading the sparknotes in high school. This was different though, I was excited to read, I couldn’t stop. On top of all the farm work, yoga and workshops, I read five books that month. All of this got my entrepreneurial juices flowing like a fire hose and now I’ve got a million and one different business ideas applying permaculture principles, ranging from things like lawn enhancement services to building massive subdivisions that are completely self sustainable. I want to redesign what it means to live a ‘normal life,’ my goal is to bring these solutions out from the crazy hippie fringes because everyone wants to live a happy life, not just hippies. I want to redesign our suburbs and our urban environments, I want to redesign how we travel, I want to redesign how we consume and interact with one another, I want to redefine our culture so that humanity can continue to be part of the world. The craziest part of it all is that I came across this toolkit of permaculture principles and systems design thinking when I stopped looking for it. It’s amazing how well the world works if you just let it happen and stop forcing and fitting things in where they might not belong.
I know real solutions are out there, I’ve experienced them, this is not science-fiction or a crazy idea. I know it might sound like it is, that’s the whole problem, I can assure you we have all the solutions right in front of our eyes. I plan on taking the next year of my life going out and experiencing these solutions firsthand as an apprentice. Travel and experience is the mother of all education and it’s what has led me down this beautiful journey. I want to go find the masters of permaculture all over the world who are teaching, applying permaculture in suburban/urban environments, sustainable tourism applications and I want to learn from Sir Richard Branson because he’s an expert at not following rules and disrupting the world.
I’ve applied to be part of the founding class of the Experience Institute who is working on redesigning our education system as we know it, the video above is part of my application. If you know any masters of permaculture or Sir Richard Branson, let’s talk. I feel empowered and am so excited for where this journey is going to take me next.