The Chosen One: Lessons Learned

Editor’s note: Ryan “The Chosen One” Whitaker just finished up his three months embedded with Stoke Travel, seeing a summer from the perspective of both a traveller and a volunteer. Here is some of the wisdom he picked up over the course of this life-changing experience. We’ll be looking for a new Chosen One for 2018, so read on, and if you want to have a similar experience all you have to do is be exceptionally average and ready to have the time of your life. Make sure you read all 39!

All summer with Stoke, I managed to take ongoing notes as the most amazing adventure of my life unfolded in front of me. Here are a few musings, observations, and guidelines I jot down specifically for those of you who one day may find themselves with the most unique, extraordinary travel company of all time:

  1. European’s are very comfortable.
  2. You can go for awhile on two meals a day so long as you drink your lunch.
  3. There is a way to drink responsibility; sometimes you should, and sometimes you should not.
  4. When you can say, “Fuck yeah”, you should say, “Fuck yeah”.
  5. When you should say, “Absolutely the fuck not”, do say, “Absolutely the fuck not”.
  6. You can navigate a city by memory without a map and the internet.
  7. General life rules for being a person are very different when you’re backpacking.
  8. For example, you don’t need five pairs of underwear when you’re backpacking, regardless of the duration of your trip.       
  9. Try everything once.
  10. There are people of exceptional character in the world and it’s your responsibility to find them.
  11. In regard to that idea, everyone is capable of immense strength; don’t overlook people’s natural gifts.
  12. Small talk always leads to work. Avoid small talk at all costs.
  13. If you have to pee, most anyone won’t stop you from getting to the toilet if you act like you belong there.
  14. Hold people’s eye contact for as long as possible. Always double take.
  15. “You don’t punch girls, you kiss them on the cheek.”
  16. Always make time for music.
  17. Go to the karaoke bar to close the night out.
  18. Everyday is a holiday, and every meal is a banquet; so howl at the fucking moon.
  19. Always check for toilet paper, and use less of it, ya filthy animals.
  20. You can tell a lot from a person by their dual initiatives to care for others and enjoy their fucking lives.
  21. Embrace life when it happens for you.
  22. When you’re lonely in a crowd, people watch.
  23. Talk to people sitting alone, if only for a meal.
  24. Give a group of men and egg or an orange, and they’ll make a game. And then they’ll ruin it.
  25. Which reminds me, Saturdays are for the boys.
  26. Eat less bread, and more vegetables.
  27. Listen to people you don’t like and try to meet them halfway. Lay down the line as soon as you get taken advantage of.
  28. Have a great party shirt.
  29. Make a good friend or two everywhere you go.
  30. Share frequently.
  31. Work your ass off.
  32. Unless you’re willing to legitimately listen to other people’s points about their political or religious views, don’t talk about them.
  33. Everything we consider sacred or intimate, we should be ready to reconsider.
  34. Reach out and touch someone.
  35. Use your words economically.
  36. You don’t properly miss someone until you see, and then leave, them again.
  37. Get used to referring to the last leg of your journey as “the easy part”, and make sure you have tissues.
  38. Leave your comfort zone without plans. Make amends later.
  39. You need to believe the cliche it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later.

    And that’s all I got. To rip off Ginsberg: [Stoke], I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing. (Except an ordinary guy who had an extraordinary summer, having extraordinary experiences with extraordinary people.) A lifetime of experience could never equate to the unbelievable expedition I’ve had, and I only wish that you, the reader reading this final blog post of mine, will one day have a heart that is now as full as mine. This is Ryan, The Chosen One, over and out.