A Deeper Purpose

Since I returned to New York after traveling for two and a half years I’ve been asked the same question over and over again: “What made you come back?”

This should answer that question once and for all.

My desire to repatriate came shortly after visiting the Integral Heart Family in Antigua, Guatemala back in July 2017. I had known about the school through my good friend Luke aka ‘Alekosh’ for about a year and had been assisting in the fundraising efforts for the school for roughly six months at that point. I visited him in Lake Atitlán, where he now lives, then he took me to Antigua to go visit the school at the end of my visit.

That’s where a major shift within me occurred.

After walking in to see dozens of the happiest school kids I have ever seen in my life, spending time with them and letting them practice their limited English vocabularies on me, it put so many things in my life into perspective. Later that night, back at the hotel down the road I had yet another epiphany. Lying in bed I began to ponder… What in the actual fuck have I been doing with my life for the past 34 years?

The mantra of my old life path replayed in my mind over and over again like a broken record.

Study so you can get into a good college and then a good job and then find a wife, get married, have kids and make money so they can go to a good college and get a good job and fffffffuuuuuuck!!!!

Fuck all that

The sad and honest truth is this: I know too many people that have taken this path are fucking miserable. They may not admit to it, but when I look into their eyes I see souls that have lost their spark.

This happening to me is my #1 actual greatest fear in life.

Let’s not get my words twisted here. I’m not trying to say that there is anything wrong with what has come to be accepted as the “common life path.” I know plenty of couples that have taken it that are truly and genuinely happy and I am happy for them. But for ME, right now, I can’t do all that shit. I have too many things I need to figure out before even considering starting a family. I’ve been on a nonstop path of exponential growth, evolution and change for over four years now. Going down the well-paved road of life would just not have worked for me and I know that if I did take that path I would wake up one day and realize…

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I have a deep inner knowing that my purpose right now lies elsewhere right now. Besides, this planet is waaaay overpopulated with humans already. So I took a logical approach to this quandary: Why spend the majority of my time, money and energy raising one, two or three humans when I can spend a fraction of all these things and better the lives of dozens? Not to mention I’d still be free to do whatever the fuck I want… all the time.

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All kidding aside, I just could not justify settling down with somebody and bringing a new life into this world when I know of so many human souls already here on Earth that are suffering and in need of help from those born into better circumstances, like myself.

Now back to the story. A couple days later I left Guatemala and returned home, which was at that time in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico. I was happy to be back, but that feeling only lasted a couple of weeks. Afterward I fell into another bout of depression. Having been down this road before, I knew this was just my body telling me that my soul was sad and that I needed time to reflect to figure out why. What the hell was I doing in Mexico anymore anyway? I traveled to almost every corner of this beautiful country, had countless unforgettable experiences, learned a ton of new skills, focused on old and newly discovered passions and made hundreds of new friends, but for what?

What was I actually going to do? What was my purpose? I didn’t have an answer for that. All I knew was this: I needed a change.

After living with these thoughts and feelings for a few weeks, I decided to meditate and pray on the situation. I asked my guidance for an opportunity to make money and help others. A few days later I received a call from a friend who was working as an insurance adjuster in Central Florida after Hurricane Irma ripped through the area. Damn I’m good at manifesting!

I immediately began to pack up my belongings, said goodbye to friends and booked a flight to Orlando and worked as an insurance adjuster for about two months. So how was it? About eight hours a day every day we were assessing damage to multiple houses, we’d climb onto about three roofs per day in the hot sun and take a butt-load of photos of all the damage. Then we went to our AirBnB/office and input the data into the computer and compile damage reports for another eight hours or until we passed out from exhaustion, whichever comes first. It sucked, but the money was good so whatever, we dealt with it. End of that story.

When the work was complete, I came back to New York. This was extremely difficult for me at first. It was the tail end of autumn, right about the time when the weather really started to suck. After living in the tropics for so long, having the sun set on you before 5:00pm is depressing as fuck.

I didn’t know what I was going to do for work and the first few weeks I spent most of my days sleeping past noon, watching TV and drinking… alone. How enlightening! I knew I didn’t come back to New York for this empty soul-sucking existence I’ve been living since returning so I intensified my job search and reignited my spiritual practice that I put on hold since I left Mexico.

Again, I asked myself “What exactly am I looking for?” and again the same answer: “The opportunity to make money and help others.” Hmmm… Maybe I need to be a little more specific this time.

“I am looking for a career that pays me good money to work for a company that is in the business of improving the lives of others.” BINGO, nailed it! OK, now off to manifest the shit out of this one!

Not too long after, I stumbled across an online job posting for a senior financial analyst at Dale Carnegie & Associates.

Below is an accurate dramatization of my face when I read it.

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No way! A job that I can absolutely rock while working for a company that I have deeply respected for years after reading Dale Carnegie‘s world-famous bestselling book How to Win Friends and Influence People. This is MY fucking job and if anyone else thinks they have even a small chance at getting it they are S-O-L my friend! I do need to pay homage to my ex-girlfriend Hillary for gifting this book to me years ago. Thanks Hill! (Full Disclosure: She lent me the book. I stole it. She’s never getting it back.)

Needless to say, I got the job. I started back in late February and I never thought I’d be so excited to wake up every morning and go into an office as I am now! Finding this job was the piece in my life that was missing for years. I wanted to put myself in a position to be of service to others. This job ensures that my hypothetical ‘cup’ is constantly being refilled so that it may overflow to those less fortunate than I am.

Another great thing about this job is they are employee-focused so that I can focus my spare time on my own passions in life such as traveling, altruism, DJing and writing. These along with my new career path at Dale Carnegie & Associates make up the cornerstones of my life and what I need to maintain my own personal balance in order to feed my soul.

The person that I was years ago is gone. Finally, after years of seeking I have finally found what I was truly searching for all along: balance and purpose.

Could I have found this without traveling? I seriously doubt it. I would have likely stayed in my misery and kept pushing forward if I never had that stroke give me the warning of a lifetime:

“Live. Really live! …or die… your choice.”

Hemingway knew what he was talking about when he said:

In order to write about life, first you must live it.

And lived it I have! So that’s it. I figured out my life. Everything is great.

And they all lived happily ever after!

THE END…


Nah… that would be a horribly boring ending wouldn’t it? Now we get into the good stuff! The second act is starting and now I get to dive deeper into the greater questions in life and focus on more existential queries. One in particular that I’ve been battling for some time is this: Why are we here on Earth? Seriously… what in the actual fuck are we doing here?

In my life experience so far, researching the life works of some of the greatest minds that have ever lived, traveling, meeting new people from all corners of the Earth and learning to tap into and follow my own intuition I keep coming back to the same answer: To live my life in my highest truth and help others, especially those in need.

This is what I have to come realize is my deeper purpose in this life and that’s what I’ll continue to do until my last breath.

When we live life solely in service to ourselves, our life force naturally diminishes.
~ Sakyong Mipham

What a glorious act of synchronicity that I have come in contact with so many amazing people throughout the world, especially those who have put their blood sweat and tears into creating the Integral Heart Family of Antigua, Guatemala. Débora Prieto, Mick Quinn & Luke Maguire Armstrong are angels to these 80+ children and their families and I am blessed to be even a small part of this school’s ongoing success!

Just last week we did a huge fundraising push as GlobalGiving, the platform we use to crowdfund for the school, was matching 50% of all donations! We saw this incredible opportunity to raise a substantial amount of money so we put in lots of planning and reached out to our collective networks of generous friends and family. The squad in Antigua even found someone to make a professional video for the occasion.

 

The end result? After three days of reaching out to our friends and family we crowdfunded over $10,000 in donations from 138 different people. The amounts below don’t include the 50% match or the $1,000 bonus for finishing in second place out of over 3,700 other organizations also fundraising through GlobalGiving.

Long story short, we are altruistic gangstaz!

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I know what you’re thinking. Who is the adorable little girl with that great big smile holding the “Thank You” sign? Her name is Guadalupe ‘Lupita’ Chiwichón and she is one of the newest members of the school. I’ve been seeing her a lot on the Integral Heart Family’s Facebook page lately and love watching her quick transformation from the shy new girl into this bright ray of sunshine bursting with light! This child is my spirit animal!

I inquired to Mick and Débora about her and to see if she had a sponsor yet. They informed me that she was still in need of one and then proceeded to tell me her story.

WARNING: By reading the next paragraph you are at deep risk of invoking “all the feels”

Lupita’s Story (so far): Lupita is four years old and was abandoned by her mom at her sister’s house. Her birth-father is an alcoholic who has never cared about her. Her aunt, who already has four children of her own, was widowed after her husband was killed. She takes care of her own four children along with Lupita while she works making tortillas and earns roughly 25 quetzales or just over $3 per day.

Unfortunately this story is all too common for the vast majority of Lupita’s new classmates in this poverty stricken region of Guatemala. Children are abandoned by parents who don’t have the means to care for them mostly due to circumstances beyond their control. Luckily for these children, organizations like the Integral Heart Family and Pencils of Promise are working to end this for many who are subject to generational poverty through a combination of education, community and love.

That same day, I made the decision to become Lupita’s sponsor. For the cost of about a dollar a day, or by donating less than 0.01% of my annual gross income, her life will improve drastically.

Seems insanely affordable. Why not double down?

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So yeah, I’m sponsoring two kids at the Integral Heart Family.

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This little dude’s name is Bryon Diaz. He doesn’t know it just yet, but he and I are gonna be bros. Here’s his story:

WARNING: Even higher risk of the ‘feels’ in next paragraph

Byron’s Story (so far): He was born to a family living in a garbage dump. When he was born, his sisters Maria and Carmen had just been taken out of the dump and put in school by Luke in the program he was working for at the time called Nuestros Ahijados or Godschild Project. His mother was renting his sisters to a man for pennies a day so they could salvage recyclables in the garbage dump. His mother more or less neglected him and his sister Carmen, who at the time was eight years old. Carmen cared for him more than his mother and is the one currently ensuring he goes to school and gets an education.

Bryon’s Sister Carmen Before Nuestros Ahijados Intervened:

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Today:

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Maria, Byron & Carmen Diaz

How do I feel with my choice to sponsor two children in Guatemala? It was the easiest and best decision I’ve ever made in my life. Am I worried about the money going to the right place? Not at all. I’ve had a personal relationship with the founders of the organization for over a year now and they are some of the smartest and most caring people I’ve ever met in my life. If I can’t trust them with my donations, then I can’t trust anyone with anything.

Lupita and Byron are living just two of the 85 stories of the children currently attending the Integral Heart Family’s Education Center. There are dozens more with situations similar to theirs, some even more harrowing, and many of them are in desperate need of sponsors as well. If you can spare $35 – $55 a month to change a child’s life and ensure that they are provided with proper nutrition, medical care and school programs, please take it under consideration. The amount of satisfaction you receive from forever changing a life far outweighs having one extra dollar in your pocket every day.

-> CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT BECOMING A SPONSOR <-

or

-> CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO THE INTEGRAL HEART FAMILY <-

If sponsoring or donating money online isn’t for you but you want to help and have an awesome time while doing so, our next NYC fundraiser event it will be on Saturday, May 19th at Slate, NYC.

 

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We had an awesome time at the fundraiser back in March. Check out the photo slideshow below.

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->CLICK HERE TO RSVP TO THE MAY 19 FACEBOOK EVENT<-

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The Story of Luke Maguire Armstrong (Alekosh), Co-Founder of The Integral Heart Education Center

Luke is a native of Bismarck, North Dakota and the author of “The Nomad’s Nomad”, “How we are Human”. and “iPoems for the Dolphins to Click Home About.” He’s an award-winning travel writer who’s spent time in 36 countries and worked on development projects in Kenya, Uganda, Cambodia, Guatemala, and in the Bronx, NY. His work to combat infant malnutrition attracted the attention of Christiane Amanpour and he was featured on the ABC News 20/20 Global Health Special.

His current focus is on financially enabling The Integral Heart Family Education Center that he co-founded with Mick Quinn & Débora Prieto in Antigua, Guatemala back in 2016. Here he teaches yoga, meditation, and philosophy to kids breaking free from the cycles of poverty they were born into.

Searching for an exit from debilitating neck pain that altered his course in 2015, Luke spent time living in Thai monasteries and studying yoga and meditation in Thailand, Cambodia, Mexico, Guatemala, and the US.

For the last five years a companion on his journeying has been an imaginary hamster named Jerry. His novel “The Release of Jerry the Hamster,” is on the final lap of finishing and he will be shopping it to publishers soon.

He currently resides in San Marcos, Guatemala on the coast of Lake Atitlán. If you go here and ask for someone by the name of Luke Maguire Armstrong, you will not find him. While in Guatemala the local Mayan people know him simply as “Alekosh.”

The Story of Mick Quinn, Co-Founder of Integral Heart Foundation

Mick was born and raised in Catholic Ireland. While viewing the film “Angela’s Ashes” in a theater in New York City, he turned to his American friend and said, “Do you remember when you asked what it was like growing up in Ireland?  Well, it was just like this! It was a place where I was surrounded by the continual likelihood of ‘normal’ people doing the most abnormal things; actions that were considered acceptable and customary and were embraced and protected.”

In 1986, like thousands before him, he left his home country. Mick chased the “American Dream,” found it, embraced it and then turned his back on it. After spending seven years as an illegal alien in Boston, doing anything and everything to survive, he “won” his Green Card in the lottery in 1993. This was the first turning point in his life.

The second turning point came when he was taking a meditation class taught by William Arntz, who directed and bankrolled the hit movie, “What the Bleep Do We Know!?” On Will’s advice, Mick sold a service business he started in 1987 and moved to New York City. Then in 1994 a big break came when Mick joined a fledgling recruiting company as a junior partner. In two and a half years the company grew to eight national offices with annual revenues of $25 million.

Mick also became engaged for a time to a daughter of one of the wealthiest families in the US. Now, both his home and business addresses were on New York City’s prestigious Fifth Avenue.

This first company merged with a competitor from California as part of a pre-IPO strategy in 1997. Mick resigned his position shortly after the merger and with the two top sales people from that first company he started another venture, again from the 79th floor of World Trade Center, Tower 1. With intense effort this company ran to $3 million in a year and a half at which point Mick accepted a cash deal for his partnership in a hostile buyout move by his partners.

Tired of computer technology, Mick then started an executive coaching practice to help CEOs and other individuals balance their professional and private lives. His period as a coach gave him the time and flexibility to travel, and with a growing interest in meditation and Buddhism he traveled all over the US and to places like India and France on spiritual retreats.

On August 26th, 2001, while sitting in meditation everything became clear in a moment. Because of this, Mick decided to wind down his NYC-based life to see what might unfold from this realization. His quandary about how to resolve his seven-year business identity with the World Trade Centers was answered two weeks later on the morning of September 11.

Now without an income, his plans to begin a new life had been shuttled into overdrive. It took Mick about two years to wind down his busy life. A brief search for a home in Europe yielded a restored 19th Century watermill in northern Portugal, which he purchased the very day he viewed it.

This move also to led his path to cross with that of his wife, Debora, a native of neighboring Spain, and to a publishing deal in Spain and Latin America for his book Power and Grace – The Wisdom of Awakening.

Mick is currently leading workshops in three countries, notably the Integral Heart Foundation of Antigua, Guatemala. His work is quoted and featured in many publications, including The Washington Times, ADD Magazine, and Woman’s Weekly. He is a former NYC CEO, executive mentor, a sales and marketing expert and a serial entrepreneur with four successful startups in seven years totaling $35 million in revenues.

His most recent bestselling book, The Uncommon Path – Awakening Authentic Joy, offers its readers the clarity to be courageous, the tools to express our originality, and the awareness to sustain our full potential.

Guatemala: Lake Atitlán & The Integral Heart Foundation in Antigua

THE JOURNEY TO LAKE ATITLÁN

It’s been a while since my last travel blog and I’m definitely skipping over months of my journeys in 2017. I’ll get to them at some point, so bare with me.

Fast forward a half a dozen months since I flew into Cancun back in late January and my 180 day Mexico tourist visa was about to expire so I needed to leave Mexico for a bit. What better excuse to go and visit the neighboring country of Guatemala! Luckily for me, my friend Luke lives in a house overlooking the mile-high Lake Atitlán in the active volcano town of San Marcos, Guatemala. It’s good to have friends in high places!

After the 12 hour overnight bus ride to San Cristobal de las Casas in the state of Chiapas, I stayed at the most recommended hostel from my fellow travelers: Hostal Puerta Viaja. It’s basically an enormous re-purposed colonial mansion located in the heart of the city. Every night they have a very affordable dinner available for their guests as well as nighttime musical entertainment in house.

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My stay in San Cristobal this time around was short lived as I had booked a 5:30am bus ride to Panahachel, Guatemala the next morning so I could be in San Marcos before nightfall.

After arriving in Panajachel, the main port of Lake Atitlán, I immediately hopped on a boat to San Marcos to meet my friend Luke at his home, Lush Atitlán, on the lake.

SO… WHO IS LUKE?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself since he and I met back in the summer of 2016. I’ve heard and seen bits and pieces of his life and the more I get to know about him, the more interesting of a human being he becomes. He’s traveled to over forty countries, helped with the Founding of the Integral Heart Foundation and written multiple books; one of which is a novel he’s been working on over the past few years and was nearly finished with it by the time of my visit.

Below is a photo of him working on his current passion project, a novel entitled “Jerry the Hamster”.

Needless to say he has a unique writing technique.

He and I first met a little over a year ago while I was general manager of The Sanctuary in Puerto Escondido. One morning, he walked in to our 6:45am meditation session with an expression on his face that I knew all too well. Without revealing any intimate details of his life, I’ll simply say that he was going through a difficult relationship situation. Over the past decade of my life, I too have visited the same realm of despair and heartache more often than I’d like to admit. We became fast friends and have been following each other’s adventures in life ever since. Seeing his new home on the Lake in San Marcos and his work with the Integral Heart Foundation made me grow curious of who this guy really was and his vision regarding how he lives his life. While exponentially more people have been reaching out to me lately on how I have drastically transitioned from the corporate life to traveling and living abroad, I have been looking to Luke for my own guidance. I couldn’t think of a better way to truly understand a person than by living in their world for a while; so I did… and I was not disappointed.

MY FIRST FULL DAY ON LAKE ATITLÁN

“THE DAY OUT OF TIME”

I woke up early to meditate by the lake before venturing out. Around 9:00am there was a knock at the door. When Luke opened it, he was greeted by his friend Niels who joyfully exclaimed “Today is the day out of time!” Both perplexed, we pushed him for clarification. So he explained:

“The Day out of Time” is always synchronized with July 25th. Based on The Galactic Calendar, this is the 365th day of the year, but this day is no day of the month, and no day of the week. This is a day for sacred pause and celebration before the dawning of The Galactic New Year which is always July 26th!

Obviously the timing of my visit to the lake could not be better. So… how does one respond to news like this? You invite the man in for a joint and a guitar/drum circle of course! Not a bad start to the day out of time in my opinion. The rest of my day refused to disappoint as well.

Afterward Luke and I headed to Circles Cafe and Hostel to satisfy our munchies and my caffeine addiction. This incredible place was the logical next stop in our journey through the day out of time. I love my coffee, so having the below setting as my place to enjoy it only magnified my sipping experience.

 

After our food and my caffeine needs were satisfied, we wandered through the town meeting Luke’s friends, practiced counting to 10 in Mayan with the local children and catching up on all that’s been happening in our lives since we met last year. While exploring this new city, I couldn’t help but be amazed at the incredible artistry at every turn.

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Later on that evening, we headed to an outdoor improv class hosted by a friend of Luke’s.

To end the night, we had dinner at a restaurant that also happened to have a temezcal-like sauna. We went in for four doors, three of which lasted for 108 chants of our favorite mantras.

That more or less sums up the activities in our day out of time.

The following day was more productive and less eventful as I spent most of my time doing work for my recently launched business concept: P2P Puerto Escondido. Being in such a gorgeous and relaxing setting was perfect for me to put all my focus into the finishing touches for the company launch party back on August 12th.

The day after began with a fun twist on two very relaxing past-times/hobbies. It was called “Marijuana Yoga”. I don’t think I need to explain how this works, but just in case, I’ve provided a simple flow chart below.

Smoke marijuana -> Do Yoga -> Acquire food and coffee afterward

Not too long after coffee and breakfast, I received a message from my friend Miguel from Spain that I met several months earlier in Puerto Escondido while staying in Vivo Escondido Hostel. His message was pretty simple. See photo and caption below.

Are you here?

Indeed, Miguel.

SAN PEDRO (PART 1)

He just left San Marcos and was across the Lake in San Pedro. Being that I planned on heading over there at some point, I figured, why not now? The fun thing about being on the lake is that anytime you want to go to a different town, all you need to do is head over to the dock and wait 20 minutes or less for the next boat to come around. So I took the 6:00pm boat to San Marcos and checked in to Mikaso Hotel y Restaurante. When Miguel told me there was a jacuzzi on the roof I was sold.

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Real quick thing to note before I go any further. San Marcos is the chill/hippie/spiritual/mindful/zen town on the lake while San Pedro is the party town. I do enjoy balance in my life. That evening we went for dinner and drinks at Bar Sublime, which is in a gorgeous location surrounded by local flora right on the lake. Shortly after we finished dinner, the DJ started playing. Long story short, I was both buzzed off the beer and displeased with the music so I inquired with the bartender regarding any openings for a DJ next weekend. He pointed me in the right direction and boom… I’m hired for next Friday.

The next day was spent relaxing in the rooftop hot tub and wandering around the city before returning to San Marcos.

BACK TO SAN MARCOS

After staying at Luke’s place for my first few nights, I decided to try out some new scenery… for less than $10/night why not? I stayed down the road in Hostel San Marcos for a couple nights. In a word: ‘meh’. Afterwards I checked myself into Hostal del Lago, it was easy to see that’s where I’d be spending the remainder of my time in San Marcos.

With an incredible staff, yoga available several times a day, fun night time group activities like drum circles, movie night, live music and karaoke, it is clear why this is the best hostel in San Marcos… possibly the best one on the lake. Oh, did I mention the views?

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Aside from the place itself, it definitely attracted some incredibly interesting travelers with whom I made fast friends with. One of which was a traveling photographer from Chechnya who I was lucky enough to get some free professional DJ head shots from in an incredible setting.

Another was a traveling guitarist from Detroit. He and another hostel guest had a jam session one night. Good times.😎

YOGA FOREST

The day after checking in to Hostel del Lago, Luke asked me “Do you want to go to a cacao ceremony and ecstatic dance a little ways up the mountain?” Since he has been living on the lake for about seven months at this point, he has become quite privy to the more interesting happenings in the area. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot regarding proper traveling. My preferred method is most definitely having a friend that you met and connected well with in your travels that now lives in the place you want to visit. I highly recommend doing this whenever possible.

The day began with a visually stunning half hour trek up the mountain to the Yoga Forest. I had no expectations on what this place would look like before going, but if I did they would have been surpassed.

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Upon arrival, we were each handed our cup of hot cacao and sat in a circle with the rest of the group as ambient music played in the background. After a while, people rose from their sitting positions and started moving slowly to the music. The cacao was kicking in! Soon enough the group of roughly 30 people started dancing in tribal-like fashion to the music for several hours.

​Everything was more enjoyable than I imagined it would be. A combination of the natural high from the cacao, being half way up a mountain in the forest surrounded with incredible people from all over the world and views overlooking the lake easily made it one of the major highlights of my visit to Guatemala.

FINAL DAY IN SAN MARCOS: CACAO CEREMONY AND BHAKTI AT THE FUNGI ACADEMY

Yeah… my curiosity piqued when I found out that a Fungi Academy existed as well. Feeling adventurous one night, Miguel and I decided to climb up the mountain in the dark to see what it was all about. When we arrived at 9:00pm the mostly German inhabitants of the Fungi Academy were shocked that we made it all the way up the hill in the dark… and me in flip-flops. We chatted with them to get some information on the academy before heading back down the hill and they let us know of yet another cacao ceremony… this one with with Bhakti afterwards. So of course we got the info on that and climbed back up the mountain a couple days later with our new group of friends from Hostel del Lago.

We had some time to relax and enjoy the views while they were setting up the ceremony space, so we decided to get creative with some panoramic photos.

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Not too long after, we were called inside for a quick tour of the academy. I learned more about medicinal mushrooms in the next half hour than I have in all my life.

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When class was out of session, we all made our way to the ceremonial space, created another circle similar to the yoga forest and sipped our cacao while we all sang and chanted various songs and mantras primarily in English, Hindi and Sanskrit. It has only been about a year and a half since I incorporated chanting mantras into my weekly schedule. There is something to be said about the resonance and intention behind them that always leaves me feeling like some major shift happened within my body once I am finished. Doing it in large groups only magnifies this feeling.

BACK TO SAN PEDRO

By the time we finished chanting our last mantra in the Fungi Academy, we had about 2 hours to catch the last boat to San Pedro and about 3 hours until my DJ gig at Bar Sublime began. This was the first time I took a motorized boat across a lake in order to get to a gig. This is something I could definitely get used to, especially at sunset.

Before heading to Bar Sublime, I checked into what is known as the biggest party hostel on the lake… Hostel Fe. Before I was given the keys to my room, the bartender poured two shots of tequila, handed me one and said “Welcome to Hostel Fe!” It was easy to see how my stay here was going to go.

Off to my gig… just a two minute walk down the road from the hostel, how convenient. The interesting thing about Guatemala is that all music needs to be shut off by 11:00pm. Yes, ridiculous I know, but those are the laws and they are heavily enforced. Starting a nighttime gig at 8:00pm was interesting… and once the legendary trivia night was finished back at Hostel Fe, the crowd poured in and the last hour of my gig was the highest energy crowd I’ve had since La Piedra de la Iguana back in Puerto Escondido about a month prior.

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The next day my new friends and I mostly hung out around the hostel, laughed as we recapped the happenings of the previous night and listened to music on the balcony. Other than that, things were mostly uneventful until the next day when Luke and I headed to Antigua to visit the children and staff at the Integral Heart Education Center.

THE INTEGRAL HEART EDUCATION CENTER IN ANTIGUA, GUATEMALA

So I’ll be upfront. This school was my main reason for coming to Guatemala. Don’t get me wrong, getting my visa renewed, visiting Luke, experiencing Lake Atitlán and connecting with dozens of extraordinary people were amazing add-ons, but I’ve felt called to visit this school the moment I saw Luke first talk about it in a video I saw of his last year.

I don’t believe in coincidences anymore, but I strongly believe in following signs. While I was still in the corporate world, shortly after I made my decision to leave New York and head to Mexico, I heard about a lunch and learn down the street from my office at the CBS corporate office known as “Black Rock“. After reading the communications e-mail from CBS about the lunch and learn, I was intrigued.

Come to a lunch and learn with New York native entrepreneur, philanthropist and author to learn how he turned an initial investment of $25 into more than 200 schools around the world.

You have my attention. This man turned out to be Adam Braun, the founder of Pencils of Promise and he is 5 months younger than me. On my 12,500 mile road trip through North America back in 2015-2016, this was the first book I read and I loved every page and chapter/(mantra) of it. Where did he get his original inspiration to begin this global organization? You guessed it: Guatemala. That’s when the seed was planted in my subconscious. Now let’s get back to our visit to the Integral Heart Center in Antigua.

Luke and I stayed just a few minutes walking distance from the center and when we arrived, the younger kids were in the middle of English class and upon entering a dozen or so of them began shouting “Luuuuuuuuke”. It was easy to see that he is popular with the kids here.

I was given a quick tour of the school, sat in on and participated in some of the classroom games and activities then was told the story of some of the kids. Hearing the story of the Hernandez children really hit me in the heart. Below is the video I made that helped to raise over $1,500 during my visit.

Though we’ve had support from a little under 200 individual donors throughout the world, we are nearing the end of October and are a little more than $21,000 short of our goal for 2017 to keep the school going. We’ll be doing some very hard pushing to get the money needed to ensure that these kids have a chance at life. It won’t be easy by any means, but we do not see failure as an option.

I’ve asked before. I’m asking now. And I’ll keep asking until we find sustainable funding and don’t need to ask individuals any longer. Anyone who has the means to donate, knows someone who can help or has any input on how we can achieve sustainable funding to give these 80 kids a real chance at life, please, please do so. Donate, share or reach out to me, Luke or Mick with any way you think you can help.

AFTER GUATEMALA

At the time of this article’s publication I have been out of the corporate world for just over two years. I’ve traveled extensively throughout much of North & Central America and have learned more about myself and the people that inhabit our world then I have in the 32 years prior. I’ve learned some of the greatest life lessons in my past two years and one profound lesson during my time in Guatemala that I’ll share now.

“Bucket lists” are not for me. I don’t have a list of places that I need to check off some imaginary list in my mind before I die. I started doing that while traveling and found it to be immensely unfulfilling. Looking back, the most memorable moments I’ve had in my life wasn’t witnessing the power of Niagra Falls, hiking through the narrows at Zion National Park in Utah, kissing the Blarney Stone in Ireland or camping out on the cliffs of Meat Cove in the northern most point of Nova Scotia. Don’t get me wrong, they were all incredible experiences, except maybe the Blarney Stone… I heard the locals get drunk and piss on it at night. Sorry for ruining the magic for anyone reading this.

What I’ve found in over two years of traveling is that creating deep lasting connections with some of the most incredibly inspirational people I have ever met in my life is what has filled my soul more than anything. I’ve left places on my journey that didn’t resonate with me and stayed longer at those that did. Because of these intuition-driven choices I’ve built deep purposeful relationships with the people who live there and now feel as if I have many places on this planet where I can call “home.” I now see home as a feeling rather than a place.

SO WHAT’S NEXT?

From the time of my visit to Guatemala to this post’s publishing, many things have happened. I have returned to Mexico, test-launched a business concept (P2P Puerto Escondido) and abruptly left for central Florida to help a friend settle insurance claims after Hurricane Irma rolled through the middle of the state back on September 10th. My path has taken plenty of unexpected turns and if there’s one lesson I’ve learned it’s this: Life has some crazy yet exciting plan for me and my only job is not pay attention to the signs, stay on the path and not fuck it up.

Having faith that everything will work out for the best even in my darkest moments has proven to be the greatest challenge thus far. I would without a doubt be completely and utterly lost without the help and guidance from those I have met along the way. They have been the ones to help me open up to the beauty of the unknown. I am beyond grateful that I made the decision to take the road less traveled; there is no doubt in my mind that it has in fact made all the difference.