Thursday, April 25, 2013

Adam Shepard on Travel and a FREE book

Today Adam Shepard is here to share his perspective on the importance of international travel. He is the author of One Year Lived, a book about his year of traveling, (see the 5 star review here) and Scratch Beginnings, a book about the search for the American Dream. To learn more about One Year Lived, and to find out how to get your own copy, keep reading to the end.

And here is Adam Shepard:

On the last leg of my trip around the world, during a day trip to Auschwitz, I considered the shame of the fact that more Americans—young Americans, especially—don’t travel. I had previously read Anne Frank’s The Diary of Young Girl and seen Schindler’s List and watched a couple of documentary accounts, so I thought I had some perspective on these awful places where Germans herded Jews. But when the moment came, and I found myself walking where the persecuted walked and brushing my hands over the walls where their frail bodies leaned, I realized my teachings had left me short of a complete education on the devastation of Auschwitz.

People were tortured here. They were starved and beaten.
They were refused a change of underwear.
They were stuffed into that chamber and gassed.
They were hung on those gallows, displayed for the torment of their peers.
They were lined up on that wall there and shot in the head. Brothers and sisters, friends and lovers were forced to carry the dead bodies away and burn them.
Creativity died here. Talent died here. Visionaries and innovators died here. Future doctors and researchers and mathematicians and journalists—they all died here.
These were their eyeglasses and shoes and dishes. The prisoners were told they were simply being relocated, and this was the luggage they brought with them for the promising journey.
Hitler once said, "we shall regain our health only by eliminating the Jew," and I know there are a lot of angry people like him, but that kind of anger became more real once I actually stood among the effects. At Auschwitz, the most extensive murder campaign in human history had been carried out. I could sense the corpses, the souls tormented in this place. Women and children sent on arrival to the chamber, men forced to work and then sent to the gas chamber when their utility had been exhausted.
These were the gravel roads where they marched to their death, bare feet bloodied and frozen.
These were the barracks where they slept, huddled together on tiny wooden bunks as a bitter winter raged around them.
I left Auschwitz after only seven hours, my emotions still on edge. Upon returning to America, I knew I would want to tell my friends about this place, but I also knew that words would fail to describe my experiences. It’s a place that must be experienced, not read about. It’s a place that must be touched, not seen in blurry photographs. Yet I know that most of my friends will never visit Auschwitz, not because they feel as though they’ve figured it out, and not because they don’t care about the horrors that took place there, but because they simply don’t travel. It’s an American affliction.
It’s puzzling. Why don’t we travel? Do we lack imagination? Are we scared? Too busy? Too skeptical? Too worried that we’ll be forced to like soccer? Are we working too hard? Are we ignorant of the possibilities of world exploration? The United States has some amazing landscapes to discover, but do we just figure that’s good enough and there’s no need to step beyond our borders?
There’s cultural diversity in the States; indeed we’re one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, but maybe that diversity still leaves us short of complete educations. Fantastic traditional restaurants populate cities big and small across the country, but we don’t have chicken satay served up freshly grilled in two minutes, street side, by an Indonesian dude in Bogor. We have Irish pubs, but we don’t have The O’Sullivan Brothers playing live in the corner at The Quays in Dublin. We have first-generation immigrants from Latin America—both legal and illegal—but we’ve never seen the plight they’ve escaped.
There is only one way to gain firsthand experience: firsthand.

America has a broad range of talent, but so does China. Wouldn’t you like to meet that talent? Exchange a few ideas? See for yourself why China resides with us at the top of the food chain? Maybe, on your way there, swing by Cambodia to investigate why they hang desperately at the bottom?
Little innovation comes out of Peru, but they have talent, too, right?
Ed Luce, the Washington bureau chief of the Financial Times and author of Time To Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent, recently remarked on BBC News that “you're twice as likely to move up an income group—up a class—in Canada or Germany as you would in the U.S.” Not only do we not realize the reason for this, but also most of us have never even met a German our age to gain insight into his or her routine and way of life. Could meeting a real, live, breathing German raise our awareness?  

I’ll be the first to admit that I still don’t really understand America’s presence on the world stage; I’ve gathered only hints about it along the way. I can, however, say for certain that my travels have greatly improved my understanding of the world and my place in it and America’s place in it. We read about it, and we talk about it, but we don’t really understand that India and China and Russia stand abreast of us at the forefront of innovation. Sometimes ahead of us. It’s scary, we say. They’re coming to steal our place at the top. But we don’t really believe this could actually happen, nor—more important—do we fully grasp the ingenuity required to maintain our place at the top, to continue to make a positive impact on a world that needs it.
One solution for this naïveté, maybe, is to get out there to see for ourselves. Ideas and compassion bloom in the unknown beyond. Creative juices flow, ears perk, eyes dilate. We—Americans—don’t travel until we’re old. In New Zealand, Nic, twenty-six years old and relatively well-traveled, observed that I was only the third American he’d met on the backpacker trail.
The third!
Is it arrogant of us to stay home? Lazy? Careless? Are we so pompous that we think we have the rest of the world figured out without having to investigate it? Shouldn’t we be excited to meet the wonderful people of this world, to learn the history, to see the scenic places and taste the yummy food? And what about the darker side of this globe? Even if it’s not practical for everyone to save their money to go travel for a year, I see no reason why everyone couldn’t scrape together the change for a plane ticket to go volunteer for a little while, at the very least. There’s suffering in this world, and that suffering ain’t in America.
Samuel Johnson was right when he said, “The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.”

About the Author:
Adam Shepard's first book, Scratch Beginnings, was featured widely in the national media and thenceforth chosen on the curriculum or as a common read at over ninety colleges and universities across the United States. His newest book, One Year Lived, recounts the year he spent out in the world: seventeen countries, four continents, and one haunting encounter with a savage bull. More information (and a picture of the mullet that Adam grew on the trip) are available at

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."

Where to get it:

Or you can get it FREE. All you have to do is share this post. Tweet it, Facebook it, however you want, between now and 6:00 pm CDT Saturday, April 27. Simply copy the URL where you shared it and email it to wilovebooks at gmail dot com (make sure to put One Year Lived in the subject line), or leave it in the comments with your email address. That's it! And you can get your very own FREE e-copy of One Year Lived. (Don't forget to check out the review here.)

What is your take on travel? Have your own experience? Where would you go if you could? Let us know in the comments!


  1. Hola, the Blog Post!!! I've Liked, Pinterest, Tweeted, well y mucho success!!!


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