Teaching English in Taiwan with Ryan

I get two questions everywhere I go, and they are always pertaining to my home state.

1. Can you surf?!

2. Why would you ever leave??

If you haven’t guessed by now, I was born and raised in beautiful Northern California. I know, it is a gorgeous place with a lot of opportunity, but a few years ago I was feeling uncomfortable with my situation. Feeling like I was too comfortable and trapped in this unbearable bubble. I decided to buy a one way ticket to a place so far from what I knew, and it was the best decision of my life.

To the jungles of Malaysian Borneo I went, at first to travel and visit a friend. However being new to this travel thing, money went fast, so I picked up some work – living and guiding clients in the rainforest. I could write a whole new blog post purely about the encounters with wildlife, from life threatening to once in a life time moments. Taking this journey allowed me to travel across South East Asia, hitting all countries but three, before needing to move on and reside elsewhere.

It was by total chance, that I landed here in Taiwan. I did not want to go home after a year and a half, so I sent out teaching resumes to four countries – Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Taiwan. Within TWO HOURS I received a reply from Taiwan saying they’d love to have me. The only research I had done was that they were in the top four paying countries for ESL teachers, but the decision was made for me, with little cash left I had to go.

Almost two years here in Taiwan, I find myself working to open an Adventure Travel company of my own. Through this journey I have found a purpose, a path that I never would have known of had I stayed in my comfortable bubble in California. I would have never found the work ethic, the open mind and the drive to create like I have now. Travel opened my eyes not just to new cultures, ways of living, and the beauty of the world, but it also opened my eyes to the person I can be inside, the future I can create for myself, and the ways in which I can help the world through doing what I love.

And no, I still don’t know how to surf… Boogie board for life!

- Ryan Hevern
(Here's his company's instagram page)

WWOOFing in Alaska with Julia

Want to know how to travel on the cheap, make friends, learn new skills and find your connection with nature? Go WWOOFing.

WWOOFing is a network of opportunities on organic farms that connects farmers and volunteers. In order to participate on the program you have to decide which country you are going to and after paying a fee to gain full access to the website, allowing you to browse through every farm available in the country of your choice. I spent a month working on a farm in Alaska, with two more WWOOFers. We were in a small city in the Kenai Peninsula called Homer and lived with Carey and her two kids - Liam and Thea.

During my time working on the farm it was very interesting to see how people use a lot of trade and work exchange possibilities in order to get things done. We worked for boat rides, tickets to festivals and traded different types of fish. The power of community became very clear for me, because we always had a house full of friends and different adventures we could go to. July is also the season for subsistence fishing of the Salmon that is going up the Kenai river, and I was able to see Alaskan culture in action. 

I felt less conflicted, more calm and with a greater power for self observation - life was more direct and simple, even while communicating. I have studied Nonviolent Communication during different moments of my life, and it was a great place for practicing awareness and consciousness around that.

For me, as a girl raised in a big city like Rio de Janeiro, I had a wonderful time seeding, planting, transplanting and harvesting - and I finally realized how much effort is put into our food before it arrives to our tables. We also had the opportunity to build a cabin, where we were able to use power tools and learn the step by step of creating your own living space. 

If you are still not sure wether to start WWOOFing I say: take the leap of faith and let (your) true nature catch you while you fall!

- Julia Esteves Abreu

 Work Holiday Visa in Australia with Sara

“One year ago, I took a big leap. A 10,000 mile leap. With an enormous appetite for trying new things, exploring new places and meeting new people, I decided that moving to Sydney, Australia was the next step for me on my ‘to be determined’ life path. While weighing options, continuing forward with my career or continuing to grow through travel and experimental experiences, one soon became the obvious choice.  Star aligned with contacts I had professionally and personally, leading me to both submit a life decision and an application for an Australian Working-Holiday Visa.

With the visa in hand, all that needed to be done was, well, everything. Everything from the flights, to the jobs, to the apartment, to the friends, to the bank account, to the taxes...I could certainly keep going. With the world at my fingertips (google), the research began. Countless forums, blogs, how-to guides, facebook networking for any and all insight on my future home or how to best orchestrate the multiple strings needed throughout the ‘migration’ process were just some of the ways in which I tried to manage this (to some) crazy move. It truly is incredible how many resources we do have in today’s generation, someone’s information can easily, and without even knowing it, can become incredibly insightful for a stranger halfway across the world. Pretty cool.  

The date was picked, the flight was made and the massive google doc of everything I had researched had been completed.  Before I knew it, my one-way flight of mystery was boarding. I walked down the airbridge, stepping closer and closer to the absolute unknown with a job, friends, a home.

Within one week of securely planting my feet in Sydney, I wasted no time getting settled and started in this new Australian life. Since I had traveled through Australia before as a backpacker, my need to take the time to travel more was placed on the backburner and away I went, learning how to prepare my CV the ’Australian way', understanding their job hiring process, physically dropping off resumes, looking up housing through local search engines and apps, trying to be social and enjoy the amazingness of a new place. Essentially, trying my best to sell myself as an American ex-pat professionally and socially to the Australian market. Thankfully, things fell into place.

Shortly after my arrival, I landed two jobs that fit the bill and my background and in just two weeks I was working in Sydney,  about to sign a lease for an apartment, reuniting with old contacts and making new friends. There is, of course, the joy of figuring out non-resident taxes, attempting sponsorship, switching jobs after six months just when you get comfortable...so whether you take it as it comes, pre-plan or maybe just wing it, it will come together. Admittedly, there were times when I felt incredibly uninformed, but you ask questions, talk to the right people and next thing you know, you’re the one telling someone else in a similar position all about the immigration policies. Now, with my one year working-holiday visa under wraps, it looks like I am not ready to leave…

Cheers to Australia Year Two.

- Sara Everest Becker

Step 2: Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Now that you've started your journey discovering what your main competencies are, it's time to start moving towards the direction you want to explore and grow with. 

We know you've probably seen many articles about this subject, but it keeps being an important and recurring issue among young changemakers. Getting our of your comfort zone takes a lot of work and consistency. But there are small steps that can help you move away from what's limiting you.  

There are lots of ways to start. You could learn a new language or skill. Connect with people that inspire you, or volunteer with an organization that does great work. Travel, whether you go around the block or across the globe. The point is that you're doing it, and you're pushing yourself past the mental blocks that tell you to do nothing.

According to this article at lifehacker.com these 4 attitudes can help you get there:

  • Do everyday things differently. Take a different route to work. Try a new restaurant without checking Yelp first. Go vegetarian for a week, or a month. Try a new operating systemRecalibrate your reality. Whether the change you make is large or small, make a change in the way you do things on a day-to-day basis. Look for the perspective that comes from any change, even if it's negative. Don't be put off if things don't work out the way you planned.
  • Take your time making decisions. Sometimes slowing down is all it takesto make you uncomfortable—especially if speed and quick thinking are prized in your work or personal life. Slow down, observe what's going on, take your time to interpret what you see, and then intervene. Sometimes just defending your right to make an educated decision can push you out of your comfort zone. Think, don't just react.
  • Trust yourself and make snap decisions. We're contradicting ourselves, but there's a good reason. Just as there are people who thrive on snap decisions, others are more comfortable weighing all of the possible options several times, over and over again. Sometimes making a snap call is in order, just to get things moving. Doing so can help you kickstart your personal projects and teach you to trust your judgement. It'll also show you there's fallout to quick decisions as well as slow ones.
  • Do it in small steps. It takes a lot of courage to break out of your comfort zone. You get the same benefits whether you go in with both feet as you do if you start slow, so don't be afraid to start slow. If you're socially anxious, don't assume you have to muster the courage to ask your crush on a date right away, just say hello to them and see where you can go from there. Identify your fears, and then face them step by step.

So what are you waiting for? Start today and share your experience with us on Facebook and participate in our challenge to win a spot at The Institute For The Future conference in April.

Program Review: StartingBloc

So here I am, Cristal, trying to put into words and share with you how my experience was with the StartingBloc Institute. Before beginning, fair warning that I will have to give some thanks to some people, because I do believe that together we reach our goals much faster, and because the people mentioned are incredible, and everyone should know them!

Some time ago, I joined a team of great people who shares the same sense of urgency for change. People with incredible experiences, diverse world views, able to bring good viewpoints to a heavy conversation, and the good sense to say when they need to study something more to better position themselves. These guys showed me that we can do much individually, but that we have much more to learn together. We are an internationally connected group, spread across all continents, with a huge range of interests and knowledge. Finally, we’re a group working for the sake of diversity, inclusion, empowerment, the wisdom, curiosity, disruption..

This group is called International Connector (thanks to CEO Marti Grimminck for imagining and creating it).

Interacting with millennial catalysts brought me a very warm feeling to know you have a gang acting, transforming the environment in which they are entering, and helping to spread beyond borders our voice. Through the IC, I had the pleasure of meeting Jeremy Pesner, my bridge to the StarntingBloc (thanks for all the help, Jeremy!).

Cristal at the StartingBloc Institute in LA, 2016.

Cristal at the StartingBloc Institute in LA, 2016.


The five-day Institute has already happened. We had lunch and dinner together, danced and sang together, reflected together and on ourselves, our values nd our goals. We asked for help, and became willing to help. We challenge ourselves to fail, and surprisingly failed to fail. We sat and listened, raised and ‘prototyped’. We had mentors (thank you for your dedication and caring, Megan Madj), who helped us at every phase of the operation. We find ourselves as individuals, and best of all, as a community that goes beyond the five days we were together. We are part of a much larger group that wants and is making a difference, and is innovative, and incredibly connected.

In the StartingBloc Institute, every day is designed so that you have an evolution from where you are to where you want to be. The program also evolves with you. Feedback is very welcome, because you not only understand how valuable recognition is, but also that you need to improve, learn, test, fail, and thus make progress. You learn that "but" is much better if it’s an "and". Moreover, you learn that you are not alone and snaps are valuable and stimulating. Even though StartingBloc is just for five days, it's for a lifetime.

The SB Institute is made possible by the exceptional work of CEO Cesar, who together with his team, give life to this experience and took care so everyone can be even better than they think they are .

The SB and the IC are connected by much more than one person. They share the same contagious energy that encourages you to always seek more knowledge, to question standards, to see the world through the eyes of someone else. Both are made up of young people who are leaders in their jobs, cities, and even countries and both are schools where you can be student and teacher at the same time.

My thank you to all of you who are part of these two communities. You are amazing!



Meet YBY Champion: Marcela Fernandez

Your Big Year was what I called a Eureka moment in my life. 

It showed me that when you think doors are shut, incredible opportunities can come if you believe they exist. 

I was looking for a way to travel an make an impact in the world not as a backpacker but as a meaningful traveler. I didn't really know how to do this but I was in a life moment we're I had just decide to take a non conventional path towards alternative education and I wanted to Believe that the world could be my classroom. 

Your big year appear in my life as a light in my journey. Eight months of challenges and connections and an incredible week in San Francisco, where the real revelation happen...a group of people traveling together could actually make an impact in the communities they were visiting. It could become a learning journey. 

Marcela and onboarders in Medellin, Colombia.

Marcela and onboarders in Medellin, Colombia.

A month after your big year the big aha moment happened when in the middle of the Sierra Madre in Mexico, visiting the tarahumara tribes the idea was envisioned...it's going to be called ON BOARD an it will the metaphor of a school bus using traveling as an engine to learn. 

Finally the world could be a classroom and traveling will become a transformative experience. 

Today I am the founder of ON BOARD because Your Big Year was that catapult in my life to start asking myself more questions and wanting to answer them by creating what I thought was non existing yet. 

I became an entrepreneur an although it hasn't been an easy journey I am extremely convinced that after YBY every year can be my big year if I live living my passion.  I discover the truest meaning of traveling with YBY!

Win a spot at the Institute For The Future Conference

The Institute For The Future is offering a YBY participant an entry to their annual conference in San Francisco.  And the best part is that you will attend via a BEAM!  Successful completion of this months' task will put you in the running to win the spot. Be front and center with Fortune 500 companies learning about the future as you represent youth worldwide.

To get a chance to win this spot, you only need 4 things:

  1. Read our program's first step here and learn about how to get your journey started
  2. Download our logo
  3. Take a picture of yourself with our logo. In the picture, make sure to show something or some place that represents who you are (it can be of an activity that you enjoy, a place you love, an issue you care about, a representation of your talents...or anything else that reflects YOU!)
  4. Share the picture with us in our Facebook page using the hashtag #mybigyear!

We are so excited to share this journey with you! Stay tuned for the following steps into our program and to more opportunities.

Check out our first Newsletter here!

Step 1: YOU


At Your Big Year, we believe that the most important change you can do in the world starts with you. 

To start your journey, we encourage you to know yourself. To visit what are your weaknesses and strengths. To discover your competencies in helping yourself and others.

Here are some optional exercises inspired by the Dalai Lama Fellows curriculum to help you go through this process:

EXERCISE1: Take The Four Tendencies Quiz by Gretchen Rubin. This 10 minute quiz may help you understand whether you are an upholder, questioner, obliger, or
rebel. This will help you determine how you balance expectations others have of you with expectations you have for yourself. It’s a great framework for designing better habits, but, like any personality test, please take it with a grain of salt.

EXERCISE 2: Take the Enneagram personality test. The Enneagram helps you determine your identification with nine archetypes-- perfectionist; helper; achiever; romantic; observer; questioner; adventurer; asserter; and peacemaker. The archetype(s) you embody
can change over time and most of us are a mix of several of these archetypes. Learning more
can help you find patterns in your behavior and identify how you show up in times of security versus in times of stress. You can access a brief overview of its interpretation here.

EXERCISE 3Learn how to make a mind map to unleash you brain's creativity and share it with us in our Facebook page using the hashtag #myfutureyby!

image source: Mindtools