Tuesday, January 28, 2014

LIVE from…A Dream Come True!

NEW YORK — LIVE from Mongolia, this weekly blog series, has just hit a milestone: 30,000 readers!

Seven or so years ago, when the London chief dealer at Credit Suisse said to me, "You should start a blog before you go to Mongolia," I responded, "A what?" 

Hurray! Thirty thousand readers!
Back then, I'd just quit my sensible job to pursue a dream. Back then, the dream was to become a foreign correspondent, to go to war, to cover conflicts. Back then, I had no idea what would happen next. And that was pretty exciting. It still is.

All these years later, this blog has turned into a book. It's collaborated with a TV show. And it's been to some pretty cool places: North Korea is still my favorite. And Mongolia was my longest stint, the place that changed me the most. New Zealand, for its part, has by far, coughed up the most dreamers of all forty-seven countries I've visited - combined.

So where will "LIVE from Mongolia" go next? I have an inkling, a real dream. It's going to take some planning, and it's going to take an enormous leap of faith, but I look forward to telling you, all thirty thousand of you, all about it. Thanks for joining me on this journey. You readers make it all worthwhile.

- "Light, humorous, and relentlessly optimistic." -Publishers Weekly's review of LIVE from Mongolia, the book. Published by Beaufort Books, October 2013. Available on Amazon, bn.com, and in bookstores internationally. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

LIVE from…Wall Street!

Wall Street  — Sam Polk made much, much more money than I ever did. But he and I both worked at Credit Suisse, and both he and I came to Wall Street, inspired and excited, after reading Michael Lewis's Liar's Poker. And like Sam's parents, my parents raised us kids paycheck-to-paycheck. And also like Sam, it didn't take long for me working on Wall Street to earn in just a couple of years what my parents had spent a lifetime earning.

Earlier this week, Sam Polk wrote an Opinion piece in the New York Times about his experience being, as he described, "addicted" to the money on Wall Street. He then goes on to talk about how he finally, one day, walked out of Wall Street. Unlike me, Sam didn't have a plan for what he wanted to do with his life after banking, and I think it takes an awful lot more guts to leave without a plan than to leave with one. At least I knew where I was going — or thought I knew, until for a time I didn't.

But Sam's piece in the Times has pushed a lot of buttons, and not just bankers' buttons. There was this in the Times' Comments section from Matt R in Brooklyn:

"I know I'm supposed to feel pleased at the author's epiphany. But I don't. I feel angry. It's nice that after making more money than I've made in my life the author was willing to walk away. It's nice that he was able to come sober, though I doubt there would have been many repercussions if he hadn't. It's nice that he went on to perform charity work. But he still seems to be an over-priveleged person."

A banker friend commented, referring to the comment itself, that had Matt R been given the chance to make that kind of money, Matt R would've jumped at the chance to do so, just like every other 22-year-old kid getting his or her first shot at making it big on Wall Street, or anywhere where money is growing on trees.

But all of this misses the point. The point here is the exit, the courage it took Sam to realize something in his life was very wrong, at least from his perspective, and change it. Even when he wasn't sure what the change would be.

And I do know what it feels like to have your very powerful and very persuasive Wall Street boss trying to encourage you to stay for 'just one more bonus.' I know how hard it is to walk away from a good job, a job you've worked, as Sam put it, "like a maniac" for, a career that makes you feel important. And I know how disillusioned you feel after leaving that career behind.

It's been several years since I left Wall Street, and still every morning I wake up missing having to be somewhere at 6:30am. I miss the banter, the friendships, the eccentricities. But nothing can replace what it feels like to follow a dream. Nothing, not even the fantastic adrenaline of Wall Street, can replace what it feels like to discover your truest self.

"LIVE from Mongolia" is Patricia Sexton's true story of leaving Wall Street to pursue her dream…which ultimately led her into the news anchor chair in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Patricia has hosted Sinovision's WE Talk, a talk show about people pursuing their dreams, and she authors this weekly blog about dream-followers and adventure. LIVE from Mongolia was published in October by Beaufort, and is available on Amazon, bn.com, and in bookstores from New York to New Zealand. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

LIVE from the Deck of Jacques Cousteau's Boat!

PORT TARAKOHE, NEW ZEALAND — I screeched to a halt. There, on the side of the road, tucked into a cave descending into the Abel Tasman sea, was a small wooden book shelf. Above the shelf was a cardboard sign that read "Pirate Book Club Exchange." 

Discovering a book club in a New Zealand cave
I know it's early in this story, but I think a recap is in order: Driving along a coastal road in a semi-remote area of New Zealand, I stumbled upon a pirate's book club tucked into a cave. 

But wait, the story gets impossibly more unusual.

After cogitating on the nature of New Zealanders who put bookshelves in caves and label them "Pirate Book Club Exchange," I drove on to my destination. I was headed to dinner in Tata Beach with my little girl and my sister-in-law. As it happens, the list of interesting people my sister-in-law knows is shorter than the list of people she doesn't know, and the dinner party would once again prove just that. At the dinner, I met a couple who cycled across China because they could, a couple who met trekking in a frigid part of Australia, and an American-Kiwi couple who met on a boating research expedition in Alaska. But that wasn't the best part. The best part was when I remarked on that Pirate Book Club Exchange in the cave.

"Can you believe it?" I'd said. "A pirate's book club?!"

"Oh, the pirate?" one of the dinner party adventurer guests said. "He's having a party tomorrow night. You should come. We're going." 
An old Jacques Coustea vessel turned into a cafe in New Zealand

Well of course.

Turns out, the "pirate" owns an old French sailing vessel and he's an otherwise normal New Zealander man whose name is Ollie. A few years ago, after turning a profit on the sale of a property, Ollie bought a boat. The boat, according to local fishermen who informed Ollie of his good fortune, turned out to be none other than one of Jacques Cousteau's old fleet. Ollie didn't make a big deal of his find, but he did move in. For seven years, he lived on his boat. He started up a now-renowned cafe with a sign that simply reads, "Espresso." People come from miles around (and countries, too) to see this Cousteau-boat-turned-cafe and to drink his terrific coffee.

The following night, I met Ollie at his party. Seven of us packed into the car (my sister-in-law in the trunk) and drove to Port Tarakohe, where Ollie and his boat are moored. It had been raining that day, but the sky was now clear and the sea was calm. The party, however, was not calm. A D.J. was spinning from the cockpit, churning out a thumping beat. On deck, a crowd of mostly women danced under the starry skies.
Ollie making iced mochas on his "Espresso" boat cafe
Someone (possibly me) was so inspired by the whole scene that she dropped to the floor and did push-ups.

And then my sister-in-law introduced me and my husband to Ollie, the "pirate." At first, it was awkward. Despite the raging party he was hosting, Ollie is polite and shy. 

"Are you a pirate?" my husband gamely asked.

"No," Ollie responded, clearly confused. "But this is my boat."

As my husband exited stage left (after that opening line, he kinda had to), Ollie told me his story. He explained how he'd stumbled upon his boat, why he'd opened up the coffee shop (to make a little money), and he told me about that odd little Pirate Book Club in the cave.

"A friend on a nearby boat was getting rid of a bookshelf," he said simply. "So I rescued the shelf and put it in cave on the side of the road," he went on, shrugging as if it were nothing to create a book club in a cave. "And I made a sign that said Pirate Book Exchange." And that was that.

"What's your dream?" I asked him, already knowing the answer.

"I'm living it," Ollie said, and I nodded. 

Patricia Sexton is the author of "LIVE from Mongolia," a true story about what can happen when you follow your life's wildest dream. The book is available on Amazon.com, BN.com, and in various bookstores from New York to New Zealand. She's the host of a TV show about people following dreams, and writes this weekly blog about the same. 

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

LIVE from The Abel Tasman in New Zealand!

Vol. III, No. 11

Anna in her "House Bus" in Golden Bay, NZ
GOLDEN BAY, ABEL TASMAN - She lives in a bus. And believe it or not, that was her dream. Twelve years ago, New Zealander Anna wanted to own her own home, but she didn't have enough money. Her then-boyfriend suggested the somewhat unthinkable: buy a bus, and convert it into a home. This suggestion from anyone else might've been ridiculous, but Anna's boyfriend had grown up a "gypsy" she told me, in converted house trucks. He knew how to make it happen, and she had the determination.
So Anna found an old school bus, bought it, and began making it into what it is. And what it is is a two-story, two-bedroom cottage on wheels, painted in deep reds and forest greens, outfitted in thick tree-trunk wood planks with a kitchen, bathroom, and shower. There is no television; there are only books. Her 12-year-old daughter lives on the top floor, with french doors opening to her own private deck.

Yes, I said 'her daughter' - Anna, now 35, has a little girl, who has spent her entire life growing up in the "House Bus," as they call it. Dutifully, I asked all the obvious questions: Where did her daughter go to school? (At first, she was home-schooled, now she's at a traditional school.) Did they stay in one place all the time, or did they roam the country? (Off and on, depending on the season.) How do they bathe and use the toilet? (Normally, but they have to dump waste and they refer to the container that dumps as "the briefcase.")

But, really, what I wanted to know was, now that Anna has led such an unusual life, bringing up a daughter on her own and in such an extraordinary way, what is her dream now? What does a woman dream of doing, after leading a decade-long existence in a bus, home-schooling her daughter, all on her own? And so Anna told me.

Inside Anna's House Bus, Golden Bay NZ
For five years, Anna has been a student, and she's just about to graduate to become a counselor. She'd like to turn the house bus into a counseling destination for patients, a kind of sanctuary for people to come and talk and feel safe. That would likely mean Anna and her daughter moving into an actual house, and giving up life in the bus. This didn't seem to faze Anna. Nor did my requests for photos.

"Do you mind if I tweet this?" I asked.

"What's a 'tweet'?" Anna responded.

Even better, Anna then told me she needed to get on the road. She was headed to a "fire bath," she said.

"What's a fire bath?" I asked, incredulous.

Patiently, Anna explained.

"It's a bathtub, with a fire beneath it. The fire heats the water."

"You mean, you're going to sit in a cauldron. To bathe. Right?" I persisted, still incredulous.

"Yes," Anna said.

Well of course.

Patricia Sexton is the author of LIVE from Mongolia, the true story of what can happen when you follow your life's wildest dream. LIVE from Mongolia is available on Amazon.com, bn.com, and in bookstores from New York to New Zealand.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

A New Year's Giveaway from Goodreads!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Live From Mongolia by Patricia Sexton

Live From Mongolia

by Patricia Sexton

Giveaway ends January 15, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Happy New Year's everyone! Goodreads is offering a chance to win one signed copy of LIVE from Mongolia to any reader (yes, anywhere in the world!) who may or may not be gnawing on a pesky New Year's resolution. Come on, so am I, and I'd be willing to be you are too. Sign up to win a copy of the true story of what can happen…what can truly happen…when you follow your life's wildest dream.

Or, you can make it easy on yourself, and buy LIVE from Mongolia on Amazon.com, BN.com, on Kindle or Nook, or in independent bookstores from America to New Zealand. Enjoy! And…Happy Resolut-ing.

Patricia Sexton is the author of LIVE from Mongolia. She's hosted WE Talk, a talk show exploring how people overcome obstacles to follow their wildest dreams. She's worked for CBS News and written for Britain's International Life. Patricia travels to remote parts of the world, even North Korea, to uncover stories about people pursuing their passion.