Things are off to a good start here, but I think there's something that's still missing. Learning all of these languages is neat for a web site, but it's not the reason I do it. The real goal has always been to travel the world, and the point of the languages was to make new friends and enjoy new experiences in all of the places I want to go.
Over the next few days, I'm going to lay out some new changes on this web site, because I want to reflect the overall purpose. The main subject here will always be about language study, but there needs to be a reason. I don't want my readers to lose sight of that.
What follows is my new About page:
What's it all about?
Ever since I was a kid, I imagined myself one day being some sort of cosmopolitan citizen of the world. I've always had a fascination with different people and their cultures, and of course, how they communicate, my whole life I've dreamed of a jet-setting life exploring the world and learning from its people, moving freely from country to country, dealing comfortably with everyone I meet. Kind of like James Bond when he's between assignments.
Unfortunately, society teaches us that's not realistic. In kindergarten, our teachers tell us we can grow up to be anything we want, but then every year after that, we are beaten down into this mold of the life everyone else wants us to live — work at a steady job, relax in front of a television, vacation once a year, and save for retirement. But that's not compatible with my dreams!
My interests found their way out. In high school, I studied Spanish, German, and French. When most of my classmates couldn't be bothered to make an effort in one foreign language, I was getting good marks in all three. Later, I did the work of reaching Fluency in Spanish on my own, without any class. Instead of listening to music on my iPod, I listened to Italian conversations. Instead of playing techno CDs in my car, I drove around listening to Portuguese lessons. It's just what I enjoyed.
But I always felt like I had to hide my interest. When guests came to my apartment and saw my bookshelf, they'd ask me "why?" And not that curious "why" that gets you to open up, but that judgmental "why" that makes you feel like you're doing something wrong.
It's not wrong
The life I always wanted was inspired by a world that existed in the '70s and '80s — back when the Soviet Union was closed off, East Germany inaccessible, China was a big scary place... and there was no internet! But people were doing it then. Not a lot, but enough. Maybe not James Bond (though there probably were a few!), but world travelers have always existed.
Today, thanks to the wonders of satellite television, budget travel, and the world wide web, most of the world is now an open ground. The scary propaganda can't compete because the truth moves at the speed of light! The world isn't a big scary place any more, it's a collection of very reachable destinations.
Even on a modest income, it is possible to go all over the world and see new things, meet new people, learn about other cultures, and do all those things that I dreamed of as a kid. The only thing left are excuses.
When you believe that your dreams are impossible, you don't do the work of trying to reach them. Instead, you fill your life with trivial things to keep your mind off of what you really want. And that's what I did for a long time. But once I woke up to the realization that it is possible, some things had to change.
It became important to pay off the debts, both financial and mental, that I had built up. Travel is cheaper and easier today than it ever has been, but it still costs money, and it's hard to justify doing it when you already have debts. So I made a plan, set my mind on it, and paid off all of my debts, returned all of the favors I owed, and washed my hands of any obligations to anyone else.
It's also difficult to spend a great deal of time traveling when you have a lot of responsibilities at home. It became important to have a simple, easy-to-maintain home. No more pets. No more collections and trinkets. No more huge closets full of crap I don't wear.
And if I'm going to be spending a lot of time away, I need to have bills I can afford to pay even if I'm working less. This means a smaller apartment and lower utility costs. It also mean living more simply at home: making fewer impulse purchases, dealing with fewer "gadgets", ending any subscriptions to newspapers or magazines. Oh, and I got rid of my biggest expense: my car!
Living the dream
The main focus of this web site is, of course, learning languages. Specifically, I will be learning one new language every year. But it should always be remembered that language is a means, not an end. This is all en route to the bigger goal — becoming the citizen of the world... the cosmopolitan traveler I always dreamed of being.
It's only been three months since I started this site, but I've already got several hundred readers, many of whom actively comment. So now that I have successfully created the pressure of an audience, it's time to set some expectations. All of you — my readers, fans, followers, and friends — all of you will keep me on track as I reach for, and achieve, all those things I always dreamed of doing. No more excuses.
I'm creating a "bucket list", and I will be adding that to this site in coming days.
Want to see my favorite language resources and courses?
I listed them here.