Death: My Travel Inspiration.

Your life can change in an instant.

Sometimes that phrase is difficult to grasp since we get caught up in our daily lives and don’t realize when things pass us by — for example: life. But just like a lightbulb, it can burn out without a hint of notice, leaving the faintest remnant of that light clinging on to the last minutes of what once was before fizzing out forever.

I know this all too well.

It started just as any day starts out. The daily routine of being startled awake by the horrific pinball alarm on my phone, prying open my tired eyes, brushing my teeth, and figuring out what the hell to wear out into the stinging cold of a December day in DC. Yet, something weighs heavy on my chest like an anchor; I don’t want to leave my room.

This day was different.

This day was a special day, and a painful day.

This day would have been my father’s 61st birthday.

As I have been preparing this blog for re-launch I have been getting heaps of request from bloggers that I have come to love reading, all asking me to write a post about what inspires me to travel.

In a casual conversation with a friend, or in a passing conversation with someone on the street, I might drop the word wanderlust. I might tell them it’s a desire to see the world. It could be a yearning for something more than just a 9-5 life. Hell, I might even tell them I’m just bored with this corporate rubbish.

To the bloggers who had inquired about what tears at my heart for distant places, I dug a little deeper. I said it was the travelers spirit. That drive to experience all aspects of this planet, to soak in every culture, to become a citizen of the world, and to fight like the kids of Sandlot to leap the fence and and acquire something that everyone else deems impossible or foolish (…even if it is potentially dangerous).

But these are not the real reason.

All of those examples given are true, but they are just blossomed off of one main and powerful word for what inspires me to chase my dream of travel.


It was overcast, grey, and gloomy; fitting of the day. Though it was strangely warm for what is normally a bone chilling time of the year, I was still stiff kneeling atop the saturated hilltop peering out at the gravestones blanketing the cemetery. It was eerily silent besides the occasional squawk of a crow watching over the souls of the dead, and the silhouettes of the skeleton trees naked in winter were attempting to dampen my mood further.

This was only the second time I had visited my father on my own since he had passed 4 years prior; the first time being just last year a day before I left the United States for the first time.

Maybe it was because I couldn’t face the reality, but before deciding to go to New Zealand, I avoided coming here at all costs. I’m ashamed to say, but I would even lie to my brother and tell him I had visited Pop. I wanted nothing to do with this place.

It is different now.

As I ran my fingers over the cold hammered bronze plaque that reads, “Loving Father” I reflected not on death, but on life.

I pulled out my leather bound journal and wrote a letter to him. I described how if I close my eyes, I can still feel the scratch of his beard, and smell the distinct musk of gasoline on his shirt after a long day of work. Tears began to well and cloud my eyes; blotching the ink when they fell onto the paper as I wrote.

And as those tears fell, it sunk in just how short life really is.

Then a quote came to mind:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
-Steve Jobs

This is why death inspires me.

It isn’t something dark and morbid to be feared, it is something that should be embraced as motivation to do all that is possible to create a life you are proud of.

You may not be here tomorrow, so start living for today.

Both of my parents lay in their eternal sleep in those hallowed hills. I sat thinking about how they worked their bodies and minds into oblivion, and how that lifestyle is what put them here all too soon. They gave everything to provide for my brother and I, but they never led the lives I’m sure they would have wanted. And it killed them.

They never left the United States.

They never got to follow their childhood dream.

They never got to see what else life had to offer besides a paycheck in a prison sentence.

Because that is exactly what you are doing if you aren’t chasing your dream. Becoming engrained in a job that you are unhappy at and gazing at a paradise calendar longingly is the same thing as looking out a prison window hoping for freedom; only to able to look forward to one hour recess.

Harsh? Yes.

True? Yes.

I don’t want that kind of life. And I don’t want you to live that kind of life.

Too often we get caught up in the way everything else is or the way things are “supposed to be”, and we often fail to ask ourselves how we want this life to go. Live to work; it’s what my parents did, and what most people who are unhappy yet unwilling to change do.

Quit that death gauntlet right now, all it will do is kill you. It is a lose lose situation and you are at the ass end of it with a frown and a punch out ticket for the Reaper.

Only work to live and benefit your life goal, and if you start becoming miserable, it is time to move on.

Just think about it as I was this day — Imagine you are sitting here amongst the gravestones and a crow flies above you and drops a black feather. With that feather is a note that reads, “Tomorrow will be your last breath”.

Your life flashes before your eyes.

Have you done everything you always wanted to?

Are you happy with the way your life played out?

Tomorrow, is that car or flatscreen going to matter when your body is 6 feet under and your soul is carried away by the crow?

Will you look proudly down upon yourself knowing you really lived?

Would you do it all over again like a replay, or would you want to change it?

Your life isn’t pre-recorded. There is no rewind. There is no pause. There is now. I you choose to, you can fast forward to a lousy ending, or you can create an epic life worth watching.

Even as I am writing this, I still know I have a ways to go before I am fully living the dream I am chasing. Atop that hill beside my father I know my dream is to travel, and I now realize that I need to become the best damn person I can to enable me to fulfill this.

I have a lot of work to do before I can travel again. It starts today.

I also hope I can start this next journey with you all.

Whether you are working towards your dream or thinking about something better life, just ask yourself this: Would you rather die for money and objects, or for what makes you happy? Because death is the only thing guaranteed in life, so make your life worth dying for.

After I folded up the note and placed it into the slot for the flower vase, I sat for a long time with my father.

On that quiet green hilltop overlooking the cemetery, he had the perfect view of the rippling brook and the colors of the leaves as they spring back to life; change to crimson and gold, then die each year to make way for new life. One day it’ll be our time when we are laid to rest; and when we give our bodies back to earth to watch the seasons come and go for eternity from a hill top, a crow will carry our souls to whatever waits after this.

But that time is not now, and it is not time to watch life pass before you.

“Live life so completely that when death comes to you like a thief in the night, there will be nothing left for him to steal.” –Unknown.

This article is dedicated to my Father.

Here is an inspirational video about embracing death and living your childhood dream by Randy Pausch. Watch it.


  1. Brandi J. Waits December 18, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    A beautiful tribute to life and death! Thank you for posting with such honesty and integrity! I have stood over my father’s grave many times vowing to live the fullest life that I possible could (because he gave up his life for a paycheck). I have and continue to travel to beautiful places delivering my mother’s ashes for she never got to travel around this beautiful planet! Traveling has ignited a fire within me and like you I am willing to give up everything material to enjoy the experience and the journey – And, sharing that story is a remarkable thing. Many Thanks! Brandi J.

    1. JustChuckinIt - Site Author December 18, 2012 at 6:07 pm

      Brandi, thank you so much for the comment. It is quite hard for me to speak about it to someone in person, and even writing about it and putting it out there for the world to see was hard. But I felt it was more important to share my story for the others out there like you and me that have had similar hardships – or hardships in general – so people can see it is possible.

      Keep traveling and living!

  2. Wends of Journeys and Travels December 18, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    This is very poignant mate. I would have to do a similar soul-searching and reach out to my own family when now, I am bombarbed with stress of an annulment and the “wife” accused me something I am not and painted me the devil i am not. This article reminds me of my late dad who, one morning, talked me out of it and I just didn’t have the guts to comprehend but now, after all these and your article, makes me want to turn back the pages of my life where I could have listened to my proudest man who guided me when I am still young and until now.

    Mate, you just wrote something which draws inspiring recollections on my part too.

    I wish you well my friend.

    1. JustChuckinIt - Site Author December 18, 2012 at 7:12 pm

      I am sorry to here about the troubles facing you of late, its a shame people are accusing someone so kind. I’m glad I could help you reminisce and remember your late father, I wrote this article for you all, and I know how difficult it can be to face those emotions afterwards.

  3. memographer December 19, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    We all have different reasons… But we all will die. Steve Jobs’ quote “Your time is limited…” is priceless.

    1. JustChuckinIt - Site Author December 19, 2012 at 11:33 pm

      I agree, everyone has their reasons, life experiences, etc. But understanding and appreciating the gift of that time needs to be seen by more.

  4. Erik December 19, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    Love the new look! Can’t wait to read/see more!!!!

    1. JustChuckinIt - Site Author December 19, 2012 at 11:32 pm

      Glad you like the new look Erik! More posts coming daily!

  5. Lyn Midnight December 20, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Very inspiring! What you said about death reminded me of Patch Adams: “Life is not the enemy.” In my mind, there are two types of people: the ones who let the bad stuff break them and the ones who let the bad stuff make them. I love the second kind! And I love your blog so far… I look forward to more inspiration, and I know there will be a lot. 🙂

    1. JustChuckinIt - Site Author December 20, 2012 at 1:49 pm

      Lyn, that is a stellar motto. I really like that, and I have struggled at times with it, but I have never let it break me. Life is a test, with plenty of lessons, and I strive to see it in that light. So awesome to hear you love the blog, and there will be much more to come!

  6. Heather December 24, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Thank you for sharing this entry. I find that it’s sometimes easier to write about these type of things with a world of people who barely know you than to talk in person about these things with people who know you well.

    I always think to myself, I don’t want to live my entire life working long hours for material things. I want to have stories and pictures. I never want to be sixty, seventy, or eighty years old saying, “I wish I had done that when I was younger.” Of course, I will be because I want to do everything (which is impossible), but I’ll know that I did so many interesting, amazing things.

    It must be really different having lost both of your parents. I have trouble leaving home because I still have both of my parents and I want to spend as much time as possible with them before they leave. But I definitely don’t want them leaving anytime soon.

    1. JustChuckinIt - Site Author December 27, 2012 at 12:33 pm

      I agree Heather, I son’t share this ind of personal information anywhere else really.

      And even if you don’t get to do EVERYTHING in the world (which is impossible in a lifetime) the fact that you are dedicating your life you your cause and your dream, and inspiring others is the best thing you can do.

      That can be hard knowing your time is limited on this planet, and also with your parents. So whenever you are there, cherish that time with them and when you are traveling, keep in touch. I’m sure they are happy for you.

      Thank you for the comment Heather!

  7. Kristin of Be My Travel Mues December 25, 2012 at 1:59 am

    Your post reminds me of the Buddhist belief of impermanence. Life is always waning. The here and now is all we have. Good perspective. It really hurts to lose those close to us, but eventually, that weight is lifted and replaced with happiness for having known them, for at least having the opportunity to be touched by them.

    I haven’t visited my grandmother’s grave site. I don’t know if I ever will…

    1. JustChuckinIt - Site Author December 27, 2012 at 12:35 pm

      I love your life and mindset right now Kristin. It seems like you are getting in touch with your soul and spirit and that is an amazing buddhist view. It is true, it is always waning, so make that moment the best. Travel definitely helped me ease the pain and use their memory are strength.

      I hope one day you will, I know it is very hard that first time, and I thought I never would visit my parents on my own. When you have the strength you’ll know the time is right.

      Thank you Kristin =)

  8. Laura December 25, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    I absolutely love this post you wrote, I have yet to really sit down and figure what my inspiration is but I guess apart of it is your reason. I’ve read The Last Lecture and that book inspired me so much, just in general. The man was amazing and gave great advice for his kids. I think living and growing up in the US, we work ourselves to death and barely take vacations. I do not want to be that person where I regret not exploring the world. People may think I’m nuts and I’ve been told so. They do not believe I can do it, but I feel sad for them when they say that because I know they are speaking out of their own fear, and perhaps envy that they wish they could do the same. I am currently at a crossroad with my studies that I love so much and traveling. I know I have to travel because if I don’t I know I will regret it and who knows maybe I won’t come back or maybe I will. But to not do it at all? That will kill me one day. Great post, I totally resonate with what you said 100%

    1. JustChuckinIt - Site Author December 27, 2012 at 12:43 pm

      Laura, thank you for the kind words. The last lecture video has always pulled my heart strings and drives me to live more, but always the deaths of my parents make me fiercely dedicated to living my dream. If people think you are nuts, relish in it knowing that they are crazy to stay docile. Do not live with regrets, and don’t let others with regrets of their own anchor you down. Studies can be hard to break away from, but do what is right in your heart. If school is something you enjoy, finish it then use it to benefit your dream, just don’t go to school because others deem it necessary and then not do what you really want to.

      Thank you for the comment Laura

  9. Melody December 26, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    Thank you for sharing this obviously very personal topic with others. I can definitely relate as I have family reasons for traveling as well. On my first big trip abroad, I really channelled my grandmother who was well-travelled as well. Growing up, she inspired me to see the far-fetched places she brought me souveniers from. I wish I could share my travel adventures with her today. In contrast, neither one of my parents have travelled very much, and they live vicariously through my travels. Another thing I love about traveling is the amount of introspect and reflecting it causes! I look forward to reading your future posts =)

    1. JustChuckinIt - Site Author December 27, 2012 at 12:46 pm

      Channeling memories of loved ones while working towards a goal has helped me work harder towards it as ell Melody. It was just that first step of accepting it not as tragedy, but as something that happenes to us all and fuel for my strength. I wish I could share my travels with them as well, but I’m sure from whatever waits after this marvelous life we are striving to live to the fullest, they are watching and smiling.

      Thank you for sharing Melody, Live Gnarly!

  10. D.J. - The World of Deej December 27, 2012 at 8:00 am

    Great stuff man…just shows that out of darkness can come the sun. The pic with your chuck on the stone was great.

    1. JustChuckinIt - Site Author January 2, 2013 at 1:32 am

      Thank you Deej, surprisingly the Chucks stayed there for nearly a year. My Uncle had told me my dad would have rolled over in his graved if someone tied pink chucks to his grave (they eventually faded to pink ha.)

  11. Sandy January 11, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    Hi Ryan,
    I kind of avoided reading your blog for awhile because I was afraid of the feelings that would well up inside of me regarding Ron. So I waited, and decided I would read it tonight. I wanted a quiet, uninterrupted time to process your words.
    I have to say, yes, I was sad at first at the remembrance of Ron’s death but those feelings turned to inspiration as I read your blog. I remembered thinking everything was so final when I got the message that Ron had died. It was that feeling of finality, of something that could not be fixed in any way in order to rewrite the script of his life and its sudden end. But here we are in 2013 and I am being inspired by the incredible thoughts and keen perceptions of his son. The sun shines brightly in your soul, Ryan. I think you have found a key to a satisfying life–to savor every moment, experience, landscape, morning and evening sky–living each day as it might be the last chance to take in all that is there waiting for us around the next corner. Bravo to you for being brave enough to embark on these journeys and thank you for sharing your insights. Love, Sandy

  12. Nicole @ Suitcase Stories February 18, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    I got very emotional reading this blog (which is weird when its about someone I don’t even know!) because my nomadic life was also bought on by death – My mothers.

    Before she passed away she encouraged me to follow my dreams of full time travel but I kept putting it off, not ready to leave her. Instead, she left me, and with her voice in my head, I knew that it was time to go and live my life.

    Its very cliche, but when you lose someone, you question your life “Am I really happy?” and those types of questions. When if the answers you get back are not positive then its time to take action and make changes before its too late.

    Thank you for this very honest and inspiring post. I really feel every word you wrote.

    1. JustChuckinIt - Site Author March 4, 2013 at 9:14 am

      Wow Nicole, sounds like she was an amazing woman and Mother, so great of her to encourage you to chase your dreams. It’s good that you were able to turn loss into inspiration, because I know that’s what she would have wanted you to do.

      So happy you are living your dream, and you are an inspiration to people like us that have lost.

  13. Stephanie B January 1, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    This is exactly the thing I’ve been telling myself for the last 6 years of my life. You’re amazing, dude, and this post has reduced me to tears because I’m feeling all of these things right now. Well, it ends today… 2014 is quite literally a new beginning for me. I’ve lost everything and I’ve been given the blessed opportunity to rebuild my life exactly the way I imagined it. Thank you so much and I hope that you’re aware of how much of an inspiration you are. Hope to meet you on the road someday!

    1. JustChuckinIt - Site Author January 3, 2014 at 5:18 am

      So pumped up to read you say that it all ends and you are going into 2014 with a fierce fire to change things around. You are aware now that things have crumbled, and you are choosing to take the steps to rebuild. I sincerely hope to meet on the road as well, but here’s to 2014, your year, and I know you’ll rock it!


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