A friend in her 20s ask a group of girlfriends in our 30s and 40s what to expect when she hits the next decade. For me, I find myself wondering ‘What’s next?’
Not too long ago, I was on the “right path”. Climbing the corporate ladder – TICK. Engaged to a reliable, nice guy – TICK. A life filled with distractions resulting in fantastic stories and boxes of souvenirs – TICK. My parents were so proud!
Then it all stopped.
In the span of a few months, my life fell apart. My fiancé and I broke up whilst living in London which lead to losing my right to live or work the UK. I spent the next few years tiptoeing around various culinary adventures: Trips abroad, pop-up restaurants, teaching cooking, reviewing cookbooks, testing recipes, taking classes…. but never committing to something. I was looking for a life that ticked all the boxes and gave me what the Japanese refer to as IKAGAI. I couldn’t clearly see ‘What’s next?’ Then 2016 happened I started to see a path beginning to emerge…
I had moved back to London when the Brexit vote happened and, in November, Trump was elected President. I couldn’t help but notice the impact of social media, digital algorithms, and click-bait “fake news” articles from all sides. I saw the impact of what data-driven bubbles of skewed information, from both sides, could do to drive very narrow views and create anxiety about people, places and things in far off lands. I couldn’t help but see that this industry I had spent my career dedicated to using the internet to help people find what they need and to open the world had taken a dark turn. I asked myself “Am I part of the problem?” Ultimately, I realised that I am not part of the problem, but I could be part of the solution. I could help people come together by taking them on the journey that I had already travelled.
It’s my travels that opened my eyes to the way other people live in other countries, cultures, and ways of life. It’s given me context for why someone different than me might feel differently about something than me. I’ve travelled places that I would go back to in a heartbeat. I also travelled to places that I have not enjoyed and met people who I did like and done things that I will never do again. Yes, I can confirm there is the same jerk waiters and ticket seller population in NYC as there is in Paris as in Bangkok as in Cape Town as in San Francisco. But they are far from the norm. The norm is people with every day jobs & families all in search of quiet and happiness and laughs. The reality is most people treat you exactly the way you treat them. Be polite and curious and sincere and people will be polite, curious and sincerely great to you! Surprise! THIS gives me comfort and I do not fear things I do not understand. Its my desire to understand that has taken me on my travels. Maybe saving all those souvenirs and travel journals had a purpose after all!
I learned a lot of these things through basic means – food. When you travel, you still must eat so why not make it part of the adventure? Food in most cultures is meant to be shared. Meals served family style on a communal table, standing elbow to elbow with stranger by the bar over tapas, huddled in the cold by a food truck or cart slurping ramen. Everyone, no matter who you are, has associations and memories tied to foods. Its something that we all have in common! We all have culinary stories to share.
A plan starts to form…How do I use something as basic and common as a meal to bring people together to break down the walls that distance, differences and perceptions fashion? How can I use my experience in online advertising and strategy to build a career that gives me ikagai? That is what this venture is all about because that is what I am all about.
I love it when a plan (starts to) comes together….