How Ordinary People Do Extraordinary Things
July 5, 2008 6:05 PM   Subscribe

MeFite scrumtralescent thought it would be fun to interview people who dared to take a chance and do something cool or exciting, like leaving their jobs to travel for a year, picking up an unusual hobby or starting their own business, and then share these interviews via a website for all to enjoy. So she did, and the result was 'The Life Less Traveled: How Ordinary People Do Extraordinary Things…And How You Can, Too!' [via mefi projects]
posted by Effigy2000 (13 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Oh great, even more examples in the world of those who better me!!
posted by Senator at 6:17 PM on July 5, 2008

This is awesome, thanks scrumtralescent. I love the format of the interviews.
posted by saraswati at 6:20 PM on July 5, 2008

That was a really nice read. I had only two minor quibbles: a) more photos would be great (but since it's dependent on the interviewees submitting them, I can see why this might not hapen), and b) I would have liked more probing around the practical and financial aspects of how people were able to make these big changes. So often we use money as a reason (true or not) for why we can't do something; seeing the details of how someone was able to afford to do something that people around them thought was impossible would be really interesting.

But yeah, this is really nice, and I'll keep an eye on it as more interviews are added.
posted by Forktine at 6:35 PM on July 5, 2008

Wow... I am incredibly boring.

*turns on Matlock, falls asleep at 8:30*
posted by backseatpilot at 6:52 PM on July 5, 2008

Interesting... though I did find the interviews somewhat shallow. Life changes are a time of enormous stress and struggle, and I didn't get a sense of this from the story. I would be interested in knowing about the tough times and how they persevered.
posted by crapmatic at 7:41 PM on July 5, 2008

This is right up my alley! Great work all around, scrumtralescent!
posted by humannaire at 5:11 AM on July 6, 2008

Really interesting to read, nice job! The only criticism I'd have is that the interviews feel a little more like a default list of questions than a conversation, 'cause there's something an interesting point in an answer and then the next question seems to stick to the middle course instead of responding to what was said. They're good questions, mind.
posted by carbide at 6:35 AM on July 6, 2008

I've been doing alright, lived in 6 or 7 different European cities during my postdoc, plus conference travel & fun travel, but life in one place is looking pretty good now.

Academics obviously get massive amounts of desirable conference travel paid for by grants, can do postdocs or sabbatical abroad, etc. But you could also merely go to school in another country. If you speak French, German, or Spanish, then you can find quite good universities in Europe that cost less than American universities. If you don't, well AUP isn't any more expensive than an American university. I met one guy who quit his Wall st. job to study at a fancy French cooking school. I've met numerous people who are living in Europe for language classes.

I don't see money as an issue really. If your quite smart then a good ordinary job is no problem and easily replaceable. But you didn't have a good job when you were a student. So if you live like a student now then you can travel a long time. If you wish to stay longer, become certified to English as a second language. If you don't have the money, chances are you're buying expensive things, like big house, fancy cars, fancy clothes, big TVs, kids, etc. It's fine if such things are your priorities. None are really compatible with "seeing the world" anyway. So if you really want that stuff, then maybe you won't be happy traveling?
posted by jeffburdges at 7:26 AM on July 6, 2008

fred flare has since evolved into a collage of all things cute and cool–toys and stationary, interviews with up and coming designers and musicians, travel guides to iconic and kitschy locales–glued together by the founders’ enthusiasm, hard work and and eye for fun. Ready to get inspired? Read on to find out how Chris Bick and Keith Carollo created their dream company, and how you can, too!

Viva la American dream!

What is "American" about wanting to design things for a living?
posted by LogicalDash at 7:27 PM on July 6, 2008

Wow, thanks all for your encouragement and suggestions!

Senator & backseatpilot: I often feel the same way! So many people do great, amazing things and my days seem to be on repeat. My hope with each interview is to discover & highlight what the spark was that ignited the interviewees to escape the orbit of their everyday lives.

saraswati & humannaire: Thanks for the straight up kudos! I'm so thrilled the stories entertained and inspired you, that's exactly why I set out to create

Forktine: Thanks for your feedback. You are right about the photos, it's dependent on the interviewee to send them, although previously I only asked for one photo minimum. Pictures are such a great way for readers to connect even more to the story--I'll start asking for more than one. Regarding the questions about money, I've been toying with whether or not to go that route. So far, money issues tend to pop up in answers to other questions, but I agree that money seems to be the biggest barrier to setting off on an adventure and I'm always curious how people figure out that puzzle. I would say it does warrant a dedicated question.

crapmatic: Oh, this is such a good point, you totally hit on why I made the site: to show that often going after dreams can be valuable in and off itself, even though there are rough patches (and even if you fail completely), it's the process and experience that is primarily rewarding. You just inspired me to add a new question to my list "What was the toughest experience of ____? Did you ever want to quit? What got you to that feeling and how did you move through it?"

carbide: I intentionally use a default list of questions so readers can easily compare different interviewee's answers & easily navigate the site. However, you are correct that this format is a bit limiting in that doesn't allow me to delve deeper into some interesting answers. I'm going to experiment with following up with the interviewee's original responses with additional questions.

jeffburdges: You are so right that there are many options to living abroad and they don't all involve winning the lottery. My hope is that will help people see that (again, it's that money issue, or perceived money issue, that is often a barrier to making a leap). On a side note, I actually studied at AUP for a semester.

LogicalDash: Ha, I added "Viva la American dream!" because I was so impressed by their entrepreneurial chutzpah--a very celebrated American quality, no?

Having this posted on MeFi is a huge compliment. Effigy2000, I am so thrilled that you liked my little website so much. I wish someone was around with a camera when I saw that my traffic went from 20 hits to something like 800 hits, I'm sure my facial expression was priceless. I was very touched that the magic came from MeFi (I'm a loooooongtime reader and love the community).
posted by scrumtralescent at 9:53 PM on July 6, 2008

Just some comments, the obstacle to both travel and starting a business is mostly fear. Now there is some basis for this fear, as you can have problems. I'll just say that travel problems are amost never serious. Otoh, you could argue that most businesses fail, but I feel that is taking a narrow view.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:42 AM on July 9, 2008

I'm going to experiment with following up with the interviewee's original responses with additional questions.

I think this would be a great format: your standard list of questions (which as you say is easy to read and compare), followed by a deeper, more probing, less scripted follow-up on whatever part seems to you to be the most interesting. So for one person it will be a follow-up about their fears, and for another about their family, and for someone else it might be a discussion of the three failures that preceded the success.
posted by Forktine at 6:37 AM on July 9, 2008

I finally got around to checking out the site. It's pretty neat, though I wonder how you'll continue to find new people.

My one (minor!) suggestion is to do some [more inside] for the posts. This might only be a problem when you get more frequent stories, but it'd be nice to just have the lead-in/summary and picture on the front page.
posted by philomathoholic at 2:54 PM on July 20, 2008

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