One thing I’ve been fortunate with in my life is that I’ve usually had jobs that allowed me to travel and meet a lot of people. Combine that with my super winning personality and I meet a lot of people. Perhaps it has something to do with the sheer number, but I seem to meet an inordinate number of extraordinary humans. A couple of summers ago during a trip to Hong Kong, Lily and I were fortunate to meet three such people for a day of photography. We went to a small fishing village far away from the city and it was on that sweltering August day that I would meet my Flickr friend Pei in person for the first time, along with the very talented Angelo (who nearly caused an international incident on the MTR) and their friend Zach. You can read about that adventure here. If you can manage the time I recommend it because a couple of years later it reads even funnier. Even though I don’t know her as well as I’d like, Pei is one of my favorite people in the world, sometimes you just like a person’s vibe. Angelo Umali is as talented and fine a young man as you’d ever want to meet, but this post… features young Zach Glassman.
On the surface it looked like Zach, at 23, had carved out a dream life for himself. I was more than impressed. After graduating from Columbia he was living in one of the world’s most exciting cities pulling down six figures in his job as a metals trader which, conincidentally, allowed him to travel the world. He was handsome and fit and looked every bit the Ivy League swimmer he’d been at Colombia, where he still holds school breaststroke records. He spoke excellent Mandarin and was friendly and courteous to the old man. Zach is the kind of man we all hope our sons grow up to be. We losely kept in touch through Facebook and Flickr and our respective blogs but it was on Facebook, through some cryptic, sporadic posts that I realized something ‘was up’ with him. He’d clearly made plans to quit his job and to move on to something else, but what the something else was wasn’t exactly clear. The father in me was wondering what he was up to.
After a couple of years the excitement of living and working in Hong Kong had worn off. That high paying job came with a lot of pressure resulting in a truckload of anxiety and even a couple of full-on panic attacks. Combine that distress with what he termed “a lack of clear purpose and direction”, and Zach was feeling lost, unhappy and unfulfilled. He began to ask himself, “Is this it?” It was admittedly, in many ways, a great life. It just wasn’t the life he’d dreamed of. So what to do?
Zach himself wasn’t sure initially, he only knew he had to get out of that job. Over the course of a few months a plan began to formulate and as one piece after another fell into place, it seemed there was no turning back. Zach Glassman quit his job, packed his bags, grabbed a couple of cameras and is spending 2012… traveling the world.
He’s chronicling his journey of self-discovery in an excellent blog called Passion Passport. Zach told me recently that he’s always had an insatiable curiosity to travel and discover the world. He’s hoping that by documenting the year via photos, videos and a personal journal, he might discover what it is he’s really passionate about and in the process encourage others to do the same.
Zach comes from a nomadic bloodline and grew up traveling. His father is the travel writer Paul Glassman and his mother Barbara is a college professor who once found herself in Australia with $50 in her pocket after traveling across Europe and the Middle East. His parents met in Guatemala of all places, so you might think with that pedigree the folks would be understanding, even enthusiastic supporters of his adventure. When Zach first told his dad of his desire to quit his job, Paul kept saying, “I think you need a plan.” I would have probably told Nick the same thing. Again, in the beginning there wasn’t much of a plan. Zach was spending a lot of time in the pool training in hopes of qualifying for a spot on the Canadian Olympic swim team and it was during those endless hours behind a kick board that he first began to seriously think about traveling around the world. During a Christmas trip to Australia was when the seed really took root. He began his journey in Vancouver a couple of months ago and has since returned to Hong Kong, made it to Bali and Australia and has been in San Francisco now for about a week. He’ll eventually make it to Southern California, Colorado, and Chicago before hitting the east coast of the US and his hometown of Montreal. Then its on to London for the Olympics. Zach fell just short in his Olympic bid so he is looking for some kind of internship or sponsorship deal to help him get ‘credentialed’. After the Olympics he’ll check out some more of The UK, then Europe and a huge chunk of Africa. Lily and I are trying to convince him he should hit mainland China again before he’s through. I’m also trying to convince Lily I should join Zach in Africa for a week. That… has been a tough sell.
Here’s a look at Zach’s adventure so far…
The Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge
The first day of his trip, on the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge near Vancouver with his friend Jasmine.
Jasmine’s Everybody Shot
In talking about his Everybody Project, Zach says, “Before setting off on my journey around the world I chose twenty individuals with whom I wanted to cross paths with, people who inspire me in different ways. They are not necessarily my best friends but they believe in my journey. They are people whose stories or vision motivate me to think or act differently, people who will support my decisions, and people who I can relate to in myriad ways. Jasmine chose the Spanish Banks as the setting for her Everybody shot. We spent a beautiful afternoon shooting, laughing, and lounging by the beach.” Read more on Zach’s Everybody Project here.
Vancouver’s Olympic Cauldron
A tribute to Pei’s jump series, Zach and Jasmine lift off in front of the Olympic Cauldron in Vancouver.
“Sari Organik in Ubud, Bali is one of my favorite spots to eat… in the world. Fresh, delicious organic produce and some stunning views of the surrounding rice terraces. A majestic setting.”
Rice Terraces – Ubud, Bali
Girl, Ragdoll, Bicycle
“As part of a bike tour, I was lucky enough to visit a couple of traditional Balinese compounds. This young girl didn’t stop smiling during the time I spent in her home. Her incredibly playful nature, naturally made her the focus of my visit.” I’m fairly certain that is NOT the bike Zach was riding..
This Stunning Bridge
“I captured this shot of the Sydney Harbour Bridge on the ferry ride from Taronga Zoo back to Circular Quay. Its my favorite harbour in the world.”
A young joey checks out Zach at Lucky Bay in Esperance, West Australia. Lucky Bay is particularly famous for kangaroos hoping around the stunning beaches.
Go to Hell
“My friend Josh and I stopped to photograph this property just outside of Albany, West Australia. After having stepped over the property line to get this shot, a strange man drove up out of nowhere and tried to intimidate us. We left… quickly.”
Gum Tree Sunrise
Zach has collected a lot of great photos on his trip but this is probably my favorite so far…
“As Josh and I made our way towards Esperance, West Australia in the early hours of the morning we saw some magnificent colors as the sun rose over the deserted West Australian highway.”
Zach describes himself as “A Canadian photographer/adventurer/linguaphile/athlete on a unique quest for the remainder of 2012. After having resigned my job in February 2012, I realized that there were so many experiences I wanted to have and goals I wanted to accomplish. As such, I drafted an itinerary for the rest of the year that includes locations and activities that are directly aligned with my passions. In the process, I’ll also be stopping to see a lot of the people I love and who inspire me. The result, I can safely assume, will be nothing short of the journey of a lifetime.”
How many of us have the courage to chuck it all and take a chance on the unknown? I’d wager not many. In closing I should tell you that Zach’s folks are fully on-board in support of his quest and that he hasn’t has a single panic attack since leaving work in February.
If you’d like to join Zach as he documents his journey you can visit him at Passion Passport. There you’ll also find links to his fantastic photo blog, his Facebook and Twitter pages and videos on his Vimeo page.
Here’s to Zach… and adventurers everywhere.