Name: Isabel Graham-Torrez
Type of Project: Artistic and Creative Endeavor
- Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. I spent two weeks talking to tourists in an effort to find out what it is about travel that makes it easy for people to relax and live in the moment. I focused on a variety of different types of tourism to have a holistic sample. I then took all the conversations and interactions and condensed them into a mantra to help people remember that you don’t have to be traveling to experience life vividly. I wanted to help people inject their vacation mentality in a productive and motivating way that is compatible with their responsibilities.
- What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?I had always struggled with staying happy and motivated, and when I sat down to think of a STEP project I knew I wanted to find a way to be consistently motivated and happy. This project was my chance to put myself back in my happiest mindset my “travel mindset” with the purpose of preserving it. I realized that my mindset when I travel is goal oriented, easy going, and optimistic. Isolating these three traits has allowed me to apply them to my daily life, and so far it’s working. Travel gave me the feeling of leaving problems that were out of my control behind. But I realized that I was under the misconception that I had to carry these problems with me. This project made me realize that I didn’t need a plane to leave those things behind.
- What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?
I talked to a lot of people during my project, and I got a lot of advice, and good wishes, but one in particular stood out. I had a very long conversation with a 30 year old man from Brussels who had recently quit his job and traveled to Puerto Rico. He had worked as a bank manager and realized that he was thoroughly unhappy with his life. He realized that what made him so unhappy was that since moving back to Brussels from Germany, he felt like he wasn’t making deep connections with people. He felt like he lived his life skimming the surface and he was deeply lonely. He decided to take some vacation time and he went to visit Puerto Rico for a week. That was 1 year ago, he fell in love with the people and the connections he made with the locals. He went back and quit his job, sold his house, and moved to Puerto Rico.
He made a conscious decision to get to know the people around him on vacation and he didn’t want to give up those relationships. Being in a new place gave him the courage to start his life over again.
He’s been engaged to the lady who rented him a room in her house while he was in Puerto since April, and they’re in love. The piece of advice he chose to leave with me was “sometimes we need a blank canvas to make a masterpiece.”
I was able to take this and realize that I was the only one keeping all these used canvases with me. I could choose to scrape of the layers of paint and start over fresh every day, no matter where I was.
- Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?
I’ve been able to live my life much more relaxed than I thought I could be. This calm gives me the ability to STEP back and see my life as a big picture. I don’t let the mistakes I’ve made or the difficult times in my life tag along and overwhelm me. Because of realizing that I am the only one who chooses to carry that weight with me, I could choose to put it down. And that’s exactly what I did.