A little while ago, two disarmingly earnest men from Seattle asked me if I wanted to change my life.
Michael Bennett and Jake Haupert are the fortysomething co-founders of Explorer X and the Transformational Travel Council, which, as far as I could tell, made them some combination of spiritual gurus and travel agents. Their pitch for Explorer X was simple: What if, instead of picking a destination and getting my head all gummed up with preconceived ideas about that place, I just described the personal transformation I hoped to experience and let the two of them do the rest? And what if they then steadfastly refused to tell me where I was going until days before the trip? How would that go?
“Have you heard the phrase ‘travel like a hero?’” Michael asked me over Skype, stubbled and beaming. To be a HERO, he explained, was to be Humble, Engaged, Resilient and Open. Michael and Jake’s job was to get me into that frame of mind with a series of probing conversations before the trip, a voyage tailor-made to address my personal shortcomings, specific journaling exercises for the journey, then a follow-up conversation on my return, to make sure the changes stuck.