Finding Meaning in the Pérénees

Perenese mountains

You may have noticed the frequency of posting here has dried up a bit. That’s because my wife and I have been traveling around Europe for the past few months. Lately, we’ve been spending some time in the shadows of the Pérénees mountains, separating France from Spain. It’s definitely a beautiful place to sit and reflect – something we just don’t do enough of in the big city we usually spend our time in.

But, with all the time in the world and nothing to do in our little village (the locals don’t even give it the courtesy of calling it a “town”), we take photos, work on our businesses, and read a lot of books. It sounds like the life, huh? Well, it has its moments where we both enjoy it. But, truth be told, we both miss both the U.S. and the larger city life and all the conveniences it holds.

One difficulty we faced recently was being without the ever-on, ever-present internet. We essentially had a 6 week forced sabbatical and it wasn’t pleasant. It was one of the most stressful times we’ve experienced lately. We were in a foreign country, trying to speak a foreign language, attempting to find accommodations, food, directions, and friends. We became to comfortable and dependent on the internet as our information source. Note: I know this is not the end of the world, nor is it really that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things (children starving, genocide, etc). I’m not trying to compare to those things or play them down. Let me make a point here, k?

People say that tough times make you a better person. Perhaps that’s true. I’m not sure if it’s really worked in this case, but I do know it’s brought out something in me that has been boiling for a while.

We need to make a difference.

By “we” I mean my wife and I. We just have to.

The first few days that we had internet and tv figured out we started watching channels like CNN, BBC and some “Community” channel for their documentaries. They are generally amazing feats of super people. Watching these, you get a feeling that it’s truly possible. It’s possible for one person to make a difference. Obviously, these people have teams behind them supporting and working with them most of the time. But, the real story is these people’s determination. They have this vision and they don’t quit. No matter what the barriers, they push through them and keep going. It’s amazing.

homeless So, what? These people are amazing. They’re outstanding. They’re EXTRA-ordinary. Right? No. Emphatically, no. These are regular every day people. They are people who simply believe that they can play a part in something. They can do something small to make a difference.

What’s the difference between them and us? A bigger vision and the ability to keep going, no matter what the costs.

Most of us suffer from tiny visions. We want to buy a new car, a home, take a vacation, etc. Those are nice, but we know those are attainable and “normal”. But, those goals don’t make a difference. How do they make the world better?

Think about this… when do people do extraordinary things (hint, see above)? When they’re struggling right? So, when these people get through that struggle, do they sit complacently on their ass? Generally, no. If they’ve had enough drive to get through their problems, they usually go out and make a huge difference in people’s lives. They speak to others about their situation, where they came from, encouraging them to do the same – to be extraordinary.

So, what are we doing here in the Pérénees? Nothing yet, but we’re planning, formulating our thoughts and becoming inspired. We want to make a change in the world. We are not satisfied with being ordinary.

Are you?

Nate Ritter lives in the Pacific Northwest (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

4 Comments on "Finding Meaning in the Pérénees"

  1. Very insightful post. It really made me feel like I should be doing more with my time, and my life in general. I’ve wasted many nights and weekends plotting how I might acquire a new gadget or obsessing over the design of my website (which has been blank and barren for some time – and still is…), when I could really just toss up a wordpress install/default theme and get on with more important things. After all, it’s the content that really matters right?

    Not to be too corny, but I think that’s a decent metaphor for life. In general, people spend a great deal of time trying to build wealth, buy the bigger house, look good, etc., when what’s truly important is what you do with your life, the content.

    This post, in addition to your previous work on projects such as, have been truly inspirational. Keep it up. Looking forward to seeing where this train of thought takes you.

  2. nate says:

    Thanks for the thoughts Kevin. I really do appreciate it. And yea, it’s true. Content is what matters (I’ll sidestep the web design opinions I have on this one… heh). Craigslist works, but I’d never go to MySpace. Anyway… your point is valid.

    And thanks for the kudos on some of my earlier projects. Much of it has been inspiration from other sources, but it’s been good.

    Original ideas are too hard to come up with. Give up and just do something worthwhile, even if it’s not “original”.

    Case in point, my wife and I just started looking into what it would take to purchase an eco-friendly, green modular pre-fab home and setting it on a plot of land when we come back to San Diego (if we can find some land).

  3. Gary says:

    Nice post! It’s good to be reminded of the triviality of many of the things that worry is.

    p.s. it’s Pyrénées in France, and Pirineos in Spanish. Generally, it just Pyrenees in English without the accents.

  4. nate says:

    Ah, see, that’s why we left… I couldn’t spell over there. Hah.

    Thanks for the comment Gary. I appreciate it.

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