Just GO by Lucas Turner

My favorite word is GO (hence my hashtag #lucasonthego) because it exemplifies so much for me. Obviously traveling is one of my biggest passions, but GO does not solely relate to traveling for me. It is a constant reminder to avoid complacency, the status quo & boredom. It is that extra push at 6:30 am to get out of bed & GO running, it is that word in my mind when deciding whether to spend money on amazing experiences with amazing people & it is the verb that keeps me energized & curious. Whenever I'm scared of risk or failure, I know that if I just GO, I won't regret the journey of growth from facing those fears. My ability to GO caused me to be incredibly heartbroken at one point, but was the ignition that sparked the best self discovery, self love & self truth journey I could have ever imagined. It has scored me several amazing life experiences, adventures & really freaking cool jobs that would have never waited around had I not jumped at the opportunity. My ability to GO keeps it interesting, keeps it fresh & keeps it real. 

I'm on the GO always whether I'm in one spot or all over the world. It's a way of life for me. 

GO is the start of progress, growth, change & movement. The opposite is to stay, sit, wait, etc. & I have no plans to ever let those words define me. We have one GO around at this thing called life and my #1 focus is making it count 👊

#lucasonthego

Finding Family On the Go by Lucas Turner

Foregoing proper family time is one of the biggest sacrifices I make as a professional traveler. It is too easy to go “off the grid” and think that every one just understands a vagabond lifestyle. Far too often it is just assumed that the traveler in the family is out of the country and the conversations go from, “Hey let's grab lunch!” to “When’s the next trip, how long are you gone and why are you leaving me again?” Always absent from the birthday parties, weddings and the impromptu Sunday morning coffee chats with the grandparents. Absent from the little one’s baseball games, grandma’s chemotherapy appointments and the family BBQ’s at my parent's pool. Absent becomes an all too common trend.

When looking at my niece and younger cousins, I think about the close bond I made with my favorite aunt as a kid because of the trips to Chuck E. Cheese’s, the movie nights and always knowing without a doubt that she would be in the crowd at every baseball game. Will I be that awesome uncle or someone for them? I notice that my parents are donning a few more greys these days and my grandparents are having run-ins with illnesses more often. Should I be home reigniting the Sunday family dinner tradition that was so strong throughout my childhood? These questions run through my mind regularly and fill me with a small sense of guilt. 

Sometimes, I would do anything for a one way ticket home to surround myself with family and bask in the cheap rent prices of the Midwest. However, that is not in the cards right now and won’t be for a long time. Until then, I will forever appreciate Southwest Airlines for the cheap flights (and 2 free checked bags!) from NYC to Kansas City that I frequent 2-3 times a year. I highly cherish this valuable family time and am incredibly thankful for it.

I finally turned a corner on not feeling guilty for being gone on my most recent trip to Nepal. As a part of my  job with buildOn, I get the privilege of living with different host families twelve times a year around the globe. As a trek coordinator, I manage teams of Bronx high school students and volunteers traveling to a community to break ground and construct a primary school. This experience is called trek, and yes, you can get involved. My host families have all been amazing.

However, my latest host family in Nepal was unlike any others I had stayed with. They left me feeling full of so much warm love and happiness that I didn’t want to leave. For 9 nights, I became part of the Sunar family in the Bhagatpur Village. Despite our language barrier, our differing skin tones and our unique understandings of the world, I truly knew I had found long lost family members that I just had not had the opportunity to meet yet. 

Every night when I wandered back into my room of their tiny concrete home, I was exhausted. It would have been very easy for me to take my bucket shower, eat my dinner and go to sleep without much interaction. Instead, no matter what time I rolled in, my three host sisters, Joti, Alicia and Aribica were eagerly waiting to greet me with the biggest smile and a “Namaste brother!” I couldn’t help but smile and quickly put my things down to join them for dinner. 

Dinner time in Nepal is all about sharing family time. We would all surround a little fire stove while sitting on straw mats on the dirt floor and take our turns washing our hands. My host grandmother proudly served us heaps and heaps of rice, lentils, potatoes and vegetables that she had been preparing for hours in her primitive kitchen. My family never served themselves first and always made sure that I was so full that I could barely move because not taking seconds is simply not an option in Nepalese culture. Most nights we would practice our languages, and without fail they would burst out laughing every time I butchered a Nepali word or phrase. One night, I gave them a 100 piece jigsaw puzzle with the photo of two elephants on it. To my surprise, they had never seen a puzzle and were very confused as to what it’s purpose was. For 45 minutes, we sat and focused on putting that puzzle together and I happily observed as their problem solving wheels turned every time they placed each piece. Most people would have given up, but all 7 family members huddled around to tackle this puzzle. This reminded me of the days spent piecing puzzles together with my mom as a kid and even though I was filled with nostalgia, I knew how proud she would be to see me teaching them our favorite past time. 

Piecing together that puzzle was just one of many activities we shared in that small little kitchen. Thanks to my great friends at LuMee, we took hundreds of illuminated selfies and videos. My host sisters sat one night and artistically colored in my henna tattoos with markers I had brought them. We talked about their religion, their family and how education is important for everyone. We laughed and laughed and laughed. We were family. No matter how stressful the day, every night when I went to sleep underneath my mosquito net on my bed that doubled as a table, I couldn’t help but think about how much they have, despite lacking many modern day luxuries that so many of us prioritize. They have family, they have love and they have community - is that not what we are all searching for? 

When it was time to finally leave my family in Bhagatpur, I was filled with the usual sadness I feel at the end of my treks because of the unknowing of whether or not I will ever see my host families again. The reality is that I very likely will not.  As I walked to the bus with both little sisters palms in my hands and my entire family following behind, I looked at them and grinned and said, “I love you family” and through their tears they said, “Love you brother!” In that moment, I knew that my family has forever grown by seven members. 

My family means the world to me. If I didn’t travel that world, I would never find my family members like the Sunar’s, and that to me is more than enough reason to keep traveling. My family will forever grow. 

#lucasonthego

ONE buildOn: A Collective Movement by Lucas Turner

"It’s not the place, it’s the people" … I heard this time and time again while I was going through college, while I was venturing out into the world making zero dollars in search of my passions, and while I was bouncing around cities in the USA looking for the ultimate landing spot with the perfect posse or crew. Luckily, I have met amazing people in my life from all over the globe, but unfortunately, I do not see many of them on a regular basis. 

However, two weeks ago, I experienced something I will never forget. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by a group of people who not only believed in something bigger than themselves, but who believed that they could ignite change, create opportunities for others to be amazing, and make a positive ruckus every single day - all without anyone telling them to do so. Change makers, movers and shakers, relationship builders - they were all represented. Nobody was at the buildOn Global Conference in New York City by accident. It was truly something special because 99% of the year our team is spread across the globe, and this week we we’re able to physically be together as a collective unit.

My buildOn family spans all over the world. Brooke from Detroit, Nirmala from Nepal, Ryan from Chicago, Suze from Haiti, Anna from NYC… the list runs 200+ deep. I can tell you without a single doubt in my mind that every single person on that list is making this world a better place. Co-workers is kind of a lame label, so I will refer to them as my “co-change igniters”. My co-change igniters could choose a million other career paths or have thousands of other things fill up their days. However, everyone found and chose buildOn in their own unique way. Our buildOn stories all follow the common trend of leading with one thing - the people who make up the buildOn movement.

Seth Godin, best-selling author and speaker, believes in the power of the collective and not backing down from challenges. He said, “I don’t know what the question is, but the answer is yes.” Through that statement he challenged us to find a way to say yes to the biggest of challenges in order to yield the most positive change. He said those “yes’s” are more attainable when surrounding yourself the right people.  He ended his talk with, “People like us, do things like this.” Simple, yet powerful. 

You may have seen my recent Instagram posts recapping my week at the buildOn conference in New York City. 

#ONEbuildOn

To many, this might seem like a silly little hashtag that is used to keep up with the growing trend of hashtagging every single event from their wedding to road trips to sporadic workouts - #gymselfie. 

However, to 200+ buildOn employees including myself, ONE buildOn is the reason we have devoted our lives to the service of others and believe in the power of education. It is why we spend countless nights ensuring our students have tools to empower themselves, it is why we break down boundaries by working with every single demographic across the globe, and it is why we lead everything we do with our mission. ONE buildOn is every student, ambassador, employee, community member and advocate - past, present and future. 

There are a million things people can rally behind; selling cars, going to music festivals, kayaking, making skyrocketing profit margins - literally anything

This week we rallied for education and will continue to do so. buildOn knows that the answer is YES when asked if we can make a difference in our communities. buildOn knows that time and time again service learning has proven to help youth bring themselves out of poverty. buildOn knows that across the world, millions of people lack access to education, but our model is working, and reaching more and more students every single day. buildOn knows that the cultural immersion and solidarity on Trek can spark a passion for a person to become a global advocate for education. 

ONE buildOn is the collective movement to break the cycles of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations through service and education.

Diahann Billings-Burford, Executive Director of Corporate Responsibility at Time Warner, former Chief Service Officer for New York City and buildOn National Board Member, encouraged us to “Use your ____ for good”. She also broke down service in the simplest form for us and concluded that the end goal of service is freedom. Freedom of choice. 

Finally, at the end of the week, we all wrote down our commitment statements to buildOn. Here is mine: 

I will lead my treks with the whole-hearted purpose of igniting passion, freedom and adventure to every stakeholder involved, in service of ONE buildOn. 

ONE MISSION. ONE MOVEMENT. ONE BUILDON. 

#lucasonthego

Photo credits: Benjamin Jarosch Photography