What is a Quest? Lessons from Happiness of Pursuit

My view of Rangitoto from St Heliers.
My view of Rangitoto from St Heliers.

Chris Guillebeau’s newest book, The Happiness of Pursuit, is all about finding meaning in life through a quest. A quest is bigger than an adventure; it is a series of adventures with a clear end goal. It is challenging and requires a sacrifice of time or treasure. The CTI Co-Active Leadership program ends with designing a quest; however, there was very little information about what form a quest might take. This book fills that void.

The book is full of people’s quest examples. I compared their experiences to my own. 5 years ago I needed a change in my life. The stress and the work treadmill were making me physically sick. Knowing that I needed to make changes was not enough to sustain the redesign needed–like expecting to lose weight while working in a donut shop.

I started with a couple of adventures with Habitat for Humanity, Global Village program. This was a normal extension of the travel volunteering I had done before. I focused on Northern Ireland and, based on other volunteers’ stories, I wanted to do a Jimmy Carter Build. Then HFH selected five countries along the Mekong River for the JC Build and I had friends in Cambodia. So I went on a Jimmy Carter Build in Cambodia hoping that the next step would reveal itself.

Set of Hobbit in New Zealand
Set of Hobbit in New Zealand; Lord of the Rings and Hobbit are both quest movies.

This is the real challenge of a quest figuring how much you need to do and how much you need to leave unplanned for the Universe to fill in the blanks. Much of quest begins and moves forward on intuitive hunches.

While I was on the Cambodia build I met a group of really great New Zealand volunteers. This led to taking a group of Canadian and US volunteers to a build in Wellington. By this time I had more than an inkling that my quest was leading me to live overseas.

New Zealand was love at first sight. My quest began to focus on moving to New Zealand. I spent a year “leaving well.” As far as sacrifice, does selling everything you own count? The thrill of fulfilling a life long dream of living in a foreign country for longer than 10 weeks (my previous stretch) was so exciting that it carried me through the wrenching process of leaving family and a house I had lived in for 25 years.

Once I arrived in Auckland, New Zealand lots of things fell into place—a place to live in St Heliers, a kindred spirit bf, and so many great things. Except a job. Eventually my money and Visa ran out and I found myself flying back to Sacramento on Christmas Day, 2011.

This is the end of the third act of a screenplay called “the all is lost moment.” I really felt confused about my quest. I thought it was about creating a new life overseas and yet I was not able to stay. Within a few months I had a new consulting business and still enjoying a lifestyle that included writing. (Much of this quest is chronicled in my first blog http://redesigning49.com.)

My life is largely redesigned. Yet my quest feels unresolved. I continue to plan adventures and stay open to what comes next.

Best coffee in the world is found in New Zealand. Don't call a Flat White just another latte.
Best coffee in the world is found in New Zealand. Don’t call a Flat White just another latte.

Quest Fiction

A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami. Post-modern tale of a mediocre man’s quest to find a special sheep in the mountains of Japan. The magical realism emphasizes the mystical aspects to a quest. It is the yin and yang of quests: doing and being.

The Hundred Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Wind and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. This Swedish version of Forrest Gump is a tall tale that illustrates how one thing in life can lead to another in a good way if you retain your basic optimism and do not over think situations.

Postcards from California Highway 1: Central Coast

I signed up for Chris Guillebeau’s book event in Santa Cruz, and convinced my friend Connie to go too. This quickly became a girls weekend starting at her home in Half Moon Bay. Getting anywhere in the Bay Area on the weekend is becoming more of a challenge. I avoided the Bay Bridge and SF City traffic by taking Highways 880 and 92. Although as soon as I got past Highway 280 it was bumper to bumper, because lots of people want to go to the coast for lunch, or to catch a last beach day before fall really sets in, or to buy a pumpkin.

Farmer John's pumpkin patch has a teepee, a tractor and an annual gathering of Burmese Mountain dogs.
Farmer John’s pumpkin patch has a teepee, a tractor and an annual gathering of Burmese Mountain dogs.

There are pumpkin patches all around the town of Half Moon Bay. The places on Highway 92 are competing with gimmicks like pony rides and bounce houses. Or going for the bargain, “All pumpkins $5”. I like the classic Farmer John’s pumpkin patch right on Highway 1.

We caught up as we drove down the beautiful coastline toward Santa Cruz. There is farmland signs pointing to beaches. Everything is gentle compared to the more rugged coastline below Monterey. The road is much straighter and makes for quicker progress than the windier route to Big Sur. We stopped in Davenport for a later lunch.

Whale of a Diner in Davenport
Whale of a Diner in Davenport

Our motel, the Continental Inn, was a fun redesign of a classic motor hotel. We LOVED the wood floors—brilliant in a coastal hotel where guests are likely to get sandy.

We did a quick walk around the harbor. I have not been to this part of Santa Cruz since Sarah Harriet completed Bike and Build (SC2SC11).

This morning we took our time and enjoyed the lack of agenda. I finished Colum McCann’s Transatlantic—a lyrical book that features Belfast. Then we drove to the main shopping street, Pacific Street. With a lot of time until Chris Guillebeau’s talk and book signing at 7:00 p.m., we fossicked around shopping and looking for a place to eat lunch. We ended up at the excellent Assembly for brunch. We ate amazing fried green tomatoes and enjoyed a very filling and delicious repast.

Assembly restaurant in Santa Cruz
Fueling station for fossicking around Santa Cruz, CA.
Lulu's coffee place
How could I not go to Lulu’s coffee shop in Santa Cruz. Lulu the adventure dog would approve: there is outdoor seating.

Now I am getting some work done while Connie finds a salon for a mani/pedi. I ended up at the Octagon in Santa Cruz called LULU’s!!! How could I not try the coffee? This is my first trip away without Lulu and I am like a new parent enjoying my freedom and fretting about her.

Meet Ivy
Mini Cooper S to be named Ivy.

Finally, Connie helped me decide to name my car Ivy. This was solidified when we went to Dig Gardens in Santa Cruz. What a shop! It is high praise from me to say it compares to the fabulous Flora Grubb in San Francisco. Garden inspiration. Ideas are flowing.

Dig Gardens
Dig Gardens in Santa Cruz