Text A Never, ever give up!
1 As a young boy, Britain's great Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, attended a public school called Harrow. He was not a good student, and had he not been from a famous family, he probably would have been removed from the school for deviating from the rules. Thankfully, he did finish at Harrow and his errors there did not preclude him from going on to the university. He eventually had a premier army career whereby he was later elected prime minister. He achieved fame for his wit, wisdom, civic duty, and abundant courage in his refusal to surrender during the miserable dark days of World War II. His amazing determination helped motivate his entire nation and was an inspiration worldwide.
2 Toward the end of his period as prime minister, he was invited to address the patriotic young boys at his old school, Harrow. The headmaster said, "Young gentlemen, the greatest speaker of our time, will be here in a few days to address you, and you should obey whatever sound advice he may give you." The great day arrived. Sir Winston stood up, all five feet, five inches and 107 kilos of him, and gave this short, clear-cut speech: "Young men, never give up. Never give up! Never give up! Never, never, never, never!"
3 Personal history, educational opportunity, individual dilemmas — none of these can inhibit a strong spirit committed to success. No task is too hard. No amount of preparation is too long or too difficult. Take the example of two of the most scholarly scientists of our age, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison. Both faced immense obstacles and extreme criticism. Both were called "slow to learn" and written off as idiots by their teachers. Thomas Edison ran away from school because his teacher whipped him repeatedly for asking too many questions. Einstein didn't speak fluently until he was almost nine years old and was such a poor student that some thought he was unable to learn. Yet both boys' parents believed in them. They worked intensely each day with their sons, and the boys learned to never bypass the long hours of hard work that they needed to succeed. In the end, both Einstein and Edison overcame their childhood persecution and went on to achieve magnificent discoveries that benefit the entire world today.
4 Consider also the heroic example of Abraham Lincoln, who faced substantial hardships, failures and repeated misfortunes in his lifetime. His background was certainly not glamorous. He was raised in a very poor family with only one year of formal education. He failed in business twice, suffered a nervous breakdown when his first love died suddenly and lost eight political elections. Later in life, he suffered profound grief over the tragic death of three of his four children. Yet his strong will was the spur that pushed him forward, strengthening his optimism, dedication and determination. It intensified and focused his efforts and enabled him to triumph over the overwhelming failures and profound difficulties in his life. A hundred years later, people from around the world commend Abraham Lincoln as the greatest American president of all time.
5 Just like Churchill and Lincoln, only those who "keep their eyes on the prize", those who uphold a committed and focused will and spirit, will find their endeavors successful. Many artists, statesmen, writers and inventors have had the same experience. They achieved prosperity because they possessed a fierce will to keep preparing and working and a passion to succeed. They attained success, not because it was easy, but because they had the will to overcome profound obstacles and to work diligently in the pursuit of their goals.
6 After growing up on a cattle ranch without running water or electricity, Sandra Day O'Connor fought to achieve the best education possible. Consistently graduating at the top of her class, she worked her way into Stanford Law School, where she graduated with honors. But despite all of her hard work, Sandra Day O'Connor was still a woman in the 1950s. Even with the prestige of her degree from Stanford, she was rejected from the entire law circuit as firms preferred to hire less qualified men rather than risk hiring a female lawyer, which was unprecedented. Yet Sandra Day O'Connor refused to give up on her dreams. Through sheer persistence she was eventually nominated and then appointed the first woman Supreme Court Justice of the United States of America. There, she acted as a crucial vote on issues like abortion and women's rights.
7 Many people simply say that they want something, but they do not expend the substantial effort required to achieve it. Many people let the threat of failure stop them from trying with all of their heart. The secret of success is based upon a burning inward desire — a robust, fierce will and focus — that fuels the determination to act, to keep preparing, to keep going even when we are tired and fail. As a wise saying goes: "It's not how many times you fall down that matters. It's how many times you get back up that makes success!"
8 Focus on becoming more knowledgeable. Focus on gradual, consistent progress. Maintain the strong will to keep going — even when you are tired and want to slack or the odds seem too large. "Keep your eyes on the prize!" "Where there's a will, there's a way!" With hard work, determination, dedication and preparation, you can transcend any handicap, accomplish any feat, and achieve success!
Text B Chance favors the prepared
1 Les Brown and his twin brother were adopted by Mamie Brown, a kitchen worker, shortly after their birth in a poverty-stricken Miami neighborhood.
2 Because of his overactive behavior and nonstop talking as a child, Les was placed in special education classes for the learning disabled all the way through high school. Upon graduation, he became a garbage collector. The prospective opportunities for his future looked slim to others, but not to Les. He had a passion, a dream — a big dream that he was ready to work hard for. He was destined to be a disc jockey, also known as a "DJ", one of the radio celebrities mixing music broadcasts for the whole city.
3 At night he would take a radio to bed so he could indulge his dream by listening to the local DJs. He created an imaginary radio station in his tiny bedroom. A hairbrush served as his microphone as he energetically practiced speaking his masterpieces to his imaginary listeners.
4 He aggravated his friends with his constant practicing. They all told him that he didn't have a chance and he would never be a DJ. They scorned him and said to stop dreaming and focus on the real world. Nonetheless, Les didn't let their negativity stop him. He kept his goals close to his heart and remained wrapped up in his own world, completely absorbed in preparing for his future, preparing to live his dream as a renowned DJ.
5 One day Les decided to take the initiative and begin with this enterprise. He boldly went to the local radio station and told the station manager he understood the layout of the station and was ready to be a disc jockey.
6 The manager looked dubiously at the untidy young man in overalls and a straw hat and inquired, "Do you have any expertise in broadcasting?"
7 Les replied, "No sir, I don't."
8 "Well, son, I'm afraid we don't have a job for you then," he responded bluntly. So, Les' first chance at success had been a complete bust.
9 Les was determined. He adored his adoptive mother, Mamie Brown, and was careful with his money to try and buy her
nice things. Despite everyone's discouragement, she believed in him and had taught him to pursue his goals and persist in his dreams no matter what others said.
10 So, in spite of what the station manager had originally said, Les returned to the station every day for a week. His persistence was very persuasive, and the station manager finally gave in and took Les on to do small tasks — at no pay. Les brought coffee and food. He catered to their every need at work and worked overtime whenever necessary. Eventually, his enthusiasm won their confidence and they would send Les in their Cadillac to pick up celebrities, not knowing that he didn't even have a driver's license!
11 While hanging out with the station's real DJs, Les taught himself their posture and hand movements on the control panel. He stayed around the studio, soaking up whatever knowledge he could. He was disciplined; back in his bedroom at night, he faithfully practiced in anticipation of the opportunity he knew would come.
12 One afternoon at work, the DJ named Rock started to feel very sick while on the air. Les was the only person around, and he realized that Rock was coughing and losing his voice. Les stayed close in case there was some way he might help alleviate his co-worker's distress. He also worried that the illness was sure to doom this broadcast.
13 Finally, when the phone rang, Les grabbed it. It was the station manager, as he knew it would be.
14 "Les, this is Mr. Klein. I don't think Rock can finish his program."
15 "Yes," he murmured, "I know."
16 "Would you call one of the other deejays to come in and take over?"
17 "Yes, sir, I sure will."
18 But try as he might, none of the regular DJs were available. MC Cormick and DJ Slick were both out of town for the weekend and DJ Neil was also feeling sick. It seemed that the radio station was in big trouble.
19 Frantic with distress, Les called the general manager. "Mr. Klein, I can't find nobody," Les said.
20 Mr. Klein then asked, "Young man, do you know how to work the controls in the studio?"
21 "Yes sir," replied Les, grinning with the sudden opportunity. He didn't even blink before he called his mother and his friends. "You all go out on the front porch and turn up the radio because I'm about to come on the air!" he said.
22 Les rushed into the booth, hoisted Rock onto a nearby couch, and sat down in his place. He was ready. He flipped on the microphone and eloquently rapped, "Look out! This is me, LB, Les Brown! There were none before me and there will be none after me. Therefore, that makes me the one and only. Young and single and love to mingle. Qualified to bring you satisfaction, a whole lot of action. Look out, baby, I'm your lovin' man."
23 Because of his preparation, Les was ready. He had dazzled the audience and heard applause from his general manager. From that fateful beginning, Les was propelled to become an icon in broadcasting, politics, public speaking and television.
Text A Swimming through fear
1 I was on a tour of France with my friends when our car pulled to a stop at the beach and we saw the Mediterranean Sea. Massive waves surged against large rocks that formed a waterproof jetty. People said this beach was known for its notorious rip currents. I shivered with fear. Nothing scared me as much as water.
2 Just the sight of the sea made me sick to my stomach.
3 I'd always loved water and been a good swimmer until last summer, when I'd decided to climb up to the highest diving board at the pool. I'd hopped from that height and hit the water with an incredible impact. The air was ousted from my lungs and I blacked out. The next thing I knew, my brother was pulling my feeble body out of the pool. From then on, my fear wouldn't recede; I was absolutely terrified of water.
4 "Jason, are you coming?" my friend, Matt, called.
5 "Yeah," I said. "Just enjoying the view," from dry land, I added silently, worried they might deem my fear pathetic if they knew.
6 Suddenly I heard shouting in French. A mob of people were running into the sea, fully clothed. That's odd, I thought.
7 I glimpsed something moving up and down amid the waves, past the end of the jetty. I gasped, realizing the catastrophe with horror. That's a little boy out there! The would-be rescuers fought against the tide, but the situation was bleak. With the water's tow, they'd never get to him in time.
8 I looked back at the boy. His head popped up, then a wave crashed over him and he disappeared for a moment; I had to intervene.
9 I appraised the situation and realized — the jetty! The boy was close to it; maybe I could help from there. I raced down the beach, out onto the jetty, and it hit me: Water! My palms got sweaty and my stomach felt sick, symptoms of my fear. I stopped short.
10 The people in the water had underestimated the waves and weren't making any progress. I was the only one who saw that going out on the jetty was the fastest way to reach the drowning boy. Yet in the midst of this tragedy, I was extremely
terrified. I tried to remember the lifeguard training I'd had as a teenager.
11 I was paralyzed with fear, but I forced myself to move forward with this impromptu rescue. I don't want this. Surely someone else can save him before I have to.
12 At the ridge of the jetty, I whirled around, convinced I'd see an athletic swimmer plowing through the rough water toward the boy. To my dismay, no one was there. I turned back out to the sea to see the boy battered by vicious waves about 25 yards away from me. Sucking in a deep breath, I threw myself into the water. As soon as I jumped in, I felt like I was back in that pool, breathless, struggling, terrified. Salt stung my eyes. Focus, I shouted in my head. Where is he?
13 Then, with clarity, I saw a thin arm waving weakly a few yards away. I swam with all my strength, reaching the boy just as he sank below the surface. I grabbed his arm and pulled. He popped back up, eyes wide with terror, pawing and twisting against me. "Repose (Calm down)!" I commanded the boy in French. His struggling would derail any rescue attempt, and we'd both perish. "Repose!" I commanded again. Thankfully, this time he listened, and was still.
14 When I turned back toward shore a wave pounded over us. The jetty was further away! The rip current! It was forcibly dragging us out to the sea. I fought to get us back to land, but made little progress. I knew I'd never be able to escort him back like this.
15 Desperate to survive, I remembered what I'd learned in my life saving class: Never, ever swim against the rip current! Swim sideways to the pull of the current and slowly make your way back toward shore. It was an odd-looking but practicable solution. Swim sideways and float to rest. Swim sideways and float to rest. We did that over and over. We slowly made our way to safety. "Jason, you can do it!" I heard Matt say as he stood on the jetty. I hadn't even noticed how close we were, only about seven feet left to go.
16 And, as we made our way to safety I realized something incredible: I was no longer afraid. That absence of fear was a moment of triumph!
17 Matt jumped into the water. I tossed the boy to him. Just as I let go, a big wave picked him up and carried him all the way to Matt.
18 On the brink of collapse, I stopped fighting, just letting myself go. My hand hit the jetty. It was like an electric shock that brought me back to my senses. Someone grabbed for me.
19 I felt strong arms lift me. I ascended not only from the sea onto the secure rocks of the jetty — but also to my salvation, leaving behind the terrible fear that had gripped me for so long. I turned my head and saw the boy was hugged tightly by his mother. I looked out to the sea. Weary as I was, the water had never looked so beautiful.
Text B When courage triumphed over fear
1 I know what courage looks like. I saw it on a flight I took six years ago, and only now can I speak of it without tears filling my eyes at the memory.
2 When our plane left New York that Friday morning, we were a talkative, high-energy group. The early-morning transcontinental flight hosted mainly professional people going to San Francisco for a day or two of business. As I looked around, I saw lots of designer suites, CEO-level expensive haircuts, designer briefcases and all the trimmings of lofty business travelers. I settled back with my paperback novel for some light reading and the brief flight ahead.
3 Immediately upon take-off, long before we had reached our cruising altitude, it was clear that something was wrong. The aircraft was bumping vertically up and down and tilting left to right. All the experienced travelers, including me, looked around with knowing grins. We had experienced minor problems and turbulence on prior flights. If you fly very much, you see these things and learn to act relaxed about them.
4 It wasn't long before our relaxed attitudes began to evaporate. Minutes after we were in flight, our plane began dipping wildly and one wing plunged downward. The plane climbed higher but that didn't help our plight. The pilot soon provided some grave news regarding the flight.
5 "We are having some difficulties," he said. "At this time, it appears we have no nose-wheel steering. Our indicators show that our landing system has failed, which necessitates that we abort the flight and return to New York. Because of the problems with the mechanism o, if you look out the windows, you will see that we are dumping fuel from the airplane. We want to have as little on board as possible in the event of a rough touchdown."
6 In other words, we were about to crash. No sight has ever been so sobering as that fuel, hundreds of gallons of it, streaming past my window out of the plane's tanks. The flight attendants scrambled to get people into position and comforted those who were instantaneously hysterical.
7 As I looked at the faces of my fellow business travelers, I was stunned by the changes I saw. Many looked visibly frightened now. Even the most sophisticated looked vulnerable and grim. Their faces actually looked panicked. There wasn't a
single exception, and I realized that no one faces death without fear; no one is immune to its terror.
8 Then, somewhere in my proximity, I overheard a still calm voice underlying the panic. It was a woman's voice, speaking in an absolutely normal conversational tone. Despite the circumstance, there was no angry emotion or tension, and this calm voice evoked a calm in me that quieted some of my initial fears. It became imperative that I find her.
9 All around the cabin, people cried. Many moaned and screamed. A few of the men maintained their appearance of calm by bracing against their armrests and grinding their teeth, but their fear was written all over them.
10 Try as I might, I could not have spoken so calmly, so sweetly at that moment as the fabulous voice I heard. Finally, I saw her.
11 In the midst of all the chaos, a mother was talking, just talking to her child. The woman, in her mid-30's and unremarkable looking in any other way, was staring full into the face of her daughter, who looked about four years old. The child listened closely, sensing that her mother's words were invaluable. The mother's gaze held the child so fixed and intent that the child seemed untouched by the sounds of grief and fear all around her.
12 I strained to hear what this mother was telling her child. I relished the sound of calm confidence amongst the terror. Finally, I hovered nearby and by some miracle could hear her soft, sure, confident voice say in a calming tone over and over again, "I love you so much. Do you know for sure that I love you more than anything?"
13 "Yes, Mommy," the little girl said.
14 "And remember, no matter what happens, that I love you always; and that you are a good girl. Sometimes things happen that are not your fault. You are my beloved, good girl and my love will always be with you."
15 As her first concern was for her daughter's well-being, the mother then put her body over her daughter's, strapping the seat belt over both of them to save her daughter from a possible wreckage.
16 Then, for no earthly reason, our landing gear held and we glided to a gentle stop. It was all over in seconds. Our
touchdown was smooth and easy; the tragedy we had feared was not our destiny.
17 The voice I heard that day never hesitated, never acknowledged dread, and maintained an evenness that seemed emotionally and physically impossible. During that descent, not one of the hardened business people could have spoken without a hint of fear in their voice. Only the greatest courage, with a foundation of even greater love, had brought that mother up and lifted her above the chaos around her.
18 That mom showed me the amazing power of love. And for those few minutes, I heard the voice of true courage.
Text A Audrey Hepburn — A true angel in this world
1 Audrey Hepburn thrilled audiences with starring roles in noteworthy films like Breakfast at Tiffany's, Sabrina, Roman Holiday, My Fair Lady, War and Peace, and Always.
2 Despite her success in the film domain, the roles she most preferred portraying were not in movies. She was an exemplary mother to her two sons and a UNICEF (the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund) Ambassador of Goodwill serving victims in war-torn countries.
3 As a young girl during the Nazi occupation of her native Holland, Audrey Hepburn was aware of the brutality, death, and destruction of war. She was hungry and malnourished, as her family was bankrupted as a result of the invasion. Audrey's father abandoned the family, and two of her uncles were taken captive and killed. Audrey was grabbed off the street by Nazis and placed in line to be sent to a work camp. When the guards glanced away she darted off, barely escaping, and huddled in a cold, foul basement full of rats.
4 The little girl who would become the world's most magical actress began as an anonymous refugee confronting life's horrors and fragility firsthand. But she refused to allow her spirit to be afflicted by the desperate reality of her young life. Instead, she transcended those challenges but never forgot what it felt like to suffer, to be hungry, alone and helpless.
5 After the war, Audrey and her mother left Holland, arriving in London as poor immigrants. Her dream of becoming a prime dancer drove her into a rigorous schedule at a famous ballet school. Later, she was spotted by a producer and eventually landed a role in the film Roman Holiday starring Gregory Peck, one of Hollywood's top leading men.
6 Soon, Audrey was transformed from a malnourished immigrant to an internationally famous movie star. Director Billy Wilder complimented her, saying, "Audrey walked beautifully, she spoke beautifully." Although she won many Academy Awards and other honors for acting, Audrey felt that her most significant work was humanitarian work with those in need, and as the mother to her two sons. She suffered through two divorces and from her memories of the war. Yet, Audrey never let her sadness overcome her or jeopardize her hope for a brighter future. Audrey finally met her soul mate, Robert Wolders, and spent the last 12 years of her life with him.
7 Becoming famous never changed Audrey's generous and compassionate character. She felt a deep sense of responsibility to alleviate suffering of those in need, especially children. Friends said Audrey had a complete lack of ego and accepted and appreciated others as they were.
8 Though she became very wealthy, she owned only one home in Switzerland. For Audrey it was a paradise where she could hide from the world with her beloved family, work in her garden and take long walks in nature.
9 In 1988, Audrey was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF designed to provide emergency food and healthcare to children suffering the destruction of war or other catastrophes. In that role, her lifelong passion for helping those in need, found its greatest calling.
10 She turned down three million dollars to pen her autobiography and instead accepted one dollar a year in the more conscientious role as diplomat for UNICEF. For seven months out of each of her last five years, she and Robby left the peace and beauty in their cozy home to embark on outreach trips into some of the most difficult places on earth. From Bangladesh, Sudan, India, Vietnam, Kenya, Ethiopia, Central and South America, to Somalia, Audrey Hepburn traveled representing UNICEF, making over 50 emotionally draining and physically dangerous missions into bleak destinations to raise world awareness of wars and droughts. Having been a victim of war, she understood the blessing of being the beneficiary of food, clothing, and, most of all, hope.
11 Audrey felt it was wicked that billions of children were deprived of simple joys and drowned in overwhelming misery. She believed deeply in the ideology that all people share in the duty to care for those in need. Audrey Hepburn was always ready to lead by example. She said: "When you deny childhood, you deny life." She saw UNICEF's work as an integral, sacred force in people's lives and said of UNICEF's results, "Anyone who doesn't believe in miracles is not a realist."
12 In 1992, Audrey was stricken by cancer. She, Robby and her two sons returned to their home in Switzerland for their last Christmas together.
13 Audrey's long-time friend and world-famous French fashion designer, Hubert de Givenchy, spoke to his cherished friend for the last time, just before she died. He said she was "... serene at the end because she knew she had achieved everything with perfection".
14 Audrey Hepburn's passion for service was enduring. Even as her life ended at 63 years of age, she remained a gracious woman who perpetually signified simplicity, charity, charm and kindness.
15 The majesty of Audrey Hepburn's spirit of social responsibility and dedication lives on in her words: "Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it's at the end of your arm. As you get older, remember you have another hand: The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others." And "For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone."
Text B A life in film
Steven had to face rejections and obstacles in his film-creating efforts, but his persistence and dedication transformed the obstacles into an alternative route to success.
1 At 1
2 years old, Steven Spielberg was already visiting film shootings at Universal Studios in his office suit, a packed lunch tucked into his briefcase. The young boy tried to immerse himself in film in any way possible. He had been given an administrative job at Universal Studios from a friend of his father's, and every day, even though he didn't have a legitimate security pass, he would try to manipulate his way past the guards and into his personal paradise. Such persistence is hardly surprising from a boy whose lifelong conviction was to "Make sure you are right and go on!" (adopted from a 1954 Disney film).
2 When Steven was eight years old, his father gave him a Brownie 8 mm film camera as his birthday present. Steven immediately began collecting footage of family events, and he simulated action scenes with his miniature toy spacecraft, populating his films with his neighborhood friends as actors. People quickly began to recognize his terrific talent, and he won a prize for cinematography for his early westernThe Last Gunfight; years later, he won a national contest for his film Escape to Nowhere. His film Firelight was twice analyzed by a national newspaper and was presented in the city theater as if it were a Hollywood premiere. By the time he was 17 years old, Steven had established himself as a director with the artistic intuition of a man twice his age.
3 His achievements are certainly related to the personal obstacles and setbacks he faced from an early age. Steven's family moved often, so that he was constantly trying to find his place in a turbulent environment with new people. Despite his natural intelligence, Steven had a carefree attitude and put little effort into school. He consistently earned only a C average, or lower. Socially, he wasn't athletic or popular, and since his conspicuous interest in film made him seem eccentric, classmates shunned and mocked him.
4 His home life was not ideal either, as his father's rigid engineering temperament could not understand his or his mother's artistic personalities. Steven would miss his father when he was gone for long work trips, and then reverted to furiously arguing with him as soon as he returned. Finally, when he was in high school, his parents ended their unhappy marriage with a divorce. The theme of the lack of a father figure consistently infected Steven's films.
5 Unfriendly surroundings at home and school made Steven strive even harder to achieve in the film world. He applied to two of the best film schools in the country: the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles. But even with a formidable 10 years of experiences in filmmaking and his friends at Universal Studios endorsing him, his grades were too poor, and he was flatly turned down at both institutions.
6 Unwilling to give up, Steven entered the California State University, where he hoped the program in TV and radio might open his way to Hollywood. Unfortunately, the university was not suited to his experience, and one academician recalled, "Steven knew more about cameras, mounts, and lenses than anyone else in the department. He could teach there." Despite his manifest talent, his low grades sabotaged transfer attempts, forcing real film schools to withhold acceptance.
7 Steven contrived to rectify the situation on his own by diverting his attention away from academics. He cleaned his old suit and briefcase and returned to visiting Universal Studios where he had worked as a boy. He discreetly sneaked into any department he could, such as shooting rooms, editing and sound-mixing studios, and he quietly watched until he was discovered and ordered to leave. Introducing himself under the pretext of being either an actor, director, or producer, he would invite people to dinner to make connections and learn as much as he could. Even though he was caught and expelled at least once a day, he always returned to smuggle himself back in again.
8 Steven repeatedly tried to prove himself to the Universal executives, while working in a cafeteria to save up money for equipment. He would discretely create scenes and then shoot and re-shoot his movies. He kept upgrading from 8 to 16 and finally 35 mm film before he was allowed a screening. Finally, his film Amblin was given a chance in front of the executives. It was a short, silent film and the plot differed greatly from the sci-fi and combat films that would later predominate Steven's career. Still, the short film was awesome enough to win Steven, only 21 years old, a seven-year contract with Universal Studios.
9 After directing smaller TV dramas and low-budget projects, Steven earned the chance to direct his big Hollywood debut:
a thriller film starring a shark! Jaws was a box office hit and it made Steven famous. He continued his relationship with Universal Studios to produce the notable movies E.T., Jurassic Park, and Schindler's List.
10 As his first producer said, "It is not by any coincidence that Steven is in his present position." Instead, it is Steven's committed spirit that has strengthened him in standing fast against all rejections, prejudice and skepticism and driven him to keep moving onward.
Text A The surprising purpose of travel
1 It's 4:15 in the morning, and my alarm clock has just stolen away a lovely dream. I almost return back to sleep before my eye catches my packed suitcase and I groan, remembering that I'm going to the airport. The taxi is late and then lost, and I'm getting increasingly nervous that I'll miss my flight. I run in when we arrive, stagger through security and finally get to my gate. After all the trouble of this morning, my flight is canceled and I'm stuck in this terminal for the next 218 minutes, and my only consolation is a cup of complimentary airport coffee. This is traveling, a burdensome series of running and waiting, and after countless hours, finally getting there.
2 Why do we travel? I don't mind the actual flying, the wonder of being airborne in a dense metal bird. The rest of the journey, however, can feel like a tedious lesson in the ills of modernity, from the predawn x-ray screening to the sad airport malls selling clusters of keepsakes. It's the result of a globalized world, and it sucks.
3 Sometimes, of course, we travel because we need to. Because in this digital age, there is still something important about the handshake at a business luncheon. Or eating mom's special food on Thanksgiving. Or seeing your girlfriend on your 2-year anniversary.
4 But most travel is decidedly optional. Only corporate travel, about 30% of trips over 50 miles, is truly compulsory. Instead, we travel because we want to, because the annoyances of the airport are offset by the thrill of being someplace new. Because work is stressful and our blood pressure is too high and we need a vacation somewhere tropical. Because home is boring. Because the flights are on sale. Because Paris is Paris.
5 Thanks to modern aviation, we can now move through space at an inhuman speed. For the first time in human history, we can outrun the sun and move from one hemisphere to another in a single day. Of course, it's not enough to simply get on a plane. If we want to realize the creative benefits of travel, then we have to re-think its overall purpose. Most people, after all, escape to Paris so they don't have to think about those troubles they left behind. But here's the irony: Our mind is most likely to solve our most stubborn problems while we are sitting in luxury in a Left Bank café. So, instead of contemplating that buttery dessert, we should be conscious of those domestic issues we just can't solve.
6 The larger lesson, though, is that our thoughts are saturated with the familiar. The brain is a space of near infinite possibility, which means that it spends a lot of time and energy choosing what not to notice. As a result, creativity is traded away for efficiency; we think in finite, literal prose, not symbolic verse. A bit of distance, however, helps loosen the cognitive chains that imprison us, making it easier to mingle the new with the old; the mundane is grasped from a slightly more abstract perspective. According to research, the experience of an exotic culture endows us with a valuable open-mindedness, making it easier to realize that even a trivial thing can have multiple meanings. Consider the act of leaving food on the plate: In China, this is often seen as a compliment, a signal that the host has provided enough to eat. But in America the same act is a subtle insult, an indication that the food wasn't good enough to finish.
7 Such multicultural contrasts mean that seasoned travelers are open to ambiguity, willing to realize that there are decidedly different (and equally valid) ways of interpreting the world. This, in turn, allows them to expand the circumference of their "cognitive inputs" as they refuse to settle for their first answers and initial guesses.
8 Of course, this mental flexibility doesn't come from mere distance, a simple change in latitude and longitude. Instead, this renaissance of creativity appears to be a side effect of difference: We need to change cultures, to experience the disorienting diversity of human traditions. The same facets of foreign travel that are so confusing (Do I tip the waiter? Where is this train taking me?) turn out to have a lasting impact, making us more creative because we're less insular. We're reminded of all that we don't know, which is nearly everything; we're surprised by the constant stream of surprises. Even in this globalized age, we can still be amazed at all the earthly things that weren't included in the Let's Go guidebook and that certainly don't exist back home.
9 So, let's not pretend that travel doesn't have its drawbacks, or that we endure jet lag for pleasure. We don't spend 10 hours lost in the Louvre because we like it, and the view from the top of Machu Picchu probably doesn't make up for the trouble of lost luggage. (More often than not, I need a vacation after my vacation.) We travel because we need to, because distance and difference are the secret cornerstones of creativity. When we get home, home is still the same. But something in our mind has been changed, and that changes everything.
Text B Traveling solo — A blessing overall!
1 So you're ready to travel. Pick a place, any place. Let's say you've always wanted to go to China. You've seen pictures of the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Tian'anmen Square. You've always been fascinated with Chinese aesthetics and culture, with red, fragrant temples and venerable statues. You have a chunk of money saved and extra vacation time earned. Now is the time to go!
2 But maybe you haven't traveled much. You've never been to an exotic place where you can't speak the language or read the signs. A place where you'll have to do all the research for yourself, find hotels, get yourself around, buy locomotive or bus tickets, order your own food. You must figure all of this out while looking at the unfamiliar notation which you see wherever you look or go.
3 So now you're ready to realize your dream to explore China, and find, for yourself, the soul of the country. Unfortunately, right from the onset, none of your friends share that dream. Your sister is pregnant and can't travel. Your best friend just got a new job and can't take time off. So what do you do? You could ask everyone you know — friends, acquaintances, co-workers. You could join a tour. Or, you could go alone.
4 To travel alone is a difficult decision for anyone, though especially for women. For me, it came naturally. I made that trip to China, and then zigzagged on a multinational excursion through Indonesia, Thailand, England and France.
5 But the reactions I've gotten, from people I know, fellow travelers, and especially, from the natives of the countries I've visited, showed me that solo traveling is strange, and even considered inconceivable or reckless by many people. People ask me if the isolation makes me sad or even if I'm more susceptible to violent or dangerous situations.
6 This has been sometimes a blessing, sometimes a curse. I remember searching desperately for accommodations in Taiwan. The university listed in my booklet no longer had dormitories for travelers, and I was lucky when the desk clerk called a young woman out of a nearby office. As it turned out, she was offering to let me stay at her flat and even had a friend come show me around the city the next day.
7 Also in Taiwan, I met two girls who smuggled me into their hotel room, gave me one of the beds (they shared the other), and took me to a feast with their tour group. When they heard my next stop was their hometown, they arranged for a bilingual