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May 19, 2013

Don’t “Date a Boy who Travels.” Date a Boy who Serves.

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore

Don’t date a boy who’s selfish. Don’t be selfish, in your relationships. Relationships aren’t about happiness—they’re about growth, and service.

Date a man. Date a woman. Date an adult. ​Date someone who’s willing to look at themselves, someone willing to let go of co-dependency, someone willing to view a relationship as a vehicle for caring and activism, not an escape from it.

In Defense of Boring Boys.

Date a Boy who Travels? That’s nice if your life is about pleasure. But there’s a more exquisite joy.

A dear friend of mine just shared an article “Date a Boy who Travels” on her Facebook Wall:

“Love this.”


I didn’t love it.

But I do get it.

We all like the idea of dating Indiana Jones, or one of those sixpacked boys from the cover of Outside, or one of those hunch-backed hottie climbers from the gym who’re always coming back from France and heading out again for Hueco Tanks, or Yosemite.

And, to be fair, I liked a lot of it: the un-materialistic parts of it. The parts that extolled the virtues of letting go and independence within relationships (for more) and being world-aware, while appreciating home.

But the whole Bucket List Thing has always seemed a bit off, twisted at its roots. It’s a bit YOLO—it’s materializing adventure and even life’s most precious memories. It’s consumptive, it’s acquisitive, it’s patriarchal in the conquering sense.

But I get it.

And if the world were alright, sure, I’d say: YOLO, bro. Go for it. Date a boy (or girl, or man, or woman, or other) who lives life for pleasure. For adventure. There’s nothing inherently selfish about pleasure that doesn’t cause others harm. But, in reality, such a life—the endless carbon footprint, the “bucket list” mentality of living life to the fullest—is exploitation.

As my best buddy, travel star and colleague Ryan Van Duzer says, “Most adventure dudes are so selfish…they don’t care about much more than getting to tops of mountains and doing gnarly sh*t.”


So I say “f*ck it” to the bucket list.


The world isn’t alright. Sure, it’s wondrous. It’s amazing. But it’s also full of suffering. It’s falling apart.

The true “man” takes care of others, and himself. The true patriarchy is to be found not in casual misuse, but in responsibility, and care. That can be fun. That is full of love.

This is a time for heroes. Ordinary, everyday heroes.

This is a time for the luckiest among us not to travel (as a way of life), but rather to serve (as a way of life).


“Date a boy who travels because he’s not blinded by a single goal but enlivened by many,” urges the author, in Date a Boy who Travels.

I beg to differ, my friend. Being “blinded by a single goal” is perhaps a fair definition of entrepreneurship, of achievement—or even of parenthood. Any great ambition requires focus, dedication, sacrifice, perseverance—single-mindedness.

It’s typical of my generation to exhort ourselves to “Date a Boy who Travels”, illustrated with a happy-happy-joy-joy Pinteresty photo of a boy and a rucksack and a dream. It’s #instaromantic.

But you know what’s truly romantic?

Date a Boy who Serves. Date a boy who wants to do some good, to put others before himself, to help others who haven’t perhaps been given the same opportunities. That’s f*cking hot.

A few nights ago, I joined my friend Duzer—we served as bartenders (boytenders, we called it) for a non-profit called Intercambio. The founder is a young man who has dedicated his life to providing a bridge for immigrants, to learn English. That’s my kind of Boy.

Date a Boy who’s big enough to think about Others First. Am I right?

I look at Michelle, and Barack, and I admire both. I admire her for her willingness to give so much up because she knows her new role, both in starring and in support, can help many more. I admire Barry’s willingness to jump into the mud—into a path of service that few good women or men are willing to jump into (I myself hesitate to jump into a far smaller pool, locally, despite being blessed and able).

This day and age requires heroes who can help underprivileged children get bicycles. Heroes who create an ecofashion line that employs women with HIV in Cambodia. Heroes who head up a mine-defusing operation in South America. (Why not travel, and serve?) And, yes, heroes who sit, bent over a cup of organic coffee, working on their laptops for years and years and years and years. It might look boring, compared with strolling the streets of, say, Beijing—but as Confucius reminds us,  “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

I take exception to that “Date a Boy who Travels” because we can do better.

And if we can do better, we must do better.

We must remember to admire the teachers and servants among us: those who are quiet and humble and brave and confident enough to do what might be boring. To work hard, knowing that their service might help this world to heal, and flower. Because there’s nothing sexier, after all, than dating a boy (or girl) who thinks of other children, women and men before himself.

Dating a girl or boy who serves requires sacrifice on our part, too. Because we’re not the priority. We have to learn independence, if we don’t already know it. We have to remember our own lust for our own life and service. And that’s the ultimate gift—remembering our own path of joy is far sexier than scrolling through someone’s Instagram adventures.

Date a Boy who Serves: while he may not be prioritizing that bike tour through France or surfing adventure down in Costa Rica, he will be eager to get out of bed in the morning, and reluctant to close his eyes at night. A boy who serves will sometimes say “no, honey, I can’t go with you. I have to work.” He might say that a lot. But what he means is, “honey, it’d be fun. But fun isn’t my priority. Service is my ultimate fun, even if it looks boring.”

So I say let’s stop reading, writing or sharing pretty, inspiration blogs about mere pleasure.

Let’s start writing, sharing and living beautiful, fulfilling lives of service.

So let’s start dating Gentlemen, and Ladies—not just boys or girls. We can have our cake, and eat it too: we can, and must, work hard to be of benefit—and we can (mostly) enjoy being of service, together.


“I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not honor more.”
~ Richard Lovelace, English poet


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