Date a Boy who Serves.

Via Waylon Lewis
on May 18, 2013
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“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

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, slightly twisted at its roots. It’s a bit YOLO—it’s materializing adventure and even life’s most precious memories.

But I get it.

And if the world were alright, sure, I’d say: go for it. Date a boy (or girl) who lives life for pleasure. For adventure. There’s nothing selfish about such a life—beyond the endless carbon footprint, the “bucket list” mentality of living life to the fullest.

But as 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. Why?

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

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 motherhood. Any great ambition requires focus, dedication, sacrifice, perseverance—single-mindedness.

And 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 Educate! male scholarsrole, 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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About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


72 Responses to “Date a Boy who Serves.”

  1. Kit Friday says:

    The article did end with, "So let’s start dating Gentlemen, and Ladies—not just boys or girls." FTR

  2. Julie says:

    I'd love to date a boy who serves… I don't see any around, though. Or any who aren't already taken… There is such a dearth of men. I'm seriously considering dating women because these interesting men just don't seem to be available.

  3. elephantjournal says:

    Do you love burly climbers? Rakish photographers? Modern day Indiana Jones? Whhhyyy I'd remind you that we boring workaholics can be awwwfully innerestin': that our lack of a life is mere window dressing over a deeply fascinatin' soul that deserves your loverly attention just as much as those pretty boys adventuring around the world…

  4. Katy Bruce says:

    Agreed &, service has a Shadow too, date a Boy who is willing to work on his shadow, & serve, & doesn't fear intimacy.

  5. elephantjournal says:

    Well said. Service can be a way of hiding from fun!

  6. Randy says:

    There are people who are hurting and in need everywhere. We can choose to reach out to them or not. We can have a dramatic effect on this world without having to go anywhere or while traveling the world. We come into contact with people every day and the opportunity is there carefully placed with each chance meeting we have. If you open your eyes you will clearly see it. I am a big proponent of know yourself and help yourself first before you can help others. Self-awareness is a life long journey but well worth it. It will never be fully achieved but in the process something miraculous happens, service to others becomes automatic in everything you think, say and do. Now that’s sexy.

  7. Chickenbadger says:

    Uuuhm, well, I travel. I travel a lot, more then I hope to actually, and it started by serving, and it always has. Yet it has become increasingly difficult to do so, considering the more travelling you do, the crazier the countries are that you go to, and you start to realise that helping "on the surface" is not helping at all. I started in 2006 at the age of 18 in Vietnam where I lived for a year working with children affected by Agent Orange, landmines, mulnutrition, poverty etc etc, and was lucky enough to see a large amoount of South East Asia through this work. In my travels since then (which have been extensive) I am finding it increasingly harder to serve. I recently did a 10,000km motorcycle trip from Mombasa, Kenya to Cape Town, South Africa. Prior to departure I approached about three charities to see if I could use this opportunity to do the ride in the name of them and try drum up sponsours, I also approached a few magazines as this turned out to be a f*cken crazy epic adventure that I have been asked to write about since. None of the magazines or charities got back to me, not even an acknowledgment, only after the fact.

    I am now looking at heading to Kashmir and North Korea, in my travels I have learnt how not to serve, I think from now on, its exposure, serve through allowing people to see what you see on your travels, share your stories, and share what you see. Serving independently of working for well funded organisational foundations that dont need you (Pol Pot's quote comes to mind here: To keep you is no benefit, to lose you is no loss).

    Give a reason for that family to make touristy crap, because it puts food on their table. Give that tuk tuk driver the business, chances are he is a disbanded lawyer of a bygone age who has mouthes to feed, mouthes that were thought of in a better world.

    Share your stories, share your travels, and in that way, serve.

    And trust me, there are no girls knocking down my door because I served whilst I travelled.

  8. Lori says:

    However, remember that not everything is as it seems. I just got out of a 3 1/2 year relationship with a guy who was also apparently in long-term relationships with at least two other women (one of whom he had been with for EIGHT years)!!!

    Before I found all this out, I remember being so proud of him for taking the time out of his busy schedule to go on a "mission trip" to help build a school on an island somewhere in the Caribbean. I thought to myself – wow – I've really found a keeper here! Turns out, he did go to the island….but he was there to visit one of the "other women". Maybe he did help build a school, maybe he didn't – I'll never know. Oh yeah, he was also in the midst of writing a Christian novel.

    And, not to harp on Christians or anything, but the only other guy who has ever cheated on me (that I know of, of course) also went out of his way to profess his faith all the time….and he focused a lot on "service". I don't know if there's a correlation, or if it was just my bad luck.

  9. Susanne F says:

    I have served for 33 years my travel partner has served the army for 25 years, we both love to travel and do so all year around and enjoy it and do not believe it to be selfish. We get in touch with the locals and give to them by buying and participating in their lives.

  10. Islena says:

    Waylon, thank you. This is one time I've read something of yours I enjoyed, resonated with, and didn't find arrogant. Gratitude for loving & dutiful fathers, sons, husbands, supportive brothers & boyfriends, friends…. glorious every-day men that serve.

  11. demi says:

    I couldn't agree more.

  12. macpanther says:


  13. Steve says:

    A great piece of writing Waylon- much appreciated.

    I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve experienced the abstract joy from travel but through my Buddhist studies have realized how this can distract from what exists and can contribute to one’s immediate environment.

    The harder path but the more valuable is that true happiness can be found where one stands. You don’t need to go so far.

  14. Taylor Johns says:

    Just discovered this piece, thank you for the perspective. Xoxoxox

  15. David M says:

    Absolutely 100%, people who are profoundly animated by a purpose much beyond themselves are pillars of this world and inevitably make for wonderful people to share life with. Thank you to the author for voicing such a pivotal essential message.

  16. camillasanderson says:

    two things missing from your article – 1) find service that lights you up as the world is served by people who are living and working in their joy, not being 'holier than thou,' and 2) as 'Another Jason' says – what's our motivation or intention with our service? To satisfy our ego, or to light up our soul?

  17. Natalie says:

    I appreciate your points and emphasis on serving, but I don’t think travel & adventure are antonyms of altruism and compassion. My blog Kinetic Karuna is all about traveling to elevate others as much (if not more) than traveling to enrich your soul or chase the ultimate rush. What about the guy who is always pursuing the tallest crag, and through immersion and connection to nature, comes to fight for their conservation? Or the girl who goes to Costa Rica to raft the mightiest rapids and teamed up with locals to defend the rivers from proposed dams? In exploring the world, one usually comes to respect and love its diversity and beauty & will fight to improve it all the more fiercely.

  18. Natalie says:

    I appreciate your points and emphasis on serving, but I don’t think travel and adventure are antonyms of altruism and compassion. My blog Kinetic Karuna is all about traveling to elevate others as much (if not more) than traveling to enrich one’s own soul or chase the ultimate rush._What about the guy who is always pursuing the tallest crag, and through that immersion in and connection to nature, comes to fight for their conservation? Or the girl who goes to Costa Rica to raft the mightiest rapids only to team up with locals to defend the rivers from proposed dams?_In exploring the world, one usually comes to respect and love its diversity and beauty and will fight to improve it all the more fiercely.

  19. Meagan says:

    This is a very moving article for me. Reminds me to not only “date”, or search, or wait for a boy/person who serves. But to in fact, BE a person who serves. Who values and serves those in my sphere of influence, and to humbly accept when others choose to serve me in any capacity.

    “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” – Elie Wiesel

  20. John says:


  21. The Baroness Wilde says:

    Truth be told, most of the 'servers' I know are upper to middle class and most of their endeavors serve their need to feel like they're giving back, not actually communities who need such help. Equating those of us who have travelled the world as being YOLO types is beyond ignorant – many of us are cross cultural, usually have a larger life outlook, possess more insight from spending years living in other countries and communities and usually don't show off what we give. As far as a carbon print, you leave one every time you leave your house, shit, INSIDE your house. But hey, in this era of self important opinions I guess this is just another self-important opinion, lol. Elephant Journal is filled with so much navel gaving, low self esteem baloney posing as 'insight' (with this piece being one of them). Thankfully there are other articles worth reading.

  22. Diva says:


    I think it should be a good mixture of the two, one who has travelled and acquired those traits, forbearing, openness, culture so on, and one who is stable, won’t keep drifting like the one who is so focused on travelling and living the life he/she has envisioned that they are blind (Yes -selfishly blind) to the pleasures of settling down, having a goal, doing something for others. Giving back, putting others first.

    It should be a balance, for I for one do not want a giving man, who is afraid to travel / is uncomfortable with the idea.

    I used to date a traveller, I was almost in love . He seemed like the custom ordered guy made as per my specifications (yeah….) – but I figured out that he cared more about his travel plans than our trips together, he will never settle ,never put anyone else first, wouldn’t care enough as if he travelled to another country, he is sure to meet someone else who will put up with just half of him, as the other half of him was too busy pleasing himself and his goals.

    I am aware this maybe applied to any one else dedicated to anything else.

    In the end, just find someone who values your company as much as their calling – not more, but as much as, be it serving/travelling/inventing, whatever. Do not settle for half measures.