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. soulourpower says:

    All I can say is, "F*ck Yeah!"

  2. Stacey says:

    Love this…and yes, that is the guy I am looking for!

  3. Janine says:

    yes!! well put !!

  4. Capri says:

    Either way, I feel the strong use of the word "Boy" is a red flag on both types!

  5. elephantjournal says:

    I'm using "boy" and "girl" to go with the above-mentioned articles "Date a Boy who Travels" and "Date a Girl who Reads." I wouldn't read too much into it, friend. Speaking of friend, we call adults "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" and such all the time—if you want a more "adult" look, consider this one:… by Kate, or

  6. jason says:

    While I would have loved it even more if this was written by another woman to counter the previous article… I pretty much have to agree with Soulpower's comment above with a resounding "double F*#$ YEAH!"

  7. Jennifer White says:

    I whole-heartedly agree with this piece. For one, traveling does leave carbon footprints that can't be ignored, let's be real. Further still is the reality that many times travel encourages us to run away from reality—both our own and that of the world around us. Why run? Let's learn to be strong and stand up and fight. (Because sometimes "pretty" and "cute" parts of life require blood and sweat to get there.) Yet another aspect that you mention that resonates with me is the idea of single-mindedness as something truly great. I would put a strong wager that if you spoke to anyone who did anything truly remarkable, noteworthy or did something hugely life changing for all, that there's a driving obsession behind that. Success requires belief, fortitude and effort—and someone who's jet-setting and living a hedonistic life is living a lie that can't possibly always be beautiful.

  8. Another Jason says:

    As a feller in his 9th year of a relationship with an NGO princess (now on her 3rd non-profit since we met), I think I’d have to disagree with the premise that a server is not pleasure obsessed. The motivation for volunteer work is very important. If the motivation is entirely self-referencing (I have a big foot print, I was more fortunate than they, I can’t stand to see them suffer) then there is no fundamental motivational difference between a “travel boy” and a “server boy”. They are both self-referencing, self-obsessed, and ultimately not dealing with their own state of mind. There is a definitive “high” in charity work: the big thank you, the edifice we leave behind (I’m looking at you Habitat), and it is addictive but ultimately self-referential.

  9. Bob Schmidt says:

    So must this be either/or…how about those who travel and who serve? A lot of service/travel/learning roles out there.

  10. Laura says:

    I love this.

  11. Kate says:

    Ten years ago, I sustained a brain injury requiring neurosurgery. My recovery has been incredible. My life is different – there are things that I can no longer do; drive a car, live independently, work full-time.

    But, I can give it back. I have to give it back. I volunteer at a school for profoundly intellectually and physically handicapped children, which enriches my life in the most incredible ways.

    I would like to see volunteering introduced in High Schools – in Years Eleven and Twelve, once a week, two hours of students’ time, in plant nurseries, homes for the elderly, libraries, kindergartens, the local newspaper – an opportunity, an insight in to a world far removed from that of the students.

    A chance to ‘get outside yourself’, when, sadly all too often, being fifteen, sixteen, seventeen years old, is all about what you can ‘get’.

    Rather than what you can ‘do’.

  12. Capri says:

    manfriend and womanfriend it is! haha …flows so well.

  13. Karen says:

    Love this…

  14. ceciyoga says:

    I'm with the other jason. I travel and I serve. These are things I do. I am.

  15. elephantjournal says:


  16. elephantjournal says:

    We all have feminine and masculine qualities, for what it's worth.

  17. elephantjournal says:

    Great point. That said, as Yvon Chouinard says, environmentalism is fundamentally "selfish"—and he means that as a complement. If we see the nature of this life and planet as interdependent, then thinking of others can give us pleasure, in that we are helping the whole, which includes ourselves. Nothing's wrong with true pleasure, based upon service.

  18. elephantjournal says:

    Amen! It's about service, wherever we go or don't go. I say that if you reread–

    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 my friend Duzer, mentioned above, is a good example of one who does both—joy, travel; and focus, service.

  19. elephantjournal says:

    Thank you for that, L.

  20. playmore says:

    you're interesting, elephant man, or shall I refer to you as elephant boy? nice, refreshing – kind of surprising.

  21. Auki says:

    Amen… I agree with you completely on this topic, Waylon. Thank you for eloquently making a very important point!

  22. elephantjournal says:

    Skye L: Amazing. To date, one of my favorite blogs! High five!

    Kristin M Thank you for this

    Kenneth L: here I am single too

    Sally-Anne H Nothing sexier!

  23. elephantjournal says:

    Amen! It's about service, wherever we go or don't go. I say that if you reread–Amen, Sally-Anne Hansen, I'd like to think so, but sacrifice is sacrifice…service can be hard and boring. I do think however, whether in a gent or lady, that caring action is the most attractive thing possible, ultimately!

  24. elephantjournal says:

    Adrienne: Love this. Thank you.

    Marike: a superb piece. Living in Chiang Mai, Thailand I see a LOT of Boys Who Travel – *yawn* My well-travelled man is firstly a man of service and you're dead right – service and commitment to others and the greater good 's *ing hot. thank you!!! I will share will share this with him tonight when he comes home and I know it will make him smile and feel validated. keep being real. x

  25. Revo Luzione says:

    The message and meaning are solid. However the prose is ruined by the new-agey emphasis on "boys" and "girls." Who's your audience for this article, 12-year olds?

    I can't speak for the dames. Many women like to be called 'girls,' for it harkens back to their salad days of youth.

    But for men–calling a man a "boy," while not offensive, may not merit a response. This goes double for men who choose to serve.

    Me, I'm neigh on forty years old, and I long ago and with great struggle crossed the Rubicon into manhood. There are right of passage and conscious decisions to be made, demarcating that movement. Service is a part of that. So is owning one's masculinity. If you really want boys and young men to serve, it must start with affording them the basic respect of recognition of adulthood, when that milestone has been reached. True masculinity is an immensely powerful force, but modern society is having trouble integrating this force into the world. Young men are graduating college far less frequently, and unemployed far more frequently than young women. They do not feel respected, they do not feel needed, and they are dropping out of society in large numbers. It's evident for anyone who cares to look beyond the obvious.

    It may not mean much to you to swap 'boys" for "men," as evidenced by the comment above. If that's the case, it speaks volumes about your own estimation of men, masculinity, and adulthood, and if that is the case it also shows that you're missing a piece of the puzzle:

    Men, not boys, choose to serve, to man up to responsibilities, to one's community, country, and family, while boys continue to prioritize play well above service. Play is important, but to hold it above service and work is to embrace nihilism, and there's already quite a bit of that out there, in the Peter-Pan boys who perpetually populate surf breaks and lift lines the globe over, opting out serving pretty much permanently. Think about that, Mr. Lewis. Words have power. Use them wisely.

  26. cit1 says:

    Awesome article! I love the juxtaposition.

  27. Chad Woodland says:

    Can you get sexier!?

  28. Trista Crass says:

    Eh, I’ll date a man who does both. Not that hard, I swear…

  29. elephantjournal says:

    Did you see my response to that understandable concern, above?

  30. elephantjournal says:

    I think I'd prefer something other than elephant man! Thanks, you.

  31. elephantjournal says:

    Wow. This comment made this article worth it. Thank you.

  32. elephantjournal says:

    I'm not too sexy, so, yes.

  33. Judy says:

    Very well-written, and makes very good points! I don't have trouble with the use of the word "boy" here, since it's primarily about dating, which is hopefully a haven for playfulness. I call my 54 year old dream man "boy" at times, as in "You funny boy!" while laughing and shaking my head. I did find Revo's comments to be interesting and insightful about the state of young men today, though, and I thank him for taking the time to write something so thought-provoking.

    And now, in the for-what-it's-worth department (around two cents), advice to Waylon on balance: ( First, I hereby promote myself over you. Your award for self-promotion is irrelevant, because I am wording my promotion as "one higher than Waylon Lewis," so no matter how high-ranking you become, I will always be your superior officer! And there's nothing you can do about it, because I thought of it first! )

    I see you mention motherhood as a single-minded thing, as if it would be different than fatherhood. Employ Revo's insight about the importance of words here, and ask yourself why you didn't choose the word parenthood. This cheats yourself, and you have the potential to be such an awesome, fun Pops (somehow, I don't picture them calling you Dad). The road toward this loving family will require that you sacrifice your passion to service in ways you will find uncomfortable. However, it will be fun and it is a reward you have earned. There are still important lessons for you to learn, as loving humanity is a breeze compared to loving the one person you live with. So, when the time comes (it's on the horizon, I feel) remember your orders and close the computer, turn some big stuff over to other people (responsibly, of course!) and put family time first. If it helps, think about Barry looking down to see what Sasha wanted when she tugged on his sleeve as they walked on stage in front of about a zillion people. Give yourself permission to work less, and enjoy love more, with the idea that you will gain wisdom and experience to share with others later. With your healthy habits, you can probably work until you're eighty at least! So that could be two decades of dedicated service (done), two decades of being a more private person (focus on family, including a super-fun dating period, yay!) and then two more decades of dedicated service. Approximations, of course, and the service is still there in the family time, just moved toward more local, hands-on things like gardening and child-rearing and listening to friends. You know we need strong local communities because the larger structures are deteriorating rapidly, and adaptation needs to be underway!

    Okay, that's it for now!

    At ease. As you were. Be here now. And all that jazz. I love you! Ask Linda what she thinks about my ideas.

  34. Bluerivergirl says:

    I will be dating men who treat me well. The rest is secondary.

  35. Jillian says:

    BEAUTIFUL. Love this SO much, and it just gave me even MORE appreciation for the amazing, SEXY men in my life that go out and serve the community, each and every day. THANK YOU for this – MUCH gratitude!!!!

  36. Lynne says:

    I do not see anything wrong with dating a boy who serves. It is not selfish since he will serve himself before serving other people effectively. I would love to meet someone who loves to travel so that I could learn more about his adventures and his favorite travel destination. Unfortunately, I have not met anyone who serves or travels.

  37. Ang says:


  38. Cari says:

    I do think getting out in the world to see where you feel the most passion to help is certainly important. Traveling to various places gives one a bigger view of the world; reminds you that others have some real issues that could use some help. That being said, I couldn't agree with you more. Someone without a bigger purpose in life but to fulfill their every whim is a lost resource for the world. It's like letting the faucet run for no reason and wasting precious water. And btw – women don't need more lost "boys". We need men who know themselves, stand up for what they believe and act accordingly.

  39. Revo Luzione says:

    Yeah. I saw that. I don't like "boyfriend & girlfriend," either. They are lame-o diminutive, anti-passion words. "Lover" carries a much more full sense of meaning.

    The HuffPo article on travel boys really deserves a rebuttal, and I'm glad you did gently, positively respond.

  40. shanna says:

    Travel or serve. Or both. Either way, I'll have a man (not a boy).

  41. elephantjournal says:

    Good, because that would be illegal.

  42. elephantjournal says:

    Great comment. You should write up a rebuttal to my rebuttal. I love the spirit of your words.

  43. Vanice Akaljas Medley says:

    i say marry that hero! i did. <3

  44. elephantjournal says:

    Best comment yet! Congrats!

  45. Lorenza says:

    Inspired me to write: Date a girl who can sew –

  46. Om says:

    Very True, I thought this for years watching friends not just travel a few weeks or a few months of their lives, but when it becomes a lifestyle, and years go by, they are healthy and vital in their 20-40's age and just full of ideas about helping the world, but not actually doing it. They just travel and bounce back to the usa a few weeks then go out again b/c they have lost a sense of working and serving at home, as if that's so bad. It isn't. After a while the adventurous travelers when it's a lifestyle preventing them from working and contributing to society (serving/helping and paying taxes) just becomes selfish. And after years of that from them, their stories/lives doesn't even sound so exciting but more like they need a good therapist or to stop escaping. (: Dharma: balance, includes service, travel and work and all in between.

  47. elephantjournal says:

    Nice! But your blog says it was inspired only by the Huff Post piece. Either way, read it, love it.

  48. Wow. Thanks Waylon. And whether it's sexy or not, you know what? I'd still rather serve.

  49. Ron says:

    Service is the greatest of all illusions for all service is self service. You choose to serve because, at a fundamental level, it makes you feel good to do so.

    It is also the best distraction you can find to avoid dealing with your own s&*t. It seems so terribly generous until it is viewed for what it is – a method, a deep, deep, mostly unconscious method, for control.

    As for boys who travel being selfish? Sure. Probably true in most cases. But wouldn't the sexiest boy of all be one who travels and brings you along with him? One who can pay attention to you, honor you, treat you well, crave your company, all the while doing the thing or things that are most important to him?

    "So I say let’s stop reading, writing or sharing pretty, inspiration blogs about mere pleasure." A fine Christian sentiment.

  50. Gerry Ellen says:

    Excellent piece! I am currently dating a man who serves. There is nothing sexier, more inspiring, and more fulfilling than a human being who places humanitarian concerns above all else. Thank you!!!