16. Yes We Cannabis with Jose

I met Jose in the kitchen of a hostel in Mendoza, Argentina. I was telling someone my story of what I was doing there…on a journey of self-discovery, wanting to design my life around the passions I found… Jose smacked his hand on the table, leapt up and shouted “YES!” and we’ve been friends ever since.

We went on to have many discussions about leaving the corporate world behind to pursue unconventional lives. Although born and raised in Colombia, he had since headed to the USA to pursue “The American Dream” only to feel that when he achieved that, it didn’t feel so dreamy to him.

It turns out that Jose was on sabbatical. He was traveling around South America, contemplating what his return and subsequent exit from Corporate America would look like.

So we started scheming together…asking questions, telling our stories, brainstorming ideas and congratulating each other on having the courage to create something new.

Typical reactions to a Jose story are along the lines of “you did what?” or “of course that happened to you” as he has a habit of getting himself into interesting, unusual, serendipitous situations…mostly because he is so curious and just an all around life enthusiast.

Everyone should have at least one person they can reach out to for a dose of encouragement mixed with conviction and positivity. That is Jose.

Whether it is being invited into photography shoots, artists’ homes, local Argentinian weddings…or casually telling the story about being pulled off a train and thrown in a Russian jail by mistake…he is a magnet, or maybe a curator…of fascinating situations.

So perhaps I should not have been surprised when I get an email from him to tell me that he has a new career as a “cannabis consultant”.

Me: “You’re a what?”

Jose: “I’m a cannabis consultant, the entrepreneur and expert behind the regulation and development of the legal Cannabis Industry across Latin America. How’s your book coming?”

He had gone back to the USA, shocked his boss and people at the office with a question about what they would do if they could do anything they wanted and then quit. He sold his things, moved to Buenos Aires and dove head first into pursuing this passion of his and trying to do some good in the world.

Jose has been hugely supportive in my journey and I gave him a paper crane to thank him for his encouragement and so many inspiring conversations. You can check out what he’s up to at josegastaldi.com.

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15. Karma Karma Karma Karma Carmen Canadian – La Artista

If ‘what goes around, comes around’ then my dear friend Carmen should have a whole lot of good coming her way and the world is better for it. She is a perfect example of the reason that I started this project. I truly wanted to thank people who I connected with and who inspired me and more than that, I wanted to share their stories to spread the inspiration and community. And what an inspiration she is, wow. You must hear her story.

I met Carmen in Mendoza, Argentina through a mutual friend who said we should meet because the three of us were each living our own experience of ‘following our passions in Argentina’ and how lovely it is to have connections around that.

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Essentially, Carmen had the gift and curse of time as she waited for the application process of an exclusive art program and like any good creative, she could not sit idle in her familiar surroundings in Canada. She had little money and a whim of a plan, but all of the hope, talent and positivity in the world that she could head to Argentina to pursue art and make it work. And the lesson here, world, is that it did. It more than worked.

Carmen is an extremely creative and talented artist and photographer. Her energy, spirit, vulnerability and ingenuity quickly won over the hearts of those at Punto Urbano hostel who were renovating the place. She was able to find a way to stay in Argentina painting murals, learning Spanish and spreading positivity and inspiration to everyone around her for 5 months on a budget that would make most of us gasp in fear.

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But these are the things that make Carmen such a rich and wonderful human being. She wasn’t seeing things through the handcuffs of money that are so easy to get stuck in. She was following her passion and sharing it and what manifested was beautiful…her art, friendships, intercultural experiences, life lessons…

On top of this, she was always so generous. Right now I am wearing a bracelet that she bought for me…a wonderful gift and a tremendous reminder to be generous and follow my passions. Carmen would often pull out a quote printed on a little strip of paper to give to someone she met and connected with or she would do a quick drawing for them and hand it over as a little gift. She is one of the sweetest people I have met and an old soul in a young, beautiful woman who is doing great things in this world. And she laughs at my jokes. I mean, come on, she’s amazing.

She came up with this idea for a collaborative photography project that we did with our Argentinian and Colombian friends. Not only was it fun, but it made me realize that there is so much power in having a community that you can create with, inspiring and supporting each other along the way. I am seeking more of this in my life.

I have learned so much from Carmen…about creativity, generosity, passions, serendipity, friendship and what happens when you follow your heart.

I want to live in a world that supports those who are creating beautiful things and sharing themselves and enriching our lives in the process. Carmen is the perfect example of someone pursuing their passions and infinite potential and I hope her story inspires you as much as it does me. Please check out her work and support her as an artist: http://www.carmenbelanger.com