My name is Kyle Jackson and I’m 25 years old.  I’ve lived in southern California my entire life, graduated as a double major from UC Santa Barbara and love to travel.  NASCAR & Country music are some of my passions which doesn’t exactly fit the Californian mold.

1. What’s one goal you wish to accomplish within the next year & why? On a personal level, my goal is to get out and meet more people.  I’ve always been extremely shy and very individualistic which isn’t exactly conducive when trying to make friends.  Another goal of mine is to travel outside of the USA.  I’ve been traveling alone for about four years now but I have yet to go out of the country.  It’s intimidating to think about but I think the rewards would outweigh the risks.

2. Tell us about a difficult time in your life. How did you get through it & what advice would you give to someone going through something similar? As a shy individual, I haven’t ever had a lot of friends and can be grouped in to the loner category.  I had one or two close friends in high school but when I went off to college, I struggled and became somewhat depressed.  I was at one of the biggest party schools in the world but I didn’t enjoy the party lifestyle or drinking.  As a result, I spent most of my time alone in my apartment with nothing to do.  I realized I needed to change something or else I was going to be in big trouble.  I started planning a vacation for myself and once the time came to jump on the plane, I realized that I didn’t need other people to have a good time.  Traveling opened my eyes to the world and allowed me to do a lot of soul searching at the same time.  Ever since that first trip alone, I have had a more positive attitude about life and count down the days until my next adventure.

3. Tell us about something you had to learn the hard way. I was fortunate to learn early on that you can’t rely on anybody but yourself to make a change in your life.  As impossible and difficult as it may seem, you have to stand up for yourself and give 100% effort if you want to see results.

4. What did you want to be when you “grow up”? How has that changed from what you’re doing today? How does it relate? I wanted to be NASCAR driver or a hockey player when I was growing up.  A lot of kids have dreams of being a professional athlete but I realized that the chances of this happening were slim to none.  I made a choice in high school to focus on academics over athletics and feel that I made the right choice for my future.  Today I work in a digital agency as a social media coordinator.  Not exactly my dream job, but I feel like it is the foundation upon which I can build the rest of my career.  Rather than being the athlete, I now have the skill set to cover the sports I love as a journalist or photographer.  When the time is right, I will be ready to make the jump to doing something I love.

5. Tell us about someone who has changed your life in ways you never expected. How have they changed your life? For me there isn’t one person that has changed my life and it would be disappointing if I could only point to one.  My parents have always been extremely supportive both emotionally and financially.  I feel like without this support, I wouldn’t have that foundation that is needed to have a stable life.  Outside of family, the people that I look up to are the individuals you hear about in the news who risk their lives for another or the kid that is dying from cancer but still has a positive attitude and trying to make a difference in the world.  It’s these types of people that make me think hard about the person I am and who I want to be.

6. You often travel alone & seem extremely independent. Was there a trip that started this burst of independence or is this something you’ve always had? I went on a trip to Charlotte, NC & Daytona Beach, FL with my best friend and brother a few years ago and had a ton of fun.  The following year, neither of them wanted to or could go on a vacation and I decided that I’ll just go alone and give it a try.  My parents were initially against it but I was persistent and booked my flights/hotels.  I went to Nashville, TN for CMA Fest and had the time of my life.  Traveling alone allowed me to do what I wanted, when I wanted.  It was extremely invigorating to explore a new city on your own and I was able to meet cool people who I probably wouldn’t have met if I was in a group.  When the trip came to an end and I stepped on the plane home I was sad but already thinking about how my next trip would be bigger and better.

7. Tell us about a few learning experiences you’ve had on your trips. What trips changed you the most? Where do you wish to return? For me, booking hotels is the most nerve wracking thing when traveling alone.  Obviously when you are traveling alone, your budget isn’t very big and you are basically forced to try and pick the best of the worst/cheapest hotels.  I spend days researching every possible hotel before booking because coming back from a long day of exploring to a dirty, unsafe hotel is the worst feeling in the world.  The best feeling in the world is when you pull into your hotel the first day and it actually looks like the pictures online! Another learning experience is that you should utilize every second of daylight and see as much as you possibly can while traveling.  You can sleep when you’re home so why waste your time on vacation doing the same?  I would have to say that my visits to all of the Civil War battlefields this past Summer had the biggest impact on me.  I don’t think enough people take advantage of National Parks in general and feel that they won’t be around forever.  Walking over the open fields where thousands of men fought to their deaths over the future of the United States 150 years ago is very peaceful and lets your imagination run wild.  One place that I would like to return to is Alaska.  I enjoy visiting places that haven’t been completely altered by humankind and is just nature at its finest.

8. Tell us about something that changed your life completely & why. For me, September 11th, 2001 changed my life completely even though it didn’t affect me directly.  Although I was only in middle school, those events really opened my eyes to the world and made me appreciate each and every day because you just don’t know if it may be your last.  The world and life in general is very unpredictable, so you need to live life to the fullest and don’t wait until tomorrow to do something because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.

9. What other advice might you give to the readers of The best advice I can give is to never, under any circumstances, give up.  You may not be the smartest, the strongest, the prettiest, the most popular or the most talented but all that matters is that you know that you are giving 100% of what you have to offer.  Failing at something in life shouldn’t be the end of something, it should serve as the motivation needed to continue on.

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