My Metamorphosis

I started in Canada. I stopped in Southern California.
What happened in between changed my life.

There’s bad break-ups. There’s really bad break-ups. And then there are the break-ups that make you want to walk from Canada to Mexico.

Which is exactly what I did. In September of 2010, after finding a note on my kitchen table from my girlfriend, telling me she’d left me for another man, I set off to do something insane: to walk 3,000 kilometres from Vancouver to Mexico, through Washington, Oregon and California.

In retrospect, it was more than a small overreaction. But I was hurt, heartbroken and humiliated, and searching for a new direction in my life. I didn’t have a career. It felt like my future had disappeared. I was desperate All I could think to do was start walking.

First, I walked into an outdoors store and walked out with a new backpack, new tent, new sleeping bag, new cookstove, new potset, new frisbee, new harmonica and new shoes. I called it the Hobo Starter Package. Then, on September 1, 2010, I started walking. I took a ferry to Port Angeles, Washington and hiked over the Olympic Mountains. A few weeks later I made it to the Columbia River. By winter, I was in the redwoods of California.

It was a strange existence. Most mornings, I woke up having no idea where I’d sleep that evening. Most days, I spent walking on beaches and trails, or on the shoulder of the highway. Along the way, I met strangers and shared my story.

It was around this time that I started thinking about Storytelling.

The first few weeks, whenever anyone asked me why — which was often — I replied with my heartbroken story. My girlfriend left me, I’d say, before laying out all the gory details. But telling my story so often, I started getting sick of hearing the same story over and over again. So I started telling a different story, a story that reflected not who I was, but who I was becoming. Sure, it might sound like positive psychology. But it worked. My new story changed my world: it attracted different people, it led me down different roads, it opened up a future I could never have dreamed of.

I learned how to help other people transform by practicing on myself.

Reaching the Redwoods of Northern California affected me profoundly.

What I Learned

On Becoming an Adult

For 30,000 years, human beings like us have been telling stories about adventures like the one I went on. One way to describe these stories are as “hero’s journeys”. Another way to describe them is as initiations.

As I walked and searched inside of myself, I was astonished to discover that what was inside of me was out there in the world as well.

I began reading extensively about mythological stories of what were once called rites of passage. These stories described what the famous mythologist Joseph Campbell called a “second birth”. In a second birth, the young seeker — male or female — learns to identify with a power greater than the ones that ruled their childhood and adolescence: one power named Mom and another one named Dad. In mythological times, these second births would occur would the boy or girl reached puberty. As a thirty year old, I was relatively late to the game. But when I left the Redwoods of Northern California and made my way back towards San Francisco and civilization, I was surprised to realize how many people out there are what we could call “uninitiated.”

I started pulling at this thread. In a traditional initiation, a person receives an insight that centers and stabilizes their life. An uninitiated person, in contrast, would be comparably unstable. They would be highly aware of what other people think of them, and would try to manipulate or control those perceptions. They would have little trust in their own perspective, and struggle with making relatively easy decisions. They would be highly consumptive, focused on their image, and highly reliant on addictions to substances or distractions to distract them from their own pain. And they would be highly reactive, judgemental of others, likely to lash out and make ill-considered choices rather than developing wisdom and emotional insight.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

Mythologist Joseph Campbell talks about initiation.

After finishing the walk, I spent some time in this cabin on a remote island in Canada, writing and reflecting on all I had experienced.

About My Work Today

Corporate Intimacy

Here is the nut of my insight. In mythological times, an initiation helped to sever the connection to the past — to let the immature version of ourselves die so that we could step into the power and responsibility of being an adult. But today, in a modern world that lacks not just initiation experiences, but groups worthy of being initiated into, our most significant conversations are about the abuses of power and responsibility.

What are needed is not just just initiatory experiences. What we need are things worth belonging to.

Fifty or sixty years ago, those things worth belonging to were called religions, community organizations, or the other infrastructure that buttressed a healthy society. Now, more or less, those things are gone. At the very least, they mean something different in a world of digital connection and technology.

Now, today, organizations are the new religions. Organizations are the last places we have left where we can work in teams towards some shared goal. Not all those goals will be “higher” ones; there will continue to be many, many organizations focused on profit. But I believe that organizations that create a higher vision can become groups worth belonging to.

As founder of a business called Transformational Storytelling, my goal is to help the leaders of those organizations tell stories that beget the thing our world needs more than anything: more adults.

My professional work helps businesses, leaders and individuals link what they do with why they do it. 

About My Book

The Walking to Mexico Story

Over the last six years, I’ve spent endless hours in front of my computer, reflecting on my experiences. At first, my goal was to write a book, but I always knew that it would have some sort of multimedia, performative aspect. (While I was walking, I shot tens of thousands of pictures and recorded hours of intimate one-on-one conversations.)

Recently, I’ve started putting parts of this story out into the world, in the form of long, intimate blog posts about my journey. These stories aren’t perfect. They’re intimate, detailed and still quite raw. Rather than structuring them as life lessons, I’m putting them together straight forwardly: as an attempt to document — and maybe still understand — all the strange and wonderful things that happened.

If you’ve got an evening to yourself, grab a glass of wine, settle into your couch and enjoy my adventure.

(You can sign up to my newsletter to be notified each time I release a new chapter.)

There are bad breakups. There are really bad breakups. And then there are breakups that are so bad that they make you want to walk to Mexico.

Sign up for my newsletter.

Get an update each time my blog is updated. I’ll also keep you in the loop about ideas and workshops on Storytelling.

Walking to Mexico - Jordan Bower