Getting Personal

Like many people I was so looking forward to 2011.  While every new year shines with the new possibilities, the last few years have had me anticipating the calendar change even more.  In 2004 I embarked on a new career and found a niche I thoroughly love, that of being a healthcare chaplain.  In 2005 I was in my chaplain residency and had the opportunity to work with a 1200-pound man.  As I got to know more about his story, I saw too many parallels with my own.  At that point I was almost pushing 300 pounds.  My “fat pants” were starting to get a little snug.  He was in the ICU and sedated for a large portion of our visits.  So I would sit there, hold his hand, and talk to him about whatever I could think of just so he heard a voice that had something other than “OK, it’s time to bathe you.”  After 2 months of working with him 5-6 days a week, I decided I was changing my life.  I went home and changed the way I looked at food.  I got a workout DVD so I could get more exercise than the walking I did around the large hospital campus.  As I shed weight, I noticed my knees weren’t hurting me as much.  Yeah, go figure.  So one day I thought:  Hmmm, I wonder if I can run now.

The next time I went to the walking path in a greenbelt, I decided to jog.  I ended up doing a mile!  I’ve had knee troubles since I was 11, so I wanted to wait and see what would happen.  No pain.  The next day and things still felt good, so I did 1-1/2 miles.  A couple of days later, I did 2.  I got excited!  Maybe I could do this!  FINALLY!  So I picked a 5K that was a few months away and decided I’d do it.

I think I beamed for days after finishing that.  Friends asked Will you do a marathon?  “No way! Marathons are for insane people!”  Long story short, 3 months later I found myself running my 1st marathon.  Even sweeter was that it was held at a park I used to go to watch my former stepson during some of his cross country meets.  I had trouble walking around the park back then, and now I was running 26.2 freakin miles.  I ended up walking for 3 miles toward the finish secondary to dehydration, but with only 3 months of training going from couch potato to marathoner, I wasn’t going to beat myself up.

Then I discovered these things called ultras.  An ultra marathon is anything longer than a marathon. About 3 months after running my 1st marathon I was finishing my first 50K (31 miles).  I was hooked, officially gone over to the dark side.

Goblin Valley 50K

I'm next to the guy in yellow after losing 93 lbs

In 2006 I went to Paris to fulfill a lifelong dream and doubled it by running a marathon there as well.  I had been putting off adopting a child because I felt like I needed some time to actually live for myself for a change.  During my last night in Paris, I was sitting in Altitude 95 in the Eiffel Tower, drinking a kir royale, eyes watery as I looked out over the City of Lights feeling so incredibly lucky, and I knew it was time.  I had done what I needed to do before I adopted.  I returned home and called the local county office.  Lo and behold, they had another session of the requisite classes that night, and I could attend. Four months later my first son moved in. He was adopted in Feb, and then a year later, my next son (Tigger) moved in with us.

“C” had a LOT of issues due to his traumatic history with his bio family.  As he approached adolescence they got so much worse that he would spend the next 2-1/2 yrs living away from us, and 2009 ended up being the year of pain for me as we began our last-ditch effort to get his violence controlled enough that he could return home, or at least to live in a home environment rather than in an institution.

On New Year’s Eve of 2009, I remembered the effigies that people in Ecuador burned during their NYE celebration, and so I made an effigy of 2009, threw it in the fire, and gave 2009 the finger as the clock struck and officially moved us into 2010.

2010 would be the year of transformation for me.  Between July and December I would visit Peru, have my life-altering moments with @FamilyOnBikes, have to officially end my relationship with my oldest child in order to get him services and save the rest of the family, my grandfather died after a trauma, then my beloved dog Pepe suffered a head injury during a tussle with another dog and had to be put down, and over Thanksgiving weekend my father killed himself.  Needless to say, I was more than ready to wave buh-bye to 2010.  Yeah, it got the finger too.  Sure I grew a lot, learned a lot about myself, and had some wonderful experiences, but wow did it rake me through the coals!  Still, it was also the year that I decided to drastically transform myself on my own terms.  That’s right, Universe, you had your fun.  Now it’s MY turn.

I came back from Peru set on taking Tigger to Africa.  I did my first century ride (101 miles by bicycle), and by October I would’ve had more discussions with @FamilyOnBikes (Tigger has some special needs & with her being a special ed teacher, I needed validation that I wasn’t going to be harming him by unschooling him while doing world travel) and tweeted with @GotPassport about living in Thailand.  In spite of my need to have security, know where I’m living, have a steady and secure job, I would end up throwing all of it into the wind and saying We’re doing it!  The announcement was made and plans begun for my indefinite round-the-world trip with Tigger.  So after being visited by the Year of Pain and then the Year of Transformation, I proclaimed 2011 to be the Year of Adventure.  I’m sure it will include components of other years.  It’s hard to be alive and not experience some of them, but I really do believe we create our own reality, and so the universe has been forewarned:  This year, we’re livin’ large!

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106 Comments

  1. Here’s hoping 2011 is a great one! Very inspiring post, thanks for writing it. Maybe we’ll cross paths in Africa at some point. :-)

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    • That would be really cool! Thanks for the compliment and well wishes as well.

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  2. Wow! I thought I was having a tough year, some family health emergencies, my sister possibly losing her first born this past September and dealing with my own weight issues. Very glad to see how you made it through all of that and with a positive can do attitude as well. I try to be as positive as possible and love to hear stories of people making it through and deciding to live on their own terms. Congratulations on being an adoptive parent and also with your travel plans. Seeing your story helps keep me motivated to do what I have to do to do what I want to do.
    Hope to see you guys around someday.

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    • Thanks, Jamie! Appreciate you sharing and your kind words. We definitely need to run into you guys!

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  3. Wow, what a journey you’ve been on. Thanks for sharing your personal story. It helps your readers to connect with you a little more. I look forward to reading more of your Year of Adventure. And Tigger is lucky to have you as a father. :)

    — Michelle

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    • Thanks, Michelle. Been a very reflective time for me. Hoped maybe it could help others by sharing as well. And thank you for the wonderful compliment. Most of the time I wonder if I’m worthy enough to be his dad. Hopefully he’ll still feel lucky when we’ve been travelling for months. LOL

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  4. Talon, it has been such an honor knowing you and being able to follow along as your journey enfolds, every peak, every valley. I truly admire you and look forward to having an armchair view of your upcoming father and son adventure. You truly are an inspiration! ~ Char

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    • Thank you! I appreciate that.

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  5. I’m so proud of you, Talon. You ARE creating your own reality. So many people let life’s pain get them down and they stay in a pig pen of grief, victimhood, and pain. You said “oh, hell no!” The pain you’ve been through w/ your oldest son, your dad, precious spirit Pepe, and even prior could have killed your spirit, but you rose back up. I am going to enjoy reading of your adventures. God bless you and Tigger.

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    • Thanks, Dawn. Yes, “Oh hell no!” has become another mantra for me. LOL

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  6. You’ve come a long way, baby! ;) I’m so happy for you and Tigger. What a wonderful outlook for this coming new year. May this be your best year yet.

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  7. You are amazing. All the setbacks with cancer get so frustrating that sometimes I feel like everyone else is moving forward, and I alone am getting held back, and all attempts at forward movement are ultimately pointless. My attitude, in short, SUCKS! Thank you for your positivity – I think I will go re-find mine too. 2009 and 2010 get the finger from me too. Wishing you all the best in 2011. -k

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    • I can only imagine, Kim. My cancer was so much easier to treat than what you had to go through. Hope your leg is feeling better!

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  8. Wow, what a change you have made – in many ways! My brother-in-law does the ultra marathons as well and is pretty hardcore about them (maybe you have him?). I have a lot of admiration for people that can do that because I hate running – much less for that many miles!

    As for the last couple of years, you have had it rough! Hopefully you have a turnaround and a great 2011!

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    • Thanks. Has definitely been a ride and a half! :)

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  9. Yikes! Your running story sounds like mine with the “I’ll never run a marathon”… but now I’ve run 3 :) However, I now stand at “I will never run an ultra”. So impressive. What a tough couple of years you have had, but I am so looking forward to your future travels!

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    • Thank you! Nice to know another nutso runner, even if you aren’t tackling ultras. Yet. :)

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  10. Wow, what year — I’m glad I got to know you better through this post. I lost my 15 year old dog too last year and I wasn’t even there when they put her down, I still got teary eyed thinking about it.

    Anyway, here’s to an awesome 2011! You deserve it!

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    • Thanks for the well wishes. Sorry about your pooch!

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  11. Inspirational Talon – to overcome all of these obstacles and challenges to get where you are now is a massive effort and you deserve all the great things coming your way in 2011! :)

    Thanks for sharing your story with us.

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    • Thanks! Definitely has been a ride!

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  12. Wow just wow, what an inspiraton you are. Really hope you and your son have the experience of a lifetime during your Year of Adventure!

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  13. Wow I am amazed and in awwww. This brings so many things into perspective. This is a ver insperational post and thanks for sharing it. Now I know I need to stop bitching and complaining next time I do any type of physical activity…lol!!! One day I will run a marathon~

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    • If I could do it weighing 240 pounds and with only 3 months of training. . . :)

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  14. Dude — I had no idea how many personal challenges you’ve risen to over these last few years. The way you’ve transformed yourself and your life is TRULY awesome. You’re a brilliant example of the power of an unshakable dream and I salute you for it.

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    • Thanks! Appreciate your kind words.

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  15. Wow thanks for putting it all out there, it takes a lot of courage to do that.

    My father passed away when I was 5 and after that I was a chubby child bordering on adolescent issues when my mother gently pushed me toward soccer. It was definitely a life saver and while I profess to be the laziest traveler ever, often passing up hiking, physical activity is definitely in the center of my life.

    So amazed that through all your challenges you opened your life to others. Really inspiring.

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    • Thank you, and thanks for sharing some of your story as well.

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  16. Man, thanks for writing this. It’s just what I needed to read today, even though I’m now mightily frustrated that I can’t get up and go for a run right away. I’m looking at an operation before I can get going again unfortunately. But you’ve helped me bring things back into perspective and your achievements over the few years have been extraordinary. Last year was last year and I hope you and Tigger have an amazing, adventurous 2011, sounds like you really deserve it.

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    • So glad it helped you! I’m looking at a possible knee surgery as well, so I can completely empathize with you! Hope you’re healing quickly.

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  17. What a truly inspirational story! Life sure is a roller coaster and I can’t wait to see what you can achieve in your Year of Adventure! Talk about grabbing the bull by the horns! Go get ‘em!

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    • Sure is! Thanks for the kind words.

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  18. Finally made the time to visit your blog (too much time spent of FB/Twitter), and I’m in total amazement about your journey thus far. As others have said, truly inspirational. I can’t wait to see what unfolds during 2011! I feel very fortunate to have you as new friends in our lives, and can’t wait to see you guys in Chiang Mai!!!

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    • Thanks, Bubba. Looking forward to meeting you all later this yr as well!

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    • Wow. Just read some of the Wolf posts.

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  19. wow. i’m so awed by this. i’m facing a tough time right now of another sort, and seeing how you’ve come through all of this and how courageous you are to share it is so encouraging and inspiring. your words- “but I really do believe we create our own reality, and so the universe has been forewarned: This year, we’re livin’ large!” resonates with me so strongly! cheers to that and best of wishes for 2011 :)

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    • I’m so glad it connected for you. I’m sorry to hear you’re going through a rough patch right now, but I’m so happy that you’re moving forward and giving the universe your own warning.

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  20. I just want to extent my heartfelt congrats and admiration for the sheer determination and strength you’ve shown to get to this point. Absolutely inspirational. I didn’t realise you were a runner too- it’s something I’m getting into and absolutely love, and I find your story really gave me the kick I needed to focus on it more! Half marathon next month it is! :) Will be following your journey with interest :) Becki (@toddlerontour)

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    • Awesome! I’m so glad it helped you. And I’ll be interested to hear how your
      half goes.

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  21. Wow…what a story! A wild ride. Intense. Powerful. Inspirational. I got goosebumps reading it. I like how you burned an effigy of 2009…v cool….and I love how you’re saying goodbye to the past in general and a huge hello to the now and the future. It really is YOUR turn and I totally look forward to seeing what happens next!

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  22. I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog.

    Since you mentioned Africa and biking, do you know about the Tour D’Afrique? My brother did their Cairo to Cape Town bike race/expedition last year, and it was an amazing experience for him. Maybe you and your son would want to consider it when you reach Africa, especially now that you’re planning to spend several years traveling. I don’t know if Tour D’Afrique has a minimum age requirement.

    http://www.tourdafrique.com/tours/tourdafrique

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    • Thanks for the info. Looks pretty amazing but WAY out of our budget.

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  23. wow. what an incredible story. you seem to have overcome a lot and i’m so incredibly excited about what you’ll make of 2011 – (coincidentally i also call 2011 my year of adventure). I’m glad to have found your blog and look forward to following along with you on your journey with Tigger! Definitely inspirational and kudos to you for wanting to show your son the world. When I become a parent that’s something I’d like to do too!

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    • Thank you! Glad to hear 2011 is the year of adventure for other people as well. So glad you found us and are going to journey along with us!

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  24. Thank you for sharing. It’s taken me a long time to get around to reading this but now I’m glad I finally did. Your story is amazingly inspirational. Thank you.

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    • Thank you! Hope it helps people.

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  25. I am excited for you! What an amazing experience y’all are going to have! I’m day dreaming of such a thing myself. Can’t wait to hear about your adventure! Good luck to you!

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  26. It’s really heartwarming to read your story and I’m so glad I caught you at the beginning of your exciting voyage. I really commend your openness to exploring other cultures and bringing TIgger the opportunity to experience other cultures in depth. I’ve added you to my blog roll (I think that other expats could be inspired by your adventures http://expatinmexico.wordpress.com) and look forward to reading your upcoming entries!

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    • Thank you! I’m so glad you found us as well and appreciate you getting the word out, etc.

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  27. Hi, I just found your blog….you are living my dream. I am 51, retired (and on a pension, so I am lucky), but I just got custody of my 19 month old grandson. I would love to turn him into a world traveler. Do you think a woman towing a young baby would have an impossible time of it?

    Thanks!

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    • Not at all! There are several families I know of that travel with their babies, and some of those did/do so as single mothers as well. That’s great you want to do this!

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  28. Life truly can be funny in a totally humorous way! Myself and my husband have struggled through more than many, in our thirty something years, and we’re now in the middle of our exit plan to travel with our children permanently. We were speaking together about how when you’re continually thrown negatives, you develop an “it will be fine” attitude and laugh in the face of anything that gets you down, and reading your post here, just enforces for me that sometimes those who battle hardships and stand tall above them are the luckiest on earth, it shapes them (us) into people that learn to throw caution to the wind and embrace life for all it is. After all, anything bad that might happen is just another speed bump right? I truly look forward to discovering more of your blog, so glad to have found it. Ree :)

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    • Exactly. Any time I’m confronted with a challenge I just think “Meh, I’ve been through worse.” J Congrats on preparing for another part of your great adventure!

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  29. Wow – I love your blog.  I am amazed at how similar some parts of our stories are.  My partner and I are nurses, adopted a son, and went through a heartbreaking attempt to adopt a child that was very violent, etc.  I have really enjoyed your blog.  Our 16 yo DS hates to travel, and I am travel starved.  We are missing little ones though, and are trying to figure out if we should adopt another child or start travelling more.  My partner is trying to convince me we can do both.  So thank you for putting out your experience doing it.
    Heidi 

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    • That is so awesome! 16 is a rough age to get kids traveling if they aren’t used to it already, and even then. The wonderful “my world is my friends” stage. J Kudos to you!

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  30. I’m just nearly speechless. WOW. Soo glad I discovered your blog through the RSS feed that AOB set up. I know what it’s like to struggle too. Boy do I. I look forward to following your continuing journeys.

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    • So glad you found us, too!

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  31. glad you sent me to this Talon- I had no idea some of the pain you went through in 2010. Looks like you’re living large as you planned and enjoying it with Tigger. Carpe Diem…

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    • Definitely living without regrets. J Miss running & cycling, though.

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  32. I’m blown away by this post. Seriously dude, you’re so brave. Love your attitude to life and children and I’m now hooked!

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  33. I’m so glad you just tweeted a link to this pos as I am new to your blog… but will now be a regular reader. Your story is so inspiring, and I’m sure it must have taken a lot to share it. Thank you for your honesty, I look forward to reading more :)

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  34. It’s amazing how our lives can change when we address our physical health. My lifw took a change for the better when I faced my apathy towards my body. Well done!

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    • So very true. Congrats on your changes as well!

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    • Thank you. I am definitely a stubborn survivor by nature. LOL

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  35. I found you via your article about the Ingrams. You are living my dream! I hope that I can discover the courage you have to change my life for me and my youngest son. Exciting to see a single parent do it. Thank you look forward to more. Aloha!

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    • Thank you and welcome! I hope sharing our story helps you.

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  36. Hello Talon,
    This is so exciting what you have been doing with your son.  I have thought about you often and I am so happy for you.  I am so glad you are living your dream.  I  believe we should all do that.  You have been through so much yet come out on the side of adventure and living the life that you have wanted. Congratulationns and I hope to keep in touch through your blogs or tweets.  Where are you and Tigger currently?  Take care friend!
    Chemae

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    • Hi Chemae! Yes, it has been quite a ride indeed. We are currently in a small coastal town in Ecuador called Olón. Enjoying some beach time before we head to Peru later this week.

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      • How wonderful for you and your son. I will follow your blog and travels!! 

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  37. Hey Talon, I sent you the pictures of all of us in Olon EC. I wrote the co-owner of the resort we stayed and stated our dismay of the diplorable conditions and less than promised facility and services. Hope you and Tigger are doing good and are now in Peru. Let us know how you guys are doing. Heck who knows, maybe we will be lucky and be able to hook up someplace else of mutual interest to see? Take care and be well. —-Don

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    • Hey there! Thanks for sending the photos. Glad you also sent her a note. She only seemed mildly responsive. Hopefully with your note she’ll take things a bit more seriously. Yes, we arrived in Lima at around 4:45. LONG day of travel but feeling better after Middle Eastern food and plenty of alcohol. LOL Would love to meet up again some place! How about Cozumel next?

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  38. Thats a possibility, I would love to do some diving with you and Tigger. We might even teach Estela how to dive. I will have to check out the possibilities. You can advise us on the hotels ect. Later my friend. Have fun in Peru!  Regards—Don

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    • That would be wonderful! Think Estela is adventurous enough? LOL

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  39. Everything you say here is beautful.  How are you fairing at the moment?  You seem to be an extremely outgoing man (and father), and that is very impressive.  Good luck to you and your’s.

    Jodie

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    • Thank you! Yes, I’m just a bit of an extrovert. J We’re doing well. Enjoying life on Cozumel.

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  40. Thank you so much for sharing your blog with me (@kidworldcitizen). Everything in this post is inspiring…. from the weight loss, to the distance running, to the world travel. I have a lot to think about right now:).

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    • Glad it gave you some food for thought. Keep reading. J

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  41. Wow, what an inspirational story. Good on you for taking life by the balls and living for your passions.

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  42. Amazing message,I am on the brink of stepping out to follow my dreams of traveling the world. I am currently in Afghanistan and have been here for a total of 5.5 years. I am ready to see more places that are more accepting to an american face. Thank you for your advice and words of motivation. May you have more voyages of success in your life.

    V/R
    Craig Connor

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    • I am happy to hear you’ll soon be stepping out to follow your own dream! Wonderful!

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  43. I know it’s been said, but… wow. What was 2012 the year of?

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  44. I actually didn’t name 2012. I guess you could say it was the Year of Come What May. LOL I simply left myself open to whatever was coming my way and also worked at sending out my own desires for the year, and it was a phenomenal year!

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  45. Okay so there are dozens of comments before mine here, but just wanted to say amazing job on all of this! I run my own travel site and have been following you guys for a while on Facebook. Your updates are great and I’ve been on your blog a few times but haven’t read this story before. 2011 was my year that I was VERY happy to say goodbye to, so I know that feeling all to well. Basically, high five for getting through it all and for all this travelling you’re doing! Looking forward to hearing even more amazing stories.
    emma@gottakeepmovin recently posted..The Travel Ten: Suitcase StoriesMy Profile

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  46. What an incredible story! Talon, you are a real inspiration! Life hasn’t always been easy with you, but you fighted back. I’m happy that everything worked out for you and Tigger. Happy travels. I am looking forward to following your adventures.
    frankaboutcroatia recently posted..Pula beaches: the good, the bad, and the uglyMy Profile

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    • Thank you. Yes, I’m definitely a fighter and a survivor. “Can’t” is a dirty word in my house. ;) Thanks for following along!

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  47. Wow. What a story. And what a lucky kid to have you as an inspiring father and role model. I don’t have kids (life choice) but I truly believe that having kids shouldn’t prohibit people from experiencing the gifts that travel offers. I intend to take my nephews and nieces far and wide as soon as they’re old enough (have started already but usually with parents on hand). I valiantly hope that more people with kids read stories like yours and are inspired to be similarly adventurous. Well done you. And not to mention in the face of all that adversity too.
    Victoria recently posted..The Best Of Singapore in 2013My Profile

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    • I think traveling with kids greatly enhances the experience to be honest. It forces you to slow down and absorb more of the local area, customs, etc.

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