A Year of Family, Travel, and Global Community!

Every once in a while I am reminded that I need to step forward as the creator and founder of LocalsGuide to share my own story. My wife Sarah and I moved to Ashland 22 years ago. We both had abandoned college to pursue lives of entrepreneurism and to live in the town and community of our choice, Ashland, Oregon. We saw opportunity, and in no way were we going to compromise living in a far away city just to have job security. Life was to precious to us to spend our time only hoping that one day we could live in such a beautiful place.

This story is true for so many Ashlander’s who have made the sacrifice to live in this community despite the high costs.

Ashland and Southern Oregon gave us an opportunity to create our lives and to write our own stories. I am proud to say I have shared this entrepreneurial spirit with many, if not all of the advertisers, here in the LocalsGuide. Three kids later and after several failed attempts, LocalsGuide finally began to take shape as a community media platform for beneficial dialog and long-term relationship building. I set out to create a model of positive media that would inspire and support individuals rather than pit people against one another. I wanted to reward advertisers and enrich readers with value.

With the help and support of countless friends and mentors, LocalsGuide took root. We have published every month now for the past 13 years. We are in our 4th year of mobile guide development and visitor information services. It has taken countless hours and dedication to write the plans, develop the software, and to implement the kiosks that are now being utilized by the Neuman Hotel Group here in Southern Oregon. Many of you have followed along and attentively listened as I shared my ideas for a unified visitor information network across all of Oregon. I have pushed forward and slowly, but surely, it is coming to life.

Back to my own personal family story…  I was always inspired to create a global business that could be run remotely and that could scale to help people around the world. It would be structured as a micro franchise so that individuals wanting to create their own LocalsGuide could do so quickly and affordably.

Taking steps to actualize many life goals, my wife and I, along with our 3 kids, moved to Monteverde, Costa Rica last year. Monteverde is small isolated mountain town in northern Costa Rica. We implanted ourselves in an interesting community and faced many new challenges. Last year’s rainy season was no joke with Hurricane Nate hitting Costa Rica full force. (Note to reader: Do Not put landslides on your bucket list!)

We engaged in the community learning a new language, making new friends, all the while still publishing LocalsGuide monthly and maintaining connection to Ashland and Southern Oregon. It is actually quite amazing to think that LocalsGuide can be created from a remote cloud forest 6000 miles away… but that is just the beginning of the story.

As I write to you today it is pouring rain and I am sitting in a small makeshift laundry room office. (Hey, I didn’t say it was glorious… but it works!)

The underlying message I want to share today is that the reality of making dreams come true is not about being financially rich, but more about being highly motivated and creatively resourceful. Anyone can have money…but are they creative? Or are they just creating more of the same? Freedom and creativity are really a mindset which one must continually exercise.

Like knowing that you don’t need a perfect car to take that road trip. Understanding you don’t need a perfect tent to go camping with your kids. Heck the kids don’t care. They just want to spend time with you, and if it rains and leaks, that adds to the adventure!

So where do we start? This is a challenging question because we always find reasons why we should not take action. Sometimes we just need to jump off the diving board! The rest will fall into place and yes, sometimes you will fail.

This past June we left Costa Rica, returning briefly to Ashland to visit friends and family and then onwards to Thailand for a month of family exploration.

Over the course of the past 45 days we traveled 28,000 miles, visited 4 different countries – all with our three kids and 5 backpacks. We visited countless temples, ate unusual foods and explored a culture that was different from anything we had experienced before. Of course we got lost, had difficulty always understanding the language, and got stuck in the most immense traffic jams I have ever experienced before. (Thank You Bangkok Rush Hour). In the end, everything always worked out. People always helped us and we were greeted with open arms. Our kids were celebrated, even photographed as we walked through China. Our six year old was a celebrity. It was a totally different experience to be completely on our own and so far from anything we knew as home… and then again, what is home?

What I am seeing as I am out traveling in the world is that there is still so much to experience. There is still opportunity, there is still freedom, and there is a future.

Yes, the world is totally a mess right now and despite the turmoil in the US, and environmental issues we are facing globally, it is important to stay focused and keep building forward.

The world is huge, and as I encountered people who had never heard of California or Oregon before, I was reminded of how many different worlds we live in. Many different worldviews co-exist and the dominant North American worldview is only one fraction of what is out there.

If there was any message I would want to share with my younger self, and to all the young people in our community, it would be to Explore The Possiblities – Go Out and Explore. Explore locally and get a passport and explore the world. You can do it!

When we got back to San Franciso my son pulled five different world currencies out of his wallet. At 15 years old he drove his 10 year-old sister all around a remote island in Thailand on a motorcycle. (No Drivers License) He understands how to navigate the world and I know, given the opportunity, he could successfully find his way to the CrossFit gym he so badly wants to visit in Iceland… and I am so proud of my kids because they are living in a future world we all need to know.

The dreams you seek might not be right at your doorstep…. But you can go out and find the people who will help you build your dreams, whether in Southern Oregon, or beyond.

Then bring back the treasures to your community and change the world for the better. Learn skills that will make you adaptable and give you freedom. Learn a foreign language, computer and networking skills, and most importantly, (and never taught in school), learn the relationship skills of being of service to others.

You can talk to any one of the advertisers here in LocalsGuide and they will tell you relationships in Ashland are KEY.  People will help you. You just need to ask! The bonus tip, however, is to ask others how you can help them first – and then even more doors will open for you. Don’t hesitate, start today no matter what age you are.

I then have a message to parents and grandparents… take your kids and grandkids when you go traveling. Don’t leave them at home while you go on vacation. Get them off their cell phones and social media and show them a bigger reality. Grandparents and those with resources, help those who cannot afford to go on their own. Encourage them to take that first trip abroad. Buy your graduating senior a oneway  plane ticket to Europe or South America or Asia. Don’t hoard your money into investments for tomorrow when you can invest in the young people of today. Invest in the future of seeing a bigger world with more possibility. An extra car, a larger house, the designer clothing, or watch, is just a distraction from meaningful experiences.

I will continue to build out the LocalsGuide, and as you read it monthly, you can imagine where in the world our team might be working. Last year our editor Dillon Garrison spent the year abroad working from France. Autumn Micketti in our mobile department will be traveling and living in the UK. Our programming team is based in India. And last month I was with my family in Chaing Rai, Thailand publishing LocalsGuide during the exact time the boys soccer team was stuck in the cave.

It is a small world. We are fortunate as a community to be surrounded by people who care, people who see the big picture, and who see the bigger story – that we are all people on a planet trying to get along and live together.

Everyone wants a good life… so make sure you create the one you want to live.

Thanks for reading and being a fan of LocalsGuide!

Shields Bialasik

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