I’ve always largely been against conformity and quickly learned in my twenties that I did not want to be a normal 9-5er.
I spent most of my early life in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and even went to college there. I was such a homebody that I never thought about attending school anywhere else. On top of all that, I wasn’t the most outgoing individual and was downright shy.
I started my first career job right out of college and soon realized this was not my path. At that point I knew a change was needed. I asked myself what was needed to be happy, and made this simple list to strive for:
- Sense of accomplishment
- Help others
- Have more fun
- Not sit in traffic half the day for no reason
Luckily my boring job soon had layoffs, and the reality of my self-imposed challenge was at hand!
Soon after, I received an email about a one-year business internship in London. This internship was precisely the catalyst I was looking for, and little did I know it would change my life forever.
In London I met Max, Jon, and a whole crew of like-minded adventurous peers. In one short year I went from not having a passport to stamping 18 different countries into that little book. I even attended the following festivals:
- Running of the Bulls
- Saint Patrick’s Day (Dublin)
- Edinburgh Festival Fringe
The travel bug was taking over my body. Next I trekked to Asia for a month and moved to Australia for a year. My life goals became more focused as my confidence grew:
- Teach people how to experience life to the fullest while on a budget
- Explain to people how couchsurfing, hitchhiking, adventure sports, etc. are safer than you think
- Help inspire others not to be afraid of trying new things
- Create smiles everywhere I go
When I returned back to the states in April 2013 I had planned to road-trip across America and write a book about my experiences. After many months of planning, my plans fell through. Fortunately for everyone I ended up reuniting with Max and Jon and the three of us went on a two-month cross country road-trip. And on this fateful road-trip I was introduced to Culture Shock and within a week Banana was born. The rest is history!
– Jesse Gleaton
Step One: The love for culture and travel is born
During my Senior year of college I realized quickly that I wasn’t ready to settle into a career just yet. I did know that I was in love with learning, traveling and having adventures. So I decided to move to London for graduate school while I tried to figure out what to do next with my life.
While I was there I traveled every chance I had. I went to as many festivals as I could possibly afford and I fell in love with immersing myself into other cultures. I tried new foods and met tons of new people. I learned what it was to run with the bulls and clink steins in a beer hall at Oktoberfest. I discovered that if you attempt and fail to blow up a government building in the UK, they will make a holiday just for you where they have thousands of fireworks to light up the night sky. It was an experience of a lifetime and one I shall never forget.
As part of my graduate program, I moved to Thailand for the final semester. It was a real eye-opening culture shock that made me fall in love with travelling all over again. I spent the next two years working and traveling around Southeast Asia and Australia.
Step Two: the vision
Still unsure of my life direction I head back to the US to help my father with his company. As I unravel my epic voyages to my friends and family, I can’t help but notice how their eyes widen and their mouths drop open. I feel like they think I’m crazy, but they also long to have adventures like mine. They don’t understand how I am able to afford all of it and I have to explain that I did what I could to make my dreams come true and it’s not as hard as one might think.
While home in the US I continued to search for a career that would make me happy and while deeply immersed in thought I realized that I wanted to travel and learn for the rest of my life! But how could I continue to travel and learn? The answer seemed so obvious, make a TV Show about traveling and learning about cultures! The entertainment business had always drawn me in through the thousands of movies I’ve watched over the years and the hundreds of plays my family attended together. I even wrote my dissertation on the Thai film industry! My vision was clear that in order to do what I love I would have to marry the idea of traveling and learning about culture with the entertainment industry.
Step Three: the show
In late 2010 the original idea for the show came about and it was called “Gap year”. I spent the next 12 months recruiting a team of friends to help me develop the idea further. I continued to refine the next year and in 2012 the show was pitched in LA to five major production companies. It unfortunately did not do as well as I had hoped because I didn’t know enough about the industry to make the show successful.
Over the past 3 years I moved to LA and worked as a producer at NATPE as well as at a branded entertainment company so that I could gain valuable experience to help launch the show. I made connections with all the movers and shakers and am again ready to pitch the show with bigger ideas and better direction.
Step Four: the pitch
The time is now… We have put together a Sizzle Reel that we are in the process of finalizing before we will again hit the road and try and get it picked up and produced.
– Max Heavenrich-Vassilos