New Mexico

Feeding 70 Wolves on Christmas

Two Nikki’s: Nikki getting ready to feed high-content wolf-dogs, Nikki and Maki.

After giving and receiving gifts, nothing says “Christmas” quite like sitting down to a delicious feast with those you love. What will you be cooking up this holiday? At Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, a refuge for wild canines rescued from the exotic pet trade, employees get into the spirit by serving up hundreds of pounds of raw meat to animals in need.

Nikki hand feeding Arctic wolf siblings Thunder and Alice.

As staff members at WSWS, we woke up early on a white Christmas in 2016 to feed 70 wolves, wolf-dogs, and other wild canines. The morning was bright and beautiful, with deep snow, happy wolves, and an ATV filled with over 200 pounds of meat. Accompanied by two of the sanctuary’s volunteers, we delivered meals to each of the sanctuary’s residents.

WSWS’s rescues typically receive 3-5 pounds of food per feeding five days a week to replicate a natural diet (wolves in the wild can only eat when they catch food, making periods of fasting perfectly normal for them). While most rescues eat frozen meat loaves, some have special diets and feeding arrangements depending on their nutritional and behavioral needs.

Nikki separating high-content wolf-dog, Forest, from Thunder and Alice for safe feeding.

Feeding and fasting days at the sanctuary are the same every week, providing the rescues with a sense of routine. And with the holiday falling on a feeding day, we were happy to help spread some Christmas cheer! Feeding all 70 rescues was a large task for just four people, but the serenity of the snow covered sanctuary on Christmas morning filled us with merriment and joy.

Forest eating while Thunder and Alice eagerly await their breakfast.

Living With Wolves: The Joy of Giving

Lucian, a wolf-dog at Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary diving into his holiday present.

“The more we are concerned about the happiness of others, the more we are building our own happiness at the same time.” – The Dalai Lama, Daily Advice from the Heart

Enriching wild animals in captivity is vital to their mental and physical well being. Enrichments promote joy, stimulate the senses and give captive animals something to do outside the norm. Like humans, wolves are family oriented, social animals that love play. At Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, a refuge for captive-bred wolves, wolf-dogs and other wild canines rescued from the exotic pet trade, enrichment is central to animal care and is provided in various forms tailored to each rescue’s desires and personality, including various treats, meaty bones, interesting scents, human contact, walks, toys, splash tubs and more.

Wolf-dog, Nimoy, showing off his present.

While the above are delivered daily, special sanctuary wide enrichments occur four times a year, when each rescue receives a seasonally inspired surprise. Boxes wrapped with colorful paper, smeared with interesting scents and filled with treats are doled out in winter. Easter baskets fitted with frozen rabbit shaped meat loaves and other goodies are delivered in the spring. Chilled watermelon meat treats are passed out in the summer, and pumpkins filled with meat are presented near Halloween.

Rain, one of the sanctuary’s shyer wolf-dogs tentatively inspecting her gift.

Many of WSWS’s long-time residents are used to receiving special treats and know just what to do, open them, grab the goodies, destroy the packaging, and pee on it for good measure. Others who are new to the pack may be apprehensive about the foreign object at first, not sure what to make of it or how to access the treats inside, and might even need a little help from a human friend to open it.

Lucian marking his territory once through “opening'“ his gift.

“Present Toss” as the winter seasonal enrichment is known, is a thrill for both the residents’ caretakers who make and deliver the gifts, and the rescues who devour them.

Caring for the sanctuary’s seventy rescues is an enormous labor of love that is often selfless. The daily work can be difficult, and anything but glamorous at times (picking up poop, mending fences, filling in holes, and sorting through 40 gallon barrels of raw meat are everyday chores).

Nimoy eagerly snatching his present.

And while many rescues were raised with some form of human contact and do enjoy being pet, going for walks, and interacting with their caretakers, an equal number shy away from any form of human interaction making them entirely hands off.

Thus, the joy in the job is quite simply the act of giving the rescues the best care possible, and being entirely present with each animal so as to be receptive to their individual needs, even if they never seem to say ‘thank you.’ This is the essence of giving, and the giving season that is upon us: to give without expecting anything in return, but to find our own enrichment and joy in the simple act of preparing and presenting the gift of our time, attention and love.

Romeo, a rescued red fox, enjoying one of his holiday gifts.

Howl-O-Ween at Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary

9 year old wolf-dog, Argo, snacking on his pumpkin treat at Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary.

Candy Kitchen, New Mexico

Halloween is a special holiday for many. For some, it’s even the most loved of the year! At Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, a wildlife sanctuary in rural New Mexico, an annual Howl-O-Ween party marks this spooky October date. What better way to spend a Saturday around Halloween than with wolves in the crisp autumn high desert sunshine? Added bonus: each ticket directly supports the wolves and Wild Spirit’s mission of rescue, sanctuary and education.

We had a blast working this family friendly festival during our two years at Wild Spirit. Here’s what this fun day is all about!

The event typically begins with a “pumpkin toss” enrichment tour, during which Wild Spirit’s wolves and wolf-dogs receive pumpkins filled with meat, and sprayed with smelly scents to both enjoy and destroy. This is a great photo opportunity for guests and is generally restricted to a small tour that must be booked in advance, making it extra intimate. The rest of the day usually features standard tours of the sanctuary, food, music, games, costumes, roaming ambassador wolves (with their expert handlers) and a spooky night tour.

Each Howl-O-Ween is capped with an annual fire ceremony after dark in celebration of the lives of those rescues lost during the preceding year. Rescues’ ashes are offered to a sacred fire while Wild Spirit’s staff, volunteers and friends share memories of the sanctuary’s beloved canines that have passed over. It’s a special ceremony that all Howl-O-Ween guests are welcome to attend. 

Happy and safe Halloween to all!

PS - If you’re in the area or planning a trip, visit Wild Spirit’s website to learn more about this event, sanctuary tours, and lodging. This year’s festival is Saturday, October 20th.



From Top Left to Right: Wolf-dog Nikki, Romeo the red fox, Nikki and Chadley, Executive Director Leyton Cougar with a guest, two photos of wolf-dog Skye, our friend Christine and her niece had their faces painted, volunteers preparing enrichment pumpkins, wold-dog Dakota, arctic wolf Powder, Chadley and Maddy delivering pumpkins to New Guinea Singing Dogs Reba, Bono and Princess, Yuni coyote, Dakota, Assistant Director Crystal and Ambassador Wolf Flurry greeting guests, Chadley playing music for guests, wolf-dog pup Quinn, Chadley giving wolf-dog Lucian his pumpkin, wolf-dog Kabbalah, Yuni, wolf-dog Maki, Maki scent rolling on her pumpkin, wolf-dog Cheyenne, Chadley dressed up, wolf-dog Contessa saying ‘hi’ to Wild Spirit photographer Steve, Contessa eating, wolf-dog Oni, and wolf-dog Zeus.

Living With Wolves: A Day in the Life at Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary

Shaggy Pack of the greater "Westeros Pack" at Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary.

From Left: Shaggydog, Jon Snow, Shae and Summer. 

We spent two beautiful years living and working at Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary (WSWS), a wildlife sanctuary in rural New Mexico that rescues wolves, wolf-dogs, coyotes, Australian Dingoes, New Guinea Singing Dogs and foxes from the exotic pet trade. With a mission of rescue, lifetime sanctuary, and education, WSWS is open to the public, accepts short and long-term volunteers, and is run by a small group of dedicated staff and volunteers mostly living on site and off-grid in the high desert mountains at 7,500 feet above sea level. The sanctuary is open to visitors all year round and sees thousands of international guests annually.

This post describes a day in the life at Wild Spirit for a staff member (though most of the activities are done by long-term volunteers as well).



Dawn from our cabin.

  • Waking to the howls of the wolf pack and wild coyotes singing to the sunrise is a refreshing way to begin each day.


Morning Rounds (Part I)

Chadley making "med-balls" as part of Morning Rounds.

  • Each day, a different staff member or volunteer is assigned to Morning Rounds and Guard Duty, tasks that open and close the sanctuary for the day, while ensuring the safety and well-being of each rescue. The assigned person heads to Wolf Kitchen an hour before the work day begins to make supplement and medication meatballs, check on the rescues, and distribute meds as needed.


Animal Care

Above: Program Director Nikki with Lucian. Below (L to R): Our friend Silvana, visiting from LA, filling up Dakota's water bucket. Chadley taking care of Nakota and Silva.

  • Almost everyone starts their day at the sanctuary performing "Animal Care" (which is arguably the best part of the day). Each morning, staff and volunteers care for the animals in their assigned habitats, which are chosen based on each personnel's level of experience, their personality, and the personality of each rescue. Depending on the number of staff and volunteers, this can be 2 – 8 habitats per person. Animal Care consists of socializing with animals, cleaning water buckets, filling waters, and clearing habitats of waste and debris. It is important to note that only some of the rescues enjoy human interaction, and certainly not all. Socialization is never forced on any rescue, and is dictated by each rescue with each caretaker. Some animals are off-limits to the touch out of safety measures and respect for the given rescue.


Clockwise from Top Left: Nikki with Contessa, Chadley with Romeo, Chadley walking Lucian (on Lucian's birthday), Nikki with Riot & Cinder.



Above: Nimoy with his "present toss." Below (L to R): Contessa out on a walk visiting her friends Rae, Nikki, Stefanie, Kailyn and Matt. Riot and Cinder scent rolling on bug spray.

  • For some animals, social time with humans can be enrichment enough, but other special enrichments to keep rescues fit and stimulated include treats, meaty bones, going for walks, interesting scents to smell and roll in, and toys like boomer balls or even stuffed animals (only approved for some).



Above: Forest Pack and Powder Pack sharing elk. Below (L to R): Nikki feeding Maki. Feeding Tour guests with Teton & Shasta.

  • To replicate a natural diet, Wild Spirit’s rescues eat 5 days a week, fasting on Mondays and Thursdays. This is because wild canines do not eat every day in the wild, but only when they catch food. On feeding days, most rescues receive frozen food such us meat loaf bricks of 2 - 5 lbs each, frozen chicken (pieces or whole) and other delicacies like elk heads and organs. Sometimes entire carcasses are given to larger packs. Those with very special diets receive an individually prepared meal just for them (typically limited to the very elderly and/or rescues with serious health conditions). The Sanctuary's smaller canine rescues; like foxes, Singing Dogs, Coyotes and Dingoes each have specific diets tailored to their particular nutritional needs.


Clean Up

Our cousin Eric, visiting from NJ, washing food buckets after a Feeding Tour. Thanks, Eric!

  • After "Animal Care" time, each person cleans the kitchenware and buckets he or she used for food and waste throughout the morning.


Morning Rounds (Part 2)

Wild Spirit's courtyard, where guests gather before a tour.

  • The person who did the first part of Morning Rounds checks the sanctuary after feeding, makes sure all rescues are alive and well, have plenty of water, that habitats are locked and secured, and the tour path is presentable for guests.


  • After animal care, the rest of the day is filled with various projects done individually or in teams. With a small group of staff and volunteers, most have a hand in almost every aspect of sanctuary operations.

L to R: Tina and Courtney walking Australian Dingoes Glacier and Kooyong.


Head to the Office

Event Coordinator Chadley swamped with phone calls in the office.

  • For the office contingent, there’s always plenty to do. Answering inquiries, fundraising, scheduling animal rescues, guest activities and overnight stays, vet visits, outreach events and tours, project planning, volunteer management, and more.


Log Animal Observations

Assistant Director Crystal Castellanos taking care of Shaggydog in the Animal Care Office after one of his back legs was amputated.

  • Staff and volunteers are vigilant about reporting animal observations such as strange behaviors, sudden changes in mood or disposition and eating and digestive habits, pack dynamics, injuries, and anything else out of the ordinary. After animal care, observations are documented in a detailed log.


Go to the Vet or an Outreach Event

Above: Nimoy waiting to be seen at the eye doctor. Below (Clockwise from top Left): Flurry ready for his eye surgery.Thunder trying to escape his vet appointment. Board Member Jan with Storm at the New Mexico State Fair. Executive Director Leyton Cougar delivering a presentation with Flurry at the Jean Cocteau Theatre in Santa Fe.

  • While these activities don’t happen everyday, staff and volunteers do take rescues off property from time to time. Rescues go to the veterinarian for anything from routine check ups to treating illnesses and sudden emergencies. Going to the vet can happen anytime, but most visits are pre-scheduled. With about 70 rescues, WSWS averages $10,000 a year in vet bills, and sometimes more.


  • Wild Spirit takes it’s "Ambassador Wolves" on a few outreach events per year to share the sanctuary’s mission, teach people that wolves are not pets, but also not the big bad wolf we hear about in Little Red Riding Hood, and to explain the wolf’s role in nature, and why it is critical they remain protected. Venues include libraries, theatres, schools and wildlife centers.


Rescue an Animal

Above: Rescued wolf-dog pup Quinn relaxing. Below (L to R): Rescued wolf-dog pups Leia & Quinn playing. A coyote pup being transported to another sanctuary by Executive Director Leyton Cougar.

  • Wild Spirit’s Director, Leyton Cougar, has traveled all over the U.S. to rescue wolves, wolf-dogs, and other wild canines in need. The sanctuary is near capacity most of the time, but openings occur, enabling the sanctuary to save a life. Even when Wild Spirit doesn’t have space, staff will do what they can to find placement for an animal, and occasionally even provide transport.


Meat Separation

L to R: Robert, Megan, Mike and Paul unloading wolf food after a"meat run." Clarissa working on meat separation.

  • Wolves are carnivores and need a steady diet of meat to stay healthy. WSWS has several community partners who donate meat to the sanctuary such as butchers, community pantries, and individuals. Staff and volunteers separate good meat from bad and prepare food for each animal several times a week.


Give a Tour

Romeo visiting the crowd during Courtney's tour.

  • The sanctuary offers several guided tours per day to the public. Staff and volunteers escort groups as small as 1 person to classes of 50 school children through the tour path describing the sanctuary’s mission, relaying each rescue’s individual story, and providing facts about wolves and other wild canines. Careful attention is given to describe the differences between wolves, wolf-dogs, and dogs, and why wolves and wolf-dogs are not pets.


Work in the Gift Shop

L to R: Kendra, Patricia, Jenna, Megan and Meg modeling new Wild Spirit sweatshirts outside of the gift shop. 

  • The Gift Shop Gals greet guests, answer phones, stoke the fire, tidy up, and sell wolf merch.


Do Some Maintenance

Above: Casey teaching Courtney how to use the trencher. Below (L to R): Girl Scout volunteers clearing brush. Nikki on the John Deere.

  • The sanctuary is growing all the time, which keeps everyone quite busy. Maintenance projects can be anything from building a new habitat to weeding, updating volunteer housing, working on the rental cabins, and other habitat improvements.


Be Thankful

Above: Chadley, Eric, Sumitra, Amy, Eva, Paul and Mo happily pose to thank a donor for her generous gift of a shiny new Wolf Kitchen refrigerator. Below (L to R): Jaeger resting on Nikki's shoulder after scent-rolling on her head. Chadley and Contessa saying a happy hello.

  • Sanctuary life can be hectic with a never-ending workload and new challenges arising all the time. Taking time for gratitude is essential. Whether that’s a quiet moment to walk the tour path, visit a friend (human or animal), have a hug, tell someone you love them, thank a donor or a guest, or just enjoy the fresh mountain air and the sounds of raw beautiful nature, those small moments of giving thanks for the opportunity to support the wolves helps staff and volunteers recharge.


Private Tours

Above: Friend of the sanctuary, Shirl, with Storm. Below (L to R): Guests from South Africa with Dakota. A guest with Nimoy.

  • The sanctuary provides some Private Tours that enable guests to visit specific habitats with staff members for fantastic photo opportunities, and simply the chance to be in the powerful presence of a wolf.


Attend the Daily Animal Care Meeting

The Animal Care chore board is set with the week's tasks.

  • When the day is through, animal care staff and volunteers gather back in Wolf Kitchen to discuss any concerns that arose during the day, and to review the following day’s schedule.


Guard Duty

Clarissa distributing "med-balls."

  • An hour before sunset, the person who did Morning Rounds returns to Wolf Kitchen to make the evening’s “med-balls,” distribute medications and supplements as needed, check on all residents before nightfall, and ensure all gates are locked and secured.



An evening hike in the neighborhood with our dog Ziggy.

  • It's easy to enjoy the magical New Mexican sunsets, ravens flying to their roosts, and the sounds of wolves and coyotes singing the closing of another day as you eat a nutritious meal, connect with friends, and head to bed early to wake up refreshed and ready for another day with wolves!


Arctic Wolf, Powder, on the prowl.

  • Learn more about Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, visiting, and volunteering here.



Clockwise from top left: Chadley with Quinn, Nikki with Cheyenne, Nikki with Sugar howling, Chadley with Jaeger, Chadley walking Lucian, Nikki with Nimoy, Nikki walking Dakota (photo by Paul Koch), Chadley photographing Jaeger, Clarissa and Courtney making med-balls, Mo doing at "ATV feed," Crystal and Forest greeting a student group tour, Eva feeding Brutus, Raven in flight, and Chadley with a baby lamb.

Reflections on Societal Ethos

Mitakuye Oyasin

Creating Know Stone Unturned while traveling abroad brought us in contact with many different cultures, people, personality types, and of course, face to face with our own reflections.

Before boarding a flight to South East Asia on inauguration day, we had just spent two years working at a wolf sanctuary in rural New Mexico, where the Executive Director is also a Lakota pipe carrier (a Native American ceremonial leader). Under his guidance, we participated in sweat lodges symbolizing purification and rebirth, and family pipe ceremonies in which we put our collective attention on shared intentions like abundance and rain. An oft-used phrase in these rituals is the Lakota saying, Mitakuye Oyasin (pronounced Ma-Tahk-Wee-Ah-Seen), meaning “all my relations” or “we are all related.” Stemming from the belief that our world is inextricably interconnected, the saying means that all of nature, fellow man, plants, animals, earth, water and sky are all our relatives.

While the saying resonates with us, we know that being related to everyone and everything is not always at the forefront of our minds. This is why travel helps so many of us to expand our world view, whether that’s going across the globe or exploring our own country. It pushes us out of our comfort zones and teaches us to accept our human differences while understanding that, fundamentally, we are all the same, all related, and likely all valuing the same things: family, security, happiness and love. At the same time that our eyes are opened to new perspectives and experiences, traveling can also teach us to appreciate what we have – our own culture, loved ones, home, and a myriad of other things left behind.

Honestly speaking, it was a strange and marked time to be an American abroad during Trump's first six months in office. Many people had questions about what was happening in America, what was true versus what they heard on the news, what we knew about the travel ban preventing travelers in Muslim countries from visiting the U.S., and more. We were frequently humbled by the chiding smiles and mocking snickers of those who simply asked, “How’s Trump?” Others still, said nothing of politics, or even if they did, appeared wide-eyed at the word America and revealed that they always dreamed of visiting our country. And so, despite any contentious feelings people may have about our current administration, we realized: 1) the general perception of Americans remains positive, and 2) the American Dream truly resonates with people all over the world.


Tri Hita Karana

Balinese Offerings

Our first stop was Bali, and the place that got us thinking about cultural ethos and the meaning behind the American Dream.

Bali, a tiny island among thousands in the Indonesian archipelago, is quite special. The people of Bali have long sought to retain their cultural independence through the ages, with their unique blend of modern and ancient tribal beliefs mixed with Buddhism and Hinduism.

What struck us immediately was the culture around gratitude and offerings. The practice of dedicating time each day to preparing and delivering offerings was foreign to us. We even witnessed a holiday giving thanks to metal machinery, including cars and motorbikes, all of which were decorated with ornaments for the occasion.

Offerings, usually made from palm leaves, contain a variety of items, but most typically include bits of food – rice, crackers, fruit, even wrapped candy – as well as flowers and a burning stick of incense, which is considered the spirit of the offering. These nature-based offerings are placed in special altars and in front of houses and businesses throughout the island, even on the beach, in the morning and afternoon in order to appease the Hindu gods. You cannot go anywhere in Bali without encountering them.

While this ritual is a special and easily observed aspect of Balinese culture, it may be the Tri Hita Karana philosophy that is even closer to the culture’s core.

Tri Hita Karana is a Hindu philosophy meaning “three ways to reach spiritual and physical well-being,” with ‘Tri’ meaning three, ‘Hita’ meaning happiness, and ‘Karana’ meaning cause or manner. The philosophy directs people to maintain a harmonious relationship between themselves and others, themselves and their environment, and between themselves and spirit in daily life. We first encountered the term at Ubud’s Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, where a swath of jungle and over 600 monkeys are protected within the city, and again outside of Ubud at the Tegallalang Rice Terrace, where Tri Hita Karana has been an important aspect of sustainable agriculture for centuries. Both cultural attractions keep the philosophy at the heart of what they do.

Learning about Tri Hita Karana reminded us of other cultural tenets that have equally profound yet simple meanings to people around the world, and inevitably, drew us inward to reflect on our own country’s core philosophy. First, here are some more of our favorite cultural sayings spanning nations and continents.



Angkor Wat Carvings, Cambodia

Namaste is a common salutation in India and Nepal tracing back to the Vedas. The word has been translated to mean ‘I bow to you,’ ‘I bow to the divine in you,’ and ‘the divine in me bows to the divine in you.’ The word is used as a greeting or farewell, and is often accompanied by the gesture of holding one’s hands in prayer position at the heart and bowing, or holding the hands in prayer at the center of the forehead and bowing from the head. In India, one can use the gesture without saying the word and still be understood.

In the West, we most commonly hear Namaste at the end of a yoga class, but in India it can be heard much more commonly.

Whether it's used with strangers or loved ones, the word is undeniably powerful in that it reminds us to think of ourselves and others as not only human spirits, but holy ones, whether we are in a spiritual setting or walking down the street.


Pura Vida

Kata Beach, Phuket Thailand

In Spanish, Pura Vida means ‘simple life’ or ‘pure life,’ and is felt to embody the spirit of Costa Rica. Like Namaste, it is used as a greeting. It can also mean ‘everything’s great’ or ‘everything’s cool,’ but more than that, ‘Pura Vida’ reflects the country’s way of life.

Costa Rica has been named one of the happiest countries on Earth. Thus, Costa Ricans (known as Ticos) generally live happy, worry free lives because they focus on peace and gratitude rather than on what’s wrong or negative in life.

It is commonly believed that the saying was popularized by the Mexican film Pura Vida!, which came to Costa Rica in 1956. In the film, the phrase is frequently used by the main character, who remains positive despite his misfortunes. By 1970, the term was used widely throughout the country, and continues to pervade the culture today, loved by locals and tourists alike.

While Namaste reflects the divinity behind all life, Pura Vida reminds us not to take ourselves so seriously and to enjoy this time we are given. 



Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Ubuntu is an African philosophy that became a political ideology in Zimbabwe, and a unifying concept in South Africa at the end of apartheid in the 1990s.

Meaning, “my humanity is inextricably bound up in yours,” and “we belong in a bundle of life,” Ubuntu can also be used to compliment someone by saying that they are a generous, hospitable, caring, friendly and compassionate person. It can be translated simply to mean “human kindness,” but is truly more concerned with “connection, community and mutual caring for all.” The phrase is so tied into the idea of community, sharing, and mutual benefit that the world’s most widely used free computer operating system is named after the philosophy.

At the same time that Ubuntu is concerned with human connection, Nelson Mandela explained that, “Ubuntu does not mean that people should not address themselves. The question therefore is, are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you, and enable it to improve?”

Like Tri Hita Karana, Ubuntu shares the importance of being one with ourselves, and with our communities.


The American Dream

El Morro National Monument, New Mexico

The American Dream is the idea that anyone can succeed and achieve their goals no matter their background or circumstance. Founded on the idea that hard work is rewarded, the American Dream purports a system of success based on persistence and merit. It is this very system that has drawn people from all over the world to the US and that has made America the melting pot it is today.

Know Stone Unturned is also part of that dream.

The American Dream is as hot a topic today as ever, with many news sources arguing that the Dream is being gobbled up by the top percentage of earners, leaving little opportunity for the rest. Despite our economic differences, the dream also reminds us that we all share a common thread in the search for prosperity. We are all dreaming, hustling and striving for our goals, whether that’s raising a family, buying a house, writing a novel, recording an album, or becoming the next Michael Jordan.

In this way, the dream is not lost, but it’s likely what we dream about has changed.

Today, the American Dream may be more about living a meaningful life and less about grounded security for young people coming of age in this new world economy. As we were starting Know Stone Unturned, we came across countless travel bloggers with a shared story: that of quitting their corporate jobs to pursue a life of adventure and new experiences. 

With the advent of the Internet, and more Americans dreaming of becoming their own bosses, the IT explosion, boom in blogging, Etsy shops, and charity-based businesses have all been on the rise for years. It seems the American Dream is increasingly returning to its entrepreneurial roots, perhaps more reminiscent of the country’s early days when the Dream represented exploration and the allure of the great frontier.

Regardless of the method or the times, what’s craved has remained the same: a sense of freedom that’s achieved through success. Whether looking to become a big executive or start your own business, the American Dream is about the idea that you can make it if you try.

We all know that capitalism drives competition, which can create a kind of ruthless culture around success. Business can be cutthroat, and anyone who really wants to ‘make it’ is taught to work harder and longer than everyone else in order to achieve their goals. Yet, as much as the American Dream is focused on the individual, it is also fundamentally rooted in inclusion, the whole – that is, the opportunity for anyone to succeed and prosper regardless of race, gender, sexuality, class, religion or ethnicity. As we look around at our friends, neighbors, classmates, colleagues and family members all swimming toward their own versions of the American Dream, it is precisely this national ethos of success for all that can drive empathy, because the health of any society is dependent on the health of the individuals that make it up.

We are living in an increasingly divided culture dictated by differing political beliefs, economic opportunities, access to education, and where we live. Yet the American Dream remains a unifying force that can raise our society to great heights if we begin to value our collective success as much as we value our personal prosperity. This is true inclusion, the road to collaboration and cooperation that can enable us to transcend and evolve together as people despite our differences.



Collecting Hay for Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

What do Ubuntu, Namaste, Pura Vida, Tri Hita Karana, Mitakuye Oyasin and the American Dream have in common? Each points to the individual and the community simultaneously by illuminating the need for balance and connection between self and other.

While any idea, no matter how rich, can lose its potency as we become accustomed to it, all of these philosophies are worthy of remembering on our journeys through life. They inspire us to go for our goals, remain connected, grounded to the earth and to spirit, to see the holiness in all living beings, to remember that we are inseparably linked, and that living harmoniously with humanity and the earth will always take us farther than we could ever go alone.

What other insightful cultural sayings resonate with you? Let us know in the comments.