Following to Dan Eldon’s introduction, I decided to have a little cross interview with Antonio Graceffo and Sam Stavros, relative of Dan and author of the song dedicated to him, “Neverland”. I think the following interview contains some very thoughtful and witty insights which made me reflect on my situation, and soon I will follow up with my own article and vision on this whole matter. But let them speak for the moment being….
M- Dan’s life was indeed incredible. How do you relate your life experiences to Dan’s? As an adventure writer and martial artists, and as a musician, which is the meaning of your particular stance to life, if you have any?
ANTONIO-Sadly, I am not a musician. I think Dan’s story touched me so much because I could draw some parallels. I have been in Asia nearly ten years adventuring. Dan spent nearly his entire life outside the US and most of it in Africa. I guess I am tied to Asia now. Dan was a writer, I am a writer. Dan did photography, I take pictures, dan made videos, I make videos, dan worked as a journalist, but he took an active role in helping people when he saw the need. And I have done the same. We are similar in many ways, but he was greater, because his reach was greater. What is important is the number of people who you can reach. The greater your reach, the greater your capacity to help. Dan’s reach, after the end of his life is much greater than mine, and I am alive. Perhaps that is why he died so young. He had already fulfilled his mission, risen to the heights he needed to, and the rest of us are still struggling to get there.
SAM-Dan’s life was much more imaginative and enduring than my own. Dan and I both attended the same College in Pasadena and we both traveled – but the difference was that Dan was immersed in a troubled continent and tried to do something about it.
M- “Safari as a way of life” is a pretty strong statement. Do you agree in any way, or do you think Dan would have changed his strong opinions, growing up?
ANTONIO- Sam stavros made the point that when you die young, one of the huge advantages is that you haven’t been forced yet to compromise your beliefs or curb your dreams. I cant predict what Dan would have done in later life. But I would imagine he wouldn’t have settled into a job at the post office or the local library. I think avoiding growing up and remaining young is the only way to keep your strong ideals. I know I have much more freedom than most people my age because I have sworn off the adult world of family, possessions, and career. Recently, I saw a movie called “Up in the Air” where George Clooney is a business consultant who tells people not to have attachments, because they are too heavy and they weigh us down when we fly. I feel that as an adult, these are the kinds of sacrifices we have to make to keep our ideals, to follow dreams and live adventures. In Dan, however, I didn’t see any hint of loneliness or regret. Perhaps that was because he was young and lack of attachment looked good on him. Or perhaps it was because he was a special kind of being.
SAM- I have and continue to live my life like that – Safari as a Way of Life. Always looking for new things to do, always curious, never approaching an experience timidly. I used to go on surf safaris when I was young – and that was just loading up some boards and then going with no planning whatsoever – the surfing was great – but it was the life experiences that really made those trips. Safari as a Way of life is just like that – always doing something then seeing what amazing twist the doing will bring!
M-What is the meaning of your “Neverland” related to the world of today?
ANTONIO- I think I live in Neverland now. I have complete freedom and lack of attachment. I adventure and explore constantly. But unlike with Peter Pan, I know there is a price. And I become more and more aware of it with each passing year. Perhaps the mythical Neverland would be an exact copy of my life, but with time standing still.
SAM-”Neverland” contains the hope of returned innocence, or should I say never losing innocence, to be forever young at heart. With the right idealism and energy we can always have part of our spirit in “Neverland.”
M- What are your suggestions for the youth of today, to try to teach them how to live more enrichening lives, if you have any?
ANTONIO- If you wish to live anything but a narcissistic self-centered existence, then you need to give to others. You can do this by performing volunteer or work or giving community service. But you can also do it by leaving behind a massive body of creative work. Actors, sculptors, painters, writers, teacher, and trainers leave a legacy of lives touched and bettered. Set goals in your life and achieve them. Don’t make them material goals. If your goal is to make money, that is ok, money can be liberating, but DEBT CANNOT. And ownership of things CAN be a PRISON. Your goal should NOT be to buy this or that. Material things are a complete waste. Your goals should be to learn this or that, to experience this or that, to see and to create and to pass on to someone else. I get email every day from Americans and Europeans who want to come to asia and learn martial arts. They say they want to follow their dream like I did, BUT they don’t have money. 90% of these people have jobs and earn more than I do. So how is it I can afford it and they can’t? The answer is, they are tied to THINGS, possessions, debts, which rob them of their freedom. The same people never sent an email to Apple Corp. saying how they dreamed of owning an I-Pod. Although they wanted an I-Pod and eventually went into debt to buy one, that dream was less powerful than their dream to follow their hearts and explore the world. An I-Pod or a new car, or a house they can’t afford is preventing them from following their dreams. And all the while, the clock in the sky is ticking. Their lives are ending one second at a time and they chose a new car over a year of studies in Asia. You could talk about a new car for about ten minutes. And a year later it wont be new anymore. But a year in Asia will last you a life time and it will gain in value with each passing year.
SAM- Yes absolutely the lesson of Dan Eldon and his message to the youth of today is get out and do some things and let your imagination and experience lead you to how you can best be a help to the world. As Henry David Thoreu said, “Don’t just be good, be good for Something.”
M-You can describe what thinking of Dan’s example brings up to your mind, and try to share with us people. Why do you think we should know about him, and what do you want to open up with the making of your media project?
ANTONIO- Dan lived a real life, a powerful life, I am trying to live a powerful life, let these two lives be an example. I hope dan can inspire people to live out their dreams. When I was crossing the taklamakan desert, alone, on a tricycle, I cut an $80 shirt to make a headband. I don’t miss that $80 shirt. But the memory of crossing the desert means a lot to me. And I wrote a book about it and I hope it will out live me. Dan’s body of work outlived him. I have no idea if he owned an $80 shirt. I suspect he didn’t care.
SAM- People should know about Dan Eldon because he actually lived the life that many – even most – people dream of; he was adventurous with all of his adventures designed to spread knowledge and at least some hope of bettering the places that he went.