Adam Pervez, a 2004 graduate of Ohio State, has quite a lot to say about happiness.
Having traveled to more than 73 countries during the last few years to volunteer and experience the world, Pervez hopes to continue pursuing his passion for volunteering upon returning to the U.S. in early 2014 with a long-term plan of starting a nonprofit organization that will attempt to make happiness a key component of any workplace.
An electrical and computer engineering major, Pervez said he had an eye-opening experience during his senior year of college when he went to Egypt as part of a study abroad program.
“It really opened my eyes. Travel was something feasible, and not as impossible as I had always imagined it would be,” Pervez said.
Upon returning to Columbus, Pervez found his first career with a recruiting oil company — Schlumberger Limited — as a field engineer. Though he said he disliked his work, the money and travel opportunities made up for his unhappiness for a period of time. Pervez later decided to pursue an MBA at the IE Business School in Madrid, and went on to work at Siemens Wind Power in Denmark as a business development specialist.
“Denmark is always rated as the happiest country, so I figured if I could be happy somewhere I’d definitely be happy in Denmark, but of course that’s not how it works,” Pervez said. “When I realized I wasn’t happy there, I finally started asking myself the questions I had been putting off my whole life: ‘What would make me happy? What’s my ideal job, what’s my purpose in life? What are my goals in life? What kind of stories do I want to tell my grandkids some day?’ These fundamental things.”
After a few months, Pervez left his job to instead pursue six passions: traveling, writing, helping other people, teaching, learning and telling stories. He began what has since grown into an 800-day long trip, traveling to more than 73 countries while spending only about $800 for his travels by using services such as Couchsurfing, a website that connects travellers with locals to find places to stay and activities to participate in. Pervez said he could not be happier with his life.
“It’s been a pretty crazy ride,” he said.
Some OSU students said they couldn’t do what Pervez did.
“It takes a lot of gut(s) to do something like that,” said CJ Ha, a second-year in biomedical engineering. “I would rather tough it out in a job with a high salary to be more stable for a family later on.”
But Pervez viewed his stage in life as an advantage in the decision he made.
“I figured if I don’t do it now, as a 28-year-old, then when would I ever do it? I won’t do it as a 47-year-old dad who has a 10-year-old kid at home,” he said. “When you figure out what you need to be doing in your life, it doesn’t require as much courage as you would think.”
Josh Harris, a first-year in biomedical engineering, said he envies Pervez’s choices.
“If he’s happy with his life, good for him. If I could drop everything and travel the world I would,” Harris said.
Although Pervez said he’s had a variety of positive experiences during his travels, including meditating with snakes in a temple in Thailand and helping to teach Latin American children English, he said he’s also been challenged — he has been the victim of three robberies and got severely sick in the midst of traveling once.
“I was in the bathroom all night, puking and everything,” he said. “But even then I was grateful. I was grateful I was on an overnight train with a bathroom, rather than a bus. I was grateful it would be over soon, and I was grateful this was as bad as it would get.”
His plan for his return to the U.S. is to start a business to teach managers how to include happiness in the workplace. He said he’s going to start the process by conducting surveys to measure the level of happiness in various companies, finding what is and isn’t working.
“The biggest thing people in our generation want (is) stability,” he said. “The 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. working model might not be working for them. People have needs and are working 50 to 60 hours per week — companies need to be more flexible.” Pervez said he wants to start his business in Cleveland and branch out to universities as well.
Emilia Zywot, a second-year in chemistry and biochemistry, said she’d be interested in learning about Pervez’s business once it gets up and running.
“It’s important for a better atmosphere to be established in the workplace,” Zywot said. “As a student, it would be nice to hear his perspective on pursuing our dreams in the future.”
Pervez said the most important things in life are being thankful and being happy.
“When you travel the way I do, where you try to meet people and understand their life and perspective, then you can’t help but change your own perspective on life,” Pervez said. “That’s where I’ve found a lot of gratitude. It doesn’t matter what your situation is — you can always find gratitude in these kinds of things in life.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following clarification:
Clarification: Oct. 30, 2013
An earlier version of this story stated that Adam Pervez plans to start a nonprofit organization that will attempt to make happiness a key component of any workplace, when in fact, Pervez plans to start a business with that goal and start a nonprofit organization in the long-run. An earlier version of this story also stated that Pervez spent about $800 for his travels, when in fact, he has spent about $800 on accommodations alone.