Top 3 Lessons From the Cross-Country Trip

It has taken me forever to get around to writing this post, but better never than late. Here is a summary of the top 5 key lessons I learned from this cross-country trip: top-3-lessons-from-road-trip

  • Learn Fundraising (Selling Ideas)

At some point or another, if you are someone ambitious and aspiring to make a great contribution through your life on earth, you will have to use “other people’s money” to fund your projects. When I decided to go on the journey, I did not have enough money at hand to cover all the trip expenses. Most people will let that stop them, but I had to make it happen.

I got creative and started a fundraising campaign. Some of my colleagues in the office were surprisingly very supportive and gave beyond what I asked, while others were skeptical and offered no support at all. I made it OK.  I could have borrowed money, but that would have been bad debt, which can be heavy on one’s mind. Good debt generates you passive income, bad debt does not produce anything but rather drains your pockets.

  • Prepare Well

Planning for the whole trip took me many hours, and it ensured a stress-free and joyful experience. Everything was planned: drive time, restroom stops, sleep time, clubs meeting time, downtime, etc… All the speeches I was to give at the different clubs were outlined and their respective project manuals were marked with post-it notes. It is only because I was well prepared that I had a great overall experience.

The first step in preparation is finding out WHY you are engaging in a project or an activity. Once you know WHY, you then have to determine what you expect to achieve or get out of the experience. Third, you outline the STEPS you must take to make your objectives materialize.

  • Embrace Everything

Murphy’s Law is the humorous axiom stating that anything that can possibly go wrong will go wrong. In embarking on any new project, you have to know that not everything will go according to your initial plan. The only constant in the universe is change. Things are always changing, sometimes to our advantage, sometimes seemingly against us.

The lesson here is to embrace everything unexpected that happens (good or bad) as part of what you must experience as part of that project. With enough contemplation at the end, you will be able to extract the gems from what you went through, no matter how challenging or exhilarating.

To recap, the cross-country trip was great and I have now had the idea for my next project, my next adventure as The Road Tripping Toastmaster. It will be local to California, but equally challenging and rewarding. More about it in the next post.

Thank you for reading! 😀

Home Feels Good, But Different!


On the way back to California. During a stop in Tennessee.

When I took the road a month ago, I had envisioned myself not being out of my home in California for more than two weeks. However, I remember someone saying: “If you want to make God laugh, show him your plans.” That is true. My stay on the road took more than 3 weeks, but I had so many good experiences that I am happy that God laughed at my plans. He or she (or it) had better plans.

I am now back home. I have not yet finished writing about all the lessons I have learned from this project, but I eventually will, one article at a time. No matter how long it will take, it will get done.

Thank you to all those who have contributed to the success of the journey. The Hall of Fame has a list, even though not exhaustive, of people who have helped me on this project, directly or indirectly.

I am now back home and I had never been out of my California home for this long. It sure feels good to be home, but different!

Extended Stay in Washington DC

This road trip experience has been unbelievable. I still remember the very first plan I created back in room when the idea came to me from the universe. According to my initial itinerary and schedule, I should now have been back to California. But that did not happen. In a turn of event that I don’t understand yet, I have to be in Virginia for much longer than I had anticipated. Now that I don’t know exactly what date I will be back to California, I have decided to make the most of my time here.

Arlington Public Speaking Workshop

I had an experience (more about it in a different post) which could have turned my stay here into a very tough challenge. Even though I would have met the challenge with excitement and graciously, I am not on my turf. When you are not playing on your turf, the impact of every problem is potentially magnified. Luckily that is also true for every opportunity.

I have decided to give back to Virginia’s residents to whom I am really grateful for making my stay here much easier than it could have been. I now have a library card with the City of Arlington Library, and if not for the challenging parking situation in Washington DC, I would have already made friend with the librarians at the Library of Congress. How cool is that? Maybe I should get myself a bike for the rest of my stay here. Thinking, thinking, thinking…

When you give back, you find the opportunity that is the least expensive to you and that will create the most value for the recipients, within the frame of your competence areas and skill set. I have signup to volunteer with the Carver Community Center which is the closest community center to my house. In addition, I will host and lead a free public speaking workshop for community members out here. The workshop will be on July 24, 2014 @ the Aurora Hills Branch of the Arlington Library. Time will be from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

If you happen to be in the are on that day, or know someone out here who might benefit from attending, send them the registration link:

From this situation, here is one of the lessons I learned:

  • Expect your plans to work but when they don’t find ways to make the most of your experience.

Playlist of all Recorded Speeches (Videos)

Here is a playlist of all the speeches I was able to record on this tour. It would have been great if I could record all the speeches, but like happens and I could not. Enjoy what is available 🙂 The Road Tripping Toastmaster   YouTube

The list is available on YouTube and even though the quality of some of them is not the best, the content is worth it.

My next step with this project is to write on the lessons learned. Then I will have to decide on what the future holds for this experience. Maybe this is something I want to repeat once or maybe twice a year (very unlikely though). Making adjustments and changes to the original process based on feedback will definitely make things go more smoothly.

The future is exciting! 🙂

Phoenix – DC Club #2226 in Washington DC, District of Columbia (Day 7)

After a good night sleep from the day before, I was recharged and ready to be with the Phoenix DC club for their 1:30 p.m. meeting. My friend Oscar who was hosting me in Virginia had never been to a Toastmasters club meeting, and he decided to come with me for the experience.


At the venue for the Phoenix – DC Club #2226 in Washington DC, before the meeting.

I was about an hour early to the meeting venue, the Lower Level Conference Room of the Petworth Library in Washington DC. The meeting venue is spacious, but there is a big echo and voice resonance. I had to practice a few lines to find the right volume and tone for the meeting. I knew that with people in the room, the resonance level was going to change. Part of preparation for a great speech includes familiarizing oneself with the venue for the speech.

When club members started trickling in, I realized that I was not on the agenda as a scheduled speaker. But after explaining what my project was about, the club Sergeant-at-Arms and simultaneously Toastmaster of the day Timothy was able to adjust the agenda to accommodate my 3 to 5 minutes speech.

The speech went really well, and it consisted in me sharing a few of the lessons I learned from the journey. The three lessons in the speech were:

  1. Do what your heart tells you – no matter what (unless it is illegal)
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you cannot do it all by yourself
  3. If you are going on a long road trip, take a toothbrush.

Members of the Phoenix – DC Club #2226 were very welcoming and encouraging. They also received my message well and gave me a special gift at the end of the meeting.

You were the perfect closing for this adventure. Thank you Phoenix – DC Club.

Vinegar Hill Toastmasters Club in Charlottesville, Virginia (Day 6)

When I got to the club meeting venue area in Charlottesville,Virginia, I still had about 3 hours before the meeting start time. I found a local McDonalds and went there to use the restroom and freshen up from the long night driving. That McDonalds had the highest concentration of black folks in one place I had ever seen since coming to America. Well, except maybe for Nashville, Tennessee. It was great seeing and exchanging pleasantries with a few brothers.

lionnel in charlotesville, virginia

Group picture with Vinegar Hill Toastmasters in Charlotesville, Virginia.

The Vinegar Hill Club meets in the Albemarle County Office Building. Even though it is a community club, I had the impression that a number of its members are actually county employees. I might be wrong though.

With over 20 members who were in attendance plus 3 to 5 visitors, this club has a strong membership base. And based on how much got done within the one hour meeting time, it was obvious that they were all committed to the process. We had two speeches, table topics, new officers installation, and a great long and funny joke. For the number of people who got involved and were engaged, this is one of the most well run meetings I have even attended.

My speech at this club was very original. It is a concept that I had thought about for a while and never had the courage to try because it was outside my comfort zone. The speech was titled: “Do You Have a Winning Ticket?” and the key message was that: We all are given various tickets at various points in life, by life. The ticket we get are winning tickets if we decide what we have won and let it manifest in our life experience.

Club members were very well into the whole speech experience and based on the post speech feedback, the message was well received.

I meant to ask the club about the story or meaning of the name Vinegar Hill, but I forgot. One of the members would probably have told me the story behind the name.

Thank you Vinegar Hill Toastmasters.

Bridgestone Babblers Club in Nashville, Tennessee (Day 5)

Driving from Arkansas to Tennessee was very long and tiring. I only got to the meeting venue about 20 minutes before the meeting starting time. It took me about 10 minutes to change and find my way to the meeting room in the right building.

bridgestone babblers in nashville, tennessee

Group picture with Bridgestone Babblers Toastmasters Club in Nashville, Tennessee.

I did not know that this club meets in the Bridgestone USA Corporate Office Headquarters in Nashville. What a good surprise. I can tell you one thing, the restrooms at the Bridgestone office are outstandingly clean. And believe me, I have visited quite a few restrooms on this road trip.

For a club with over 20 members which meets during lunch time (12 noon to 1 p.m.), things were run very efficiently by the Toastmaster of the day, Justin. Because of a great joke which was a bit longer than anticipated, Justin had to skip the Table Topics section of the meeting, but all members understood and the meeting carried on.

The theme for the meeting on this day was “My Toastmaster’s Goals.” I made a few modifications on the fly to my speech content and tailored it to be relevant and aligned with their meeting theme. My message was well received and the club members as a whole were very happy I had made it to be with them.

Feedback was great and a few members could particularly relate to the content of my message.

Thank you Bridgestone Babblers.

Vanderbilt Toastmasters Club in Memphis, Tennessee (Day 4)

This was the second club I had to visit on day 4. Sophia of the Vanderbilt Toastmasters Club in Memphis was really helpful from the day I contacted her to request for the opportunity to speak at their club.

lionnel in tennessee

The only picture in took in Tennessee.

Unfortunately, I had not anticipated the 8 to 9 hour driving time between Bentonville and Memphis. There was no way I could have made it on time with only 6 hours difference between the two meetings, 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

It is my fault but I had glad I did not sweat it and Sophia was understanding. That day (Wednesday) I took a hotel room at Motel 6 in Bentonville and slept for a good 8 hours. I only realized how much I needed it when I woke up feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

The landscapes between Arkansas and Tennessee were really beautiful. Loved it!

I missed you Vanderbilt Toastmasters, but you were fair game and life goes on! Thank you.

Pinnacle Toastmasters Club in Bentonville, Arkansas (Day 4)

The city where Walmart started, with the first store opened in 1962 by its founder Sam Walton. But that’s not what I was there for, even though I was able to visit Walmart Store #100 in Bentonville, my official visit was with the Pinnacle Toastmasters club. Club members are friendly and run a very effective and action packed meeting in one hour, from noon to 1 p.m.


Pinnacle Toastmasters in Bentonville, Arkansas.

All audience members where really receptive and appreciated me making them part of my journey and sharing a speech with them. My speech evaluator was really good and gave me great suggestions for improvements.

One of the members, Vera invited me to go to an opera at 7 pm, but I was very tired from the long drive and needed to sleep before getting back on the road at midnight. Thank you Vera. Your hospitality is really appreciated. Vera is the lady with the big smile next to me on the picture.

Thank you Pinnacle Toastmasters!

Speech Training For Emerging Professionals Club in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (Day 3)

The STEP club is a club made up of members who come together every Tuesday evening to learn and grow together. This club gave me the warmest welcome and experience. Starting from the very first email I received after contacting the club, I knew I was in for a special experience. And a special experience it was.


Preparing my speech for STEP OKC at a local Starbucks in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I was so engaged that I forgot to have a group picture taken. 😀

One of the club’s district officers treated me to a buffet diner. In addition to a collectively signed thank you card and a framed certificate of appreciation, the club also took me out for socializing after the meeting ended at 7:30 p.m. We had a great time and I had the opportunity to practice speaking my french with the of the club members who are originally from Benin.

If I have to choose one club to join for membership out of the clubs I have visited on this journey, it probably will be this one. But, it is not over yet. Let’s be fair and visit all the clubs before drawing a conclusion.

Thank you (STEP) OKC. 😀

…and the journey continues!