This month we will have two special editions of Life After JET. Our first features Jabari Smith, an ALT in Aomori Prefecture from 2007-2009. Jabari now works to “serve as an online source of motivation and positive insight for others” via Twitter (@jabarinspires) and his VLOG (http://www.youtube.com/user/jabarinspires).
He is currently competing in the final round of the Paradise Hunter Host Search. You can help Jabari on his way to becoming the host of his own travel series by voting here (early and often) until March 2nd.
Jabari shares how JET helped him “embrace and understand [his own] GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP” (and compelled him to inspire others to do the same), a peek into the competition to be the host of Paradise Hunter, and his best advice for current JETs…
NAJET: What’s the most important thing that you learned while on JET?
Jabari Smith: My experience within the JET Programme opened me up to the dynamic world that we live in and granted me the privilege of gaining firsthand insight on all the uniquely rich culture that is abundant in every nook and crevice of the GLOBE. Prior to living in Japan, I had only ever traveled internationally via cruises. Thus, the JET Programme introduced me to the international stage and all the wonderful opportunities that exist beyond America. During my two years as a JET I traveled to 7 countries and 16 prefecturesThe JET Programme made me keenly aware of GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP and my ability to survive and thrive in any corner of the GLOBE.
NAJET: Many JETs struggle with the decision to re-contract or not to re-contract…How did you know it was time to leave JET after two years?
Jabari: I initially only intended to stay in Japan for one year, however within the first few months I knew that one year would be far too short. Thus, the decision to re-contract for a 2nd year was ideal as it gave me the life-changing opportunity to further indulge myself in Japanese culture and the language, as well as build stronger relationships with Japanese natives and members of the JET Community. It also gave me the chance to thoroughly travel throughout Japan and BEYOND! I knew that 2 years was the right amount of time for ME, because there were other goals and passions of mine that I was ready to pursue back stateside. I always say, “One year would’ve been too short, but two years was PERFECT!”
NAJET: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of Jabari Inspires? How exactly did this come about?
Jabari: Jabari Inspires was initially born as my Twitter name (@jabarinspires) when I joined the social networking site in March of 2009. Throughout my 2 years in Japan, and even before, I began to recognize the value of inspiring others and being inspired by others. Friends would always tell me that my life in Japan, various travels, and positive attitude were inspiring. Thus, it felt like the perfect moniker. And perfect it was, as the name slowly morphed into my personal brand. In July of 2010 I launched the “Jabari Inspires…” VLOG as the foundation of my striking out as an entrepreneur and the return to my roots as a public speaker (I competed in Speech & Debate for 9 years). What initially began as me creating 1-2 minute videos in the comfort of my living room quickly evolved into my shooting from various destinations on my travels across the GLOBE. It was via my “Jabari Inspires…” VLOG, and its positive reception, that I realized the viability of merging my passion for inspiration with my passion for exploring the GLOBE.
NAJET: If a current JET who is trying to figure out their next step is only going to watch one of your videos, which one should they watch and why?
Jabari: The “Jabari Inspires…” VLOG that I would recommend to a current JET would be my “It’s YOUR Journey” video, which encourages others to follow their heart when it comes to making decisions that determine YOUR personal and professional progress. It’s so easy to become distracted by the expectations that others have for you, that you can unknowingly find yourself walking a path that means nothing to you. My decision to re-contract for a 2nd year in Japan is an experience that inspired this particular VLOG, as many friends and family couldn’t understand why I wanted to stay beyond 1 year. Making that decision based on what I wanted for myself launched my journey of living as close to MY DREAMS as possible. Bottom line, don’t compare yourself to others because we have no idea what their journey is all about.
NAJET: What exactly is the Paradise Hunter competition?
Jabari: “Paradise Hunter” is an organization that helps travelers discover their slice of paradise via vacation rentals in paradise destinations across the GLOBE. The “Paradise Hunter” competition is the GLOBAL Host Search for the travel series “Paradise Hunter”, which is currently being shopped to several networks and expected to air in 2012.
NAJET: How did you find out about this opportunity?
Jabari: The window of submission to enter the competition was nearly 2 months long spanning from early September to November 5th. As fate would have it, I didn’t find out about the competition until the early morning of November 5th after receiving a message (via Twitter) from a friend and fellow Howard University Alum (Paige Fenn) who stumbled across it while perusing the internet. She immediately thought of me and encouraged me to apply. Despite the narrow window of time I had to work within I knew I couldn’t let this dream opportunity pass me by. Therefore, I reached out to another friend and fellow Howard University Alum (Theo Hollingsworth) and he graciously agreed to help me shoot my video. I was the very last applicant to submit for the competition, which makes me feel that this opportunity is meant for me!
NAJET: Any particularly memorable experiences in the competition so far? Any challenges that took you by surprise support from an unexpected source, a really awkward screen test…
Jabari: This entire 4-month journey in the competition has been memorable. From starting with nearly 700 applicants to being selected to advance as a Top 40 Semi-Finalist, and NOW being amongst the Top 10…it’s ALL been a dream come true! I will say that I am eternally GRATEFUL to everyone who has voted, prayed, and offered words of encouragement on my behalf. The outpouring of love and the push that my network has given me means so much!
NAJET: Where are you most looking forward to travelling if you win?
Jabari: I definitely look forward to the awe-inspiring travels that will ensue as the “Paradise Hunter”. I anticipate uncovering paradise destinations that others would never imagine existed and shining a spotlight on the culture and people of less traveled locations (i.e. Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania and Sri Lanka off the coast of India). However, I’m also equally excited about serving as an Ambassador on behalf of the “Paradise Hunter” brand. I believe that winning this opportunity would give me the chance to touch people from every walk of life and further prove to the WORLD that there are more commonalities than differences that connect us across the GLOBE.
NAJET: How can we help you? Who can vote, when and how?
Jabari: The million-dollar question! :-) The JET community (and ANYONE else reading this) can help me by VOTING EVERYDAY until Wednesday, March 2nd, which is when the winner will be announced via LIVE webcast. In addition to voting, please fill in the box that asks for a suggestion on where you would like to see me travel as the show’s Host. Furthermore, helping me spread the word by posting the link to your Facebook and Twitter profiles would be beneficial to my campaign. Any and all help and support would be greatly appreciated! Here’s the link: www.paradisehunter.com/vote/Jabari-Inspires.html *No Email Registration Necessary*
NAJET: And any last advice for current JETs?
Jabari: My advice to current JETs is to truly indulge in the experience of living in Japan beyond the job. Yes, I LOVED serving as “Jabari Sensei”, the energetic ALT, and I absolutely adored all my students (pre-school through junior high and Adult Eikaiwa). However, establishing an identity and life in Japan beyond the confines of the ALT position is what made my twoyear stint so worthwhile. TRAVEL, TRAVEL, TRAVEL! I cannot stress the importance of exploring Japan beyond your prefecture and taking advantage of the opportunity to travel to so many magnificent neighboring nations. Finally, I would have to encourage everyone to establish as many substantive and meaningful relationships with Japanese people (young and old) within your community as possible. Your JET experience is what you make it, so LIVE IT UP!!!