Over the last three years so many of you have come to know what my story really is and how all this came to be, but I really want to write it out and share some of the glamorous and not so glamorous (more often that not) details of how this all came to be. So… why not just start from the very beginning.
I’ve grown up in a family that has always really valued making time and setting aside time to do things as a family and ultimately traveling to the Disney Parks became a huge part of that. Every year, we would load up the minivan (we all know you had one of those ugly old school minivans in the 90’s too) and make the trek from our home state of Kentucky 14 hours south to Orlando. I can remember oh so vividly sitting in the backseat of that van coloring and playing that awful license plate game for hours on end trying to burn the time of that dreaded drive. The last few miles of eager anticipation before passing under the welcome sign made the whole journey more than worth every single minute.
You see, we always went to Disney because it was a place that we all loved and we all looked eagerly upon that one week out of the year that we got to spend in the happiest place on earth. Obviously, it was a different “Disney” than it is today and in essence a vastly different experience than the one we enjoy today, but it was a stepping stone to what later became all of this.
From those early days of the super cheap nightly rates at Carribean Beach to more recent years where I’ve been able to tour the parks many weeks out of the year as an Annual Passholder, one thing has always remained the same. Disney has and always will be that place where I can escape from reality for even the briefest of moments. It’s a place that you can go and set the troubles of life aside for a while and really dive into a week, or even a few days, of just being there in the moment with the people that mean the most to you. To me, that experience is the one that I always hope to convey. It’s not about the attractions, dining, or even the incredible resorts, but rather those little experiences and memories with family that the place helps create in ways that are truly unimaginable time and time again.
I know this sounds like the picture perfect story, but that’s not to say that life hasn’t been without flaws. I pride myself on trying to be positive but it’s also important to be real, honest, and even a little vulnerable at times to convey what these parks can do for real people. I’m not that guy that has the “perfect life”, but nobody does and I never want it to come across as this site being a perfect representation of my daily life. The fact of the matter is that I’m not in the parks everyday. Sure, I visit all the time but there are real life things going on behind the scenes.
Perhaps the best way to convey that reality is through the story of the sites beginnings. In my sophomore year of college I was sitting around in my apartment late one night after doing some homework and came to the shocking realization that I had no idea what I wanted to do after college. I knew I was going to get a business degree (and I thankfully did finish that up not too long ago), but I remember thinking to myself, “If I could do anything when I woke up in the morning each day, what would I be excited to get out of bed and do every single day?”
You see, I have and still have this ever present fear of waking up every day, going to do a job that I hate, punching a clock, and then going home wasting day after day of my life helping someone else achieve their dream. It wasn’t until I sat down and convinced myself that no matter what I do, I want to find some way to one day wake up every single day and tour the parks sharing with people how they can experience something I’ve been blessed enough to enjoy in my own life, that I realized that I had to start and do SOMETHING. I didn’t know what and I didn’t know why but I knew I had to start that day or I’d never fully commit to the idea.
Skip scene a few weeks and I had started drafting my first book after some eager encouragement to do so from a person I’m lucky to call a friend today (you know who you are!). After around six months of spending countless hours writing a book about the parks between classes, late at night, and over countless nights falling asleep at 2 and 3:00am, I started polling publishers and sending out drafts. I got shut down by 10+ publishers (and that’s probably lower that it actually was), seriously thought about giving up on the idea entirely, I was genuinely crushed, and then reached back out to that same friend.
Mind you, I hadn’t even told my own parents I was doing all of this until I was almost finished writing the book. That same friend gave me a piece of advice that has always stuck with me and that I still credit as a catalyst to all of the things that this project has become over the years. It was a simple sentence and straight to the point. He told me, “If you believe in it, try it. Because at the very least you can say you’ve done something that 99% of people can never say they’ve tried.” I don’t know why, but for some reason that kept me going when I was irritated, frustrated, and ultimately just upset by the facts of the situation at hand. Combining that piece of advice with a self publishing recommendation lead to a book that I’m happy to call The Adventurer’s Guide to Walt Disney World. I won’t lie to you and say it was an incredible book but I was proud of it and it’s flaws. Today, it’s a bit outdated because it was a 2016 project but it is still available on Amazon and will likely always remain there.
I tell that story not to sell books but rather to share that this was ultimately a failure compared to the grandiose expectations I had for it in my mind. I quickly realized that guidebooks are instantly outdated the moment they’re published (Pandora and the Hollywood Studios changes really killed that book lol) but I didn’t want to just stop. As a result, the following August I started up a little site called Guide4WDW.com and started pushing out content. The early days were not pretty, but slowly but surely I found my way in the content creation realm of Disney entertainment. It wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination and more often than not I work on this site between the hours of 11:00pm and 2:00am, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every day I have something to look forward to at the end of the day and a story to share with people. That part of things I never expected, but what was the most unexpected aspect of it all were the people I met along the way. That factor alone makes it all worth it.
It should come as no surprise that I wasn’t the most popular guy in high school. I had my close friends but I was absurdly shy in nearly every situation. When I started the site, so much of that changed. I was getting messages from people all around the United States, interacting with folks on social media, and ultimately ended up meeting some real life friends and fellow content creators that I can’t imagine living my life without today. If you told me five years ago I’d be sitting here writing this today, messaging friends in other states, and meeting up with people when I fly down to Orlando, I would have never believed you. Not in my wildest dreams would any of this have been a reality.
There’s no doubt in my mind that there are countless opportunities that I want to capitalize on and make the most of in the future and I know that I’m a long way from where I want to be, but every day is a step in the right direction. Perhaps that’s the reason I’m sharing all of this to begin with. Sure, I want you to make the most of your Disney experience but more so I want to convey the fact (at least in this article) that no matter what your dream is, no matter how impossible it seems, and no matter how long term that vision may take to play out, know that if you trust your plan it will create memories in your life that will genuinely change the way you see the world and how you approach each day.
Maybe this is all just me being unashamedly optimistic about life, but there’s something to be said about doing something every day that tests your comfort zone, hopes to improve your future, and ultimately takes one small step towards a dream that you want more than anything else.
I’m not sure what’s next, but I’m hopeful for the inevitable good times and bad times of the journey each and every day. So often we get frustrated with the negative and things that don’t go as planned but in all reality it’s just a matter of perspective. I tell myself time and time again to follow one major goal in life and that is to, “Take a Chance Today So That Your Dream Can Come True Tomorrow.” I wish I could say I came up with that one all on my own but that’s not entirely the case. Either way, it’s a series of words to live by and something I really hope to strive towards in the future.
I share all of this not to say “look at me” but instead to say “look at yourself and find a way to live your dream.” I may be a millennial with high expectations for the future, but at the same time I’ve been called an old soul more times that I can count. I heard a quote shared somewhere years ago that basically stated that life isn’t about the number of breaths you take each day but instead those moments that take your breath away.
So if I had one recommendation to share in all of this it would be to start today and chase your dream. Maybe you’re just planning a vacation to the parks, or maybe you’re thinking about taking a new job, or maybe even contemplating starting your own business. The key to it all is actually doing it. Stop putting it off and just START. I assure you you’ll meet the right people along the way and even if your project fails, it will create memories and bring you into contact with people that are more that worth any hardships you may face along the way.
I still sit on a bench in Epcot at the end of nearly every visit to the parks, dreading every minute that ticks by as my inevitable flight home rolls around. It’s a feeling I can’t convey in words but one that makes me feel as if I’m facing leaving the place where I belong. I’m still working on that piece of the puzzle but hopefully it simply conveys that not everything that you see here is quite as picture perfect as it seems at times. Hopefully that’s something that at least connects with a select few of you facing a crossroad in your life.
If you want to talk to somebody about anything, Disney or otherwise, shoot me a message anytime at Guide4WDW@gmail.com or feel free to message me on any social media platform. I’ll help you in any way I can or at least try to point you in the right direction.