Tom Ross: Steamboat’s Jamie Curcio returns a changed man
A lap around the world reveals secret of happiness to resident
September 11, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Jamie Curcio's career path was on a traditionally upward trajectory when a pause in the construction industry allowed him the option of taking a sabbatical to travel.
Six months, 26 countries, 18 flights, 10,000 miles of train travel and one circumnavigation of the globe later, Curcio is a changed man.
"When you travel around the world, it puts a lot of ideas in your head about what you want to do with your life," said Curcio, 28. "It makes you ambitious and motivated."
This much he's certain about: He doesn't need material possessions to be happy, and he's determined to show more compassion for other people in his daily life.
Spending seven weeks split among volunteering at an orphanage in the Philippines, working in Mother Teresa's hospice in Calcutta, India, and helping to repair a country school in Uganda will give a young adult that fresh perspective.
Curcio is a 2001 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School who was a competitive snowboarder at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. He was named to a couple of junior national teams before suffering a serious back injury. He earned his degree in construction management from Colorado State University in 2005. Curcio went to work for Haselden Construction in Denver and after two years, when the company offered him a transfer to his hometown to work on One Steamboat Place, he leapt at the chance.
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"It was a good opportunity in the industry for me," he said. "I gained experience, made some money and bought a house."
However, family trips to Central America and Mexico during his youth, plus traveling to snowboard competitions, had given him a case of wanderlust.
He gained his employer's approval for a leave of absence with assurances of employment, assuming the company had a contract on his return. Curcio and his roommate from freshman year in college, Ryan Snyder, began planning an extended trip around the world. They would be joined by a third friend for the first part of the trip and a fourth for the last stages.
Their journey, starting in Japan and ending in Ireland, would not be solely devoted to social service but also to personal adventures that included rafting the Nile, camel trekking in India, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.
The men budgeted $22,000 for their trip and came in at $20,000.
"It could have been $15,000 without the things like the camel trek," Curcio said. "We stayed in a two-bedroom apartment in Calcutta for $2, or 80 rupees a night."
It doesn't take a lengthy conversation to discern that his experiences in India and Uganda made the greatest impact on Curcio personally. He was raised in the Catholic faith, and it was a profound experience for Curcio to stand in the room where Mother Teresa lived and died.
"The second you got off the plane, you were humbled," he said. "We worked at a hospice not far from the slums in the morning and with disabled children in the afternoon. Mother Teresa gave away her life for other people every day."
Curcio was most uplifted by his three-week experience at the Kyabirwa Primary School in Uganda, where 1,200 students squeezed into 10 classrooms, yet remained cheerful and upbeat at all times. He stayed with the family of Moses Owino, who has built lodgings for volunteers in his own family compound.
"The happiest kids were in Uganda," Curcio said. "They were just so full of life. The people there are the best.
"What I learned most from this trip is that you can be just as happy living a simpler life. We buy into the pressure of society way too much instead of following our inner nature."
When he returned home, Curcio said, he was prouder than ever to be an American. But he also came back with the impression that Americans could show more humility about how they fit into the world.
He'll never forget sleeping under the stars in Rajasthan with Muslim camel drivers who treated him like a respected friend. They taught him the difference between spiritual Muslims and radical Muslims.
The travel adventures of Curcio and his friends are too numerous to mention, but anyone can share them vicariously at their website, http://www.nostepnostory.com.
Curcio said he continues to love construction work, and if he returns to his job, he wants to strive to balance that part of his life with his urgent desire to experience other cultures.
"I don't know what my next step is," he said. "I like options. I'm trying not to let the pressures of society hit me too hard."
Stay tuned for further developments in the interesting young life of Steamboat Springs' Jamie Curcio.