Mind the gap — Notes on a cocktail napkin in Kosovo

Posted by: Amy Cosper on July 19, 2017

One of the things I’ve learned during my “Adult Gap Year” (translation: no regular job, lots of motorcycle time, too many politics and more than enough breakfast wine) is that the things that mattered to me before “the gap year” still matter – maybe even more now that we’re living in an upside down turd piñata.

The lessons, in short, are that people are mostly cool – and continue to be cool. They never stopped being cool, even during an uncool political cycle during my sort-of-cool gap year. I knew this going into the thing, but am more certain on the other side: People can be shitty, but most people are not. And, another nugget of wisdom: entrepreneurs are even cooler when you get to talk to them, one on one, with no agenda, no recorder and a beer. That’s where the shit gets real.

People changing the world are still a thing. A very important thing. A global thing.

When I left for my “Journey of Enlightenment Vision Quest” (book writing, movie making = a total, complete, unproductive and false line of bullshit that is not at all enlightening, but a BS line that all ex-editors put out there as narrative), I really did have big ideas about writing and inspiring, but well, I fucked around instead.

Taking a year off to write a book is a bad idea. It’s total shit. At least for me. Not recommended and I have the one page to prove it. Yep -- 350 words in total.

Do not take a year off to write a book. It’s dumb. Take a year off to hang out with the people who are your stories. Like I did in Kosovo.

Meet my friend Alejtin Berisha, a very modest man with many stories of survival and equal numbers of successes. He’s from Kosovo. He’s always smiling and never complaining. Everyone in Kosovo is like that.

Alejtin survived the Balkan war, diaspora, lived in camps in Turkey and managed somehow to come out on the other side with the most uplifting optimism, which is a remarkable characteristic of most Kosovans. It’s a combination of strength and hope, something only people on the other side of war can comprehend. He’s also a champion of entrepreneurship and against all odds in Kosovo, he fights for it – against the norms, but in celebration of the possibilities and the future.

“During the war, the military came to our home and asked us to leave, so we caught the last train out of Pristina,” he explains. “We had no shelter, no food and no water. We moved to Turkey and we started a business -- a small burger shop. I was a cook. We didn’t make a lot of money, but it kept our family’s mind off the war.”

Alejtin went on to start many businesses with an eye on education and a clear vision on how to get his country to the next phase – beyond optimism and into reality. He’s still making this happen.

I fell in love with Kosovo accidentally, but it was immediate. It wasn’t the Bill Clinton statue or the Kosovan\'s love of Americans – no, it was the Kosovan’s sense of self and their unrelenting optimism against all odds. It was their absolute focus on creating a new vision for what they stand for. Just like any start up.

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