Ken Schneck's world changed forever in 2010, when he decided to go on a NGO ( non-governmental organization ) volunteer trip to Uganda. Before that trip, Schneck's experience with adventure consisted of Club Meds during his childhood and, as an adult, Manhattan below 16th Street.
After Uganda, Schneck decided he had to go on other adventures and has turned those trips into a new book, Seriously...What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew. The book was released May 23.
"When I first started writing the book, it was just me scribing my thoughts each night in my journal in Uganda," said Schneck. "I needed a friend to chat with to make sense of the enormity of being in Africa and my pen and paper became that friend. About halfway through that journey, something clicked in my head that other people would enjoy reading about my adventures so my writing shifted a little bit. Every word of my hand-written journals is in the book; there were just a few parts where I had to add a few sentences of context or use grammar that eluded me by candlelight.
Since that first trip to Uganda, Schneck has stressed the importance of saying yes to adventures so that one can expand their worldview. He also cautions that the key is to not push yourself too hard otherwise learning or growth will not happen as panic will set in.
"There really and truly is a great big world out there, and we often forget that because of the demands of work, family, finances, dating and Netflix," said Schneck. "I know myself better by saying yes to things and pursuing the geographic cure."
Schneck explained that a geographic cure is the idea that one can address their issues if they change their surroundings and circumstances and traveling is one way to make that happen.
"Some call the geographic cure a myth; others call it magic," said Schneck. "I tried to keep an open mind as to what it could provide for me I was struggling through divorce, career uncertainty and trying to find meaning in life. This constant state of searching certainly provided hilarity and heartbreak, and the reader gets to bear witness to every moment."
He noted that especially in this political climate it's important to get outside oneself because people are so focused on borders, divisions and both geographic and political territories, and in the process shutting oneself off to different experiences.
Schneck spent his New Jersey childhood at diners, malls, movies and trips to Manhattan to see Broadway shows. He received his BA in literature and MA in administration, leadership and technology from New York University and got his Ph.D. in educational leadership from Fordham University.
He is currently an associate professor at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio, where he teaches classes on race.
"I direct a leadership in higher education masters program and teach half the courses in the curriculum, all of which are focused on how we can all use our voices in our own unique ways to support the development of college students," said Schneck.
Schneck also hosts a radio show/podcast called This Show is So Gay, and has recorded 400 episodes. His show is listened to by approximately 35,000 people.
The genesis of the show began at the Brattleboro, VT Independence Day parade in 2008 when someone from the local low-power radio station was handing out flyers to fill open time slots. Within a few months he was on the air.
"The original idea was to interview notable LGBTQ people about national news," said Schneck. "But it quickly became apparent that I was much better at speaking to them about how they use their voices to make a difference. Pretty soon I was speaking with heroes of mine I never in my life would have dreamed of talking to."
Schneck said interviewing the Indigo Girls was a fantasy come true. He noted that he was almost brought to tears when he spoke to Judy Shepard because she was a mother figure to him since he was born the same year as her late son Matthew. He also enjoyed talking to Jim J. Bullock and was excited when Bullock wrote a quote for the dust jacket.
In addition to teaching, writing and hosting his radio show/podcast; Schneck is also a contributing writer at the Huffington Post for the Queer Voices, College and Impact sections where he's written pieces on Danny Pintauro, Betsy DeVos and HRC's endorsement of Hillary Clinton among many others. Schneck said the highlight of his Huffington Post work is the two pieces he did about Cleveland Pride because they brought a lot of national attention to the importance of pride events.
When Schneck isn't teaching or working on his various endeavors, he likes to perform in or watch storytelling shows. He's also a West Wing junkie and more broadly an Aaron Sorkin fan. Schneck said Sorkin's writing inspires him to write better himself.
"I tried to write a book that is witty without being bitchy, intelligent without being academic, meaningful without being self-help-y and entertaining without being fluff," said Schneck. "As someone who has read a flipping ton of LGBTQ-related books over the years, I know that there is a dearth of quality content out there in the world.
"My book will make you laugh, groan, escape and possibly cry. I'm inviting all of you along in my journey, giving you full access along each ridiculous step and misstep. And you're going to get something out of it."
See KenSchneck.com for more information .