From the time he graduated college right up until he drove across Europe, through Turkey and Iran and into Afghanistan in a camper van, Victor Chan was convinced he had made the right decision. It was 1972 and the Hong Kong native was finally free from his studies, free to learn through travel what he could never learn in a classroom.
But nine months into his stay in Afghanistan, Mr. Chan and his two travel companions were taken by rifle-wielding men and confined in a mountain village in Kabul, wondering what would become of them. Mr. Chan's family had never understood his wanderlust spirit and long pushed for him to become a doctor or dentist, like so many others in the family; he ignored their urgings and now found himself terrified and far from all that was familiar, facing threats of death.
"It was really hard to think about anything else other than how to appease the kidnappers and do what we could do to survive," he recalled in an interview.
But three days into their ordeal, the trio escaped. Mr. Chan continued on with one companion to Dharamsala, India, where a meeting with the Dalai Lama would forever change his life. In October, Mr. Chan will recount the experience as a speaker at TEDxVancouver, an independently organized offshoot of the TED events.
The theme is TILT – a wide-ranging concept that TEDxVancouver president Jordan Kallman describes as the moment one steps out of his or her comfort zone.
"It's that moment you take that step off the bungee-jump platform, or you walk out on to the TED stage for the first time," he said. "It's a bit of an uncomfortable feeling, one of those experiences that is sort of out of body. But the thing with it is that it comes with a payoff; it comes with something that makes you better. That is the moment of TILT."
Mr. Chan – who has travelled with the Dalai Lama extensively in the four decades since, forging a unique friendship with the spiritual leader and founding the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education in Vancouver – is keenly aware of this moment.
"It was a transformative moment," he said of that first meeting. "It turned me away from going into a profession and got me into doing a lot of thinking and writing about what is it that really matters in life. It gave me a very clear stance that I need to do something that is fulfilling, that will allow me to flourish mentally, spiritually and physically."
Mr. Chan's book, The Wisdom of Forgiveness, was crafted out of hundreds of hours spent with the spiritual leader and has been called one of the most comprehensive on Tibet.
Organizers of the Oct. 18 event, which will take place at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, expect about 2,700 people in attendance this time around, which would make it the largest edition yet. The first TEDxVancouver in 2009 drew about 100 people and the number has grown each time.
TEDxVancouver has so far announced only three out of what will be around a dozen speakers for October's event. Jay DeMerit, former Vancouver Whitecaps captain, and Treana Peake, founder of fashion line Obakki and its philanthropic counterpart, the Obakki Foundation, will also speak. The remaining speakers will be announced in coming weeks.
Tickets go on sale in September and are $99 – a far cry from the $7,500 price tag to hear former TED speakers such as Bill Gates and Chris Hadfield talk at traditional TED conferences.
"TEDxVancouver is totally at the opposite end of the spectrum," Mr. Kallman said. "We are a very large TEDx event but with a very local feel to the experience. Everyone is from the community, all the speakers on stage are connected to Vancouver in some way."