Q&A With Calvin D. Sun
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Q&A With Calvin D. Sun
This weekend I have the honor of doing a Q&A with a very
special person. Not only is Calvin D. Sun the author of the novel “The Monsoon
Diaries,” he is an emergency physician in emergency medicine. Calvin has
provided care to patients in New York City when Covid-19 first broke out.
Calvin is also the CEO of the travel company also named “The Monsoon
Q: What made you want to write the memoir “The Monsoon
A: Out of pure happenstance I was approached by a couple of
literary agents in January of 2021 and asked if I would be willing to transform
my past 17 years of writing — and especially the past 3 since the pandemic —
into a memoir.
They felt what I had already written could be suitable for a
broader audience in a published book. I said “sure!”, went with the flow, got
them everything they needed when they asked for it, and soon got acquired by
HarperCollins to publish The Monsoon Diaries in September of 2022!
Q: How do you juggle being a doctor, an author and having the
travel company? I admit all of those are very impressive.
A: Thank you! One of the most powerful forces in our lives are the habits we
During medical school I decided to continue a
habit out of daily writing while traveling, and developing a new habit out
of taking micro-trips: If I had 2 consecutive days off from school
or work, I would try not to see those 2 days as another regular weekend to
recharge, but rather an opportunity to make an international trip possible.
For example, if you can get on a flight out on
a Friday night, you can reach almost anywhere in Europe, the
Caribbean, Central America, or South America from the East Coast USA by Saturday
morning. You can consider the same for west coast USA to Asia, southern USA
to Central or South America, or the Midwest USA to Europe. Then the next 36
hours anywhere is enough to explore most medium-sized cities and towns before
you have to return Sunday night.
My trip to Ireland in 24 hours with 7 people best exemplifies this. Even The New York Times has an entire column how to travel “36 Hours” for a weekend trip.
Once I became an attending physician after medical school and
residency training, I had more autonomy and control over my schedule, so I
traveled even more. And because I continued my habit of always documenting what
I was experiencing, I already had 17 years of writing to transform into a
manuscript by the time I was approached last year about turning it all into a
Striving to fail: I understand there are
those of you who may feel exhausted reading about this in the first place,
thinking that these micro-trips “not be worth it” and “I’ll wait until I
have more time.”
Is it fear that’s compelling the negative response? For fear never got us anywhere unless we reframe it as another challenge that we use to push our limits: The biggest risk you can take is to take none at all. Or rather, what I usually say, strive to fail — meaning, if I’m not pushing myself to one step away from figurative failure, then I’m not doing enough with my life.
We all feel fear — what matters is what each of us does with that fear. Perhaps fear shows us what the next step is to push our limits, existing also to motivate us to achieve things we never thought we could. I guess that’s another habit I’ve formed.
Q: What advice do you give to those who want to go into the
medical field and have a travel company like you do?
Know yourself first
before you jump into anything. Perhaps go on a few solo trips on your own and
see if you truly can be your own best friend in a space where you don’t know
anyone in a 100-mile radius, don’t speak the language, can’t read any of the
signages or what’s on TV, and nobody knows you in a 100-mile radius. If you
can’t take care of or be comfortable with yourself even in the loneliest of
settings, you’re not in an ideal position where you can take care of anyone else,
let alone a medical team or a group of travel companions in a foreign land away
from home (both of which may feel even lonelier and more challenging if you’re
not as ready as you can be).
Travel authentically. Channel and even celebrate
your inner Forrest Gump that’s jogging around the country — doing it because
you “just felt like running.” — then maybe that’s a sign you’re
jogging in the right direction.
Finally, the irony I learned the past 12 years
is to never do anything for the money. The less you look to make a profit and
recognize true value from within when you travel, genuinely, the more the right
people will seek you. And perhaps in the grand irony of life, the powers that
be may reward you for that authenticity.
Q: While writing your first-hand account of events, were there
parts that were particularly difficult to write down?
A: Not particularly as everything I’ve written was
documented in real time as they were happening; we needed to show the world
what we were experiencing on the frontlines of a pandemic. Otherwise the
feeling of and regret over not writing them down would have been even more
difficult to fathom!
Q: At what point in your life did you realize you were called to be a doctor as well as a writer and having your travel company?
A: Around the middle to latter half of my residency training in
Travel, and writing while traveling, is like stepping away from a
beautiful painting you’ve been staring up close for too long. Getting away
regularly – whether physically or emotionally – allows you to reset your
perspective and see more clearly what you already have at home. In other words,
you don’t leave home to find something beautiful you don’t have, but rather
realizing that the daily routine of what you already have at home — and may
take for granted — is already that beautiful thing. And it’s okay to
travel to relearn that again and again and again. That’s why they call it a
Travelling with this new
perspective allowed me to return to work every day feeling more capable, armed
with that true fulfillment I always long sought; from a medical student who was
never sure if he really wanted to become a doctor, regular travel led me to
finally recognize how I had the best job on the planet in the emergency room by
the latter half of my residency training.