A while back I wrote post about how an increasing number of bands were getting pissed off at fans using their cell-phones to record and share their concerts in real-time. Not because they were concerned about the video and photos getting passed around, but because the process of documenting and sharing the show while it happened took the audience out of the experience of the show. And, the band’s wanted their fans to be “more there.”
And, interestingly, as I started to roll into the tail end of our across-the-world experience, I started to feel something similar. I noticed myself documenting more, wondering “how can I share this,” rather than just being in the experience. I was constantly pulling myself out of the moment in the name of reporting on it.
I began to feel like I was cheating both myself and my family, just the slightest bit, out of the most engaged journey possible. So, I made a decision to take notes here and there, shoot pictures when I could, but also to be more present in this once in a lifetime adventure.
So, this final dispatch is based more on recollection as I look back over the last week and a half of our month-long journey.
Okay, first, a recommendation. If you know you don’t sleep on planes, it’s a pretty good idea not to schedule 3 red-eye flights within a 10 day window. I ended up getting a bunch of work done on the flights, catching up on some projects, watching 4 movies and about 8 back episodes of Glee (love). But pulling three airborne all-nighters while simultaneously barreling through timezones was more than a bit surreal.
The wackiest jump was the one from Melbourne, Australia (more on that in a moment) to L.A., because we crossed the international dateline and traveled against the rotation of the Earth. So, we left Australia at 8:45pm and arrived in L.A. at 6pm…the same evening. Very strange, indeed.
So, what about Australia?
We chose Melbourne, in large part, because I had a bunch of virtual friends there, including people I wanted to interview for my next book, and I’d never been to that part of Australia.
First thought…oh how I loved brushing my teeth without having to use bottled water anymore, lol!
Second thought…holy crap, it’s cold here! Yeah, we’d sojourned from the tropics of Bali into the dead of the Melbourne winter. It’s nothing like the NYC winter, but we hadn’t exactly planned on this leg, so some quick shopping for warm clothes was in order.
Melbourne’s a beautiful city. And, big. Bigger than I realized, with so many different areas. Our hotel, the Mantra on Russel, was right on the border of Chinatown and Bourke Street, a thoroughfare that felt a bit like NYC’s Times Square with bustling sidewalks, street musicians and artists and wall-to-wall shops. On the first day, we got some warm clothes, bopped around and recovered from the flight.
Day two was pretty much all business for me. I headed over to the offices of Envato, which some of you may know as the company behind cool resources like FreelanceSwitch, TutsPlus, TheNetsetter and Rockable Press. It was great to finally meet friends like Collis and Cyan Ta’eed, Joel Falconer and Skellie, people I’d been talking to online for years, in person. And make a new friend in Naysan Naraqi. Loved hanging out with them and seeing the variety of musical instruments scattered around the office.
From there, I took a train out to the Melbourne burbs to grab lunch with my friend, Darren Rowse, of ProBlogger and Digital Photography School. I was interviewing him for my book and, also, just catching up. When you see Darren at conferences in the U.S., he’s pretty much swarmed by crowds, so it’s nice to be able to just hang out, grab a sandwich and have a great conversation. You’ll learn a lot more about that conversation, btw, when the book’s out.
On the ride out, I was struck by how familiar it all felt, a bit like riding the Long Island Railroad out of NYC. And, by something else. A packet of M&Ms cost me $2.60 Australian, or about $2.10 US. And, a soft drink cost $3.00, versus about $1.50 in the U.S. A bit of a shock to system, especially coming off of Bali, where everything that went into or on your body was dirt-cheap.
The next few days would build on this realization as I discovered that Melbourne was actually the most expensive city we’d ever been to. Far more expensive than NYC. That, I didn’t expect.
Coming back into the city from the burbs, I reconnected with my friend, the genius brand architect and cause-driven renegade, Stephen Johnson. He and his wife, Nanette, who happens to be a food-blogging savant, wonderful host and cook, took amazing care of us for the bulk of out time in Melbourne.
Stephen had arranged a tweet-up at a great little cafe downtown and I had a great time connecting with the intimate group of 30 or 40 people that included yet another virtual friend, Jade Craven, who I finally got a chance to hug in person. And, I loved being able to spark up a conversation in the group about fear, entrepreneurship and dreams, three favorite topics of mine these days.
The next day, we piled the newly-blended Johnson-Fields clan into a mini-van and journeyed out to the Yarra Valley, known as Australia’s wine country. Gorgeous, gentle mountains. We would’ve stopped to tour the wineries, but since it was winter in Melbourne when we arrived, we visited an animal sanctuary and a variety of eateries and shops as we dotted our way out and back.
And, the kids. Theirs and mine. They got along amazingly and it was so nice to see my daughter totally immersed in her new world-bridging friendships. It was like they’d all known each other for years.
Kids are like that…makes me wonder why grown-ups can’t follow the same M.O.
We all spent the next few days hanging out, playing, devouring an insane meal cooked by Nanette on Saturday evening that boasted a voluptuous rigatoni with spinach balls & courgette sauce and homemade chocolate ice-cream that was so luscious you literally couldn’t eat more than a few spoonfuls. And, Stephen and I traded interviews for various projects we’re both working on.
I should mention, too, that Stephen and I had never met in person before I arrived in Melbourne. Nor had our families. But, because we’d spent a chunk of time connecting over skype and email and because so much of both of our thought-processes and worldviews appear online, it was like saying hello to old friends when we finally touched down. And, that comfort level trickled down into our kids, too.
That’s part of the magic of leveraging the online world to build global relationships, one person at a time.
What about workflow?
Melbourne also saw the “rebirth” of my ability to weave work much more effectively into our travels. The hotel had wifi, though, in Melbourne, there’s apparently no such thing as unlimited internet. I went to front desk to ask about wifi and the person said, “we’ve got a few plans, is an hour enough?”
I started laughing and said I was a blogger, so he offered me their biggest, bestest package, 5 days wifi for $60. I signed up, but before stepping away, turned back and asked, “oh, by the way, that’s unlimited, right?” “Uh, no,” he said, “actually, you get 800 megabytes of transfer.”
For a blogger, especially one who also needed to be able to do skype calls with consulting clients, that was not a whole lotta bandwidth. But, I did what I could to stretch it and balance the usage with the international data plan I’d also purchased for my iphone, which was still not functional for calls in Australia (well, it was functional, if I wanted to pay like $5 a minute, since ATT doesn’t allow you to swap sim-cards). And, I able to work in bursts of work at random cafe that had wifi (always paid), while my wife and daughter were off on other adventures.
All in all, though, the combination of being back in a city, having a 2 bedroom suite to work out of and a real connection made being able to work a much more enjoyable and do-able experience than it had been in Bali. Just be ready to spend a lot more for a connection.
On the last day, we’d all come to agree that the Melbourne leg of this adventure went way to quickly, we wished we’d planned more time in Australia. But, then, that just gives us a reason to come back sooner.
L.A. – The Final Leg…
I’m not going to write much about L.A. because, well, it’s L.A.. We spent most of our time down in Santa Monica, which I heart seriously. Could easily move there, I think. And, of course, I had to bring my daughter over to the glorious freak-fest that is Venice Beach. She was mesmerized. Loved it.
On our last day, I was able to interview another friend for the book, Steven pressfield, the author of epics like The Legend of Bagger Vance, The War of Art and Gates of Fire, over a yummy organic breakfast at Kreation on Montana and 10th St (go there, sooo good). And, of course down a few lattes at Urth Cafe, just because that’s what you do.
Some final thoughts…
One, let’s talk about this whole location independent thing.
It’s not for me. Actually, it IS for me, but not the way so many people have bandied it about. Yes, I want to be able to live wherever I want without reference to whether the local economy can support my professional endeavors. BUT, I don’t care a whole lot about being able to bounce from country to country, roaming the world without being tied down. And, when I do so, I’d rather do it without the expectation that I’ll be working or that I’ll be “reachable.”
Two, routine matters to me. Because of it’s impact on my ability to create.
I am a creator. That’s what I do. I create books, businesses, blogs, music, art, whatever vehicle allows me to manifest my jones. But, I’m also someone who care deeply about the work I create. I am driven to create great work. Not satisfactory, not really good, but great. And, to do that, I’ve realized, I need routine. That’s a tough thing to find when you’re bopping from place to place, changing time-zones and countries and, if you’re working online, always in search of a decent connection.
And, finally, a thought on being flexible.
We left for this one-month other-worldly adventure not knowing quite what to expect. Still, we had a lot planned. And, most of the plans were based on my daughter going to and loving camp in Bali. On day two, we realized that wasn’t going to happen and we started to dance. Everything had to be changed.
I confess, it took me longer than I’d like to morn the loss of the adventure I’d conjured in my mind and awaken to the fact that there I sat with the two people who meant most to me, ready to engage in the adventure of a lifetime. So, screw it if it wasn’t going to unfold the way I’d expected, the future was still ours to craft together.
Once we all circled around to understand and accept this, and kill the fleeting desire to just pack it in and go home, that created a tabla rasa for new magic to happen.
And, happen it did.
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