I’ve been traveling solo for the last few weeks. I took off on this trip after many things in my life shifted dramatically. I figured it was time to find time for myself and breathe deeply. In the process, I’ve learned a lot about communities, a lot about what I need to sustain myself, and how resourceful I become when I have no control at all.
My main goal for travel was to see what I did with my time when I had no one to request any from me. I knew no one everywhere I went.
Then again, I did know people. I knew some community managers in Seattle, a few connections in Portland, a mentor of mine from college on Mercer Island, a fabulous hair dresser in Vancouver.
I also met Nick, who took me out for drinks and told me where I could find bars to bring my dog. I met Tom who told me how to find apartments in Seattle. I met Clelia, who gave me the rundown of all the best cafes. I met builders at WeWork, creating companies from scratch. I met David, who introduced me to all his friends for no reason at all except that he’s just a nice person and he wanted me to feel at home in a new city. I met Jen and the Moz team who showed me around their office and told me their stories.
I found people simply by connecting the dots. I had a few hacks for connecting those dots that I may share in a future post, but for now I simply want to reflect.
I also found a lot of free time, and I was curious what I would do with that free time.
It broke down as follows:
- Drink lots of coffee.
- Take Bruce to the dog park once per day.
- Run every other day.
- Do yoga every other day.
- Drink more coffee.
- Work. A lot.
- Wander around bookstores.
- Buy new clothing.
- Get pedicures.
- Go to concerts.
- Listen to Dan Savage constantly, opening my mind to things that I have never considered.
- Read voraciously.
- Put together business plans for ideas that are still materializing.
- Wander. Always be wandering.
- Cook for myself.
It has been raining the last few weeks all up and down the Pacific Northwest, and the rain has been one of the most sustaining things I’ve ever felt. I have taken up the habit of putting on my raincoat and stepping out into it without a second thought. I have also taken up the habit of staying in with a cup of tea and my dog curled up at my feet, listening to podcasts like On Being, The Unmistakeable Creative, and The Savage Lovecast. I’ll often write while I do this, or simply sit and absorb what I hear.
I want to say that I am lucky that I was able to take this trip, but the truth is that this trip had literally zero to do with luck.
For the last few years, I have worked tirelessly. It has been endlessly rewarding, and I have loved it. Sometimes I’ve pushed myself off the edge of a precipice and wished that I hadn’t. I learned. But other times more recently I’ve worked just enough, forgiven myself just enough, taken just enough time for myself, said yes to almost every positive thing that comes my way and said no to the things that drain me. I’ve sent random emails or tweets that have turned in to opportunities.
It is not about luck. Traveling and working is about the decision – the choice I have made – to design my life from here on out. No one is holding me in any one place, that is a construct I have imagined for myself, one that needed to be broken down. The beauty of being a community builder is that I can build community anywhere I go. I can write about community anywhere I go. There is always a cause to build community for, always work to be done.
Choosing this path was not a mistake or a lucky shot in the dark. I know I chose to build communities for a living because they are endlessly sustaining and because they are flexible and forgiving of when you want to be wholly yourself.
And I want to be wholly myself. I want to throw my whole self into everything I do, even if it means some people just don’t get it.
There is something to this traveling thing, something to shedding yourself of all that you know. When you go to put yourself back together again, you only pick up the parts you really need. You do not pick up the ones that were dead weight on you. And you find some new ones to add that you never knew existed, little parts of you that you’d like to amplify for years to come.
I’m putting myself back together tonight from a hotel in Ashland, Oregon. I’ll be back in San Francisco tomorrow, back to the hustle and bustle and the meetings and the sunny days and my friends from years past.
My dog is staring at me as I type and think. He is yawning and setting his head down for sleep as he has done every night since we left, as if to say, “Enough. We’ve done enough today.”