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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Sydney Harbour, the day after we got home.

1,449 days since heading out there I am back again, just ten days short of an even four years away.

It was 1,399 days, or just a day less than 200 weeks, from my arrival in the US to my departure from San Francisco last Sunday. I landed in New York in June 2008 after a near-36 hour day traveling from Bangkok before catching the train to Washington DC, the first of many times I would travel that corridor past the broken factories and over the inlets of the East Coast.

I arrived knowing only a handful of people, unsure of what I would do next or where exactly I would end up. I had only a few weeks to figure things out and secure a job offer which would lead to a visa before K caught up with me, just a few weeks to justify the decision to leave so much behind in Australia and strike out to live my dream of working in the US.

We spent two years in Washington DC, meeting incredible people and having many side adventures and wonderful experiences. I went through significant adaptation pains at Ashoka, learning to work inside a large established non-profit after ten years as an entrepreneur while teaching an old organization new tricks, but relished the opportunity I had as the first social media director of such an influential and groundbreaking organization, pushing myself, constantly learning new things, working with amazing colleagues and experimenting with emerging forms of media and communications. I am really proud of all that was accomplished during that time, including launching and growing Ashoka’s Twitter account to over 600,000 followers, publishing three ebooks, crowdsourcing a promotional video and generally introducing Ashoka’s many departments and country offices to the power and potential social media and how it could help achieve the mission of creating an everyone a changemaker world.

After two years in DC it felt like time to keep moving. We considered New York but decided San Francisco was more our kinda town, a decision we never doubted once we got there. Over two years in the Bay I worked with a number of non-profits to connect their missions with social technologies before launching social good crowdfunding start-up StartSomeGood with my friend Alex Budak who I met at Ashoka, which I’ll be continuing to work on from Australia.

We loved San Francisco: the people, the culture, the environment. San Francisco combines the most ambitious people on earth with the most relaxed in a unique, harmonious ying/yang. We got out into the countryside at every opportunity, exploring the hills of Marin and the wineries of the Russian River, staying in Paso Robles, Yosemite and Big Basin Redwoods Forest, driving Highway 1 and hiking Mt Tam. We made and deepened some great friendships, meeting some incredible entrepreneurs, creatives, visionaries and festivalists. We adored our part of the city, the Mission District, which reminded us so much of Newtown, where we had lived in Sydney.

And now, somewhat astonishingly, this chapter is over and I’m left trying to make sense of it all.

Over the past four years I got married and got my scuba diving license, jumped out of a plane and learned to drive a car, founded a Burning Man theme camp and visited 11 countries, worked for someone else for the first time in eight years and founded a new company, drove across America and bought my first road bike, was granted four different visas and denied re-entry once. I visited 20 American states and wish I’d made it to more (namely: Utah, South Dakota and Louisiana). K made it to 30 over the course of selling her families wine.

We had, to sum it up, a really good time. But not without its challenges and set-backs, its moments of frustration, fear and doubt. Such is the rich tapestry of life.

Homecoming is always an emotionally-complicated experience. I’m excited to explore Sydney and can’t wait to spend time with my old friends, while at the same time being sad to leave San Francisco and missing my friends back there. Everything is so familiar but at the same time different. I’m obviously older and I hope I’m a little wiser as a result of all these experiences. The relationships I formed will stay with me and I’m so grateful for them. The ideas I’ve been exposed to and inspiration I have gained will inform whatever happens next. Now I want to contribute to the burgeoning social innovation scene in Sydney and while continuing to grow a global community of social entrepreneurs on StartSomeGood.

K and I brought something else back with us as well, our first child-to-be, due in August. We never contemplated for a moment taking this next step in our relationships and our lives anywhere other than Sydney, with universal healthcare and our families and friends here to support us.

And so on to the next stage. While this particular chapter is over the adventure continues always. Onwards and upwards!

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Okay so this is already out-of-date since I wrote it a few days ago but I’m posting it anyway to kick-start this blog. I wanted to leave it in the form it was written but, quickly, my visa was denied in Canada so I’m not making it to SXSW. I’ve got a second interview coming up and my only aspiration now is to get back to San Francisco to help K pack up and ship our life back to Australia and say goodbye to my friends in person.

I’m sitting on a bus crossing the Canadian Rockies, 13 hours into a 17 hour trip. I’m here in Canada getting one last visa to the US before moving back to Australia. I’m taking the bus specifically because I wanted to cross the Rockies at ground level and couldn’t afford the train. I was very impressed by Greyhounds description of their new buses: more legroom, power plugs at every seat, wifi. This, however, is not one of those buses, so I’m missing a number of skype meetings I had planned and am limited in the work I can do.

But maybe this is a good thing. For starters, knowing my laptop will only last a few hours I’ve been sparing in my use of it, mostly staring out the windows at the gorgeous scenery (which is what I’m here for after all!). And being offline has encouraged me to finally write post for my long-form (and long-ignored) blog.

It’s been shockingly long since I posted here and a great deal has happened in the intervening time. Those of you who know me personally or follow me on social media, and really that must be nearly all  of you, are probably abreast of most of this already, so I won’t labour over the details. But here are the highlights:

  • In August/September More Carrot mounted another successful expedition to Burning Man, expanding the farmers market to hot and prepared food and sending a mobile market out into the city.
  • I finished at HopeLab in October. Despite my love for the organization and people there my actual role wasn’t the right one for me, for a variety of reasons I may blog about more later.
  • After leaving HopeLab I focused on StartSomeGood.com, which has brought so much more energy and excitement to my life. I’m loving being a full-time entrepreneur again.
  • I spent a week in Tucson working with Hildy Gottlieb and Dimitri Petropolis at Creating the Future, which has had a profound impact on my thinking and on how we express things at StartSomeGood, which I blogged about here.
  • K and I did an introduction to Shamanism course in October which deserves its own blog post sometime. Interesting stuff.
  • In November/December I spent three weeks in Guatemala, Belize and Honduras, traveling with my sister and a close friend, learning to scuba dive and visiting ancient Mayan cities:
  • Upon returning from that trip K and I discovered she was pregnant and due in August! Woh! Not part of the plan (yet) but a delightful surprise, we’re super-excited to embark on this new journey together.
  • But as one journey begins another comes to an end, and K and I are moving back to Australia in April, and looking forward to catching up with many friends and re-exploring Sydney. We’ve been hearing really good reports about all the cool things happening there at the moment and are excited to re-engage and catch up.

So there you are, you’re up to date if you weren’t before. Life is very full and very exciting. There’s so much I want to pack into these last eight weeks in America – visiting friends and places I haven’t made it out to, (such as I’m doing in Canada right now), returning to a couple of my favourite camping spots near San Francisco and spending lots of quality time with my favourite people. And I’m going to be absolutely cranking away at StartSomeGood, before I get separated from my team mates by even more timezones than usual.

We’re starting to see a real return on our efforts now, with more and more ventures getting in touch and looking to utilize our platform. We’ll be hosting a great event featuring social innovators called Pitch Some Good during South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, which I’m also speaking at – please come along if you’re in town.

You can also check out some of our success stories from our first nine months in our eBook: Start Some Good: What’s Next for 2012?:

Now that this big update is out of the way I’m going to try to make a commitment to blogging more often, hopefully on topics more interesting than me.

Cheerio!

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Both Thanksgiving and Christmas are good times for taking stock and thinking about the things we have to be grateful for. For me this means thinking about my global tribe and how lucky I am to have you all in my life. Thinking about this made me realize, once more, how important travel has always been for me, for the relationships I’ve gained and the experience of other cultures and the global perspective that grows from this.

I sincerely wish everyone could have the opportunity to travel and, in the absence of that, I support anything that opens up a window on the world and gets people thinking more globally.

At this time of year I know everyone gets hit with endless requests for support and, yes, I’m putting one out also. I wrote previously about my involvement with Razoo.com’s zooGooder council and how impressed I’ve been with Global Lives Project since coming across them after moving to San Francisco. Over the coming week the members of the zooGooder council are having a friendly competition to see who can raise the most funds and attract the most donors for their favourite nonprofit. Naturally I’ve chosen Global Lives Project.

Here’s my video explaining why:

(Aside: My first video blog! Kinda scary! What do you think?)

Razoo have generously made available a $2000 prize pool for the person who brings in the most donors and with your help I’d love to be competitive in win! this category. Every donation, however modest, counts as a point towards this prize. In addition I’m also a fundraiser for Global Lives Project’s own group fundraising challenge this month. As part of the launch of this new service Razoo will match the first $200 I raise. What’s more Global Lives Project has a matching grant of up to $30,000 if raised before the end of the year.

Follow all of that? This means any money you donate could be matched up to THREE TIMES! That’s a pretty good return on your investment.

More to the point, whatever money we raise will support Global Lives Project to expand their activities next year – holding new exhibitions and developing educational materials for use by school groups. These videos undoubtedly have artistic merit but it’s this educational element I’m most excited about as I think facilitated contact with this content could really get people thinking in new ways, more globally and empathically. In other words, sharing with those who might not have the chance to travel some of the most important benefits we get from the travel experience.

As little as $10 counts towards the most donors challenge and would mean so much to both Global Lives Project and me. If I can raise $1,000 this week I will be stoked, and we will know we’ve made a real difference to this small but important organization.

But I know not everyone has even $10 to spare so there are other ways you can help as well:

•    Tell your friends! Use the share buttons at the bottom of this post to share the link on Twitter, Facebook ,etc.
•    Share your story! All this week I’ll be sharing things travel has given me using the hashtag #travelteaches. Join in! Share your own #travelteaches insight on Twitter and, space permitting, link to http://bit.ly/trvlteach where I’ll be collecting the responses.

Of course, please donate if you can:

I can’t wait to hear your stories! Thank you for your support.

More on Global Lives Project:

Artist’s statement from GLP’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Exhibit:

Framed by the arc of the day and conveyed through the intimacy of video, we have slowly and faithfully captured 24 continuous hours in the lives of 10 people from around the world. They are screened here in their own right, but also in relation to one another.

There is no narrative other than that which is found in the composition of everyday life, no overt interpretations other than that which you may bring to it.

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Resurfacing

Rain cloud over Taos

Mountains outside Taos, New Mexico

Oh blog, and blog readers, I’ve ignored you for so long. My apologies for the long break between posts. The last couple of months have gone by in a flash, a nearly-hallucinatory slideshow of people, places, goodbyes, hellos, endings, beginnings and movement, always movement. Until finally I stopped.

I’ve been in San Francisco for three weeks and feel myself slowly settling in. K and I have been enjoying a really simple life these last few weeks: pottering around the house, working from home, shopping for bulk goods and cooking every healthy meals at home, barely eating out. We really needed this slower time after a fun but relentless and at-times spectacularly stressful previous three months which involved 3 countries, ten states, six flights and one epic drive.

The last couple of months we spent in DC were a constant countdown to departure and we pushed ourselves to be endlessly social as we strove to pack in time with all the people we loved. Finishing a job and packing up a house made work and home time equally busy. Taking a break to Costa Rica, where we originally planned to renew our visas, sounded like a good idea when we booked the ticket, and was certainly very beautiful, but became just another thing that needed organizing and nowhere near enough time to really relax. (And we weren’t even able to get our visas, requiring another trip overseas, this time to good ‘ol Australia.)

Then a final week in DC, party party party pack pack pack, and we were on the road, driving South through Virginia at first and spending our first night in the George Washington National Forest, part of the ancient Appalachian Mountains that run down the East coast. Staring up at the stars that night I felt the thrill of freedom that everyone must feel when they set out on a cross-country adventure.

We took eleven days to cross the continent, enough time to do things other than drive. Twice we took days off, first in the bohemian Taos in New Mexico and then in the Eastern Sierra Nevadas in California. We spent two days driving due West across Tennessee, arriving at all our chosen attractions just after closing time or on their day off, then spend across Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. In Little Rock we picked up a traveling companion, our friend James, and in Clinton, OK. we spent the night in the perfect old-school roadside dive motel. We were in awe of the Taos gorge and then had our minds blown by the Grand Canyon over which we saw the sun rise after three hours of sleep. In Death Valley we experienced 119 Fahrenheit (38.5 Celsius). (That was particularly amazing, the hottest temperature I’ve encountered, a genuinely new feeling.) We plunged into a freezing-cold stream of ice-melt pouring down off the Sierra Nevadas and saw the highest and lowest points in mainland USA within 2 hours drive of each other. I saw five animals I had never seen in the wild before: a hummingbird, coyote, elk, praire dogs and beavers.

America is a spectacularly large and diverse country. Mainland USA is as spread out as Australia but with a staggering degree of geographic diversity. Ancient mountain ranges (the Appalachians) and much more recent upheavals (the Rockies), huge plains and vast canyons cut into plateaus four thousand feet high. America is a relatively new continent, the land subject to the repeated trauma of tectonic collisions, volcanic instability, ice-age glaciers and resulting floods. It was thrilling to see the land morph so dramatically around us, often in the space of a few hours.

All in all, an amazing drive. We arrived in San Francisco around 2pm, had time to visit a friends house and have a shower and then left the car in long-term parking and caught a flight back to Australia, whereupon landing we dashed immediately to the US Consulate for our visa interview, arriving with seven minutes to spare. Stressful. But new visas we did receive, allowing us to work in the US for another two years, and we were both deeply relieved despite our outward (and well-deserved) confidence. The rest of the week was spent focused on family and some very special friends. Then back to San Fran, landing at 10am and seeing our first apartment at 12pm, the first of ten we would see over the weekend before I flew out on an overnight flight back to DC to start my work for Small Act at the Virginia HQ.

Naturally it was the eleventh house K saw, the morning after I left, that she fell in love with and so when I returned that Friday night it was to our new place in the Mission, which was pretty cool. And the house was every bit as great as described, cozy, large and filled with character, not to mention exactly where we wanted to live, in the Mission near SOMA (where I’ll be working).

And that brings us roughly back to now, thanks for sticking with me. Having got you up-to-date I’m going to return to the irregular-but-somewhat-frequent-updates-on-whatever-I’m-thinking-about that constitute the usual programming around here.

Photo by Jim Nix, flickr.

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