Englishmen at Breakfast

This clip is from my last breakfast with Brian in New Orleans, just before Taylor drove me over to Austin.?? This was just after I'd been playing and singing on the front step of Laura's house and we'd done some final filming with Heather on the steps too, just summing up what we thought.?? It was an important milestone in the trip and it was a very good breakfast – the Cake Cafe on Chartres St

We talk, as Englishmen so often do over breakfast, about the unexpected emotions that our encounters were bringing up.?? And we recognised for the first time here, I think, the pivotal importance of our visit to Riderwood.

I've since been thinking about the roles that we each played throughout the trip.?? I guess here we're both partly being analysts and recorders and Brian throws in a bit of good parenting at the end.

It's going to continue to be slow going I think with processing the video.?? The bulk of what I have left needs to be stitched together as it was shot during the Austin to LA train ride.

Advertisements

States

I travelled through 20 states on my journey.  I think Brian may have gone home via Chicago so that would bump up the team total, but from this list, Dana came as far as New York, Brian to Louisiana and Heather and Michelle as far as Texas. 

Some of them I went through in the dark and I only put my foot on the ground in nine of them – can you tell which?

  1. Massachusetts
  2. Rhode Island
  3. Connecticut
  4. New York
  5. New Jersey
  6. Pennsylvania
  7. Delaware
  8. Maryland
  9. DC
  10. Virginia
  11. North Carolina
  12. South Carolina
  13. Georgia
  14. Alabama
  15. Mississippi
  16. Louisiana
  17. Texas
  18. New Mexico
  19. Arizona
  20. California

Whose stupid idea (redux)

I'm on the floor.

I'm actually lying on the floor of the train carriage. ??In the baggage section at the back. ??I just filmed out of the back window as we left Austin and now after a couple of hours or so down to San Antonio we're on a 7 hour layover there in the sidings. ??I can't sleep next to this guy that I've just met. Is this because I'm a soft English scaredy-cat or because I have justifiable reservations about falling asleeep on a train, thousands of miles from home next to a complete stranger. ??Would you? ??You would? Well I think you're weird.

A crazy spanish-speaking lady is talking to a girl who got on in Austin. ??The lady has a lot to say. ??The girl is just smiling. ??The lady isn't going to sleep in her seat she's going to sleep on the floor. ??And I decide to copy her.

Where did all this start? ??Why am I doing it anyway? ??Where do any ideas begin? ??We don't really know, do we? ??In my experience, every time we say it was this moment when it came together there's always some pre-cursor, some other thought or conversation that can legitimately lay claim to leading up to this one.

So we just have to grab at one. ??I don't think it's too much of a stretch to take this back to march last year, when I returned from my first SXSW, full of excitement and inspiration and induced enthusiasm simply from being in the presence of so many excitable American entrepreneurs. ??but yes, back then I was thinking of how I could get back to Austin. ??I had to borrow money in order to pay my hotel bill and that was not something I was comfortable with. ??and so while I wasn't giving it much thought, I had decided that I would want to go, but needed help from some other source. ??I tried first to get a panel slot. ??I proposed, got support from the community and it ll seemed well received but then in each of the rounds of announcements of who was speaking I found myself understanding that it wasn't going to be me. ??And so I started looking for other ways to make it happen anyway. ??and of course I started to talk about it. ??I started to socialise the idea, sound it out with people. ??"I wonder how we could do this…" Which is, by the way, exactly the same process that we went through with both Tuttle itself and Tuttle Consultingl. ??I don't know at what point it became a thing. ??A real thing that we were trying to do. ??but I think it was December 3rd when we presented all the work for Counterpoint and we were all sitting round afterwards.

Was that Brian's birthday? ??I think it was, yes. ??anyhow we did talk about it then. ??I confessed it, as a half-formed idea, that we should see whether we could fly to an eastern part of North America and then find our way across by train – surely that must be doable. ??And lots of people, of course, said "yes, yes we'd like to do that" ??We, as a group, were full of "what's next" energy. ??The thrill of having delivered and the excitement of seeing another project come alive. ??And then, like it's elder siblings, it needed to percolate for a while. ??Over Christmas I decided that it was something I wanted to do and that I wanted to pull other people in.

So naturally, I wrote a blog post.

Overnight to Atlanta

[I wrote this longhand in my notebook and didn’t type it up.  Soon after I wrote it, I realised that the curry I’d had for lunch was going to give me the full Johnny Cash experience – I didn’t sleep much at all…]

I’m on a midnight train to Georgia.  Well not quite.  It’s 7.30pm and we left Washington DC an hour ago for a 14 hour overnight ride to Atlanta GA.  So I will be on it at midnight but not sure I’ll be awake by then.  Well at least I hope I’ll be asleep.  The train horn seems to sound several times a minute, in case, I guess, wandering wildlife don’t hear the rattling of the tracks as we thunder through Virginia.  There’s a little low chatter in this carriage but mostly the sound is of people sitting together in communal quietness punctuated by those laughing at th eDVDs that they’re watching or the shifting of someone in their seat.  The woman behind me was oozing into her cellphone when we left DC but she’s quietened down now too.  This ride is our longest although I don’t know yet what I’m going to do after Austin.  The 1400 mile trip to LA is no more than a desire to be at LAX on Sunday 21st.  Of course it’s more than a desire, it’s a necessity and it’s also still two weeks away.

I’ve found it quite difficult to get into the moment on this trip, to stop thinking about what’s coming and what might have been and focus on what we’re actually doing right now.  There have been two reasons for this, I think  First was that we didn’t have money in place and I couldn’t see how it was going to work and got into the frame of mind where I believed somehow that thining about it some more would help.  Big mistake.  What really helped was to write about it, get it out and get reassured – partly by some lovely donations from friends but uals ojust from the overall reaction that people had – everyone wanted to help out.  There isn’t anything less to worry about (objectively speaking) it’s just that I realised I was worrying about things over which I have little influence and recognising those limits helpe me worry less.  

The other issue is that I was spending time with someone, Dana, whom I’ve been getting to know well for a while and whom I care for very much.  But she also lives in Newfoundland and I in London and so we haven’t spent so much time face to face.  We’ve been building a romantic relationship, using these tools, we’ve talked to each other practically every day by skype, phreadz (thanks Kosso!) IM and DMs and we’ve written letters and postcards and I sent her flowers for Valentines Day, but… but we hadn’t kissed until we saw each other in Boston Airport.

So yeah.  I’ve been distracted by that too.  Getting to build the face to face, hand in hand, gazing into each others eyes part of our relationship.  And while that’s been lovely, it did make it hard for me to focus on the early part of the trip especially as I struggled with jetlag an dgeneral tiredness after running around getting bits of the trip together.  So now, I’ve stopped worrying (at least for the time being) Dana’s gone back to Newfoundland to go back to work and my mind and body are getting used to which part of the world I’m in.  And so I feel like I’m ready for the adventurous part.  The part where we get far away from places where they’re used to hearing English accents.  Brian and I have given in on the accomodation part and are relying on the kindness of strangers despite our embarrassment at doing so, and I’m really glad that I’m going to be able to stay with Sarah Vela in Austin and hang out with the other lovelies there.  Plus Stephanie Frost has set up big fun for us in Atlanta and Taylor D has done a great job for us on the ground in NOLA.  The amazing adventure is getting even amazinger!

My SXSWi experience

[Note: I wrote this on Thursday 18th – which means it must have been during the 36-hour train ride. ??Don't know why I didn't post immediately. ??Not sure if I still draw the same conclusion – I'm mellowing on it, or maybe the memory is slipping away]

Well it's over now.

This was my second time at SXSW interactive. ??I was ready for it to not be as exciting as the first time. ??On the first day I took everything in, cameras, phones, laptops, chargers, cables etc. and I got tired out carrying it all around. ??On the second day I went minimalist and realised I hadn't got some things that were really important. ??That's a micro version of my south-by experience – the first time I went I tried to do as much as I could and felt exhausted, this time I took it really easy, only went to a handful of sessions and ended up feeling like I'd probably missed something.

Truth is, everybody misses something. ??You cannot do it all. There is too much. ??It's OK to have a light time – I still made lots of new connections and built on existing relationships. However, I also had Taylor's advice ringing in my ears.

In addition, the festival has simply grown again. ??Whether it's too big or still not big enough, I don't know. ??My interpretation of what was happening was that there were an awful lot of people there who had been sent by their employer because everyone knows it's a cool place to be. ??They didn't necessarily know how or why it was cool, but they were there to rub shoulders with the cool kids. ??They were not contributing particularly to any coolness – they were there to observe and appreciate it. ??And that, I think, is why SXSWi has moved on from being a must-do event to a "might-do if I can get someone to pay for me to go" ??

Retracing our steps

I got back home two weeks ago tomorrow.  

One week went to jetlag.  LAX -> LHR was the furthest I’ve ever flown and it felt like it.  Added to the 7 hours time difference was accumulated tiredness from the trip itself and from the period leading up to it and the fact that I’d been through enough time zone changes including a Daylight Savings Time change to ensure that my body was totally confused about what time it was.  Towards the end of that first week a friend gave me some melatonin – it worked beautifully – next time I’m not travelling without it…  

Ha ha! “Next time”! You thought there wasn’t going to be a next time.  Well.  Don’t know where, don’t know when, but I got the taste for this kind of travelling, meeting new people, studying culture, thinking, writing, talking, stretching and stretching my comfort zone and I’ll be definitely doing it again.

Anyway, during the second week (the one that’s just gone) I got more and more frustrated with myself for not being able to write – not being able to write up what we’d done, not being able to type up handwritten notes, not being able to annotate or tag photos.  Plus I don’t have a powerful enough computer at the moment to edit or even really look at the video I shot.  I feel guilty about not writing about the kit I was lent for the trip mixed with a recurrence of the old resentment that these loans are so short and the value exchange so biased.  And I feel guilty about not being able to more swiftly tell more of the stories of the amazing people we met along the way.  So exhaustion followed by frustration, guilt and resentment – mmmm… attractive!

And then I started to see light at the end of the tunnel (btw didn’t go through many tunnels at all on Amtrak – there’s a wee story about it that needs to be written, but it’s very wee and it doesn’t fit here).  I started to see what to do next.  

And of course it happened at Tuttle on Friday.  I was talking to Fergus Bell about making sense of it all, I’ve become obsessed with “making sense of it all” and somehow, I don’t know how, neither does he, he helped me to see that my role is not so much to make sense of it all, but to create a process of some kind, to hold the space for others to make sense of it with me.  And I felt much better.  And then I did a little slideshow of the 956 photographs that I took and that I’ve uploaded to flickr.  And I had the chance to talk about it with a group for the first time instead of the formulaic “How was the trip?” “Amazing” “Oh really what was your favourite part” etc. interview that we fall into so easily one-to-one.

Now that process, in it’s form, is unlikely to be very different from what I was intending to do “to make sense of it all” ie I will be writing about the trip, about what we did, where we went, what I learned, how I changed, how it changed me.  However I’ve let go of the responsibility of having to make it all be manageable and understandable by me and therefore I feel liberated to start doing it.  I’m writing again – look… it’s happening… as I ummm… write.

So all that’s a bit of a warning, I suppose that what comes next here, and on perfectpath and on the tuttle blog probably, will likely be quite messy and jump around a lot  – it won’t be a smooth chronological journey back through that month of March 2010 which turned out to be so remarkable and important to me.  It will be (at least at the start, I think) a jumble of snippets and glimpses and ramblings and it might not make sense to any of us.  

And that’s OK. 

Almost the end

I'm sitting in Borders in Downtown Long Beach sipping Seattle's Best Coffee and using the (still meagre, but better than on the Queen Mary) wifi. ??Hopefully I'll get a good bunch of pictures up to flickr before I have to go to lunch. ??Then I'll probably get back to some writing or strumming my ukulele on the beach before I meet up with @msjen who's taking me to the airport.

I still have probably a dozen blog posts to write about this at least. ??In addition I have hundreds of photographs to tag and describe properly – many of them with stories to tell along side. ??And I have video that's been too hefty to mess around with on this Nokia Booklet. ??That's ignoring what probably amounted to nearly 30 hours of video shot by Michelle & Heather and everything that Brian created too. ??I'm pleased with the amount of content we've created and published on the way, but it's nothing compared to what we have jointly sitting on our hard drives. ??I'm pretty sure there's a book in this as well as a couple of movies, a newspaper or two, workshops and consulting to pass on what we've learned about ourselves, the USA, our respective cultures and the internet.

I've travelled through 20 states to get from Boston to Los Angeles – didn't see all of them in daylight but I can say that I've been through more places than many visitors manage in a 3-week trip and probably visited more of the country than many of the people I've met along the way, let alone their less-well travelled friends and neighbours.

I'm tired, but inspired.

There are too many people to thank to do them justice here – I hope that I've expressed my gratitude sufficiently face to face, but I won't stop saying thank you – this trip wasn't about us, it was about you.

I haven't fallen in love with the USA but I have a pretty solid crush on it. ??America has surprised me. ??Americans have surprised me.

I've surprised myself.