The Story of the Storybox

The story of the Storybox starts in Amsterdam, in November. During one of many cycle trips, my colleague Julian and I happened across a ‘public library’.


He had told me about them before, these outdoor bookshelves where people can place the books they have finished with and find a new one. The one I saw was a bit soggy on the whole, the small roof not being equal to the Dutch reality, but I liked the idea, and was reminded of it during my Australian trip.

On a visit to the Melbourne markets, I saw another type of ‘public library’, this one more elaborate, conceived to travel, and more substantial.


I shared it in our workplace ‘pub’, a WhatsApp group for sharing random musings and got a great response. So the story begins, with the classic setup: “Wouldn’t it be great if… ?”

Wouldn’t it be great if we built our own ambulatory story box, to collect and share stories of social learning, of Sea Salt and to travel with them to different parts of the world?

Wouldn’t it be great if we set one up randomly in downtown London, open for collecting and sharing back stories?

At that point I had planned to come to the UK to support work on the Safari, so in my mind’s eye I had a vision of a team working to build this box together. As the idea for the Safari evolved, the box idea took a back seat to the effort of organizing. However, I still wanted to build it, modelled on a similar concept I had come across during a festival. In that installation, set up as a cafe, with small tables and a telephone on each. Choosing a code from a menu, it was possible to dial the phone and hear a story from someone who had attended an iteration of this festival in another country. By entering another code, it was possible to share my own story of experience, if I wished, or any other story I wished to tell.

The story I heard was beautiful, I could hear the festival sounds in the background and the woman speaking shared what she was experiencing, giving me a snapshot of what it must be like to be there. I felt connected to her and her experience and it gave me courage and desire to share my own.

Wouldn’t it be great if I could build a similar type of experience for the Safari?

After the fabled Amsterdam summit, where the Safari was worked out and the running order shared, I saw my name had been put against something called the Storybox. Knowing that Julian had a clear vision for what would happen during the Safari and expecting that I would be told what this was and what I had to do about it, I didn’t give it much further thought. I didn’t remember that that is what the Australian book sharing box was called!

During our organizing meeting, which I attended from Beijing, I asked what the Storybox was. “Remember that idea back in February, about the box, the story sharing?”
“Really? That’s what it is? That’s what you want me to do?”

My first step was to give it a week, because I had so much on with three other projects.
I then asked two people how they thought I could build it. My brother, a programmer, said I should build an app. This made sense, it would solve a lot of logistical problems, but I couldn’t forget the romance of picking up a phone in the desert and hearing someone from a distant time and place on the other end of the line, connected by an idea.

The other person I contacted was a friend I made at that very same festival, who I knew liked to build things. For the first week, we had a good dialogue going about the build, what was needed and how it could be done. I even proposed going to Belgium to ‘hack it out’. However, the momentum was lost and I had to look into other ways of creating the Storybox as time was getting shorter (only one week left to go until the Safari!) and the Storybox was happening. There was no question of it not happening. I just had to find another way to fulfill my objectives.

I broadcast a request for programmers and app developers on Twitter and received an immediate response. I responded with an overview and some sketches of what I wanted and the screens I thought would do it the most efficiently.



Some responded, some not. One said it could be done in my time frame, so I went for it. From conception to having a prototype? 3 days.

My goal is to inspire people to play with the prototype, use it, possibly discover it’s potential. I fully expect that version 2.0 will have changes, I already have ideas for it and I’m hoping the Safari will garner ideas about it that will lead to further refinement and iterations!

If you’re curious about the Storybox’s current state, and the continuing evolution of this project, stay tuned. It’s my little experiment in agility and community building, co-creation. I’m curious about what will happen.

Let the feedback begin!

The ‘real’ Social Age

Hong Kong is reminiscent of another map I know. I feel I am in the physical manifestation of the Social Age map by Julian Stodd.

I appear to be in Authenticity. Seems about right!

What’s striking me is that so far, the parallels between the city and the map are not just [geo]graphical. My smooth arrival and transition from the comparative chaos of Indonesia was facilitated by skills and attitudes I’ve acquired and honed in the past to navigate this place and negotiate my own space in it. So far I’ve found that this is very helpful in mitigating fear and doubt! Having a ‘mission’ helps too, a goal that I’m working towards.

It goes further than city planning and familiarity. Indonesia too had many ways to get around, channels and conduits to take me between places (here they are bus, metro, ferry, there, taxi, shuttle, moto). I choose how to navigate, I learn which ones to use, or not, and how. What I learn and choose defines my experience. Can’t help but notice some additional parallels with social learning here!

I used online and offline methods to find a place to stay when I arrived and then get there. In the airport, a welcoming lady was very helpful in navigating the bus system. My maps app and the fact that I had a meeting starting in 6 minutes helped me decide where to get off the bus. Pure exploratory luck is how I found a place for document and passports photo printing, just what I needed, all in one little shop, so I could apply for my visa to mainland China first thing in the morning. The luck of the valiant, taking a turn not knowing where it will lead, trusting experience, because not everything is mapped out, the map is a tool but can’t be relied on exclusively.

Where are my dragons I wonder? Indonesia was full of them, I’m curious to see where they will appear now that I am in the land of dragons!

Exploring a physical manifestation of an experimental space is in the air at Sea Salt at the moment. Join us on Safari!


Selamat pagi Indonesia!

My travel style has changed in the past couple of months and I find this has affected my time and space for reflection.

As I write this Richard Marx is pounding in my ears, refreshing, kind of nostalgic and reassuring, thanks for making me feel at home in this bus Richard, and feel better about my decisions! And giving my brain a second to process.

In the bus at Juanda Airport, right here waiting.

I was able to make my way through the cab drivers at Juanda Airport at Surabaya and find a spot to access wifi in peace. I arrived with a vague idea of hiking up Mt. Bromo. On arrival I found I wasn’t ready to leap into the backwoods. Not being connected to the Internet makes me feel guilty, especially since I’m trying to find contracts while simultaneously seeing a bit of Indonesia. Gotta start watching those rupiah! Indonesia can be as cheap or expensive as you make it. Especially in a tourist area like Kuta.

After awhile in the Kuta maze, my street looks ominous when I finally arrive at 11pm.

Kuta was a strange introduction to Indonesia, being injected straight into a busy, bustling tourist trap of a town, with loud rock bands playing on the main drag on a Tuesday night. The party doesn’t stop here.

Once off the plane I walked up to a girl wearing a large pack and asked where she was headed. I’d read a forum post about someone doing this. It didn’t end up being much cheaper than going solo, but there was moral support! After the comparatively calm Brisbane, the activity in Kuta was a culture shock.

When do I find time to work?
Right now my time is taken up with this blog and job applications. I’ve been waking up very early (5:30 am) so I send them out in the early mornings or late afternoons. In between my (nervous) energy level doesn’t really allow me to sit still so I walk, scoping out good work spots. I found a chill coffee shop in Kuta for example and wrote about Earth Frequency. Not surprisingly I had festivals on the brain. And spend money I know I shouldn’t, negotiating badly. I’m learning though, and my prices are getting lower!

Chill cafe to blog in.

Good thing I decided not to stay and go on to Surabaya.

(A note now that I have been here almost 24 hours: this is the price point Indonesia is known for, but they don’t sell beer in the markets. That’s ok because any fat I would have lost from not drinking is in no danger of melting off, according to the copious amounts of noodles I am eating).

Here’s the plan: take a ferry to Makassar and then travel overland to Pula where I can catch a shuttle to the Eclipse festival. The inspiration for the idea to go overland was a now FB buddy who had planned to do this. He has since changed his mind. I forge ahead, maybe meeting other like minded souls along the way.

I decided to attend a couple of days ago after mulling it over. In the end what decided me was these factors:

  • I’m not near the best spot on earth to view the solar eclipse from very often
  • Work is slow at the moment since our project was put on hold
  • I read in the nomad forum one person’s workstyle is to take a week off every two to three months. I like it, it makes me feel less guilty about not heading straight to Ubud for daily yoga and co-working. It will happen, won’t miss that.
  • There will be plenty of yoga and clean living at the festival, and that is my planned route.
  • The final factor is best explained through a story:

My last night in Australia

I arrived at the checkin for my flight to Bali three hours ahead. I was that stoked to get there. I was something like the 12th person in line. When I got to the counter, I handed over my passport and the flight attendant said,

“Please put your carry on bag on the scale. Both of them.” Turns out I was 4 kilos overweight. Groan. Checking in my bag would cost $160 AUD. This wasn’t my first run in with a budget airline and immediately my brain started calculating what I could take out, what I could leave behind. I already had a bag quarter full of clothes I had already decided to ditch while packing my bag at the hostel I had stayed at the past couple of nights.

“Before I take your payment”, yes, I was ready with my credit card, I had deemed the rest of my stuff to be worth it and I was anxious to be through security, “I just need to see your outbound flight confirmation.” Pardon? “I need to see the flight you are taking to leave the country since you don’t have a return flight with us.”

Argh. No, I wasn’t planning to stay in Indonesia illegally. My plan had been to book my flight out when I arrived, since I didn’t know how long I would stay. That decision was contingent on whether or not I could get a visa for mainland China in Hong Kong. Otherwise I would go somewhere else.

“Go see my colleague at the booking counter around the corner and he will sort you out. You can’t get on this flight without an outbound flight.”

I had no intention of going to book a flight with her colleague. Armed with my electronic office, I found the table which, ironically, is put there, with a scale beside it for passengers to weigh and repack their bags. The thing was, I had a flight from Denpasar to Palu and back already booked (with the intention of going to the festival). I decided, since my attendance at the festival was not 100%, not yet having a ticket, to change that flight and possibly figure out my festival attendance later.

I called the website that I had booked the flight to (the airline was impossible to reach, no answer on the phone when I finally did find a customer service line). The person I was on with put me on hold while he tried to contact the airline about their policy regarding ticket changes. No luck. Then put me on hold while he confirmed with his supervisor. Then again while he made the change. Each time was about 10 – 15 mins. Had I not been so desperate I would have hung up, but I held on. The whole process took an hour. An HOUR! And that’s not counting the time it took to make a decision and get someone on the line (their automated answering system is 10 mins long and not possible to skip).

While I was on hold, I started repacking my bag, mercilessly trashing things I had carried around but hadn’t worn, things I had used but didn’t ‘need’. Things that were small but heavy. That was pretty hard, but at that point I didn’t want any more hassles. Just get my flight and get to Bali.

At the end of this call, I made a point of asking that he send me my receipt right away. I asked him to do it immediately, while I was on the line. He said it would arrive in 5-10 minutes. Grr. Email doesn’t take that long but fine, I still had time before my flight.

The email finally arrived and I opened it. It was a receipt for the change. No flight itinerary.

By this point there was only 30 mins left to check in. I went to the counter anyway, and was referred to a manager, who said no.

I got back on the phone with 10% battery left, waited through the automated system a third time, got put on hold to wait for an available agent. 10 mins left.

Finally someone comes on the line and I give my order number, name, etc. The guy is excruciatingly slow and completely locked into ‘procedure’. “Please send me a copy of my itinerary Denpasar to Hong Kong immediately. I need it to board my flight right now.” Let me check. “Just click Send!” Let me confirm, “Send my itinerary right now!” Let me clarify. By this point there were tears and I had yelled the last. The manager was looking at me and shaking her head. Check in was closed.

It took 5 minutes for the itinerary to arrive.

This situation could have been avoided, it’s true. However, in later conversations where I told this story, one comment made by my friend in Brisbane stuck in my head. ‘The more I travel, the less research, the less planning I do. I’m more inclined to go with the flow.’ That’s true of myself as well. There’s so much to see and do, everywhere is new. I have to consciously stop myself, allow myself to take a break, think about my next move.

In the end, it cost me an additional 100, to rebook the flight and stay an extra night in a hostel. I gained a night in Brisbane, staying up half of it chatting with new hostel friends and having my last taste of mango beer, which I had spent the last two months fruitlessly seeking out (pun intended). I gained 24 hours in a part of Brisbane I had heard of but not seen, Fortitude Valley.

And I gained some perspective on attending Eclipse from a French girl who runs the hostel I stayed at with her partner. We went out to the patio to share the beer I had bought (I wasn’t planning on drinking 6 myself) and as the conversation progressed, we discovered a shared interest in festival culture, she as an artist. She had painted an amazing mural to decorate the hostel, and looking up at the roof over the patio, told me about the friends who had decorated the inside.

The blue tongued lizard


I couldn’t have planned my actual last night in Australia. I did plan a last night, with friends and dinner, and going home at 8 pm because my friends have a family and work in the morning. I ended up walking Brisbane down that night, and doing some stretching and yoga on the deserted GOMA lawn at midnight. Meeting two guys from Barcelona, one whose mother lives in Torremolinos, near Malaga.

Nighttime wandering, safest part of town.

It would seem life is happening outside the lines at the moment, when the plans fail. As well as through decisions that result in connections that lead to more decisions. I’ll try that wave, see where it takes me.

I’m curious to see what connections and community will form around me as I work towards this festival goal, and this adventure in digital nomadry, and work, period. Is this lifestyle compatible with working, really? How much? Could I actually save money while doing this? What is in store?

Finally on my way! Goodbye Australia. I’ll be back.

Earth Frequency 2016: Trust the void


In the spirit of storytelling and telling about my everyday, I would like to tell you the story of how I attended my first Australian doof (Aussie slang for an electronic music festival/gathering where the music doesn’t stop for three days).

While visiting my Australian friend from Balina at the beginning of January, my first week in Australia, she recommended that I attend Earth Frequency. This friendship dates back some five years, from Nelson, BC. BC is a province that is home to and in my opinion at the forefront of the transformative festival scene.

I hadn’t really planned on going to any festivals on my trip, but I looked it up and it seemed that they were still accepting volunteers so I applied, and a couple of weeks later, got accepted.

In between thinking about the festival and actually going, I had flown down to Melbourne where I found a great Couchsurfing host and stayed for a few days. The first night, my host had some people over and between Coopers green I discovered the beards dude sitting beside me was also going to Earth Freq! Destiny…

Since I was short on time, I decided to fly back up. Not for want of rideshares, Australia is rife with potential travel buddies. However, most want to take their time moseying up the coast and camping. Which, don’t get me wrong, sounds amazing, however, as I am not on holiday and need an Internet connection every day, not for me.

The family I stayed with in Brisbane had kindly offered to lend me camping gear for the four days. All I needed is a ride to get me onsite in time for my first volunteer shift.

I posted an ad on Gumtree, a huge classifieds site that is very active. Within a couple of days, I had a ride!

Two days before the festival, I got an email from the volunteer coordinator saying that no non-volunteers would be allowed onsite before Friday. That meant that my ride, who was not volunteering, would be turned away at the gate after dropping me off. Not cool.

I posted another ad on the volunteer FB page and got a quick response, this time from an American couple. It was on.

My plan was to train it out to Salisbury, the suburb my friends live in and get showered, shopped and laundered before my ride arrived. However, the guy who originally offered me a ride offered to pick me up from the airport and take me there. Wow. Very generous.

When I arrived in Brisbane, I looked for the black Mercedes I was getting picked up in and there he was, skinny guy with long dreads and leather upholstery.

He said he ‘recognized’ me by my mandala tattoo.

We took a detoured route around Brisbane, chatting and listening to really good Krishna-sequel chanting music which it was very easy to get lost in and utterly relax.

After he dropped me off, I zipped around according to the plan: shower, laundry, shopping. I even had time to have a beer because my co-volunteers and next ride were running late.

When they arrived, we packed the car, me with my COOLER (usually a minimalist festival camper, this was my first time having my very own cooler, Eskimo in the local parlance).

I won’t bore you with the details of the festival, except to say that I saw my buddy from Melbourne walking around and I went with him to meet his friends at the gate, who quickly became one of my ‘haunts’, home away from home camps.

Epic home camp, with cool tiger van in the background.

Some notable details: HUGE tent! I could stand up in it, which was another festival first.

After camping in the staff area, when all the car campers were moving their camps to the shadier and more protected general camping, I hiked around the back way and found myself a good spot, from which I witnessed the tent city grow around me. It took me three trips to get all my stuff up there. It was worth it.

On my next to last day, I was talking to friends at the haunt I just mentioned and was struck by a comment that one of the women made. I had just double checked my flight details because they had asked when I was leaving. I looked it up on my phone and it turned out to be the next day at 2 pm.

“You seem so calm about it! I would be so scared, to come to a festival by myself, to not know how I am leaving…”

The thing was I did have a plan. I planned to pack up my stuff early in the morning and make the two trips down to the road and hitchhike out.

It never really occurred to me to be scared. My festival going history has been mostly solo. I’m not the one who organizes 5 or 6 people to go with. When I have gone with people, they are usually veteran festival goers and comfortable with the unknown. It’s exciting to be in that mind space, not knowing, not planning the festival you will have but being open to and receiving it. I’ve been there, in the fear. Now, I’ve learned it doesn’t pay and is a waste of time to allow yourself to be afraid. Just make a decision and go with it. Try. Do.

When I thought about the festival later, and why I am writing this, is that it occurred to me how many people I had to seek out and meet, connect with in order to have the amazing experience I did have. It wouldn’t have been the same if I hadn’t met my friend from Melbourne or my airport ride from Brisbane, my fellow volunteers, my nighttime co-adventurers.

Saturday afternoon
New connections.

The thing I appreciate more and more about this culture is that it is a culture. Anywhere in the world, you feel at home, immediately relieved with people who are from that same culture. It’s like speaking the same language. Not for nothing that the first words you will hear at Burning Man are “welcome home”.

This experience plays into my thoughts and ideas about community, how community is formed and what happens when a bunch of people with agency get together.

Spectacular beauty, a backdrop for life-changing connections.

Brisbane is for bikers

The first thing I did when I arrived at my new Brisbane temporary home was buy a bike.

I had done a bit of research about bike hire prices in advance and found that the most cost effective way (and most fun) to get around the city by bike was to buy one.

The reasons for wanting to bike around were primarily to rebuild muscle mass after being pretty immobile for the past five months, laid up in Belgium with a fractured hip. Biking, in addition to being super fun, was the no impact way to get into shape while getting around.

As a remote worker, getting outside, being active, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, requires a lot more effort.

For me, it’s also a big part of my process, as necessary to my productivity and creativity as a great team and an inspiring work space. I’ve always been a kinaesthetic and visual learner. This means I learn best by taking notes, rewording ideas and at times drawing. Moving my body helps me think, and my phone has been a great companion in that space. I can pull it out in the middle of a walk  or ride, and jot down notes or even put out a story or post.

My favourite thing to do in Brisbane has been to follow my gps around, getting to know the various bikeways that provide safe access to the city without having to share the main, heavily trafficked roads. There is probably a good analogy there for how I live my life as well. After a few rounds with the gps, I’ve been able to turn it off, and find my way home by memory. That was a proud day for me, 27 km by memory. Just be fore I left, I even improvised once. All of that is an analogy too, for informal learning?

My biggest (best) day: 60.1 km with Mystic Mama (pictured). Not bad for a single speed Kmart bike.

All of these notes don’t make the cut though. They are timely outpourings of my thoughts, ideas. Reflections, stories.

Out of these notes threads emerge. I might take a snippet here and there, but so far haven’t refined my voice to the point where I can (or want to) publish, publicize my rantings. So this not blog will be, for the time being, a collected series of rantings.

And I just realized that this description of my process is curation. Here I had been thinking of how I can incorporate curation, move beyond the limited confines of my own thinking to incorporate and build on articles, blogs, stories that appear around me, in my sphere.


I have a plan.

“I have a plan for the next two weeks.” I told my brother over Skype.

“Baahahaha!” Actually out loud, he responded as if this was the most hilarious thing he’d ever heard.

“What?!” I cut in, smiling, “Two weeks is good! It’s the most I can do right now!”

“Let’s hear it then…”

To be fair, I think that the vast majority of my conversations with my brother over the past five years have started that way, my announcement of my latest and greatest plan.

They are always well reasoned, to my mind, emphatically sincere and above all ambitious.

A lot of thought and planning has gone into my plans. So much so that, as my opening line demonstrates, I’ve curbed my planning, accepting now that my ‘plans’ don’t last long before they evolve, morph or turn 180, abandoned to go careering headlong into a spontaneous and spur of the moment direction.

From this description you might decide I’m flaky, flighty, maybe a bit of a ditz. Maybe.

The thing is that there are constants in my life, my career being one, and family another.

How shall I describe it?

I compartmentalize, keep my worlds, my personal and professional spheres, separate (we all know what happens when those worlds collide… that’s me when a workmate wants to connect on fb!)

They don’t meet, these spaces, but they do travel in the same general direction, like someone walking a kite in a sporadic breeze. Or a sailboat tacking and gybing along a line of navigation.

That’s the story I’ve been telling myself about myself these days. Is it really true? It’s true for the moment, because I am living it that way, and that is the lens through which I am viewing my past.

It may change at any moment!

Singapore is for community

Singapore happens on different levels during this trip.
One is a reinforcement, coming together of the Sea Salt team in person. I have been working with two members for six months and have only met them in person less than a handful of times, combined. However, the fact that we are a team cannot be disputed. Our in person relationships are solidified by very active social media groups, where our brains, thousands of kilometres apart, connect. When we do meet in person, it is easy. Don’t be fooled however, the distance does not erase the politics, relationships, group dynamics, undercurrents and motivations.


Meeting of the minds, always a good time!

My approach to participating in Sea salt is transparency and benefit of the doubt, I’m an eager beaver! I believe in Sea Salt and want this start up to be successful. I’m invested.

Another level is that we are all here to open the Singapore ‘office’ and contribute to forward momentum, with a bang! As such, the Singapore lead has planned a couple of speaking engagements for Julian, as well as meetings with possible clients and partners in the region. As I am currently in Australia (part of my motivation for going there is to be closer to Singapore in the spirit of launching the region rather than the country).

The third level is meeting a new potential team mate who is looking around and curious about what Sea Salt could offer.


My week is spent externally facing, trying to find where I fit, what I can bring, with my instructional design and adult education background, armed with my personality and willingness to participate.

What is my role in Sea Salt?
I’m good at my explicit role: Social Learning Design Lead. However, in the lean times, that role doesn’t have much work so part of my move to digital nomadry and Australia, SEAPAC is to explore what more I can offer, what else I can swing.

It’s a whirlwind trip, full of comraderie, visits to beautiful sites and getting to know Julian and Bala better, talking about the future of the organization. I’m being shown a good time and I like it!

What is coming out of my association with Sea Salt so far is this: exposure to more of the language that I used during my time at Arigatou: online community, blended, transformative learning, with the added realization that where community happens isn’t always where we plan it to happen. In my experience at Arigatou for example, we ticked all the boxes: stakeholder involvement, feedback on design from those who would be using the platform. However, where people were most active was on a FB private message. Completely unplanned and informal. I remember when I first met Julian at LSCon, that was the question I asked at the morning coffee talk: why? Why aren’t people using our space? His coherent response was that our platform was a formal space, by the simple fact that we set it up, as an organization. The conversations, the sensemaking, the sharing happens in informal spaces. Later, I would connect my experience to the idea/necessity of losing control. As a teacher, I was not about tracking learning, I tried to create spaces, activities, opportunities for learning to happen. This is about translating that philosophy online.

So, Sea Salt gives me opportunity to talk about it, to take control of my own sense making and reflective  destiny, to dare to experiment, fail and try again, and as a result match my values with my job.

This trip and participationg in Sea Salt in general I’ve learned a lot about the questions people ask, the why, the importance of community, as well as the how. What motivates or should motivate organizations to foster online community? How can it fit in as part of the greater strategic goals of an organization? A lot of what we talk about, for me, hearkens back to my graduate thesis on informal learning by volunteers in a community-based organization and what I learned through my research.

For example, when making the case for Sea Salt, Julian talks about the the knowledge economy and how it is changing, which is visible when you are active in online communities: the value of knowledge, the value of expertise is decreasing. What is increasing in value are connections, being part of communities where sense making conversations happen, where people are working out loud, working together, putting the theory of communities of practice into real terms, experimenting with how and what knowledge is produced.

Since joining Sea Salt I have been exploring, recognizing and accepting my communities, which I have increased activity in and seen sensemaking discussions happen spontaneously, in, for me, unexpected places. I personally have seen the changes in how social media is used, in my admittedly limited use of it. Where status updates used to be about breakfast foods and my mood when I woke up, I saw the trend to post inspirational quotes spring up, trend, be ridiculed and disappear. Community happened around me when I just embraced the fact that my life has an online component as well as offline. One does not negate or diminish the other, and both are rich, rewarding and necessary. As with anything, it’s all about balance. Finding my balance and accepting myself played a big role in discovering who my communities are.

Attempt at storytelling ends in note taking!

I see Sea Salt as an opportunity to use all of my skills and knowledge, my experience, not just as an instructional designer and teacher, as a wannabe academic. As it is a startup, there should be opportunity, room to ‘run with it’.

Singapore, with its beautiful landscape, busy and bustling city, full of hustle, is a non-stop adventure. Everyone is doing something, working an angle, finding the places where we intersect. It’s energizing as a city. It’s an energetic and optimistic time for me, full of possibility.



Working from anywhere?

Life imitating art, I am finally fulfilling the stereotype of the remote worker and getting things done in pajamas. The time difference with my mostly UK based team means that I am taking our daily meeting at midnight!

On the plus side, I am now working evenings/nights, which is a schedule I am curious to see develop. Will it continue to work? How will I feel a week or even a month from now?

I’m hoping the time difference will let me take advantage of the days and work with much fewer distractions. I prioritize more, becoming a project laser with neat, precise incisions of work and time rather than my more sprawling usual. So far, I have more of a life here during the day. This is also related to the fact that I am currently staying with a friend and there will be much to do and see during the days. As well as the fact that I was laid up in Belgium for five months with nothing to do but work!

However, my recent stay in Switzerland showed me that I find it difficult not to work in between meetings, or at least think about work. As a result, between a morning and afternoon meeting, I will be working, in some form or another. Great for the company, not great for (not) going to the gym, (not) going outside, (not) having a life!

Hopefully this new way of working will help me compartmentalise and feel like I have more freedom during the day.

This is all based on my own personality. I have difficulty unplugging, disconnecting from projects that I’m interested in. When I worked in an office, I always liked to do my physical activity before work, even if this meant getting up at 5:30 am to take the train to boot camp or get a ride share to spinning class. Now that I’m able to restart a schedule of physical activity, I have to find a way to do it.

The thing about working remotely is you have to be more self motivated, in all areas of life. There isn’t any grocery shopping on the way home. There is no biking to and/or from work. There are no colleagues to go out to lunch with.

Of course, there are pluses too! Otherwise I wouldn’t be conducting this experiment on myself. And there are ways to stay in touch with colleagues and feel/behave as part of a team even from 5000 kms away.

Working from anywhere doesn’t necessarily mean working from anywhere.

This last week near Alstonville in New South Wales has been interesting in that respect. Many people I meet through my friend here ask me where I’m headed or what I’m going to do on my ‘holiday’. As the time zone difference means I am working evenings (so far with jet lag this has been a big challenge!), my meetings take place at night.

Staying with friends is not a good idea either for work. There’s always something else to do, and focus shifts. Luckily this week has been more off than on at work, and now, with my move to Brisbane today, l’ll see what happens when in the city. Hopefully the Internet will be faster.

I would say that that is the real limitation. ‘Anywhere’ means anywhere with high speed internet, which is a limitation in certain parts of the world. My first experience of this was in Spain, where I moved into an apartment and only later discovered that the fastest I could get was 10 MB, because the fibre didn’t reach yet. Not enough for a Skype conversation.
I found myself working in ‘internet cafes’ or even pubs close to my then apartment in Torremolinos, as they were the closest places to my place where I could have conversations with minimal background noise. Even then the bandwidth was very low.

I became desperate to find a place where I could work,me specially have skype meetings from, that didn’t require me to buy a coffee.

There is a strong remote and coworking culture in Malaga, especially among the expat community. However, coworking spaces are often closed spaces, where desks are hard to come by. One space I visited was like a coworking sweatshop. The first floor, the ‘open’ space where anyone could come in and sit down to work for the minimal fee, was completely empty, save a lonely student in the corner. When the office manager showed me upstairs, the place was packed! Not one free desk out of at least 15, and almost all working on large screens, plugged into their various online businesses, intent on their universes. I was assured that once a week there was a Friday drinks session. My reaction was mixed feelings. I work remotely because I don’t want to sit in an office all day, so I can maximize my productivity and creativity by mixing work with activity, let my subconscious tease out a problem while I do something else, give myself space to have an aha moment. Not transplant, substitute one office for another one.

So what is co-working?
What are we, as digital nomads, really looking for?
What are we actually getting out of the various iterations of co-working spaces that exist? How many ‘success’ stories are there, what does co-working success look like?

In theory, the idea is to combine many different types of people and businesses in one space, creating opportunity for mutually beneficial partnerships and innovation that wouldn’t be possible in our traditional, siloed versions of work.

What’s actually happening in co-working spaces?
What are stories are out there, do they really foster collaboration and cooperation across sectors?
What works?

It begins…

i’ve come to the point where, it I don’t start posting, I think this idea will go the way of many others: faded into the ether.

So, here it comes: this is the intro. (Post backdated, teehee)

This is not a blog.*
This is an experiment on myself that will last a year. 52 weeks.
I intend, no, pledge to write at least once a week over this course of this year.

There are a few reasons.
1) I’ve decided to become a nomad this year… Well, more than I have been. I want to see what will happen now that I have a secure remote job (as secure as a job with a start-up can be!) One that provides the other end of a compass that will span and circle the globe. Not a breach, but an expansion. (That was Locke, not me).

So. This is what I’ve been waiting for, trying for. It was harder, took longer, than I thought it would to get here, and probably other, more organized people, more determined people could have done it in less? The thing is, it took a lot of work to break away from what my socialization considers ‘success’. It’s something I ponder a lot. What is success for me? What does it look like?

2) This January 2016 represents a turning point for me. It is the putting into practice of a dream and goal I’ve made for myself, slowly but surely, to choose my life, and as a consequence, follow the road less traveled. This introduction is to mark the occasion, appreciate the events that led me here over the past year(s). This not blog is a possible way to make the most of and continue to appreciate my journey. That’s the second reason, which leads into the third.

3) I want to write stories. I figured that the best place to start was with my life. Looking back over the past five years, I systematically made choices that have led me to where I am, sitting in the awesome Infozone at the Brisbane State Library.

2015 was quite the year. By the end of it I was faced with a clear choice. To find a nice apartment in a nice city, furnish it and begin again to build community around myself.

A bit about me, some background info: My community has evolved to be about 80% online. I am surrounded by good, low maintenance friends that live far away. I feel certain that I can call on these people for help or a place to stay if I need it, because I have done so in the past. When I’m feeling down or challenged, my immediate family plays a big role in my life. We have a text group to celebrate life events and daily goings on. The reason for this is that we don’t live on the same continents, let alone the same countries. I remember when we first started using Skype, this awesome program that allowed us to talk between computers for free!

When I read over that kind of being in the world, though it sounds commonplace to me, I sometimes reflect how much a product of now I am. I am often grateful to be alive in the world in 2015. At no other time could my self have been allowed so much expansion. So much indulgence.

I’ve started over in new cities before…many times. Quillota, Vancouver, Regina, Nelson, Geneva, Malaga. Each with the intention that it would be where I finally made a ‘real’ life for myself.

That last one, Malaga, was rudely interrupted by a fractured hip in July 2015. It’s a long story. I ended up in a suburb of Charleroi in Belgium for the next five months, living with my amazingly generous aunt and uncle, being a hermit and forcing myself to pause, take a breath, reevaluate.

I had almost convinced myself that after spending a few weeks in Switzerland with my sister and picking up the things I had left there, I would come back to Belgium and find a nice apartment in a nice city, not too far from the Brussels airport, but an hour’s train ride was acceptable. Mons, Liege, Namur. One of those. Each met my requirements: pool (for rehabilitation of my hip), climbing gym, and co-working space (so I could come out of isolation and work with other remote peeps). This is my recipe for success in a new city. Put mechanisms into place by which I am be forced into contact with others through activities I enjoy, combined with places to be alone in nature, when my batteries need recharging. Plus, in this case I would be close to family and that is something I grew to realize I needed, to strengthen existing relationships with people who love me.

It was a definite choice, the decision not to go through with the nice apartment in Belgium. When it came down to it, I couldn’t face starting over again. I had spent the last five months strengthening relationships and finding out who were those I could count on, who I couldn’t, what feeling helpless does to me and how those around me took it, or didn’t. I also started working full time a couple of weeks after I arrived in Belgium. My project team in the start up I had started working for came to Belgium for a few days since I couldn’t leave my new home to travel or even walk down the street. The lasting, positive relationships that I wanted to preserve emerged and being stuck showed me that it was possible to create and maintain relationships at a distance, that this isn’t completely unreasonable and is gaining momentum as a way to be in the world. Validation.

A nomad. A digital nomad, in the parlance of our times. Part of a movement I hardly knew existed, and have now made the decision to own, and actively contribute to, at least for the next year, as I work remotely and build my career while having no fixed address.

I’ve arrived! This is my celebration of the decisions I’ve systematically made to get here, to the edge of this cliff. Jump, jumping… jumped.

This not-blog is a record of my journey that will either be a swan dive or the story of the updraft I catch in the next 52 weeks.