A bit more than two years ago I sold all my stuff, rented my house, said my goodbyes and lit out for parts unknown. I was inspired to take a look back by a couple of events. The first is that a new friend, as he’s learned about what I’ve been doing he’s encouraged me to start writing again. The second was Dan Hough’s six-month retrospective of living by his own rules. Some good lessons in that piece.
So what is it that I’ve done over the past couple of years? In short I’ve lived on 3 continents, including Seoul, Mexico City, London, (and now NYC). Worked less than 1500 hours for pay, about the same for free, including advancing the I Am The Cavalry movement. Met dozens of great new people. Improved my career by taking only jobs that made me better. Read, researched, analyzed and honed new ideas and old. Collapsed a house of possessions I unquestioningly kept around me into what can fit in a couple of big backpacks…and even most of that is disposable. I’ve lived as my own master and couldn’t be happier about how it’s all come out.
But I recognize that I’m far from the norm. I’m the outlier. I work in a field that allows this kind of motility, pays well enough, and has enough offers for work that I could support myself financially. That isn’t true for everyone.
It is said that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. To take advantage of this kind of luck you must be both available and willing when the opportunity arises. When you are available you quickly find that the opportunities are everywhere.
I have a personality that lends itself to optimizing for opportunities that come up. In other words, I don’t set goals to achieve or things to attain I set ideals and behaviors to guide me.
To prepare myself I set a 5-year plan to learn skills and build my network. After a realization that I was only truly happy when I felt the freedom and self-determination of travel, I set about figuring out how to do that. The skills I had recently begun to develop were conducive to taking short-term work and working from anywhere. To get the kind of work I needed I’d need to build my skills and improve my connections to job opportunities. So I set about achieving that.
I took a new job, became more social and began publishing a blog. I sought, found and won a new job as a traveling consultant. I started going to security conferences, offering to speak at trade shows on behalf of my new company and organized get togethers of like minded folks. I wrote up my thoughts an published them, engaged with others and cultured dialogs on topics I was interested in. This boosted my skills, extended my reach, raised my credibility in the community and as a bonus it let me travel on others’ dime.
When the opportunity arose I took a new role in the same company on the business side. I was given the chance to work alongside my boss, helping to run and develop the consulting practice. This taught me valuable lessons that I wouldn’t have to figure out the hard way when out on my own. It was like a mentorship or apprenticeship program, learning and developing at full speed but with backup support and a safety net.
Finally it was time to go but a threshold of fear seemed to hold me back. One day I simply looked at the worst case scenario. If I failed and ran out of all my saved money I could borrow enough to get home, live with friends and family, get a new job in the same industry…probably making more than when I left and with a lot more wisdom. My worst case scenario was better than the life I was living!
So the decision was made and a date was set. I closed out projects, left my role better than is found it, trained my replacement at work.
And that gets me back to where we started. I sold all my stuff, rented my house, said my goodbyes and lit out for parts unknown. I left the known behind for the exciting. And I haven’t looked back. Except for this post.
Even if I die a hundred times so my bones become thick muddy soil, no matter. My spirit still exists, my heart toward my love will never go away.
-Korean poet, ㅋㅋ
Kudzu is native to Korea. The scourge of the South, as we call it in America (not to be confused with General Sherman). Here they infuse an alcoholic drink with the roots. And it’s not bad.
It was introduced to the US from Japan and used in the South, supposedly, to fight soil erosion. The theory was that the fast growing vine would spread lots of roots into the soil, thus keeping it from washing away in the frequent heavy storms. Of course the problem is that it lays down only one root, meaning soil erosion still happens. But the vine grows over everything in sight, including cars, homes, telephone poles and trees. So that’s kind of a problem.
But I digress. Here is the recipe.
- Harvest in late spring. April or may.
- Chop the root.
- Fill the container about 1/3 of the way with the chopped root and soju for the rest.
- Age for 100 days before filtering.
Supposedly if you take the kudzu that comes from that process and repeat, but age it for 5 years it is more delicious.
I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall
-Bob Dylan “Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall“
Monsoon season in Korea is coming. Today is the official start. And it’s a hell of a thing, apparently.
Jazz is an art form that, by all rights, should be forbidden to Korean artists. It’s expression of a spontaneous idea that cannot be either right or wrong. That’s the point. there is nothing off limits or teachable or expected. It’s pure creativity and expression. It’s the kind of thing most Koreans publicly disdain. But within the confines of jazz music…well as long as there are some confines I suppose it’s alright with society.
High school girls in Korea have a uniform. Not just a dress code they have a uniform way of standing, acting, cutting their hair. For a decade and a half they’ve been molded into a one-size-fits-all model of the female gender. So what did this one bring to the quintet of free expression, release from expectation and formality?
Sticklike other than the staccato nodding and hand movements, when came her turn to let loose she did so with abandon. (Relative abandon. This is Korea, after all.) Her foot stamped out the beat and stomped on the pedals; her knees bent and rocked back and forth, she took up a stance to play; her head banged as her hands belted out soulful and technical notes, working the bridge like weaving a loom.
The keyboardist, too, had a story. After the first duel against the drummer, he himself took up the sticks and drummed. While the main drummer was like a cat with a mouse – expertly toying with the thing, sure of his limits and its – the keyboardist was a kitten – unsure of his power and skill or the moves of the mouse, but pouncing around the way exuberant youth can.
This is Club Evans (map to location, because it’s hard to locate in English), probably the best known jazz bar in Seoul. You’d never know its nestled above a 7-11 in an unassuming little space. If it weren’t for the windows you’d mistake it for a basement in Brooklyn or someplace. Well maybe the clientele and artists would give it away too. This is Seoul, after all.
“I’ve been one poor correspondent
I’ve been too too hard to find
But that doesn’t mean you ain’t been on my mind”
-America, Sister Golden Hair
I’ve been both busy and lazy but it’s no excuse for not writing more.
While I was in London everything was a bit too boring, normal and well-explored. And so was I. It wasn’t worth writing, let alone reading.
I’ve been living in Seoul, South Korea for a couple of months and that’s definitely worth writing about. From a Miguk (American) perspective there’s a lot of hilarity to be had resulting from expectation gaps and cultural differences. I’ve got some notes on that and, well, we’ll see how it goes with getting those hammered into reasonable posts.
And for the month of May I’m living and working in Mexico City. And this is what has got me back on the keyboard clackity-clacking out some new posts. A combination with some time on my hands alone and lots of things I want to capture have gotten the juices flowing again and that means new posts. Which is good.
Talk at you soon!