Fear of America

Not me – other people, always other people…

It’s been interesting talking to people here (mostly those who aren’t active online social networkers) about the trip.

Firstly they perceive the risk of the trip as a whole to be much greater – it’s clear that those of us who live a lot of our lives online get that everything’s going to be alright.  If you’re not used to it, it does seem a bit risky and scary.

But what else comes out, I think, is just a British fear of America.  I’ve been variously told that I will end up being shot, chopped up in pieces in someone’s basement in Arkansas or wake up dressed in a gimp suit and ball gag and abused in unspeakable ways. 

Thanks Hollywood!

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

A “Heads Up” for my American Friends

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Dear American Friend

I’m writing to tell you about my forthcoming coast-to-coast trip which I’ll be making in March and to ask for your help and support.  I’m calling it “Please Look After This Englishman” and it involves me traversing the real-world instantiation of my online social network, acquiring and telling stories as i go.

What I’m doing

I’m going to arrive somewhere on the West Coast on March 1st. The location isn’t decided yet but it will likely be somewhere where I have a relatively large group of friends and it needs to be somewhere that I can fly directly to from London. So San Francisco is looking a good bet although I’m still open to suggestions.

I then plan to attend SXSWi in Austin, TX from March 11th – 15th. This isn’t an absolutely must do, but it’s an important event for me to be at – it’s the chance I get each year to connect with far-flung bits of my online social network and it provides a stable midpoint for the trip.

From there, I intend to travel on and leave from the East Coast (probably Boston or NYC) on March 31st. I have a strong desire to revisit New Orleans and it would be great to be able to meet up with friends I made on last year’s trip in all the other cities we visited.

What I do between these beginning, middle and end “plot points” is rather up to you. Where I go, how I get there, what I do, who I meet, is all up for grabs although there are a few constraints. In particular it’s important to remember that:

  1. I don’t drive

  1. I won’t have pots of cash to throw at every problem

  2. It’s more about having an adventure than about reaching a particular destination

  3. I want to strike a balance between planning and spontanaiety.

Of course I’ll be writing, shooting video and photographs practically everywhere I go and using the blog and these other sites that bind us all together to let people see what’s going on, participate in decision-making and providing practical support. So for example, on March 1st, I could well be tweeting “Guys and gals, I need to be moving out of the city in an easterly direction, south-easterly would be best. Anyone able to help?” followed by “w00t! I got a lift as far as Vegas, anyone have a couch I can crash on tomorrow night?”

How you can be involved

Whatever you think you can do or would like to do, please get in touch and talk to me about it. I think involvement might come in the following flavours:

Spread the word – if you can do nothing else, *please* just tell some other people about this weird English guy, what he’s doing and where they can find me if they want to take part.

Just watching – gasping with amazement, pointing and laughing, making suggestions for next right steps – for now keep an eye on http://t2t2.posterous.com

Patronage & Sponsorship – I don’t want to throw money at this, but equally I don’t want to freeload the whole way – I also have expenses back in the UK to cover while I’m away. If people give me money or other help, I want to provide them with some value in exchange. This might range from me giving you the benefit of my brainpower and facilitation skills, through me entertaining and inspiring your staff with my tales from the road and a spot of ukulele fun, all the way to me wearing your logo on my t-shirt and evangelising your product wherever I go. However, if you’d like to make a donation to make sure that this thing can happen, because you just want more stuff like this in the world, that works for me too.

Lending a hand directly – I will need people to stay with, to drive me long distances, to feed me or at least eat with me, to show me around, to introduce me to interesting people and places, to smile at me and tell me I’m nuts but that’s OK and all manner of other things that I can’t imagine or am embarrassed (in my adorable, but infuriating, British way) to ask for.


Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

First Confirmed Partner: Touchnote

My main job at the moment is getting sponsorship to help support me on the trip.  This takes the form of cash, to make sure I’m not penniless when I enter the USA and can pay my bills while I’m away and products and services that will help me create an interesting experience for people following along online or off-.

I’m glad to say that the first partnership agreed is with Touchnote, who make and send cards for you based on your own photographs or designs (they also have ready-made designs).

Last year we sent cards from the road to people who’d sent us cash support (and I may well do that again) but it did take a while for me to remember to write them, go get stamps, find a mailbox, let alone wait while the US Postal Service and Royal Mail worked their magic.

So I’ll be sending one special card per day for the 30 days that I’m away – now all I’ve got to do is work out who to send them to… hmmm….



Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

Learning: Just The Next Right Step

This is a difficult life lesson to learn.  It’s so tempting to keep looking forward and plan and think a few moves deeper, trying to work out what the strategy should be and what other people should do, will do, might do in response to what you’re doing. 

And yet in some (many?) (all?) circumstances all you have to do is what you need to do and you only really need to focus on the next right thing that needs to be done.  You can only deliver the current step after all, but we can only ever live in the present and that doesn’t stop our minds racing off after all sorts.  Just try three minutes meditation and see where your mind goes.

I found myself, and continue to do so, wondering what’s happening to the journals next. Trying to choose the best person to give them to, going over and over  the instructions to think what might happen and even trying to work out what to do if something “goes wrong” – all pointless.

There’s another lesson in here about elaboration, which I’ll write about another time – but simply it’s making up that there must be something else to do, the desire to make something simple complex.  I’ve seen this in other areas but in this project it’s come in the form of questions from participants: “Does it matter if…?” It’s really really hard to accept that the rules you’ve been given are the only rules there are – it’s enormously tempting to add new stuff in (and *whispers* actually that’s creativity in action!).

If you get a journal, try to remember that your job is simply to write in the book and pass it on to someone else who’s closer to the destination and maybe record the fact on twitter or in an e-mail to this blog.  That’s all.  No, really.



Originally posted on Journal Racing

Buckingham Palace Road

I remember very little about this place except that I worked for some professional firm that was providing expert witness testimony to the inquiry into the fire at King's Cross Station (so that would make it the Spring of 1988) and I was there as a photocopier operator.

I hardly saw anyone all day, I was in the basement with a photocopier for company.  The jobs would come down from the office upstairs on a dumb waiter with a covering instruction sheet and be sent back up the same way.

I'm pretty sure it was working here that convinced me to learn to touch type so that I could get more interesting work.Originally posted on I worked here

All part of the story

An important aspect of projects like this is that whatever happens, whether it turns out according to plan or not, it’s all part of the story.  Things don’t “go wrong” they just go differently to how we expected.

So today I had a chat with Nick and he told me that he’s now got theatre work until June.  Which is fantastic! Not only that but it sounds like some really interesting theatre.  However, it does mean that things will have to work differently than we’d thought and so we’ll have to see how it turns out.

Our intention had been for Nick to start training and for me to get started on collecting material properly in April or May after I get back from a trip across the USA.  I will still do this, but it’ll have to be something else.  And what that something else will be will depend on where we are at that time.  All part of the story…

Originally posted on In the Blue Corner

Learning: Prototyping

I’m thinking about how I do what I do and was going to launch into what I’m already learning from this project, but then realised that there’s something that should come first, because it’s the reason I’m doing it this way in the first place.

I try to work on a cycle of “Have an idea – try it out – see what happens – see what ideas it evokes – try one of them out”… etc  If I’m lucky, along the way I will get to make something useful that people want to take part in, or pay for. 

What I used to do, when I worked in a big organisation was have an idea and then say to people around me “Have a think about this and tell me if it will work” and if enough people thought it would work we’d do it.  Of course there were lots of other people having ideas and asking me whether I thought they would work too.  The result of that was that we did relatively little except think and have meetings about whether things might work.

There are two main reasons why I can’t work like that any more.  One is that I don’t sit in a big organisation with lots of people paid to do thinking.  The other is that I just don’t believe that thinking that much before you do something will tell you as much as just doing something.

That’s why I treat everything as a prototype for something else. 

We’re often told that we have to have a vision and to hold onto the delivery of that vision no matter what.  I see it a little differently. 

The trap I try to avoid is thinking that the something else you’re working towards is more important than the thing you’re doing right now.

Tuttle started as a prototype for a social coworking space.  It turned out that it worked very well as a meetup in it’s own right and branched out into our consulting work, my own social art practice and arguably paved the way for C4CC.

So when I started thinking about this year’s American trip and got the idea from Al to also have journals travelling the country alongside me, I had a choice between thinking really hard about how to do that and just trying it out here beforehand to see what I learned.  And now I feel like I’m learning lots, more quickly than expected, that I’d otherwise have had to wait for until I was on the road myself.

What’s the alternative?  I could have written the instructions and then run a workshop (subject to people turning up) to simulate the exercise and run through what people thought might come up.  But how long would it take to set that up? And would the thinking really improve the experience?  Or is the point of the exercise the things that we learn along the way?

Originally posted on Journal Racing

1st UK journals set free

On Friday, I gave out three moleskine notebooks, labelled with their intended destination and including a set of instructions from the original post over here.  Each journal also comes in a stamped addressed jiffy bag so that they can come back to me at the end of the month.  They went to two people who were working in #C4CC that afternoon and one person who I had coffee with later.

There was a wrench to giving them up – I felt very responsible for making sure that they got on their way OK and that the people I'd given them to understood the instructions.  It's a surprise to me whenever this happens.  I make a great deal of the importance of "letting go" but when it comes down to it, I don't find it that easy myself.

So now i have nothing to do but wait for them to come back.  I shall also keep an eye on the hashtag. And I expect I'll also add some posts here as I learn stuff – this is an experiment to find out what works, after all.Originally posted on Journal Racing

Today’s purchases

I just bought a 1inch to 55miles map of the USA for plotting out the physical locations of my "safety net" – yes I shall also be using Google Maps to show things online, but I always like to get a nice analogue feel for what I'm doing.

I also purchased three empty, plain moleskine journals for the racing prototype.  i shall show these off at #tuttle in the morning before setting them free into the wild.Originally posted on Tuttle2Texas2