The Journey Metaphor: @missrogue on “The Unclear Path”

Sorry, this was supposed to be a “bonus link” for that last post but I got carried away with my own rhetoric.  Here, have some of Tara’s rhetoric instead.

“where is this road taking me? Well, that’s the craziest part of all…I’m not entirely sure.

However, I was heartened to learn recently that this is a keystone of being an entrepreneur. A study on a swath of successful entrepreneurs in INC Magazine found that, though we have lofty goals, like luggage, these goals may “shift during flight.” it stands to reason that unpredictable outcomes are bound to happen as one pioneers uncharted waters. Instead of nailing down a clear goal and barreling towards it, entrepreneurs ask questions that lead them towards answers.”

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

Journey As Metaphor For The Way We Live Now

Why is the idea of a journey important right now?  How can we use the ideas about a journey to help us understand things that are changing or confusing or just too complicated in our everyday lives?  

That’s what I’m trying to do here.  Although I enjoy travelling and telling stories about what happened, just because what happened was fun, unexpected or interesting, I’m much more interested in drawing out what they mean and what the whole thing means about how we live life.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to say that, I got too tangled up in just letting people know I was still here, still going, still OK.

Back to the question.  Why is it important?  

Because deep down we know that the current form of organising society and our economy is no longer working, has not been working for some time, is highly unlikely to go back to working the way it used to.  

We can feel the ache to bud and blossom in some new way.  We just don’t know what that new way will be.  It is entrepreneurs and artists who will create it.  The people who play with new ideas and try them out.  They are on a journey, on the uncharted path to the future, they try things, they put things out there that are half-baked, that they don’t really understand themselves yet, because that’s the only way to understand them.  

And all around them people are saying “No! Don’t do that!  Keep doing the old thing, stay at home, in the old place. You have to know what you’re going to do before you set out so make a very detailed and accurate plan. If you really must go out there, only follow the paths that others have trodden before you”

But they’re wrong, the important thing is to set out, to get on the road.  And everyone who does that is in a little way making it easier for others to do so too and ultimately making it possible for us all to survive.  And so those people need encouragement.  They need to be affirmed and told that they are doing the right thing.  And that is why they deserve to have art made about them and what they do, to help them and the people around them to understand what they are doing and how they are living.  

And that’s what this is all about.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

Attitudes to Story Telling and Value

Why do people buy stories?  Why do people pay story-tellers to tell them the stories that they’ve gathered out in the world?  

I’m not talking about the bulk of book & movie purchases, which seems to be fiction: made-up, complicated and modernised versions of ancient themes.  They’re generally reassurances that all is well – even when they’re about serial-killers and child-torturers we feel better because we know that it isn’t happening in our little corner of the world.

When it comes to someone going out and experiencing the world and then coming back and interpreting what they’ve seen for people back at home, (ie the stuff I’m trying to do here) I’ve experienced four attitudes:

1. You go and look, and tell me what’s going on, I’ve got plenty of stuff here to keep me busy, but I am interested in what’s out there and what you think.

2. I’m afraid that I may be wrong about how the world works, please show me evidence that I’m right after all.

3. Even though I hate to admit that I’m wrong, I know that I grow most by hearing different points of view.  Give me something to fight against and maybe learn.

4. I don’t really get what you’re doing and I don’t have time to work it out for myself.

5. La-la-la! I’m not listening! Go away, you’re wrong, your methods are wrong, I hate you, etc.

So far, I think, I’ve only really engaged with Types 1, 5 and to a certain extent 4 where I’ve tried to turn them into a Type 1 – because within Type 1 there are those who will pay up front to make sure this kind of thing happens and there are those who won’t.  

Types 2, 3, 4 and some Type 5s (yikes!) are the next stage of engagement. I haven’t had to deal with this yet because I haven’t really done any interpretation, I’ve simply reported on what happened, sometimes what I thought about it, but not really in any depth.

But this is where the real value is, this is where the benefits emerge for readers: “evidence that I’m right”, “growth… something to fight against and maybe learn”, having something presented simply that “I don’t have time to work out for myself”  

Things that they might be willing to pay for in one form or another.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

Learning Pool & That T-Shirt

Here’s me in my Learning Pool t-shirt while I was in New Orleans.  Ray Nichols kindly took me along to an event called “Be The Change: A Celebration of New Orleans Social Entrepreneurs”.  It was great – a few hundred energetic people, all full of big ideas about how to change their bit of the world.  We talked and talked and talked.  

As full disclosure, Learning Pool gave me the t-shirt and $200 towards the trip.  In return I said I’d wear the shirt and let people know (including through this blog post) what i thought about their new product mylearningpool.  Oh, and I had some promotional postcards to give to people who might be interested in the product at SXSW and other places I went.

I’ve known Dave Briggs, their Community Evangelist for as long as I’ve known anyone on the social web and I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know the founders, Mary and Paul better since I met Mary at the UK GovCamp in 2010. What impresses me about every “Poolie” I meet is their passion for understanding how to create value for their customers, coupled with their commitment to improve public services.

They have a wide range of Learning and Development products for public sector organisations but their new baby is mylearningpool, a collection of (currently) 20 or so online courses for all sorts of people in social enterprises or the voluntary sector.  They cover basic skills for individuals such as:

  • using social media
  • finding a new job
  • presentation skills
  • personal health and safety

but also modules on subjects like:

  • procurement
  • customer service
  • technology and change
  • managing stress
  • data protection

New modules are being added all the time, I’m told.  And I’m sure the content will be updated regularly.  The modules I saw in the demo were easy to work through and learn from but the thing that caught everyone’s eye when I spoke to them about it was the price – £25 in the UK, $40 in the USA – in general, people’s attitude was: “Well at that price, you only need one of them to be any good and you’ve got value for your money”

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

Keep Helping Me Solve It

The one thing I want to learn from The American Trip is that asking for help in this way really works.  Also that sticking with the process, no matter what, is what makes for the most amazing experiences.

So here are the elements of today’s conundrum.  

On the debit side:

  • I have no paid work at the moment, nor any lined up.
  • I am behind with my rent and some other bills for last month as I didn’t raise enough to cover my overhead back here while I was travelling.
  • Though I’ve paid the slew of 1st of the month bills, I’m now running short of cash for day-to-day expenses.

On the credit side:

  • I have just had an amazing adventure, the type of journey that most people never get to make in their lives.
  • I have learned from and been inspired by countless other artists, entrepreneurs and creative people during the last month.
  • I have a great number of stories, ideas, photographs, bits of audio and video from the trip that I’d like to make something meaningful from.  There is at least some analysis of the value and flows of social capital and a broader narrative about the style of travelling as a metaphor for the future of work and organisations.  There are doubtless other products in there that I haven’t started to draw out yet.
  • I’ve continually expanded my network among people I’ve met on the road  

I can imagine immediate flow coming from the following directions:

  • Paid gigs (part- or full-time) doing what I do or something else you’ve seen me do.
  • Micropatronage or sales of music.
  • One-off Donations, perhaps from people who enjoyed watching #plate11 as the live bit unfolded and would like to see more but didn’t get round to contributing earlier.

And then there are sales of what I can produce from the trip as well as looking at grant funding in the longer term.

A big lesson of the last month is not to let my imagination limit what can actually happen.

I have no more doubt that the answers will come, one way or another, than I had that you could help me get from San Francisco to New York City via all sorts of adventures just over a month ago.

And so I thank you, once again.





Originally posted on Lloyd’s posterous

Inter-city Distances and Rail Travel Costs

Disregarding all of the travelling I did while in each city, I made a total of 15 inter-city journeys.  Legs 3 & 4 and legs 5 & 6 had only an hour stop in between so each felt like only one journey.  Likewise 10, 11 & 12 Washington to Belfast and 13, 14, & 15 Belfast back to NYC.  

You have to draw the line somewhere…  

Anyhow, taking a mixture of Amtrak’s timetable and estimates from Google Maps (since the North Eastern timetables don’t publish distances) and adding in the road journey from Lafayette to New Orleans. I came up with the following distances (in miles)

  1. San Jose to Seattle                                    954 
  2. Seattle to Milwaukee                                2120 
  3. Milwaukee to Chicago                                  86  
  4. Chicago to Austin                                     1223 
  5. Austin to San Antonio                                   82 
  6. San Antonio to Lafayette                             428  
  7. Lafayette to New Orleans (by road)              135
  8. New Orleans to Chicago                             934 
  9. Chicago to Washington                               922 
  10. Washington to Boston                                 460
  11. Boston to Portland                                      125
  12. Portland to Belfast                                      100 
  13. Belfast to Portland                                      100 
  14. Portland to Boston                                      125
  15. Boston to NYC                                           240

I make that 8,034 miles

I reserved them in eight chunks as each next leg became clear.  The 30-day, 12 segment rail pass cost $579 and I had to pay an extra $50 for bus tickets from Portland to Belfast and back because that took me over 12 segments.

Had I paid for tickets individually at the point that I made each decision (discounts are available for advance booking but I didn’t know any of this in advance), they would have cost as follows:

  1. San Jose to Seattle                                    $158
  2. Seattle to Milwaukee                                  $347
  3. Milwaukee to Austin                                   $144
  4. Austin to Lafayette                                       $67 
  5. New Orleans to Chicago                            $112
  6. Chicago to Washington                              $133
  7. Washington to Belfast                                $222
  8. Belfast to NYC                                          $137

That gives a total of $1320 (£858*)

Total actual cost of inter-city travel = $579+$50 = $629 (£408.85)

So buying the rail pass more than halved the cost of travel, saving me $691 (£449.15)

And on average, I paid just under 8 cents (just over 5p) per mile for this travel.

*at the time of the trip the exchange rate was roughly $1=£0.65

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman


People have asked me how different train travel is in the USA from the UK and Europe.  In this clip you get a flavo(u)r of it by way of the announcements made pre-trip by Nancy our coach car service attendant and the responses from some of my fellow passengers.  I shot this on The Cardinal, from Chicago to DC – bear in mind that we were about to spend a 23 hour journey together over 922 miles.

While this level of interaction before travelling was not typical in my experience, it does represent well the relationship between travellers and train staff on these long journeys.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

At the Jefferson Memorial last weekend

Thomas eyes Barack

Father teaches Liberty

Cherry Blossom Time


I sat for a while on the steps of the memorial to Thomas Jefferson on Sunday, following the line of sight of his statue across the tidal basin, the Washington Monument and the White House in the distance.  Next to me a young girl was asking her father questions about freedom and what the words written on the walls of the memorial mean.  All around us were the fresh blossoms of cherry trees, a gift from the people of Japan in 1912 beautiful every year, but all the more poignant given the earthquake and tsunami of a few weeks before.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

Home and Filling Gaps

I'm home.  It's weird.  I'm struggling to string words together when talking to people (I went straight to Tuttle from the airport this morning) partly because I got about 4 hours sleep last night starting at the equivalent of 2am and partly because I haven't spoken to that many people at once for a while, partly because everyone wants to know everything and there isn't time for that but also just saying "it was really good, I enjoyed it, I had a great time" doesn't do it justice, partly because I've been travelling for a month and the reasons for tiredness that I wrote about last weekend haven't gone away yet.

I just cooked for myself for the first time since I made breakfast before I left on March 1st.  Being the perpetual houseguest is weird and will require much futher writing.

I'm aware that I let go of daily chronicles after Day 18.  I've been writing them sketchily and the detail will come, but for those who haven't been following all the time I wanted to just summarize the final 13 days.

I had an interesting, relaxing and stimulating weekend in Lafayette, met some new people and had a fab night out which may end up as a short story entitled "One Night in Southern Louisiana"  I also got to spend some time on the Sunday at the New Orleans Museum of Art.

I had 3 nights with Ray and Bev Nichols in New Orleans getting a deeper feel for the social enterprise and non-profit scene and talking lots with Ray about social capital, connections and his use of Facebook.

I then took the train, "The City of New Orleans" up to Chicago, had a day wandering, probably too far for my poor feet, mostly around down- and midtown, dropping into coffee shops for wifi and generally being very very cold.  I chickened out of the opportunity to go to the 96th Floor of the John Hancock Tower.

Left Chicago in the evening on The Cardinal which goes down through Cincinnatti and across through beautiful countryside in West Virginia and Virginia to Washington DC.

In DC I met up with Anne Wilson, another friend of Jo Mitchell, who'd introduced me to Ann and Kevin in Seattle and stayed with her and her dog Lucas for a couple of nights.  On the Saturday we went to the theatre and saw Mike Daisey in "The Agony and Ecstacy of Steve Jobs" which reminded me of the power of storytelling in first person monologues – something to aim for with presenting the material for my trip.  The way travel worked out, I had Sunday on my own in DC, I went to the National Portrait Gallery and then walked down to the Jefferson Memorial and back past the Washington Monument and Capitol to Union Station to sit and do some writing before setting off again at about 10pm.

I next headed up towards the East Coast through Philadelphia to New York and arriving in Boston first thing in the morning.  From there I took the Downeaster train to Portland, Maine and then a bus up to Belfast where I met one of my longest-standing online friends that I'd never met face-to-face, Neal Foley aka @podchef.  Neal and his wife Kathy and 5 daughters live on a farm outside Belfast.  I had a  delightful couple of nights there and in the day making mozzarella from fresh raw cow's milk, touring a small part of the 60 acres of land, watching Neal tap his maple trees for sap to make into syrup and then assisting poorly in making  a curry.  I'm so glad I made the effort – what a lovely family!

This brings me to Wednesday which was almost entirely spent travelling from Maine to NYC where I stayed with Sanford Dickert, a man I've met once in London but who could tell from the mutual friends we have that he could trust me on his couch.  We spent the next morning bashing around my value proposition and why it is that I seem to struggle to make money doing what i'm doing.  Then I went and had a deliciously civilised lunch with Taylor Davidson who reminded me of many of the lessons I'd learned on last years trip as well as acknowledging  that I'd "done it the hard way".

I don't get on well with Manhattan.  I react badly to unspoken rules that I don't know and which it seems from people's reactions in the streets, it's really, really important that you do know.  Anyhow, I managed to get to the Nintendo store to pick up things for my kids as promised and then bumbled down to Grand Central Station and a bus to Kennedy Airport.

The flight was a little delayed and as I say, I didn't sleep too well but that's how I ended up sitting on the Piccadilly Line again this morning, loving the grey, green, damp, higgledy-piggledyness of London, no grid-systems, an Oyster card, a tube system that I know and hearing people not speaking English – home.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman