So Long 2013! You Kicked Me Right in the Pants and for that, I Thank You.
2013 gave me two choices– expand or break. It was an exhilarating, frustrating, exhausting year and I’ve never grown so quickly personally or professionally in just 365 days. I lived in four different states, become co-founder of a startup company, and made Boulder, CO home. Here are the highlights!
Living in 4 Different States.
For the better part of 2013 I didn’t know where I lived, at least, I didn’t where my ‘real’ home was. It’s a struggle for all nomadic souls.
In early 2013, I packed my bags and headed to the Windy City to work with the Project Travel team for 8 weeks.
I fell in love with Chicago’s architecture, L Train, museums, and big-city bustle. I realized, however, that I wouldn’t ever choose to live in a big city long-term. After years questioning whether or not I could hack it in Manhattan, London, or Chicago the answer was right there in front of me–I need quiet, natural and untamed spaces, trails, sea or rock faces nearby. It’s a non-negotiable.
I lived with 5 dudes and one girl and they all were either Ruby on Rails developers or graphic designers. Next to them, I looked like a grandma learning how to ‘navigate the interwebs’. We had a lot of laughs, I learned what terms like ‘full stack’ meant, and I finally agreed to watch Game of Thrones…and I now want a dire wolf.
The capital city of Harrisburg hosts the annual Pennsylvania Farm Show and I revived a life-long family tradition in 2013 by going with my little sister. If you go you to the PA Farm Show you will come out smelling like poop, but where else can you see a 2,000 pound butter sculpture or watch a contest to see who can sheer a sheep, spin it’s wool into yarn, and knit a shawl the fastest? I love the Farm Show. Listen, you can take the girl out of Pennsylvania, but you can’t quite take the Pennsylvania out of the girl!
In spring 2013, I committed to living in PA for an unspecified period of time, signed a one-year lease, and planted a modest garden. Days later, I got a phone call from my business partner and by the end of our 5 minute conversation, I was moving to Northern Michigan for the summer. So much for my big epiphany! I had to remember that letting my expectations go meant giving myself the ability to see unplanned opportunity.
Harrisburg is (quite literally) falling apart, but living in the city proper changed my perspective. In just a short period of time, I found a real community, a burgeoning underground arts scene, and idyllic sunset walks and bike rides by the Susquehanna River.
Harrisburg showed me that the forgotten cities of America are diamonds in the rough. Meaningful community and interesting life experiences can be found anywhere.
Harbor Springs, Michigan
I had never been to Michigan before and had 6 days to find a place to live in a summer vacation town of 5,000 during peak season. Project Travel was invited to join a ‘startup accelerator’ program in Harbor Springs two weeks late because another team dropped. I didn’t even know what an accelerator program was but I soon find out that it would be one of the most intense and rewarding 8 weeks of my life.
My business partner and I represented one of five teams at Coolhouse Labs. The mantra for startup accelerators is fail fast. Seriously. The idea is that you work out all the crappy half-baked ideas and solutions within the context of a mentorship network, co-working space, and business training. Thankfully, I could take a walk by the harbor (below) when ‘failing fast’ became too disappointing, overwhelming, or frustrating.
In the end, I was surrounded by interesting, curious, and intelligent people who wanted me to succeed. In spite of the typical 6 or 7 day work week, I managed a few summer adventures in ‘the Mitten’, which included watching a meteor shower from a Dark Sky park, living with a host family, and catching a 22 lb. King Salmon from Lake Michigan.
Startup Life with Project Travel
A more seasoned entrepreneur once told me that startup life is a “roller-coaster ride”. He was dead on. Starting a company is like becoming a parent for the first time. It is exciting, painful, confusing, and scary. Everyone you talk to will have a very strong (and usually opposing) viewpoint about how you should go about it.
Becoming a co-founder with Project Travel this year has taught me more about business, people, and myself than I thought possible. 2013 was the year Project Travel launched a public website, had a major shift in the core team, and expanded our vision to become more than a fundraising site for educational travelers. 2014 will be a year to see the next phase of our idea take flight. In September, Jen and I also decided to move Project Travel to Boulder, Colorado to make it happen.
Home (Boulder, Colorado)
I packed up a Chevy pickup truck, Jen flew into Harrisburg, and together we drove more than 1,600 miles from Pennsylvania to Colorado. I have not been in one place for more than 12 weeks since early 2012. This move signifies a new chapter in my life, one in which I welcome the formation of habits and routines, relish the simple and even the mundane, and plant roots for myself personally and professionally.
I feel like I can have it all in Boulder…wilderness at my doorstep, a vibrant startup community, interesting and well-traveled folks, good coffee, craft beer, and even salsa dancing! To top it off, I have friends from New York, Florida, Northern Ireland, Michigan, and Pennsylvania who also decided to move to Colorado. I landed in the right place and I’m relieved to call Boulder home, for 2014 and even beyond.