From the Rails 6 (The Final One)

Well folks, I’m on my way to San Francisco. That means from here on out, I’ll be located in California until the trip has come to an end. On a similar note, this is actually the final train ride of my journey, as I’m hopping a plane to LA and then another back to Cleveland. Am I nervous about it all? Of course. Am I just as equally excited? Absolutely. But that brings me to what I wanted to write about today, as I stare off into the west coast’s endless tree-covered hills and snow-capped mountaintops.

When I first embarked on #TGAA, I scrambled to gain as many online followers as I could. I was so sure that I needed to amass as many likes, retweets, links and mentions as possible. What I’ve since learned is that I had the whole thing backwards. This project isn’t about any of that. Sure, I utilize the Internet to tell the project's story and spread the word about what’s going on. But at its core, #TGAA is about connecting people in the real world; showing people what’s possible; and proving there are opportunities out there you may have never thought to consider—places you never thought to go.

The gravity of this project is not lost on me and neither is my unique position to help others. I may not broadcast all of the things we’ve done along the way, but my hope is that there are now plenty of people out there who can sing their own personal praises for the project. That’s because, whenever I find a line I can help connect, I jump on the opportunity to do so. And I truly believe these are the things that help measure the overall success of our project. I’ve connected musicians with labels, job hunters with headhunters, agencies with apps, writers with artists and individuals with publications. These real world connections are an element that has grown out of #TGAA over time and that—to me—is magical.

While I do my best to open a window into the ever-changing world I’m currently living in, there are limits to what I write about. That’s because the last thing I want to do is cheapen the interactions I have with people along the way. I’ve had drinks with executives, lunches with entire creative teams and picked the brains of musicians, authors and artists alike. Yet, aside from adding their names to the ‘Great People’ page, I’ve elected not to mention many of them in the blog. I feel the anonymity that comes with knowing our interaction is off-the-record helps people relax and be themselves. In turn, this creates more meaningful conversations. Plus, the last thing I want is for someone to think I’m only talking to him or her, just so I have content for the blog.

Of course, the information I gather does make it to everyone in many other ways—even if it’s not attributed to anyone in particular. Every piece of advice—every tidbit of information—has been shared in one form or another. Whether it’s the topic of a blog, through an on-campus Q&A, a one-on-one chat with a junior creative or in response to an inquisitive email, I strive to share everything I learn on our journey. So, trust me when I say, I’m not hoarding any of this newfound knowledge. Most of it is already out there. And as always, if there’s anything you want to know, just ask. This project has always been an open book and that’s what it will always be.

-Steve-

From the Rails 5

Since departing Cleveland in January, it’s become common for me to experience a bout of nerves whenever I’m on my way to a new city. This train ride feels different though. I’m not nervous about where I’m going. I’m not saddened by my departure—even though I had an amazing time in Seattle and got to know a lot of great people. Trust me, I'm really going to miss it. 

I just feel… neutral.

The reason I’m even sharing this is because it seems so odd to me. As the project has progressed, I’ve come to learn how to deal with certain things that are constants—going through security, packing my suitcase, having my forms filled out, sending the next round of emails, etc. The nervousness that comes with venturing to a new place has always been one of those constants. So, why aren’t I feeling it right now? What’s changed?

To be quite honest, I haven’t the slightest idea. Perhaps seeing my friends a few weeks ago hit some sort of reset button on my whole ‘on the road’ mindset. I mean, on some level, the time I spent with them reminded me that it won’t long before I see them again. We are entering the final three months of the project after all.

On the other hand, perhaps I’ve just grown so accustomed to relocating that my brain now sees it as ‘just another day’. My subconscious may be telling me, “Relax, we’ve done this 12 other times. There’s nothing to be nervous about.” I guess I’ll just have to wait and see if the nerves return when I’m gearing up for San Francisco.

As for now, I plan on putting my head back and losing myself in the motion of the tracks and the music in my headphones. I’ll see you in Portland everyone.

-Steve-

From the Rails 4 (Sky High Edition)

Well folks, here I am sitting in the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport waiting to depart for Austin. Since I arrived a little earlier than expected, I thought I’d write another ‘From the Rails’ post, even though this would technically be ‘From the Air’. Either way, it will help to pass the hour or so of waiting I still have to endure.

Of all the cities I’ve visited so far, I’d have to say that Minneapolis is far and away the cleanest. The street lamps are without posters, flyers or stickers; the walls are graffiti free; and the lack of blowing trash would astound just about anyone from the northeast. In addition to that, it’s a place where fitness and nature are top priorities. How do I know this? Well, it was pretty hard to miss.

NYC and Chicago both have bike share programs that I took advantage of while in town. For NYC it’s Citibike and for Chicago it’s Divvy. In Minneapolis, they have Nice Ride Minnesota and usage-wise, it trumps both of those other programs (or perhaps it just seems that way). Aside from cyclists, the number of joggers I saw at all times of day was pretty spectacular too. I still run before work and usually I’d see about 4 or 5 people out at the same time. But in Minneapolis, I could count about 20-25 people every morning. Obviously, the timing of my stay played a role in it, as I can’t imagine this many people out and about during the winter months. 

Then there are the parks. Once you step foot outside of the downtown area, you can’t throw a stone without hitting a park. Whether it’s a small landing with some benches or a giant greenspace filled with flowers, tables and plenty of room for frolicking, this is a city at one with the earth. I know there are plenty of hiking trails and mountain paths nearby and while I didn’t have a chance to hit any of them during my stay, there presence was greatly welcomed. You can escape the city at anytime, either for an afternoon or an entire weekend. And you never have to stray too far from home. How cool is that?

Clearly, there's something special about this city. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but things here are just… well… a little different. It could be the crisp air or the ever-present charm of the Midwest. Either way, the people here are kind, genuine and calm. And the city, even in it’s busiest moments, is still peaceful in its own way. I was actually surprised the other day, when I took my headphones off on a busy side street and noticed it was nearly silent, despite being filled with diners lounging in the nearby patios. That’s not something you’d find in a lot of big cities.

Now, I’ll have to wait and see how it compares to my remaining stops. I hear the west coast is a much different place than where I've already been. I’m excited to find out for sure; but first, I need to visit the wonderland that is Austin, TX. So, I’ll see you all there.

-Steve-