17 Days Later

After being on the road for 14 months straight, I feel incredibly blessed that I’m able to look back at the journey with bright, optimistic eyes. So many things could’ve went wrong along the way, yet due to the kind nature of everyone I met, I was able to make it out unscathed and with my sanity intact.

Of course, nothing in life is perfect and there were a few times I considered packing my bags and heading home. Some of those moments were brought on by exhaustion, others from simply missing home. However, I made a commitment to the project and was determined to see it through regardless of the circumstances. In fact, there was only one time those thoughts ever made me pause and second guess our journey.

Before I get into that though, I need to preface it with a bit of backstory.

During my last week in each city, I took time to reach out to local organizations and publications at our next stop. Being that I am only one person, I often relied on those outlets to help me spread the word to other creatives in the area. In turn, many of those people would reach out to me and I was able to connect with so many individuals at agencies and schools around the country. That’s why I’m so grateful for the Creative Group, the Art Directors Club and The Egotist Network. They continually promoted the project each and every month and without them, things would’ve turned out much different.

Not everyone saw the value in our project though. 10 months in, I reached out to the Seattle branch of a prominent “creative” organization—one whose other branches had helped me in several other cities along the way. I sent their President a personalized email describing the project and asking for his assistance in spreading the word around town. It was an email I had been sent many times before. Yet, the reply I received this time was far different. To call it a shot in the heart would be an understatement.

While I no longer have the email (I deleted it), there were three sentences in particular that will linger with me for the rest of my career.

1. “I don’t understand how your project would benefit our members.”

While I try not to take anything personally, especially in this business, this statement took me by surprise. I had explained the project to a lot of people at that point and I actually took pride in my ability to succinctly tout the project’s value. Yet, in my road-weary state, it made me second-guess all of the progress we had made. Were there others who didn’t understand the project? How many opportunities had we missed out because of it? 

2. “To me, your project just seems like a drawn-out attempt to land a job somewhere.”

This is a question I received many times during the first few months of the project. As it continued, however, that question dwindled and I heard less of it with each passing day. But there I was, nearing the 11-month mark and someone was still unsure of my commitment. It, again, brought me to wonder if others still thought this whole thing to be an elaborate resume stunt. If I couldn’t win some people over in a year’s time, would I ever?

3. “You might want to rethink the copy on your site, because I didn’t understand what the project was until you described it to me.”

Now, this sentence came further into our back and forth e-mail conversation. After I was finally able to convince the person why #TGAA was important to me, he placed the blame on my site copy for the misunderstanding. And you know what? I’m really glad he did. His statement made me realize that I didn’t care what he thought. Especially since I described the project to him using my site copy word-for-word. It took any doubt he had placed in my mind and instantly erased it. It let me know that he had passed judgment on the project, without ever looking into what it was about. Sadly, that email didn't come until three days into the whole ordeal. So, I spent several nights wallowing in doubt. It wasn't a good time—at all. 

Once I read that sentence though, it reminded me that we had already met and won over hundreds of other people across the country. My mind snapped back to reality and I realized everything this man was saying to me was personal opinion. I can never change what people thought or continue to think about #TGAA. However, no one can ever take away what we accomplished. The friendships we’ve made, the lives we’ve touched and the places we’ve gone. Fact will always trump opinion.

Was #TGAA a way for me to land a job? In a way, I guess so. Then again, shouldn’t everything we do be a step toward improving our lives or the lives of others? Was it an excuse for me to travel the country? Sort of; but how else can a writer know the world without having seen it? The point of #TGAA was to have a shared experience and see what we could accomplish together.

And that’s exactly what we did.

So, no matter how tough things get; no matter how far you are from home, just keep doing what you love because no one can ever take away your accomplishments… unless you’re juicing... or cheating (Sorry, it was getting a tad too serious there).

-Steve-

Day 422

Well folks, we've officially entered into the final week of #TGAA. I'm currently on my way back from a weekend trip to Las Vegas and I have to admit that I had a stellar time. I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy it, since I didn't plan on spending any money, but those buffets really sold me. I don't even want to know how many calories I consumed in the past 48 hours. Yeesh! 

Anyway, I wanted to post my final 'helpful website' blog today, because I think it makes for a good segue into my final 'project' blog on Thursday. Not to mention, I always get a lot of good feedback on them. So, before I start rambling on about crab cakes and salad bars, let's take a look at some of the sites I frequented over the past 5 months. 

Austin

Do512.com  — A list of all the wonderful events going on—in and around Austin. What’s cool and different about this calendar is that they regularly offer free tickets to shows, which is a very useful tool for the vast nightlife of the city.

Austin360.com — A more traditional site, Austin360 offers everything from sports standings and classifieds to concert photos and games.

C3Concerts.com — These folks have their hands in some of Austin’s biggest festivals, which means you’ll find the latest and greatest concerts here before anywhere else. An excellent site to bookmark, if you love live shows.

Seattle

The Stranger — City news with a twist. The Stranger is Seattle’s go-to site for all things music, art and culture. But they also have a rambunctious staff running the show and they know how to bring the fun into everything they do.

City Arts — Art is alive and well in the city of Seattle and if that’s your scene this is a site you’ll absolutely love. From lectures and comedy to openings and movies, they cover just about every creative endeavor you can image.

Seattle MET — This is a great site for new restaurant openings, the latest fashion tips and a lot of local giveaways. Personally, I found it extremely useful when trying to decide where to eat. They have some really great reviews over there.

Portland

Willamette Weekly — Arts & Culture, Food & Drink, Willamette Weekly is the city’s authority on everything happening in and around the city. Their print version can also be found just about everywhere too.

Eleven PDX — This one is all about the music. You can learn about upcoming concerts and even read up on the local and national acts who are making their mark on the scene.

Artslandia — Portland has a lot of stage performances going on almost every single night. This site brings you the good, the bad and the ugly of what’s going on and where.

San Francisco

Fun Cheap SF — If you’re living on a budget (and let’s face it, most people in SF are) this website is Internet gold. I had an extremely tight budget in December and this site provided me with a slew of free and cheap events to attend.

The Bay Bridged — If you love music, this site is for you. San Francisco has an incredible indie music scene and The Bay Bridged brings them all together for your concert-going pleasure. If it’s happening on a stage in the bay area, you’ll find out about it here.

AD2SF.org — This site is much different than any of the others I’ve posted about. AD2SF is dedicated to bringing young ad professionals together through networking events, learning seminars and mixers. If you’re under 35 and in SF, I highly recommend you check out some of their events.

Los Angeles

Art Scene CalLA has an incredible art scene, which shouldn’t really come as a surprise. This site is constantly updated with the latest openings, shows and news from the art world. It’s a great way to take in some culture any day of the week.

Buzz Bands LA — Have you always wondered how people hear about the ‘next big thing’ before anyone else? They probably frequent this site. It’s dedicated to highlighting the newest groups and letting you know where and when they’re taking the stage.

LA Weekly Calendar — I feel bad about putting this one on the list, but I’ll be damned if LA Weekly doesn’t get it right. They’ve got nearly every upcoming event listed and catalogued to help you make plans for the week ahead. 

I hope these sites help you as much as they helped me. It's nice to look back and remember how much I used them. As for now though, I'm going to take a nap and hopefully wake up back in LA.

See you soon!

-Steve-

 

Day 387

Last winter, when I was traveling down the east coast through Boston, NYC and Philadelphia, I remember telling myself, “I can’t wait until next winter, because I won’t have to put up with any snow”. Well, the months have come and gone, and now I'm in the midst of my very first snowless holiday season. At first it was a welcomed change, since I’m sure there will be plenty of snow waiting for me in Cleveland at the end of January. 

However, now that we’re in the week of Christmas, I can’t help but feel a little let down. For as much as I complain about winter weather, I never quite realized how much I cherish the sight of it this time of year. Granted, I don’t necessarily want to drive through it or anything, but I do find myself longing for a light dusting every morning. It’s almost as if my brain keeps forgetting it’s winter, since all I’ve seen in the past 4 weeks is rain, rain and more rain. Point being, I don’t think I could ever live somewhere it doesn’t snow. I guess that narrows down some of my choices for when this project is over too.

Why do I bring this up? Well, I received a rather interesting question through the site over the weekend and I wanted to give it a proper intro. In fact, before I get to the question, I want to send a gigantic ‘thank you’ to everyone out there who's sent me an inquiry over the past 13 months. Thus far, I’ve fielded more than 600 of them and that’s pretty awesome! But without further ado, here’s today’s question from Andrew B. of Oklahoma City:

Hey Steve, I’ll be graduating at the end of next semester and I’m curious if weather ever factors into how much you enjoy a city. I ask, because I’m considering a move to Montreal once I finish school.”

Montreal! Wow, I’d love to go there sometime myself. As I mentioned above, weather plays a more important role than I probably ever realized. It's just one of those things you don't often think about, except in extreme cases. I think it all has to do with personal preference. The best thing you can do is sit down and be honest with yourself about what kind of conditions you want to deal with. After all, some people say they love rain—but do they really?

The other thing you’ll want to do is check out the forecasts from last year. I always had some preconceived notion about what the weather would be like in a certain city, but more often than not, I was surprised by what I actually encountered. For instance, I hadn't considered it would rain more in San Francisco than it did during my stays in Portland and Seattle combined. Plus, I discovered Portland rarely ever gets snow, which I wouldn’t have guessed in a million years. It just seems like a place where it snows, doesn’t it? On top of that there's humidity in St. Louis, heat in Austin and earthquakes in Cali—all good things to consider. 

When it comes down to it, if you’re going to move somewhere, just be sure to put a lot of thought into it first. Some places seem like a good idea, but once you actually get into the meat and potatoes of it all, you might find it’s not the paradise you initially thought it was. That's also why I recommend visiting a place before moving there; word-of-mouth isn't always accurate. 

So, there you have it. A little weather talk from #TGAA. I hope wherever you are in the world right now, you have an incredible week and a great holiday season.

Oh, and thank you Stephen

-Steve-