Category Archives: travel

Who’s a hero?

All together now: I’M A HERO!!!!!!!

This is one of many inside references to Camp Nerd Fitness I could make in this post. It started out as what we would yell during Amy Clover’s Strong Inside Out bootcamp sessions when a particular move was kicking our ass and we needed a war cry to keep us moving, and quickly became one of the watchwords of the whole weekend.

So what the hell is Camp Nerd Fitness? Let’s break it down.

Camp: Exactly what it sounds like. This long weekend took place at a legit summer camp facility, complete with bunk-filled cabins, a lake, a dining hall, lots of trails through the woods, a high ropes course, sports fields, and a giant inflated “Blob” from which campers could be catapulted into the water by their friends. And this camp was in the literal middle of nowhere, so it was as peaceful and quiet and away-from-it-all as you could want a summer camp to be. Every day was packed full of workshops, classes, and sessions we chose to participate in (and lamented conflicts between), with breaks for meals, walks, meditation, games, and conversation with our fellow campers. Every night had a themed dance party and a bonfire. And everyone there came from many different places, met as strangers, and left four days later as family.

Nerd: This wasn’t just any camp. This was camp for nerds, geeks, dweebs, dorks, and other people who just can’t contain their love for things like video games, fantasy books, board games, travel and adventure, even reality TV shows. And the nerditude was not subtle. I’m sure the different areas of this camp had normal names, but this weekend we learned longsword moves and played Ultimate Frisbee on Hyrule Field, practiced parkour in the Panem Training Grounds, talked about meal planning and self-esteem in Hogwarts, held the opening and closing ceremonies in The Coliseum, lit our bonfire atop the Beacon of Gondor, meditated at the Deku Tree, and used the entire camp space for a giant game of Humans vs. Zombies. When we weren’t sessioning or partying, there was a whole room full of board and card and video games for us to play. (Multiple epic games of Cards Against Humanity took place there, among many other games!) The nightly dance parties had a superhero and a Rubik’s cube theme, respectively. We weren’t just nerds in the same space, we were nerds being nerdy together on purpose, and damn proud to be there.

Fitness: Here was where we niched down even further. Steve Kamb is pretty famous for turning fitness into a real-life leveling up quest, and he and his team have inspired hundreds (probably thousands) of people to embrace their nerditude in ways that gets them healthier, stronger, fitter, and happier. To this end, all of the sessions and activities at CNF were geared toward all different kinds of fitness. Some of these were flat-out workouts, like the bootcamps I mentioned above. Some were training sessions for basic and advanced workout practices, from yoga to powerlifting to bodyweight work. Some were more specific (and nerdy) skill sessions, including knife and longsword fighting, kung fu, parkour, tricking (flips and air kicks), and grip strength. In between these active activities, we could learn about Paleo cooking and meal planning, how exercise helps fight depression, how to develop strong positive body image, and how some of the Nerd Fitness luminaries got in shape themselves. All the food served was Paleo, we all drank a ton of water, and I think pretty much all of us got pretty sore. (And we did all this as a vacation!)

So wait, was this just fat camp for geeks?

Um, no. Not even close. See, I haven’t gotten to the best part yet.

The best part is that this wasn’t a camp someone threw together to shame us all into slimming down, or challenge us to get off our lazy asses and start subsisting on broccoli between weightlifting sessions. This was a community gathering, the Nerd Fitness online forums writ into real life, founded on the principle that people make the healthiest and happiest choices for themselves when they are completely and totally supported. All body types, all skill sets, and all fitness levels were represented at this camp, as they are in the NF online community, and every single one was welcomed without question or condition. Some of us had done Ironman triathlons, some of us could barely run around the dining hall. It didn’t matter. The question of “who’s a hero?” was not a question of ability, but a question of heart, grit, passion, and self-acceptance.

I went to Camp Nerd Fitness unsure of how well I would do or fit in. I was definitely a nerd, but fitness hasn’t been a big thing for me in a long time, and I was never a camp kid. I fully anticipated spending the entire long weekend gasping for breath and massaging a raging stitch in my side. I wasn’t sure how I would deal with the people who could run circles around me (literally or figuratively). I knew I would be outside of my comfort zone, playing at my edge, sitting in the middle seat, or whatever language you want to use. But I knew I was going to do it anyway.

Was it perfect? Hell, no. There were a hundred tweaks that could have been made to make the experience better. That’s what happens whenever any event gets put on the first time, and it was still pretty damn great given that.

Was it difficult? Bet your asbestos it was. I struggled with all kinds of things, from doing the whole bootcamp to reforging my rusty martial arts skills to sleeping badly on camp bunks. That’s what happens when you commit to pushing yourself for a weekend on purpose.

But was it worth it? Absolutely. The people I met this weekend are, in every sense of the phrase, my people. We’re on a collective hero’s journey, and even when we go it alone, we’re doing it together. And that’s pretty awesome.

So who’s a hero? I’m a hero. If you’re interested in this particular brand of heroism, feel free to join me at Camp Nerd Fitness next year. I’ll see you at the swordfighting class, the Blob, and/or the Cards Against Humanity table.

Stranded!

When I was a kid, one of my favorite stories was Treasure Island. (Still is, actually.) Those of you familiar with that book will remember the character of Ben Gunn, who was marooned (left on the island by treacherous shipmates) three years before Jim Hawkins and company showed up. I think Ben Gunn may have been conceived as the story’s main comic relief, as a wild man dressed in goatskins who dreams of cheese every night was a welcome break from the throat-cutting and betrayal that marked much of the book up until Gunn’s appearance.

But over several reads of Treasure Island (and at least as many viewings of the 1990 film made of the book, starring Charlton Heston and a very young Christian Bale, which remains a favorite of mine to this day), Ben Gunn became one of my favorite characters. Despite having forgotten a lot of social courtesies after spending three years alone on the island, it is Ben Gunn who helps Jim and his friends, Ben Gunn who knows the island best, and Ben Gunn who (spoiler alert) has already found the treasure and moved it to safety. His uncouth demeanor hides a sharp mind and a strong sense of moral loyalty, and in the end it is his support that allows the forces of good to prevail and the story to have a happy ending.

I’ve been thinking about Ben Gunn a fair bit these past few days. Not because I’ve been digging up treasure or dreaming of cheese, but because for the last week and a half I’ve essentially been stranded. I arrived at my friend Val’s house near Gainesville, FL, on August 21, intending to stay for about 5 days, maybe 6 at the outside. Instead, I’m leaving today, just over two weeks after I got here. Val and her mom already left (the house is their summer home), and her dad has been in and out but is getting ready to leave as well. Thankfully they’ve been gracious enough to let me stay as long as I needed.

And believe me, I needed. Every single one of the options I had lined up for where to stay after here fell through. It literally took me until yesterday to figure out new ones, a process which involved finding and juggling several different puzzle pieces of who was available where when. Hence my feeling stranded. I had a place to be for the moment, but nowhere to go if I left. And while central Florida might be a bit more hospitable for me to traverse than the middle of the ocean would have been for Ben Gunn, I still was loath to strike out into the unknown with no immediate destination. Maybe later on in the trip I’ll be ready to do that, but not yet.

As if that weren’t enough, I’m also feeling financially stranded. Several editing clients that seemed really promising two weeks ago have either disappeared or dragged their feet long enough that I haven’t seen any actual work from them. Which means that several hundred dollars in up-front retainer fees that I expected over a week ago has not arrived yet. I’ve got other potential clients coming up, as well as various freelance writing gigs, but most of them will not start to pay off for another couple of weeks, so the immediate short term is looking pretty damn skint.

Which leads me to this revelation about Ben Gunn. By the time Jim Hawkins met him, he’d been on the island for three years. He’d had plenty of time to learn his way around, find the best places to sleep, learn to hunt wild goats and find edible plants, follow the clues to the treasure, and transport it to his cave against the return of Captain Flint’s piratical crew. But for the first few months on the island, I’m sure Ben Gunn was pretty miserable. He was completely alone, with limited resources (a musket and a shovel were all Flint left with him), nowhere else to go, uncomfortable surroundings, and no guarantee of survival. He could have easily given up, crawled into his cave and waited to die.

And if he had, Jim Hawkins, Dr. Livesey, Squire Trelawney, Captain Smollett and the rest would all have died horribly at the hands of Long John Silver and the remnants of Flint’s men. The story of Treasure Island would have been a tragedy. And all of that was prevented by one man deciding, three years earlier, to look the most adverse situation of his life in the face and refuse to crumble before it.

Here’s where I’m going with this. This quest I’m on isn’t just about the treasure I’m seeking. For all I know, there’s something I have to do three years down the road that lives may depend on, either literally or figuratively. I won’t know what thing will be until it happens. But if I give up now, whatever that thing is will never happen because I won’t be there to do it, and those lives will be lost. And as scary and difficult as it is to be where I am right now, the prospect of letting those unknown people down is unacceptable.

I’m poor Ben Gunn, I am. I’m tired, I’m scared, I’m alone, and I’m just getting started. But I refuse to give up.

I’m not running anymore

So one of the people who really inspires me and the trip I’m on, unsurprisingly, is Matt Kepnes, known in larger context as Nomadic Matt. I got to meet Matt very briefly at World Domination Summit, and he’s quite a pleasant guy, a bit soft-spoken but more than willing to answer a rather specific question about travel insurance despite being in the middle of a gigantic party and having only been introduced to me 30 seconds prior.

One of Matt’s most inspiring posts for me was one he wrote back in 2009, the one called Everyone Says I’m Running Away. In this post, Matt talks about how he is in fact running away from a traditional. conventional life, and toward the kind of life he wants for himself–a life on his terms. I didn’t see that post till over four years after he wrote it, but it spoke to me very clearly, and it’s one of the reasons I’m doing this trip and this location-independent life.

Today I’m going to offer my own perspective on running away, not in relation to travel (Matt did that handily already), but in relation to starting a location-independent solopreneurial business and lifestyle.

In the months before I started seriously considering the trip I’m currently on, especially while I still had my full-time job, I did a lot of research on the kinds of entrepreneurs I wanted to emulate and be like–Nomadic Matt, Sean Ogle, Mike Hrostoski, Jenny Blake, James Clear, Chris Guillebeau, Laura Simms, and many others. I also read books like The $100 Startup and The 4-Hour Workweek, which contained many examples of everyday people who transitioned from 9-5 jobs to financial independence in various ways.

I noticed something about the majority of these people: when they started their journeys to location independence, they were in one of two places. Either (1) their current situation was intolerable, and they wanted to get out of it, or (2) they had some earth-shattering idea that they just couldn’t wait to make reality. In other words, they were either running from something, or running toward something. In fact, pretty much everyone I read about fell into one of those two categories. And a lot of people did some pretty amazing things in the interest of running away from their untenable situations or running toward their fantastic ideas.

That being said, I believe the focus on those two categories creates a false dichotomy.

(What the hell is a false dichotomy? It’s when a scenario is set up to make two choices appear to be THE ONLY TWO CHOICES available. A common example of a false dichotomy is “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” It’s patently false, as you might also be an innocent bystander or in some other way unrelated, but it also convincingly paints the picture that if you’re not one, you must be the other.)

“Either you’re running away from something, or you’re running toward something” is a false dichotomy. For one thing, you may be doing both at once. For another, you may be doing neither; it’s possible to pursue location independence without trying either to escape a bad situation or bring a great idea into reality. There are options three and four right there.

But what really intrigues and draws me is the fifth option. The fifth option is simply this: you’re not running at all. Even if your current activity involves movement or travel, you aren’t running. Not running from or to anything, not running in place, not even running your engine in idle (to stretch the metaphor to its breaking point). And while I have definitely related to running away and running towards at various points during my early exploration of location independence, not running at all is the option I choose.

Because when you aren’t running, you are okay with where you are, even if it isn’t where you ultimately want to be.

When you aren’t running, you’re content to move at the pace that feels right to you, or even remain still.

When you aren’t running, you’re at peace with yourself and with the world.

When you aren’t running, you’re okay not knowing everything yet.

When you aren’t running, it doesn’t matter when you started, because you’re not chasing anyone who started first.

When you aren’t running, it doesn’t matter when you get there, because “there” is where you decide it is.

When you aren’t running, you probably won’t burn out or collapse from exhaustion as easily.

And when you aren’t running, you have time and energy to appreciate the journey you’re on.

Now THAT’s the kind of trip I want to be on.

So in the words of John Mellencamp ca. 1999: I’m on my way, but I’m not running anymore. Who’s singing it with me?

One box, two box, red box, blue box

My quest to Crossfit in every city I visit is going really, really well. One of the great things about integrating these really intense workouts into my trip is that doing them once a week makes sense both physically and logistically. I’m moving around enough that one WOD a week (usually on Saturday) fits my schedule really well, and I’ve been away from CF for a long enough time (over a year and a half) that doing one WOD a week is about all my body is really ready for to begin with. This morning was my fourth WOD back, and while I was not in pain, I could tell that I physically wasn’t ready to do all of the exercises yet. And that was okay. Doing step-ups instead of box jumps, rowing instead of running, jumping pull-ups instead of banded ones, low weight on all the lifts, etc…I’m 100% okay with that, because I know I’m pushing myself hard at a level that works for me. The more I do and the longer I keep this trend up, the higher that level will get.

So last Saturday I was in Hollywood FL, staying with my good buddy Josh Barad, and I almost didn’t get to Crossfit. Because I’m writing about Crossfit on this blog, I’m trying to trade blog exposure for free drop-ins when I WOD (because saving money on this trip is pretty much priority 1). Normally the drop-in fee for a CF class is $15-20, and at this point even that amount once a week is not sustainable for me (though hopefully it will be soon). At the first box I went to that Saturday morning, the owner was out of town, and the coach leading the class didn’t feel able to offer me a free drop-in without the owner’s approval. So that box was out.

The second box I went to was closed, even though the door clearly said it was open 9-11 on Saturdays and I was there at 9:10. Strike two.

The next closest box I found was up in Fort Lauderdale, a good 10-15 min drive from where I was…and its next class started at 9:30! So I booked it north, navigated some crazy road layouts between the Fort Lauderdale airport and the Port of Fort Lauderdale, and drove through a tiny alley to find Crossfit Empirical. I got there just in time.

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When I say Crossfit Empirical is a hidden gem, I mean that literally. I almost couldn’t find it. It seemed a bit like the Isla de Muerta in the first Pirates of the Caribbean film: it can only be found by those who already know where it is. But once I got there, I was so glad I found it! The welcome I got was one of the warmest I’ve received at any box, and the self-professed “community Crossfit” box included a pen for members’ young kids and/or dogs to hang out in during WODs. (The coach of that morning’s class, Lindsay, had in fact brought her large dog, which barked the occasional encouragement at us from the pen. It was pretty awesome.)

The WOD was actually two WODs back to back: Grace and Helen. (For those not in the know, a lot of CF benchmark workouts are named after women.) Grace is 30 clean and jerks in a row, Helen is 3 rounds of 21 kettlebell swings, 12 pull-ups, and a 400m run or 500m row. I went light on weight for Grace, but it still tired me out for the first round of Helen–I’m pretty sure I negative split between rounds 1 and 2. Crossfit Empirical also has a computer system where members can input their results, even drop-ins like me. This was a very progressive box.

By contrast, the box I visited this morning, Crossfit Gainesville, was a bit more traditional–no computer system or dog pen there. But it still had a great energy and community feel to it, and the morning’s coach Matt was very welcoming.

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The box was also surrounded by grassy areas as well as paved streets, so when we did our opening 400m run, I got to run on the grass and save my ankles and shins a bit of impact. No complaints about that!

The WOD was fairly straightforward: 4 rounds of 30 KB swings, 20 box jumps, 10 burpees, and a 400m run or 500m row. I scaled the crap out of it (3 rounds of 20-20-10-500m), but still got a great challenge out of it. What I liked even more, though, was the skill work we did before the WOD. Periodically in Crossfit there will be strength or skill training after the warmups but before the WODs, and today’s was on a skill move I hadn’t done often even back when I WODded regularly: the snatch-balance, one of the rarer Olympic lifts.

What the hell is a snatch-balance? Imagine doing a squat and an overhead barbell press at the same time. Now imagine doing it really quickly, so you drop under the bar more than you push it upward. Now do that without falling over. That’s a snatch-balance. It’s tricky and technical, but a lot of fun in its way. I was definitely happy to get some pointers on it.

Next Saturday I have no idea where I’ll be, but I know I’ll find a box there. I’m excited already.

I’m Not On Vacation

So I’m on a trip.

A road trip.

A road trip that’s currently taking me all over Florida.

A road trip on which I’m getting to see lots of friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in months or even years.

A road trip that has no set itinerary, no final destination, no boss to call me back to work after two weeks, and no limits of location or time.

So I’m on vacation, right?

Not so fast. For starters, let’s not forget that someone has to pay for this trip, and that someone is me. Since I’m a freelancer, that means I spend a lot of time working on my laptop, either getting gigs done or looking for new ones. And since my goal is to have a self-sufficient business, that also means that when I’m not doing the work that pays my immediate bills, I’m developing my skill sets, reading entrepreneurship resources, reaching out to contacts, working on this website, blogging, journaling, and doing the hundred and one other things that find themselves on my business-building to-do list. So while I do make time for self-care (exercise, naps, time with friends, reading), this lifestyle, despite taking place on a road trip, is most definitely not a vacation.

In a recent guest article on Sean Ogle’s Location 180 site, entrepreneur Mike Harrington wrote about several traps that new location independent solopreneurs tend to fall into. One of these traps is thinking like a backpacker. Says Mike, “Backpackers employ the ‘short timer’ mentality.  This means they’re trying to pack in as much fun and experience before loading up their packs and moving on to the next stop on the backpacking trail.” Now, I am moving from place to place a lot on this trip, but if I focused solely on the fun activities I wanted to do in each place instead of the work that sustains my travels, I’d run out of money and be stranded in about three days. Does that mean that I don’t have a goal of being able to go somewhere amazing, take a week off working, and just enjoy some great relaxing time? Hell, no! You bet your asbestos I’ve got that goal.

But “goal” is the operative word. I would love to think like a backpacker, but I know I’m not one yet. First and foremost I’m a word coach, a business builder, and a long-distance driver, which means most of the things that don’t support those activities take a backseat (yes, that pun was intentional) to the things that do. Case in point: I just spent a week in Orlando, with free tickets to both Disney and Universal parks available for the asking from my host family, and I didn’t go to either one. I had work to do. And I was okay with that, because I’m not on vacation.

But when I take an actual vacation, I’ll be back. Because that’s the goal.

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