I realize from experience that most people have a lot of questions about the 10 Cities / 10 Years project. Here are some of the most common and my attempts to answer them:
- Have you considered living in ‘fill-in-the-blank’? Short answer: Probably. I would love to get a chance to live in every major city in the world, so chances are I’ve thought about whatever city you’re thinking. Will I? Well, that’s hard to say. The 10 City Project only has three more cities after my current one, Seattle, and NYC already has one of those slots locked up. Boston is also very likely, so unless something dramatic happens, there is really only one more city to choose. Odds are, if I haven’t made it to your city yet, I won’t for the project. But that doesn’t mean I’ll never go to new cities once I finish this project. I will be traveling for the rest of my life.
- Why don’t you get out of the United States? Short answer: I will, after the project is over. To answer this question thoroughly, though, requires two answers. First, there is the practical answer. I don’t have the financial means to travel across seas, yet. At least, not in the capacity of the 10 Cities Project. I could easily spend a month backpacking through Europe, but that doesn’t interest me. And then there is the literary answer. I feel like 10 U.S. Cities gives the project (and eventual book) a consistent, central focus around which I can build the narrative and themes of my life. As I said before, once the project is over, I plan on traveling the world, but just not as part of this project.
- Will you do 20 Cities / 20 Years? Short answer: No. Just, god no. While I’ll be traveling the rest of my life, I do not want to keep moving year to year. The moving part of my travels is the hardest, most expensive part of what I do. I’m looking forward to being settled eventually into one central home base (most likely New York City) and traveling from there for short periods.
- How do you find a place to live in your next city? There really isn’t a short answer to this. I have mostly used Craigslist, with varying levels of success. In every city, I’ve found my apartment before I arrived so I had a place to go to when I first got there (and a place to mail my stuff). When I’ve been willing to live with roommates, it’s been made a little easier being in contact with someone who is already in the city. Of course, with roommates you have the risk of ending up with a psycho. People are always nicer/saner in emails then they are in person, especially if you plan to live with them.
When I have been dead set on living alone, I’ve just done my due diligence to find a place online and talk with the landlord/office manager as much as possible. In Philly, this resulted in an apartment much much smaller than I had anticipated (it’s hard to get a sense of scale from 3 pictures), and in Nashville I had this fear that I might be showing up to nothing, just an empty lot. But all was fine, and when I got there, the apartment ended up being pretty good (not great). The key is doing as much research as possible. If an ad lists an address, the very first thing I do is pop it into Google Maps and look at it street level. If I can’t find a building, I don’t bother (there was a bunch of scam ads when I was looking for Nashville that listed an address in the middle of a highway).
Renting from an individual is going to be cheaper than dealing with an actual leasing company, but then you always take the risk of getting an unethical nutjob as a landlord. I haven’t had any major issues in that regard, but I’ve also never sublet.
- How do you get your stuff to a new city? Short answer: USPS. I mail my boxes of books and DVDs and what-not, I pack most of my clothes in an overstuffed suitcase to take with me on my trip and any furniture or large items that I’ve accumulated over the year I just sell off or trash.
- Do you have any tips for finding a job? Short answer: No. Just go out and look for work. There are people out there who can tell you how to Ace An Interview or write the Perfect Resume. I’m not that guy. I just keep looking and plugging in applications and my resume until I find work. I’ve been passed over for far more jobs than I’ve gotten, so don’t look to me for tips on how to find employment. All I can say is, keep at it.
- Are you supported by your family? Aren’t you really just a Trust-Fund baby? Short answer: Not that it’s anyone’s business, but no. I work for my money. My college was paid for because I earned a scholarship and grants. My parents didn’t pay for a cent. When I needed more money, I worked. Anyone who knows my family would laugh at the idea that I’m living on a trust fund. And if I go broke, there is no net for me to fall into. In fact, I’ve had family members ask me for a loan, so let’s get rid of this notion that I’m sitting pretty.
I grew up in what I would call affluence, but what I learned later was that it was a classic case of living beyond our means. I’m not attempting to be a ‘poverty tourist’, austerity is just a choice I make because I’m happy doing what I do. There is no political goal to what I do.
In the Post article I mentioned the “liberal assistance of friends and family.” I didn’t mean money, I meant assistance. Like rides to airports and from bars, or someone having an extra TV or piece of furniture that I could have. Certainly they have saved me money, but that wasn’t the point of it. Ironically, the editor was going to take that line out of the article, but I insisted it stay in because I wanted it to be clear that I appreciate the help of those in my life. I had no idea it would end up being the sentence people would latch onto to argue that I’m just a mooch.
- Is your life lonely? Short answer: Yes and no. When I first arrive in a city, loneliness is definitely a factor. But it’s a motivating factor, getting me off my ass so I’ll get out and meet people and find work. I make most of my friends on the job, and over the years I’ve made amazing friendships. By February (at most) of each year, loneliness is no longer a factor. By the end of this project, I’ll be able to travel to pretty much every corner of this country and find friends. That, to me, is the opposite of lonely.
- Would you ever travel with someone? Short answer: I did, and not again. A girlfriend moved with me for two years, and ignoring the personal side of things, the broader problem was that her ambitions were, temporarily, subsumed by mine. It’s unreasonable of me to pursue my dream and expect someone else to give up on theirs to be with me. So, I won’t do it again. That said, if I met a friend (only a friend) who was interested in moving with me to the next city because it’s where they wanted to go, I wouldn’t be against it. But they would have to be able to move on my timing, and that’s probably unlikely to happen.
- Is it hard? Short answer: Quite often. I wouldn’t recommend following in my footsteps. That said, I’m hardly the first person to move from city to city, so there is an infrastructure in place for people like me, albeit not one specifically designed for what I do.
- I’ve lived in _ cities in the past _ years, what’s so special about what you’re doing? Short answer: Nothing. As I just said, I know other people have done similar things to what I’m doing. As I’ve mentioned Kerouac as an influence, it should be obvious that I don’t think traveling around (under any time-frame) is something revelatory. But my brother mentioned something interesting to me: When the Snuggie came out, a thousand people said, “I had that exact idea.” But only one acted on it. A thousand people could probably write a book about living in 10 Cities in 10 Years, or 20 Cities in 10 Years, for that matter, but they won’t. The old cliché is that everyone has a novel in them, and it’s true. I know a lot of people who have been working on one novel for more than a decade. I’ve written 4 since I started college. I may not be the best writer and I may not be the most original artist, but I finish what I start. In this world, that alone will set you apart from 90% of the population.Don’t be mad at someone for stealing your thunder if you never even attempted to make a noise.
- What’s the point? Do you really think your life matters? Short answer: I hope so. Isn’t that enough? It’s too easy to hate on people who attempt to achieve big things in this world, and it allows us to sit back and accomplish nothing with the smug assurance that nobody hates us. Well, I’d rather attempt something big in my life and be labeled a pretentious, annoying blowhard than sit on my ass and do nothing. Ambition is only a negative thing to people who don’t have any.
- Are you fulfilled? I don’t think anyone is actually asking that question, but really, it’s the most important one. Short answer: Yes. And I don’t need a longer answer.
- Why don’t you do ‘fill-in-the-blank’ instead of 10 Cities? That’s a good idea, why don’t you do it?