What comes next

I’ve done unconventional things in my life. Generally dumb, maybe a few clever choices, but mostly, just odd. For instance, have I ever mentioned that time I moved to ten different cities over ten years? Oh, I have?

Well, in the midst of those ten years, I tried something else that many of you might not know about, especially if you only started reading this site in the last few years.

As my sixth year – Nashville, Tennessee – passed the halfway mark, I wanted to try something to shake-up the proceedings of a project that had started to have predictable beats. That far into the project, I was locked in to completing the whole endeavor, or die trying (sounds dramatic, but honestly, there were more than a few months where my next meal wasn’t guaranteed).

So, in order to liven things up and keep myself from getting too bored, I introduced a new gambit. I opted to put the power in readers’ hands: They voted on my next city.

I was prudent enough to know that giving the internet unrestricted options would wind up with me being sent to Bedford, Wyoming or some other desolate ink dot, so I gave voters options: Austin, TX; Denver, CO; Portland, OR; and Seattle, WA.

So Far
After one week of voting.

I didn’t have a lot of readers in those days (some things never change), so there wasn’t a deluge of votes, but there were enough to make it interesting. The voting lasted about two months, and though Seattle and Portland pulled ahead initially, it wound up being neck and neck, with Denver, Austin, and Denver duking it out for first place (Portland, to my surprise, fell far behind and was never much of a contender after the first couple weeks).

Lake Union Pana

In the end, as I’m sure you can deduce, Seattle won the vote, beating out Denver by one vote. Fortuitous that it did, as well, because my year in Seattle was one of the best of the entire project and the city remains among my favorites in all of the US. Conceivably, it’s possible I would have come to love Denver or Austin or Portland just as much; we’ll never know.

All these years later, I can admit, letting internet strangers vote on my next home does seem a bit out there, even more than 10×10. It was a period in my life where I had no preconceptions or directions for what would come next so I figured I’d let the winds decide.

I feel like I’m at a similar place in my life, now.

TowerA couple weeks ago, I was sitting at one of Madrid’s many spectacular cafés with three friends and I asked them that cliché question that everybody hates, but which I think is worth contemplating from time to time: What would your ideal life look like?

It’s something I keep asking myself because I’m not entirely certainly. In part, that’s because, as I age and pursue certain avenues, other pathways that I had previously contemplated are closing to me. Some people will say that you can still be anything you want at any age, citing some septuagenarian grandmother who went back to college or a celebrity who didn’t became famous until their 50s. Those people are morons. Don’t feed them.

Life is finite and if I had only one dream, it’s true, I could dedicate myself to it and in time I might achieve some level of success. But I don’t have one dream, I have many. Just like I don’t have one home, or one passion. I want to master every art form, I want to live in every city, I want to taste every whiskey.

I want to live on every continent. Yeah, Antarctica, too. And then I want to fly to Mars.

Sunset Ripple

When I answered my own question with my friends, I said that I didn’t care so much what I did for work so long as it allowed me to keep traveling. I wish I could be a renowned author (never going to happen) or a world-famous photographer (probably not going to happen), but those pursuits aren’t likely to change the course of my life.

I’ve gotten to an age where it would be damn near impossible to go back to the US and work my way up in a traditional career. That bridge is, if not burnt, then covered in gasoline and being occupied by a bunch of smokers.

I’m not sure any of it matters. I’ve never made much money in my life, always just skirting by. But skirt by I have, and I’m now living in my thirteenth city on my second continent. Somehow, I’m still going. So, I guess I’ll keep going until I can’t. That’s pretty much the point of life, verdad?

I don’t know where I’m going next, or when, but there are more destinations ahead, of that I’m confident. So, just for fun, as a bit of non-binding but informative polling, I’m putting the question to my readers again: For my next continent, where should I move?

❏ Australia
❏ South America 

Answer in the comments.


One More Week

Here we go.  Only a week of voting left.

Next Sunday, May 1st, I will officially announce my next city.  I’ve had a lot of votes so far and here is how it stands (combining the original poll with the current one):

After one week of voting.

Seattle = 46 / Austin = 44 / Denver = 38 / Portland = 30

As you can see, Seattle and Austin have come out as the frontrunners.

People are commenting to me on the site and in my day-to-day about how I should go here or there, or how I should definitely not go there.  But it isn’t up to me.  It’s up to you.  I wish there was a way of quantifying all of those opinions, because I appreciate them a great deal and hope people will continue to share them with me.

In the end, though, it’s all coming down to the numbers.

There is still time to vote, seven days.  Seven days to help forge history.

The very being of this project has changed because of seemingly unconnected decisions.  If I hadn’t moved to Philly after Charlotte, I likely wouldn’t have gotten so involved with a bunch of online writers that led me to a 48-hour drunken weekend in Los Angeles where I met a woman that would eventually become my roommate in SoCal.  In fact, I never would have gone to SoCal if not for that.  And then I wouldn’t have moved to San Francisco the next year (though I presumably would have done it sometime).

I was actually going to do Chicago after Philadelphia, originally.

So, these decisions change history.  And this year, I’m asking that you be the engine for that change.  Maybe I’ll end up in the city you vote on, maybe I won’t.  But if I don’t, maybe I will next year.  Of course, there’s no way to know, because the beauty of this project is how unpredictable it can all be.

Maybe if I move to Austin, I’ll establish a friendship with someone who goes on to become a famous musician.  Or if I end up in Seattle, maybe I’ll be unable to find a job and end up flailing for my life.  The Ups and Downs of this project cannot be predicted, and I would have it no other way.

Everything is maybe.

I want you to be a part of it.  1o Cities / 10 Years is the story of America from 2005 to 2015 (still in progress).  We’ve been to war, we’ve entered recession, we’ve elected the first black President and we’ve seen revolutions in technology that alter the way we connect with each other and our world.

We’ve also gotten married, had kids, gotten divorced, lost loved ones, graduated from school, changed jobs, changed cities, bought houses, bought cars, raised animals, become vegetarians, drank alcohol, found faith, lost faith, slept for days or slept barely at all and found ourselves on the other side of wisdom.  Still fools.

Vote or Die

One last time, I’m asking you to help spread the word.  Let your blog readers know to come and vote.  Encourage your Facebook friends to check it out (speaking of which, ‘like’ the 10 Cities / 10 Years fan page).  And if you haven’t done so already, be sure to vote.

When you vote, think about why you are where you are in your own life.  Is it because you’ve finally reached your Promised Land.  Or are you, like me, in the midst of a journey, not quite where you want to be, but closer each day to your goal, with the past always receding further behind you.

Or are you stuck?

Vote Here