My mission on the train from Vancouver to Portland, LA, then onto Austin for SXSW just about took everything out of me.
In hindsight, spending five days on a train leading into five days of madness in one of the craziest cities may have been a tad ambitious.
I won’t bore you with the minutia of my trip because I already wrote about it on the HootSuite Blog.
Instead, I’ll share some musings from one of the best trips of my life thus far.
*Side Note* If you haven’t already read about my trip, I encourage you to take a peek, there are some cool stories about burrito ladies, travel bloggers, and train conductors. The preview can be found here, followed by part 1 and part 2.
Your comfort zone is holding you hostage
No one cares about your typical work endeavour, goal, or event unless is has some oomph to it. Had my trip been your typical walk in the park, no one would care either.
Subtleties like the words you use to describe your project – how you pitch and brand it can inject some much needed zest and get you noticed.
You’ll notice that I used word like adventure, journey, and ‘epic quest’ to brand my trip. These are easy wins in making your project seem cool and unconventional.
I managed to get decent organic pickup on the articles because my trip was interesting and because it pushed me personally.
Social media is a complete time waster
Your are probably like myself and get caught up on social media, building a following, obsessing over details out of your control.
What I’m here to tell you is this. Instead of worrying about the small things, step outside your comfort zone of the screen. Do something interesting with your life, then share it.
People who’ve built meaningful platforms online, and the large followings that go with it, all do interesting things.
What they don’t do is spend all day on Twitter. Twitter is endless, it’s not like your inbox where you can (potentially) get it to zero.
The trip made me realize what I want. What is important. Doing trips like these and sharing the stories with you makes me happy.
With that, my plan is to do more of just that; doing interesting things and writing about them. Wow…what a breakthrough!
Take home for you: find out what makes you happy. If this is interesting to you, chances are it is interesting to others. Find these people and share it with them.
Leave room for spontaneity in your life
I got to Portland two hours late realizing I was going to be late for an event I was hosting. Also, not having accommodation aside from a couple of couch offerings.
So I swiftly retrieved my luggage and b-lined it for the washroom in Portland’s train station. What better place to ‘freshen up’ before a night on the town?
Looking more dapper than usual, I rallied to a dive bar called Lucky Lab (amazing spot, they allow dogs), and met an amazing group of Portlanders.
They treated me like family.
The event went well, then next thing I know, I’m stuffed into a car with four other Portlanders, cruising to different breweries, food carts, and even the infamous Voodoo Donuts. What a night!
The reason I tell this story is because I struggle with spontaneity. Usually things need to be planned and calculated, but allowing myself to let go and embrace uncertainty allowed for one of the best nights of my trip.
Although I was kicking myself when 6:30 am came, realizing I had a deadline to publish my article on the trip, it was well worth it.
The thing that makes Portland amazing is the people, lucky for me, I’ll be back in July for World Domination Summit.
5Run in three states?
I couldn’t possibly do this epic trip without knocking off 5Runs in three different states could I?
Portland was a rainy, but right up my alley, being a Vancouver boy.
I met up with writer extraordinaire, Tyler Hurst for a tour of downtown Portland and along The Willamette River.
Next, I managed to execute the quickest of jaunts in West Hollywood before rushing out to a series of meetings. In the hot California sun, I managed to get one high five!
Last but not least, a sleep-deprived run through the massive University of Texas campus in Austin primed me for yet another long day and night during SXSW.
It pays to be cordial ~ Not all train conductors are jolly
Apparently mounting GoPros on the back of the train is not kosher. Here’s what happened: My new train buddy Eric and I hopped out during a stop in Tucson to mount a GoPro on the back of the train.
Our mission: to capture the beauty of the horizon from outside the train. It would potentially capture some really cool and unique footage.
The conductor spotted us dismounting the GoPro at the next stop. He was less than pleased.
I was sure it was a simple misunderstanding, but he was sure it was not, and planned to kick me and Eric off the train.
I ended up in a meeting with the conductor where I explained the collaboration with Amtrak, how I was authorized to film, and the vision for the journey.
Not everyone shares your perspective. It definitely pays to be courteous and polite no matter the situation.
After a quick call to Amtrak to confirm I was not some random hooligan, things were smooth as butter, as they say.
Also, in case you’re worried, we indeed captured the footage and didn’t lose the GoPro either!
No one is invincible
Ten days of four hours of sleep will catch up to you.
Of course I fancy myself as indestructible. I never get sick because I think I do everything right – I eat well, exercise daily, get my eight hours of sleep a night… etc.
This is all fine and dandy when in your comfort zone. On the road, things change.
I was hit with a brutal dose of reality. Sleep on the train was a no go as rattling and creaky train noises kept me up. I was also getting up at 5:30am daily on the train to mount GoPros to capture the sunrise.
This is where my health demise started, but it was only the beginning.
Onto SXSW, where everything is non-stop for about 19 hours of the day. No one is there to feel sorry for you because it’s the absolute best place to be if you work in tech, film, or music.
The show must go on, so I ponied up and pushed through on caffeine, vitamins, and dodgy over the counter pharmacy meds.
All that said, the trip was amazingly productive. You can literally get a years worth of relationship building done in four days at SXSW if you play it right.
Although I was hit with the rude awakening upon my return that I have bronchitis and an ear infection, it was well worth it.
In fact, I would do this trip again tomorrow.
This trek probably doesn’t happen if not for some luck, timing, and elbow grease. I guess it pays to hustle…. or be crazy enough to spend five days on a train before SXSW.