Comment

That's a wrap!

I finished up my UNSETTLED trip on March 4th and made a pit stop on the way home in Mexico and stayed with my family for 2 weeks. I had plenty of time to write and gather my thoughts from an incredible UNSETTLED trip in Colombia and yet I just couldn't bring myself to write anything. And it wasn't from lack of trying. I went from the deck chairs, to the pool side lounge chairs, to underneath Palapa trees on the beach, to underneath Palapa trees beside the hot tub...I tried it all and nothing worked. Am I getting any sympathy? My first writer's block. And what a shame after such an incredible career and continuous run of a whole 6 posts. 6. 

Well, now I have been back in Calgary for almost 2 weeks and my epiphany of how to summarize my experience has hit me!

One of my favorite movies is Stand by Me. And the quote “We'd only been gone for two days but somehow the town seemed different; smaller" always resonated with me, I just don’t think I really knew why until now, and not for the obvious reasons of the quote.

I didn’t know what to expect when I boarded the plane for my UNSETTLED Columbian adventure. I think a part of me thought I would come home completely agreeing with good ‘ol Gordie Lachance, that Calgary was different, smaller. That there was a whole world out there for me to explore and that I can’t be defined by the boundaries of the city I grew up. But I think I realized that quote resonated with me not because I agreed with Gordie, but because I didn’t. Does Calgary feel different, yes, but not in a smaller, confined way, but different in an exciting way that there is so much for me right in my own backyard, and that getting unsettled in Columbia made me realize that it doesn’t always take an 8-hour plane ride and culture shock to achieve the same exciting adventure. We can get unsettled every day. It’s about continually pushing your limits, testing your comfort zone and being open to changing and evolving.

As I navigated my way through the part-holiday, part-retreat, part-work trip and tried to truly defined what it all meant to me, I realized that, like the movie Stand by Me, I was in need for that time between childhood and adulthood (or in my case adulthood and more adult-ing!) where things are changing, either because they are naturally evolving or because I am pushing them to change and it’s about leaving behind the naivety and fears and to take hold of what I want out of this life. Like Gordie, I am often alternately optimistic, pessimistic, self-realized and self-doubting, and it took getting Unsettled to help me confront, discover and accept the person I already am and am ready to be.

You have to make up your mind about certain things you would like to experience in your life and start making an effort to bring them into your life. And for me, it helps to have a partner in crime that picks you up when you’re trying to go through life on your hands and knees. Someone to hold you accountable and remind you that the important things aren't the comb but the train (another Stand by me reference!) To me, that person is my business-partner, my confidant, my sister. So in summary, a huge thank you to Unsettled and their entire team for showing me there are so many Stand By Me adventures to be had. And thank you to my sister, Erynn for not letting me worry about the really nice but unimportant comb and start moving my ass across the tracks so we can get where we need to be going. Which might be rolling in a dusty ball beside the tracks but that could be fun as well.

Comment

1 Comment

The Oxygen Mask

We’ve all been there. Settling in for another flight and the flight attendant starts their safety instruction routine. I’m usually fiddling on my phone pretending it’s been put on airplane mode to get a in a few more last minute emails and texts, because like most of us, I've heard the drill many times before. As I took a quick glance up, the flight attendant was pulling down the air-mask and showing how to put it on. When I’ve seen this in the past, my mind usually goes down the path of how uncomfortable that elastic band would be and how much hair I would manage to pull out when I adjust it for the 25th time, and it would usually end with me rubbing the back of my head and seeing if there was a mark from the imaginary rubber band I placed on my head. Phew…my hair didn’t fall out. This isn’t usually met with the same relief when I look at the person sitting next to me and give them the “Phew…another close call” look. They immediately avoid eye contact and look down at their empty lap, showing off that they play by the rules and turned their phone off 10 minutes ago.

Anyways, back to the life saving oxygen mask. On this occasion, I was hit by the importance of putting on your oxygen mask first before trying to help the small child beside you. Junior can wait the 6 seconds for you to put on your mask so you can be alive and breathing to help with their mask. I’m sure I’ve heard this analogy previously and many others have heard it before but it really resonated for me this time. Which is strange because the flight attendant’s instructions were spoken in Spanish and I understood very little of what she said. But I didn’t need to understand the words but more so the theory of putting yourself first.

In a world of selfies (I’m a new member to this crew as you can see by some of my photos in Colombia) and “me first” thinking, someone could see our world going down a more selfish path. But I think there is a large part of the population that still puts other people’s needs ahead of their own. I call them the “Professional People Pleasers’”. I’m a recovering member of the PPP. I was raised, as a proud member of this society, and for most of my life I’ve tried to put others needs ahead of my own because that’s the polite thing to do. But what I’ve discovered is that by putting others needs ahead of my own, I’ve ended up not knowing what the heck I want for myself.

So how does one start to put their own needs/wants first if they don’t know what they want in the first place? Well…for me I’ve started taking myself out on dates. I’ve courted the shit out of myself down here in Colombia! I’ve sat in coffee shops by myself with a Chai Tea Latte and written in my journal (thanks Kris!) about silly things that I haven’t thought about in years. I’ve learned that the word “No” is a complete sentence. I’ve enjoyed experiences I didn’t think would necessarily be “up my alley”. I’ve just really enjoyed getting to know myself again. Like going for dinner with an old friend that you haven’t stayed in touch with but immediately can pick up like you haven’t missed a day.

And by helping myself, by putting myself first, my hope is through that process I will be more available to help others. If I’m secure in who I am, I will be grounded and present for when it’s time to listen to what others have going on in their life and how I may assist them. This is my wish. I feel really good helping other people but it can’t be done at the expense of my own well being. I’m zero help to anyone else if I die with the oxygen mask in my hand trying to give it to someone else.

Who knew the airline industry was full of such life wisdom! Maybe I’ll turn my phone to airplane mode more often…who knows what other little secrets I’m missing out on!

Chat soon,

Zach

1 Comment

Comment

Am I Working or Am I on Vacation?

 

Hola Amigos! I’m absolutely loving life down here in Medellin and finally feeling like I’m getting into the flow of the city and managing my schedule. This trip came up last minute, so I didn’t have a lot of expectations, but I never imagined how busy it was going to be!

The days have been flying by the past week and a half! We’ve been taking part in activities ranging from party buses to yoga classes. We have gone paint-balling in Pablo Escobar’s mansion, climbed Piedra del Penol in Gautape and hiked in Paramos de Belmira. We take Spanish lessons and go for amazing group dinners . . . and I haven't even gotten to the workshops!  Workshops on Colombian culture, guided museum trips, living a meaningful life, listening to self, wish and gift, solving the Rubix cube and many more . . . the list literally goes on and on. It's been a little bit of randomness, a little bit of chaos, but also a whole lot of fun. But, oh yah, I still need to keep up with work - as the unique thing about this trip is it is geared towards nomads who want to work and travel.

So if you are reading this and considering working remotely for a short/long period of time, here’s some helpful pointers for how to work remotely, be productive and still go home with new friends.

1)   Be Selfish

Take care of yourself. Only feel responsible for your needs and wants for 30 days. See how it feels and dial it back if necessary. You might be impressed with how you respond to listening to what you want and putting yourself first (thanks to Paulina Schwietzer for sharing her wisdom in her workshop on Cultivating Presence and Listening to Self)

2)   Bring Half of What You Expect

This could be as simple as how you pack. Fill your suitcase with everything you think you need while you’re away. Then grab a smaller suitcase and put half the items in it. My closet down here is full of stuff I haven’t touched and will not touch until its time to pack them up to go home. 

3)   Decide what you want to accomplish in advance

Obviously travelling is about spontaneity, but when it comes to working abroad decide on the work or projects you want to accomplish while you’re traveling, and cut it in half. If you exceed expectations, even better but at least you’ve set yourself up for success.

 4)   Bring your better half

And I don't mean your partner, best friend (although maybe your dog ...). I mean bring half of yourself. Leave the part of yourself you believe is holding you back at home, leave the negative self talk, leave the sickness, leave the confusion, leave the person you are ready to set yourself free from. Be the person you want to be. Be the person you’re meant to be. Be that person for 30 days and decide if it’s someone you would welcome to travel home with you. And you won’t even have to pay extra baggage fees if you decide to bring them home!

5)   Be Open to New Experiences

Be willing to say yes to things you wouldn’t normally say yes to. You will discover a new side of yourself that either you weren’t aware even existed or haven’t had a chance to get well acquainted with. Whether it’s pushing your personal boundaries by staying in shared accommodations or taking a dance class that proves you have two left feet. It’s not necessarily the actual task that’s important but the way it makes you feel you should pay attention to. Does it ignite a fire within you? Maybe…maybe not. Does it make you more curious about exploring more about an aspect of that experience? Maybe…maybe not. But I’ll bet if you put yourself in new experiences, the chances of finding something that makes you curious and ignites a fire inside will win more times than not.

So does it matter how much I accomplish while I’m working remotely? Absolutely. But I hope it’s bigger ticket items that I can check off my To Do list like “What makes me happy?” rather than items like getting my email inbox down to zero. Because once I starting going down the path of finding the answer to the first one, it’s my hope the rest of the items on the list will fall into place. If not, I’ll just delete all my emails and start from scratch!

 

Comment

Comment

My new digs

Since the majority of people who attend Unsettled trips are working remotely, having a co-work space that everyone can use is essential. We are working out of Global Express Travel & Business Center (http://globalexpresscenter.com). The location is in the middle of El Poblado, which is great as it's perfectly central to everyone's apartment buildings and about a 10 - 15 minute walk to the co-work space. Global Express has been great to work out of with reliable WiFi, bookable meeting rooms and most importantly a rooftop patio. It's been great to have a place to call the office while working abroad.

Comment

Comment

I've arrived!

The trip to Medellin was a long one...a little over 24 hours through NYC (where I ran into fellow Commoner Blair de Jong), Panama City and then finally arriving in Colombia. The international airport is located on top of a mountain in Medellin so the arrival was beautiful. Getting through security and baggage claim was a breeze and then I was greeted by a private driver with my name on a sign...which I've never had before...quite a special feeling! The drive into Medellin is about an hour long of winding roads which gave me the perfect opportunity to practice my non-existent Spanish. It's funny how fast a conversation in two languages turns into a game of charades. But for the most part we understood each other...I think.. But thanks to the wonderful world of Google Translate, life became a lot easier. It's my first time using it while traveling and it's been a life saver in some situations. Using the camera to read restaurant menus alone has been worth the data charges! 

Michael Youngblood (what a cool last name), co-founder of Unsettled, met me at my apartment with the keys and to help get me settled. Michael gave me such a wam welcome I immediately felt like I was apart of the Unsettled family. He answered all my questions and gave me a brief rundown of what to expect over the first couple days. It was amazing to have everything so well organized and have all the essentials taken care of so all I had to do was drop my stuff in my room and go have a well deserved shower!

Comment

Comment

Why UNSETTLED?

I was introduced to Unsettled and the concept of 30-day co-working retreats through Jonathan Kalan, a TED resident and co-founder of Unsettled Adventures (https://beunsettled.co). Jonathan reached out to The Commons to provide information on the type of trips they host as he thought it might be a great match for our co-working community at The Commons. 

In a nutshell, Unsettled offers anyone the ability to live and work month-to-month across cities and destinations worldwide. Everything needed to be connected, comfortable and collaborative is provided; a private room, a shared work space, and connection to a vibrant community. Unsettled organizes a series of 30-day co-working retreats for entrepreneurs, creatives, and digital nomads to experience work/life balance in vacation-like destinations. They bring together the founders of technology companies, social entrepreneurs, developers, designers, award winning artists, and other successful creatives to build, connect, and collaborate with each other and with local entrepreneurs in emerging technology and startup communities worldwide.

For each trip, they develop a theme to work and live to our fullest potential. They host workshops, lighting talks, and collaborative projects to improve our work, better our lives, and expand our worldviews. They also build connections with local communities in an exchange of our collective expertise and best practices in a global context.

So, in order for us to make sure it was a good fit for our Commoners, I made the suggestion that I should attend one of the retreats so we can make an educated referral to our members. Talking about taking one for the team;) It was also a gift from my sister and business partner, Erynn, who thought it would be a good opportunity to get out of the day-to-day of our business and focus on some bigger picture items. So next thing i know, I booked a flight to Medellin (through Lary Neron at The Commons...thanks Lary!) and I'm off on a month long adventure to work/play/explore in Colombia!

Comment

Comment

So, I guess I am a blogger now!

My first blog ever. First off...big shout out to Kris and Erynn for coming up with this FUN little project while I'm away from the office! I think the conversation went something like this:

Erynn and Kris - "You should write a blog while you're in Colombia"
Me - "Nah...it's not really my style"
Erynn and Kris - "No, it will be great. You'll like it and it will be fun for people to see what you're up to"
Me - "Nah...I don't like writing and I don't think many people will be very interested"
Erynn and Kris - "We think it's a great idea and it will give you a place to be creative and show people what you've been up to"
Me - "Nah...it seems like a lot of work"
Erynn and Kris - "We've setup your profile and it's super easy to log in and post stories and photos"
Me - "Nah....I'm not super tech savvy for this sort of thing"
Erynn and Kris - "Ok...well you're doing it so there's that"
Me - "Gotcha"

So after that little exchange apparently I'm doing a blog. I'm not much of a writer so we'll see how the first few post goes...if I get booed off the internet then it will be a quick intro/exit from the blogging world.

Comment