Not All Who Wander Are Lost
The adventure begins! (Not that everything before this hasn’t been its own sort of adventure.) I’m actually writing this while en route to Chiang Mai, Thailand, the first of 3 destinations in South East Asia. I’m going to be in Thailand for an entire month, and now that I’ve actually had time to stop, think about it, and do a bit of research, I’m really excited. Chiang Mai sounds like an adventure-seeker’s paradise: scenic hikes offering both cultural immersion and physical challenge and a flourishing food culture complete with street vendors in bustling night markets. So many new things to see and experience!!
I have to admit, though, that the jump abroad is bittersweet–most beginnings are also endings. While I’ve never found it terribly sexy to say out loud, I lived at home with my parents for a full 6 months. I hadn’t originally planned to spend that much time at home, and I had also mentally prepared myself to go a bit insane moving back in with my parents. While it wasn’t always perfect, and it did occasionally test the limits of my sanity, I’m surprised to find myself incredibly grateful for the experience. A wise friend pointed out that most people have already spent the vast majority of the time they’re going to spend with their parents by the time they leave for college, so getting to spend another 6 whole months with my parents was a rare opportunity to build a deeper adult relationship with them, and really get to know them better at a time in my life when I’m starting to be able to contextualize their experiences and their choices. While I’m excited to forge ahead, and ready for a new chapter, I can’t help but feel nostalgic that my time at home has, yet again, come to close.
So, how did I spend my time in January? I obviously completed my travel preparations, as I’m (finally) safely on my way to Thailand. I set up an LLC, opened a business bank account, and took care of a bunch of other little logistics to make everything work. It was a bit of a mad dash, and I was honestly packing and prepping virtually up until the last few hours before I left, but I’m off :). I also made significant progress on my first consulting project. I unfortunately wasn’t able to finish it out completely in January, but I’d say it’s 80% done. Now I’m kind of just hoping the last 20% doesn’t take 80% of the time as they say. I didn’t get around to slapping a payment portal on Serenity, but I did spend a few hours setting up a couple of unrelated experimental projects that will exercise my long-dormant artificial intelligence expertise (I have a Master’s degree in AI and Computer Security, but haven’t done much with either in a few years). In all honesty, dabbling with some new projects probably wasn’t the most objectively smart way to spend my time, but I’m nevertheless feeling really excited about the discovery that my AI fundamentals are strong enough to teach myself more and potentially to apply to future products.
Consulting has had an interesting positive effect on my morale. Working on a project for someone else temporarily removes a certain amount of the uncertainty and anxiety around being self-employed: there’s no question as to whether or not I’m wasting my time since value for work has already been pre-negotiated with the client. Knowing for certain that I do have a way to make money if I ever need it is also very comforting–I knew that consulting was a possibility in theory before, but now it’s more tangibly true.
There are also some really useful processes I go through when consulting that I think could be useful for my own projects. I’m finding that the drive to complete a project quickly, and to impress a customer has naturally re-activated some of the skills that I honed at Palantir, but which I haven’t been disciplined about applying when working for myself. In executing at a professional level for a client, I have to be good about planning, designing, and estimating the various project tasks, and then need to execute high quality work and show progress on a regular basis. Going forward, I’m hoping to treat my own projects as sort of mini-consulting engagements where I am my own client–I’m curious to see if doing so enables me to produce higher quality products more quickly.
February promises to be an action-packed month. With a little luck, this consulting project will only occupy me full-time for about another week, and past that will likely require my occasional attention as the project winds down. Once that’s done, my top priority remains slapping a payment portal onto Serenity and getting it out into the world. On top of all that, I have a hefty bucket list of things to do and eat before I leave Chiang Mai on March 4. It’s becoming increasingly clear that my biggest challenge in the coming months will be to successfully balance building a business with taking as much advantage of my exciting new surroundings as possible. I’m not entirely sure how this is going to work yet, but I’m excited to find myself naturally contemplating how to get things done more efficiently so that I can feel good about spending time adventuring. While there were sometimes troughs and crests of productivity at home, I think the call to adventure will apply constant positive pressure to make the most out of my limited time.
Should it interest anyone reading this, I’ve started to record some short vlogs about my adventures. My thought is that I’ll generally keep these short (~5 min max per day) and will do virtually no editing or post-processing on them. I’ll still be posting a broader update with reflections here on my blog once a month, and may start to do more in-depth travel posts about places or things I find really interesting, but for those interested in a video format at a (probably) higher frequency, consider finding me on YouTube. No hard feelings if not–both those videos and this blog are more a form of personal but public documentation of my journey for posterity than anything else.