2016 was an accidental transformative year. I started the year in company of wonderful friends in my new SoCal home, but I didn't expect to quit the job a few months later.
At what point did the tables turn such that the company was getting more from me than the other way around? Rather than jumping into the next opportunity, I intentionally took some time off. After all, when was the next time I was going to have the time and capital to invest in me?
7 months later. I clocked more than 100,000 miles. I sold most of my belongings and put whatever I have left into storage. I moved out of my beachside apartment. (However, I still held onto a few sentimental objects like my jewel green velvet sofa and red hardtop convertible.) Before I knew it, I was left with a suitcase, a duffel bag and backpack.
Many friends thought my actions were courageous, inspiring and amazing. I have talked about location independence for awhile, so here is my chance to live that dream. I thought I was about to embark on a grand adventure - exploring new countries, meeting new people, and tasting various delicacies. Instead of being trapped by the system, I can create and live by my own rules.
That's what I thought before I started my journey. I rode majestic elephants, surfed rolling waves, sunbathed in hidden beaches, scaled volcanoes, and explored the deep blue sea. Many friends, old and new, met me in various countries around the world. I snapped a lot of photographs, experimented with video, read a lot of books and wrote a lot of blog posts.
The act of creating felt very cathartic and blissful, but it's like a drug. At first, I was filled with an overwhelming feeling of happiness and excitement. As time passed, each subsequent act of creation did not bring the same level of ecstasy as the last act. Instead, I became more restless and unfulfilled. Thus, I began to wonder what happened. Even though I'm creating, why did I still feel a little empty? What was I missing?
People don't tell you about the negatives of a digital nomad and solo globetrotter. It can be lonely. It is inconvenient (especially when dealing with property tax bills). Travel can be liberating. Exposure to new experiences, cultures and people provide richer perspectives and inspiration you may not get at home. Nonetheless, it is challenging to build meaningful relationships when you're constantly on the move. Deep down, I think I knew all along what I was missing. There were so many clues and serendipitous moments that I chide myself for being so naive.
Until now, I have been creating without purpose. There was no end goal or milestones. I performed experiments without knowing what I was trying to test for. Some experiments did work out the way I wanted them to. My visual eye dramatically improved with every photograph. My storytelling became more electrifying and stirred emotions in strangers. On the other hand, I've realized my physical limitations. As much as I enjoyed surfing and scuba diving, I found that I couldn't dedicate the time nor passion compared to other activities.
Although I wanted to experience as many new things as possible, it was not exactly the right path.
I wanted to create, but what did I want to create the most?
After all this time on the road, this question is what I sought. The sole act of creation is not enough. I needed purpose. I needed focus. Intention is the fuel to manifest my goals and ambitions. Only with intent can I create something of value and build something meaningful. I let go of everything in order to clear the clutter. A clear slate helps me determine what the most important things I want to accomplish. Creating with intent takes discipline and perseverance, but I also need to be open and flexible as it grows. Setting that intention draws the map of where I wish to go.
Starting a business is not easy. There will be a lot of obstacles. There will be a lot of naysayers. I expect a lot of doors to close, if not repugnantly shut in my face. What matters more is not only staying true to myself but being vulnerable to ask for help. Now more than ever, I am EXTREMELY grateful for the support from friends, family and peers. That community will be critical in the early phases of my journey, so I will be coming back to the US in March to establish a home base to create and strengthen those connections.
Next year, my resolution is simple: create intentionally through connection. What type of business, you ask? I am starting a skincare company, and it's for all the men in my life. In today's world of social media and "always on" digital culture, we are constantly bombarded and pressured to present our perfectly, edited selves online and offline. Women have many tools, products and resources in their arsenal, but men have sorely lacked any products or channels to do the same. I grew up with two younger brothers who faced the same coming-of-age and identity crises like I have. Silicon Valley tech may seem incredibly rosy, but the cutthroat environment and stress do eventually take a toll. The video games industry may be all fun and games (no pun intended), but no one talks about the insecurity, low self-esteem and harassment faced by not only the players but those industry as well.
To me, skincare allowed me to set my intention and focus on me. It gave me the confidence that I am putting my best self forward and establish connections that paid dividends for my career. Unfortunately, most skincare is all noise, and it doesn't help that the US is one of the least regulated markets for skincare product ingredients. Why can't the same products, resources and tools be available to men as well?
I'm not out to create the next billion dollar unicorn. I want to solve a real consumer problem that I'm passionate about. I want to create a sustainable business by establishing lasting connections with those customers. I already started to lay the foundation, and I'm actively seeking partners to make that vision a reality.
Happy New Year!