Biological Limitations and Travel Buffers


There was a day last Summer when I understood what it means to have biological limitations.

I was on a road trip across the US with Andi Norris and Ash Ambirge, and we were pulling in to New Orleans after spending the night driving 13 hours from Ft. Myers, Florida, which was our previous stop on the trip.

I remember that morning quite clearly because the sun was coming up along the horizon, bringing with it beautiful blues, pinks, and oranges. As I counted the colors in the sky, I was struggling, focusing all of my energy, willpower and mental strength on not falling asleep, crashing the car and killing everyone inside it.

I was exhausted in a bad way. Even with the all-nighters I pulled in college, I couldn’t remember ever feeling so tired that, despite the fact that I held the lives of three people in my hands (which were carefully positioned at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel), my eyelids continued to drift downward, tugged heavily by the increased gravity of adenosine and melatonin.

This is the kind of limitation that can be fought, but not completely beaten (yet!). I managed to get us to our destination, but as soon as we arrived, I crashed and didn’t wake up until much later that day.

The thing about biological limitations is that there can be value in fighting them, even if they exist for a reason; it’s smart to get sufficient sleep, but that doesn’t mean you should sleep while driving.

A good friend of mine from Iceland described her own combat against the biological limitations of certain emotions (jealousy, for example) as floating on – rather than swimming through – the flood of hormones and instinctual reactions. In this way she can be aware of the emotion, but isn’t forced to deal with the consequences of acting upon it irrationally. Any response to it can be logic-driven, if one is even warranted.

I make use of a similar tactic when it comes to certain emotions, especially those related to missing the people and places that I’ve been. Because of the lifestyle I lead, I’m always leaving someone or something I care about behind, and if I were to let that absence – longing for the company of these good friends or the familiar habits of a place I’ve come to think of as ‘home’ – then I wouldn’t be able to meet new friends and plant roots in new homes; my life would be one of regret, rather than one of happiness punctuated by positive change.

But it’s an imperfect system at the best of times, and because of this I’ve had to augment my strategy a bit. I have also come to realize that allowing myself to feel these emotions as fully as possible has a practical application, so long as my ‘mourning period’ is structured.

The balance I’ve found works best for me is to give myself a short period of time during which I can miss the hell out of the people and places I’m leaving and then move on. I let the emotions wash over me and take what creative insight I’m able to draw from them, and then stop, still aware of them, but rationally remembering that ‘goodbyes’ are simply ‘see you laters,’ not absolute, permanent farewells.

The time I give myself to fully experience these emotions is the time I spend in transit; on buses and planes, mostly.

For example, I’ve just arrived back in Columbia, Missouri to visit my family, and I spent about 8 hours on a plane to Chicago, followed by 8 hours on a bus to Columbia (with a handful of hours camped out on a friends’ couch in between).

That period of 21 hours sucked. Bad. I wallowed in the realization of what I was leaving behind and the sadness that came with it the whole time, making myself nearly sick to my stomach with regret and longing.

When I arrived home, I felt great.

The friends I made in Iceland are still friends, and if we’re not able to see each other every day, that just means we’ll have more stories to tell and more layers to discover in each other the next time we are able to meet up. Reykjavik, my home for 4 months, will still be there the next time I want to visit, and the changes that occur in between will allow me to be a visitor again the next time I arrive, allowing me to discover it all over again.

During my transit time, I was also able to write three short stories, illustrate a half-dozen t-shirts, and come up with a few new ideas for projects I’m working on. It’s amazing what being overwhelmed by even negative emotions can do for your creative drive (if used in moderation and channeled correctly).

The act of traveling has become my buffer in dealing with the downsides of full-time travel.

Instead of cutting out the tough parts completely, I’m using the whole buffalo, enjoying the good, learning from the bad, and embracing the emotional in order to make sure I emerge from the experience a wiser, rounder person than I was when I entered it.

Everyone deals with this kind of biological limitation differently, but what’s important at the end of the day is that you take away as much as possible from it, and are able to stave it off when you need to, just long enough to make it to your next port in the storm.

Sidenote: my new book, My Exile Lifestyle, will be going on sale this Friday, July 1. Check back here for links to where you can snag a copy for $2.99, or sign up for my newsletter to be reminded.


My Exile Lifestyle: Sale and Experiment Details


After giving a sneak peak at My Exile Lifestyle last week, I want to give some more details about the book itself, and let you know what I’m doing differently this time than I did with my last book, Networking Awesomely.

Those of you who are subscribed to the Exile Lifestyle newsletter will have already seen some of these details, but it’s time to get everyone on the same page.

My Exile Lifestyle will be released July 1, and will be on sale through many different vendors (at the moment I’m planning on selling it through Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, Smashwords, and of course, Ebookling). The book will be sold for $2.99, and will be provided in as many formats as possible, based on what the vendor will allow (PDF and EPUB files will be included at Ebookling, while Amazon sells MOBI files, and Smashwords does EPUB, etc).

“So Colin,” you may be thinking, “why are you selling through services other than Ebookling, which you own? And why are you selling this book for $2.99 when your last book sold incredibly well at $20? Having you been smoking those funny cigarettes?”

Nay, fair reader, no drugs were involved in the decision-making-process. I do, however, want to figure out if a lower price would create a viable business model the way that higher-priced ebooks have for me in the past. I also want a better look at what the current indie-publishing eco-system looks like from the inside.

The benefit of selling for a lower price (as I see it) is twofold: first, it will allow me to get my work out to more people, as $2.99 is much more of an ‘impulse-buy’ price than $20, and second, it will give me the option of writing more books like this in the future, as a smaller price means a shorter buildup time, shorter launch, etc (because I won’t have to work so hard to make sure I’m selling sufficient copies to a smaller audience).

I’m hoping, essentially, to make this whole ‘writing books thing’ a bigger part of my income, and if I can justify writing more work and selling cheaper to a larger audience, that would be my preferred method.

As for why I’ll be selling cross-platform, not just through my blog or through Ebookling like I have in the past, I’ve been interested in taking a closer look at the existing indie-publishing scene and figuring out what’s working and what’s not from a truly practical standpoint, rather than the philosophical one I’ve been approaching it from so far (I’ve been in the scene, but on the outskirts because I wasn’t making full use of the more mainstream options). If I’m going to create a truly great site in Ebookling, though, not to mention better publishing plans for my own products, I’m going to need to know where best to apply my torque so that I don’t end up reinventing a wheel that doesn’t need reinventing.

These two big changes combine to make a lot of little tweaks that I’ll also be monitoring, to see how they influence the sales process and my personal publishing business model.

Affiliates, for example, won’t have the same monetary incentive to share my ebook (unless they intend to sell a LOT of copies), because they won’t be making much money per sale (whereas for most indie publishers, affiliate referrals represent a large portion of total sales). Additionally, there’s the chance that reviews will be too scattered between all the different vendors (so the book won’t see as popular or well-loved as it would be if they were all massed together in one place), and the perceived value of the book will be significantly less than my last one because of the low price, even though I would argue that this one is perhaps ‘worth’ more.

There are a lot of little experiments going on with this project, and I can’t wait to see what happens a few month from now when the dust has settled and I’m able to do some tallying and put together some charts. I will, of course, be sharing what I learn with you folks, and hopefully the results will give you a good idea of how best to publish your own work, or even just show you what the indie publishing scene looks like at this point in time.

If you’d like to be more intimately involved with my launch process in the future, sign up for my newsletter and you’ll receive very-infrequent-but-fun updates, and will have the opportunity to take part in pre-launch sales.

Otherwise, watch the blogosphere and ebook vendors all over the web July 1 for the launch of My Exile Lifestyle! Thanks for all your support!


My Exile Lifestyle: Excerpt from Argentina


As I come to the end of my time in Iceland, I’m also coming to the end of a project that I’ve been spending a good deal of time on, my new book, My Exile Lifestyle.

Today I want to share a brief excerpt from the book, and announce the launch date, July 1.

If you want to be among the first who are able to snag a copy of the book (and hopefully help me out on launch day), sign up here. Update: snag a copy on Amazon.

Either way, enjoy!


10.01.2009 — Notebook Entry — My Apartment, Buenos Aires, Argentina

There’s a beeping in the hallway as I lay facedown, naked on my queen-sized bed.

Queen-sized. That was an important detail when I was looking for a place to rent. And I’ll bet if the queen ever found out that her name was being placed on something larger-than-average she’d throw a queen-sized tantrum. Such is the vanity of royalty.

This is the second day in which I’ve awoken, ready to jump-start my day, only to come up short immediately after going through my morning information-gathering routine.

The email is now checked, the new blog post has been advertised. The news has been read, the shower taken. And here I lay, listening to this damn beeping that I’m pretty sure is the result of a faulty elevator, trying to convince myself that I’m in the right mood — the right mindset — to write this ebook that I’ve got outlined and ready.

All it will take is a little brute force; a little applied torque in the wrists so they can tippity-type away at the keyboard and make it say the right things. Clarify the opinions I’ve been ranting about for the past several months and put them into an easy-to-digest, bento-box format.

The hardest part about traveling so far has been the loneliness.

I didn’t think it would be a problem — the hardest part for me about living with someone else has always been the lack of alone time — but there’s a difference between “being alone” and “being lonely.” I’m much more aware of that difference now.

I get excited every time I run out of water. An excuse to walk down the street to the store! Joy! I mentally jump up-and-down, like a dog who has just heard the word ‘walk’ spelled out by his master.

I recognize this feeling, and I know I feel it because it’s a chance, though slim, that I might meet someone. That somebody in that grocery store (the main chain is called ‘Disco’ here, which I imagine leads to many disappointed 70’s dance enthusiasts) will see me and want to connect enough that they will take the time to break through the language barrier. Or maybe they’ll speak English! They’ll tell me if I was right in my assertion about what kind of milk is fat free and how the cartons of orange juice are supposed to be opened. Saved!

And this person will be a girl, because it’s much easier for a guy to survive with one friend when that friend is a girl. And she’ll be artsy and have a lot of friends and will know of the more interesting things to do around town and she won’t have heard of the music I listen to, but I’ll make her a mix CD and she’ll love it. Just love it. We’ll fall for each other and the sex will be great and we’ll spend just enough time together that there’s no pressure and still things to do when we want to do them.

We’ll fall for each other and be best friends who keep in touch long after I leave and she’ll know if she wants to come visit me she’s more than welcome and I’ll know that I have a place to crash in Buenos Aires and there won’t be any tears when I leave because we’ll both know that life is a celebration and this is just the last bite of one slice of cake. The party is far from over and there’s plenty of cake left.

But, of course, that’s just naive fantasy. In all likelihood things will progress as they have been progressing. I’ll continue to hang out with the same crowd (mostly expats from English-speaking countries) and continue to have the same sporadic, exciting situations, punctuated by the hum-drum, exciting-on-paper lifestyle that someone like me lives when most of their friends exist only on the computer, several time zones away. Always in a new environment, never a part of it. Always meeting people, seldom making connections. The food is different, the language is incomprehensible, but the biggest change is a lack of physical connections.

No matter how clever emoticons get, there’s something patently unsatisfying about an e-hug. An e-kiss.



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