It was a year ago today that I went live with Exile Lifestyle.

At that point I didn’t have a very clear plan of what I wanted the blog to turn into, I just knew that I wanted to create an asset that would allow me to keep investing in myself over time while also giving me the power to connect with people with whom I would otherwise never come into contact.

I also wanted to write and to be able to use profanity (which I was never able to do when writing columns for newspapers).

So: Crap Fuck Damn. Ah, sweet, sweet editorial freedom.

In this last year my life has changed immensely.

A year ago today I was running a small-but-booming design studio in Los Angeles, living with my girlfriend in a two-story townhouse not far from the beach, working on a total of 5 suped-up computers and a handful of enormous monitors (spread out on 3 desks), wearing whatever I liked from a fully-stocked wardrobe of expensive designer clothing and working 100 hour weeks to keep it all going.

Today, I’m running a small-and-super-efficient studio and starting up a new publishing-related business while living alone in a one-bedroom, tiny-and-tidy furnished apartment in Christchurch, New Zealand. I’ve got a 13″ Macbook Pro and I usually sit on the floor, or at whatever table is available at the nearest coffee shop while working. My wardrobe is very concise, and though the clothing is high-quality, I don’t think anyone would call it flashy. I work a handful of hours a week, and the rest of my time is spent playing around with personal projects (this one included), exploring New Zealand, appearing on TV, hanging out with new friends, and generally getting myself into all kinds of good-natured trouble.

I’ve realized in this year, too, that I want this blog to be different than the others that are out there.

I don’t say this as a criticism; on the contrary, as a business person I try to find spaces where there is little competition because usually there are so many highly-qualified people in a given niche, I’d just as soon not compete directly.

The same is true with blogging. There are a lot of incredibly talented and inspiring bloggers out there, and I try to stay out of their way so that I don’t have to compete with their greatness, as much as any other reason.

I also want to be able to communicate in my own voice, and though I started out blogging according to the advice I could find online (if you look back in the archives far enough, you’ll see plenty of lists and epic keyword-heavy editorials), now I’ve found my rhythm, and few things make me happier than being able to write like I speak and have other people appreciate those words.

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment when I finally found my flow with Exile Lifestyle, but I think it was sometime shortly after I made it to Buenos Aires, possibly in October.

I say this time period specifically because it was around that time when I started to write story-lines more than essays. There was a guest post I did for Vagabondish called Beer, Lesbians and Going With the Flow that came out shortly after I wrote about how I Punched a Local in the Face. After these two posts, even my essays took on a decidedly more lyrical meter, while still maintaining a more rigid analytical underbelly that hearkened back to my days of writing news analysis pieces for newspapers.

It’s almost like looking at an archaeopteryx fossil: you can definitely see the dinosaur parts, but the bird feathers clearly indicate that this is a completely new species.

That’s not to say that my old style of writing is outdated or wrong, I’m merely saying that my writing style is definitely still evolving, and I’m excited to see where it goes next.

And I know I’ve been really dwelling on this lately, but I wouldn’t be evolving as a writer so quickly without you. Even if you simply read and move on without interacting, you’re still contributing by putting pressure on me to continue to do better in order to keep you around, and I hope that you continue to hold me to such standards.

I would also hope that if I ever start to bore you, you’ll let me know. The last thing this world needs is one more ‘me-too blogger,’ typing away out of habit rather than passion, and if I ever fall into that pit trap, I’d much rather be put out of my misery than loll around, waiting for people to be impressed by my subscriber numbers and cewebrity status while writing gobbledygook and expecting a round of applause.

So long story short, I’m looking forward to another year of writing, interacting with you fine people and personal evolution. Thanks so much for helping me get to this point, and I’ll be doing my able best to keep you coming back for another year.

Update: December 13, 2016

It seems like forever since I lived a lifestyle different from the one I have today, but it also seems like a fantastically long time, seven years. More than that, now. Looking back at what I was thinking at the one-year mark is interesting, because I had some of the same concerns then that I have now. Trying to ensure I’m writing in a way that’s true to how I think and feel, wanting to ensure that I’m not just copying someone else or adhering to a trend.

And being thankful for my audience: for the people who read and listen to and watch my work. It is interesting how much simply knowing that other people read your work can change the way you approach it. Not in a way that makes you want to change for them, but in a way that makes you want to be more you than ever before, and to really do a good job with whatever you put out into the ether.