Today I Exhaled

One week ago today I arrived in Buenos Aires, road-worn, bleary-eyed and unable to understand a single word being uttered by the dozens of people I came into contact with as I made my shambling way to my hotel.

Fast forward to yesterday, when I hit a milestone that I always watch out for when I’m in a new place for more than a day or two: I gave directions to someone. I’ve always seen this is a solid yardstick of how my integration is coming along because 1) someone thought I looked and acted enough like a local to assume I knew where things are, 2) I’ve been around long enough that I could give good directions (and in this case, speak the local tongue well enough to be understood), and 3) I’m out of ‘Colin in a new city defensive mode.’

For those of you who haven’t traveled with me to an unfamiliar large city before, when I find myself in a place like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or Buenos Aires for the first time, I immediately and reflexively go in to a more defensive posture. I don’t make eye contact with strangers, I angle my arms and increase my swagger to appear more menacing, and I don’t speak unless I absolutely have to. This is a defensive mechanism I’ve slowly lodged into place after spending too much time in big cities fending off pick-pockets, purveyors of small slips of paper advertising call girls, and hustlers looking for handouts. It’s worked so far, and it helps me get my bearings. It doesn’t help me make a lot of friends, unfortunately.

That being said, when I start to feel more comfortable and at home in a new location, I finally start to loosen up. I know my way around a bit better, have a place to keep my stuff, and have a few phone numbers to call, just in case.

As I’m beginning to breath normally again here in Buenos Aires, I’ve also been able to get back to work, something that I’ve been more or less unable to do with any regularity since I left LA (due in large part to the fact that I’m a very fortunate person, surrounded with enthusiastic friends and family who wanted to spend as much time together as possible before I left the US).

New Reading List
One of the things I’ve been tossing around but can finally release a beta of is the Exile Reading List. I get emails from time to time asking me for a list of my bookmarks from people who want to know what I read from day to day to keep up with the different topics that I cover. It’s hard to tell someone about everything in one email, much less give examples of why each blog and site are great, so I’ve started putting together collections of feeds from blogs and sites that I read on a regular basis. Take a look, and if you aren’t up there yet, let me know (I’m only about halfway through the list, so I may not have gotten to you yet, but it couldn’t hurt to check just in case your site has somehow been overlooked or misplaced!). You’ll see that I’m covering a variety of categories, too, so if you have a recommendation, pass it my way: part of why I’m doing this is so that I can tap your brains for new reading materials and find out what I might be missing!

Affiliate Marketing Efforts
Another project I’ve been working on here and there is quite new to me: affiliate and ad revenue generating websites. I don’t have the first of these sites up and running yet, but I’ve found what I think is a pretty solid niche and I’m outsourcing as much of it as possible in order to take myself out of the equation (which is also new to me). I’d love to get some feedback on it when it goes live, since I know my readership has a goodly number of aspiring and current webmaster millionaires within its ranks.

Other Projects
I’m also in the process of pushing out a few other doodads that will hopefully augment the Exile Lifestyle brand a bit. One of them is already up and running; it’s called Hard Is Easy and it’s a tumblog where I’ll be posting more ‘up to the minute’ kinds of writings, photos and links, as opposed to the longer format, theme-based article-style writings I do here at Exile Lifestyle.

Another project I’m finishing up is an e-commerce shop, where I’ll be putting up some of my own products that I’m working on, along with items of interest from other members of the blogging community. And speaking of products, I have 2 more eBooks on the way, both of which will hopefully be useful and both of which will definitely be free.

I’m also still doing design, development and several different types of consultation work through my main business, Colin Is My Name. It’s interesting adapting my work model to living in Argentina, but my clients don’t seem to mind so far!

Where Should I Go Next (Preparing for the Vote)?
You can vote by clicking here! In a few days I will be putting up a poll asking you to vote where I should go next, and I need your help in deciding which countries to put on the poll! I will be taking the first 8 recommendations left in the comments (of this post), so think about it and then post the coolest, most interesting place you can think of in the comments below (the only rule is no active warzones or countries where Americans aren’t welcome…I’ll get to them eventually, but not this time around)!

Heartfelt Thank You
One last note, I want to once again thank all of you for continuing to read and interact with me and each other here on my blog. This experience has been life-changing for me and I’ve met some absolutely incredible people because of the process. It simply wouldn’t be anywhere near as interesting and inspiring without you fine folks along for the ride. Thank you thank you thank you and please don’t hesitate to drop me an email sometime and introduce yourself if you haven’t already.

Update: May 15, 2016

I’ve tested out a lot of money-making models over the past seven years, and many of them I’ve dropped for one of many reasons.

This post mentions a few such models. The affiliate stuff was predicated on a concept everyone in the ‘lifestyle design’ world was hyped about, because models promoted in the Four Hour Workweek and books of that sort at the time. It was meant to work something like this:

1. Find a niche that wasn’t yet dominated by some big player.
2. Own that niche by building a dominant brand or website related to the product category. In my case, I had built a few sites for low-energy, ultraportable laptops (later called ‘netbooks,’ but that term hadn’t become popular yet) where I was publishing posts written by other people, with links to Amazon and other websites that sold these computers.
3. Over time become one of the top results in searches for that niche product or service, and earn a small percentage of the sales that come through your links.
4. Retire in Southeast Asia.

I later came to learn that:

1. I don’t like doing affiliate marketing. When it’s for a product I actually care about and use, sure, but predicating an entire business model on it gave me no pleasure, and in fact made me feel quite empty inside.
2. Owning niches and promoting product categories that I didn’t care about was also shockingly unsatisfying to me. I thought I could market and sell anything and feel good about it, being an entrepreneur and all, but it turns out that wasn’t the case. I cared about what I put my name on.
3. The whole SEO/niche marketing/affiliate scene got really sleazy for a while there. It’s what led to content-farms and pop-ups and all that horrible online stuff we hate. I’m glad this angle didn’t work out, because if it had early on, I probably would have forced myself to continue playing in that space for longer than I did.
4. I don’t particularly like humid climates, beaches, hammocks, unbalanced economic power dynamics that encourage women to date foreign men for their money, or many of the other things that were promoted as the true goals of the affiliate marketing, Four Hour Workweek lifestyle.
5. I also don’t really enjoy outsourcing, come to think of it. The work I do, I enjoy. Even the somewhat humdrum, boring stuff can be somewhat zen, if you know the outcome is worthwhile. It’s a nice counterbalance to the highly cerebral stuff.

Also, I forgot that the voting system worked a little bit differently the first couple of times I did it. Rather than having a drop-down list with every country in the world listed, I had people vote in the comment section, and the top eight countries were then put on a list for voting. So there were two steps, and I think the reason I did it that way was to stimulate activity in the comments (which was a thing you were supposed to do back then), and to end up with more overall votes for the winning country (because they would be spread out between eight countries, rather than 190-ish, as is the case today).

That reading list I mentioned is totally defunct, as well. I think that was a means of establishing stronger ties with other bloggers, but I can’t remember for certain.

People who have read my fiction may recognize the Hard Is Easy monicker, which I later recycled into a fictional blog run by one of the characters in my Real Powers series.