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A year abroad

13th September 2013. The day I left the UK. 370 days I haven’t been back to my home town of London. It’s been an incredible journey so far and I’ve learnt so much about myself and how I want to live my life. And I think that’s one of the most important things you will do when you travel/leave your country for a significant period of time is that you will just learn more about yourself. It was never about the destination for me, it was always about the journey and the process. And as long as you enjoy the process, it doesn’t matter where you end up.

Here’s a quick summary of what I’ve done:

London -> Abu Dhabi (transit) -> Bangkok (5 days)-> Koh Samui/Koh Phangan (1 week)-> Bangkok (transit) -> Singapore (3 days) -> Penang, Malaysia (3 days)-> Singapore (3 weeks) -> Hong Kong (3 weeks) -> Taipei, Taiwan (3 months)-> Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (transit) -> Miri, Malaysia (6 days) -> Kuching, Malaysia (3 days) -> Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (5 days) -> Singapore  (10 days) -> Taipei, Taiwan (1 month) -> Singapore  (2 weeks) -> Kuala Lumpur (1 week) -> Singapore (2 weeks) -> Taipei, Taiwan (1 month) -> Bangkok (transit) -> Phuket (1 week) -> Taipei, Taiwan (3 months) -> Hong Kong (6 days) -> Taipei, Taiwan (currently here for a couple days!)

  • Countries been to: 5
  • Tickets bought: 21 + 1 (skipped my return flight back to London)
  • Days away from London: 371
  • Nights slept on a couch: atleast 120 days (3 months in Taipei, 1 month in Singapore, 5 days in Hong Kong)
  • Favourite City: Taipei
  • Favourite activity: Climbing
  • Most used language: Mandarin Chinese

 Where now?

I’m not sure what the future holds for me, but it looks like i’ll be in Taipei at least until early next year. I need to do some freelance work so I can survive, but apart from that I got a couple cool small projects in the works!

App development. Innovation over invention

It’s hard to invent anything new these days. Everything we do seems to have an app that does it for us. At the same time though most of these apps don’t do a great job, and we find ourselves yearning for an app that feels *just* right. But it doesn’t and must apps have more than a few things that gripe at us daily. There’s not much left to ‘invent’ that isn’t already out there, but for every great app there are 99 that suck.

With the mobile market and web app market maturing, there’s a new gold rush blooming for innovating on the thousands upon thousands of mediocre apps. It’s a new gold rush. A new gold rush for app developers to put their thinking caps on and decide ‘what can i innovate?’

And that’s what I want to do right now. Everyday I think to myself – what can I innovate? And the answer is all around me. Any app I feel that doesn’t do the job well is a possible project. Any problem that I feel hasn’t been solved in its entirety, is another project. There are still a plethora of problems that need to be solved properly. And I’m going to solve a few those before I die.

If you have a project you’re really passionate about, those are the problems you should be solving, because you’ll be solving problems that mean something to you. And if it means something to you, you’ll solve it better than everyone else.

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The next step

I’m back in Singapore from Taiwan, and I’ve got some pretty big news. I’m starting a company in Singapore. I originally decided I was going freelance and keep travelling, but when I was in Singapore a month ago, my friend Hua pitched a business idea to me. It was a little fuzzy at the time, but I’ve always liked the idea of starting my own business, but I’ve never had the catalyst to go and do it.

The business we’re going to start is a digital business consultancy. We don’t like to call it that, but it’s a new kind of business that takes from several different kinds of businesses. We want to work with content creators such as youtubers, musicians, artists and help them to monetise their content. This is a very similar concept to those of the multichannel networks such as Maker Studios, who recently was bought by Disney for $500 million. So there’s definitely an exit strategy.

We will help them to make money by getting sponsorship deals with brands and helping to manage their own digital rights. By working with big brands, that’s where we will help big brands enter new markets by using the content creators as a bridge. Content creators already have great reach, but don’t make enough money from their content and brands have money to spend on marketing. The partnership will be mutually beneficial and will be as good (if not better) and cheaper than traditional advertising. Great content sells better than any advert. User engagement is key.

This is our digital consultancy side as we will be helping both parties to increase their revenue, reach as well as advertising and monetisation strategies.

The other side of our business is going to focus on products. These products we’re going to build for our clients at first as MVPs, and if we see a demand for it we’ll expand on it and try and make a white label or consumer product. These could be platforms, to say house the content we’re representing or it could be analytics material (because Google analytics is already far too complex for the average user).

We don’t want to be doing consulting forever, but with the data we gather from consulting, we’re sure to find a great idea we can turn into a product/platform based business. And with this my travels after 6 months has come to a halt. Onwards and upwards

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In life you must be okay with uncertainty

 Life is a long journey we all must take and from a young age we are taught to be prepared for the big wide wild. Most parents, schools and educators teach us to find a career path; a steady one, one that makes a decent wage where you don’t have to worry once you’re on the career ladder. This sort of thought process seems to spread like a virus into many other parts of lives; relationships, friendships, location.People are okay with being comfortable. But when did being comfortable ever allow someone to do something amazing?

One thing I’ve definitely learnt from travelling is to be okay with that uncertainty. Yes you need to prepare for the worst, but you also need to push for the best. And that means risk. Risk is a part of life, but why worry about something you can’t control. Once you’ve made that decision, don’t worry about the things you can’t control. It’s a waste of time. Most things we do these days, the cost of failing isn’t fatal, the cost of failing is not greater than the risk we take. If we fail we can just pick ourselves up and move on and we can’t always win so you better be okay with that uncertainty and the inevitability of failing.

This sense of anxiety and worry only hampers us from pushing forward, making the most of the decisions we make and taking calculated risks where you can move forward and create new opportunities. You should do this instead of spending time worrying about something that even if you prepare for, isn’t completely in your control.

 ”If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

- Steve Jobs

This quote by Steve Jobs is an idea what we all should all be thinking about, everyday of our lives. Rather than spending our lives worrying about losing what we already have. Opportunities, jobs and companionship will come and go and there’s sometimes nothing we can do to change that. The important thing is the process, what we learnt from these relationships, opportunities and situations. You must enjoy the process or you risk making even your good opportunities a waste of time. Starting about if what you’re doing right now is not what you want to do. If it isn’t the case for too many days in a row, work out how you’re going to move forward in another direction. Life is all about these little calculated risks, and it’s always going to be uncertain, so we need to be okay with failing. Instead of getting down when it didn’t go your way you need to have a mental procedure in place to move past it and learn from the mistakes you have made in a past.

 

I always say to myself, any experience I’ve had, even if it’s a failure or just a flat out bad experience hasn’t been a waste of time. From mistakes I can learn how I can do things right and from bad experiences I can know for sure that is something I need to avoid in future.

 

The importance of being okay with uncertainty is about avoiding what kind of person you becoming if you’re scared of uncertainty. If you’re scared of uncertainty, you become a very boring, safe person. Someone that always wants something stable, steady and ‘just okay’. Someone who is okay with being mediocre. And that my friends is what scares me the most. Mediocrity.

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The lure of independent coffee shops

Independent coffee shops are becoming more and more popular for those that work remotely or those in the creative industry. They’re frequented by artists, designers, developers, musicians – pretty much anyone creative. They’re a home for the wanderer, a pitstop of the traveller and a staple of the freelancer. Many people that don’t travel also love coffee shops, to get away from the hustle and bustle of the daily commute. Some people like to work there, some people like to read there and some people just like to be. Since I’ve been living in Taiwan for about 4 out of the last 5 months, I’ve begun to love them too. They seem to be my rock in a country I don’t completely belong. So I was wondering to myself… what’s the lure of these dainty little establishments?

Comfort

Most independent cafes feel like they’re what your living room should be. Cosy, warm, a full book shelf and art on the walls. In Taiwan the price is one drink and you can stay as long as you like. There’s no pressure on you to leave; it’s like your own home. I myself spend several hours working in coffee shops daily and the price you pay is a cup of coffee, which you’d probably buy anyway if you were out and about.

Social

Unlike your living room you can meet other interesting people here, there’s always new people coming in and out that can enrich your lives and sometimes it’s just nice to be around others. Everyone seems to have an interesting story here as they’re all attracted to these cosy coffee shops for similar reasons. Some might be aspiring artists, struggling entrepreneurs, weary travellers or just coming in for a drink and to soak in the ambiance.

Great to get work done

I used to freelance from home when I was back in the UK, which is great if you have controlled environment like an office. If you don’t you might need to clean you desk to start to work, which is an obstacle to getting started, especially if you set your own schedule. In a coffee shop you always start with a blank slate, a clean desk and refreshments provided. The music is already on and you can just get started without worrying about anything. And one of the best things about it is everyone around you seems to be busy, and there’s this pressure you feel to work when everyone around you is also. It’s the same reason why people go to libraries to read or to co-working spaces to do side projects.

A base

Most people have offices to go to, or homes be at. Being a traveller and a freelancer (and soon to be entrepreneur) I have neither in Taiwan. Coffee shops are my base, they’re a place I know I can go to chill out, kill some time or get some work done.

Own unique character

They all have a rustic, homey character that you can’t get anywhere else and definitely not in Starbucks. They are all influenced by art, movements and ideas. And they all seem to have similar values, for instance the one I frequent in Taiwan closed for a day to protest the nukes in Taiwan. Although at the time I was a little pissed I didn’t know they were going to be shut, I can respect their values and it adds a personal touch when a coffee shop has personality. Each will represent a little bit about you that you can relate to.