1) Story Statement
In August 2020, a 27 year old woman followed through on a plan five years in the making. Running away from the San Francisco tech world, the Crypto Castle, her broken heart, her shame, and who she had become, she sold everything she owned and booked a one way plane ticket. Nothing could stop her from escaping, not even a pandemic.
2) Antagonistic Force
The San Francisco tech mindset, the antagonistic force, is unavoidable the moment you enter the tech world. It promises a type of power that you desire more of, no matter who you were before tasting it. Nothing is good enough and everything must be hacked and changed for your own good. If you don’t obey the mindset, you are losing the game and getting ripped off. It hides its darkness behind the idea of greatness and success...who wouldn’t want those things? It’s more powerful than you are and is incredibly difficult to escape. It appears at the start of my travels in the goals I outline for myself (unknowingly presenting very "tech mindset" goals), it presents itself in fellow travelers who remind me of my roommates at the Crypto Castle and coworkers at the self-driving car startup. And when I’m finally making headway away from it, it tries to pull me back with conversations from two dear friends: a recent “classic Silicon Valley success story” and an old coworker. The essence of the conversations are both "stop wasting your time traveling, you’re going crazy. Come back and start a company."
3) Breakout Title
360 DAYS, 24 COUNTRIES, 37 COVID TESTS, 1 PANDEMIC
COVID TEST, MEET VIV AND GET ACQUAINTED
To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a Quest for a Life with No Regret by Jedidiah Jenkins (Convergent Books 2018) - in this New York Times Bestseller, Jedidiah Jenkins shares his cycling adventure over the course of sixteen months from Oregon to Patagonia. While we both include stories about the people we meet along the way and what it is to grapple with our sexual identities, Jenkins travels with a friend through an open world. Strangers aren’t afraid he is going to be bringing covid into their home. Much of his trip, too, is about his relationship to God. Along my trip, I meet people who think similarly to Jenkins, but I look at God through very different lenses than he does.
Uncanny Valley: A Memoir by Anna Wiener (MCD 2020) - Although Anna Wiener and I both find ourselves in the middle of the Silicon Valley bubble and mindset, she had left New York to find meaning in San Francisco and I left San Francisco to find meaning anywhere that wasn’t San Francisco. Wiener’s memoir is much more of a cautionary tale about Silicon Valley, and all the troubles that come with the reckless startup culture. While she discusses Silicon Valley in depth while still in Silicon Valley, I discuss desperately trying to escape the Silicon Valley mindset while out in the world.
5) Hook Line
A worn out 27 year old tech exec follows through on a plan to travel as far as possible from the tech world only to be blocked by covid; she pursues the dream anyway and learns that no matter how hard you try, you can’t escape yourself when you travel through an empty world.
Like most women in their late 20s, throughout the memoir I am consistently grappling with where I want to be in the world. Not physically, not even mentally, but if I’m lucky enough to choose, then where, in the playing field of the world, do I want to exist? This presents itself in different ways, starting with me trying to unlearn the San Francisco tech bro that I had trained my mind to become. It evolves into a complete meltdown after walking miles on end every day, convinced that it was the only way I could stay productive if I wasn’t in a classic job. Eventually, the internal conflict completely derails after experiencing the death of a mentor on the road and learning about the lies of a best travel friend.
I am not heartbroken, I convince myself over and over. I don’t want to process the brief and tumultuous relationship I had experienced in California to a woman in an open marriage. I always wanted to identify as strictly straight, but this heartache is making that more difficult to do. A lot of the people I volunteer with in exchange for food and housing are homophobic or deeply religious. I don’t want to be excluded from any group because of a potential partner, man or woman. Would the Evangelical Christians still invite me to stay with them if they knew more about me? Or the extreme right-winged Italian family on the Canary Islands? I have to grapple with these thoughts while I sleep under their roofs.
In 2015, the city was alive and magical. The air felt like it was freshly pumped with new ideas that you could inhale at any given time. No one hated Mark Zuckerberg, Instagram wasn’t the devil, and Bitcoin hadn’t garnered too much attention. Over the course of five years, everything changed very drastically for the city and for its inhabitants. I moved into the Crypto Castle in 2015 and saw the slow decline as well. The three story, light blue hacker home was in the middle of the Potrero Hill neighborhood. From the outside, nothing gave away its secrets except for a small Bitcoin sticker on the window next to the dark blue front door. Inside was a different story. Bitcoin magazines littered the dining table, a hookah was a permanent fixture of the coffee table, a stripper pole held up by statistics books graced the presence of the Master Tenant’s master bedroom. Price predictions for Bitcoin hitting $1000 in December 2015 were written on the windows. A massive glass dining table had remnants of ketamine and cocaine, and thankfully a fire extinguisher found its home next to the stairs. Although the wallets of the crypto boys were on the constant rise, the physical house was on a constant decline: the appliances and the dark blue carpet which matched the front door hadn’t been replaced since the 70s. This was mirrored in the declining city as well. Homelessness was at an all time high, but so was wealth. And they coexisted on the same block,
Empty Modes of Transportation:
Airports, planes, stations, and trains were some of the more empty experiences I had while traveling throughout the pandemic. Economy seats all of a sudden felt like first-class upgrades since no one was within a six foot radius. Full rows to yourself became full beds. The bored flight attendants handed out extra glasses of wine to the passengers. Airports and stations no longer acted as hotels for travelers with a long overnight airport. They all closed early and kicked everyone to the curb. I would travel to farms and spend nights in nature, completely in denial that a pandemic was happening. Once I started moving again, I was harshly reminded.
Workaway Homes/Kitchen Tables:
To avoid the difficulties of pandemic travel, I spent about 2.5 months at different homes around the world, volunteering in the gardens, as a nanny, building compostable toilets, picking mangoes, and a variety of other activities. The homes were all unique but had one major thing in common: they had housed at least 50 volunteers from around the world. The kitchen tables in these homes were always the most telling about the environment and what kind of open or closed family the hosts were.
New York City:
New York City had always been the city that I compared every other city to. To me, it was the epitome of what a city should be. It was alive, bustling, and inspiring. New York as a setting occurs twice: once right in the middle in January 2021 and once at the end when I decided to move there. New York forced me to grapple with saying no, something I had just spent one year doing the exact opposite of.