I've just come back from Boston.
I spent 10 days out there with my brother and his girlfriend. When you visit a city just for a holiday you get the obvious things. With Boston it's the history. Places named after UK towns and cities. Its subway system. Tree-lined avenues and garden squares. Boston Common. The cultural enclaves and influences, Irish and Italian particularly (try and spot a non-Italian restaurant whilst walking through the North End). If everything wasn't made out of red brick you'd feel like you were in London the layout is so similar, just on a smaller scale.
I got lost in the basement of MIT, confused by the lifts in Harvard and entertained by baseball and barbecue sauce at Fenway Park. I lost count of the number of guitars around Berklee. I reckon it has a higher density of guitars per capita than anywhere else on Earth.
I spent the majority of every day wandering the streets. I walked and walked and walked. I think I'd forgotten just how much I like walking. For me it's the best way to see a city. To see anywhere for that matter. Days never really had any concrete goal or structure, we just walked.
By the end, I was wishing I could stay. 10 days is enough to feel like you're just getting to know somewhere, and then you're done, back on a plane 'home'. Long enough to get a taste, but not long enough to dive deep. You scratch the surface but you don't gain much insight.
Those 10 days were also the longest continuous period I've spent with my brother in the last 8 years. In many ways we're completely different people. But in some, we're completely the same. We had some great discussions about life. About business. About professional eSports. When he first went away to the US to study, we said we'd make time each year to take a trip together somewhere. I hope we can continue to do that.
Sitting in the airport, I thought about everything that had happened whilst I'd been in Boston. I thought about the type of life I want to create for myself going forward. I want to spend more time exploring new cultures. I want to visit more places, different places and for longer periods of time.
There was more to it than that though. There were the little things which had become part of life whilst I was there.
Walking. Early in the morning, on my own, whilst my brother was still asleep. Not having a destination in mind, just wandering and seeing what I found. It made me realise how little time I'd previously set aside just for thinking. Giving my mind space to explore thoughts potentially completely unrelated to work, unrelated to anything else. I became conscious of not just the guilt I would associate with pursuing random thoughts without any idea of where they would lead but also how critical that process is for my personal growth and my ability to contribute something new to my job and my relationships.
Not really being aware of what the time was. I would go out early, do some training, pick up coffee for my brother, come home, eat, spend the majority of the day walking about the city together, stop for lunch when we felt hungry, come back in the evening, have dinner and go to sleep. Rinse and repeat. There was a beautiful freedom to it. I want to get my life as close to that as I possibly can.
Waiting for my plane, I also thought about what I don't want to do. I don't want to be tied down to one place. I don't want to be in an office any more than is absolutely necessary. I don't want someone else's expectations of me to dictate where I am, what I do and when I do it. I'd spent nearly 10 days without stepping foot inside a car and it made me realise how much I dislike having to drive everywhere. How unproductive that time is. How damaging it is to my physical and mental well-being. I had also seen a position where I could run my business from anywhere in the world and it made me more motivated than ever to achieve that.
It was a simple life. I know that getting there isn't going to be easy but I experienced enough of the other side to know that when I get there it will be worth it.
I didn't climb at all whilst I was in Boston. And I didn't worry overly about strength work. Roughly every other day I'd walk to the riverside workout park and do some basic gymnastic drills as a form of maintenance but that was all. It took about 40 minutes to walk there, 40 minutes to walk back and about an hour for my session. So more time spent travelling than doing. Longer than I'd spend driving to the gym at home.
But my mindset was completely different. I'd get there when I got there, do what I wanted to do, and then go back. Again, no rush. No external factors influencing my priorities. Just me doing what I felt like doing.
The one part of my training I kept up consistently whilst I was away though was handstands. It's so simple, such a beautiful challenge. Endless scope for refinement, improvement and progression.
I found a great spot to do them as well. Just south of downtown Boston, under the junction between the I-90 and the I-93, there's an area called Underground Ink Block. In 2017, a number of artists came together to transform the space and create a mural project spanning over 150,000 sq ft. It isn't quiet. It isn't peaceful. With two highways criss-crossing overhead and the commuter rail running alongside, it could hardly be considered tranquil. But for me it was perfect. You can't escape the noise, you just have to tune it out. You have to focus on your hands, find your balance and just be.
updated 26 August 2018