North Island, New Zealand

February 5, 2017

On the Road

Wednesday morning, I tossed a tent and some sunscreen in the back of my car, pulled out of the driveway, and headed West.

My original plan for my time here New Zealand involved a lot of driving, taking in the country, exploring, and hiking hiking hiking.

With my partner gone for the next few weeks on business travel, it was time to finally make good.

I set out with only a vague outline: go West until I ran out of land, then go North. When I ran out of land in the North, I’d figure out what’s next.

Three days later, I’d driven 2,200 km, and the reality of what New Zealand was was starting to sink in. (Reality 1: There are some absolutely stunning driving roads here.)

But as my car curled up the asphalt, I started to process all that's changed since I landed, just under two months ago. And one of the many things that has shaken loose is a clear sense of what’s next.

Ink and Feet had hit an inflection point toward the end of last year, with the launch of the book and the bundle, and it felt like the authenticity and connection I’d built with you and everyone else who reads was starting to fray at the seams.

Some of that was the simple “everything that’s not on fire falls by the wayside for a bit” that happens with any new relationship. (See, for example, me sending the letter last Saturday instead of Sunday because I was distracted and confused. :) ) But it felt like there were deeper problems, too.

A year ago, these letters felt more back-and-forth to me, and as the number of folks reading them have grown, I haven’t quite figured out how to keep that connection.

I’ve also been looking ahead at the things I’d planned to make during this year. Sure, they were the things I wanted to make - but I hadn’t really done proper listening around them. Were they the sort of things that you (or anyone else) really wanted to use?

As the the quiet of the northland hills flew by my car window, the slow realization that I’ve been doing way more talking than listening in the letters of late began to dawn on me - and I didn’t like it.

I’m living through a time where lots of things are uncertain - how and where I’m traveling, what I’m making for Ink and Feet - even things like considering getting involved in some kind of tech/environment/sustainability project here in New Zealand are on the table. I’m lucky to have such a panopoly of opportunities - the challenge is figuring out which one is the right next door to walk through. And that, like everything else, is just going to require me to shut up and listen some more. :)

So next week, I’m going to specifically focus on listening to you and your fellow readers. I’ll ask some specific questions and some open-ended questions, and I’d love to hear from you and what you think. Think of it as kind of State of the Union, but in the reverse. Instead of me telling you what’s going on, you’ll tell me. :)

Despite all the tumble-dryer churn of my life of late, one thing I know for certain is that I’m deeply grateful to you for opening up these letters on your Sunday mornings, and sharing a slice of your day with me.

I’m glad to join you, and so happy to have you riding along. :)

Have a wonderful week,

-Steven

p.s. The best thing I saw all week was a stunningly spectacular sunset, flinging pink and orange on the islands and hills around Kawau Bay. But the best thing I can share is this piece by Naomi Shibab Nye. Especially with all the craziness that’s been happening in the US of late, it’s a lovely reminder of who we all really are.

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