Adapting to Life at 10,500 Feet

My recent Western Relocation has landed me in the highest incorporated town in America.  With a whopping population of 600-ish people, Alma is about as high as you can get for a Rocky Mountain town.  While walking outside my door and being dwarfed by a 14K foot mountain peak that’s literally half a mile away is a wonderful way to start the day, there are a few adjustments for this location independent nomad.

Our daily walk in the shadow of a 14K footer!

And while the move went smoothly (give or take a few weather systems), my ability to adapt has been challenged in several ways since I came to this quiet little town.  Here are a few of my recent adaptations.

Connection.

Connectivity is by far the greatest challenge in this move.  You truly do not realize how dependent you are upon the internet in this line of work until you can’t find a connection.  The local coffeehouse is wonderful, and for good reason, they do not provide wifi for their customers.  Being a strong proponent of community gathering places, I totally understand.

So, while walking through town on my first day here, I noticed the local pub had a wifi sign on the window.  Perfect.  And they’re open at 6 am for breakfast- even better.  So, the following day, I bundled up- did I mention the average temperature is about 15 degrees at this elevation- grabbed my backpack and walked down to the pub at 9 am.  Amazingly, a people were actually having a beer and playing pool.

Did I mention that I’m next to South Park- or the town where the cartoon was based? I can see a novel or a sitcom growing out of this town.

I grabbed a table next to the window and parked my ass there for hours. I ordered a ‘giant pancake’ (literally twice the size of my head) and a bottomless cup of coffee and commenced to getting my wifi on.

And I’ve been back almost every morning since.  I’ve opted for just the Sysco coffee sans ginormous pancake.  And I hate to admit this, but I really like it.  When I open the door to the pub, literally and figuratively called “Alma’s Only Bar” I kinda feel like Norm walking into Cheers.

I know who will be sitting at the bar, that the bartender will be having her coffee and chatting with the locals and that the chef will be sitting at the bar table with her laptop.  I join her in the mornings, we share a table and get to work.  And she always gives me such a warm welcome when I walk in.  There’s a fire blazing in the wood stove and the coffee is hot.

What more can you ask for?

The transition of the bar crowd vs coffeeshop crowd in the morning does take a little bit of an adjustment.  Luckily, I grew up in the restaurant industry and was a bartender for ten years, so I speak the language.  There’s no NPR or folk music playing, usually the entertainment news or CMT is on the bar television.  There’s no debate of politics, in fact there’s very little talk of politics at all. Unless the Rogue politician gone Hollywood pops onto the TV and the bar will fire up with the latest talking points spinning out of the media cycle.

But, a little color in the morning is a nice change of pace.  I met Uncle Johnny the other morning, who kept the fire stoked and the conversation interesting.  A former police officer from Pittsburgh, Uncle Johnny is the go-to guy in the bar and probably in the town. I have a feeling if I need anything, Uncle Johnny would be the man to ask.

When he introduced himself, I had to smile a little.  I had an Uncle Louie in Pawleys Island who could, and I quote “make things happen. If you need me to take care of somebody, you just let me know.  I know people.” Literally, his exact words.  Love it!

So, while my connectivity is still a little spotty, I am learning to adjust and hoping my online communities will understand my lack of availability at the moment.

My favorite "office" from last winter's Walkabout. I hope to be there in a few more weeks! Image from my Blackberry.

Work Schedule


As a location independent professional, I’ve learned to work almost anywhere when necessary.
But even when not traveling, I have certain times of the day when my creativity emerges and I ride that horse for all it’s worth.  My new living arrangement (and it’s only for a few more months) is very small.  Tiny.  300 square feet tiny, with my dog and a roommate.  Yea, wrap your brain around that for a sec.  No bedrooms or quiet corners for this little night owl to dive into her writing and production.  Conundrum.

I have found the local coffeeshop- sans wifi- to be an excellent place for contemplation and writing.  I sit next to a giant picture window that looks out over Main Street and that mammoth 14K foot mountain by my house and work away.  Or try to.  I’ve met some wonderful people there and have gotten some writing done, but mid-afternoon is my least creative time and they close at six.  My most creative time is at night, and I’m hoping to find a little more rhythm there soon.

My other major work schedule adjustment relates to the first point of connectivity.  Not having evening access to the wifi- unless I want to be that girl chained to her laptop in the corner of the bar, sipping whiskey and being anti-social- has meant that I only check email once a day.  I hate to admit this, but I rather like that aspect of this new schedule.  It takes some getting used to, but I enjoy not being chained to the inbox.  So, I’m left to have conversations with my roommate in the evenings or read a book, both of which are rather enjoyable.

I do worry that my writing will begin (or is already) slipping with the lack of late night writing.  Hopefully my muse will adjust as well and as I find my rhythm here, I’ll be able to compensate for my challenging work schedules.

My winter chalet from last year. If I can adjust to this tight living space, I can live anywhere! Image from the blackberry.

Finding a New Market- or Not

My new town is only 30 minutes from Breckenridge, where people, business and social life abounds.  My plan was to drum up some local business to tap into when I’m not traveling. I researched the town prior to moving and lived here ten years ago, so I have some idea of what to anticipate when putting my freelancing self into this market.  But, putting myself out there requires one major element of a business that I am lacking at the moment- transportation.

If you’ve been reading this blog the past few weeks, you saw the lovely pictures of the Vintage Vanagon I so diligently navigated cross-country with the canoe/sail on top.  Well, she took a big shit last week and left her exhaust system in shambles on a mountain pass.  So I am sans wheels. In a town of 600 people, with a handful of businesses’ and no mass-transit to the next major town.

Oops.

And oh, did I mention the big mountain pass that you have to traverse, complete with hairpin turns and snow banks to get to Breckenridge?  Oyyy.

So the other night, when faced with the possibility of no wheels all winter, I did some serious spreadsheet forecasting of all the possible scenarios of living here with or without a car and running my business.  I highly recommend everyone do this often, particularly when you’re contemplating new avenues of your business or trying to understand where your opportunities lie.

My major question in this whole line of rationale was the following- was the Universe trying to force me to focus on just the online business by taking away the vehicle and the wifi all at once.  I understand that there’s the element of free will in here- and I can choose my own vehicle and such- but I tend to pay attention when things unfold and try to find the lesson within the mayhem.  By not having the distraction of the internet and having very limited options for income, I would literally HAVE to build my online business now and not mess around with more freelance jobs and “real” work.

My spreadsheets helped- tremendously.  I made about 10 different versions of the possible revenue streams and how they would budget out through the year.  I used Mac’s Numbers and their built in budget template and played out all the possible options.  I narrowed my possibilities down to three and then focused in on the one budget that was my ideal goal- both monetarily and for the type of freelance/online business balance I see myself juggling this year.

I then busted out the iCal and put all the budget milestones onto my calendar and planned out the following year!  Holy Crap!  And today, when I was beginning to stress a little about creating local fliers for freelance services and getting over the pass to network, I opened up the spreadsheets and looked at my calendar to see what I truly should be focused on.  And I did just that.

Funny how that whole planning thing works, isn’t it?

I know, seems rather obvious, but for this artistic entrepreneur, planning doesn’t always come naturally.  I can strategize like nobody’s business and I can visualize the big picture, but putting the tiny little steps necessary to get me there into action, well that’s a challenge.

So, back to my transportation adaptation.  Looks like someone will be driving cross-country- AGAIN- in two weeks.  My truck is going to have to make the journey out here, so this nomad can be mobile again.  Hitching a ride over that pass and to my desert town next month is not a task that I’m looking forward to.

Now, it’s your turn.

So, if you’re still with me, how do you adjust your work routines and schedules to a new location- be it on a business trip or a major move?

What are your necessary elements for productivity- no matter where you are?

Are you a serious planner or fly-by-the seat of your pants person?

Do you have spreadsheet planners for year long forecasting or a special method for bringing your plans to action?

What’s the strangest place you’ve worked in for wifi access?
Go on, you can tell us!

Comments

  1. says

    What an adventure! I love how you whipped out your spreadsheets :) Good luck on your next long drive and hope it works out! Looking forward to see what bit of freelance work you get into next.

  2. says

    Hi Crystal,

    Thanks for pointing out the budget templates in Excel, I shall look into it.

    I agree with you that the energy of the place is definitely a major consideration. I guess as an INFJ, this point is such a given for me that I forgot to articulate it. I shall check out “The Great Good Place” and follow your documentary work where I can. I will also check back often since I can follow you around the world on your blog. I think your travels are fantastic! :D

    Irving

  3. says

    Hi Crystal,

    I stumbled onto your blog from the Daily Brainstorm. One thing that crossed my mind as I read your daily work routine at the pub is that I would probably do the same thing myself as I adjust to a new location. I would find a nice spot where I can work and keep on going back day after day. In fact, I like to keep these things simple. I definitely need a quiet place where I can focus and think. It would be great if it had a view, but it is not necessary. As for planning, I think it would be good if I actually adopted your spreadsheet ideas since I tend to be pretty lax on the details when it comes to planning.

    But I do have a clear idea of my goals and I generally rely on I-Ching divination to foresee the opportunities and pitfalls that lie along my chosen path. In this manner, I won’t be groping about blindly in the dark unsure about what comes next. I will always be in harmony with the times and circumstances as I work to bring my plans to fruition. Foresight and foreknowledge can be very helpful if you know how to use it to avoid big mistakes in the long run.

    Thus far I admire your adventurous spirit. I will definitely drop by your blog from now on to see your progress.

    Thank you for sharing this great post! :)

    Irving aka the Vizier

    • says

      Hello Irving- the Vizier!

      Thanks for the wonderful feedback! The I-Ching is a fabulous tool to rely upon! I used to consult it regularly in my mid-twenties, when my adventuring first began! Finding the quiet place that you connect with is key and the energy of the place is definitely a major consideration- more so than the view! There’s a great book called “The Great Good Place” written by an anthropologist that spend a considerable amount of time studying community gathering places. It’s a major part of my documentary work. Fabulous book!

      The spreadsheets work wonders- though I tend not to be a detail/number person- these help me focus a little more. Check out the budget templates included in Numbers or Excel. They rock!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and please check back! Take care!

      Crystal

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