2008 started with my decision to leave Gotomedia, relinquish my US visa, and return home to the UK to work freelance, in what was merely a delay to my original plans.
I really loved San Francisco, but it never felt like home. Whilst this was mainly due to the distance away from my family and friends in Britain, the location and people around me became inextricably linked to my time at Ning, a part of my life I was keen to move on from.
With this in mind, January saw me return to California to tie up loose ends and say my good-byes, as well as attend an Edward Tufte seminar and visit the Macworld Expo (where I was able to get my hands on the newly announced MacBook Air). I also took the time out to savour some favourites one last time — the Smoked Turkey sandwich from Atlas Cafe in the Mission and a Latte at Farley’s Coffee on Potrero Hill — two dietary treats that still make my mouth water!
Upon returning to the UK, I was graciously provided a desk, chair and filing cabinet in a shared office with some former colleagues from Orange Vision, and from there set to work on a number of projects. By April the fruits of my freelance labour started to show themselves in the form of a website for nGenera (and an associated identity that I’m rather proud of) and also the public launch of Apture.
However by May I was juggling four separate projects and soon realised I could only stretch my creatively so far, one of many lessons freelancing has taught me. Freelancing has certainly been a challenge at times, but the freedom and self-determination it allows for is greatly rewarding. It should be noted that self-employment is largely the reason for my lack of blogging last year — time management is still something I need to work on.
One benefit of this new capacity for self-determination was that it allowed for a greater deal of travel (something which I’ve become particularly fond of in recent years) and 2008 was book-ended by March and October itineraries across the United States.
In anticipation of my travels, I purchased a more professional camera in the shape of the Canon Powershot G9. With a large set of manual controls, the capacity to shoot raw, and the ability to add lens filters, whilst small enough to fit in my pocket, this camera seemed most suited to my needs when compared to a larger dSLR that I would have to lug around.
My itinerary in March took in the SXSW Interactive festival in Austin, Texas, then San Francisco to catch up with friends, from where I jumped onto an Amtrak bus to Emeryville, and then onwards to Chicago via the splendid California Zephyr. Whilst I was only in Chicago for two nights, it left enough of an impression for me to return in October.
Summer was a little less hectic on the travel front, but after visiting my friend Simon in Carlisle, I exited the M6 and headed over to Morecambe to visit it’s newly restored Art Deco Midland Hotel and pay homage to popular comedian Eric Morecambe, whose statue is erected in the town from which he took his stage name.
Of course the highlight of each summer, is a weekend spent with many friends on a camp site Dolgellau, North Wales. What started as an event focused on cycling (the nearby Coed-y-Brenin Forest is famed for its mountain bike trails) has since become more about getting away from it all, and relaxing in the beautiful Welsh country side. That and of course firing bottle rockets, chopping down trees, and playing with boats in the river!
By October I was back on a plane heading stateside, this time with a plan to visit Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington DC. A somewhat mixed trip, mainly due to a few mishaps on my part (I missed both my flight from San Francisco to Chicago, and my Amtrak connection from Chicago to DC) it was still chock-full of highlights. Dinning at the top of the Space Needle, sailing with the team from Apture on San Francisco Bay (with the Blue Angels flying only feet above us as they practised for Fleet Week) and an Architecture Boat Tour on the Chicago River stand out as some of the many memorable moments from this three week jaunt.
A change of direction
With transition very much the theme of the year, upon returning from America, a few days later I had once again packed up my things and headed south to Littlehampton — a spare room with reasonable rent had become available at Jon’s house and was an offer too good to turn down.
This move was for a number of reasons, least of all the desire to regain my independence (the idea of living with my parents as I approach 30 wasn’t particularly appealing), but it also meant I could be closer to the bustling media scene in Brighton. Again, this was an easy decision to make given the freelance nature of my employment, and indeed such a move has already proven its reward, as I ended the year contracting for Clearleft.
With 2008 behind me, now it’s time to think about how to build upon the groundwork it has laid. My new southerly location means I am better able to make the most of what nearby London has to offer, and a bit closer to home, the South Downs, beaches and seaside resorts offer to much in the way of opportunities for more photographic exploration. Whilst I have enjoyed my travels across North America, I’m now keen to explore Europe, of course by means of my new found love of travel by train.