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Interlude II

I’m writing this from St Heliers Bay, Auckland, Aotearoa / New Zealand. I’ve traveled here for an extended solo trip, taking advantage of a pause in work. There’s no “point” to this post other than to reflect a bit, on work and life and how I like to engage with the world …

In my mid twenties I left the first startup I co-founded (Junctions). It was 2012, and after almost two years we’d found ourselves at what felt like square 1. (In retrospect I am not sure this was the case — success almost always results from a long period of little perceived progress.) In any case, my heart wasn’t in it, and I set out — on a lark, so to speak.

During this stretch, I decided that I wanted to structure my life as a series of career-focused periods punctuated by stretches where I focused my attention elsewhere. A decade ago, this came to life as a three year period of itinerant living, moving from place to place, going deep on going wide. I added to my already-impressive resume of unusual jobs by working as a cycling tour guide, ski patroller and outdoor travel journalist. I was very fortunate to have relatively little student debt (an immense privilege, because I am from the US). I wanted to refine my worldview through direct experience. I went based on a hunch that it’d contribute to my personal development and help me sharpen the skills I’d need to give more fully, when I finally made my way back to a desk job (which was always my plan).

The intuition was borne out, though it happened in ways I never could have imagined. For three years, I didn’t sleep in the same place for more than 10 nights in a row. Highlights included two summers leading cycling tours on the Dalmatian Coast, with stays on a centuries-old farm maintained by the most wonderful hosts (whose young children are now nearly grown); a truly formative multi-week Atlantic crossing with my dad; a long, vertiginous, ambitious-to-the-point-of-stupidity cycling tour over the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado and La Sal Mountains of Utah with my friend Benjamin; falling in love and building a new relationship, meeting in Gran Canaria, St Lucia, New England, Prague and Telluride … all the while meeting people living engaged lives, and deeply witnessing the incredible beauty of the world, in nature and in civilization.

A few weeks into 2024, I find myself at the beginning of a similar period. About two months ago, I had an honest conversation with Raphael, my co-founder at Toucan, the climate tech startup I’ve been working on for the past ~3 years. We agreed that for where the company is, I’d best serve the effort by stepping back, into an advisory role. There are many causes for this, and many consequences in my life — I’ll write more about these at some point, I expect — but I leave more excited than ever about the team and trajectory of the company. Any early stage tech play is a long shot, but Raph, Adam, Anna and the team have what they need to make a material impact on addressing the climate breakdown with the community and technology they’re building. I’m excited to support from a distance, and work on complementing technologies.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to take the opportunity to get lost exploring this archipelago between the South Pacific and the Tasman Sea. I’ve got designs on a long bikepacking route — we’ll see where I end up. I’ll be posting occasionally about my trip on my resurrected instagram account, @johnx25bd.

I won’t be leaving my work on how to use technology to support society-scale transition behind, and am already finding that this pause is helping. I’m away from London until April, but will be checking in online now and then, so feel free to send a note if you want to stay in touch.

Published Jan 14, 2024

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