On December 2nd of last year, I embarked on a project that would take me from coast to coast and open my eyes to just how incredible this little country of ours truly is. Dubbed, The Great Agency Adventure, this journey has seen me working at a different ad agency in a different city ever since. By the time I return home to Cleveland in February, the final number will balloon to a grand total of 14 agencies in 14 cities—all in the span of 14 months.
So, why would I leave the comfort and security of a 9 to 5, just to rack up mountains of debt and offer my creative services for pennies on the dollar? That’s the million-dollar question. It’s a story I’ve told countless times since I first left Cleveland last winter and it’s one I’m sure to tell again and again for years to come. I won’t bore you with the details here, because I’ve already written about it several times on my own blog—thegreatagencyadventure.com. No, I instead wanted to take a moment and discuss one of the greatest insights I’ve absorbed on my travels.
A computer screen is no substitute for an open window.
In a world where it’s all too easy to leave comments, Tweet grievances and snark at the next big trend, we often forget to take a moment and appreciate things for what they are. That’s because a computer screen only allows you to see what’s in the pixels—whether it’s an image, article, review or video. It’s become far too easy to reduce the blood, sweat and tears of an individual down to a 15-second gif; the delicate brushstrokes of an artist down to a thumbnail; the years of studying fine cuisine in Europe down to a snapshot. Don’t get me wrong; none of these things are bad. They simply become bad, when we stop demanding more from our lives and stop seeking these experiences out for ourselves.
‘Doing’ is a dying art form and we’re too comfortable with simply ‘viewing’.
That’s why I’m currently sitting on the banks of the Colorado River in Austin. I realized I was in a position where I could not only help people see what’s out there; but I could hopefully instill in them the courage to go out and experience it firsthand. When you venture out into the real world and see the art, shops and eateries that line our streets, you can actually feel the dedication behind them. You can taste the artistry and appreciate the unparalleled talent. It’s a sensory experience you won’t find on any electronic device. After all, a new phone may seem nice at the time, but it’s bound to become obsolete within the year. A trip to Iceland, though? That’s a memory you’ll never call outdated.
To actually go eat slow-cooked Texas BBQ; watch the skaters at Love Park in Philly; tag your name on the St. Louis graffiti wall; it all instills a new sense of wonder and accomplishment. It motivates you to become a part of something bigger and opens your eyes to the fact that there are creative people all over the world. It’s a feeling that can’t be expressed in 140 characters or through the lens of an Instagram filter. Yet, it’s something that will stay with you regardless of where you live, where you work or how much money you make. It’s a reminder that what you do is never regulated to a cubicle or office, despite how it may feel at times. The world is a canvas; you just have to go looking for the right brushes.
Happiness breeds the very best work.
To me, travel always yields one of two positive outcomes. On one hand, you may come across a city that immediately acquires your love—a place that calls your name and invites you in with open arms. Somewhere that stimulates your talents and rouses your very best creations. But, on the other hand, you may feel underwhelmed, only to return and fall in love with your home all over again. Armed with a newfound enthusiasm and a mind full of memories, you’ll feel motivated to improve your city and finally devote enough time and passion to doing so. That’s what Sam McNulty did and I’d say his worldly knowledge has served him rather well over there in Ohio City.
On a personal level, I’m ready to embody all of the knowledge I’ve consumed on this trip and unleash it through my work. I don’t know what’ll come next for me. Yet, for the first time in my life, I’m not afraid to venture into that mysterious unknown. I just hope that some of you will decide to throw caution to the wind and join me for the ride, because our world could use a few more adventurers.