I had a “misanthrope” wrist band for most of 2012, but it snapped back in November. It made me very sad.
I also became single back in November; I decided that it would be a good time to start travelling the world. I was going to strike off on my own – put my stuff in storage and experience life. I was pretty excited about this because living abroad is actually, in most ways, cheaper than my old digs back in Victoria; it seems foolish to not do this!
It would also give me a chance to escape people. I hate people! I’m a misanthrope, after all!
So what have I been up to since then?
- I flew out to Boston for a few weeks, where I met some wonderful new friends. I was staying with Dejobaan which was awesome and comfortable, though we were crunching on MLY! so it was also a bit stressful.
- I popped back to Victoria to say goodbye to my friends and make sure the LevelUp community was all sorted before I took off.
- I flew down to Mexico for over two months. There I stayed with the Northways, my old friends from highschool who have been doing this “living abroad” thing for years now. These months were some of the best days of my life – it was incredible, relaxing, and I even got some work done. I’ve made a few blog posts about the Mexico leg of my trip, but one of my favourite things is meeting all those new friends, learning new tricks (kiteboarding!), and just generally having a blast.
- After that I flew back to Boston where I forged even more new friendships, some I would say are quite special to me and I hope last me the rest of my life. I stayed with Dejobaan again and we spent a week crunching on, and finishing MLY!, then it was time for PAX East where I had a booth. Graham Davis, a good friend from back in Victoria, flew out to help out with my booth so it was good to see a familiar face again.
- Next up was GDC in San Francisco where I stayed with Dejobaan for a third time. GDC was back-to-back with PAX this year so the stress was a bit higher than normal, but I also skipped buying a badge this year – no attending talks, and just barely visited the Expo floor. I was only attending evening parties! This let me get all my socializing and business meetings done while still getting enough sleep and relaxation in. It made the trip quite enjoyable; I think I’ll do it again next year. Some of the after-parties and events were amazing, and I met even more new friends and forged some new relationships that I’m sure will be with me for the rest of my life. I get really excited whenever I’m in SF; there’s always so many people to see, and so many things to do. GDC13 was probably one of my favourite “party-weeks” ever. I’m still riding the high, a month later.
- And then, I took a big deep breath in, and hopped on a plane to Australia (starting in Brisbane). This is my first time crossing an ocean! I had never left North America before. I had a tinge of extra nervousness, though, as I had a date lined up with a woman I met online.
And here I am! I’m in Australia. That catches us almost up to the present.
The date I had lined up (let’s call her “D”) didn’t end with a romantic happily-ever-after, so I won’t linger on it too long. D has been my tour guide for the local beach-towns I’m staying in, and we’ve spent many nights staying up late, drinking and chatting. She made an interesting observation though: that my bullet-pointed list up there sure contains a lot of people. Maybe I don’t hate people after all? Maybe I’m not really a misanthrope!
Of course, this argument got me very defensive and I started listing all the ways that I hate humanity, but I slowly settled on how it’s probably true… I hate people, I do! I hate how stupid the world can be sometimes. But my friends? I love them. I love my friends to bits. I get energetic and enthusiastic around them, my game-production-multiplier increases, and I have a lot of exciting fun times being around my game-developer-buddies, chatting about things like how nature and the world around us can inspire code, or game ideas. I want to stare at the ocean and chat about how many games there are in the concept of water alone.
And I’m missing all of that, here in Australia.
Turns out I like travelling with a partner, or with my friends. Without those, I’ve just changed the scenery and my life is largely the same: Sitting on my laptop, making lame tweets about the world that goes on around me, making blog posts that are way too long.
It’s making me very unhappy here.
There are other things that make travel a bit harder for me, too; I’m not really in to doing the touristy stuff. I don’t really want to see the big rock in the desert, or holding a koala at a petting zoo, or going on some guided snorkeling adventure. I am interested in living; going grocery shopping. Seeing all the different things people buy. Doing things locals do on weekends, kicking my feet up at the beach, and just relaxing about town. Sitting at the pub and watching the surfers. But I feel like I can’t really do that stuff: Australia is really expensive. REALLY expensive.
I think I can safely and categorically say that nearly everything is twice as expensive in Australia as it is in Canada. The beers available at any of the local pubs are [big-brew crap, and] only available in this bullshit “Schooner” size which is like, half a pint, but 50% more expensive than a pint. Mixed drinks are typically $5-8 at most places in the US and Canada; the cheapest I have been able to find down under is $12 (but the average seems to be $15). [To be fair, Australia's minimum wage is around $15 vs. Canada's $10, so cost-of-living is probably a bit closer to what I had hoped. But I'm not working here.]
Groceries are expensive. Clothes are expensive. Rent is expensive. Everything is really, really expensive, and it bugs me because I wanted to travel to make things cheaper for myself. I wanted to travel to not have to worry about money. Sure, MLY is doing well, but I haven’t gotten my first cheque from Valve yet and the whole money thing stresses me out so much I’m pretty much paralyzed. I can’t enjoy myself at the pub. Every beer tastes like regret (for both price and flavour reasons), and I find myself ordering tiny servings or going to really shitty hamburger stands.
But, I do feel like I could stomach those shitty burgers and expensive beers if the Northways were here. If my old roommates back in Victoria were here with me. If there was a conference going on. If I had compatriots; if I had someone to share the pain with, to laugh about it with. Someone to bounce game ideas off of, to distract me from the pain of the price.
But no; I sit here, largely alone, tentatively poking at my ultra-expensive swill, gazing out across the ocean as my bank account drifts farther into the red. Sure there’s been some good days; and around half my time here is spent having a lot of fun with D (playing in the surf, trying new foods, cramming vegemite into my face, her laughing at my wobbly skateboarding, etc) – but it’s not enough. Her company is wonderful, but I’m still feeling cut off and lonely, feeling separated from my game development community. One of the highlights of my trip was watching my copy of Indie Game: The Movie with D, and I think that’s probably hinting at something.
I started asking myself: If money was no object, what would I do right now? After buying a helicopter (obviously), I would definitely leave – I would immediately book a flight back to North America. Back to my friends. I just don’t travel well alone, it turns out, and this was my first time trying it. The only reason I’ve been sticking around is because the airfare was so expensive – I feel like it’s a sunk-cost and I have to make it “worth it” by sticking around, making myself miserable. Sticking around to make your plane ticket worth it is a really shitty reason to stick around.
So I bought myself a return flight. I’ll be returning to North America in a week or two from this post, and I’ve got some plans to head out to Boston, Vancouver, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and maybe even New Brunswick and Newfoundland — all for conferences, game jams, and seeing all my friends. I’ve already got plans to live for a week on a houseboat in Arizona. I’ve got a lot of friends I want to see, new relationships to catch up on, and adventures to be had… Adventures with people. Adventures with friends, adventures with (hopefully!) a partner.
I’m not done with Australia – far from it. I think it’s wonderful here; I am celebrating having crossed an ocean, I am enthusiastic about this continent and want to explore it, and the people within. I daresay the drivers are more courteous than any other place I’ve been, and people talk with their endearing accents all the time. There are plenty of gamedevs scattered throughout that I’d love to visit and hang out with. I do still love Australia and their TimTams… And yes, even their Vegemite. I just need to experience it with the right people to not ruin it for myself. It’s my dream to go to New Zealand, and I was originally planning on doing it with this trip. I’ll put it off though, I want to save that… so I can share it with someone special. Travelling alone just doesn’t work for me.
I have a new wristband now. It doesn’t say “misanthrope” this time; it just says “don’t read the comments.”