We were to finish up April and May at the quiet Airbnb duplex we had found for Aquiles’ birth in March. The owner was happy to let us stay an extra month when we explained how difficult/illegal it was to move right now. Her mom owned a local cookie factory and she was ready to get out of there, but fortunately another friend of hers had an empty condo in town for her to stay at. There was a weird moment when she accused us of giving her ‘old’ one-hundred dollar bills that were ostensibly not worth as much here in Argentina as the newer generation of Benjamins, but then she realized she was tripping and shrugged it off like nothing happened. Anyway, that’s about all the notable detail I have regarding our Airbnb host for those three months.
April-May 2020 was a time when we didn’t leave the house much, not so much because of authoritative governments but because we were focusing on our projects—our entrepreneurial endeavors and our new baby boy. Suffice to say, our home for the time being was a great, quiet place to collect ourselves and drop into what would be our year’s goals for “career growth.”
It had been a tricky question for me for a long time, this whole money and work and income thing. I’ve always loved to “work” on things, but when someone would say the word “career” I would run the other way. How boring is that, to do the same thing forever? Just for a steady supply of money? Hmph.
Of course, I didn’t understand most aspects of that topic. Or any topic relating to not hopping on a plane in 1-3 months from now. For the most part there I was in Argentina, immobile, essentially trapped, just trying to figure out how to move my life forward without being able to, you know, move my life forward at all in the ways I’d always imagined. The whole fatherhood thing was changing a lot of things in my head, fast. Traipsing down Wonder Avenue adjacent to Victimization Boulevard, I asked myself if I’d ever be able to “live” in a place of my choosing, or if I was forever stuck in the flow of a universe far more comprehensive than I.
Then I just admitted to myself that it didn’t f*cking matter, all that made any difference at all was my action. And my action has always been dictated by my state of mind, which is admittedly lazy at times. I’d have a lot more feeling of control if I just made some gosh darn money. And that was something to focus on, to give me purpose during what was shaping out to be a dreary year.
Business and income. What is money?
Personally, I’d always been sh*t at making a living. Generating income was something I never understood so I’d never judged myself or others about lacking, or having, it. For me, income—steady money—was merely a product of a corrupt society, convincing us that helping rich men get richer was the way to make our lives better. True ‘work’ would be the physical kind of work that contributed directly to keeping a human alive—gardening, hunting, building things, etc. All this other stuff was just noise and distraction from a class of predator-humans trying to get something for nothing and us falling for it because our society has a very dysfunctional and disconnected relationship with what money really is. I saw wealth similarly, until I saw cryptocurrencies start to generate real-life value out of belief (and that’s another topic for another day).
(Interlude: Money is a technological layer built on top of human interactions, helping us conceptualize and communicate value in our multi-pronged realities. When it is manipulated by powerful entities like governments and central banks with things like inflation, it artificially increases the perception of scarcity, amplifying divisive-ness for the natural combative state of man. As social beings with a physiological imperative to survive, corrupted money in many ways destroys community, degrades our integrity, and slackens our morals. One could theorize that if we could de-corrupt money, most other problems on the planet would resolve themselves over time. I didn’t realize this until recently.)
So after college, and after the partying, and after the bohemia, my goal was no longer to rebel by boycotting money, but by feeding water to the forest fire. In some intuitive process to reform this fragmented understanding of money, I used my karmic placement as the fourth evolution in the lineage of a class-ascending North American migrant family (e.g. great-grandfather: immigrant → grandfather: blue collar worker → father: gets educated → me: taught to get self-expressive, creative, and philosophical → my offspring: I guess we’ll see)—I used it to begin to explore the path of myself. Some sense of morality inside me had not been satiated by the self-gratification of my corporeal desires and of my art, which I had thought would be the inner rebellion adequate enough to quench my ravenous passion to fight a system that keeps us ignorant at so many levels.
And thus began the journey. What do I want, what is residue from the programming I am trying to rid myself of, what is happiness and where do I put my creative energy?
Well, fighting certainly doesn’t check any boxes. That’s some Anakin Skywalker Darth Vader sh*t.
It was the classic “waking up” story and my answer at the time was simply “service.” Give, give, give. Give your creative energy to others. The rest would take care of itself, including the fulfilling of my need to put energy towards solutions to the problems I saw.
And it did. An anti-job, pro-couchsurfing rambler, I had no money to give others but I had an abundance of creative energy with nowhere to channel it. It started with weekly updates on a YouTube channel about my life and travels from the GoPro perspective of my forehead, but within six months the nomadic filmmaker narrative was really sticking with me and made me feel alive again. I was somehow able to begin taking a serious stab on branding myself (long abandoned), and somehow even managed to entice others to help me fund a filmmaking trip to Nepal. Not bad for someone so fresh out of his bohemian loser stage.
Within a couple years, what had once been a hedonistic use of creative energy had transformed into a millennial asceticism, enthusiasm for life, reverence for experience and… free videos for people. I basically traveled with a mini production studio in my bag, complete with laptop, tripods, external field recorders, lenses, batteries, and a small collection of hard drives.
This trip to Nepal would be my first foray into what I call “magical manifestation money,” that which would guide my life for the next half-decade or so (up until the “magical internet money” investments started paying off). I thought finding some level of financial freedom would happen through YouTube monetization, through building an online brand as a traveling filmmaker and all that; but it would actually happen more much subtly, much more privately, and much more in line with my values than that. It would take years before my art would start paying the bills.
Instead, I started to practice the woo-woo manifestation techniques. I noticed that when I told “the universe” that I needed to make a certain amount of money, generally within a few weeks the opportunity to do so would come my way, plus or minus a few hundred dollars. What made or break the deal was my emotional maturity to handle the task, to finish the job and collect payment. In many cases I succeeded, and in many cases I failed miserably. In any case, it was a path to a form of income that didn’t bother me. And it was magical, this new type of money, because it opened me to purpose and made me feel like I had some sort of agency.
Vision and purpose. What’s the point?
The 2010s were a golden age for travel—especially budget travel. The reign of Couchsurfing may have been tainted by Airbnb’s sterility in recent years, yet my opinion remains that in all of history it could never have been easier for someone to shout out the name of a remote city and have friends of Facebook friends tag their friends whom they met in a backpacker’s hostel that lived there. For years I would use the video services I offered to create new friends, normally social entrepreneurs with similar intentions to my own, and “work” opportunities that simultaneously satisfied my itch to be seeing the world, hang out with new and exotic people, and burn up the creative energy that a house and a partner and a job—a routine—would otherwise leech off me.
Those opportunities some time brought in money, but more frequently they would bring in the ends by which the money were normally the means: places to stay, meals, sometimes even long-distance transportation. There was never ‘trading’ going on as much as simply some strangers aligned to one another’s intentions, turned friends through an unspoken agreement to support one another. I would always support with video, at bare minimum.
Meanwhile, back in magic money and ego land, I was experiencing that “Jesus syndrome” that apparently everyone goes through when they first start taking life into their own hands, de-fearing the what-if. Reading up on plenty of yogic lore up there in the Himalayan foothills, my millennial ego would have compared my synchronistic introduction to entrepreneurial destiny right up there with levitation and the breath-suspension of old. The video footage I’d been capturing was pure gold and there was something coming alive through me. I was beginning to feel powerful up there in the mountains, a god in a monkey suit with a camera on his forehead, spending time with others from around the world who shared the sentiment, for better or for worse.
Pictures for LOL-value:
Tripping as I may have been about my unique-ness as a human being (but not creative velocity, that’s real for all of us yo), the fact remained that I was calling into my existence new locations, cool friends, places to stay, bits of money when I needed it, and opportunities that made me happy. Pretty darn cool. This has effectively been evolving and amplifying ever since, and still today I do believe that we control our realities this way—but that’s another topic.
Now would be a good time in the backstory to mention that, thanks to a lengthy period of cannabis sativa and psilocybe cubensis prior to visiting Nepal, I had a deeper motive for jumping through this new door of perception. I was running down a dream, working on a mystery, going wherever it leads. And it’d all started with a mushroom trip.
Others well-versed with psychedelics would likely agree that it’s not always during the trip that one experiences the most profound insights, but in the day-to-day clarity that follows a strong dose of plant medicine. In the case of the rainy San Franscisco evening during which the mushroom
forced taught me to surrender to death in the form of stomach cramps, some notion of a human spaceship had been introduced to my perception and, ever since, recurring. This human spaceship perceived things through a different lens of space-time. It felt the effects of sounds before it actually heard them. It was powered by its own breath and movement of blood. It was a consciousness radar.
The first few years followed this metaphor very literally in my mind and contributed to an evolution of my science fiction writing. Prana, the Hindu term for life-force energy, and the human’s ability to generate heat on demand using breath could effectively power this self-sustainable, optimal human spaceship. That would explain why the spaceship floor panels glowed with each barefoot step I would take inside it.
It all was literal, until six months into my trip to Nepal. Suddenly it was clear that it wasn’t just a single person vessel…. It may very well be a decentralized web of humans that comprise this spaceship.
I continued to explore the concept in my night-time science fiction writing, but meanwhile in real life, both in the activities and in the people I met, the ephemeral web of humans started to show itself in real life. My Nepal voyage lead me into a trippy few years, watching the compressed story inside me beginning to unzip into reality.
But it didn’t stop there, with the small intentions that simply flip the mind’s switch to make one perceive people and events in a way that helps him achieve his desires. It wasn’t just my ego on a rampage, the world outside seemed to somehow reflect my internal reality, desires, and the means by which to experience those desires in my external reality. Causation or coincidence?
For example, $200 remained in my bank account on the day that changed everything. I’d been low-key praying to a nameless god—that infinite universe through which I am a mechanism for subjective experience—praying for some kind of easy opportunity to make some money. That money would keep this filmmaking trip in Asia going, and something felt very right about keeping it going.
At the time I had a measly online following (wait a minute, I still do!), and it still mattered to me to create one that cared about what I had to share. That morning my friend Ange Takats and I were examining different pop hip hop songs that we could convert into folk-y gypsy jazz covers and put online. We two primates pronounced to our universe that we would make a viral video that day.
Lo and behold, a heavy earthquake hit while we had the camera rolling. In Nepal in those days, it wasn’t uncommon for me to have the camera rolling during ordinary events—my film was tilted, “Going to Nepal with a Camera on my Forehead,” after all—but this was a whole new caliber of authentic footage. We had been sitting on the floor of my room practicing the oldtime hit “Five Foot Two” when everything started trembling. We sprinted out of the shaky building, freaked out for a moment, and then continued the music outside once the earth had calmed. Things were OK, no one was hurt. The kids were dancing to our music. Here’s the video:
Unbeknownst to us at the time, the world outside was apparently witnessing a much different story of that earthquake. People dead, homes destroyed, children lost in Kathmandu. Our live earthquake jam session took Reddit by storm and commenters called us ungrateful hippies, despite our little town of Pokhara being largely unaffected by the quake.
Overnight, the video hit almost 500k views on YouTube. Some web media company offered me $1500 for the rights to the video because they thought its controversy would be jet fuel for the a viral moon. I thought myself a big shot as I talked to the agent on a long-distance call, freaked out about it with Ange (who ordered me to get over my shit and accept the money), and finally they PayPal-ed the cash right over to me. I never even sent them the completed W-9 form.
Holy shit. All within 24 hours of saying it out loud, money and attention were knocking at my door. I was powerful, after all. Like some kind of superhero manifesting money and attention to myself.
Little did I realize it had limits, and little did I realize hard I could fall if I wasn’t careful. (It took a few years, and it wasn’t in Nepal, but I did eventually fall pretty hard.)
Tie it all together with intention.
During my fifteen minutes of low-caliber fame resulting from that video, my wake-up call of giving came back to haunt me as I took my eyes away from my fat pockets and to the world outside. Tourism in a country whose populace has very little other income was suddenly dying. Roads were closed. Fuel was short, basic living supplies limited. Nepal’s economy was all but halted while it figured out its recovery.
And everyone everywhere wanted to help. I raised money with friends and family to buy supplies and go document grassroots relief efforts about five days after the quake—actually, I didn’t even raise the money, people were just sending money and told me to help on their behalf. (I was grateful for the trust and to this day I still believe it was well-founded.)
In reality though, expat and tourist coalitions were intent to help their loving Nepalese neighbors that we’d grown so fond of, buying up the stock of foodstuffs, medicines and other supplies, renting jeeps, and driving them out to deliver to the distant villages that no one had heard from. There was nothing left to buy, so I put the money towards documenting this heart-touching tale of a global community working together in the wake of disaster. My documentation efforts were welcomed not just to my empty schedule but to those wishing the story be shared with their friends, families and donors back home. It would be important media not just for the world, but for my sense of purpose as a traveling filmmaker.
It was a tumultuous couple weeks going back and forth from the boonies, yet I was on some plane of heaven. I’d never felt so appreciated or useful. For the first time I’d ever observed or experienced, money was in abundance but manpower and time was not. I had nothing tugging at my mind’s strings saying, “you can’t afford that” and instead the question “would money help this person accomplish their task faster?” *was always on my mind. I was doing what I loved with a camera and community, handing out money that I’d been entrusted with, and I was free from worry. Akin to the heroic spaceship mushroom trip that had showed me, *death was not my fear but rather affecting those who would miss me, thanks to this humanitarian disaster in Nepal I was able to comprehend just how embedded a fear of money workings had engulfed me and my decisions.
I’ll bet you didn’t see me circling around back around to business and money like that, but here we are. Since those fateful years, my travel-service-money life has circled around the dance of giving and receiving. I’d say having a child was not a result of that but simply an immense magnification of the cycle. What is giving now gives back to me with instant reciprocity. Unlike the systematized world outside that does not care to see me succeed, and my pathetic relationship to what the world thinks of me in material terms, parenthood is a giving that forgives.
Not in the beginning, though. I was still trying to turn my giving into something that also allowed Lau and I the space and time to raise a child. It’s a similar space and time to the creative writing zone, raising a child, except the child is metaphysically able to stretch its existence to fill every perceivable cranny of that universe.
So there in Argentina, a stranger in a strange land, I used this strange new lifestyle brought on by fatherhood and made the biggest move since that fateful year in Nepal five years earlier: I started a company.
There’s the cliffhanger! Next installment we’ll loop back around to spring time in Argentina 2020. As always, thanks for reading!