The night of April 30, 2012 was a miserable night that I’ll never forget. Driving a 24 foot U-Haul through the crowded streets of Manhattan, I had the accumulated possessions of myself, Dane May and Ryan Moore as we headed from our first homes in the Village to our massive (by NYC standards) flat in TriBeCa. I was driving while Dane sat in the second seat. Ryan was crammed into the middle area without a proper seat complaining that he had been smashed in like a secondhand accordion. A few wrong turns due to some dodgy directions and we were forced across the Brooklyn Bridge with no alternative than to go to Brooklyn and turn around to head back to the island.
We arrived about 11:15PM to an absolute trash heap. The previous occupants had been bankers, and had spent the last week of their lease playing cocaine flip cup with strippers and had left mounds of trash stacked 5 feet high. We had a U-Haul full of our possessions that had to be returned that night otherwise we’d be paying a $250 ticket as well as an additional day on the truck.
Our friends, lovable bro-snakes that they were, were there waiting to help us move in our stuff in. They laughed, well more of a hearty grimace with sound, as they walked into our “new palace.” Shuffling through trash as we tried to pile it all into the living room, we got our possessions in and the truck returned about 3:00.
This was our 5 man pad, and it was an adventure in anthropological studies. More than one morning I awoke to a roommate with a club girl on the counter whom I had to move to make my morning coffee on the way to the exchange.
It wasn’t the cleanest or the most comfortable place but it was a place of massive maturation. A few weeks after we moved in, Dane came to the roommates and said that he had a proposition. An Aussie friend of a friend, Ben Harrison, was moving to NYC for the summer and was trying to avoid hiring his own apartment given the credit limitations of foreigners for a 4 month temp visa. He was offering to pay a chunk of rent to put a loft in our massive “activities” area, where we had a full sized basketball backboard and a ping pong table. Always the cheapass, I wholeheartedly said yes, and everyone else shrugged as they indifferently agreed.
Ben had been coordinating outdoor music festivals in Oz for years and was now looking to come over and scrap his way to the top of electronic music in NYC. His girlfriend was a dance captain for a Broadway show, and this was an opportunity to spend time with her personally while advancing himself professionally.
From almost no contacts save for a few club guys we knew, Ben managed to make himself invaluable to in the electronic music scene, finally being given a 5% ownership stake of a club for sweat equity.
This wasn’t his foremost achievement. That would be me.
I’d always had a desire to travel. My parents made the “interesting” decision to allow me and my slightly older friend Alex Barnes to go visit our friends ‘ family, the Stalls, who made an expat career move to London for a few years. At the time, it was a 12 year old and 15 year old navigating through an England with only our paper traveler’s cheques and a tube map with a 20 pence piece taped to it, the Stall’s phone number scrawled across the front.
We survived, as you do, after several hair raising adventures, discussion of which still brings tears of laughter to our eyes.
I also had the opportunity to travel heaps with my parents within the continental US. California, Colorado, Oregon, and large swaths of the midwest and east coast had been visited, either in family vacations or when I got to spend a school year travelling with my father as he hawked asphalt planers, stump grinders, and slot cutters across the US.
Internationally I was still a neophyte though, and Benny told me about his unbelievable travels over the past 7 years. He’d been to something like 35 countries at that point, backpacking through Europe and North Africa for nearly a year when he was 21. This was how he’d become a friend of a friend, but his travel network was unparalleled.
I was amazed that someone could do that. Vacations in the US were nearly always under 2 weeks, with the majority of one’s 15 days being spent on obligatory holidays, weddings and funerals. I never envisioned time during my career to go travel for long stretches like Ben had. It was interesting to talk about but this was the life of someone else. I was a trader, and traders had to be trading. A week here and there might be taken off, but there was no possibility of taking a massive hiatus and expecting a job when I returned.
Fast forward 3 years, and I have since traveled to all 6 continents and 16 countries. Ben and I as of 7PM local time on July 31, 2015 had joined the 5 continent club, having seen North America, Europe, Australia, Asia and South America together. Not bad considering we live on opposite sides of the world most of the time.
Ben taught me that there is no such thing as the “way.” There are goals and the motivation to achieve them, and every way one chooses leads somewhere. Those who end up in a place where they are unhappy have chosen ways, or lacked the motivation to achieve goals that would’ve been more fulfilling.
One day I decided the path I was on would only lead to a life that I was unhappy with, so I jumped off, emailed Ben and in fewer than 10 words told him that I wanted to try another way for a while.
That took me on the trip of a lifetime, and totally refocused my perspective from one driven by money and the status afforded it, to one where I wanted to do legitimate good in the world. After a nasty case of the post travel blues, that perspective allowed me to start my own company with my brother and one of our best friends. The idea is simple, that fruit and vegetable production worldwide is not able to satisfy the needs to the 7 billion humans currently milling about earth. We intend to change that with technology and hard work, and given the incredible technical skills of Erik and Jesse, I believe with every ounce of my being that we will.
It never would’ve happened had I not gone through a miserable night in a trash pile of an apartment, unloading a 3 beds, couches and everything else up a 1.5 floor walkup.
It wouldn’t have happened if I’d merely laughed when Ben told me that a lifestyle of travel was possible for anyone, not just the lucky lot in music.
It never would’ve happened if one day I looked in the mirror and said, “the money isn’t worth losing your soul. Do something different or you’ll never achieve a goal worth a tinker’s piss.”
Now we’re working on changing the world for the better, providing nutritious food to a population literally starving for it.
And I’m about a half of glass of red deep on my 6th continent in 3 years.
Here’s to two roads, and choosing the one less travelled by.
It has made all the difference. Thank you Ben Harrison, how about some champagne to celebrate?