Amy and I have been in Homer, Alaska for the last ten days. Above is the view from the parking lot at the ocean in Anchor Point, which is literally “the end of the road on the western side of the US.”
Amy grew up here and it’s one of the places I go when I want to get some distance from everything. When we started coming here in the mid-1990s together, we’d literally have to disconnect in a lot of the places we hung out at. Today, you can only figuratively disconnect, as the internet will find you almost everywhere.
I’ve managed to turn off a lot of the distractions in the world over the past two years. Some, like Facebook, were easy. Others, like Google News, were harder. But even with the noise turned way down, it’s often hard to have perspective.
A 13 mile run to the end of the Homer Spit and back helps. Doing it two days in a row helps even more.
I took the weekend completely off from the computer. I read a lot, napped after my long runs, and talked to Amy. That was about it for the entire weekend.
As I settled into the Monday work rhythm, albeit four hours behind the east coast, I felt like my ten days in Homer has re-established some perspective.
Amy just said out loud, “We both seem cheerier than we did ten days ago.” True that.
I was at a Nima board meeting today and was asked by a new friend on the team about my link to Homer, Alaska. After a brief explanation, I said “McDonald’s made Homer famous around some Super Bowl by making a completely inappropriate TV ad there.” I couldn’t remember the year – I thought it was in the 1980s somewhere.
It was 1990. Google found it immediately. It’s hilarious, and completely inappropriate. This is where Amy and I live, some of the time.
And then after the game.
San Francisco destroyed Denver 55-10. Don’t ask me why I knew that.
Nope – Amy and I aren’t moving to Homer. While we have a home in Homer, where we will be for the next three weeks, we still call Boulder, Colorado our home. But we came very close to moving to Homer in 1995.
We were living in Boston at the time. I’d sold my first company, Feld Technologies, in 1993. By the end of 1994 I had a staff job, reporting to the co-chairmen of AmeriData where I travelled all over the US helping with acquisitions and generally causing trouble. At some point Amy and I realized we could live anywhere and we knew that Boston wasn’t home. During one of the long conversations we had at the time about our future, we started talking about calling it quits and moving to Homer, Alaska.
Amy grew up until she was eight years old in a town called Anchor Point, 20 miles north of Homer. If Anchor Point rings a bell to you, it’s because it’s the name of our foundation (the Anchor Point Foundation) and we’ve done some really fun things with it such as the Anchor Point Fellows Program at Wellesley College.
We did the math and realized we had enough money to live in Homer for the next 30 years if I made no more money. I wasn’t worried about that since I knew I could make at least $100,000 a year just consulting, even from a distance, so the conversation was about how we wanted to live the rest of our life.
At 29 years old I thought very hard about whether or not I was done. After selling my first company, I’d invested as an angel investor in a bunch of companies, was a non-executive Chairman / co-founder of a few, and had lots of ideas for new things to do. But I had also recently come out of a very deep depression and was very open to changing things in my life pretty dramatically.
Ultimately, we decided to move to Boulder, Colorado. We didn’t know anyone there and I didn’t have any business there, but it was a lot more centrally located in the US than Homer, Alaska. I figured we’d make a life in a beautiful place, but I wouldn’t have to drop out of what I was doing since the bay area was a two hour plane flight and the east coast was a four hour plane flight. We moved to Boulder in November 1995 and never looked back – it’s been amazing.
After moving to Boulder, we continued to spend a few weeks in Alaska each summer. The two week trips turned into three week trips and we ultimately bought a house in Homer in 2002. We spent between four and six weeks a year there in the summer until 2010, but haven’t been there in the past three years.
It feels like coming home to be back in Alaska. Landing in Anchorage was natural. Renting a car and driving to the Sheraton to spend the night felt totally normal. The low hanging cloudy gloom and light all through the night is just as we remember it. Things feel a lot slower here, which is both good and bad.
Our weekend in Anchorage is with a bunch of friends, including celebrating our close friends Jon and Doug’s recent marriage and spending time with Amy’s sister, her partner, and niece. And just hanging out as we get ready to head to Homer on Monday.
I’ll be working as normal for the next three weeks, just remotely from Homer. I hope to finish the final draft of my next book, Startup Opportunities (co-authored with Sean Wise), while I’m up here. And I’m going to read a lot since we don’t have a TV.
I’m glad I didn’t drop out at 29 and move to Homer – it was way too early in my life for that. But I’m equally glad we bought a house here in 2002 and have made Homer, and Alaska, part of where we live and spend our time.
Amy and I have been up at our house in Homer, Alaska for the last two weeks. We try to spent every July up here – something we’ve tried to do every year for the past decade (we missed in 2007 and 2009.) I’ve had a lot of people say things similar to “I hope you are having a great vacation” which I corrected for the first few days (we aren’t on vacation – just living in Homer for the month) but I got tired of this so I stopped correcting folks after a few days.
Our lives are generally insane. Anyone that knows us knows that we both travel a ton, work like maniacs, and generally cover a lot of ground. We don’t have kids, so we get a lot of time together in between things, but there are rarely any uninterrupted stretches of just “living together.” We address this four times a year by going off the grid for a week of vacation (no phone, no email) but these are special events rather than just the normal tempo of life.
Our month in Homer gives us a chance to spend a real month together each year. As I type this, we are both sitting at our dining room table (our “office”) typing on our laptops listening to the Augustana channel on Pandora. It’s a beautiful sunny day – I’m going to head out for a run after I post this and then I expect we’ll both settle into an afternoon of writing. The days are long so we don’t worry too much about pacing as the sun doesn’t go down until 11pm or so and we usually just sleep until we wake up. We spend most of the 24 hours a day physically near each other – often less than two feet away – for an entire month. This is just priceless for me.
The past two weeks have been a little too busy for my taste. I don’t have any of the normal friction of work (travel, meetings, getting from point A to point B) so I expected things to calm down a little and give me some room to finish the final draft of the TechStars book now that David Cohen and I are in the “march to publish with a real publisher” process with a goal of having the book in the stores and on Amazon by October. I’ve had little bits of time between things but no real space to just concentrate because of all the other stuff going on in my work world.
When I look forward, the next two weeks are a lot less scheduled so I’m optimistic I can finally get in a rhythm. Amy says it takes two weeks to knock off all the stuff from life when she tries to settle down to write. She’s correct.
The one thing I get to do when I’m up here that I wish I could incorporate into my non-Homer time is to sleep more. I wear a Zeo when I sleep and during the week I usually score in the 50’s and 60’s each night. I’m always a little tired and sleep whenever I’m on a plane and often do long stretches of catch up sleep on the weekends where I score 120+ and sleep 12 to 14 hours. I know this isn’t healthy long term, but I haven’t figured out a solution. The last two weeks I’ve been averaging 10 hours of sleep a night and scoring between 90 and 110. I’m not using an alarm – I just wake up when I want. After two weeks of this, I feel well rested and physically much better.
We have two more weeks up here and I feel myself shifting into a mellow gear where I can concentrate on longer arc things rather than just reacting to all the day to day stuff in my work world. We don’t have any visitors so I get to spend another 336 hours in a row (minus a few) with my best friend. Life is good.
On my way back from the Homer airport this morning (five minute drive from my house) after dropping off a pair of packages at Fedex (yes – Fedex is here – at the airport – but you’ve got to drop off by 10:30 for next day delivery) I saw a sign that caught my eye.
Local. Organic. Wi-Fi.
The sign was outside the Sourdough Express Bakery, one of Homer’s local restaurant institutions (it’s been around since 1982 and is on the “must eat there once every summer” list.)
I’ve noticed Wi-Fi signs on most of the Homer restaurants, coffee shops, and stores this summer. Almost all of it is free. There’s even Wi-Fi available on the Homer Spit that’s free for an hour at a time. After being gone for two years, Wi-Fi appears to be almost ubiquitous up here.
Not surprisingly, there is no AT&T 3G here. We’ve got excellent AT&T Edge service and the AT&T phone service is spectacular (thanks to ACS) but no 3G. So my iPhone is extremely slow up here, except on Wi-Fi. Which I can get almost everywhere.
I’m kind of intrigued by the marketing around Wi-Fi. I get local, especially in a place like Homer (hippy town, lots of local farms, almost all local fish, cost of transportation for stuff to here – the end of the road – is high). I also get organic (as organic is the super trendy extra hippy movement of the day). However, Wi-Fi surprised me a little, but when I think about it, it makes perfect sense as this is a heavy tourist town in the summer. “Stop here, check your email on your laptop using free Wi-Fi, and eat some halibut while you are at it.”
When I’m in Homer, I pay a lot of attention to the local small town patterns that exist. Most of the places outside Boulder that I spend time in are large cities (New York, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles) so I feel like I’ve got the big city rhythm in the US figured out. But I definitely struggle to understand “the small town” as I’m hesitant to use Boulder as a reference point. While Homer is also a pretty unique place, it’s probably a good proxy for tourist spots in the US that are under 10,000 permanent residents that is no where near a big city (the largest – Anchorage – is 222 miles away.) If nothing else, the tempo of the place is radically different than the other places I spend time in during the year.
I expect I’ll have plenty of other missives from (and about) Homer this month. If you want pictures, Amy’s got plenty of them building up over on her site Thoughts in Random Patterns.