Almost a year ago to the day we started considering names for our new historic real estate, travel, and design business.
This is a milestone for any entrepreneur creating a new start-up out of thin air. We don’t have kids, but I imagine it’s like the moment when you finally agree on the perfect name for your new baby. It makes a dream concrete in an instant.
We were brave and shameless enough to put every possible idea on the table. We wanted something literal enough to bluntly communicate the essence of our business—discovering awesome historic properties and travel experiences worldwide—yet broad enough to capture the passion for living the historic lifestyle. Most of my ideas were the worst. Typical for a guy with too many English degrees.
Then it just came to us in the kitchen. It was so simple. So perfectly descriptive. Yet so unlimited at the same time. It rolled off the tongue like an inspirational call to action. Find Everything Historic. . . . A year later as we gear up to take our start-up on the road we’ve realized that the name is even more appropriate than we thought.
We talk a lot about history over here. But it’s typically in the third person—i.e., showcasing someone else’s incredible historic hotel or new real estate listing. We aren’t used to talking about ourselves. We recently realized, however, that Finding Everything Historic is exactly what we’re doing by hitting the road. The hardest, most complicated, and most rewarding history is your own.
In many respects our Live Historic Airstream adventure is pure business. People rally around what they’re passionate about. And to get people passionate about the historic lifestyle, we have to get them inspired about traveling to historic towns, classic design trends, cultural heritage, main street revitalization, and throwback experiences.
Our adventure is also comically literal. I’ve got four months to transform a 28’ aluminum tube into a chic one-bedroom, private-jet-style, mobile-corporate-condo that Meggen can live in for two years while we take our start-up cross-country. This is a woman who self-admittedly “cleans up well”. That’s code in my experience for handbags, hair dryers, and full-length mirrors—none of which come standard in your typical production Airstream. Last week she asked where the washer and dryer goes. I’ll break the news to her eventually that she’ll be washing her work dresses at the KOA campground Wash-O-Mat with the skin cells of the last 700 people who rolled in from across the country. But that’s for another blog.
Then there’s Find Everything Historic to run. Technology is neither simple nor inexpensive when you’re guaranteeing clients and investors that you can operate a 24/7/365 data-intensive online real estate and travel technology start-up from a campground a hundred miles from the last cell tower in a Sierra Nevada ghost town. I’ve renovated sailboats from the hull up before, and in a previous life I helped outfit expeditions for months off the grid. But this time it’s different. This time I’m taking my family with me.
And here’s where our Live Historic adventure goes personal. Like it or not we all have history. We all came from somewhere, and were shaped by actual people and events. Some of us spend our whole lives running from them. Others can’t escape them and never leave. Either way, second to your DNA what connects you closest to your own history is your family.
I hate the word ‘self-actualization’. When I sailed across the Southern Ocean along the 50th parallel to Antarctica I wasn’t on a mission to discover myself. I wanted to know what it felt like to see a forty-foot wave barreling down on me. I wanted to know if I had it in me to survive when events spin totally out of control. They did twice, and I survived both times.
Fifteen years later we’ve realized that we have to ask ourselves the same hard questions about our own pasts. What’s a four-story wave of being honest with yourself feel like? Sooner or later we all have to get square with the man. Or woman. Or whatever you believe. 99% of us put it off, because that’s the easiest thing to do. It’s like going to the gym: there’s never enough time. Until there’s not.
I know—heavy stuff. Isn’t this a light-hearted, idea-inspiring blog about awesome historic real estate, travel, and design and road-tripping through the nooks and crannies of historic America?
Definitely. I’m a shameless lifelong country music junkie so I know a lot of big, loud dudes with big, loud diesel dually trucks who have towed pretty anything of any length or weight that can fit on a US highway. And I can assure you that there’s some comedy to come as we try to tow a 10,000 lb. start-up-in-a-tube cross-country without any experience whatsoever. The last time we towed anything a decade ago I had to buy a trucker dinner at a Waffle House outside of Oklahoma City so he’d help me out after I parked myself into the corner of a Holiday Inn lot next to the dumpsters. We’ve never been afraid to look stupid in the name of adventure.
But the most meaningful discoveries when you’re digging back in time aren’t always physical, geographic, or architectural. Yesterday my brother officially made me custodian of our family tree. A generation ago this was a crinkled genealogical map that your delicately unrolled like a cartographer then stuffed into a basement trunk.
Today it’s all on Ancestry.com and you can time travel back up your own family tree as fast as your cable company can send the data. He’s traced ours back to the 1600s so far, complete with sordid tales of divorce, adultery, and suicide, and the roots are still growing. Meggen is staring at her family tree from a mile away and not sure she wants to know what’s inside.
Finding out where you come from in life is terrifying. It might explain everything. It might be a total disappointment. It might just be a waste of time. But as Meggen always likes to remind me you can’t avoid doing the hard work and you can’t skip steps. Which explains in a huge way why we are where we are. Embracing our own personal journey however clichéd that sounds is as much as a part of our Airstream, hit-the-road adventure as what’s right for our business. If I’m going to be the next custodian of my family history and get square with the man, I can’t imagine any more appropriate way to do so than in a vintage renovated Airstream. Anything less wouldn’t be worthy of the history. Or the journey of personal discovery.