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Before and after
A look back at satisfying projects.
Howdy from N. Idaho, Traipser!
Coming at you from my parent’s property after a fantastic van trip through the Elkhorn Mountains. My brother lives on the property with his family and it’s always an entertaining
When we aren’t sitting around chatting, I’m wrenching on a variety of projects. A few so far: rewiring trailer lights, installing a floor in a 5th wheel, installing an electrical subpanel, putting up a trellis, installing flashing on a carport… Quite satisfying!
Beyond helping my family out, another benefit to this kind of get-er-dun visit is emotional security knowing I can always work as a handyman…or build a compound to survive a zombie apocalypse.
Quote of the week
Idahoing About, Edition 108 features:
Before and after: a look back at projects
Magic swiveling tables for camper vans
Why I switched this newsletter to Substack
Architect T. rex
Before and After
Speaking of projects, recently I found a 2020 photo of our backyard prior to our garden revamp. Crappy lawn, no plants, no wildlife. Today, it’s a veritable jungle with birds flitting about and bees bumbling flower to flower. A complete transformation…thanks to untold hours spent working our butts off.
That got me thinking about before/afters from other projects. All required time, energy, and commitment. Some also required sweat and swearing at inanimate objects.
Eyeing the rearview mirror, they all feel worth it.
A few of them:
Building out our empty Sprinter van into a mobile adventure rig.
Starting a blog in 2013 at the start of our van trip, now up to 200 posts (plus another 100 newsletters to boot).
Physical adventures like bike tours with Chelsea, mile by mile. In total, almost a year of fond (and hard!) memories of bicycle journeying together.
Toiling away on a business that allows us lots of freedom.
My studious phase the past two years: Learning to speak Italian. Hundreds of hours of piano practice. Notebooks full of drawings…
So many times where I was tired or unmotivated, but did it anyway. My current self thanks that tired-but-doing-it past self!
I see three common threads for all these before/afters:
1. They involved creating something via perseverance and effort (memories included) vs. one-off enjoyment.
2. All of them are experiences or facilitate future experiences (e.g. van trips, hanging in our garden, playing music).
3. All involved building a skill.
Also, in no way were they fun all the time. Sifting rocks from free top soil during our garden project comes to mind…sigh.
All these goals took on a life of their own. I didn’t intend to befriend blog readers or fall in love with piano and bikepacking… It’s all blossomed from having enough fun (and being stubborn) long enough to create a habit.
A reminder that we often become passionate about something after we’ve invested energy in it.
Similar to asking, “what are the decisions that most positively affected my life,” I think looking at the traits of our most satisfying before and afters is a useful lens for guiding our lives.
Lagun table upgrade for my camper van
I’m loving a recent small improvement in my Sprinter van: a small swiveling Lagun table. I’m typing on it right now!
Why? Because camper vans never have enough counter space. Probably because they’re the size of a walk-in closet?
Lagun tables are a versatile solution for this. I’ve lusted after one forever. Finding a place to attach one always stopped me…until now on battery box I recently built.
Couldn’t be happier with the versatility. Highly recommended if you don’t have something like it.
Why I ditched Mailchimp for Substack
Recently I switched my newsletter host over to Substack. I’d seen many of my favorite writers move their operations and further reading convinced me.
For instance, Ted Gioia’s post about why he’s publishing his next book on Substack is well-reasoned and comprehensive. I’m not writing a book, but still found the benefits compelling enough to change for the following reasons:
Mailchimp is a marketing platform…but I’m not selling anything. Formatting, scheduling, photos, fonts: everything is easier with Substack.
I wanted my newsletters to remain searchable rather than a one-time volley into the ether. My blog posts receive continued traffic for years and years and I’d like to see the same for newsletters.
Mailchimp charges for over 2,000 subscribers. Substack is freeeee and I still own the content and email list.
Substack is bringing back the blogosphere! Instead of publishing a newsletter in a silo, cross-pollination happens via author recommendations that shares work and grows an audience. (Side note: if you run a Substack and enjoy this newsletter, please recommend me!)
So far, I only have good things to say about the experience. Oh, and if there’s weird formatting stuff for this inaugural Substack newsletter, please let me know.
And with that, I bid you adieu, arrivederci, ciao ciao.
Question for the road: what before/afters in your life have been the most satisfying? How can you create more of those?
P.S. What happens when you take paintings from the masters and compare them to photos from current sporting events? Brilliance.
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