This photo from two days ago was a bit of foreshadowing…

Today was my first day of unemployment.

No, I was not fired…. I have walked away from likely the most plum position in education technology, Vice President of Community & CTO for the New Media Consortium, a spot I have held since April 2006. Working at NMC has been fantastic, from the world circling travel, to being part of the Horizon Report process, to helping run the conferences and webinars, to working with the most creative minds in our industry, heck even to running virtual conferences as a dog in Second Life.

The typical question from a handful of people I have told of my decision is, “So where are you going?”

The answer is “nowhere”.

I’ve had but two clicks on my career track. I went from being a graduate student in Geology to a 14 year stint as Instructional Technologist at the Maricopa Community Colleges, from where I leaped to the position at NMC. But for more than a year, a whisper has been in my inner ear, asking me what it is I really want to be doing, what is next?

Typically, I would try to figure that out within the safe perch of a good job. That is logical, rational… “in these economic times…”

But then I was presented an interesting option. It was almost a year ago that I got word that my Aunt Martha had passed away. She was not really my aunt, but a long family friend of my parents, who grew up in the same neighborhood in Baltimore, and who was a generous and caring godmother to me.

Me and Aunt Martha

Aunt Martha, a career educator and author of elementary school reading books, always showed a strong interest and expressed encouragement of my education. But she also said things like “Live life like an adventure.”

I got word a few months later that I was mentioned in Aunt Martha’s will. That was a weird position, to be trying to honoring her memory but also humanly curious as to what that meant. I had never inherited anything before, and did not know what to expect. I saw a copy of her will, and found out I was getting a small percentage of her estate, which I guessed might be enough for a new camera.

Well, as I found out a month or two ago, Aunt Martha had done rather well in the stock market, and that percentage was an order of magnitude more than I had guessed…. enough to live off of for the rest of the year.

A rational idea would be to bank the money for a rainy day, or pay off part of my mortgage or …. but I also felt like she was sending me a message- to go now and see some of the world, not wait until I was old and retired and decrepit.

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Bob Jagendorf

So my plan is to NOT work for a while, not plunge into another job, to unplug, unwind, rewind, and take time for to let that thing I should be doing next reveal itself.

What I will be doing is be at home for most of the next two months, with some commitments for presentations in California, Toronto, the Baruch Symposium, Northern Voice, some webinar presentations for Sheryl Nussbaum Beach’s PLN project, but also to go hiking, kayaking, rediscover my love for road bicycling, paint my decks, and hanging out with my local Strawberry/Pine non tech geek friends.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

In late May or June, I am going to pack up the truck with camping gear and my bike, and head out to see America and Canada without a planned schedule. I want to visit friends and family and colleagues I’ve known through the last 20+ years of networked working/living. I have some quarter-baked ideas to turn some of the trip into a project- and yes, it shall be blogged. I thought about doing up a tumblr or posterous site for the trip, but it really belongs right here, at the CogDogBlog.

A rough plan so far is some route like:

But it is open to whim.

At some point next fall, the circle will close, and I will be moving to northern California. It is then I will figure out “what to do”, which might even include doing some consulting– I’ve even set up a domain and site for what I call CogDog It ( I imagine where I end up is in a similar domain as I work in now-education and/or non-profit, but who knows?

And so, this dog is looking to the road…

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by MaureenShaughnessy

I have to give a lot of appreciation to everyone I have worked at with and for NMC. I will miss you all, miss being part of the Summer Conference in Madison and where the Horizon Project will go. NMC has been an amazing platform for me. There is no other organization quite like it. I’ve told many people the story of how I got the opportunity there- it was an email from Larry Johnson asking for me to call about an “opportunity” while I was still working at Maricopa. I thought it was an invitation to be part of a project, but over Skype to me in Vancouver, I was offered a job. I asked, “Don’t I have to send a resume, apply, or interview?” and was told, “We’ve been interviewing you for years- you just did not know it.”

UPDATE: Some reflections at 5 months later

And while I could be making the worst career decision ever, I feel this calling me. I have a unique opportunity to be un-tethered for a few months, and I am walking through that door (or did so today).

Into the great wide open
Under them skies of blue
Out in the great wide open
a rebel without a clue.

Stick around to see what’s next. I think I will find that clue. Or at least learn something trying.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by wolfcry0

Featured Image: Fresh Start flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Let me be the first person in these comments to say two things:

    1) Good for you!

    2) You are my hero.

    Go get them dog, you live your life authentically, and that is the hardest and most beautiful things of all. Glad to see Fredericksburg is on that map :)

  2. Wow…
    You will certainly be missed from your familiar place of service…but …rock on sir!

    (Don’t you want to nudge that circle to add some Appalachian foothills? ;-)

  3. and nudge a bit towards the San Diego area too.

    ~~~WOW, what a blessing …. what an exciting new door has opened for you.

    I envy your freedom — applaud your braveness — wish you the best!!!

    I know we shall hear even more as you start this new journey.

    Blessings and happiness to you!!!

    Take Care!

  4. Wow. Congratulations on taking the unexplored road, and enjoying the unexpected turns the road before you has to offer. We’ll all be watching from our respective roadsides, wishing we had the courage and ability to trot along with you. Have a fabulous adventure and post often. Stop by Penn State and we’ll have a beer. Or three. :)

  5. OK, So when are you arriving here? We shear next weekend and then lambing starts the end of April. Just let us know, be good to visit with you again!

  6. Nice one, I envy you not only for doing it, but for having the courage to do it. I would definitely take the safe, boring, option.
    The road trip looks great, I have daydreamed about doing a trans-Canada edublog trip (from Dave Cormier to Scott Leslie), looks like you’ll get to do it.
    Power to the cogdog

  7. What a great prologue to what I’m sure will be an amazing series of stories. Made me smile and nearly cry…I think you are doing what many of us wish we could do. Proceed as the way opens…cheers!!

  8. Awesome, Alan. Congrats!

    When your lil’ red truck passes through Calgary, you have a place to stay. And if you want to try your legs on the road bike (and don’t mind a slower commuter bike tagging along) there are lots of great rides in the area. Maybe the Banff – Lake Louise ride, though the Rockies (it’s mostly flat highway, but in the middle of huge mountains)…

  9. Alan … as I have said in the past while talking about this, congrats! I, like everyone in our field, wish you the best … and I cannot wait to see you in Happy Valley! You know you have a place to stay and growlers to enjoy! Let me know when you are swinging through the center of our state and I will make sure I take a couple of days off so we can do it right! I’m proud of you and applaud your sense of adventure!

  10. Congratulations on taking the first step of this journey! I’ll be traveling right along with you, in spirit at least. I know it will be a wonderful, challenging, inspiring time for you, and an unforgettable chapter in your life. Oh, the stories!

  11. Wow…a girl leaves the country for a week and comes back to find out this news! This is an amazing thing for you and I find myself very happy for you.

    I am also happy for me in that I got to finally hear you speak live and in person at ITC last month. I wish your path through TN was through the right part of the state but, more importantly, I wish you well!

  12. I really like that your map has a big red line that runs right by my front door. I’ll make sure you get some blueberry ale and some excellent seafood, and depending on when you’re around here perhaps a bunch of us can find a beach somewhere and talk about life and technology while watching the seagulls catch fish in the bay.

    And no matter what happens, it was the right decision, because it was about living your life to the fullest, savouring the experience, and being around for the moments that really matter.

  13. Don’t miss the NC mountains — swing a little west when you cross the VA line. And working with Sheryl N-B… priceless.

  14. Yep, that red line down the route 95 corridor in VA is another sign – that we’ll be seeing you on the long strange (and well deserved) trip you’re taking. Congrats!

  15. I really admire you for what you are doing! We will miss you so much at the NMC! I wish you the best in your travels and for your future when you decide what you want to do! I know it will be adventurous no matter what you do! God Speed!

  16. Congratulations, Alan! What a bold move! I am happy for you as I am certain you will have a greatly enriching journey. Make sure to stop by Central Florida even if it is for a moment on your way to Ft. Myers. I look forward to keeping up on your adventures. Cheers!

  17. We have been honored,
    You will be missed,
    Glad you stepped out,
    This is sealed with a kiss.
    …how does that song go… ‘you are our inspiration….’
    -cybersalonaz friend

  18. All the best with you adventure over the next few months Alan … your story brough back memories of giving up a lucrative job in London to go traveling around the world … a life changing step, and one never regretted even 30 years on.

    1. Alan: this is so ‘right’ in so many ways and I’m glad to see you taking the challenge head on. Of course, I wouldn’t expect anything less from you, either.

      There are so many doors open you may be on the road for some time! Few people have such unconditional open invitations, and it’s an honour to add ours, even if the map you presented is just a tad north america centric ;-)

      I will plan to track the Dog on the road and try to rendezvous some somewhere on your journey. And maybe hijack you south for a bit.

      There’s lots of love from all quarters, including the antipodes.

      All the best my friend,

  19. Alan, this sounds like such a wonderful opportunity and personal calling. I’m very happy for you. Best wishes as you seek and make your destiny.

  20. Well, you know how great I think this is for you… I’m not seeing Alaska on that map, but maybe it’s out of the frame :)

    Since I won’t be able to come to Northern Voice, perhaps I will catch the road show, a beer, and some conversation somewhere else along the way!


  21. In the words of the great 20th century philosopher “Go, Dog, Go!”.

    If you happen to head northeast after Calgary, you are always welcome at my home. Wherever you find yourself in SK, I’ll be sure to drop by for a cold pint or two.

  22. Sounds fantastic. If you find yourself heading through the Okanagan Valley between Vancouver and Calgary, we could put that bike of yours to good use.

  23. Wonderful plan. I did a fair amount of hoboing while going through undergrad, and I hope I’ll still be able to break out of the routine and hit the road as I get older.

    You mentioned Toronto – if you get here before the end of April, I’d love to buy you a beer, or show you some of our great bicycle trails in the ravines!

    Good travels!

  24. I knew you’d do it! YAY! You have a place to stay in Seattle, even if I’m a rambling some place else. (I leave for S. Africa around NVoice so probably not going. Sob!)

  25. I’m pretty sure the road less traveled almost always coincides with the road of least regret.

    I look forward to the visual adventure I’m sure you will share. It’s not just the road that’s wide open… but also the ability to take us there with you.

  26. I wanted to throw something from my favorite Chinese standup comedian/Taoist sage, Zhuangzi, about his “tao” of “Free and Easy Wandering.” But then I wandered across this ebook, full-text online, called “Inscribed Landscapes: Travel Writing in Imperial China” from UCal Press. Nice images included.

    Since your say you’re going to “inscribe” the landscapes you wander on this here blog, I thought you might get off on the possibility of traveling with some dead Chinese sages in your i-[your gadget of choice here].

    Because what you’re doing, after all, is very Eastern, and not very Western at all. Kerouac and company hit the road after discovering Zen. They were too uneducated to realize Zen is Japan’s import of China’s Chan Buddhism.

    So I’m looking forward to reading your rambles. (Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, by the way, is a must-read for the road too. He’s in a station wagon across the states with his own dog, Charley. It’s got CogDog written all over it. And Steinbeck is so Chinese in spirit he has no idea.)

    I don’t suppose you have Singapore on your road-map, but in case your truck can walk on water — something no Chinese, being far too rational, ever claimed the ability to do — spend that miracle driving over here.

    I live next to Chinatown. We can have some rice wine.

  27. I am so envious! I will be following your adventures avidly as you tour North America. And like Roland above, I volunteer to organize the Nova Scotia Meet-up — I live in the middle of the Annapolis Valley with tons of room for a travelling dog to rest his paws.


  28. What a beautiful prologue to an incredible and brave adventure. Aunt Martha sounds like quite a gal – how clever of her to squirrel away this amazing gift to you. It shows how well she knew you and what intriguing stuff you could make of it.

    I see Boston on that red route – hope to finally meet you in person when you come on through?

    Go dog, Go!

  29. The thing we love about you is that you educate others by breathing. What a great lesson, and that quote “We’ve been interviewing you forever, you just didn’t know it” is a gem to live by in itself you’ll see me quoting on Twitter soon. May you have the love of Aunt Martha, the companionship of all of us & the health to not be distracted from the lessons along the way. Keep your pads moist & your nose wet! :0) Hope this turns into a stint on The Amazing Race that funds more adventures.

  30. Congrats, Alan! Like everyone else, I admire your courage and wish you luck on the road. Please make sure you give your friends at CUNY a shout when you’re in NYC!!

  31. Hey Alan, good for you!! I start sabbatical on July 1, and I’ve been fantasizing about rest, writing, walking, and the peaceful thinking time that awaits me.

    Enjoy your travels, enjoy life! Let me know when/if you’ll stop by Idaho. I’m hoping to spend some time this fall in San Diego and Paris, so stay in touch.

    Happy trails! Lisa

  32. I have no doubt that your blog and camera will document an incredible journey! Congrats on taking the leap of faith into a whole new world. I think you’re the only one I know that will make unemployment look fun! LOL.

    See you when you pass through Florida!

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