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

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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. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so)


  1. This is such a lovely story of being human and reading the signs that the universe sends us. Your Aunt would be proud, as are all who know you and look forward to your musings from the road. Dog Gone!

  2. Wow Alan. Next chapter in a remarkable life. I don’t think I could overstate how happy I am that you are choosing to do this. I’ll be smiling all week.

  3. Can’t wait to read about your adventures and can’t wait to see where the ‘ol dog lands. I’m sure it will be incredible. 🙂

  4. Cogdog…kudos to you for your courage. Wish I had the bones to do such a thing. Dream about it all the time of course and will live vicariously through you. Hoping you make it up to the way North cabin in July. Will watch your travels with support and a tiny bit of jealousy. :-0)

  5. Yay!!! A man after my own heart!

    And when you get to Vermont in May, we’ll hop on our bikes, hang out in the garden, take photo walks and just be. So so psyched for you.


    1. Hey…Greenville, Spartanburg…it’s almost the same place. If you get near here…let’s all meet up! And indeed there are lovely mountains to hike right near by!

  6. I will also watch your actual journey virtually, and pretend I’m along as you travel. What a wonderful thing to do with that money. It sounds freeing, and scary, and cool, and oh, the photos you’ll take. 🙂

  7. Yes! Envious. It is always too late to do this, so it is important to hurry … best wishes and please keep in touch with the rest of us. Life is too short just to be thinking about doing this kind of thing. There will be no regrets.

  8. Awesome opportunity and I’m sure it will forever change you! If I win the lottery soon maybe I will see you on the road somewhere. 🙂

  9. That sounds like a fun trip! Three years ago, I left my job and went on a similar trip, living in an RV trailer while seeing much of Canada and parts of the US. It was one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made. There’s a map of my 3.5-year (and counting!) trip at: (although the rest of the blog hasn’t been updated in a while)

  10. Damn. Once again I’m a few weeks behind the early adopters. Well, it may be late, but still a heartfelt “Good on ya” Alan! Many years ago, I packed up a good job, grew my hair hippie long and migrated to the west coast. Best move I ever made. It opened up a world I never knew existed, but longed to find. Glad to hear you’ll still be barking here & looking forward to following your adventures on your cross continental Canuck blogger road trip. See ya at NV.

  11. Alan,

    Congrats on your new adventure. You’re leaps and bounds ahead of most of us in your thinking and commitments to the “what ifs.” Looking forward to reading or hearing about where you land!


  12. Wow. I am so happy for you. Your Aunt Martha was right. Go for it. Please look me up when you head to south FL, as I may very well be here still. I’d love to put you up for a few days or just say hello. Muchos abrazos y muy buena suerte amigo. xo

  13. I wish you great luck on your jouney, I learned a lot from you, take care and can’t wait to see your life’s adventure on Flickr.

  14. Sorry to be late to this party… I share some many of the above sentiments.. Will be happy to put you up if you’re ever in the Moon Valley area 🙂
    Good for you – I’m so very happy for you. Thank you Aunt Martha. Can’t wait to follow your blog. Peace my dear, dear friend! – Donna, Sadie and Mary Lou

  15. So just days before your departure I finally make the time to dig up the bone that tells the tale of your latest adventures.

    The other day I told a friend I had quit my job his first reaction: an ear-to-ear grin and a high-five. Made me feel great. Here’s your virtual version:

    YES! :0) Hi-5!

    Let me know when you’re passing through Winnipeg. We’ve only got the one dog but there are also 4 kids who are likely to climb all over you and make you watch them jump up and down on the trampoline in the yard.

  16. Pingback: On Decelerating

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