At this point – I’m not a huge fan of my books. The exceptions being Douchebags, Fags, and Hags which is pretty damn funny. Liminal Travel offers some pretty good insights into the spiritual realm. I wouldn’t bother reading any of the others – since the characters (even when they are me – or perhaps especially when they are me) aren’t very likable and don’t offer much in the way of useful information or deep thought. I hope that somewhere down the road a bit, I manage to pull a really good book together.
For those who don’t know – I returned to the USA in April of 2013 after 4.5 years of living abroad. I was pretty much gone for the first term of Obama and a part of his second term. I came back with a wife who had never been here and a 1 1/2 year old daughter who was born in my wife’s native Morocco and conceived in Turkey where we had both lived and taught school, worked with hotels, etc.
We arrived in the USA without very much. Two suitcases each and about $6k. I thought I had a plan, but it quickly went awry. My plan had been for us to stay in San Francisco but I quickly discovered that no one wanted to pay me enough money that we could stay there any longer than we had. I’d thought that running my own small international business and becoming a self trained expert in social media and online travel would have opened doors, but I found instead that I was ‘overqualified’ for the positions I was considered for. A 40-something guy with a family and no fortune 500 experience. So, running out of money and options I scoured the pacific coast for a town where I could support my family on the small income I was still earning from online work.
We arrived in Reedsport in August of 2013 with enough money to last for a couple of months at best and as I have written before, my online work drying up. The thing I had noticed since arriving in the USA was the huge glut of stuff here and the amount of valuable items that were sold at garage sales, thrift shops, and estate sales for far less than resale value. I was buying as much as I could and selling it online and at garage sales – but our new town had a limit on the number of g-sales you could have per year – just three.
Ebay by itself wasn’t sustainable. I found an ad online for a job selling life insurance and bit – after an expenseive course of study and a couple of months which burned through our savings – I became a licensed life insurance agent – and quickly realized that the business I had jumped into was a bad match for me – particularly with the scammy heavy handed sales practices my new company required me to use. Uh oh.
I had more valuables accumulated than I could sell on Ebay – not enough for a shop – but a good bit. So we signed on with an antique mall in Florence and rented a space. I learned a lot from the experience – in particular that the only people who earn a living from antique malls are the owners. We survived by a couple of garage sales, selling online, and making a modest amount from the antique mall. But here was the catch with that – we paid $200 per month rent for our space plus a 15% commission – so if we sold $1000 worth of goods – the owner of the mall got $350 and we got $650. A fair amount of our antiques were a consignment from friends who had lost their parents and grandparents and found themselves with an overwhelming amount of stuff – that was a 50/50 split – mind you – that was before the antique mall owner took his cut – so that meant they got $500, the mall owner got $350, and we got $150 out of $1000 (which, by the way, was a number we never reached in the mall). Of course, if we sold our own product the amount we got was more – but you get the point, I think. It wasn’t a sustainable way to do business.
So, I scraped together as much as I could and in June of 2014 – we opened our own shop Reedsport Antiques. There were bigger spaces available but I found a space that had a very modest rent of $300 per month – with utilities and insurance we pay about $500 per month total. Since that time, I’ve been supporting my little family with the combination of Ebay, a little bit of online work, and mostly – our little antique shop. The good news is – it’s working. Even now as winter slows the tourist traffic to nothing and we are left with only the very poor residents of this place and some bit of driveby traffic on Hwy 101, it is supporting us. The bad news is that it is only just barely doing so – and only because I’ve managed to once again defer my student loan payments of $500 per month for another year…
Here is the summary of our life in the USA – we made it here, we found a place we could afford to live, and we’ve started a little business that is sustaining us. The town is dying and devoid of cultural activities – but it is cheap. We are not sinking in quicksand of debt but mainly because we don’t have any credit and I’ve managed to defer my student debt.
Most importantly, we are making it. It’s a constant battle, but worth it to see my family happy and healthy. Is the USA a land of opportunity? Yes it is – but – the truth is – I found far more opportunity in Turkey, Morocco, Indonesia, and Europe – because I’m American. Here in the USA, I’m just another 40-something guy with a useless B.A. – at least when it comes to employers. In other countries, being an American meant something and gave me value.
I’m not sure that we will stay in the USA for the long term – but while we are here – I will keep busting my balls and building this and other business. I don’t know if I will be a model of American success – I don’t know how likely it is that we will become even middle class – let alone upper middle class or wealthy. I have my own defintions. Middle class folks have a car less than five years old, own (or are making payments on a house), and have enough savings to survive several months with no income and take a two week vacation each year. We are not close to that yet – my car is nearly 20 years old, we rent, and if I stop working for even a week – it becomes questionable if we can pay our bills the next month. There is virtually no safety net. I don’t want to say we are lower class or poor – but maybe it’s safe to say that we are in the worrying class. This life is filled with worries and there is almost no time to relax and breathe. Not yet, anyway.
I think we will start to do our Jefferson’s move on up in 2015. That is my plan. And that is the state of our world.
**I should also note that without the generosity of our friends this move to the USA would have been much much more difficult. We had friends that hosted us for months when we arrived and friends who trusted us with their family treasures. We had friends who welcomed us and offered advice and emotional support. Without friends, this would have been a much harder year and seven months.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been running several blogs – which has been profitable, but sometimes confusing – for me and for others. Here’s the deal – in 2009 I sold this site for a reasonable profit – I wanted a domain with my name though – so I made VagoDamitio.com my go to blog since Vago is the nickname I have often used online and in writing. It made sense. I built the VagoDamitio site because my main domain Vagobond.com was dedicated to travel and it didn’t make sense to have all this other stuff on it –
Then in 2012, I bought this site (chrisdamitio.com) back from the guy I had sold it to. Hooray! I owned my name again! But actually, now it became confused further because I had chrisdamitio.com, vagodamitio.com, vagobond.com for travel – plus about 50 other sites for travel writing and selling ads and promotional campaigns on – so I bought VagobondTravelMedia.com and tried to tie everything together. All of this worked for about a year – but I wish I would have done it all in 2009 when there was still big easy money to be made from blogging and links. C’est la vie.
Now, because I was trying to do good SEO so I could have better pagerank and search rankings, I had five different hosting accounts on five different IP addresses and I had all those sites I was juggling and earning from (and the earning was really good up until mid 2012 when Google killed an entire independent industry by cahnging their algorhythms and effectively killing pagerank as an indicator of page strength. What this means is my earnings fell by the wayside and I had to figure out a different way to support my family – but I still had (and have) all of those sites and held on in the hope that they would become earners again – plus I had effectively split my personality into chrisdamitio.com and vagodamitio.com with each having social media accounts and different topics etc. As you can tell, it was confusing as hell. But I held on –
Until three weeks ago when the hosting account I had vagodamitio.com and ten other sites on – hostpapa – found a bad line of code in a comment on one small site called travelblogging101.com and rather than telling me to delete the comment – they deleted my entire hosting account with no notice or chance for me to fix things – I had a wordpress backup which I’ve imported here of vagodamitio.com but I lost vagobonding.com, travelblogging101.com, and all the rest – which is sad because there was a lot of work in those sites but which ulitmately doesn’t matter because they had earned about all they could – I’m still trying to recover them, but I’ve decided to let VagoDamitio.com merge with this site – which, strangely is a rather hard decision.
I think though – it is close to becoming time to let Vago Damitio die – if you call me Vago, you still can, if you call me Chris you still can, but when I introduce myself these days, I introduce myself as Christopher, which after all is really my name.
So, here I am – Christopher Damitio aka Vago – an antiques dealer in a small Oregon town. My wife is Moroccan and we’ve been to a few places. We have chickens and a 3-year-old. I like art – I mean I really really like art. I paint, I buy, I appreciate. As far as writing – I don’t think I’ve done my best work yet – but perhaps, sometime in the not too distant future – I will find the time and peace to write something that really sings.
If you want to know the future, you’ve got to go there. Vago Damitio’s predictions for 2014 are for your enjoyment only . Any investments or life changing decisions should only be made after doing your own due diligence.
Today is the last day of 2013. I made a number of predictions over the course of the last few years and to be honest, I’m usually pretty far off the mark. The reason for that is that I like to make HARD predictions – not the easy kind like ‘Your shoelaces will come undone” or “Iran will cause problems” or “Someone you love will suffer some hardship.”
My predictions will prove without a doubt that I am looking into the future with supernatural abilities. Of course, if you are to judge by my predictions of 2011 or predictions of 2012 or even predictions of 2013 – I’m not seeing very clearly. In fact, unless you argue things very broadly, one could even say that I’m not seeing the future at all. Of course, that’s what THEY want you to believe. Have a look and decide for yourself.
Without further ado….
Vago Damitio’s Predictions for 2014
1) A ‘Duck’ Party will win seats in congress. Members will wear long beards proudly and wear camouflage suits. They will make the Tea Party look intelligent and liberal. Members of congress will literally start to quack.
2) Gold will drop to $700 per ounce or less in 2014 . Silver will drop to $11 per ounce.
3) A crazed bug out gunman with an AR-15 will attack the Supreme Court. His manifesto will bring broad based support among quackers.
4) Syria’s civil war will spread into both Lebanon and Turkey. Israel will get involved and commit the worst atrocities since Hiroshima.
5) ‘Obamacare’ will completely fail as the majority of Americans refuse to sign up and those who have signed up realize they are put on the bottom of the emergency waiting list because their insurance is the last to reimburse them.
6) Miley Cyrus will overdose and almost die, when she recovers she will dedicate her life to Jesus and change her slutty ways. Billy Ray Cyrus will still support her decisions.
7) California will allow citizens to pay federal taxes directly to the state, but then default on paying the bill to the Federal government.
8) The Internet will wake up and call everyone with a smart phone at once on August 23, 2014
9) A homeless singer will win the hearts of America and the world with her beautiful voice and youtube videos.
10) A new major religion will be born on Twitter. It will attract more converts than any religion has ever gained in one year.
Ramblin Man is Bellinghamblin Man
by Vago Damitio
Okay, here is what you overwhelmingly asked for. Bellinghamblin’ Man. I like it, and it sounds like most of you do too. Other suggestions included “Hamster Beat” ( too close to Hamster, one of our local ‘zines), Yo Mama, and Meattime ( I can’t really explain that one). Surprisingly, quite of few people suggested I ditch hatemail….no way. Your letters are important to me.
Change is the only constant.The refugees in Kosovo are going through constant change. Their houses have been burned, their lives have been suddenly destroyed. Imagine having everything taken from you by the government. First they come into your town, then you get fired from the job, years of education, training , and work..poof…no more. They go door to door, moving the men out of town, possibly for execution, women and children are shipped out separately. You’ve heard rumors of genocide, rape camps, and torture. You pack up, throw the bare essentials into rucksacks or whatever you have…you flee…hoping to make it to the border. There’s no time to explain to the kids that the pets can’t come, your house will probably get burned down with almost everything in it. You make it to the border….the Macedonians won’t let you cross, finally with your last stash of cash, you get the family across. You sit with close to a million other refugees…you’re hungry…you have nothing….you don’t know where you will go or what you will do. That is change. It’s happening, and its already happened.
It amazes me that as Americans, we haven’t opened up our arms to ALL of these people. What happened to “Give us your poor, your tired, your hungry” ? These people are exactly that. Not through choice, and not through laziness. They are poor, tired, and hungry because they’re government has turned on them. They have nowhere to go. Shouldn’t we make room for them? I, for one, would like to volunteer to take in a couple of Kosovars. I’m far from rich, but since I live in America, my standard of living is at least five times as high as most of the world. There would be an adjustment on each side. I wouldn’t be going out to eat in fancy pizza joints anymore and they wouldn’t be starving in a severely crowded refugee camp. We should make room in our homes for these people. With a little bit of human kindness, they will learn English ( if they don’t already know it), and find jobs. These are people like you and me, but in much worse situations. Our country has greatly benefited from occasional migrations of new people.
I hear many people say “ Lets take care of Americas homeless before we take on any new responsibility” . That’s a great idea, but these people aren’t homeless. They’re refugees. In my experience most homeless people are homeless by choice. They don’t want to exist within the system. The Kosavars have been kicked out of the system.
Happy New Year to all of you! 2013 is going to be incredible. Even better than 2012 and that should be amazing. (And check out how cool my 2012 was)
I’ve dubbed 2013: The Year of Completed Projects and Fun
(By the way, if you haven’t already seen them, you should check out my annual predictions for 2013)
The reason is that as I did my end of the year evaluations, I realized that some of my biggest pain points are the projects that I’ve begun but not completed. I’m pretty good at finishing things but the sheer volume of projects, ideas, books, stories, and websites that I take on has left me with at least a years worth of major projects that I want to finish. Completing these projects in 2013 will not only benefit my life (and hopefully yours too) but it will also be fun. After all, I never take on a project without it promising to be fun.
The problem is that sometimes I get sidetracked or outside pressures come into play and projects begin to go in different directions that I intended them to. The pressures can be from family, friends, business interests, politics, or life in general – but this resistance comes up and takes something that was created to be fun and makes it not so fun. The easy thing to do at that point is to head in another direction and abandon the project – I’ve done that. But, some ideas are just too good to let die and too fun to let a bunch of sticks in the mud spoil them.
Take Vagobond.com for instance. Over the past few years, I turned it from a fun way to share my travel and life into a full time job! And what happened over 2011-2012 was that I began to listen to all kinds of experts on business, travel blogging, web design, SEO, marketers, social media, and monetization experts. Lots of their ideas were good, but the truth is that a lot of what they were pushing wasn’t at all what I wanted to do. Vagobond stopped being fun! I was no longer able to say the things I wanted to say, have the fun I wanted to have, or go in the direction I wanted to go. I knew that I had to do something drastic. I even thought about shutting the site down, quitting, or selling it!
Instead, I dis-associated myself from Vagobond. I put together my own separate social media accounts, began to develop this website, and made Vagobond into something that was not me. I think that decision may have saved me and Vagobond. What’s funny, is that by doing that, I not only freed myself to be me but I also freed Vagobond to go in the most fun direction possible because the truth is, it’s no fun to feel trapped. I’m really excited about the direction Vagobond is heading in this year. It’s heading back towards fun! Check out What to Expect from Vagobond in 2013!
That’s not my only project for 2013 though it is a full time job. Here are the other things I’m working on in 2013.
Editing, Rewriting, and Publishing
I’ve already begun the process of cleaning up my past work. The truth is, a lot of it is messy and needs to be rewritten, re-editied, and re-published. The process begins with my first novel Slackville Road which I am rewriting as a serialized newsletter called The Madman.
In The Madman. I am rewriting that novel and sending it to you in weekly installments. When Slackville Road is done, I’m going to rewrite The Princess and the Vagabond – my first Fairy Tale. In 2013 I will also re-edit Liminal Travel, Not My Morocco, Rough Living Tips and Tales of a Vagabond, and The Hu Factor. All of them need work and this is the year I’m going to give it to them. I’m also going to develop new cover art where needed and re-publish them as both print and ebook versions. I know – it’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. One of my favorite illustrators has even agreed to have a look at my fairy tale…I’m hoping he likes it enough to illustrate it!
Writing and Publishing
It’s not just a year for working on old projects. It’s a year for finishing projects. Ten years later, I’ve finished writing Smooth Living: Beyond the Life of a Vagabond. It’s the sequel to Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond and will blow your mind when the editing is finished and I publish it. I will also publish the novel I wrote last year The Keys of the Riad. This novel is currently in the hands of a couple of publishers and I have high hopes for it. I am also going to submit Douchebags, Fags, and Hags for the Amazon Breakout Novel of the Year in the coming weeks.
Come November and NANOWRIMO 2013 – I’m going to finally write the sequel to The Hu Factor. In addition to that I am working on book one of a non-fiction series called The Invented God. All of these projects are going to be completed by the end of 2013. If I have some extra writing time, I’ll work on finishing Blue Eyed Bastards.
But that’s not all…
Last year, I created an association for online travel journalists. As usually happens, some nasty people made nasty comments and their nasty followers repeated all the nasty comments. The whole thing became bogged down as I gave up control to the naysayers who were doing nothing to drive it forward. This year, this organization gets a big kick in the ass and I’m going to do it my way. If people don’t like it, they can hike it.
Travel and Family
One of the biggest challenges of 2012 was being forced to live in Morocco while we wait for my wife’s visa to the USA to be approved. Each time we moved forward, we had to overcome another paperwork challenge – not easy when you consider that we were dealing with two of the most nightmarish paperwork bureaucracies in the world. Last week, I sent what I hope is the last batch of paperwork to the USA. Next (I hope) is the Visa Interview and then the big move to the USA with my wife and daughter. Huge challenges lie ahead, but I look forward to them! I’m not making any travel plans for 2013 beyond getting my family to the USA. It’s my most important project!
I haven’t quite figured out how to reign in this beast yet. Over 2012 I acquired more than 50 travel sites. That was all fine and good as long as there were link sales, advertising sales, and sponsorships but with those drying up amidst the Google Panda and Penguin updates…I’m not sure exactly what to do with my two score and ten sites…I’ll figure something out though.
This is my favorite project of 2013. I’ve intentionally kept it simple and easy. I’ve written a manifesto of the Micro Victory, I am learning how to build an android app, and I am keeping track of my own micro victories and sharing them with the hashtag #microvictory – I invite you to do the same! Join the Micro Victory Army and lets kick the world’s ass.
Gardening and Permaculture
It’s been far too long since I had a garden. This year, I will find a place for my family to live and I will plant and work in a garden. 2013 is also the year I will finally take a Permaculture Design Course and become certified. This is a long standing goal that it’s time I meet.
More Fun in 2013
I’m going to have more fun in 2013 than ever before. Everything above may sound like work to you, but to me, it sounds fun. In addition, I’m going to have fun with my wife, my daughter, my friends, and my life. More hiking, more biking, more art, more fun. More sun, more water, more laughter, more friends. I hope you will let me count you among my friends. By the way – fun for me often involves pissing on the accepted or expected. If you can’t take that – you probably can’t take me.
The Project I Won’t Complete in 2013
The project I won’t compete in 2013 is my life. My life is my work and my biggest project by far. I’m going to make leaps and bounds on it this year, but it won’t be completed for another sixty years at least by my reckoning.