Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like – Lao Tzu
It’s been 3 months since I wrote my first quarterly review at the end of March. And sure enough, as change is the only constant in life, a lot has happened since then. I want to take this opportunity to reflect on Quarter 2, specifically April, May and June 2019.
Having read back my first Quarterly Review, it’s easy to see the benefits of undergoing a reflective process such as writing a Quarterly Review. Through reflection and introspection that comes with such a review, it has encouraged me to think more deeply about myself, my life and where I want to go.
So just like the last review, this one will follow a similar structure. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Summary – Reflections on Q2
The key word that summarises this quarter is change. A lot has happened since I last wrote. At the start of April I travelled to the Hostel Skills conference in Prague, Czech Republic. On the way there, I ended up running a spontaneous half-marathon in Vienna and breaking my Personal Best, finishing in 1 hour 24 minutes. After Vienna, I headed to Olomouc to Long Story Short Hostel & Cafe – a beautiful design-led hostel ran by my friend Eva – to host and help run an informal hostel gathering of owners, enthusiasts and bloggers from the travel industry. From there I headed to Prague for the conference and I finished my travels, spending a week in Leipzig and then flew back to Romania at the beginning of May.
Then came the Camino. I spent 1 full month walking 1,000km from Seville to Santiago (more on that below), and that brought me up to mid-June, returning to Romania, and in the last couple of weeks, a lot of changes to our business have been made. The most significant change was that, after 4 years together, Sam, Jason and I came to a decision that Jason would leave Podstel indefinitely.
I’ll write more about that situation below, and I appreciate all the thoughtful comments we received from friends, but sometimes in life decisions of loss such as this gives space for something else to take its place. Both Sam and I are feeling very optimistic about the future of Podstel and we’re more focused than ever to carry on growing the business.
Finally, once I returned from the Camino I also decided to join the gym. I gave myself immediate accountability by paying for a year upfront, since knowing myself, I don’t like wasting things I’ve already paid for. Going to the gym (especially lifting weights) is new for me, but Sam’s a long-time gym goer so he’s kindly coaching me for the first couple of months to make sure I develop a base understanding of the gym, as well as the correct postures and techniques for working out properly without injuring myself.
To summarise I returned from the Camino feeling very balanced and focused. Personally speaking, I made a lot of progress as I walked, especially in relation to clarifying my personal vision, what I want to learn and where I want to head in the next five years.
I’m well and I feel fit and healthy, especially my aerobic fitness. After deciding the night before that I’d run a half-marathon without any dedicated training, I ended up beating my personal record, finishing in 1 hour 24 minutes. Despite the Camino being my longest so far at almost 1,200km over 30 days, It was also the first journey of the 4 Caminos I’ve walked where I didn’t incur any injuries asides from two little niggly blisters because my shoes shrank due to heat, which showed my 6 month fitness preparation for the walk paid off.
Having said that, I weighed myself at the gym when I joined and it’s the lightest I have ever been at the low end of 50kg. I expect no less though after walking 30-50km a day in 35°C heat for a month. This quarter I want to focus on building strength, flexibility and gaining weight. The composition of my diet heavily favours a plant-based diet with probably about 70% of the food I eat being veggies/fruit/, 20% carbohydrates/fats, and 10% meat/fish/dairy. So if I want to gain weight I need to revisit this in Quarter 3, and shake up the composition of my diet, leaning towards more carbs, fats & meat.
Mentally speaking, I feel strong and clear in the mind. I feel passionate and revitalised about the work I am doing here at Podstel, and asides from general tiredness from long days on the Camino and dozens of short/interrupted sleeps, I’m just about caught up with the deficit now. Since I’ve been back, now that Jason isn’t with us, it’s been full on with Podstel and I haven’t had chance to breathe or relax. I’ve noticed I’ve been skipping meals from time to time in favour of work. The storm is gradually calming though, and day by day I’m slowly building more balance in my lifestyle.
The big news for last quarter is that my younger sister Nicola, had her first baby boy. The little man was called Oscar and he’s beautiful. Now, that makes me an Uncle to 3 little stars.
At Podstel, the biggest change that took place was Jason leaving the project. One of the most difficult things is doing business with one of your best mates. Since I started the business, I’ve found it difficult to separate my business life from my personal life. Jason has been part of Podstel for 4 years. Sam and I met him in Munich while we were hitchhiking to Leipzig. I remember meeting him and being admired by his creativity, intelligence and charisma. He had this special art of being able to enter a room, full of random strangers, and making them feel at home straight away through music, laughter and general wackiness. This meshed well with what we were doing with Podstel in the early days. We were there to give people a great time, and of the 3 of us, Jason was the best man for this role, which meant that a lot of Podstel’s vibe, ethos and atmosphere was created by him.
However, as time went on, our roles in the business changed. They became more about management, leadership and business, which better-complemented mine and Sam’s personality. A lot of the work became about meetings, building systems, sat behind a computer. Over time it became clear that this type of work was not the kind of work that meshed well with Jason’s personality, and that led to the business outgrowing him. He lost passion for Podstel and what we were doing, an issue that intermittently popped up throughout the 4 years, but was always temporarily bandaged up.
In addition, although Jason and I are similar in many ways, we’re also very different. When it came to work, we found ourselves clashing and banging heads. The easiest way to explain this is that Jason brought the chaos, I brought the structure, and Sam fell somewhere in between. Jason brought incredible creativity, ideas and abundance to the project, but he often went missing and struggled to stay focused and as a result progress of the business suffered. A lot of the work we did dragged out, and this became frustrating to manage. I am no saint here either. I micro-managed Jason and foolishly thought I could help him change, which in hindsight was incredibly naive of me. I would also say from time to time I demanded too much of him, expecting him to be like me (again naive) and I’m sure he would also have a few things to say about traits of my personality, particularly my stubborn and disagreeableness nature.
The reality, and the biggest learning for me is that you cannot change people and that you shouldn’t either. This experience has been a wake-up call for me too that has encouraged me to look within, and work on the aspects of my own personality that caused clashes with Jason.
Besides Jason leaving, we have come a long way in the last 3 months. In the last review I spoke about all owners leaving the day-to-day operations and for the first time ever trusting our staff to run Podstel on their own. I’m happy to say that’s gone very well so far. We promoted two of our staff to management positions and we’re currently teaching them the ropes and delegating different responsibilities. It’s been challenging for sure, but the guys are doing great and we have a solid team at the moment at Podstel.
We’ve been ‘practicing’ leaving Bucharest for short trips here and there, letting the business run on its own legs, and I am happy to report that after 3-4 trips away, nothing went wrong and our staff did a great job sailing the Podstel ship.
Going forward, Sam and I will be heavily focused on streamlining the business, particularly the systems, structures and processes, with the aim of making the business even leaner and efficient so that our staff can spend less time doing admin work, and more time having fun with guests. With the help of technology, our the dream end goal is that all the administrative tasks are facilitated by technology/AI, so that our staff members can spend as much time getting to know our guests as possible; creating an abundant atmosphere where everyone can shine.
In terms of business opportunities, after a good couple of years running Podstel, the business is stable and we have a reserve of cash which we are considering to use for new projects. We are thinking about opening a second cafe in Bucharest. We are also thinking about taking the next stepping stone towards our vision of combining hospitality and education by creating a retreat centre in the Romanian countryside. With two Podstels in the Capital city of Romania, we feel that we are well equipped to create a sound connection between Bucharest and the Romanian countryside for incoming groups of all kinds – educational, yoga/fitness, digital nomads, hiking, school groups etc. We did think about doing this in England in the longer-term future, but we’re here in Romania now and we have the opportunity and resources to get started on this right now, so why wait? More to come about these two potential projects in Quarter 3.
Quarter 2 was full of a lot of travel. I was in Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Spain for the Camino. I also did a beautiful trip to the Danube and explored the Delta by boat, and just last weekend I was in the Romanian mountains with several friends.
I realised from my Czech Republic trip to the HostelSkills conference that I am tired of attending events and conferences now. I realised that unless you have a vision or a goal for an event in mind, they can actually end up being more of a distraction from the real work that needs doing rather than a learning opportunity. Having said that, on my trip to Prague, I got to stay at some awesome hostels including Long Story Short Cafe & Hostel in Olomouc, CZ, and The Roadhouse, Prague (voted the Best Hostel in the World for Solo Travellers in 2019).
One of my biggest realisations from the Camino was that I need to focus on looking out for myself much more so I immediately joined the gym once I returned, and having realised that my path going forward is embedded in entrepreneurship and leadership, I am on the search for courses, workshops, mentors and role models to improve my skillset here.
Where do I begin with this. Spending a whole month walking a Camino is like a mini-life, full of ups, downs, challenges and highs. Let’s begin with some statistics… I walked for 30 days, covering 1,193km, averaging about 39km a day. I started in Seville, and I finished in Muxia on the Atlantic Coast. The weather was terrific for the majority of the month with scorching hot days, and little rain (only 1 or 2 days showers).
I met some wonderful people while walking, and for 27 of my 30 days walking, I walked alone in solitude. Many people say that the Via de la Plata is the loneliest route, so that appealed to me because, given the nature of what I do, I am surrounded by people for most of the year when I am here in Bucharest. However, although I spent most my time walking alone, evenings were never spent in solitude (I would’ve hoped for much more time alone). Despite many people telling me I would be alone for a month, I met plenty of people in the albergues each evening and found it harder to find my own space than be alone. I met some magical people whom I will write about in a summary post in the coming weeks once I’ve had chance to process what I went through on the walk.
Just like last year, I decided to document my journey again through daily journal entries and stories on Instagram. This time I wanted them to be even rawer than last time. I wanted to show exactly how I was feeling, even if I wasn’t in the best of moods. Little did I know that by doing this, one of the most important realisations of my entire Camino would surface. I realised that, paradoxically, there’s a lot of power to be taken from embracing humility and being vulnerable on camera. At first, I was sceptical about what I was posting but eventually, my natural voice started to come through and by the end of the journey I had reached the point where I would just switch on the camera and speak from the heart. It was beautiful being vulnerable, saying what I thought with no filter – funny, stupid, sad, happy, boring – regardless of whether people judged me or not.
I realised that people don’t want to see a heroic journey of triumph. They don’t want to see someone who is seemingly strong all the time when really that’s not the case beneath the surface. Instead, people want to see rawness, authenticity. They want to see that you are human and that you struggle with pain, hardship and troubles just like they do. After being brought up taught to be strong all the time, this is certainly a powerful switch in perspective for me that I want to translate into other areas of my life.
Another profound realisation that I came to while I was walking was in regards to my path going forward. For the last 7 years, I have gone all out on passion and I like to think of myself as someone who’s stayed true to my heart by focusing on building a life around things I enjoy doing. I love a lot of things. I love sports, hiking, writing, business, entrepreneurship, cycling, reading, learning, cooking, and even swimming now that I’ve joined the gym. The list goes on and on. But after trying for many years, I had a hard time trying to put all these little pieces of passion into a solid vision for myself until now.
However, after much reflection, I realised while walking that my path going forward is rooted in three areas: business, entrepreneurship and leadership. I’ve always loved business and ideas, ever since a young boy. I went on to study business at university, and even now, the majority of books I pick up and read are business related or a biography of someone who started a business. So going forward my path has become clearer in that I believe business, despite its bad reputation, can, if approached with the right attitude and mindset, be a powerful and beautiful way to create positive change in the world. I think businesses led by strong leaders with solid values and ethics are in desperate need in the world today. I think we can use business as a tool to solve some of the world’s deeper problems, and that fascinates me. So going forward I am going to be placing a lot of my focus and attention on learning as much as I can about business, entrepreneurship and leadership. I already have a solid theoretical base from university and some experience in the practical side of actually starting and running a business with Podstel, but there’s still a lifetime of learning to be done. I still feel like a beginner, and always will to an extent, but this new focus gets me excited and feels right in my heart.
The learning here for me is that trying to work out what I am passionate about is not a good strategy. My passions are changing endlessly depending on context – where I live, my mood and who I am with. But what doesn’t change is fundamental skillsets. So instead of focusing on what I am passionate about, I’ve shifted focus to building a skillset, which, in this case, is the skillset of being able to run and lead a business. I know now that although context and my passions will change over time, regardless of whether they change, my vision of wanting to use business as a force for good and the fundamental skillset of business, entrepreneurship and leadership will still apply.
Finally, coming back from the Camino was difficult. After a dreamy month of walking with no responsibilities other than looking after my feet and feeding my belly, I was suddenly right back in the mix of Podstel and all the work shifted on from Jason leaving. After 2 weeks, I finally have my head just about above water and I am managing to find the balance I had created before I left for the Camino.
•Finished my 4th Camino – Walked 1,000km with no injuries and documented my entire experience, writing a journal entry of at least 500 words every single day.
•Passed 4 years of no alcohol on April 11th.
•A new Personal Best running Vienna Half-Marathon in 1hr 24 mins.
•Brought on 2 new Managers for Podstel.
•Signed up for the Gym for one year and paid up front.
•6 months of braces and straight teeth! Only a year left to go.
What Didn’t go well?
In general, I had a very good quarter, but indeed there was a couple of goals I didn’t manage to hit. I was bombarded by a lot of unknowns with the business, so I didn’t get to write my Personal Manifesto as I had planned. I also didn’t read or do as proactive learning as I’d have liked to either.
Another thing that didn’t go well was that I got too much involved in the business while I was walking the Camino. It was meant to be my holiday time, where I was away from the phone, but foolishly I made a choice to stay connected. In hindsight that dampened some of my journey, but I’ve learned a lot from spending a holiday this way. The icing on the cake came one night before I arrived in Santiago too, when I received a very sensitive email that required urgent attention, causing a lot of stress and time spent trying to resolve the problem.
Next time, when I walk, cycle or go on a long-distance adventure, I am going to completely separate myself from the activities of my businesses while I am away.
Plans for Next Quarter
I want this to be an internally focused quarter so I am going to make it a period where I stay in Bucharest, settled, instead of travelling around. I have a lot I want to learn about, and a lot of work I want to do on myself, so I want to be present in one place so I can get to work on all of that.
I will continue to do small trips within Romania and surrounding countries, but I am super motivated to learn, read, write and spend more time reflecting and introspecting. I am also passionate about health at the minute, so I want to cook even more, get better, learn, and knock eating out on the head. And since I am signed up to the gym now, I will spend much of this quarter getting used to a new exercise regime that doesn’t just involve running, cycling and aerobic exercise.
I will focus on building Podstel and streamlining the business with Sam as best we can. We are thinking about hosting our 3rd Annual Gathering at the end of September here in Bucharest. This time we want it to be a more intimate affair and instead of the usual 75+ people we like the idea of having 20-30 close friends in the same space and perhaps venturing out into the mountains for a weekend of hiking and camp fire conversations.
As I mentioned above, my personal curriculum this quarter, and going forward, will be focusing on learning more about business, entrepreneurship and leadership. I’m already researching and putting together a resource list and have gotten the ball rolling.
Longer Term Plans
While I was on the Camino, I also thought about some longer term plans:
•Cycle Home to UK – I decided that I won’t walk another Camino next year but instead will embark on a 50-day cycle journey from my home here in Bucharest to my home in the UK. It will be about 5,000km in total distance and will involve cycling the whole length of the UK from Dover to John O’Groats before turning back to Kendal in the Lake District to rediscover where I grew up. The journey isn’t going to be about making it a hefty physical challenge of cycling crazy kilometres each day. Instead we want to make it about the people we meet along the way, rather than the cycling. We’ll cover about 100km a day, which will give us plenty of time to spend time catching up with old and new friends we stay with on the way. Finally, I’ll also document the journey, just like I did while walking the Camino.
•Brazil for Carnival – we will go to Brazil for a month and a half in February to stay with our good friend and investor of Podstel, Paulo. I’m super excited about this because I’ve been wanting to go to Brazil for years now, and now is as good as any other time. It’ll also be our first longer-term test of letting our staff run Podstel by themselves while Sam and I are away.
•UK – I think I will be back in the UK in November for Kendal Mountain Festival in the Lake District and World Travel Market conference in London. I am also planning to go home for my first Christmas in the UK in 3 years, and instead of having it at my mum’s place, it’s going to be at my sister’s place for the first time ever. There’s a change, and I hope she can cook now.
•Humility – the Camino helped me become much more comfortable with expressing my authenticity. I learned to not care about what people thought about what I said or did, and to just get on with creating and doing what I love. I was myself for an entire month, and I showed it publicly and enjoyed the process very much. This was the most important lesson of my walk.
•Change – The last Quarter has confirmed that I am the type of person who loves and embraces change. I am not scared to shake things up at the expense of the status quo. I also learned that you cannot change other people, but that you can only inspire others to change and become the best version of themselves by focusing on becoming the best version of yourself.
•Vision – Entrepreneurship & Leadership & Business – the Camino was the clarity month I dearly needed. I came to a clear realisation that the skillset I have built over the course of my life is rooted mainly in entrepreneurship, management and leadership. I am deeply passionate about business and want to spend the next years of my life mastering the skillset surrounding business. Firstly, through action and setting up businesses that are concerned with creating real positive change and exist to do good for the world and its people. Secondly, and maybe a bit further down the line, teaching other people about business, entrepreneurship and leadership with the hope that I can pass on the torch and empower other people to open social-conscious businesses.
That’s a wrap on Quarter 2. I can’t believe we’re already half-way through the year – time flies!
I hope you enjoyed reading this and as per usual if you have any comments or feedback i’d love to hear about them. For now, take care and speak soon.
All the best,
Dan Beaumont, Monday 8th July 2019
About the Author
Hello everyone, I’m Dan – a 28-year-old social entrepreneur and writer from the north of England, living in Bucharest, Romania. I’m currently writing my first book about my 4-year journey around the world seeking wisdom and life-lessons from everyday people I met hitchhiking and Couchsurfing.
I discovered that travel, if approached with the right mindset, can be life-changing, and a trip combining travel, purpose and introspection is a great way to learn, challenge oneself and change for the better. Now my mission in life is to share what I’ve learned to inspire others to embark on their own journey of self-discovery and use travel, entrepreneurship and technology as a means to make the world a better place.
I’m also the founder of Podstel – a vision to help humanity belong and grow by creating a worldwide network of ‘homes’ that bring locals and travellers together to share their stories, passions and skills. The first two Podstels are open and thriving in Bucharest, so if you’re passing through, be sure to come and say hi, or stay the night with us.
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