Why I am not at SXSW

I was meant to be at SXSW this weekend, co-facilitating a "core conversation" on Monday with Stacey Monk from Epic Change about "positively inspired change campaigns" and hosting Pitch Some Good at Center61 that night. And seeing old friends and making lots of new ones, being overwhelmed by the options for free events and parties, listening to some amazing innovators and storytellers and seeing the latest in technology and marketing. You know, SXSW!

But instead I'm here in Vancouver writing you this note to say I'm not making it.

My plans were thrown completely off-course last week when I was rejected for a visa to re-enter the US. Not only did this make SXSW almost impossible, it looked for a time like I wouldn't get back in at all to help K pack up our house and say goodbye to all my friends in person before our move home to Australia April 1 (so soon!).

The good news is on my second attempt on Wednesday in Calgary I was approved. Not only did they give me the single-entry visa I was asking for, they gave me a 5-year version. Which is awesome, but kinda weird to go from not allowed in at all to free to come-and-go for the next five years. Not that I'm complaining, but it does prove my point about the validity of my case and how I probably should have been approved in the first place, in which case I would have been in Austin by now.

But at this stage, having only got my passport back yesterday, is too late for me and SXSW this year. StartSomeGood is a bootstrapped startup and as such my co-founder Alex and I mostly pay our own way to events such as this. After two return Vancouver-Calgary trips in the past week and a second $140 visa appointment fee, combined with the brutal cost of the last-minute flights available from here to Austin, I came to the sad, but accurate, conclusion yesterday that I just can't afford it anymore, especially with the impending costs of moving home and re-establishing ourselves in Australian in anticipation of the arrival of our first child in August.

So here I am, 2,574 miles from Austin and the event I had such a blast at last year and was so looking forward to this year. But this isn't meant to be a mope, just an explanation I can link to as I keep getting tweets and messages asking me where I am.

I'm a got lemons/make lemonade kinda guy, so my fall-back plans are pretty excellent. I'm about to head over to Vancouver Island for the weekend to get some nature (and some good music) into me, both of which I crave after the intense stresses of the past week. The forest is where I go to unwind and this, more than the frenetic exhilarating intensity of SXSW, is probably what I need most emotionally right now.

On Monday I'm catching the train to Portland where that night the Social Media Users Group at Collective Agency, run by my good friend Todd Pitt from Zero Strategist, are kindly hosting a social entrepreneurs salon for the occasion. If you in Portland please come along and if you know someone else who would find this interesting please send them the details. I've never been to Portland and am really thrilled I get to check it out, even if only briefly (24 hours before back on the train to San Francisco) in the final weeks of our time in the US. And I love a good train trip, probably my favourite way to travel.

So that's what's going on - thanks for asking!

If you are in SXSW please check out Pitch Some Good on Monday night at Center61 - RSVP and details here - where 8 social innovators will share their story and ask for your support. The event features a live crowdfunding exercise which will determine which of the ventures gets the $1000 main prize contributed by RackSpace, in addition to the funds donated by the crowed on the night.

Whatever you are doing this weekend, have an amazing time.