Why (temporarily) moving to New York feels like a reward.

So we’ve now been in New York for a week. It’s pretty surreal and extremely exciting. We’ll be here until Christmas – helping Mikey grow the US escapee community and working our behinds off on the website.

I thought I would write a quick post reflecting on what it feels like to have started a business from our kitchen table that now sees us living in one of the most exciting cities in the world to launch a new arm of our business.

The first thing that struck Dom and me as we waited for a cab at Newark airport (having braved the scary immigration officials) was that when we started Esc we would never have believed someone if they told us that we would be in a position to run Esc from New York within 2 years.

You can do a lot in a year

I think that we often overestimate what we can achieve in any given week but underestimate what we can achieve in a year. When you’re starting your own business the progress that you make on a daily basis often feels painfully slow, and it’s all too easy for the random and minute tasks to absorb your entire focus (and you can easily lose sight of the bigger picture).

Two years ago today Dom was still working as a management consultant, furiously saving as much of his salary for his impending escape. I was just finishing working the wine harvest in Portugal. Escape the City was nothing more than a free blog with a few posts on it. The newsletter was about to be born.

Even one year ago we were in a very different position to where we are now. We had only 16,000 members (compared to almost 45,000 today) and we were still working from our kitchen table (as opposed to the swanky offices we just vacated in Kings Cross). We were still getting to grips with our business model (selling exciting job listings) and wondering whether Esc had legs for the long-term.

Bravery & Rewards

The last thing Dom, Mikey and I ever want to do is sound smug (and the choices that we’ve made to escape the city mean that often it is our friends and ex-colleagues who are better off than us in terms of security and financial stability) but the fact that we have come to work in New York under our own steam is the direct result of a naïve, brave, idealistic and hopeful decision that we made on a park bench in Wimbledon over two years ago.

There are all sorts of cheesy, inspirational quotes about risk vs reward and a ‘just do it’ mentality that often over-simplify complex decision-making processes. However it is true that you’ve got to be in it to win it and the simple fact is that if we hadn’t made the mad/brave/exciting decision to pursue an unrealistic dream – living a life on our own terms whilst building something that helps other people do the same – we wouldn’t be in New York today.

The goon squad 😉 - Mikey & Dom outside our local coffee shop

A business is where you design your perfect world.

Like Mikey, I’ve recently really enjoyed reading ‘Anything You Want’ by Derek Sivers and was struck by this line…

When you make a company, you make a utopia. It’s where you design your perfect world.

It’s true. You get to play and work on your own terms. No more booking in a limited amount of holidays with HR far in advance. No more being held to arbitrary deadlines by senior managers. No more seeing your evenings disappear waiting for a busy partner to ask you to make formatting changes to a PowerPoint deck.

Screenshot - Anything You Want - by Derek Sivers

You get to work on what you want, when you want. You get to say no to some projects and yes to others. You can work till 3 am on a Monday night if you want. But equally you can take a random Wednesday morning off with no guilt. You live life on your own terms.

Make no mistakes – it’s tough.

Don’t get me wrong – while this is the dream, the reality of getting to this point is tough. And we’ve got a long way to go before we have properly finished building our business (and the financial stability that hopefully comes with it).

For all our enthusiastic start-up evangelism… building a business is hard. Really hard. Harder than we realised!

The single biggest challenge with starting your own company is that you accept ultimate responsibility for your income – rather than living under the addictive duvet of a monthly salary.

But all the financial anxiety and hard graft of the past two years is worth it for the prize of living life on our own terms. And moving to New York really feels like a reward at this stage in the journey.


All 3 Escape the City team members are now based in New York.

If you feel like helping us out in the Big Apple, or even meeting for a beer, just email us – team@escapethecity.org or let us know via this form.

Going to check out the #occupywallstreet movement this week – blog post to follow.

  • http://www.lottiehedleyphotography.com Lottie Hedley

    Hi Rob, Mikey and Dom

    Love that you guys are reflecting on what has happened over the past two years for you. I joined your website late 2009 as I was thinking about leaving corporate law for a life in photography. Nothing like jumping out of a well paid job with a standard career path during a recession and jumping into an industry (photojournalism) which everyone is yelling at the top of their lungs, is dead.

    I feel a huge sense of achievement as I continue this journey which has taken me out of my sterile office and plonked me into the lives of so many real people.

    Anyway, the point of my email is to enquire whether you guys have started up the equivalent of the Wednesday functions in NYC yet. I am visiting the city next week and was hopeful there would be an event I could chime on in as I always intended to get to the events in London while I was working there, but never had the time.

    Glad to hear things are moving along so well for you guys. I look forward to the weekly newsletter so much for inspiration from those people out there taking a different path.

    All the best


    • Rob – Escape the City

      Hey Lottie,

      Firstly – congratulations for your own escape! Awesome story (will you come and share it on the site as an esc hero when you have a chance?). That’s great that you’ve been following us from the beginning.

      We are just deciding when our first Esc Wednesday meet-up will be out here. I’m not sure if we’re in a position to organise one next week already but I’ll definitely drop you a direct email if we do.

      Love that you love the newsletter and good luck on the weekend. Take em down!!


  • Ivonne Davila

    Hello guys!
    I just joined your organization yesterday April 2, 2012. Funny that for a long while I have been putting out to the universe how to find a way to fulfill my purpose in this world. HOw to work at what I love instead of just existing day to day in a job that does not fulfill me.
    I have been looking at different venues to be able to sort out how can i do this and by chance surfing the web– I found your site!! I believe this was not by coincidence…. I currently live and work in New York City. Do you have a connection set up here? You have a great thing going here and I hope to be able to make this connection work.
    I am looking to expand my options in terms of work– Europe (Italy- London, Switzerland) are some of the places I have traveled to in the past and would love to go back to. I am fluent in English, Spanish, Italian and am learning French right now.
    I look forward to your response.


  • http://www.climbingfish.com Phil O’Brien

    Hi Rob, Mikey and Dom. Are you still in New York. Is the offer still there to buy you a beer? I’m in Manhattan for a couple of months to see whether it’s a natural home for Climbing Fish. Would love to chat. Phil