So my daughter suggested that I spend some time on a beach in Mexico to get myself out of the hole she knew I was stuck in. To which I stupidly replied that I wouldn’t survive the relaxation. When we got back to the house, we said goodbye, glowing from the great conversation.
The next morning, thanks in part to jet lag, I woke up early. Like every day, I started the day with a few exercises that I made up, a mix of warmup gymnastics I learned to perform as a judo instructor, Yoga and Qigong positions followed by concentrating on respiration and the circulation of energy. Not really meditation – even if I sometimes chant the way I heard in Japanese Buddhist temples – but I experience a profound forgetting of the world sometimes, followed by a sublime moment where a Mona Lisa smile flashes across my face.
Not that day. I was too worked up and out of sorts to find anything like calm. I thought nonstop about Yara’s idea. The unavoidable problem remained that, for a journalist of my age, dropping out of the public sphere risked being a permanent move.
Suddenly – I don’t remember how – I remembered a proposition I’d made a few years earlier to Edwy Plenel, then Editor-in-Chief at Le Monde, and Jesus Ceberio, head of El País. The idea was to do a summer series for them highlighted by around 10 stops in different parts of the world, to see how IT was used there. Both said it was a good idea, but an idea that was beyond their means. I also think they doubted the public’s interest in the subject back then.
But in early 2011, more or less everyone had adopted – even if grudgingly, especially in France – and had spent thousands of hours with internet devices. Why not try it? Invest part of the money due from the sale of our house. Without retirement, it was the only money I could count on. But I could sell articles telling the stories I found, position myself – at the end of the trip – as an expert in global innovation. Could I risk everything?
In a mix of enlightenment and confusion I saw a door open onto … I didn’t know what. The discovery of a fascinating subject, the certainty that it would enliven me, the desire to try. I was tired of writing about technology the same way I had for 17 years. But I never doubted tech’s transformative power. Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter and their Seattle cousins (Microsoft and Amazon) use this power for their profit. The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman tried to convince us that the world is flat. I thought he was wrong and that it was a dangerous idea, but lacked the arguments to counter him. So why not go see for myself?
All alone? Not really serious, I guess…
But since I like to search out the root of whatever it is that makes me move in directions other than traditional ones, I soon realized that this was also a good way to realize a childhood dream: to go around the world. Literally. Leave from one side and come back from the other. Hadn’t I just reread Around the World in 80 Days on my Kindle (at the time, the complete works of Jules Verne was one of the few books available in French, since editors there refused – you could say that they were running to their own funeral – to digitalize their books)?
In short, it was the boy’s dream that excited me most at the time. Which made me make the leap without worrying too much about the risks involved.
At breakfast, I restated to my daughter that writing a novel on a Mexican beach was out of the question, but that what she actually suggested and offer me a grant. I just decided I was going to use it to tour the world of information technology. I told her she’d just given me an idea that I would structure the next ten years of my life around. I love declarations like that: I made myself sound cocky to make her forget my fears from the day before.
I even had a moment of hesitation where I hoped she would be against the idea because, while we were talking about it, I realized that I’d have to risk everything. It would be impossible to be half-committed to such an adventure, and I didn’t see any safety net.
I only had a vague idea, a feeling tinged with hope – that’s the danger when you want to be serious – that IT was increasingly being created in regions that we don’t really know, that this is important to learn today in order to know what tomorrow will look like.
The only think that was left was turning this insight into a project…