How do we know? Just look at the landscape as we speak. Uber and GoGet have killed the need to own a car (and this is before the whole self-driving thing takes over). Whispers of an Airbnb ‘subscription’ service are carried from Silicon Valley to our office, while WeWork (and their newest living venture, WeLive) are changing how we think about our workspaces and lounge rooms (what do they know that we don’t?). But while this future is terraformed, we still face the same culture shocks we have for decades What direction am I facing? Where should I live? Do I need a broker? Am I getting ripped off? What does that mean? And where do I get a decent coffee around here? I mean, have you ever moved to another city? It would be unbearable if it wasn’t so worth it. And why is it so hard to find good coffee in New York?
“Creativity is like a passport to work abroad in many ways, he says from his studio in Sydney. “I’ve always felt lucky to have the opportunity to work in new cultures. As a creative person you don’t have to pass a creative bar exam to work overseas, because creativity is a universal language”.Michael Canning
Regardless, this is the future we face and we need to document it as it happens. Enter Exceptional Alien, an editorial site created by Australian creative director Michael Canning at this intersection of career and travel. Or more specifically, creative professionals working abroad. It’s there to share insights and tips from people in varying fields (think art, design, fashion, advertising), with some more personal stories to quash the emotive side of it - people like Australian artist Ian Strange, Heimstone founder Alix Petit or Nike footwear designer Safa Sahin.
This is not a new subject to Canning. Having first moved abroad after winning a scholarship to study design and advertising at Central Saint Martins University of the Arts in London, he worked in Los Angeles and New York as an Executive Creative Director in advertising for the better part of a decade. Canning has a diverse portfolio of award-winning work (take, for example, an Off-Broadway play in New York City written entirely from the everyday stories of New Yorkers) and is passionate about the experience that working abroad offers creative people.
The inspiration for Exceptional Alien came from his own experiences of working abroad, and the process of information gathering you go through.
“When you move to a new country, there’s a lot you need to learn pretty fast. I’ve found you rely on the recommendations and tips of your friends, and friends of friends, on everything from neighbourhoods, the field you work in, visas and life in general. Whenever I’ve moved, it has been super helpful to hear from others who’ve done it”.Michael Canning
When you’re living abroad, friends often get in touch to ask for info and tips on making the move. It’s those small but valuable insights that not only makes the move a little easier, but it’s what you can offer when you return too. We’ve turned our homes and cars into vehicles for sharing, why can’t we commodify our experiences too? “You gather these nuggets of information from your own experience, like stuff you need to know or watch out for. Or places that are inspiring". On Exceptional Alien, these nuggets are filtered under topics like Neighbourhoods, Inspiration, Accommodation, Food & Drink, Need to Know and Travel, which are searchable under cities. “Exceptional Alien is very simply about sharing those stories, tips and insights for others to benefit from”.
At any one time, there are millions of creative professionals working abroad around the world. This number is predicted to keep growing as technology enables more seamless communication and makes communities more global. Think about ‘digital nomads’ - a field of people, largely in coding or digital media, who are able to work from anywhere because their work isn’t tethered to a physical location. While this isn’t possible for all types of creative work, technology is making communication and collaboration across borders more fluid than ever which is giving rise to a more global workforce.
So why the name Exceptional Alien? It was inspired by visa classifications in the USA, common amongst creative professionals. Says Canning - Anyone who lives in the USA on a visa is classified as an ‘alien’, but as a skilled professional, you’re often classified as an ‘alien of exceptional ability’. I’ve always liked that.
Something we didn’t mention earlier is that we’ll be partnering with Exceptional Alien on a special project to embody our predication on the future of travel as the future of work. Along with this concept of a travel-based economy, we’ve been building our team as a global creative platform for people to share their experiences and insights across all fields. Exceptional Alien will soon be a part of that, and we can’t wait to share it with you.
“We are always looking for new ways to inspire the creative community. Helping people explore the chance to use their creativity abroad is something we know and are passionate about, and as the creative community grows more and more global, this is a very exciting space”.Michael Canning
Watch this space… Exceptional Alien