Five Questions New Orleans

April 14, 2009 · By Sloane Davidson, Founder and CEO, Hello Neighbor

Got Questions?

There are a million things going on here in New Orleans all the time! It's incredible and crazy and overwhelming all at the same time. I've been here just over two weeks (yes that's all!) and in that time, I get asked a few of the same questions over and over again. I wanted to answer those here for everyone to see and also give a quick update what's going on here in NOLA!

First, I want to emphasize how much social media has helped me every step along the way. A sentence I say a lot is "Your online interactions are meant to facilitate your offline interactions." This is a topic I'll be writing about more, but what I mean by that simply is that I follow through and follow up with people. When I get a "lead" or an email intro or something crosses my path, I follow through. Social media doesn't just fall in your lap. It works if you work it! It's incredibly important to be proactive and understand that not every situation is going to work. To that extent, if you're not already please connect with me on Twitter or Facebook or send me an email at

My Love Letter to New Orleans has also created a life of its own. A lot of people have contacted me because of that which is remarkable and amazing.

It takes a bit of quantity to get to the quality.

Everything doesn't work out, all of the scenarios aren't perfect but I work the numbers and eventually things work out in a way that is usually serendipitous and beautiful. I told someone yesterday that I've stopped being able to say that things are "coincidence" because my normal has become pieces just falling together. I think the trick is that I am honestly and sincerely here in New Orleans for the right reasons and the Universe is on my side, I trust my instincts, I don't take any of the amazing things that happen to me for granted and last I'm appreciative. I say thank you a lot. And I mean it every time.

Onto the FAQ's of my life:

1) Where am I staying here in New Orleans?

I'm in a state of "couch-surfing." Sometimes this is a couch, sometimes it's a room or a futon. Everyone has been so amazing and I've been offered a bunch of places which is incredibly kind. The first spot was out by Lake Pontchatrain right on the water. A friend in LA from New Orleans hooked me up with his best friend from when he was four who works in Houston every other week. I drove here having talked to him once on the phone and we went to dinner and he was leaving the next day for a week and gave me his keys. Amazing gesture. I stayed there for just over a week.

Next, a friend in Park City saw my Facebook status update that I was in New Orleans and connected me to a guy who is from New Orleans but lives in Park City. She gave me his number, I text him and found out he was here on a roadtrip. We made plans to meet the next day. We met up. He introduced me to his friends, one of whom goes by the name Johnny Nomad. That sounded perfect to me. Their place is near St. Charles and Napoleon which meant I could ride my bike around and be more central. They have a sunroom and offered it to me for a week. The second roommate, Aaron, runs a music blog in New Orleans called Groovescapes and is involved with Net2No (a New Orleans NetSquared event I spoke at last week). Another perfect fit. I moved in the next day.

I'm looking for spot #3.

The rest will keep falling together. I keep plugging away. I'm enjoying seeing different neighborhoods and getting a feel for how people live here. If you'd like to host this do-gooder for a week (give or take), send me an email!

2) Do I get tired of couch surfing?

Yes and no.

I never thought I'd be 29 and homeless and sleeping on couches. It's weird. It's also awesome and eye-opening and for a limited period of time. Since I'm donating my services here (see next question), it was important to me not to have spend money (a question on this too below) on housing. I'm touched by peoples' hospitality and it's definitely teaching me a lot. I'm incredibly gracious to everyone who has offered and those who are kind enough to take me in.

It's humbling to tell my story to new people and describe the journey I'm on. I feel like my soul stretches just a little bit every time, and I like overcoming the continued "stigma" of not having a place of my own or a job anymore. I'm a really proud person so it's not always easy to address this, it could be really embarrassing. I could have stayed in LA and found another job and kept trucking on. I didn't want to do that. I have to accept the consequences of my actions. I want to help in New Orleans, I need a place to rest my head. That's about as real as it gets.

3) What am I doing here?

Rebirth Brass BandThe elevator answer is "volunteer by day and see music by night." But it's so much more than that. What I wanted to do here was really get my finger on the pulse of everything New Orleans. And to me that includes exploring neighborhoods, talking to strangers on the streetcar, seeing the best and the worst neighborhoods, connecting with nonprofits, community leaders, young professionals and then the cultural side which is going to festivals, seeing live music, eating good food.

So far the nonprofits I've connected with are (and I'm going to be profiling each of these so you can learn more about them): *The St. Bernard Project *Rebuild Center - specifically Harry Tompson Center *Green Light New Orleans *Roots of Music

For each nonprofit, it's different. I'm doing a mix of straight volunteer projects and then also meeting with the Executive Director and getting a feel for their struggles and triumphs and where I might be able to help them. I ask questions, take notes, and then have spent time putting together a strategy for them. I'm offering all of these services for free - and it's been incredibly rewarding. It's an honor. I'm picking up a few more nonprofits starting this week and plugging away. If you have a nonprofit or project in New Orleans you'd like me to know about, please leave a comment or send me an email.

I'm also making friends and experiencing New Orleans as someone who lives here. I know I'm a temporary resident, but I try to feel as much like a local as I can. I've been finding my way around, and every day I learn something new about New Orleans or how to get around and it's incredible.

4) What about money?

Ha! What about it? No seriously, this is a concern. No, I don't come from money. I actually haven't been given $5 from my mom since I graduated college. I'm financially 100% on my own. I'll be writing more about how I saved to be able to do this but the quick answer is I'm financially responsible (most of the time).

In Los Angeles, I lived in a place in Santa Monica that was rent-controlled. A lot of people in LA live just to - or above - their means. I was careful not to do this. I saved a little from every paycheck into savings, I built an emergency fund (like Suze Orman says you should). My car is paid off, I don't have college loans. Giving up my apartment in December means that my current fixed costs are : cell phone bill, car and health insurance and my storage unit. I have some credit card debt, I'm trying to only use my debit card here to not rack up more charges. I just got my tax refund back. I'm being as careful as I can. I crave just "buying" things sometimes, or getting a facial or a new pair of shoes, but I'm being strong. I do what's necessary, except for those rounds I find myself buying on Saturday nights. We all fall off the wagon, even the "frugal watch every penny" wagon. That's ok.

5) How long am I in New Orleans?

FOREVER!!! Uhm, well, maybe one day. I really love it here intensely and could very much see myself here for the long run. But that's not what the question was. Ok, back on point. I'm here 5-6 weeks. I drove to SXSW in Austin from Pittsburgh with the intention of coming straight to New Orleans after so I have my car. That leaves me a lot of flexibility. I have to be back in Pittsburgh in early May and have other exciting announcement coming about next steps, so for the time being, let's say I'm here until about May 3rd.

There you have it. Phew. As the questions keep coming, I'll keep throwing out the answers.