Tag Archive | Travel

The Entirety of Suffering in 14 Words

Yesterday while doing some studying with Middle Daughter I was trying to adjust some electronics into what I had hoped would be my Road Warrior Writer’s kit. It consisted of an Anker portable battery which was charging my iPhone 6+ (in a very low-tech stand hack) via the Nomad ChargeCard while I typed using Daedalus on a full-size Anker keyboard.

Those links are provided for gearheads like me. What you really need to know is that it looked like this:

Note that even three days after the start of Spring you still need gloves in WI.

Note the clever use of gloves to provide the right angle for the battery pack…

The problem was that the usb connector on the ChargeCard is cleverly designed to be flexible…which means a not-always adequate connection to my iPhone for power. I did the usual wiggling and adjusting which illustrated the limitations of my stand hack, as the iPhone tilted or fell over. It was a mini-version of the Keystone Cops there on the table, and my daughter was pretty amused. She made some comment about doing it “right”, and I blurted out:

I don’t want to do it right; I want to do it MY way!

There was a pause. Then my daughter said, “Well. That’s an interesting little commentary on life, isn’t it?”

Indeed it is. Simply an illustration of the Buddhist proverb: The sum total of your suffering is the difference between the way your life is and the way you want it to be. Of course, it’s possible to change either of those factors and become happier. But the question is, which do you really have more control over?

Eventually – through things like journaling, meditation, and other self-awareness exercises – I think people who do it long enough eventually discover that it’s easier to control one’s own mindset than to control the rest of the world. Not easy, mind you (ha!) – but easier. Or, to put it another way, the old saw of “Think globally, act locally” may be a lot more “local” than we realized.

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The Minimalist Guide to Travel Sanity

I’ve been a frequent traveler for a few years now, but since last October things have been ramping up a bit as I try to make my presenting and teaching into a significant income stream.

One thing I’m very wary of is self-care while on the road. A couple of years back I had quite a burnout after a six-week junket that manifest as physical illness as well as muscle and back strain. Add on to this a general malaise and it was the world telling me without any doubt that I was doing it wrong.

What ended up happening was not just one thing, but several lifestyle changes including moving to Madison, WI and a more serious investigation into the meaning of “home” and health. It’s also meant looking at ways to make the travel that I do take part in be more sustainable.

One single over-arching principle keeps on re-appearing both in my research and in my own practice of self-care during travel: minimalism. Now, I’m not the one in the family who writes books on the subject, but here’s my top five minimalist travel tips:

  1. Pack Smart: I fell in love with this packing technique right after I saw the video, and it’s made a huge difference in my ability to limit myself to one suitcase.

    Combine it with some of these and you’ve got more room than you know what to do with. Just remember:  this cuts down on volume, but not on weight.
  2. Stay Connected with a Select Few: It’s fine to tweet and instagram and such – but instead of chatting with everyone, have a few people – or even just one – who you stay in contact with as your support team. It can be chosen family, it can be penpals – but don’t spread your digital self too thin.
  3. Bring Nuts: For me, the best “emergency” food is almonds and cranberries. For others, it might be something like a Spirulina Energy Bar. I guarantee you one thing: your best emergency food is not a Snickers. I the ingredients and processing of the foods I have handy really simple (dried apricots? Heaven) you save the hassle of lines, of futzing with money, and your body will thank you.
  4. Customize Your Environment: This is a trick I learned from an old friend who used to travel more than me: when you get in the hotel room, change one thing. Move a chair, put the table by the window, maybe even cover the TV with a sheet. But do something  that makes it not just the same old hotel room as the rest of the place.
  5. Travel Slow: Yes, I got this straight from the Professional Hobo herself, Nora Dunn. I was putting it into practice subconsciously before reading her book, but now that it’s a deliberate practice it’s even more useful. The thing is, it doesn’t just apply to things like trains and buses; when you’re “traveling slow” suddenly the queue for security is not as bad, nor is the wait for a hostess at a restaurant. All those little annoyances that can be the difference between a good trip and a bad one? You’d be amazed at how they disappear if you just slow the @#$! down.

Bonus tip: Hydration. I invested about a year ago in a Vapur Element Bottle and it’s both improved my personal hydration and also been a great money-saver. I don’t buy bottled water, I fill up at the fountains or taps (which are cleaner than most of the world’s water, you knew that, right?) and just clip the thing onto my bag (or on the pocket on the back of the airplane seat, which is handy). Then when it’s empty, I don’t have to look for a trash can or carry it around with me – I fold it up and it goes in my bag till the next refill.

I call this one a “bonus” because the dirty little secret is that it actually applies to life in general, not just travel. Whether you are driving across the country, flying across the ocean, or walking downstairs to study (you know who you are) you should have a water bottle with you.

That’s what I’ve got. What are your best simple and minimalist travel tips?

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Nora Dunn’s “Working on the Road”

Let’s start by doing a full-disclosure: if you decide to use this review to purchase Working on the Road, I will get a cut. In fact, I’ll get a bigger cut than the folks at Unconventional Guides (because Chris is cool like that). I also was given a preview copy of the Guide for review purposes. 

Nora Dunn's Working On the Road

It’s not real, but I WANT this travel case!

I didn’t expect to learn much when I opened up Nora Dunn’s new book. It’s subtitled “the Unconventional Guide to Full-time Freedom,” and that’s something that I pretty much already have. Nobody but me forces me to do anything, and as long as I’ve got my laptop and an internet connection (and sometimes not even that) I can earn a living. Heck, I write my own articles on how to travel and work efficiently! Plus, as books go, it’s relatively short…so how much could she really offer me?

Two hours later I had pages of notes and multiple tabs open on my browser. I had subscribed to her newsletter and only escaped her website through sheer force of productive will. I had also arranged for an interview with her (which you can hear part of on the Love Life Practice Weekend Roundup Podcast, and the whole thing if you become a patron).

Yeah, she’s that good. Every page – literally every page – had something of value for me, and I’m not even really her target audience. I travel a lot, but I definitely have a home base – but that’s just it: it’s not a recipe for a specific lifestyle, it’s the ingredients for lifestyle design. Like any set of ingredients, you can mix, match, and select according to your taste.

Designing the Possible

I was won over early on by the way Ms. Dunn introduced her journey. She talks about her current life, about the awesomeness that she experiences now – but she’s not preaching the one true way. She wrote this book because, in her case, “…it took time. I could have done it more efficiently.” She also readily admits that it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation, and so throughout the book she interviews and uses examples from a huge variety of other professional hobos.

This means that there are parents with small children, parents with teenagers, solo travelers well past their sixth decade, young couples. There are people from a wide variety of classes, as well – such as Ms. Dunn herself, who sold a successful financial consulting business before beginning her travels, as well as people who just took a plunge and went on the road. It’s not all roses, either – one of the more refreshing aspects of the guide is the realistic attitude. One cautionary tale, for example, was a young woman who announced her intention to quit her job and support herself by travel blogging…but had no following to speak of, much less a stream of income.

Instead of just saying “become a writer!” (though she does say it’s one of the easier ways to support this lifestyle) Ms. Dunn instead suggests that you look at your own “mosaic” of skills and how they can translate into ways of supporting your travel lifestyle. I loved the metaphor of the mosaic (so different from the singular “find your calling“) and found her descriptions of her own skillset both fascinating and inspiring.

 

She also didn’t romanticize the actual work cost of being on the road. Yes, it’s pretty cool to pull out your laptop at the beach…but you’re still on your laptop. There is a social and personal cost to that kind of lifestyle. Her open and frank description of the difficulties of traveling with a partner – along with some suggestions for getting past them, of course – rang very familiar to me.

The Joy of the Pragmatic

That’s the big-picture stuff, though. I’m a fan of actionable items, of solid techniques that I can use immediately to make life better. As it happens, I got one of those before my last trip to San Francisco, taking her advice about “slow travel.” It made the trip both more enjoyable and less expensive, and it makes me look forward to an upcoming train trip with a new perspective.

It’s these kinds of suggestions that really make me recommend this book to anyone who wants to travel at all, not just those who travel full time. There are suggestions for how to manage money on the road, how to find both work and accommodations, what kinds of visas are necessary…the list goes on and on in my notebook. Of particular interest was the attention to traveling with kids – talking about schooling, medical care, visas, etc. Unlike a lot of lifestyle design books, this one is definitely family-friendly.

As I read, the list of things I need to get for the next time I travel kept growing – such as an International Driver’s Permit, and checking into her recommendations for Travel Insurance, and my favorite: creating my Top-Secret Encrypted USB Key. It’s positively Jason-Bournesque, and has demonstrably saved Ms. Dunn’s proverbial bacon more than once. I will increase the aura of secrecy by not going into more detail here, but you can hear a bit more about it on the podcast.

Better yet, you can read about it in the guide. Go on over to Unconventional Guides and check out Working on the Road. It’s a fast read but a slow journey. I’m confident you will find both new perspectives and solid tools that make your life’s journey better.

The Secret Key to Active Constructive Response

Say it with me: "Wheeeeee!"

Thanks to Octavia, we also spent my birthday with friends in NYC!

It was a rough weekend. I was presenting at a conference in Rhode Island, and from the beginning – actually, from before the beginning – things just weren’t going right. I won’t go into the details of all what was wrong…but things were just off. Not in terms of individuals – everyone I met with personally, working for the convention, for the hotel, people attending my classes, reunions with old friends and even a couple of meetings with clients and colleagues were wonderful.

There were, however, many logistical difficulties. Email mixups, lost itineraries, unexpected costs…and it added up. There was a moment, early on, when I started having a very bitter and sarcastic reaction – in fact, I was this close to making snarky social media comments (the equivalent of the British “I’m going to write a letter!“).

I caught myself just in time, and I remember saying out loud to Natasha as we traveled through the hallways: “Active constructive. Active constructive. ACTIVE CONSTRUCTIVE!” just to try and put a different spin on things.

Not terribly successfully. I managed to stay polite, but as the errors and poor planning by committees began to compound, I found myself losing my ability to find the bright side of anything.  At a certain point I was following Natasha towards a classroom where I was to present on cigar mannerisms – and things were getting worse. We’d hoped to recoup some of our expenses for the weekend by selling some merchandise, but that’s dependent on class size and traffic. But she’d located the classroom earlier, and I could tell by her expression that she wasn’t expecting me to be happy.

Sure enough, we passed through the crowds…then the occasional few people…then just maybe a hotel staff member here and there as we moved further from the lobby. Down a dark hallway, past the out-of-order elevator and the stacked maid’s carts and and down a flight of stairs (marked Keep door closed at all times) and I finally started laughing.

She turned back to me with a questioning look. I smiled at her. “You know what?” I said. “I’ve just lost my last f*&k. I have no more to give. That was it, I’ve run out completely.”

Natasha gave me a bit of a worried look – I don’t normally say things quite like that – but I was also smiling and laughing, so we continued to the classroom. And there, before a group of about twelve people, I gave a fun presentation on the history and practice of cigars in social and theatrical contexts.

It was amazing how much easier it was to reach the active constructive response when I no longer was trying to control things, or even have any expectation of them going as expected or, really, well at all. It reminded me of a recent essay by Mark Manson which is as full of brilliance as it is of profanity, and if certain words offend you, you might NOT want to click on that link. I have put a filter on the pertinent section, though, because it is truly wisdom:

…in a strange way, this is liberating. We no longer need to give a **** about everything. Life is just what it is. We accept it, warts and all. We realize that we’re never going to cure cancer or go to the moon or feel Jennifer Aniston’s ****. And that’s OK. Life ****ing goes on. We now reserve our ever-dwindling ****s only for the most truly ****worthy parts of our lives: our families, our best friends, our golf swing. And to our astonishment, this is enough. This simplification actually makes us really ****ing happy.

And yes, that’s exactly what happened. The key to the active constructive response when everything – even the weather – seemed to keep me from it was being able to lose my last bit of hope. To give up and just go along with whatever was coming next.

Not sure if it’s possible to authentically reach that state without lots of meditative practice and probably a few episodes of satori. But I can tell you that it felt great. Certainly something worth cultivating in our efforts to reach that ACR state.

creating a bit of nowhere to know where you are

Know-Where Man

Location is a funny thing these days. Many of our devices are location-aware, so I can tell my phone “Remind me to take in the car seat when I get home” and it will actually wait until I’m near my apartment to let me know! My volunteer login code for the VA Hospital is stored in my Evernote application, and much to my surprise it popped up before I even knew I needed it just because it knew The last time Gray looked at this note, he was in this location; he’s there again, so he probably wants to see it again! It’s pretty awesome and a little creepy at the same time.

At the same time, as someone who travels a lot, I have to create my own little “homes” in order to keep my focus and sanity while on the road. There are specific pictures of my family that play on my phone like a digital photo frame. There is particular music that keeps me centered, and my iPad and Netflix provide me with familiar escapes no matter how unfamiliar my surroundings. A good friend of mine who travels even more gave me the power-travel tip of incorporating scent into the mix, though I’ve still not quite managed it.

Is home where the hearth is? Is it where you’re born? Where you grew up? Is it where your family lives, or where you carve out your own space?

These are all questions posed by Pico Iyer in his TED Talk “Where is Home?“, and I highly recommend you watch it at the end of this post. Among other things, he describes the way “home” has changed for the new generation:

…they have one home associated with their parents, but another associated with their partners, a third connected maybe with the place where they happen to be, a fourth connected with the place they dream of being, and many more besides… Home for them is really a work in progress. It’s like a project on which they’re constantly adding upgrades and improvements and corrections.

Interestingly, Pico suggests in his book The Art of Stillness that one of the best ways to learn more about your home – the place(s) that you spend your life – is to create little trips to Nowhere. He uses examples like Leonard Cohen and Thomas Merton, people who left their bon vivant lifestyles to join monastic lifestyles. Of course, we can’t all do that – but he points out that the busiest of people can carve out a tiny piece of time when their only job is to do nothing.

The Fruits of Your Rest

If you need an example of what can be accomplished by turning your attention inward, perhaps another of his examples, Emily Dickinson, will suffice. A reclusive woman who didn’t reach fame, fortune, or even really love during her life – but from her solitude rose verses that are passionate, deep, and unforgettable.

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.

Longtime readers of this blog will remember my own exploration in creating times of “revery” – the “Simple Time of Peace“. It’s a very privileged and luxurious thing to be able to do, however. Perhaps it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Perhaps it’s more like one of John Cage’s musical pieces, where instead of filling the brain with distracting instruments and beats and harmonies he simply created a space for people to listen to their world.

Pico Iyer learned from Mathieu Ricard, the alleged “happiest man on earth”, that one of the mini-sanctuaries for the monk was airplane flights. It’s a literal interpretation of “rising above the clouds into the sky”, a common metaphor in Buddhism for clearing the mind.

It’s a crazy hard idea. Even while writing this blog post I have headphones on, listening to Celtic music to “help focus”. But really, what am I being distracted by? The life in the world around me? How amusing is it that while writing a post about life I’m trying to hide from it?

Where are your Sabbaths? Where do you find your revery when “bees are few”? I’m starting to look in my life for these little islands of Nowhere, in the hopes they will help me know where I am, as well as where I am going.

Where are you?

how to maintain intimacy while traveling

The Age of Miracles

If I remember the story right, my paternal grandparents met at a USO dance just before Grandpa shipped off to fix bombers in Italy and Africa during World War II. They kept in touch via letters, maybe one or two a month, for two years before he returned. They were married, had three great kids and my Dad, too (zing!) and stayed together for more than half a century.

Think about that for a moment. Two years of just the occasional letter, during a time of war, no less, when you couldn’t really even be sure that the person on the other end was still interested or even still alive. Or think of the Civil War, when the postal service wasn’t nearly as consistent.

I’m writing this in a hotel room in San Francisco. I’m on a business/training trip, teaching some classes here and then heading down to L.A. to interview and train with a Japanese performance artist. I’ll be gone from home for ten days, and that comes after a previous ten-day trip in October. Meanwhile my partner and I are still very much in the “honeymoon phase” since our commitment ceremony last June, so there’s quite a bit of pining and “I miss you’s” going back and forth.

But that’s why I call this an age of miracles. Not the least because I get to sit in a chair and fly through the air to travel these thousand-plus miles. But because I can send her a message telling her “Love you” in faster than it takes you to read this sentence.

Literally. I just did it. And moments later got her response: Love you, back. More everyday. Are we spoiled? Is it silly or clingy or needy (or all three) to bemoan a ten-day separation when couples used to go through months, years of separation with minimal contact? I don’t think so. Like all feelings, it’s subjective, and it’s also tied a lot to expectation. If you know the person you love could contact you more than they actually are, then it can make those feelings worse. Getting a letter that was written by the light of burning airplanes in north Africa is probably a bit more exciting than a tiny text message.

Keep in Loving Touch

Because of my work, this is far from the first (or last) time that Natasha and I will be apart. Over the years of our relationship we’ve found a few ways that help maintain the closeness and even intimacy of our relationship in spite of the travel.

  1. Leverage Technology. We all carry these little miracles around with us, or keep them on our desks. Sending text messages or short voice memos to each other is a great way to give tiny touches of contact during the day. We also send “good morning” pictures (usually hers is to remind me to take my medication) and occasional snapshots during the day. So, things like this:
  2. Don’t Let Technology Leverage You. You may be wondering why we don’t use video messaging like Skype or FaceTime, or why we don’t take that radical step of using the phone to make a phone call (what a concept!)? The reason is simple: for some reason that technology doesn’t work so well for us. We both have busy days, and trying to match schedules for real-time communication is often difficult. Other people I know love phone calls and find text messages tedious. Just because you have the technology doesn’t mean you are required to use it. Use what works for the two of you, and let the rest go.
  3. Ditch Technology. The US Postal Service is a miracle in its own way, and the personal touch of writing a letter or sending a postcard may be slow but it is always appreciated. Sure, you could send an email faster – but the visceral sense of ink on paper that you have actually touched makes a difference for your loved ones. As a side note: I’ve found a good compromise for this is the PostGram App. It combines the personal touch of your own photos with the tactile joy of getting a postcard, for only .99 each.
  4. Nothing is Too Small. One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you are at a distance from your lover is the idea that they won’t want to hear from you. Here’s the tip: if you are thinking of them, let them know. If you think “Oh, I wish I could show her this shirt,” then snap a picture and share it. Part of the miraculous nature of technology is that if someone is too busy,  the message will wait for them. Many’s the time I’ve seen a voice message arrive when I was too busy to listen – but knowing that it was from my sweetheart means that I look forward to creating that moment of intimacy and actually hear her voice.
  5. Make Use of Talismans. Something as simple as a picture of your beloved on your phone, or a piece of jewelry that reminds you of your connection. By taking these talismans with you through your day, you create a shared presence that makes their absence easier to take. It’s the equivalent of the lock of hair kept by separated lovers in the days of yore, but it can be so much more. Once I sent a special cigar to a lover knowing that she would enjoy it while thinking of me, or more importantly, us. Sometimes it’s watching the same movie, sometimes it’s just knowing that you’re both eating at the same time. The more you can link physical experiences to the thought of your distant intimate the easier it will be to still feel their presence in spite of the distance.

That’s five off the top of my head. What ways have you found work when you’re apart from the ones you love? And what doesn’t work so well? Be sure to share in the comments!

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use security to protect your attention

Scary Thoughts on the Road

Last week I talked about the idea of a “Notification Free” week, when you could try to be less distracted by all the beeps and buzzes of the many apps. As promised, I shut down all the notifications on my phone and my iPad and went silent. That meant when people tweeted about me, I didn’t know it; I didn’t get the updates on mail; my phone didn’t tell me when apps updated, and my iPad didn’t let me know there was a new issue of GQ available.

Did it make a difference?

FOMO Strikes Back

At first the only real difference that I could see was that I kept checking the apps themselves – since I didn’t know about the updates, I needed to check them. Like Joel from Buffer, I found that I was the one who interrupted myself with incessant checking.

But the Fear of Missing Out slowly subsided, helped by two factors. First, I spent several days in Vancouver B.C. teaching, performing and training with a Japanese artist. I don’t have cel service in that country. It means that my interactions with the social internet are limited to the availability of wifi.The long breaks between these oases of connection helped to wean me off of that craving. In some ways, traveling to Canada was like a trip to a rehab center, where they slowly taper you off of your addiction to whatever is consuming too much of your life.

But the second reason actually kept me even from logging into those public wifi centers. Simply put, it was fear.

Scarier Than Fiction

You know in all those suspense thrillers or crime procedurals where the computers all work all the time, and instantaneously find the information needed by the protagonists and villains? You never have blue screens of death or spinning wheels of doom and whatever securities the high-end target has in place is easily overcome by the erstwhile hacker typing away at her keyboard in a coffee shop.

We pay a price in security and privacy for the fun of cameras and the cloud. Image Courtesy Vincent Brown.

1984 Is Starting to Look Charmingly Naive

Totally unrealistic fiction, right? Well, yes, except for that last part. According to this article in Medium, it’s pretty remarkably easy for a hacker to get all kinds of information through open networks such as you find in coffee shops. More than that, they can also put information onto your phones.

In less than 20 minutes, here’s what we’ve learned about the woman sitting 10 feet from us: where she was born, where she studied, that she has an interest in yoga, that she’s bookmarked an online offer for a anti-snore mantras, recently visited Thailand and Laos, and shows a remarkable interest in sites that offer tips on how to save a relationship…We try another trick: Anyone loading a website that includes pictures gets to see a picture selected by [the hacker]. This all sounds funny if you’re looking for some mischief, but it also makes it possible to load images of child pornography on someone’s smartphone, the possession of which is a criminal offense.

Given the proliferation of privacy threats out there, all of the sudden having a supercomputer in your pocket is less an asset and more a vulnerability.

Then again, it doesn’t have to be something as big as a hacker. It can be someone looking over your shoulder as you type in that four digit passcode, and boom, they’re in your phone. Those celebrities who had their phones hacked recently didn’t have hackers playing with code; rather they had people who had researched them gain access through password recall mechanisms that functioned exactly as they’re supposed to.

After reading the article, I took a couple of precautions. I changed my passcode on my phone and iPad to longer, ten-digit numbers. I looked for a VPN (that’s Virtual Private Network) client that might help secure my browsing (still looking, by the way).

Then things got worse.

Here to Help You

While I’m certain I turned out more liberal than many of my close relatives are comfortable with, there are some situations where I am as conservative as the rest of them. One of those is privacy; what is written or stored on my computers is mine, and I am very grateful for the fourth amendment protecting from illegal search.

Recently there was a court ruling that cel phones may not be searched without reasonable cause – meaning that if an officer pulls someone over for speeding, they do not have the right to look at recent text messages or status updates on a phone. In addition, even if they do grab your phone, they do not have the right to demand that you unlock it. They can guess, of course, but another security precaution I take is that my phone will delete all information if more than ten attempts are made to guess at the security code.

Then Michael Knight (yes, that’s his real name), a security expert friend of mine from the U.K., told me about a little loophole that I’d not known about.

One of the reasons I did not mind so much about the longer pass codes is because I have the nifty little biometric sensor on my phone. That meant that I didn’t have to actually put in the code – just pressing my thumb to the button would unlock the device.

Guess what? While the Fourth and Fifth Amendments protect me from being forced to reveal my security code, my thumbprint is not similarly protected. So I can have everything encrypted and locked away with complex codes…and they are legally able to force me to use my thumb to give access. It’s similar to the way that governments are legally able to seize and search your hard drive on your computer when you cross a border.

Security Through Naivety

If all of this seems a bit tinfoil hat to you, I can understand. It really may not affect you. However, not only do I want to protect my information, but I also have the records and personal stories of several clients on my laptop. It is ethically my responsibility to keep that from going anywhere other than where they would like. It’s why my laptop now uses encryption for all data, as well as a passphrase to access it. It’s not the strongest in the world, but according to experts it’s pretty durn good.

The tin foil has an additional silver lining, though, which is why you might want to try making your device more secure even if you feel no risk. I’ve found that since I can’t use the fingerprint sensor on my phone that I’m less inclined to want to type in all those numbers. As a result, I only check my phone when I actually intend to find out something – never on a whim. It has meant I’m more engaged with the world around me, and along with the lack of notifications I have found that the world seems a bit less noisy.

It gives me more room to identify the urgent, but more to the point, it gives me the space to enjoy the silence.
I’d invite you to try it, maybe just for this week. The silence? It’s pretty nice.

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ten travel tips

The Practice of Travel

As I come home from an excellent relationship intensive in Heber, UT, seems a good time to update my travel tips.

1. Wear slip-on shoes, not laces. If you usually wear a belt, shift it to suspenders. Also having a satchel, purse, or jacket to easily stash your wallet, watch, etc. will speed up your trip through TSA *immensely*.

2. Have your contact’s phone number, name, and address memorized. Sure, having it in your phone and written down are all good – until your phone breaks or your briefcase is lost or any other number of things. Your memory is the last best traveler’s companion.

3. If you like hot drinks, bring a tumbler. It will often save you money getting refills (especially at outrageously priced airport cafés), can be filled on the plane and get you more than that little silly styrofoam cup, and besides, it’s good for the environment.

4. Be polite. Either *don’t* recline your seat, or if you must, turn and let the person behind you know that you’re about to do it. Why this is not taught at the same time kids learn to say “please”, I do not know. But economy ain’t getting any bigger, and the least we can do is not sacrifice other’s actual comfort for our own minimal improvement.

5. Check with the attendant at the gate to see if carry-on luggage can be checked to your destination. Often they’re happy to (it saves overhead space and quickens boarding time) and you get all the convenience at none of the cost.

6. Don’t buy bottled water. It’s not any better than the stuff in the water fountain, and you’re contributing to the ever-growing mountain of plastic that is slowly eating the globe (seriously). Instead, get yourself a collapsible water bottle. They’re cheap, they are easily carried, and really can help you get better hydrated.

7. You can actually do yoga in your seat on the airplane! Twisting poses, drawing your arm across your body, stretching your wrists, and (depending on your seating space) doing leg bridges, etc can make a long flight much more bearable. Try out any of the many “desk yoga” workouts available online, but modify them for the airplane seat.

8. Stay hydrated. Aside from the water bottle mentioned above, make a rule that when they offer water, you say yes. When they offer some other drinks, ask for water *in addition* to it. And never let yourself walk past a water fountain in the airport without taking a drink from it. Traveling dehydrates you far more than you’d think.

9. Unless you’re allergic to nuts, carry around a small bag of almonds, maybe mixed with something (I happen to like dried cranberries). For some strange reason, almonds are not only a good source of protein, they are also a magic food that helps counter cravings for *other* foods. So when you’re hungry, tired, and walking past some unhealthy restaurant choice, you can pull out the almonds and they will not only tide you over, they will also help get you past that craving for a double bacon cheeseburger with mushrooms. Plus you have something to throw in case you are attacked by nut-allergic ninja pirates.

10. Be polite (part 2). Far too often people presume while traveling that they somehow have some privilege that enables them to talk to the attendants, TSA workers, or shop cashiers as if they were second-class citizens. Don’t be that person. In fact, be the person who stands out because in the midst of a simple interaction (“*Would you like fries with that?*”) you managed to make a connection, human-to-human. You can be the person who the airport worker tells their family about that night, who had the nice smile and treated them so *nicely*. Really, though, you’re being selfish – because treating other people that way makes you feel really, really good about yourself. So tip extra, let people get in front of you in line with a smile, and layer on the “sir” and “ma’am” even if the person looks surprised to be addressed that way.

Actually, *especially* if they look surprised. A little respect can go a long way.

That’s the latest edition of “the Nomad’s Guide to the Practice of Travel”. Got more? Let us know in the

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BONUS POST: Review of Chris Guillebeau’s “The Happiness of Pursuit”

A Dangerous Book About Extraordinary Lives, Including Yours.

As a fellow writer on topics of personal development, I opened “The Happiness of Pursuit” with a healthy dose of skepticism. I was expecting a sort of “cure for the bored and privileged” story of hipsters and such.

Man, was I ever wrong. And very happily so.

Sure, there are people he profiles in the book who had the advantages of wealth or societal position. But there were many who didn’t. Some were solo quests, some were group endeavors. There were stories of tragedy and love and a lot of humor and most of all story after story of human kindness. This is a book that helps restore your faith in the human capacity for both incredible achievement and astonishing generosity.

At the same time it is more than simply a series of anecdotes (including many from Chris’ own quest to visit every country in the world). He examines the motivations behind quests, the processes by which people attempt, fail, or accomplish them. It’s a methodical, scientific approach, pulling out common factors and then presenting them in a way that the reader can use for themselves.

It is a dangerous book in that way. Early in the book he focused on the premise that everyone needs a quest, something to strive towards. My guard was up instantly, since I’m rather happy with my life the way it is: “The last thing I need is a quest! I have to make sure I do NOT let this book derail me into some fool odyssey that will disrupt my life!” Sure enough, about halfway through I’m thinking things like “Huh, maybe I should take up that 100 pushups challenge after all…” or “I’ve always wanted to visit Antarctica” (even though I haven’t). Chris’ engaging and persuasive writing style – talking enough about his own experience to establish credibility without crossing the line into braggodocio – nudges the reader closer and closer over that boundary between “Oh, I couldn’t…” and “Why not?”

Most impressive of all, though, is that unlike many other inspiring books, Chris doesn’t leave you hanging after the inspiration strikes. He spends a good portion of the book talking realistically about the troubles and barriers that occur during quests, including very specific criteria for identifying when it’s best to just quit. He also goes into what to do when you’re done – describing that strange feeling of emptiness that occurs when you’ve done the thing you wanted to do, and are wondering “what next?”

That is possibly the biggest thing that sets this book apart from others in the genre – he covers it all, not just the initial parts, and justifies his initial assertion that everyone does need to find their quest. I thought it was best summed up in one sentence: “Regret is what you should fear the most.”

It’s a quick and easy read, very entertaining, but I’d recommend taking it slowly and letting each chapter marinate in your thoughts for a while. This is a book, like most of his, that has the potential to change your life if you let it.

The Travel Kit of a Digital Nomad

Road Gear for the Wired Odyssey

Travel gear tips
As I sit here writing this on the tarmac in Chicago, I’m relaxed. I’m happy, even, though this cold I got from my grandson is kicking my ass just a bit. It’s been a busy morning; I’ve been able to talk with my partner, with my daughters, I’ve kept on track with the flight status of not only my plane but also my friends (who had a different flight problem). I’ve watched “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and answered customer service emails and written a blog that I got paid for before starting to write this one. It’s the life of the digital nomad, or as I used to call it “LIP” (Location Independent Professional) and it has both good and bad sides. The bad is that it is hard to get away from work. The good, though, is that I can work anywhere, as long as I have my tools – a bevy of electronics – functioning and accessible.

Part of the reason I’m so OK right now is through hard-learned lessons of hundreds of plane flights, dozens of train rides, a few boat trips and one very memorable dash through Amsterdam precariously perched on the back of a bicycle pedaled by a Dutch sonophilic lawyer.

My life. It has its moments.

What follows might not really qualify as a “practice”, because it’s more about the equipment I use. However, much like there is a practice for maintaining a car, or cleaning a weapon, there is a sense of deliberation put into this. More than just a list of geeky things, these are the things that keep my mind relaxed and clear when traveling so that I can handle the unexpected blips more gracefully.

Battery pack. I owe my friend Evan for this one; he showed me his at the “Drawn & Quartered” in London, and mentioned how it could charge his phone eight times over. Of course I had to get one that could do that, plus charge my iPad, and also had a built in flashlight…but the real reward was freedom from anxiety. I never realized how much thought and energy I put into keeping my devices powered until I no longer needed to worry about it. You may not need a big one, but it’s a handy thing.

Airline Apps: This is a mishmash of things, but basically it comes down to this: you can do things on your phone like have your boarding passes stored, check your flight status, and more. It’s not perfect – my favorite airline, SouthWest, doesn’t have digital boarding passes for some arcane reason – but it means I never worry about losing my boarding pass, trying to find a monitor to check flight statuses, and more. Some other apps like Flight Update help me plan out my trips in advance as well and keep me up to date. On the other hand, I’ve never had any use for services like TripIt.com; I’m not sure why, I don’t think they’re bad, they just haven’t been useful for me.

Stylish Pockets: Under my seat in front of me is a black leather blazer. It’s got a front outside pocket that fits my phone well, an inside pocket that fits my passport wallet, a left pocket that will hold my Kindle, and a right pocket that holds a moleskine and pen. It’s leather, so provides protection from the elements, but it’s a blazer, so it’s also relatively presentable (Ok, RealMenRealStyle.com might disagree, but I don’t have his budget). Notice, though, I said “stylish” pockets. Many men will forget that part and get photography vests (not stylish unless you’re a photographer) or cargo shorts (not stylish unless you’re hiking) and load up the pockets. I get it; there’s a kind of mentality, reinforced by Pat Rothfuss, that just. Wants. More. Pockets. Remember, moderation in everything, and while pockets are good, looking like a mutant marsupial will get you funny looks from your seatmate.

GripIt Organizer: This goes along with the battery, sort of. I bought it as a whim about a year ago, and it’s amazing. Mine is 9″x6″, and on it I store:

  • Battery pack
  • Headphone cord
  • Micro-to-USB cable (not for my devices, but in case a friend needs one)
  • Lightning-to-USB cable
  • Ipad cable
  • Wall USB plug (works with all three cables)
  • Credit Card reader for iPhone
  • 2 binder clips
  • Manila envelope with sales/publicity materials
  • Spare iPhone earbuds

It all fits quite neatly in my satchel, and there is no more fumbling for cables, looking for lost gear…heck, even when I’m home I hang it on a wall hook next to my desk. In a perfect world I’d have doubles of everything on it, so this could just be my “travel set” – but as it is, organization provides peace of mind.

Bluetooth Headphones: True audiophiles (like my bicycling friend in Amsterdam) would tell me I’m missing out, but since I made the switch to a set of bluetooth headphones (the Out Door Tech “Privates”, which yes, makes me giggle) I’ve loved it. Like the hunt for power, the aggravation of cables was never as evident as when it was gone. It probably doesn’t make as much difference if you’re running or walking, but when you’re doing those things while juggling a phone, carry-on luggage, a satchel, boarding passes (damn you, SouthWest!) and a cup of coffee, not having to worry about a cable can make a big difference.

We’re rolling again on the tarmac, and I’m thinking we might actually be getting in the air soon. So there you have it; the things that make my life as a digital nomad easier. There are some problems I’ve not found solutions too – like carrying a water bottle and a reusable coffee mug, or figuring out how to both manage my headphones and a stylish hat. Also, every travel pillow I’ve ever tried is just plain awful.

How about you? Got any travel secrets to share, or travel problems you might like me to tackle? I’m off to Boston in a few days, so if you have some travel hack you think I should try, let me know!