Categories
Travel

Vancouver Winter Olympics – Lines, Houses and Hockey

Vancouver is an interesting city. In general there is nothing spectacular about it but there is nothing you can really put as a negative either. It’s kind of ‘neutral’ – which why I find it interesting. There are few cities I have been to that I would class as ‘neutral’. There is lots of natural beauty, a positive but the weather is average, a negative. Groceries are cheap, a positive, beer is expensive, a negative. During the 2010 Winter Olympics however, there is a unique buzz.

In terms of organisation and controlling logistics, I would say Canada did an average job. There is minimal information available on transport, pricing, events both sporting and cultural. Maybe there is information, just not much on the first page of Google, which is usually as far as I look. Either their information sucks or their SEO specialists suck, either way, not too impressed. Busses have arrived at events up to 90 minutes late, people have had their tickets refunded due to badly designed venues and there was no backup plan in case Mother Nature didn’t deliver the required snow for the various events (which she didn’t). But to be fair, organising the Winter Olympics is probably more difficult than the summer. Everything needs to be frozen!

I understand the difficulties associated with the various sporting events, but one true complaint I have is about the lines for everything else. You seriously have to line up for everything! The houses, the bottle shops, the shows, for pizza, for the train, there is a line for everything… I don’t have a genius solution for this problem, just venting.

But there are definitely positives too. The tens of thousands of people that have flocked here for the Olympics have seriously given this place a buzz, especially in the nights. The downtown streets are alive (pending weather) with people. Red and white are the colours of the moment, with people sporting flags as capes, red maple leaves as hats and usually some form of red face paint.

The second positive fallout from the Olympics are the houses. For those that don’t know, there are a number of countries who set up what are called ‘houses’ to promote their countries, host their natives and get people drunk. There is the Russian House trying to convince people to attend the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia, houses from the major Canadian states and other random houses such as the Irish, German and Holland Heineken which I think are there just to get people really really drunk. The houses are either temporary structures built over open spaces such as car parks or non-alcoholic venues converted like Science World.

They have interactive events during the day, lots of cool Winter Olympic virtual stuff resembling the such as virtual ice hockey, speed skating and snowboarding. Historic facts and shows on the Winter Olympics. Cultural displays from the relative countries and various things for kids to do. Then at 8pm they kick out all the kids, bring on music of some sort and turn into massive parties in excess of 3000 people!

One of the main notables of Canada is their love of ice hockey. I’m pretty sure this is a well known fact but Canadians seriously love hockey. Most people would sacrifice a limb of some sort to see their country win gold (which they did and went nuts over!). I’ve seen hockey games on the main downtown street at midnight. Hockey games played by 5 year olds. Hockey sticks replacing walking sticks. Hockey in parks, back yards, on streets, in cars, frigin hockey everywhere! It’s so infectious, that every expat I have met has been converted. It’s like a living breathing entity that consumes you. Pretty weird. I imagine it’s like soccer/futball/football in South America or the UK.

I’ve had a great time here, it’s fun partying with people from all over the world and the buzz of any city hosting the Olympics is going to be great. But I think to get a true feeling of what the city is like I will need to spend some non-Olympic time here.

Categories
Business

4 Tips to Not Get Screwed on Elance

For those who don’t know, elance.com is a site where people can sell their services. Basically like an ebay for services instead of goods.

The way it works is you can post a job for anything from web design, data entry, marketing, ghost writing to virtual assistance and relevant service providers can pitch for your work. You then select the provider who you think best fits your request and they start working away.

Funds are placed in an escrow holding service and released once you mark the work as satisfactory.

Anything that can be done remotely can be organised over elance.

The key benefit of this system is the ability to take advantage of currency differences. You can pay someone market rates in India or Eastern Europe and have it come to a fraction of the cost in a western country.

But using this service to complete tasks does not come without complications.

I’ve done a few projects on elance now, some better than others.

Here are a few tips from my fails:

1. DON’T BE A PUSHOVER LITTLE BITCH

Seriously, this is important.

Treat your freelancer like your boss treats you – there is a job to do, no exceptions.

For people with no management experience, this can be tricky. I learned quickly as I saw a project expand from 2 weeks to 2 months! Setting rules is important as discussed below, but enforcing rules is equally if not more important.

Don’t listen to excuses like “the work was harder than we thought” or “you had too many change requests”. They shouldn’t have bid if the work was too hard. If they think your change requests are going to push out milestones, they need to request milestone changes. If they don’t, tough luck. You’re not the expert they are.

2. Make rules

Make rules for everything. How, when and in what format you want the work delivered.

Ask for periodic updates and set deliverable dates. Tell them if things are not up to your expectations you will pull the project or have them restart.

Be specific in your rules. If for example you’re having a website done, tell them if you want the site up and running on your host or if you just want the files sent. Tell them if you want social media integration, testing or support.

These should all be laid out before the job is accepted.

3. Punish rule breakers

Set penalties for rules being broken.

As an example a 5% penalty for every milestone not met.

That means, if they update you in 4 days instead of 3, hit them with a 5% penalty. Make sure you do this the FIRST time they miss a milestone. This will discontinue a pattern of abuse. Again, don’t be a pushover little bitch. Highlight punishments clearly in the rules before the project starts.

4. Don’t give feedback until you are completely happy.

This means that everything is up and running and you have tested everything. Don’t get conned into providing feedback after you see the site working well on their host, or you have a general brand theme without all items complete.

Elance workers like eBay sellers live for feedback. And once you leave feedback, you can’t change it. Many suppliers would prefer a 5 star review and 50% of the money over 100% cash and a 3 star review.

The verdict?

There is no doubt elance can provide quality work for cheap over a secure and reliable platform.

But if you let people screw you, they probably will.

The success of the project still rests on the project manager – you!

Categories
Travel

Outbound Flights… F*&k!

I can’t believe this has happened to me twice in the last 6 weeks. First from Sydney into Bangkok, then from Bangkok to Vancouver. Both Jetstar and China Airlines wouldn’t let me on the flight without having an outbound ticket from the country.

As an Australian, I am allowed to stay 30 days in Thailand without a visa, and 6 months in Canada. 6 months!!! How can they expect me to have an outbound ticket if I may leave https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agzhFDHQeHEsomewhere within the next 6 months!

I understand the logic, kinda. I understand that if people don’t have an outbound ticket, there is the possibility that they may jump ship and stay in the country. But if someone is running away from their country to start a new illegal life and they have the money to buy a ticket, do you think that’s going to stop them? Do you think that they may just not get on that flight?

When I was in Sydney dealing with Jetstar they blatantly told me over the counter “we can book you a refundable ticket, and for a $40 fee you can get a refund when you land in Thailand” – so that’s what I did. Big deterrent if I was trying to stay illegally in the country – ohh no, not a $40 cancellation fee. To my amazing frustration, once I landed in BKK, nobody checked to see if I had an outbound ticket.. I just got my bag and walked off. Very annoying.

In Bangkok (I’m sitting in the airport drinking away my frustration) I bought a ticket out of Canada to England. So I’m not sure if they will check in Canada about my outbound flight but if I’m allowed to stay 6 months – I highly doubt they will.

(Edit: Canada did check my ticket. They actually screened me quite thoroughly. It seems countries think it’s weird when someone is travelling with no exact plans or job.)

Luckily I’m in Canada for training and need to be in Sudan in a month’s time so have some dates to work with and the ticket will get used. I would have liked a little more time than the 1 hour and 300b per hour internet to find and book a ticket tho.

It pisses me off how they let you book the one way ticket on the internet with no notification until you are checking in that you need an outbound ticket.

I need to find a way to get around this… I was thinking maybe I could have bought a cheap bus ticket into the US? Or maybe just taken an old flight confirmation email edited the dates and locations in word to fake I had a flight? (Edit: I don’t think this is a very good idea now)

The China Airlines “supervisor” said that it was immigration law and that the airlines can get fined if I don’t have a ticket. I think that’s a load of crock. (Edit: It’s actually the truth) But when your flight leaves in 2 hours, you don’t really have much choice.

Anyone know and sneaky tactics to get around this?

Categories
Travel

I’m Such a Flashpacker…

The hot sticky air of Bangkok only added to my frustration as I searched my belongings for the illusive memory card reader. I still haven’t found it… But that was the day, after I ripped every electronic related item from my bag and dumped them on the floor I realised… I’m such a flashpacker.

Flashpacking, according to Wikipedia:

Flashpacking is a neologism used to refer to an affluent backpacker. Whereas backpacking is traditionally associated with budget travel and destinations that are relatively cheap, flashpacking has an association of more disposable income while travelling and has been defined simply as backpacking with a bigger budget.

A simple definition of the term Flashpacker can be thought of as backpacking with flash, or style. One school of thought defines the flashpacker as a rapidly growing segment of travellers who adhere to a modest accommodation and meal budget, while spending freely, even excessively, for activities at their chosen destination. Another school of thought defines flashpacking as an incongruous mix of ‘slumming it’ and luxury; of adventurous travel with those on a budget by day and sedate dining and comfortable accommodation by night. Flashpackers have been further defined as tech-savvy adventurers who often prefer to travel with a cell phone, digital camera, iPod and a laptop, although none of these is required in order to be a flashpacker. As with other forms of travel, the term flashpacker is mainly one of self-identification. The origin of the term itself is obscure.

The term also reflects a growing demographic of travellers who are forsaking traditional organized travel, venturing to destinations once the reserve of more adventurous backpackers, and the increasing number of individuals who leave well paid jobs or take ‘career breaks’, using the time to travel independently, but with greater comfort and many of the gadgets they are accustomed to at home. As a result, hostels are evolving and offering more up-market accommodation and facilities to those still travelling on a budget in order to obtain their business. Hostels have realized a need to evolve in order to meet the changing demands of travellers.

I don’t spend money on expensive hotels (I try to keep to $20 AUD per night max) and I often stay in a hostels for cheaper. But if I am staying for a longer period, I will look for WIFI.

I’ll happily eat on the street for $1-2, but I’ll spend $20-$40 drinking in a fancy bar.

I don’t mind local buses, but if I need to be somewhere in a hurry I will fly.

My Cable Collection

I personally think these traits are similar to many individuals that class themselves as “backpackers”. The main difference I see between me and them is the number of cables I carry and the emotional ties I have to them…

The whole mobility / digital nomad / location independence movement has spawned many flashpackers and these numbers are only growing with technology advances and as more start to earn a living on the road.

But there is the argument that if you’re carrying the proverbial baggage that is your precious electronics, it can restrict you from the ‘full experience’ of travel. To this point, I would have to agree. I take precautions because of my electronics and desire to work on the road which restrict me. I’m also waay to attached to my electronics – not healthy.

Final thought

I can’t say for sure what the best way to travel is, each to their own I guess.

But I ask you this:

Does one experience more, travelling while working for 12 months or working at home for 11 months and travelling for 1?

Categories
Travel

Koh Phi Phi – The Isle of Dreams

koh phi phi

Koh Phi Phi, is a small, famous Island in the south of Thailand, a 2 hour boat trip from Phuket. As some of you may know, the neighbouring island is where Leonardo Di Caprio filmed “The Beach” it was also the island most traumatised by the Tsunami – I also here there was some old school James Bond film set there before my time. Famous for its beautiful beaches, water activities, views and resorts – there are plenty of blogs that will tell you all about that kind of thing.

This post is about why I – a 20 something single male – liked it.

The Scene

Koh Phi Phi is one of the most expensive places in Thailand, with 5 star resorts, expensive restaurants and cocktail bars. Perfect for families, couples and oldies. Yawwwn…

It is also a thriving island for backpackers on the Thailand Circuit. Each comes for different reasons.

I came for the latter.

The Island

Phi Phi is an island shaped like a backwards “h” with the arch being a double sided beach. The area between the two beaches is the town, with the peninsulas housing resorts. Due to the size of the island, and the fragility of the environment there are no land motor vehicles allowed, thus moving from the resorts into the town can take a while walking or be expensive chartering a boat. This means all backpacker related things are walking distance apart. And I mean everything: the guest houses, restaurants, bars, beaches, water activities, tourist places, miscellaneous shops (needed for purchasing replacement thongs every morning), clubs, beach parties, everything… This is fantastic for the social scene, as you run into the same people over and over again. On top of this it makes it easy to switch venues on the fly without concern, no 20 min taxi drive across town into the unknown and worrying about getting home. Small = good.

The People

Small = good is an interesting statement, particularly being a big city boy. The difference between Phi Phi and some rural hick town in inner Australia is the people. The beauty and fame attracts travellers from all around the world. I arrived in Phi Phi two days after the Full Moon party ended on Koh Pang Yang and it was swarming with Swedish backpackers, yes, lots of Swedish girls. Need I say more?

Amenities

Again, Phi Phi’s stature brings world class accommodation and food. But for a backpacker these material comforts are of little interest. I stayed in a 600 baht per night guest house with a nice veranda out onto the sidewalk (by veranda I mean concrete slab). It was all class. A double bed, a decaying combo drawer-chest-bed side table thingy and a wall mounted electric fan. A bathroom the size of my shower back home, which was quite nice because I could sit on the toilet while taking my cold shower – better than standing. A scoop flush toilet, oh and the sink was outside the bathroom with a small piece of PVC pipe drilled through the wall. But when you’re in a place like Phi Phi, who cares? I spent 8 hours a day in my room, and half that time I was asleep. You can upgrade if you want, but I don’t see the point. Some say a nicer place helps with attracting the opposite sex. I disagree. Just tell them it’s cute. It was!

What to do

A typical day – after hang over recovery – starts at about 10 or 11 involving water of some sort. Beach, swim, snorkel, scuba, boat, wind surf, etc… followed by some type of relaxing activity – read and/or sleep in a hammock? These are all great options because there are plenty of people out and about that you can meet. All buzzed from their holiday. Make an effort to remember people’s names, you will meet them again.

After dinner, from 7-9pm, the place shuts down. The bars get ready to open, the restaurants empty and the streets go quite – ignoring the distinct massage parlour sales pitch ringing through the street “mmaaaaaaaaaaasssssssssssssaaaaaaaaagggggg?!?!” No thank you.  “Come on, you very handsome boy, you come massage!?” No thank you. Haven’t they ever heard of probe and match?

Then 9 strikes and everything starts to change. First stop Reggae bar, centre of town, unique for its Muay Thai ring. Even more so for the talented host who convinces Swedish girls to fight. Complete with cheap local beer, a free BBQ and plenty of pool tables – it’s an Aussie bloke’s heaven. From there you can meander around town, with a number of bars and side stalls selling the standard Thai beers, cocktails and death-trap buckets – red bull syrup, a flask of vodka and a can of sprite. *Note, playing drinking games where the punishment is to drink your whole drink is a bad idea when holding one of these, best to get a glass. Be prepared to meet people you met through the day while during your meandering.

When the clock strikes 12, its time to hit the beach. Both the beaches host beach parties each night, all night. With bon fires and beats it’s the perfect place to dance the night away – and lose your thongs. Don’t worry, you may find new ones – otherwise its off to the misc shops in the morning.

Night swimming is always a good option, but if you plan to skinny dip be sure you note where you put your clothes. I heard from a reliable source you can be charged a pretty penny for assistance. And if you have the stamina (which you will after one of those buckets), I highly recommend watching the sun rise. Very pretty.

Can you dream of a better island?

Categories
Technology

Why LinkedIn is Awesome and you Need an Account Today!

It only takes one person to change your life.

Plenty of people dont see the value of LinkedIn. They Say its crap and they never use it because they cant post photos of last weekends dress up party where they attended as a “tranny in custody”.

LinkedIn has many benefits, and yes, it’s true it may be more useful for certain professions such as sales, recruitment and entrepreneurs. But there is one undeniable benefit that should make it mandatory for everyone with even a smidgen of ambition: Networking.

I know that sounds dumb. After all it’s a networking tool. But many – especially 20 something’s – don’t see the potential.

Think of LinkedIn like a retirement fund. The earlier you start the more valuable it becomes.

Take a hypothetical case study:

You’re 21 and in your first job. In your department, there are 15 people you interact with on a regular basis.

You open your account and connect with those 15 people.

Legend:

  • Blue men = Connections
  • Red man = You

During your time at this company (average 2-5 years) the people you work with start to move on to different companies – presumably in a similar industry. After a few years, your network will look like this:

Now you have contacts in 8 different companies (including yours) that you can use as referees, for market information or to help you get a job in their new company (more on how to use your connections in the future).

Pre-LinkedIn you may have stayed in touch with a few colleagues, but inevitably some would drop off your radar and become unreachable.

After 4-5 years you decide to move on.

You take a job at Company I and start working with 15 shiny new colleagues who join your network.

As the years move on these people leave and join new companies. While that is happening, colleagues from Company A are still moving about.

Suddenly, you have contacts in 17 companies. Remember, these are people you have worked with and know on a personal level. Even if you don’t speak with them for a couple of years, it’s easy to reinitiate contact. You will have their email and the company they work for. You can easily call reception and get transferred.

Trying to track all these people without LinkedIn is starting to become difficult, even for the most socially proficient individuals.

Then, as time moves on, you take your third job.

Another 15 shiny new connections join your network.

During this time, your previous colleagues continue to move in their careers, taking promotions and joining companies you may have never heard of.

Here’s where it becomes messy.

Are you really going to bother to track movements of all of your past colleagues? I know I wouldn’t, even with the knowledge I have. LinkedIn does it all for you.

The best part? Using it in a simplistic capacity like this is about 5 hours per year of work.

Adding new colleagues to your network and updating your profile with promotions and job changes. That’s all. 5 hours per year for a lifetime network. You’d be a fool not to…

Now consider adding your friends, peers from university, 50 colleagues per company and you change companies every 3 years for 30 years.

The numbers start to inflate. People change countries and industries. You build yourself a global network. Happy days.

Remember, just because you are not ‘using’ it doesn’t mean it’s not valuable and the longer you wait, the more likely those early connections will slip through the cracks.

So what are you waiting for? Join today! And while you’re at it, add me as a connection.

http://www.abstract-living.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/1.jpg
Categories
People

D-Day: The DTR Talk (Determine the Relationship)

Being the typical, young, male, commitment-phobe I am, I’ve had a few of these conversations. Some went better than others. All were uncomfortable. If I only knew…

Firstly I want to highlight I am no love doctor or dating coach, but relationships are an important factor of lifestyle design. More so for the location independent worker or globetrotter, as many people you meet won’t have your level of flexibility.

New Love

Ahh, new love, is there anything more exciting? The first few days, weeks or months after a chance encounter leads to meeting someone new and exciting. The first eye-gaze, the first joke, the first kiss, the first time you [adult reference]. Days filled with flirty text messages, stories, teasing and laughter. In the office it’s easy to spot. Cheeky grins and chuckles while typing an ‘important email’ – definitive signs of a flirty conversation. These days or weeks can become some of your fondest memories until…

D-Day

D-Day: the day of the Determine the Relationship (DTR) conversation. This is the talk where your potential partner drops a question like “what’s happening between us?”, “where this is going?” or “my friends have been asking me about my relationship status on Facebook?”. You know it’s coming, but you never know just quite when, where or how. Sometimes it’ll be as obvious as a smack in the face, sometimes as subtle as… something really subtle. Typically face-to-face, occasionally on the phone – I’ve even had one over txt (gen-y in action) but it is bound to come.  Depending on how things are going so far and your situation in life, this conversation can be a huge weight off your chest or the uncomfortable moment you’ve been dreading. Either way, it’s an inevitable and important talk that will set foundations for the relationship and should not be overlooked.

Strategy

Every relationship is different. People need to look inside at what they feel and outside at their circumstance before making a decision, but there are a few things you can do to make things smoother.

  1. Be Prepared. It’s going to happen sooner or later. Just knowing its coming will stop you being caught off guard.
  2. Control the environment. Don’t let an argument or a fight spark the conversation. Try to avoid having it in public or when you might be interrupted (like in the morning before work). If the environment isn’t right, move it. Tell them you understand this is an important conversation but you don’t feel this is the right time and place. Set a new time and place, somewhere you won’t be distracted.
  3. Be honest. Relationships are tricky. Sometimes you just don’t know. And deciding if you want to commit to someone is a massive decision. So if you don’t know where your head or your heart is, be honest. Talk through what you like and don’t like about the relationship. Talk through your life situation and the things that may be holding you back. If you’re not sure, say so. It’s unfair on the other person to be vague or deceptive because you need more time to figure things out.
  4. Accept the outcome. Usually this conversation will finish with 1 of 3 outcomes. Either you move forward with your relationship, you continue as things are to reassess in the future or you part ways to look for greener pastures. Whatever the case, be mature and accept the outcome. Don’t have a hissy fit if it doesn’t work out like your dreams (her offering a no strings attached relationship and all her friends are invited / him proposing while doing the dishes and calling your mum).
  5. Understand the outcome can change. Remember, whatever happens, you can usually change it. Sometimes, losing someone is the only way you realise how much you care for them (or how much they annoy you).

Ever had a weird, funny or scary DTR talk?