Categories
People Technology

Blogworld 2010 #bwe – My Review

I was a lucky SOB and managed to win myself a full access pass to Blogoworld last week. It was an awesome experience. I have been to many trade shows in the past but nothing like this. And none since I set out on my own last year. I used to go representing my company which is a little different.

I had also never been to a multi-day event, which had parties too.

One thing I have learned about myself over the last year, is that I suck at networking online. I just don’t have the patience for it. I know this may be a bit of a negative being in the online space as there is no better place to meet people who work online than online… But I just don’t like doing it. I don’t like hanging out on Facebook, I don’t like tweeting stuff, I think its weird meeting and connecting with people online.

But hey, that’s just my opinion and personally, I think its a pretty stupid one. I should do more of it. I just feel that the computer is a place of work and learning. When I am on my computer, I am almost always doing one of those things. If I am not doing one of those things, I quickly start to feel uncomfortable and need to get outside, meet some people, do some exercise, do something!

I also know this challenge I have is the opposite of many other bloggers / internet markets who find it awkward to meet and connect with people in person but have no troubles online. I guess its the salesman in me.

So when Blogworld came about, I was like a kid in a candy store. Admittedly, I only went to the full first day, then the clubs afterwards. Even though I didn’t make it to too many events the next couple of days (partly due to the seductive beckoning of the pool, partly due to my hangover), I made it to every party – and after party. I know this was almost the reverse schedule of lots of the attendees who made it to Blogworld. Whichever way you prefer to use your time, you need to make sure you use your time.

I didn’t feel there were too many advanced content courses being taught during the days, but lots of great stuff if you are just getting into new and social media.

The nights were where it was at. I met so many interesting people. Had so much fun. Spammed business cards, collected business cards, pumped my LinkedIn account oh and did I mention the fun?

Whatever the type of person you are, if you work in the internet space I think Blogworld is worth checking out. I will definitely be back there next year if I am on this side of the planet.

So what did I get out of Blogworld (besides the ability to party for a few nights in Vegas?) – contacts. I met people. Lots of interesting people. And its all about who you know right?

Here are some photos including some great content slides from Blogworld:

Categories
Travel

The Luggage Conundrum (or How I Chose a Travel Bag)

For a traveler, a bag is like the hermit crab’s shell. It’s the last line of defense for your most valuable assets (besides body parts). Many people will give you advice when choosing a travel bag. People, who know lots, people who know little. The salesman, the taxi driver, colleagues at work and your mother. People who have travelled the world, people who have travelled the mall and people who think a backpack is what their kids use to carry their lunch to school.

And now me! I’m not an expert on bags by any means, but I had to quickly upgrade my skillz as my bag was going to be my new home for the next 12 months and I didn’t want to regret my purchase. Below is the breakdown of how I made my decision.

Your bag choice is dependent on 3 key factors.

  1. Where you’re going
  2. What you’re doing
  3. Your body type

In my situation, I am going on a diverse trip that will include cities and mountains, formal and informal. This means that I wanted a bag that would cover a variety circumstances. I am also 182cm (6 foot), meaning I can handle most types and sizes of bag. This is different to someone going on hiking or on a business trip.

Below is what I looked for in a pack:

  1. Easy to pack and access stuff
  2. Easy to maneuver – on average, across all terrain
  3. Durable
  4. Lockable
  5. Designed to suit both formal and non-formal occasions

The Options:

Trekking Backpack

Trekking Backpack

These are your standard, top loading, mountain climbing backpacks. They give you the most back support, the best waste strap and weight distribution of all backpacks, which is obviously helpful if you are climbing a mountain. They are also very durable. Unfortunately most of them are top loaders, which I found from my last trip was incredibly annoying. If you wanted to access something in the middle of the bag, you need to pull everything out. I can imagine this would be more annoying on the side of a frozen mountain, but maybe less annoying than a sore back… they are also not lockable, mostly come in bright colours and generally look pretty sporty.

Travel Backpack

Travel PackTravel packs are fast becoming the preferred choice for post-adolescent vagabonders. Basically they are trekking packs but with a different ‘access structure?’. Instead of top loading the bag, they have zips that go around the bag opening 1/3 – 2/3rds of the bag. This makes it much easier to access things inside, it also makes them lockable. The downside to the change in shape of the pack is less support and weight distribution. But unless you are going on 10+ day treks, you won’t be able to tell the difference. Travel packs also come in tamer designs, sections to pack away the back straps and generally look more presentable.

Wheeled Backpack

Wheeled BackpackThe tool of the flashpacker. Wheeled backpacks are relatively new, especially the models that work well. A decent wheeled backpack will come with wheels and a handle that pops out to move across flat surfaces plus shoulder and waste straps. They will open almost as well as a suitcase 60-80% giving excellent access. They come in formal designs that allow you to pack up the straps and wheel it around to look important like. On the negative side, they are the worst backpack you can get. But again, you probably won’t notice this unless you are going on long treks or you over-pack. They have a frame like a suitcase to keep the shape and they are built for optimal weight distribution while wheeling, not trekking.

Duffle Bag/Wheeled Duffle Bag

Duffel BagAhh the duffle bag, usually sported by athletes (I think they get them for free?), mobsters (AKs and cash of course) and private school kids in Sydney’s North Shore (no idea why – and they’re all from a store called Country Road). Duffle bags open well – about 2/3’s of the bag – making packing and accessing your stuff a breeze. They have a single shoulder strap and some have wheels making them good for inner and inter-city gallivanting. However, a single shoulder strap can become very uncomfortable and is ergonomic suicide for your back if you’re carrying over 10kgs and walk for more than 30 min. They either look sporty or dodgy and no frame means that smart clothes can lose their shape.

Suitcase

SuitcaseI am not going to explain what a suitcase is. If you don’t know what one is, you’re an idiot and should stop reading my blog. Suitcases are good because they open up 100% of the way and have a strong frame. This means packing, unpacking, and accessing your stuff is great and they also keep delicate clothes and other items intact. They will come with wheels, making them good for city movement but try and get on a crowded bus or walk down a pebble airstrip with one and you suddenly find yourself in a world of pain.

My Verdict:

The wheeled backpack. As mentioned above, I was looking for 5 criteria in my selection. The only pack that matched all of these was the Wheeled Backpack. I am not going to be hiking for the next 12 months, I will mostly be in cities and towns. I may have to walk for long distances, but most of the time I will be on a road where I can wheel. It was a close decision between the travel backpack and the wheeled – the argument was “wheeled backpacks are gay and you will look like a geek not like a cool hipster backpacker” – but in the end, I chose functionality over fashion. Function over fashion is key when moving towards a minimalistic lifestyle. Plus I can always open it into a backpack before I walk into hostels so I look cool.

The Pack:

The best rated wheeled pack I found was the Victorinox Trek Pack plus. This thing has more patients than you can throw a stick at. Plus Victorinox is known for its quality luggage, lifetime guarantee and perfect wheels.

Unfortunately, they don’t sell these in Australia anymore… I don’t know why something about being discontinued or upgraded something… and ordering stuff from the US to Australia is a freekin nightmare.

So I went with the Caribee Fast Track 75 pack.

Carabee Fast Track

The Fast Track is a good option. For starters, its 1/3 the price of the Victorinox. It has a good access structure, with a main section and bottom section for breaking up your stuff. Both of these open well giving about 80% access. Both sections are also lockable. It has strong, big, treaded wheels that can go over rough terrain, has wheel covers to protect my precious clothes from the dirt plus is built with a durable, waterproof material (although water can still get in from the zips). The waste strap is good, holding most of the weight of the bag when using as a backpack and it looks fairly professional (black colour) when all the straps are packed.

All in all, I’m quite happy with my purchase. I have not tested it in harsh climates or over razor blades but if it performs particularly well or poorly in a given situation, I will update this post.

UPDATE: After using this bag for 6 months, I am extremely happy with my purchase. There has been literally no damage to the pack anywhere. The wheels are seriously a god send when you’re tired and not having to constantly take your bag on and off while moving around trains and busses is great. I ditched the day bag that it came with for a bigger computer backpack. So not having to carry a bag on both my front and back also makes everything much easier. In 6 months, I have used it as a backpack less than 10 times. This has only been for long walks on rough ground everywhere else I wheel it around. The compressor straps are great, making packing neater and easier. And the internal pockets and compartments are wonderful for keeping things organised. So yes, very the happy.

What kind of bag do you use?

Categories
People

Working while Travelling: Distractions and the Zone

I’m on the train out of Edinburgh, a very impressive city to say the least. The medieval town is blessed with exceptional geography making it the perfect location for a castle and line of defence. The history is deep and the streets so charming you can wander for hours and not get bored. I leave this historical town after an interesting morning, very relevant to my personality type which according to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator is ENTP.  For those that don’t know, Myers Briggs is the oldest and most used personality type classification index available today. It was developed in WW2 and is used by the military, banks and universities to help determine if people are the right fit for certain tasks and positions. ENTP is the strategist personality type.

One interesting characteristic of my personality type is we are innately disorganised. It’s not that we can’t be organised when needed, it’s just we tend to not be bothered. Instead of spending time organising stuff, we’d prefer to spend it doing stuff. We also have the ability to ignore mess. If something is messy but not directly affecting the task we’re trying to achieve, it won’t affect us emotionally. We don’t notice messy papers lying around our desk but if someone were to come with a bucket of tar and throw it all over our desk and chair that would affect us. When some travel, they travel on a strict itinerary – every stop booked, every sight planned and guide book in hand as they power through their destination of choice. I kinda do the opposite.

Take today for example. I checked out of my hostel at 10am, spent two hours deciding where to go then jumped on a train at 13:06. I missed the bus to London due to a Windows 7 update so decided on Whitby – the home of Captain James Cook (the guy who found Australia). I felt like going somewhere that wasn’t so commercial and a little off the beaten path. I also wanted somewhere I could get some work done.

Working while travelling is seriously hard, it’s hard for a number of reasons but I find the most difficult part is switching your mind between work and play. Everyone is having a good time talking about their adventures it’s difficult to get into the mindset of work. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a ‘digital nomad’ who is just as efficient on the move as when stationary. One of the downfalls of my ENTP personality type is I tend to get wrapped up in having fun. This leads to lots of fun and good times for all but also means some stupid shit happening from time to time, a pushing aside of other responsibilities and inevitable spending a little more cash.  Like yesterday I was supposed to go on a highlands tour at 8am to see the Lochness and Scottish Highlands. I had my alarm set for 7am like a good boy, but after finding myself on a pub crawl, ending with me crawling back into bed at 5am, it didn’t happen… I had an awesome night probably more fun than I would have had on the tour but I lost my deposit and missed out on the experience of the highlands.

This comes back to the working while travelling. It’s not that it’s hard to find a cafe and do some work. It’s hard to get into the mindset of “ok, its work time”. When travelling you find yourself with a few hours here or there. Yes you could pump out the work needed in those little breaks, but with constant interferences getting in the headspace to work is hard.

There is a lot of talk going around the productivity blogsphere about single tasking, removing interferences and total immersion. These topics focus on how you are more efficient when focused on a single task without disruptions. The concept is if you are working on something, say writing and you get distracted from your task, it takes your mind about 15 minutes to get back into that state of focus. This is why multi-tasking is not advised. This happens if your wife knocks on the door and asks you what you want for dinner, an email pops up which you decide to reply to or you go on a pub crawl. Travel is full of distractions like this making it much harder to get into a zone of work. Even if you find yourself with a few hours free here or there. This is where I am jealous of the J’s (the polarity to P on the Myers Briggs). They have everything so ordered and planned. They will plan when things are going to happen and will be mentally prepared to execute them when the time comes. They may miss out on 5am Edinburgh benders and trip changes due to Windows 7 updates, but they probably get more work done and save money in the process.

One of the key elements for me being productive is controlling my environment. Your environment can help to influence emotional state. And creating a productive, single task minded state (let’s call it a zone) will result in high levels of productivity. It also helps you to eliminate distractions and focus on a single task. There are 3 elements important to creating a productive zone:

Physical Location: Put yourself in a location that is conducive to productivity. If you work in sales, working in a sales office with energy around you will help. Internet marketers: A quiet room with access to your computers. Fiction writer: maybe a writer’s cottage in Greece or the Elephant Cafe in Edinburgh (Harry Potter fans?).

Physical Distractions: Set yourself a work schedule and let your distractions know about it. Tell the people in your life that this is your work time and you need it free and free means free. Let them know that a 2 minute disturbance equals more than that in lost productivity. Turn off your internet (or at least disable email if you need the net) for periods of creativity.

Emotional Distractions: These are harder to control. If you could control these on tap, you wouldn’t need the other two above. A simple method to help control emotional distractions is to schedule them for later. Having a fight with a loved one? Got bills you need to sort through? Annoying neighbour keeps throwing rubbish in your yard? Make an entry into your calendar for things like this you need to do.  Even an entry that says “emotional distractions” is enough. This helps if you find yourself thinking about them while trying to work. Instead you can say – its fine, I will think about it tomorrow at 10am in my allotted time.

These are some basic tips to help keep you in a zone of productivity and manage any distractions that life my throw at you.  I’m on my way to create myself a little zone for a few days. I hope you find yours.

Categories
Travel

Backpacking in New York: Cheaper than you Think

backpacking new york

New York is an amazing city. Its somewhere I’ve always wanted to go and last month got to visit for the first time. My interest in business and finance kept it high on my list plus the fact it is the most used movie and TV backdrop – I’ve seen so many movies set in NYC its like I already knew the place.

There is LOTS to do in New York. Like seriously heaps. So much that I would guess 99% of New Yorkers have only done half, if that. Not only is there lots, but there is a great range, something to fit all ages, budgets and tastes.

Seeing how I visited New York as part of a larger trip, I didn’t get the rich and glamorous experience I dreamt of. I was on a budget and the expected expensive price tag of the city was somewhat of a concern. But to my surprise, it wasn’t as pricey as expected.

Below is a breakdown of my expenses while in NYC. (All prices in USD)

Transport

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I flew into New Ark airport, which is a total dump airport in New Jersey. This airport scared me… New Ark is a hassle to get out of, but the transport is still cheap. Catch a bus for $2 then a two trains into Manhattan on the PATH train network (the subway that connects Manhattan and Jersey City) which costs $1.75.

If you’re planning to spend some time in New York, stick $10 on a Metro Card which will give you access to the NYC Subways. You get a $1.50 bonus deposit and wont have to worry about buying a ticket for the next few days.

The NYC subways are the shit (in a good way). Best transport network for a backpacker ever. They cost $2.25 a trip, there are stations every two blocks, they run all across Manhattan and the other 4 burrows 24 hours a day! Its very comforting to know you can run around the city at ridiculous times in the morning and not have to worry about how you’re going to get home.

(super cheap tip: once inside the gates of the subway station, there is no way of telling if you have paid or not. Late at night some of the side doors to the stations are open and you can walk straight in. I found this by accident as I ran for a train and someone was walking out of the door)

Accommodation

Land is the hot commodity in New York. When people say this city is expensive, they are talking about the land (and thus accommodation). There isn’t an inch of unused space. Hostels as usual will be your best bet. I stayed in a Hostel on the Upper West Side next to Central Park on Manhattan Island for $25 a night. About a 20 min walk or 5 min Subway ride to the bottom of Central Park where ‘downtown’ starts. This included a bed in a 10 bed dorm, shared bathrooms, free towels and a free continental breakfast (which I didn’t wake up in time for once..).

With this as your minimum, you can go up to thousands of dollars a night. But for example a small double room with ensuite and TV in Greenwich area can be found for about $100 per night.

Food

Food can be found everywhere for fairly cheap. There are your standard fast food options, pizza by the slice, pita (doner kebab) and hot dog stands and 24 hour sandwich-convenience-beer stores on every corner. Expect to pay $4 for a slice of pizza or hot dog, $5 for a pita wrap, $8 for a fast food meal and $3-6 for a sandwich.

For a healthier option, check out a wholefoods store. Wholefoods is a grocery store that focuses on healthy eating. But they also have a buffet and large eating area (in most stores). There is a salad, cold, hot, soup and desert bar. With over 100 options of different, pre-prepared healthy foods to choose from. You can mix and match what ever you want and they charge you $7.99 per pound. I found one of these stores half way through my stay and returned every day.

Drinks

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Alcohol in New York (and America in general) is surprisingly cheap. If you buy from any type of corner store or supermarket, expect to pay less than $1 for a local beer. You can go even cheaper if you hit the malt liquor ‘40s’. That’s the same price as like, Thailand…

Drinking in bars can be more expensive. Head down to some of the trendy areas like Soho or Greenwich and expect to pay $5-8 for a pint. More if you’re clubbing in the Meatpacking District. But there are still some good deals to be found. If you’re on a tight budget, consider searching for the student bars. I was staying near Columbia university and found bars that had house beers for $3 a pint, $2 during happy hour. I hear there are similar steals near NYU.

On a side note, beware of going out in New York. It seriously is the city that never sleeps. You will find busy places every night of the week and can find yourself in a pattern of sleeping at 5am.

Sights

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There are lots of free sights in New York. $2.25 on the subway will get you to most of them. Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, Staten Island Ferry, Liberty State Park (a few dollars to get the ferry over to the statue), Coney Island board walk, Times Square, Grand Central Station, Wall St and the New York Stock Exchange.

A trip up the Empire State Building to both floors and an audio guide (well worth it) will set you back about $45 and a Broadway show will cost $60-100 depending on the day and show.

The next items on your agenda should be to pick a few of the 200+ museums. New York has the most museums of any city in the world and some of the greatest collections of…. everything. A must is the museum of Natural History. The last hour is free (4:15-5:15pm I think). I went in with the plan to run through it quickly in the hour and see at least half. Upon entering I asked the lady at the front what the recommended time is to see the museum, her response: “3 days”… The place is MASSIVE. So it might be worth paying to spend a day there if you have the time. Make sure check out the dinosaurs. Biggest collection of dinosaur bones in the world.

I can’t go through all the sights in New York. There is shopping, sporting, arts, food, history and much much more. It really depends on your taste, time and dimes.

A small budget is no excuse for missing the grand New York City. You may not get the ‘celebrity’ experience but there is still plenty to do and lots to see. A must if you’re in that part of the world.

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Categories
Technology

The Coolest Bachelor Pad Toy Ever!

Recently I was in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics. It was great, the city had an excellent buzz and lots of records were smashed. Canada won the most gold medals for a Winter Olympics ever, not just for the host country. They won their first gold in Canada. And of course beat the US in men’s Hockey to take home the gold. Possibly the biggest sporting game in North American history.

But aside the actual games, there was lots of other cool stuff happening. I mentioned in my earlier post about the houses showing off loads of cool virtual stuff. This was in conjunction with sponsors Sony, Acer, Panasonic and Samsung. Some of the biggest names in electronics and gadgets.

This brings me to the coolest bachelor pad toy ever. In the Russian house, which was a converted Science World, they had one of the coolest gadgets I have seen to date: Behold the floor projected indoor football field. (I don’t know who makes it or what it was called, but I assume it has a cooler name)

I’m disappointed with the turnout of my photos of this thing. It was quite difficult to catch as it naturally projects shadows, but it was seriously cool.

It’s a projector, mounted to the ceiling that displays a football field, with goals at each end and a ball in the middle. A camera (presumably infrared?) is mounted next to the projector to track interactive movements with the display. Basically, if you kick the projection of the ball on the ground, it will move. No controllers, no battery packs, no broken vases.

It’s so simple, but I can easily imagine having hours of fun with that thing. It’s like twister on steroids. Straight to the top of my Amazon (if I ever settle down again and live a normal life) wish list.

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
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?