I just watched the movie “The Company Men”.  I immediately recognized the setting: amazing Autumn foliage.  Crisp, cold air.  Beautiful New England houses.  It took place in Boston, starting in the fall and ending in the winter.  As you may recall, I got to Boston in the fall and left in the winter while on my RV trip last year.

For the past year and a half, I have written down what I do every single day.  After the movie ended, I opened up my journal and  read through my entire 8 weeks in Boston.  I was able to relive the whole thing.  I could remember how I felt each day.  Little events which had been long forgotten came back to me, without being specifically written down.

I was able to feel the adventure again.  So much excitement everyday: meeting new people, exploring new places, and having new life experiences.  My whole mindset was completely different than what it has been the last few months.

I’m hoping to get another adventure in the works soon.  I really like the idea of learning Spanish, but practicing it is SO BORING!  I’m considering getting a one-way ticket + 3 month stay to some remote Spanish-speaking city.  Ideally, nobody will speak English, and I’ll be forced to learn.  Furthermore, if I buy the ticket 6 months in advance, I’ll have a heck of a lot more incentive to start studying before the trip!

Any recommendations on fun, remote, Spanish-only-speaking cities?  Central/South America or Spain will do.  I won’t consider any cities in the US like Salinas, East LA, Santa Ana, etc.

 

Officially a Nevadan

That was much easier than I thought.  Go down to the DMV, give them some paperwork, sit back and watch them punch keys on a computer.  Get a new picture taken and a new set of plates handed to you.  Out the door in less than an hour.

Now I’ll have to tackle the boring task of updating my address with any company that has my address.  That includes car insurance, medical insurance, credit cards, bank accounts, cell phone, payroll, etc.  It will be tedious, but eventually everything will be set up in Nevada.

The move is a little more rough than I had imagined.  There were some unexpected permitting issues regarding the house that I bought, so I’m currently working with the city of Reno to get everything cleared up.  Everything will be up to code in no time flat.

Its great knowing I have a permanent address.  A permanent place to call my own.  A place I can store my stuff without worry.  A space I can use however I please.  Being a homeowner is a great feeling.

With so much bouncing around, its a nice feeling knowing I own a place that is staying put.  I can go wherever I want, and this place will be here waiting for me when I come back.

 

After over 2 months of searching for a suitable multi-family property in Nevada, I’m finally in contract!  Escrow should be short since I’ve already had the inspection and am paying cash.  I’ll be moving up there in a matter of weeks, and can finally move on with my life.

Once I close escrow, I’ll be packing my BMW with the few possessions I have and saying goodbye to California for good.  When I arrive, I’ll pick up the keys from the real estate agent and walk into a vacant, 95% finished triplex.  I’ll have all 3 empty units to myself.  During the few weeks it takes me to complete the minor repairs, I’ll have to pick one unit to call my home.

One is a tiny studio, another is a small 1 bedroom, and the last is a considerably bigger 1 bedroom.  Picking the best unit for myself means collecting less rent, so I’ll have to decide if it’s worth it.  Since I’m paying cash, I won’t have a mortgage, so regardless of which unit I occupy, I should still be cash-flow positive on this thing.  It will be a great feeling knowing that you are actually generating a cash flow from your primary residence.

I’m extremely relieved to have this deal underway.  By 2012, I’ll be 100% cut off from California and all California-based businesses.  Insurance, banking, healthcare, accountant, etc – all moving to Nevada businesses.  I know that in the grand scheme of things, one man moving his business out of California isn’t going to make a difference.  However I hope if enough people do this, it sends a message to California that what they are doing isn’t working.

I feel like I’m selling my stock in CA and buying stock in NV.  CA is falling apart, but NV is somewhat stable.  Eventually, I’d like to sell my stock in USA and go somewhere with a better outlook.  That whole discussion can be saved for another post though.

Once I get settled in Reno, I want to start traveling again.  I’d really love to do a lot of snowboarding…

 

With minutes to go in the Rialta eBay auction, the bid was still $12,000 away from my break-even point.  I’m nervously hitting refresh, getting more and more worried that the final bid won’t be anywhere near what I wanted.

Finally I see a little activity before a very pathetic ending.  I’m out nearly $10k  when all is said and done, not including the countless hours I put into installing all the mods.  I can’t be upset because this is what the market determined the value at.

The experiences I had while traveling the country in this rig were priceless.  It was a huge learning and growing experience, and I have absolutely no regrets that I went through with it.

Restructuring my life

I’ve decided to set up my home-base in Reno, NV.  I’m buying a 4-plex and calling one of the units my home.  I’m excited to be able to answer the question of “where do you live” in one or two words.

I’m still in the process of downsizing my entire portfolio of websites to just one.  Business will be much simpler with just one site to focus on.

I’ve been closing credit cards/bank/savings/investment accounts that I haven’t been actively using.  Trying to again minimize things I have to think about.

I have already set up a new Nevada corporation, and I’m in the process of moving everything under that one: bank accounts, payroll, addresses, accountants, etc.  I’ll be entirely out of California by the end of the year and will have dissolved the CA incorporation I currently own.

Different type of travel

I’d like to be spending more than a month at each location.  I’m thinking 3-6 months at each city, and renting a room with locals rather than staying at hostels or in an RV.

US Destinations I’d like to live in:

  • Denver, CO
  • Austin, TX
  • Portland, OR (again)
  • Somewhere in the south?

Foreign destinations:

  • Summer in Stockholm
  • Long trip through Eastern Europe/Russia
  • Summer in New Zealand
  • Summer in Argentina/Moto tour through South America
 

Time keeps on slipping…

It has been 8 days since I came back to the states, but feels like I arrived just yesterday.  This is because my life has become extremely routine; wake, eat, work, errands, eat, sleep.  Each day is no longer a new adventure.

Furthermore, it is difficult to differentiate one day in my memory from another.  What did I do Tuesday?  Worked.  Ate.  Slept.  What about last Thursday?  Worked.  Ate.  Slept.  The days seem to just run together and become forgotten in my mind.

The positives of a routine

It is a relief to be back on a routine after bumming around for 5 months.  I’ve become extremely productive, and have mostly caught up on all the work I’ve been putting off for so long.  It is also easier to incorporate a healthy diet and exercise regimen into your daily routine.

What next?

I’m currently looking for a 4-plex in Reno so I can establish my business and residence in the great state of Nevada.  Once I get that whole deal set up (~4 months) I’ll be able to hit the road again as long as I’m not spending lots of time in California.

Changing the way I travel.

While the last 5 months was tons of fun, I’d like to slow down and spend 3-6 months in each place.  3 months is enough time to get a feel for the town, make new friends, stay productive, but also short enough to always keep life exciting.

Possible domestic destinations in the coming year include Portland (again?), Colorado, Austin, and New York.  International destinations include Stockholm, Russia?, Spain/Argentina?, South America, New Zealand, Singapore?

What did I actually miss about the US?

Last week, I posted about stuff I missed in the US.  I’ll go over what I think about it after being back for a week:

Pandora: Ah yes!! I missed you!

Reliable and Unlimited Internet: I’m still grateful every moment I use the internet.

PST: I still think about what time it is for anyone that I call.

English: How convenient everything is now!  It only took a day to get re-adjusted to this.

Not Being a Foreigner/Familiarity: Like I said above, it is more convenient, but life is no longer an adventure when everything is so familiar.

Laws/Traffic: Its nice to know them all, but we still have some silly ones.

In n Out: I’ve already been twice.  Just as good as when I left.

Smoke-Free Environments: Definitely noticeable.  Way better.

USD: It only took a day to get re-adjusted.  I’ve completely forgot about currency exchange rates and all that jazz.

Condiments: Another thing that immediately goes unnoticed again.

 

Things I Miss about the US

I’m excited to get back to the states in a few days, and wanted to get some last-minute thoughts down before re-adjusting to the US.  Here are some of the aspects of the US I’m excited to get back to:

Pandora

Pandora internet radio has been my favorite method to listen to and discover new music.  Even though I signed up for the paid service, I was still very disappointed when I tried to fire up Pandora in Australia.  I spent several hours trying to figure a way around it, but never could seem to sort it out.

Even though I have a library of nearly 5,000 songs, I constantly feel like I’m listening to the same old stuff over and over.  I’ve grown entirely dependent on Pandora to introduce me to new things.

Reliable and Unlimited Internet

Australia was probably the worst.  Slower internet, transfer caps, less reliability.  We were only in our house for two months, so we couldn’t really sign up for internet since you had to sign a year contract.  I tried stealing it from the neighbors but they hit their monthly bandwidth allotment, and the speed reduced to a crawl.  The library was pretty fast, however they blocked port 21 so I couldn’t have FTP access, which sometimes was a huge incontinence.

While backpacking, finding a stable and fast internet connection was a rare gem.  Sometimes they would make you pay, others were really slow at peak times, other connections were down most of the time, some also had port 21 blocked.  There is nothing more frustrating than wasting your time trying to connect to a flakey connection at a hotel when you have a bunch of work you need to get done.

When I return home, I’m going to appreciate a stable fast internet connection more than ever.

PST

Again, this problem was worse in Australia.  I was between 17 and 19 hours ahead of San Francisco.  Business hours did not line up at all, so trying to get work done that required heavy collaboration with anyone in the states took much longer.  As I traveled west, it became less of an issue.

English

The language barrier wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, however it still was a source of frustration.  It will be nice not have to ask if someone speaks English before talking to them.  Even in Scotland, I still had difficulty understanding what people were saying.

Not Being a Foreigner

Walking around, looking lost all the time, taking pictures of stuff, looking at a map and not speaking the native language were all dead giveaways that I was a foreigner.

Familiarity

Knowing what things are and where to get them is something you take for granted in the US.  We have Target, Walmart, CVS, etc.  Trying to buy seemingly simple items overseas can be a bit difficult when you have no idea where to get them.

Laws/Traffic

Can you drink on the sidewalk?  Can you cross outside a crosswalk?  Which way do the cars go?  Are there any obscure laws I don’t know about that I’m violating right now?  How fair is this random country’s judicial system?  This was never perfectly clear in each country I went into, and it will be nice to get back to a place where I am familiar with the judicial system/laws.

In n Out

“I could really go for some In n Out, animal style” has a different meaning outside California.

Unlimited Cell Phone/Text Messaging/Data Plan/GPS

I had a pre-paid plan in Australia and Asia.  I hated always having to watch my credit.  My plan in the US is more expensive, but more worry-free.

Smoke-Free Environments

Seems like everywhere I went in Europe, people were smoking.  The worst was in stuffy, crowded bars.  My clothes always wreaked of cigarettes.  Even outside, people were smoking much more often.

USD

There are two challenges that come with using a foreign currency:  1) Converting it into USD so you know how much you are spending, and 2) Identifying the coins and the notes.  In Indonesia, 8600 Rupies was 1 USD.  An ice cream bar was 20,000R.  Pounds were the hardest coins to determine value for.  They didn’t have a big number on them, and some even said “Twenty pence” spelled out in tiny letters.

Condiments

I don’t remember ever paying for condiments at a restaurant inside the US.  Outside the US, it is commonplace.  We were even automatically charged an extra dollar per person at a pizza place in Czech for “condiments” even though we didn’t use any!  Also, ketchup doesn’t quite taste the same it did in the states.

 

I have been to tons of countries and never really affected by the concept that people outside the US hate Americans.  Yes, people might crack a joke, say something silly about George W Bush, or call me a Yank, but it seemed to be all in jest and I would still be treated with respect.  I could tell that individuals were smarter than to judge someone based solely on the country they come from.  I was starting to think that maybe the world does not hate Americans as much as everyone says.  Until my 3-day trip to Munich.

Our experience in Germany was substantially different than in all the other countries.  What I noticed first was that the wait staff/bartenders seemed to be extremely moody, as if asking them to do their job was a huge favor that they were begrudgingly granting.  Maybe just having a bad day and pure coincidence?  Maybe not.

I realized we were being “targeted” when we tried to get into a number of clubs/bars last night.

The first asked us for our identification.  We showed them our California drivers licenses, they gave them a look, and then requested to see our passports.  The wouldn’t accept a color copy I take with me instead of carrying the real thing around.  I figured it was just their policy and we didn’t think much of it.

For the next one, we waited in line, and when it was our turn, they asked for IDs.  Again, we pull out the California drivers licenses.  This time, the club immediately became full.

“Sorry, we are full”.

“Thats fine, we can wait.”

“No you leave now.”

We assumed they didn’t want two single guys coming in with no chicks.  Totally understandable.  We befriend a group of 3 German girls and head to the final bar.  Being gentlemen, we let the girls go in first.  When it is our turn, they again ask for our IDs, and when they take a look at them, they instantly become full again.

“Hey, you just let all our friends in but not us?”

“We are full, sorry”

“Really?  Then why are you letting all these other dudes in that were behind us?”

“Please leave now”

Finally it all makes sense.

Its not that we were inappropriately dressed; we were probably dressed better than most guys there.  Its not that we weren’t with girls – we had 3.  Its not that we were underage or too old.  Its not that we had been over-served at a previous establishment.  Its not as if we were being rowdy or obnoxious.  Its not because we spoke English, not German.  We were treated different immediately when they discovered our country of origin.

This was a great learning experience.

It does not feel good to be stereotyped.  We only experienced this a little; it didn’t become more than a mild inconvenience, it was outside our own country, and it was still extremely upsetting.  I can’t imagine how it feels for US citizens to be stereotyped in their own country.  How it feels for immigrants trying to lead a better life.  This has inspired me to be even more accepting of people with different ethnic or racial backgrounds.  More intolerant of intolerance.

 

I said goodbye to Asia, left the busy city of Bangkok on Wednesday morning, and arrived in the quaint town of Karlskrona, Sweden Thursday afternoon.

After spending the last 3 weeks in the chaos of south east Asia, this calm Swedish town feels like being on another planet.  I was blown away at how opposite everything was.

Don’t get me wrong, I had the time of my life in Asia, but did grow tired of it, especially my last four days in Bangkok.  That city was the epitome of most of the things I didn’t like about Asia.  Dirty, hot, crowded, smelly, insane traffic and chaos on the roads, English isn’t widely spoken, huge city, etc.

Karlskrona is exactly the opposite.  The weather was nothing short of perfect when I arrived.  About 20c and sunny.  The sun finally set late in the evening, and it eventually got dark around 10pm.  Luke and I went for a bike ride around town, and at no point did I think I was going to die (from crazy drivers).  It actually took a little while for me to adjust back to driving on the correct (right) side of the road.

The town is beautiful and insanely quiet compared to the disorder of Bangkok.  At midnight, we wanted to grab a bite to eat, but there really wasn’t anything open.  The community was so small that Luke ran into a dozen people he knew as we were riding around town.  I finally wore my jacket again!

Sunset around 9:30pm

Whats next?

Meeting with a friend from Walnut Creek (Bay Area) in Amsterdam on Monday, Belgium a few days later, then to Paris.  Meeting with another friend from Seattle in Paris and possibly doing Spain, Italy, Greece.  Meeting with a college buddy from SF after that (mid-June) in Prague, and doing Eastern Europe.  Maybe Scotland in July?  Back to the states to eventually, with a stop in Colorado to visit Chris who landed a job out there!

If I make it back to SF with summer to spare, I’ll head up to Portland again to make a visit while the weather is still good.  Probably spend the fall in SF.

 

Why Mondays are my Favorite

“Looks like someone has a case of the Mondays”

Seems like most people hate Mondays.  Especially Garfield.  But why?  It is just the name of a day of an arbitrary 7-day week.  Who decided a week would be 7 days anyway?  And who decided that there would be 2 weekend days and 5 week days?  The bible?  Ok…

Here are the reasons that I love Mondays:

  • Most website traffic is on Mondays. The best day of the week for all my websites is Monday.  The worst is Saturday.  Not sure exactly why, but I do have a few speculations.  Maybe people are back at work surfing the net?  Maybe people are bored because all their friends are at school/work?  Either way, I make more money on Monday than any other day of the week.
  • I can catch up on everything. Since everyone else is at work, I have a lot more time on Monday to get caught up on work.  I find my work to be somewhat enjoyable, and it is a great feeling to cross items off my to-do list.
  • I can recover from the weekend shenanigans. When it was Monday in Australia, it was actually still Sunday in the states.  Since most of my clients are in the States, Mondays seemed to be pretty slow.  This would give me some time to relax and recuperate from the weekend.
  • Everyone else hates Mondays. I’d hear people complain all the time that they aren’t excited about it being Monday.  Always hearing this makes my Mondays that much better in comparison.
  • Businesses are open regular hours. Need to go to the post office?  Bank?  Call customer support?  Gym? DMV?  Supermarket?  These tasks are so much easier and less congested on weekdays.
  • Less Crowded. Since most people are at work on weekdays, places of entertainment are much less crowded on Mondays.  Movies, the park, the beach, etc.

One concept that sickens me is the idea of “Hump day”, also known as Wednesday, which is the middle of the week.  Meaning you are half way to the weekend.  Seems most people go through life looking forward to the 2/7 days that we call the “weekend”, and wishing that we could skip through the other 5/7ths of days.  The majority of days are weekdays, so we might as well try and enjoy them!

 

Due to my somewhat unusual lifestyle, I’m constantly getting questions/comments from curious individuals.  Here is a list of common questions, and my responses to them.

Note: I was going to do a single FAQ post, but decided to split it up into two posts: Lifestyle and Business.  This is the lifestyle part.

Must be nice not having to worry about income/job/boss/working/time/money/etc.

While there are heaps of perks doing what I do, it isn’t exactly this perfect lifestyle that some people perceive it as.  To dis-spell some common misconceptions, here are a few notes:

1.  I still put in close to 40 hours of work per week.  It is not 9-5 M-F, but I’m still putting the time in.  That whole 4-hour work week idea is crap if you ask me.

2.  While I don’t have a boss, I also don’t have co-workers who I can push responsibilities to if I want to take a 2-week vacation away from work.

3.  All my websites are NOT set-and-forget.  I do have to maintain everything, and if something goes wrong, I’m the only responsible for getting it fixed.

4.  There are risk factors beyond my control.  A recent Google logarithm update dropped the traffic in about 6 of my sites by 30%.  I can’t exactly get on the phone with Google and tell them to take it back.

Are you still looking for a place to “settle down”?

When I embarked on my first RV tour, a big justification in my head was that I wanted to check out other places in the country/world to see if I would ever want to “settle down” there.  At this point, I haven’t been thinking about settling down as much as I have about adventure.  Now that I’ve ventured outside the US, I’ve realized there is just so much to see.  I could spend a lifetime discovering new places.

Are you planning to do any more travel in the RV?

To be honest, I was a little tired of living in the RV when I returned from Boston in December.  I was in and out of the RV for my most recent stay home (Dec-Feb), and every time I returned to the RV, I realized I had missed it.

At this point, I am still enjoying the luxuries of living in a house, including:

1.  Hot water

2.  Unlimited electricity

3.  Oven/BBQ

4.  Roommates/ability to have multiple friends over

5.  Yard

6.  Telling people where I live without also having to explain that I’m not a rapist.

I guess we will see how I feel when I get back into the US, whenever that may be.  Just thinking about it right now, I realize that I do miss the RV lifestyle!

Is it harder to stay productive on the road?

Yes.  Constant change and lack of a consistent schedule do not create the best working conditions.  However, I am adapting, and learning to squeeze work in whenever I get a chance.

Your adventure sounds awesome.  I wish I could do that!

You can.  And you should.

The average Australian that I’ve met has traveled much more than the average American.  I’d estimate that Australians travel 5 times more than Americans.  Any excuse you can make is just that, its an excuse.

Job?  Take some time off.  Or save up some money and quit!  You’ll be able to find another one.

Kids?  Bring ‘em along!  It will benefit them to see other parts of the country/world.

Do you miss your cat?

Yes, and I’m sure she misses me just as much, if she noticed I’m not there.

Are you still watching Sharks games?

Even better, I am listening to them!  Its like reading a book instead of watching a movie.  I get to imagine it all in my head.

Have you told anyone that you are an international spy yet?

Yes.  And they did not believe me.  So I spared their life.

Are you just making up questions?

Yes.  I thought I had more lifestyle questions to answer.