Mikes Thoughts

News, Views, Subterfuge

Since I downsized most things like electronics and computing, its become easier to find a place to write it seems. Take my desk right now. At the Blue Pumpkin bakery in the Phnom Penh Airport and the iPad Air 2019 and Smart Keyboard are so easy and then I can hotspot my 4g connection and have internet that is private for the most part. It means I can sit and write or read or just decide to write a blog post like this one.

Today is a day of changes for me. I started this morning in Saigon. Now I’m in Phnom Penh. Tonight will be in Taipei. I’ll be living there for a month in a airbnb and exploring the city every day. Walking primarily, riding the light rail transit system when I want or need, and taking the photographs with the iPhone 11.

downsizing and realizing

The loss of the camera and the laptop and all the stuff that goes along with those things means a lot less in the way of plugs and batteries and adapters to carry around. It also means I can be more mobile and transition to new things while having the gear with L back in Saigon.

I’ve realized that one does not need the biggest and best or finest gear and I’ve realized also that by simple actions like using the same application and OS ecosystem one can find effective workflows and designs for the things like creating content, sharing documents with my daughter, while still trying to be reachable to L if she needs me.

Today at 245 I fly for some hours to reach Taiwan. I will go play in the city for a month and then catch the high speed rail system to 4 different cities for 7 days each. I built this on a whim but I enjoy high speed rail and I figured it was a way of using my moments in Taiwan to experience different cities while having a very cost effective and fun way of seeing the island and people. I know no one there so it becomes truly wandering the cities and seeing the things without having people as connections.

I’ll be creating the content, sharing the photographs and enjoying the walking each day. Hope you enjoy the content and the new places.

I will.

There’s a sense of fleeting moments now here in Saigon. If you are a time observer, I have about 24 hours left in the country. Then I fly to Phnom Penh but only for hours to spend in the airport on a layover and then a 5 hour flight to Taipei. This is the last part of 2019 and so far the year has gone much as expected besides a quick trip back here. Initially I had decided to spend time in Cambodia going to Kampot and Kep. Then I decided to move that plan along and fly back to Vietnam and visit Saigon and Can Tho for short periods of time. I guess it was worth it.

It’s always the moments before leaving a place I have been for awhile that is so deeply interesting. I realized years ago I was no traveler or backpacker or round the world or gap year or digital nomad. I was something else. I met these other people rather virtually that were vagabonds but they seem to have stopped the vagabonding for Florida times. I also feel like settling at times so I measure the cities I visit and look for the one that would satisfy. I have only found one place that is deeply satisfying and that is Da Nang Vietnam. It has this essence of life, people, things that always excite and incite me to more. I wonder if I would then create something longer in written form. Perhaps a story or book or novel is there and I would be able to make inroads on its creation being stable. But then I know that its not really required to create for me. A hotel room, a homestay, a beach bungalow. I can create something without permanence. There is nothing out there that will lead me to create. It’s something in here that beats and its location is not dependent on a city or place. It’s more about what I find inside worthy or maybe not of creating. I think perhaps in the end the art of creation is what thrills me the most. It’s how the words measure up next to each other and whether at the end of the day I feel that I did something that I value. Maybe others would or not. It’s really secondary to the act and art of creation.

then my coffee comes

Now I am whole again in Saigon. I sit at the coffee house yet again with a large iced coffee with milk. I know that tomorrow is a measure of time like days and hours. My coffee beckons a short distance away to me to measure it. I know that I cannot stay here no matter having L or not. It’s not the place. I have no place. I am a creature of temporary WiFi passwords, SIM cards that go away after a month of use, and a gradually opening view of wandering new places that I have not been or riding trains that will whisk me away with whistles and smoke and watching California yield to Arizona. That is far from here though. Far from the moments I have found now. And its okay. My coffee has come.

I’ll take my time. Measure my rhymes. Take deliberate yet random sips of the deliciousness of the coffee in Vietnam. I’ll miss all of Vietnam. But its moments are eroding away. Eroding like the ice cubes in the coffee.

Now I have the coffee and its moments in a nameless coffee house parked on its WiFi. Say hello to the moments. I’m catching the wandering ways tomorrow. And its good. I will have more coffee to arrive and places to wonder at.

Stay tuned.

The retired life for me could be summed up by one quote,

no place to go and all day to get there

It seems my story is that unfinished work perennially. I do not have a place to get to in Can Tho so I sit with cold Saigon Beers and watch the evening set in. I’m spoiled. There’s nothing I don’t have that I want or need. I have some VND in my pocket. Some friends sometimes at arms length but well meaning and a life that has meanders from city to country to continent. Maybe a wanderer with no pot of gold. No one that asks or requires or mandates or tells me.

I have moments to spend indiscriminately on nothing of value in Vietnamese coffee houses where the young gather and always smile and say hello. Or perhaps I find a place to sit awhile like now. Saigon beers at the ready. Life with no rudder and no guidance system. I am seeker of moments. Experiences that fill them. A person named L that enriches so many.

But in the end I am a selfish , egotistical and narcissistic SOB and I know it. Those are my good qualities. I don’t provoke an answer. In fact I could give a fuck less.

It’s the moment and the one to come. Tonight the beer and the beer to come in Can Tho Vietnam in a nice restaurant by the river. Where the current pushes and cool winds dally. Gentle times to gather nothing and look only at what is presented to me now.

Soon I will leave the edge. Leave this wonderful, strange, exotic place called Southeast Asia. Other wandering awaits and I’ll go toward no destination or final goal.

Tonight it’s the cold Saigon beer that they bring to me. Cheers!

I’m down to less than a week in Vietnam. Will go to Can Tho to see a friend then back to Saigon for a few nights. My darling L and I have done a dinner cruise, movie, and some great meals. Last night was all you can eat bbq at King BBQ. So much food! Washed down with cold tiger beers. Wow.

Now it’s my morning in beautiful and sunny Saigon. Will have some more coffee and listen to this city. Saigon has the crazy sound because it’s one crazy city. Large and in charge.

Here’s some photos for you of some of Saigon

Fun city to wander in.

Here’s a view of the Landmark Tower from the Saigon River. Taken with the iPhone 11.

Yesterday I got into Saigon after a longer than usual wait for customs clearance. People cannot read! They first try to pay with visa or MasterCard no matter all websites and signs say cash only in USD. Then they get in line without getting visa first. So customs and immigration officer gets frustrated.

Vietnamese visas are exceedingly easy to get folks. You go to one place and turn in paperwork and then wait for your name to be called and pick up passport with visa and pay. Easy! Then you wait in line to clear customs. Only a few steps yet people can mess up.

After the wait times found my L was waiting at airport for me for two hours. She is so sweet and wonderful to me. We had dinner and talked for awhile. She gave me new messenger bag for my wandering. We held hands and the time passed so wonderfully.

Today I go to get her new shoes and I get a new iPad. I wiped my MacBook and gave to her. I don’t want or need. I want lighter and more portable so an iPad will work fine.

Tonight we go on a dinner cruise together. After 10 years of having no one having a sweet and loving Vietnamese woman Is so different. I must say they are the most loving, dedicated and caring people. I count my blessings to have her.

homeless and loving it

Now I have no home. No place to go back to or not wish to return to. A wonderful hobo feeling overtakes me. No decisions to be made. Just a wonderful world to go see on my terms.

The next 7 months will be like this. Wandering around the world basically but skipping Europe pretty much. I cannot wait though for Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, and Dubai. But that gets me ahead of myself. Now it’s my favorite place to be right now. Manic and crazy Saigon. I love it completely.

I will also go to Can Tho to see another friend there for a few days. We shall eat and drink!

Then before I know it off to Taiwan for two months. I slip the wandering gear to the forward position. Don’t look the other way. As a sign says,

don’t look back. we are not going that way.

So I won’t.

Time to move it move it. No longer is my home in Cambodia. I have no home. And that’s how I like it. For the next 7 months I wander. All I have in a 45 liter backpack and daypack. Possessions almost none. Joy and wonder great. First to Vietnam. Then onward.

Here in Phnom Penh Cambodia is a saying.

same same but different

I have heard it from L in Saigon to explain things and my Khmer friends will laughingly tell me this when I ask the “why” about a thing here. I heard this from a stall selling cheap t shirts at the Central Market too. I love the saying and it makes me laugh to hear it each time. It explains a world perhaps some will never see. Here in Southeast Asia it embodies life though. It can be very similar to living elsewhere. Many things work the same. Money, credit cards, airplanes. All work the same. You pay and you get.

Then there is the final part of the phrase “but different”. If you stay here longer you learn all the points that are different. Where we hurry in the US to things often here there is a difference. There is no real hurry. Cambodian people are the most friendly and authentic people but time management is not high on their spectrums. Take my friend AV. We joke about this and invented two measures of time. We have “mike time” and “AV time”. One is the “same same“ part of things and one is the “but different” part of things. She will try to be at a place for lunch at Mike time but I realize she lives by AV time and it’s all ok. As you know from reading here time really has ceased to exist for me so whether we meet at the “same same” time or the “but different” time has no bearing on what we do, how long we spend at the coffee shop, or if we just spend time laughing and talking about Cambodia and life in general.

Since I am writing this on my iPhone 11 at a Browns coffee shop in Phnom Penh, my hot latte sits at silent waiting for me to finish. There is no hurry. No rush for this table. WiFi goes on but if it stops I have cellular data that is good and reliable.

I want to tell my friend Mikka thank you and that I believe in him and he will swing the vine to success and much happiness. We have worked almost together before but now we follow each other and his blog is one of the few I read. His ability to transcend mere pictures and words with storytelling is so beautiful. Take a read of his blog and see. Life is so much richer knowing him, reading his blog, and following him to new challenges he will surpass.

It used to be blogging was like this. We linked and shared and cared. There still are a few that embody this sharing and creating without an expectation. That to me is the spirit of blogging and content creation. Not the whirling dervish of “same same but different” bloggers these days.

I've come to realize the last two years that as James Taylor would say,

time is not really real

Its existence is a facade of hours and seconds that we can squander or pretend to use. But as they say with or without us, time marches on. But time does not march at all. It is merely a dividing mark of itself. You can tell because an hour is minutes which is seconds and then there are years and decades and days. Its all reckoning not by our moments but by time. Lets look at two differences and see what you think:

  1. time. Time is a measure and we use a clock or something to declare it. We believe we can master it but its inexorable and it just goes on. And on. Forever on. Its erodes us like we are desert sands that twirl under its careless steps. It leaves us wounded sometimes when we use it to measure a thing like “time away” from something. Whether the something is a person, place, thing. In the end, we say a thing has run out of time. Maybe us too. We run out of time. I believe though that the incessant whimpering of the clock as it strikes the days, is not real. We have a better grain of measurement folks.
  2. moments. Moments are richer and last as long as you want. They can include all the things or none of them. Once I walked an alley in Hanoi and the moment enveloped me in what were the lives like down this alley. When did the hairdresser open and how was the egg coffee at that small vietnamese coffee shop. The young men sit out in front on a door step and wave at me and say hello. Truly everyone it seems in Vietnam and Cambodia have a moment to say hello. So moments are like supersets. They combine and subtract, create within them realities and then you walk through them perhaps on your way to another Hem or alley and a new moment is created. Perhaps its the star dust of moments.

So unlike time. Time that ticks madly away and makes you a slave to its whims. Time that trots you out to a place but then says,

you only have an hour to be here

Moments envelope and create and descend and move and are fluid. You can create a moment and then watch it grow or subtract without the influence of time.

finding out the power of moments

When i got old and retired and left IT, time stopped. The bastard conveyances of time also stopped. Things like milestones, tasks, deliverables, schedules. Those are all instruments of time. Responsibilities too. They act to take time and make sure you are slavishly bound to it. You are given time. But its never really yours. It belongs to the Master of Time whoever that may be but we know in our indomitable souls time is not really real (thanks JT).

When we blow out the failures and imaginary controls time creates, we can stop as long as we want We don't need to see 90 countries in 180 days or whatever. Its okay to take the moments instead and spend them like precious currency. Re-invent them. Come back to them. They are the same but different. I go back to Saigon a lot but I am pretty sure that each time I leave Saigon re-invents itself and rebuilds itself and when I walk the streets again it offers new moments.

Give it some thought. Travel or vagabonding. One is based on time and one is based on moments. The imminent bloggers that tell you 24 hours in a place or 5 tours in 3 days all use time. They will rush you to find but then whisk you away to another block of time elsewhere to spend 3 days or a week or two weeks. Travel is about time folks. It begins and ends. Vagabonding is not I aver. I believe vagabonding has no time. Its a measure of priceless moments that each occur, become longer, shorter, and then you decide that a thing can be returned to. The moment is different though because it served its purpose. Time is evil with travel. You are branded as a round the world, gap year, digital nomad. Each one is some pathetic attempt to control time and subject it to your airfares and hotel rooms and schedules. I challenge all of you time based travel lifestyle bloggers to descend from time and blog about the moments down that alley or when you got lost in Hanoi that day when rain threatened. Time ran out but you had precious moments. I don't like the world of subsidized and scheduled posts, SEO, domain authority, or any of the other buzz words that stack these poor travelers in the whirlwinds (all created by them, of course) of time

Enter the vagabond. They have descended and see a world out there that slowly envelopes them, turns them on and takes them to the alley. Because what they have is not time. So this blog also exists away from time. Its words struck down on virtual paper with no time. I give you your moments back. You poor thirsty travelers with your apple watches and time measurement devices and sponsorships. You miss the master of moments.

I give it back to you now. Will you take it?

Its my last days for a long time here in Cambodia. Next Friday I leave for Vietnam for a week or so to see my friend L. I will go to Saigon and Can Tho to see friends in both places. I am very blessed I think to have two wonderful people in my life in those places. After Vietnam, I have a few hours in Phnom Penh at the airport and then I fly to Taiwan for two months. I am feeling like I need the wandering time, the hobo time on the road. I need to see things I have not seen in a city like Taipei. I will have a month there and then will ride the high speed rail to 4 different cities and visit 7 days in each. I just built this itinerary with no real goals in mind because it sounded cool at the time. Then off to Manila, Davao, and Cebu. I have friends in Manila so will see them and will spend Christmas in the Philippines this year.

The Camera Casualty

One of the things I had written about was waffling on the whole camera thing. Do I take a dedicated camera with me or just use the iPhone 11? What would I gain or lose by doing that? One of the many things I gain is the footprint of stuff to carry. Gone are lens and batteries and cables, and lens caps and chargers. A second thing I gain is the ease of sync'ing photographs and even editing as I want on the iPad I will get in Saigon. A last thing I think I gain is a basic formula for taking photography and having all I need for it all in one device. iPhone 11 seems very capable at recording what I wish to record, how I wish to record it, and then sync'ing to Google Photos. A few things I lose is the flexibility of a camera lens and different film simulations which I enjoy. I also cannot really apply a change to the same shot like going to Classic Chrome or the Provia film simulation. Those are losses I feel kinda keenly. I enjoy that part immensely.

Left Behind and Lesser Things

What it leaves me with though is a single device which is easier to deal with in the long haul. I will be wandering for 7 months and I really want to lessen the footprint of devices. That's one reason I decided to get some kind of iPad when I get to Saigon. I think it will be easier with power and applications and use to simply have two similar in ecosystem devices. I am not sure which iPad yet but will probably go for the cheaper 2018 iPad with a Zagg keyboard or maybe will get the 2019 iPad with the smart keyboard. Prices are very similar.

By a week from today the laptop will be a thing of the past and I will have two easier to travel with devices. I have to say that the Macbook 12 inch is a very nice device but the power brick itself is a major issue for me. Its huge! Then there is not really having the same applications on all devices. Sometimes the Mac applications are different or do not have a piece of functionality or its different. Now I want to have a simpler existence with devices so I leave things behind and choose lesser things to take with me.

Using a single Notepad for it all

Finally I want to speak about finding a single container for all my writing and content. I did this for awhile on Ulysses but its painful for notetaking since I believe its really a pro writing app. I wanted something with basic functionality much like a wiki but that also would allow a lot of flexibility in what I can store, how it works, and having the same app on my devices. Enter Notion for my thoughts and diaries and notes. Notion provides the functionality of a wiki but yet with the features I like in Note applications. Its a graphical slate for me that I can build a very simple work flow in. I can create draft blog content in it and it preserves the drafts, lets me using markdown to create, and then I copy and paste the content and make a few adjustments and done. It means I can write these things with no internet or share between my iPhone and my Mac (now). But by far the most significant thing is the underlying power of the thing. With nested notes, sub pages that can be linked, image support which is excellent, and also being to use tags and create lists of affiliated pages with simple commands, I have this slate of wiki like ideas and approaches. I even have built a very simple work flow for myself each day:

  1. Write a diary or journal entry of events, thoughts, ideas. If one becomes more significant, I simply create a note or blog post or whatever within Notion and I can move the page or entry so easily. In a few steps I have a basic diary or a more substantive note or blog post. The biggest thing is its not split between Day One and Bear Notes. I did not like the artificial boundary there. I want all of everything in one place. There is only me No team so the integration part is very cool and I touch on it next.
  2. Integration and Delivery. This is huge for me. I want something that will integrate from different sources. If there are templates, much the better and there are. I can take a template like I have done for my wandering, change it up a bit, make it this way or that, and even detailed travel plans can be folded in. I will be working on removing all the detailed plans from Google Sheets and using Notion for that and just including files or itineraries within the note for I have for wandering. This lets the workflow be flexible and I can make changes to how I want it easily. There is only me again. No team to enforce standards or complexity on.
  3. Writing and Creation. This is a big one for me. I enjoy writing and creation but I do not need some big app like IAwriter or Ulysses. I need an application that fits inside the first things but then extends to what I need. I want a basic blank page but with easy commands to include, list, make a sub page, etc. I also want the freedom to change things up or down or sideways. I feel Notion gives me this too.
  4. Finally there is presentation. I expect the data to be presented back to me in a way that I can comprehend and use it. Things like taking snapshots of web pages with the web page snipper in Chrome or the share menu on IOS. Getting the presentation working for me is the last step. I like to link the ideas to other ideas and then be able to drill down.

The big thing of course if the wiki standard that I enjoy. I have always enjoyed using a wiki approach since there is unlimited nested pages, creation of ideas shines on a wiki because its both freeform and flexible. When I combine all the areas above, I get this rather fun canvas of ideas and approaches that is imminently flexible to how I want to work yet it lets me write the words “work flow” in a sentence and it seems to make some sense as I look at it.

Is the tool perfect? No. Its not perfect. Would it work for you? Maybe and maybe not. I know I searched and used things for awhile and then found it and have been busy some mornings moving things around, understanding more of how to use the mobile app to my advantage, and just getting the second thing done a bit. I enjoy integrating tool and how they influence my writing and presentation. I enjoy Notion.

Software is never done and there are things always you see and ask why is a thing the way it is. Always room for changes and creation of new paradigms for management and use of the important or not so important data you have. I have found for me, a single layer of presentation is the best. If a thing is in three places or more, I may not find it in the second or third and its hidden away in the first. With all the stuff in a single basket I am able to drill down and reach the final thing which is the use. The four things lead to use.

So those are the thoughts that wandered around today in my head. Things that have come and gone and bounced around. Its good to get them on my blog I think. Maybe someone some day will think of how to do a thing or find a thing and maybe, just maybe, Notion is a tool to consider for them too.

I feel confident that I am making either a good or bad choice with the camera but I don't really care. I will err at the level of wanting less things to track and carry for the next 7 months. I do have some feelings about leaving Cambodia behind because I don't believe I will live here again. Next year I will live in Vietnam in a new city I have not been to. I know this now. I will go where L is because its what I want and what she wants. I never thought I would find someone again that matters to me as much but I did. Its made life better in so many ways.

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