Technology doodads, gadgets, and ideas for the long term traveler

Traveling with Technology is both the reason and the bane of existence on the road. You have to track all the cables and plugs and adapters and while I really like my 12 inch MacBook the charger is something else. Whoever dreamed up the bricks of chargers for Mac laptops… There are replacements for power over USB that are smaller and I’ve been tempted to get one simply because the weight and size of the original and limited space for techno goodies when I move from place to place. For the slow traveler like me, I think we have different core needs than the person in a place for 3 days and then another place for a week, etc. What we need is more of a balance for charging things.

What I have found that works the best is this thing.

The nice things about the Mastech charger pictured above are a few. One thing is there is an AC adapter on each side plus three usb charging ports in front. This thing lies flat on a desk and the size is rather nice. The other thing particularly for the apple charger is that it plugs in and sits flat on the desk or table as well and I have room for my camera charger on the other side.

This is a type of device really made for the slower travelers I think. The longer power cable is common sense because how many of you have been in a room where the electrical power outlet is here and your desk or bed is there. You need something with a longer cable. This has worked for me about 90% of the time very well. Where it has not worked is where the budget hotels I spend time seem to think we all travel with 10 foot long extension cables. The other thing about working or not, is that this is not power transformer type thing. It will not adjust the power down. Hopefully by now you have all read the power requirements for gadgets and doodads and have it covered.

The second thing is an international plug adapter. I’ve tried the wall wart kind with 1000 usb plugs and one ac adapter that makes the plug fall out of the socket every time. Useless folks. My advice is do not buy one of those especially if going for a longer stay. Not that I have found the best but this one seems to work pretty well in Japan, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

It kinda plugs into itself and I have not found a place (yet) where it won’t work. But places like India I have my doubts so its probably gonna be time when I get there to have a friend take me down to the electronics zone street in Chennai so I can get something. I don’t know about China either. But if I could not find a plug in China, I would probably give the whole thing up.

Combining things for long stays…

So these are the two things in my bag of tricks that just work. The other thing you should consider is a portable charger. I have one that has meant the difference for me on buses and trains more than once. Mine is very small and portable and fits into a pocket on my daypack. Truly a life saver at times!

When you combine all things above into your backpack or daypack, you are looking for things that add value and not weight. Things that can be used for a multitude of uses. Count how many devices you want to charge at the same time. Do you have the requisite cables either Type C or lightning or microUSB? I never charge my camera from USB because its stupid especially in countries that may have some questionable power to start with. Take the battery out and charge it separately. It will go faster! Other things you may want to charge at the same time are phones, kindles, laptops, etc. Count them and see where you are.

Bringing the kit together and leaving

Then its packing the kit up. I have a cheap little zipper pouch that carries it all for me. You may have something more elegant or refined. My bag costs about $7 on amazon and you can find similar bags or pouches in the Russian Market in Phnom Penh. Just consider the footprint of the kit and what you will end up carrying. Do you need a laptop and a tablet and a phone? Maybe. I would not mind having a tablet as well. But perhaps you don’t or you need more stuff. Whatever you decide will have an accompanying weight and cost.

If you are good with that weight and cost go for it! Be happy on the road. Forget the minimalism stuff folks. Its just telling you to get rid of stuff but you already knew that if you are a realist. But most of all be happy with your choices. If it adds a few ounces to weight and you are good, no one is gonna pronouns a sentence on you. For the longer term traveler perhaps the devices make even more sense. Consider staying for a month in a place or three months. What is your expectation for comfort and use and technology?

Maybe not mine at all. And that’s good. This post is just about getting you to thinking about how you do a thing. My examples are just that. Now go out and get traveling. Just do it slowly and savor each place for what it is.

13 years with

An interesting perspective is that I have had an account on for 13 years now. I never realized when I first signed up there. I had so many other providers and hosts and services I’ve lost count. To say its all changed is an understatement. To ask if its changed for the better is a valid question. My answer is that it has not. I loved blogging years ago with the folks then that put words together out of love and desire to see them stand up next to each other. I won’t venture an opinion on what’s wrong with blogging now. I’ve said it before and you know what I think.

When what really matters was the same thing that mattered 20 years ago when i started.

It is content that matters folks. If you blog for travel, adventure, fashion, lifestyle, or just like me to write whatever the hell I want to write; its the words next to each other. Screen Shot 2018-10-30 at 12.14.33 PM

Try to not write clickbait blog posts. Try to write what you see, feel, think, desire, despise, want. Do you want to blog for 20 years? 10 years? Don’t know? Its all good if you have words. You have some of those, right?

2019 travels for this kid

I’m into my last two weeks here in Sihanoukville. Have some activities that will start Friday with a day tour so I can see some things here. Tours work for me some of the time since it lets me get away to a combination of places with little or no effort and I don’t worry about driving, parking, or even eating lunch that day. After the tour, Monday I head to Phu Quoc Island Vietnam for a week. Not really expecting to do much of anything there besides be at nicer resort and walk around town for a day or so. Then I get back sometime Friday. Whether I stay at the bungalow or somewhere before that I don’t know yet. Depends on the time.

On 12 November I do a boat cruise thing of the three islands which takes all day. They pick me up and drop me off at the hotel. I had wanted to do this and found one which was kind of expensive and did not include lunch. This one is cheaper and does include lunch. So I get to be out on the water all day seeing these islands. Sounds good!

After 12 November, I only have two days left and then I fly to Siem Reap for a month. I’m looking forward to seeing the Wats there, history, and other stuff.

After Siem Reap its Battambang for a month and then back to Phnom Penh for a week. I get my camera back then and will have a week to get a few things done like get a haircut and beard trim, go to a few restaurants I like, and prepare for the next 5 months on the road to Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.

5 Months to come…

Yeah, in January its the expensive but fun place Singapore for a week. I have some friends there to meet up with but most of all its the kickoff of 5 months on the road. I’ll spend 90 days in Malaysia starting in Kuala Lumpur and ending somewhere north. Then into Thailand where I have no idea where I will spend time yet besides a trip to Phuket.

2019 Travels and Planning

Its been fun to put together the wants part of things for the latter part of 2019. I think China is definitely in sight for some months. I need to be back to renew my visa in September so will be back in Phnom Penh to get that done.

The last part of 2019 is rather up in the air. I had thought of going back to Vietnam for the end of the year but the thing is I have been there. I could just as easily go back to Japan and do the trip I want there or go elsewhere. As it is now, friends want me to come back to Vietnam so I likely will go for some bit of time.

I also thought of a trip back stateside to see my daughter and some friends then. I could book the tickets way ahead of time and save some miles. The truth is I do not want to go back to the states. There is nothing there for me. I feel like when I got rid of that last stuff in Newark it included any desire to ever go back. It would be nice to see some people again there but the desire is really flagging at this point. I’d rather spend a longer time somewhere else that would cost less than a few weeks in California and Florida. My kids are not really asking and only one person has asked me to come back to see them.

I just feel like I’ve established a new home for myself and I could go just about anywhere for 90 days and stay on a tourist visa and be happy. Bali comes to mind :-). I also know just about that time its Diwali in India. A trip to India could definitely happen in September or October next year.

34 Weeks and 5 days on the road

Its been 34 weeks and 5 days on the road for me. Not such an amazing number really in terms of continents covered, countries traversed, or cities seen. But in another way, an amazing personal journey that began with but a single step on 28 February. Memories are rich of that day because it was the baseline from which all the rest of the days sprung. I lived then in Newark, California and I woke that day knowing it was my last day to work ever. The first thing was breakfast to do that day so I splurged on food and came back and the donation people soon showed up. The garage in the house had some final things in it to take away. Minor furniture, some clothing, electronics. They showed up on time and removed the remains of a life spent for over 2 decades in California. All left was a strongly made rubbermaid storage container that was loaded in the car.

I had to drive in to Mountain View to the company, do a final meeting, turn in company property, and say my goodbyes. This part was tough. I had made friends at the company. Many people had worked with me on these particularly pesky projects of which I only had two. Both seemed as spawn of the devil at the time yet both finished on time with the desired results but after months of 18 hour days, no weekends or holidays. Of course both were done over the holiday. Figures.

So anyways, the goodbyes were tough. There were the surviving members of the burger club that had taken me out one final day earlier in the week. Down to only two members, they were not sure if they would continue. There were friends in the office that were the recipients of my never-ending teasing and that somehow got through the music that started most days at 4pm. My manager was in Florida and I had hoped to reach him on the phone but as a Senior Director, he was quite busy most days. There was my group Vice President who had become a friend and supported me and made the pitch to get me hired full time in 2016. There was my buddy the senior Director of Infrastructure Services that would always have time to talk and have the cold beer out sometimes. Then the legions of others like the administrative assistants, database managers, identity management, networking, windows and Linux team administrators. It also crossed over to the sales and support organization and I had many friends there.

But the goodbye’s were said and the equipment turned in and it was time to go. I remember walking to the parking lot thinking I would not be back ever to this building because I was leaving but the company was also moving in the coming months. I drove my little car on its last trip with me owning it. Over the Dumbarton Bridge again for the last time. I drove to Union City with the backpack, the transfer of title for the car, and the small container of what remained of life here. Pictures and old papers. All condensed to a single plastic container to store in the garage at my ex-wife’s house. She met me out front and I gave her the car title and transfer papers, saw my daughter, dropped off the rubbermaid container and hiked to BART which is about .5 miles away. On BART I would ride across the bay to a stop, get a cab, and ride to a hotel by SFO for one night.

The hotel was very nice and there was a nice bar and restaurant next door so after getting settled and writing a farewell post on LinkedIn, I decided I should probably party a bit. Who knew when I would be in California or the US again. Who knew what the next moments of time would yield for me?

The next day I would fly to Japan for 2 weeks and then on to Vietnam for 6 months. Both trips were kinda planned but Japan was very well defined with hotels and Shinkansen trips. Vietnam was a little more open but I had the 6 month tourist visa and I knew that I wanted the slow travel in Asia already.

If you flash forward to mid September this year, my six months ended in Vietnam on a flight to Phnom Penh Cambodia. I had set 4 months of travel in Cambodia with visits to Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Siem Reap, and Battambang. That would get me through the 2018 year. Later I would define 5 months of travel in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand and start thinking about the remaining months of 2019. A plan began to take hold about China for some months from Phnom Penh and then perhaps back to Vietnam. Some not decided 100% but China is about 75%.

From February to October, what a time!

So from that day to this, its been that number of weeks and days. Weeks and days spent in the slow mode of travel that I have found suits me best. Moments spent in the giant sprawl of Hong Kong because I had to go there to clear the Vietnam visa after 90 days or trips to Hoi An, or Hue. Then Da Lat and Da Nang and a number of times to Ho Chi Minh City. Many tours to places as well.

So much done, so many days thus far but the time is not near over. I would say in many ways it’s only begun. I had a major need around a retirement visa that would grant me flexibility in Cambodia. I did that. I needed to verify that my slower travel would always feel good to me, be positive in outlook, and also allow me the walking each day with the camera to see things. That’s been done.

Finally from that day on 28 February to this day, there’s been a silent revolution in my thinking. I’ve come to realize I am not a digital nomad or a gap year person or a round the world traveler. I am not limited nor do I ever want to work again or need to. So thanks to a few people that will never read this paltry excuse for a blog. Thanks to my manager Lee who became a friend and supporter over some tough times and projects at the company. Thanks to Robert and Payman for always supporting me and never doubting. Thanks to my ex-wife for helping me always and never saying no if I asked for her help mailing something or just doing a minor errand there for me. Thanks to the few friends I actually have that supported me over the years. Not many but the ones there are good!

Most of all thanks to me! I did this myself. I decided in 2017 that a sea change was necessary that would let me surpass the more horrible years from 2009 to 2014. Those days are past and I’m in the 34 weeks and counting now. Someone may ask if i’m happy with what I have. Yes. I am.

Perhaps I have been able to measure my worth a bit and I know I am not a people person. I know I’m selfish and something of a narcissist and critical. But in the end I did this. You could but it would be different. It would be your thing. I hear people wonderingly ask sometimes

it would be so cool to do what you’ve done. Can you tell me how to do it?

I’m sorry but I cannot. The problem is that each of us faces a reality and a fantasy of our own making. My methods may make you crash and burn or be unhappy or lose the will to continue. So I cannot help but I can tell you  that you can do what I’ve done if you truly desire a change and you can satisfy a few things;

Debt free. I would not have done this without first removing all debt. No recurring debt either. This is the bane of existence.
Consider credit cards. Do you need them? No you don’t. They are evil. Get bank accounts with good ATM Debit cards. Get rid of the evil credit monsters.
Services and Support. Get the services you need to support you when you leave to another place. Mail forwarding services come to mind.
No car, home, property. Get rid of everything. You don’t need to spout minimalist BS but be a realist.
A simpler life calls. Able to live a simpler life in a simpler place perhaps out of a backpack
Retirement Benefits. Understand your social security retirement benefits, how to do them, what they mean, when to claim.
Desire to make a change. You gotta want it. No halfway, half-assed things.
Implement the change.  Be the change you want.

So, can you do it? The question is do you want to? Can you do the things? If not, it may simply not be for you I hate to say. I would not have left if I had not paid off all debt and had not gotten rid of everything. If you cannot live a simpler life in a simpler country, you may be doomed. Lack of desire on your part will lead to lack of execution on your part.

Finally without the things leading up to the event on February 28th. The years of agony and hatred and then the year of planning, I seriously doubt it would have happened so you must implement the change. The top things above were not done in a vacuum folks. It took a year of writing, planning, paying off two final debts; one that dogged me since 2012 and the other being the car. To desire the change you must be willing to do the things to implement the change. Some may be painful. Saying goodbye to work colleagues and friends, my daughter, a known yet expensive life in the Bay Area. All were painful.

Yet then gain reached was so much more than anticipated. I’m free now.

Mikes Concept Workflow – Ideas, Discussion and what works and does not

Awhile ago I built a basic workflow in my productivity tool named Ulysses to try to help me stage information and have it flow through different stages. I have not really followed the approach I had lined out but now feel its time with writing other content more to try again. So in the interests of sharing here is a post on how it works. Just as a background, I use the Ulysses App which is on Apple platforms for this but you could use Google Docs just as well.

The basic idea for me was to kind of get organized. I don’t have massive amounts of information coming in and I don’t have a team on Slack collaborating with me. What I do have are these sometimes extemporaneous ideas that come to me walking with the camera or when I am reading something. I could find another app which captures it but truth be told, Ulysses is my one home for all text. I don’t need separate tools for the jobs when there is only one of me. So, information kinda comes in in various ways and I write little notes. These notes are free form things like,

look at www something or other and read their idea about Vietnam

So that is in what is called a “sheet” to use the Ulysses parlance. Does each little crumb have its own sheet? Not at this point. It may end up there next. We are at the Inbox level of things where these sheets get filed. Its here where things have gone awry for me and ideas propel with alacrity to other points in the workflow so I have decided to attack the problem head on here in Otres and try again. To ease the discussion, here is the workflow and how it’s used.

Inbox. The home of the little ideas captured in sheets. These are freeform ideally although that folder is empty now because I have not been good at maintaining this part of the workflow.

Stuff to do. Often the thing becomes something I want to do. A place to go or see on a walking trip. The sheets move here with some additional classification such as the where, maybe a map, a time, etc. I am still not good at this point but I have used it.

Ideas. At this point, the stuff to do yields ideas. Formative plans that I can act on. This is a good stage for me since things burst through on walks or over beers or when I’m reading. I have repositories for these things like :

  • Blog Posts. The idea is destined to become a blog post. When it gets here, its created and published using Ulysses publishing to WordPress tools.
  • Mikes Journal. The idea is not good for a blog post. It’s become too personal. The journal is a freeform text document using some markup but mostly its just typing into one sheet for each year. Ulysses is damned good at longer documents!
  • Travel. A catchall folder with sub folders for this year and next that needs some reorganization.
  • Stories too Edit. It may become a story. I only have one now I am working on. It kinda came this route.
  • Fuji Camera Notes. Infrequently I find a thing I want to keep on photography like a website or an author or something. I try to keep sets of notes on this stuff.
  • Blog Articles. The original idea was to create static content or “pages” on WordPress. The idea may end up as a blog article or static post.

So this is what I came up with as far as a workflow in Ulysses. What are the problems? Well, there are lots of little places for things to go. So the first thing I’ve decide to lessen the number of folders. I will pull down to only an inbox that will then feed the blog posts, journals, etc. The second problem is discipline. We all are spontaneous creatures and ideas come willy nilly at the dead of night when you wish they would not. My idea was having the same tool on the phone and the laptop meant I would be able to deal with this. I still believe that. Its just not how I use the mobile app on my iPhone. That is going to change. I want to have the mobile app play more of a key role as I slim down the workflow folders.

Some folders require reorganization. The travel folder has sub folders and lots of sheets and attachments of maps and pdf files. No real organization within the folder. I am going to study that problem and come up with a more elegant solution for travel. Its not just some app like TripIt. I don’t particularly care for more apps to store things in. Since my tool is Ulysses and its so well built for organization and function, this is it and I must learn more how to use it.

Finally is the journal. There is not much to be done there. I could simply move to something else but for me it breaks the basic rule of use. Why would I pay for Day One when my journal is a freeform text document and it just works for me?

Integration and Exporting

I want to finally discuss integration and exporting. If you decide to implement a workflow I think its important to find a central repository that you can live with and that’s integrated into how you do things already. I think Google Docs is really superb at this. But there are others too. So the simple rule is pick one you already feel good about. Don’t just buy a subscription to Ulysses or find X tool because legions of people swear by it. This is a tool for you folks. Make it stand your use test and it integrates, if you want, to mobile platforms.

Exporting finally is huge. The tool you choose should export to other formats. You may want a sheet in clear text or pdf or even a word docx. Make sure you can do these things. At some point, I may change back to Google Docs and I want the export path well paved from Ulysses.

Conclusions or such…

So there you have it. A workflow I don’t use but that is a start to trying to organize how I use information and maintain it in a single organizing and integrated tool. Rather than the helter-skelter of a tool for each thing which may work for you, my limitation is finding the nugget of information when it could be in Google keep or a Google Doc or perhaps in a text file somewhere. I dealt with this by buying the subscription to Ulysses. Its still a learning thing so the final conclusion is not written. But it works! And it works to help me find things and write things and publish them. I do feel the need to simplify the folders which I am going to do here in Sihanoukville while the rain falls and and days are slow.

Give it some thought folks. Do you want a home for things that you can then turn into a workflow to help you? I thought yes and no at first. Now I think yes with some caveats. It needs change. But life is all about change! Embrace it or ignore it at your peril.

Traveling in 2018,2019 and beyond – basic ideas and what I’d like to do

I have a few upcoming day tours. I just booked the second one after looking around for a cheaper option than the initial one. The idea with the second one was to tour the islands around Sihanoukville by boat. I got a quote from one place that seemed rather high so then found a less pricy option that goes to all three islands, feeds me lunch, and pretty much lets me wander around the islands a bit. I am not after any big times on the tour. I just want to see the islands that I see most every day when walking along the beach.

The second tour I decided was this day tour of Sihanoukville. I wanted to get a small duffel bag I could use for side trips and found one at the market when I went before. I should have just bought it but I figured I would have to carry it all around where I went afterwards. Now I can have a bus to store it on because the tour stops at the market. It goes to a few other places as well.

That pretty much rounds out what I want to see here. When I get done with the tours I’ll be ready to get to Phu Quoc Island and the resort hotel for a bit. The stay on the island does not have some purpose or need. I think it was just a reaction to things I read online. I read about the beaches and the unique nature of the island and wanted to go see both. A bowl of Pho may be nice too :-).

After I get back I have about 6 days before I fly to Siem Reap. I’m really excited about that part of things. I have wanted to see Angkor and the other sites for a long time! I’ll spend a month there too because its just what I do.

After Siem Reap its the second largest city in Cambodia Battambang for a month. I don’t have a set of things there either which I want to do.

Finally in January next year its back to Phnom Penh for a week and then I take off on the Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand thing. That goes on for 5 months with no real goals after 30 days in KL and a flight to Phuket and back in Thailand.

Once its June and I have flown back to Phnom Penh, I’ll spend a month there to get my Chinese tourist visa and take care of some things which undoubtedly have come up that are easier to deal with in Phnom Penh. I am thinking that China is a few months of travel to see things and then I need to be back in September to renew my retirement visa.

I had looked at going back to Vietnam in September. Then I started thinking of this longer trip in Japan I want to do. I would like to start in Hokkaido and work my way south to Kyushu for as long as it takes. I can get 90 days of entry there. The Japan trip may push out a bit and I will spend the end of the year in Vietnam seeing friends there. If I went to Vietnam, it would be a week or so in Saigon, a few weeks in Can Tho Vietnam visiting a friend there. Then I would fly from Can Tho to Da Nang and spend time there. Simply because I love Da Nang and if I could just stay in one place it would be there. Then from Da Nang up to Hanoi to see friends for awhile and the fly back to Phnom Penh. That would kinda close out next year for traveling.

I even started thinking about after that because its fun charting out the places I would want to go given there are no real blockers to any of this. I would like to reach:

  • Indonesia
  • South Korea
  • India
  • Dubai
  • Morocco
  • Turkey
  • Egypt

Given how fast (or slow) I travel its likely I would only reach half of those in a year :-). Or I may speed up a bit or who knows. I could see doing the first three in 2020 but once I reach India its like Dubai is a gateway for me to the other places.

I have no interest in reaching Europe or Russia. No interest in Australia or New Zealand. A lot of this is due to cost of living in some of the places and I really have always felt that Asia and I are better suited to each other. This has really accelerated for me since Vietnam and Cambodia. I may have doubted before living a life of very slow travel in the countries I have chosen but after things like getting the year long retirement visa with no real effort, seeing how reasonable living is in Vietnam and Cambodia, meeting such very nice people; its hard to see wanting some kind of other life. I could never see going back to the States ever permanently. A visit would be ok to see my kids but the idea of living there is a turn off. I much prefer the day to day living where I am now.

I’ve had a good time here in Otres Village in Sihanoukville. I don’t think I will return here. I told an acquaintance I met from an ex-pat website that I am not into either standing still or moving too fast. Some places are good for a single visit and you leave enriched. Others are cosmic things and have ties. I’ve felt that way about Da Nang for awhile. As I read about Battambang I think it could be like that. We shall see.

Today I’ll walk the Otres Beach a bit later from south to north taking photographs as I go with the camera. Its a beautiful long walk and there are no private fence signs to block access most of the way. Then I’ll cut through at the north to a dirt access road and wander around there for a bit and head back. I’m on this schedule of walking and then eating dinner at about 6pm at local places that I like. We’ll see where the urge takes me this evening.

Sihanoukville City thoughts – won’t be going back

Morning slow down in Otres Village happens most every day to me now. I leave for an iced latte at Arny’s coffee shop and talk with the folks there for awhile and just watch the comings and going. Then to the little coffee shack down the street for a second. Then its back to my bungalow for some time. There’s nothing really to rush out for or to see that is time sensitive. Nothing really happens on a day to day basis in Otres that makes one wish for things to speed up.

I did sign up for a day tour a week from Friday of Sihanoukville just to say I did one. I see a few Wats, a waterfall and a fishing village. Then I leave for the week in Vietnam at the resort.

The sandals I had bought the Yucatans which I believed would be the next best thing to walk in after my Merrells turned out to be blister machines on these poor old feet. I tried for a few days wearing them and my feet were in agony. I can only gather since I see other people wearing them the sizing was off or something or perhaps my feet just prefer the Moabs. So I decided to order another pair and have them shipped to Cambodia along with some socks. I could just wait and see if I could find some kind of walking shoes in Siem Reap but the Merrell’s are a known quality. I’d rather spend the bucks and have them shipped than have to deal with something unknown. Many things are easily bought here. I can find t shirts in my size in the markets no problem. I can find underwear. I have never seen socks and the shoes run in various sizes and are not the actual makers. The last part I really don’t care about. I have a North Face Surge backpack which I got in Saigon for $15 USD which normally costs about 4 times that much. Nothing has happened to it at all and its very sturdy and a nice under the seat carry on bag. So buying some things I am good with. Shoes though are different to me. I walk a lot and this last few days with the sandals has not been so nice to my poor old feet. After yesterday I trashed them because I was fed up with the constant blisters and sores on my feet they cause. I don’t think I will go there again.

I also went into Sihanoukville yesterday for a few hours. Its kind of a depressing place. There is a lot of development of hotels and shopping and casinos going on by Chinese companies. A lot of Chinese cruising in SUVs with blueprints. I don’t mean to sound demeaning but I think the unchecked development is not going to mean anything positive at all for Khmer people there. I don’t see any infrastructure projects to improve roads or stuff at all. The roads there are messed up affairs too. Not meant for heavy construction vehicles. I won’t be going back to the downtown except on the tour. I try to remain fair and open minded but it really got to me seeing how the area was developed. In all fairness, the Cambodian government should tell the development firms for every 1 casino or hotel you have to do 3 public works projects that benefit the local population. Will that happen? No. Too late for that kind of thing. I believe the unchecked development precedent has been set.

More on Ordering from the States if you are interested…

If you happen to come my way, you may want to get a mail forwarding service that will take off the responsibility of ex wives, children or other frustrated family members to check your mail. I say this because Amazon does not ship to Cambodia directly so you have to figure out a way to get it done. I really recommend a bigger solution which is to get something like US Global Mail. No affiliate link or adds on this site; just a recommendation. The reason you want this service is to stop frustrating family or ex-wives and to also assist with getting you things you need to wherever you are in the world. US Global Mail has a whole bunch of ex-pat mail services but the ones I highly recommend are package forwarding, mail management and forwarding, and scanning of mail you do not want forwarded into PDF. I ask them to collapse the shipments into one box and send all mail and whatever I ordered in a single box. They ship through Fedex and UPS. For me UPS works the best here in Cambodia. You get the stuff in about 5 to 7 days and the package does not appear to be tampered with at all.

All of this may cost more and you may demur and think you can find the things here. I would say about 95% you can. I have found my size in t shirts and underwear and shorts and all kinds of stuff. Shoes to me are particularly important. I’d rather pay the freight than think I can find the stuff here.

Final Say on Sandals, Clothing, and other stuff…

I don’t know the final say on these Yucatan sandals. I see lots of people wearing them barefooted so I can only imagine I got the wrong size or something or my feet and sandals simply do not match up well. I would say you should walk around for awhile in any shoes you bring on an adventure like this one but realize you are gonna have to replace things sooner or later. Some things you can find. Others you may be hard pressed to find in markets in Vietnam or Cambodia. Then there’s the question of sizes. The only place thus far to find t shirts that fit was in the markets in Phnom Penh. Vietnam does not stock large enough sizes for western men by and large. I paid $3 USD for each t shirt that has a logo of beer and Cambodia on it ;-). If they last 6 months I figure I got my money’s worth.

Anyways, that’s the deal for today. Its Thursday. Beautiful day out so will go walking a bit later.Gonna go back to my Merrells and socks! I’d like a bit of comfort after the days of hell with the Sandals.

Down the Street in Otres and my Cynical Blogging Views

A discussion with myself ensued this morning over iced coffee and some flirting with the Khmer lady that makes my coffee. I would say a beautiful smile she has with vibrant dark eyes and that sparkling personality. She told me she had seen me out walking but I had not seen her. I told her my name and she told me her name and we shook hands.

The discussion was about these wonderful people and their warmth and character and friendliness. I feel sometimes we short change them because of abrupt nature of some visitors. We don’t show them our best side but keep in mind this is their country and we are the visitors here so don’t act like an asshole American or wherever. I saw this at dinner last night too. Why is it that some people even come here? It’s so out of their character. You look at them and they should be staying in an upscale downtown hotel. Why in the world would they come to Otres Village? Its just a small dirt road lined city with a fair share of restaurants and bars and the beach. I considered that too.

As I sat over my iced latte first thing in the morning I felt blessed in a few ways to be able to have the time to just sit and not be rushed to the next destination. I’ll go to Siem Reap and see the Wats there and spend a month in that city but that’s to come. I thought about what it means to have a retirement visa here in Cambodia that basically lifts the barriers of entry for a year and lets me go where I want, see what I want, and leave and come back as I want. Cambodia was never meant as the full time home for me but as a home base. I knew I needed a home that I could feel comfortable in and enter the LaLune Hotel in Phnom Penh. I needed to learn how to get around. Enter the mobile GRAP app. I needed to find the vendors and services that would fix things like cameras and give me a quality haircut and feed me.

I then walked to the WING currency exchange shop where you can break larger US bills into smaller and got some change. If you don’t know it the US dollar rules here but you often get change back in a mix of Riel and US dollars so its to your favor to learn the 4 to 1 rule in currency exchange. Not that I have been cheated and I never give a truly large bill to a restaurant or bar. Largest I will give is $10 but most often the food and beverages cost a small amount. I had dinner the other night night for $3.25 which included a few beers and some delicious chicken fried rice. Same place has Khmer foods for cheap.

So all these thoughts kinda bubbled around in my poor little brain and then I went to the coffee shack down the street from my bungalow and met the owner there who wanted to talk. We shook hands and he told me about some of the reasons why Otres suffers through power outages and tap water gets cut off. Not because of infrastructure issues but the building and construction going on. He’s too nice to blame a certain asian country for their unchecked building methods here but its obvious. Sihanoukville is gonna change and already has and soon the little hamlets like Otres with little restaurants catering to all kinds of people will be in the past. It’s on the radar folks.

Today I leave a bit later and head to the Upper Market in downtown via tuk tuk. I’ll mess around there and see parts of the city with the camera and have dinner so will probably not go until later.

Favorite City Status

I was reading along on twitter and facebook today and some people were asking the favorite place we had visited. I thought back through so many places but only one really stands out for me. It has to be Da Nang Vietnam. If Vietnam had a retirement visa and my desire was to just stay put I think Da Nang with its eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, coffee culture, history and geography would be the place. It has this unique location of being both by a river and by the ocean. The Han River sparkles its way down the river front and businesses set up tables for coffee and food and beer on the streets in front of their restaurants. Let me tell you sitting out in the evening with a cold beer and just seeing the evening setting in with the bridges is amazing. I am a bridge guy and love finding them, photographing them, walking them. The favorite cities of mine like Vancouver and Osaka and Hiroshima all have bridges but Da Nang has the Golden Dragon Bridge. Most all of the bridges there light up at night and it creates an other worldly and beautiful experience to simply sit and enjoy a coffee or beer and just watch. Night time photography there is amazing as well.

But even all that being said, I feel no urgency to get back to Da Nang. I don’t feel a rush to return to Vietnam besides my few day stay in Phu Quoc Island which is a get away to a nice resort hotel where I can spoil myself.

Blogging This and That…

I guess after blogging for two decades I am jaded but when I read people talk about the big challenges around blogging and their accomplishments and nowhere is listed producing content it just kinda goes with what I feel is the downward evolution of this platform. Content is king folks. Words are power. If you blog and you do not do it for content and communication and exploration and discovery, why the hell do you do it? I’ve watched this platform nose dive to nothing but ads and sales pitches with a few words super imposed over them. I get you wanna sell things and you travel and you want to monetize and then fuel your travel and then do more of all the same. I’m in a different boat but on my boat I can see your boat clearly. In my boat, I don’t need to monetize a damned thing to go where I want so I have a different view. If you don’t think about the quality of your words and their impact I think you are W R O N G. And you got into the blogging for the wrong reason. Way back when, the early folks produced blogs that I would voraciously read about open source, their thoughts and ideas, articles read, and they would link to the so-called parma-links of other blogs to reinforce or have a discussion about disagreement. Do any of the bloggers now even know what a perma-link is I wonder?

Dealing with it all and Moving On

But I am nowhere close to folding my tent on blogging although so many of my colleagues have given up and just don’t create content any longer. I miss them and their original ideas and discussion. For me the blog here is about a thing which has persisted for a few years. It was about the planning and execution to leave and then the actual departure and places.

So this blog persists and I will continue to write in it and write my contrary opinions because this blog is not supported except by me. I will rail against when it feels right and consider moving to a self hosted site but on my own linux VPS. I will never move to a hosting solution where you cannot SSH or RDP in. But for me now, works and they took care of me once after I bugged them a few times on twitter.

So if you are a blogger today consider the impact of your words. The words are things that I relate to. It’s your original content. Instead of the 5 or 10 things that are best about the Hanoi coffee scene, try telling me your take on Hanoi and a day spent walking the old quarter. What did you see around Hoan Kiem Lake? What was it that you liked about Ho Chi Minh City?

I particularly avoid the posts that are regurgitations of 3 year old posts about the 10 things I should do in X or the 5 reasons I should go to Y. It feels like automated tweets to me that you just do to have presence.

I don’t mean to be so critical but of course I am critical. So sue me.

Daily Otres life

The next few weeks I am going to be doing some sightseeing downtown Sihanoukville for a day and then in about 1.5 weeks I go to Vietnam for a few days on a resort island. I don’t really plan on accomplishing much on Phu Quoc Island besides to get there and splurge on a nice room at a resort hotel and perhaps sit by the pool.

I got a really nice walk in today. The walking here is different and I have some choices. I can always walk around the ocean and Otres Beach is really long so it creates a nice walk from one end to the other. As I was getting back to today to the bungalow, the rains moved in and of course we had a power outage.

I wanted to mention a few things which come with power outages besides a bit of frustration. When one happens, you are forced back to basics so I read on my kindle or work on my story. Often I sit on the porch and listen to the rain falling or watching the sky going dark at sunset. I don’t really mind getting back to basics and having time to consider or do other things. Its not like I have some job like a digital nomad or ex-pat to get done. Really what I like is the basic internet service but when its gone; its gone. Getting angry d0es not bring it back.

Another thing with the power outages is that some hotels and restaurants have portable generators which makes comfort nice when one happens here. The hotels are more expensive and the restaurants are about the same price. I see the places that do have portable generators because the wifi hotspots remain up during the power outage :-). No jealousy here. I like what I have but it sure will be fun to splurge a bit in a week or so.

So that’s all the things with power and walking here for this day. Lets talk coffee. Down the street is one of my favorite little things here in Cambodia which are these little coffee shacks. The lady there has a beautiful smile and makes a really nice iced latte in the morning. There is a nice coffee place a bit further down the street as well that also does breakfast. Many of the other restaurants around here do about the same thing for breakfast which is this rather bad overcooking eggs and then charging more for bacon. I really dislike the breakfasts here so I don’t do them. Coffee too is bad and I’ve been served instant coffee but paid a bit more. Perhaps I am still spoiled with the coffee choices in Phnom Penh or Vietnam. In PP I could walk a block from the hotel and find another one of the coffee shacks and another block was a cute place that did both lunch and coffee and both of the people there spoke pretty good English. Ordering coffee does not require English tough. Its point and click thing.

But to me far beyond is the coffee culture in Vietnam. In all the places I found the most wonderful coffee shops but especially in Hanoi, Saigon, and Da Nang. In Saigon was one that made the best banana nut bread with warm butter. That and a latte was so perfect! I really miss that scene. Perhaps another reason I am going back to Vietnam.

Finally, I love reading on twitter the blogs of the travelers and their posts. The tribe there is pretty nice and people are heading in all different directions. But this whole monetization and ads and affiliate links sometimes really wears thin when the information on the blog is almost secondary to the desire to earn money . I know some folks that are still searching for a way to get better income while traveling indefinitely. I wish them the best in the endeavor. I’m just glad its not mine.

So tomorrow I go off to downtown and visit the market and perhaps eat there and then tuk tuk back in the evening. I may leave later in the day so I can eat dinner downtown somewhere for a change. I am probably gonna go sightseeing to visit the other beaches next week as well.

I’ll check back and post the latest album from here tomorrow when I get back from my trip to the big city!

Thoughts on the Otres Beach – the moments versus the times

Yesterday here in Otres it was raining really good for most of the day. I was able to get out to walk a few times though. I walked down a few longer streets to see the country outside of Otres Village and then was able to finish the day by strolling the beach. Otres Beach is really made for taking longer strolls along it. Its a long stretch of sandy goodness that lets you walk along care free with feet in the sand and bath tub warm water. Its also a good time for introspection and some personal reflection.

I’ve been here in Otres almost a week now and have really two weeks to go since I’m going to Phu Quoc Island Vietnam the last real week here. The island is a few hour mini bus and ferry boat ride away and I booked a room at a nicer resort hotel to finish my time down here. When I get back on the 9th of November only a few days remain before flying to Siem Reap. But that’s then and this is now as my mom would say.

Lets talk now and some of the precious reflection because its the first real time besides perhaps in Da Lat when I felt this slow down and ability to basically stop and think most days. Otres has this laid back charm which leads one to want to think a bit and the beach just down the street is a powerful incubator for looking within while looking without. I came up with a few things while considering the travels and my life. I told some people before I am not a gap year, Digital Nomad, Round the World (RTW) person or ex-pat. I’ve been able to decide that these things are attempts to create life hashtags that explain the how of what you are doing but most often not the why. Many of these types of people travel either fast or slow or in the case of ex-pats perhaps not all. There is also a mentality I’ve found which lends itself to mobility of lifestyle and many really want social media uptake. Hundreds of likes on Instagram, lots of hearts and retweets on Twitter. The digital nomads focus on places I think which meet sets of criteria they have around connectivity, connectedness, and perhaps other digital nomads. The RTW person often collects countries and passport stamps as counts of success and ability. Then there are the gap year types which take a year or six months or whatever to find themselves.

I compare these worthy ambitions to what it is I bring and I find upon walking the beach that none of these define what I do and in fact what I do defies defining my approach in any of the types of travel I’ve elaborated above. There is a simple reason for this I think. Each of the type of traveler has a set of goals. Perhaps its to see all they can see or to find a year to spend enlightening themselves and then returning to the work life. Maybe its to find compelling places where digital nomadism can flourish and work can be done. All have goals to meet. Perhaps budgets to keep. Itineraries to keep even slightly. My vagabonding has no goals. There is no final or desired state for it. It simply is. This creates value and a new sense of purposeless travel that most or all of the classic types of traveler could not find or perhaps even want. In my case, its my ideal state. I realized this on my walk back in the rain on the beach yesterday. The second thing is most of these travelers have had to work or still work on the road. The income from the money fuels the travel or stasis in a place. That is not the case for me. I have no hours to keep on a clock or a thing to submit or worries that this or that will cause a problem with some budget I am carefully crafting.

I think the final thing is a more enduring yet hard to define state. Its the fact that time as an accounting has really ceased to exist for me day to day. I have a final day in a place that I have set but if I were to miss that, I would be out some small amount of money but life in Sihanoukville would go on. By killing off time and its inbound limitations and restrictions I’m left with moments. Moments are filled or not with things for me. Or perhaps each moment just leads to the next moment. I could leave now for breakfast down the street and get a nice two egg omelet for $2.50 and some hot coffee or I could wait. I could decide to not doing anything today or tomorrow. Time simply has stopped being an accountability device and I don’t believe for the most part the other types of travelers have that luxury. Most or all are driven by time.

So there you have it, a few things which differentiate what I do and sometimes reading the tweets and blog posts and instagram posts its obvious there is a difference. I can see how even the free wheeling digital nomads have restrictions. But I also figure I paid my dues for work and responsibility and goals and timelines and calendar events. I’ve reached the vaunted place in life of not having any of those and traveling slowly in places of my desire with no real financial, time, space or other concerns. Its liberating and I found that on the beach yesterday as the rain started a bit.

Now I know the ongoing value of reporting here and what the blog and twitter and even instagram do for me. Its not about building presence or membership or ads or certain types of content. Its about what I do and the fact that another retiree or retiree family could also do this. I answered a question on Quora the other day about happiness in life. Yes this is the time when I am completely happy with my life folks. Its all come together and fallen apart just like I wanted. Came together in 10 years of planning but then the falling apart happened after some time on the road. I realized in a coffee shop that none of it mattered. Perhaps that moment led to the beach in Cambodia. Moments are tied together with the thin filament of experience perhaps.

Nothing really changes with the blog with my realization. Its still a catalog of travels. I still post on twitter and have a minor following on instagram. Those are social media accounts I enjoy but they have really let me see the difference. Difference is good. Now perhaps it is time for a late breakfast this morning. Flip flops and shorts and a cap work well here.