Halfway to Singapore and then onwards!

Today’s the halfway mark for here in Phnom Penh. In a week point 5, I fly out to see a place I have not been back to since 2011. I have a week to go experience the city-state, perhaps get to the botanical gardens, walk the city streets, and find hawker stands for cheaper food. I may end up doing what I do in Tokyo which is just finding food at cheap noodle stands or convenience stores. One night in Kyoto I went to the hotel bar and had one draft beer. That came in at about $7 US dollars. So in the interests of comparison shopping I then went to the 7/11 down the street and got an entire six pack of the same beer for less. I don’t really go to the places to eat expensive or buy drinks in sky bars, or find the nicest places for both. I go to walk the cities, see the sights and let my Fuji camera have some fun. Each day of the 7 days there I will head in a different direction to see new places. But lets face it folks. We’re talking Singapore! The land of hawker stands and sitting out in the evening with a Tiger beer or whatever like the Singaporeans do. I could find the BBQ place I went to way back when or I could hop a ride to the Borders Books where I would hang out. I will probably do all those things.

But in a week I will leave because its part of the way to go. I never spend a long time in expensive places. I’ll take off the morning of the 8th day for my bus ride to Kuala Lumpur. I’ll spend the same for 3 weeks for a room as I did for one week in Singapore. I will also use up my entire 90 days of visa exempt travel there and see KL, Malacca, Port Dickson, and then fly to Penang. From there its to Thailand for 60 days with one visa extension after 30. I’ll get to Phuket, Krabi, Bangkok and Chiang Mai. I’m getting pretty excited to get going again folks. The weeks here in Phnom Penh have been nice and the relaxation and visiting the people at the hotel and also seeing the city, drinking and eating in the city, and just walking the beautiful capitol parks has been the best! But its the vagabonding part that grabs me.

I also booked 2.5 months or so back to Vietnam in June 2 weeks after I get back. Returning to Vietnam is a joy for me. I will get to Saigon, Can Tho, Phu Quoc Island, Da Nang, and Hanoi. I have all the travel stuff booked. But then to round out 2019 travels I get back for a week and take off for Lao for a 3 weeks.

When I get back it will be for a bit longer stay here in Phnom Penh. It will be time to get my retirement extension of stay renewed, get my tourist Visa for China or decide on another direction and then leave. I’d like to winter down in a warm place like the Philippines for the last part of this year. But honestly there are so many places and since I don’t mind returning to favorite places which I think Malaysia will be, who knows?

After 2019, I know I want this trip back to Japan but this time I want to go from north to south over the course of 90 days. It makes sense to spend 30 days on each island. I’d start in Hokkaido, then get to Honshu, and then finish up in Kyushu. 

For awhile, I played with the idea of going back to the states but the truth is that there is nothing for me there. I don’t have property, car, place to stay, something to do there. I would grow bored I think rather quickly compared to just taking off for some place like Siem Reap again.

I just was thinking today on this tour I did around the city about all that is out there and how 2019 is looking awesome for traveling slowly. I have almost the entire year filled up with my slow travels and once I decide after October this year what I’ll do for Christmas season, I’ll have a year of doing the things which have turned out the best for me.

So there you go! A year of Asia and returning a few times here to the hotel which is my home base and then getting back to Vietnam to see friends scattered across south an north. Eat some Pho. Drink some Saigon beer. Watch the sunset yet again in Da Nang or see the evening set in at the Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi. All beautiful and wondrous and so much has changed in each place that it will be like seeing them for the first time.

I’ve come to realize I’m not interested or vested in country counting or reaching some plateau of places I’ve been. I value the moments more wherever I spend them whether there before or not. I think its more like living and making a mark in a place for the moments I give to each place. Never feeling rushed to reach some goal because I ain’t got no goals. Harvesting the moments that give me precious insight into a place. With a year coming up doing this thing, I’ve come to realize that is really what this whole thing is about. Not about traveling or even vagabonding. More about living and perhaps its like my mom once wrote,

Life is a matter of living making each moment count

Life is a matter of giving giving the right amount

Such it is!

2018 – The Year Ending and the One Starting

It seems a blogger must publish a retrospective blog post at the end of the year or on a blogging anniversary and often if you are more socially minded on so many followers or page views reached. I stopped caring if I ever did about how many people follow this blog or page views. But the end of the year deserves something I think. It deserves a statement of a life spent doing something that took almost a decade to reach. I won’t go month by month and will spare you the boredom of all the little things that occurred along the way. Here are just a few recollections or thoughts from my 2018. Perhaps yours are completely different and more meaningful. Mine are simply mine.

  1. The year 2018 was the year of finishing work for me. I reached the point in February where I could work no more even though I was asked to stay. I told my boss I had no more gas in the tank. In truth the previous 4 months of the project had exhausted me and took out any desire to continue doing program management. I told my manager this and he laughed and agreed that I should do what I wanted. On 28 February, I left working forever and on 1 March I left the states for Japan.
  2. The year also saw me realize that while it took 10 years almost to get through the pain of divorce and terrible debt and a lot of misery that 2018 was indeed a capstone of a thing which sealed up all those years of misery in a time capsule of sorts and buried it away. I had finally done a thing in 2018 which had been imagined and dreamt and wondered at. In the dark days before, things just seemed out of reach and so far away that however I stretched I would not grasp. Now I know what it feels like to grasp that reality because I’ve been living it for almost a year now. It feels both awesome and almost a fantasy at times. I realize that the year gave me a gift that was slow in unwrapping and had surprises still for me that the world of slow travel and vagabonding would be so interesting and exotic and different. My few locations ensured that. Vietnam and Cambodia have been that royal mix of things which have kept me stable for months at a time. Never rushed to reach another shore or for that passport stamp. Never working or taking one of the other titles like digital nomad and never needing to.
  3. Finally, the year marked a coming of age in other ways too. I was able to finally see the end of so many years of self imposed hell on earth caused by debt. The final debt for the car rolled off my shoulders in January and I gave my car to my daughter on 28 February on my way to the hotel by the international airport in SF.  There is a last material thing there which is the sum total of that coming of age.  A small rubbermaid container is all that remains of a life spent both in heaven and hell for years. Things that departed in the coming of age were things like goals and tasks and responsibilities. What remained was a free life of moments to see and walk and take photographs and travel slowly.

Someone asked me if they could do this. You cannot do what I did. What I did was mine alone. It was my 2018. What you can do may be better or different or perhaps you will decide to do nothing at all. If you punt though and you are sorry later the only blame to levy is at your house. When given the chance to grab life by its moments you may have decided its too risky or difficult or demanding. Perhaps what you would do is. What I did is not.

Goodbye to 2018. A wonderful year for the most part spent not working, not being responsible, not creating more tasks and goals that I would have to defer on. If you are getting close to a next thing perhaps you can find it on the road. I would have never found it back home. I was haunted there by failure and lack. Vietnam and Cambodia have given me so much in return. Perhaps your return is elsewhere. That’s why you cannot do what I did. Yours may be better! I hope so. 

Welcome to 2019. Hopefully a year for the better for all of you. Mine is.

Siem Reap Finals

Its the last day just about or so or almost somewhat in Siem Reap. Tomorrow is a travel day after 2pm. I go from here in Siem Reap to Battambang for two weeks. It takes the bus a few hours because there is not a road that goes straight there and one must turn this way and that to get there. Its okay though because there is not a thing waiting for me there. No big plans tomorrow for arriving besides to eat some dinner and check the evening out in the city.

I planned for two weeks in Battambang and then decided to stay in Phnom Penh for about 12 days and finally Kampot for 10 days which gets me to 21 January when I fly to Singapore. I have not been back in Singapore since 2011. Before that though I was a frequent visitor since a company I worked for had offices there. Often it was a few day stop over and then flying on to Chennai India. It will be nice to be back there for a week. Still have friends there that I’d like to see but the main thing is the walking in the city again and just take my time, eat the food, visit places and take the photographs of the usual stuff.

Getting back to the leaving of Siem Reap though, I have to say this has been one of the better stops for me. I really like the city a lot and the places you can see in a few weeks are simply outstanding. The food scene is amazing here folks. There are restaurants at every price level for every taste. The Khmer restaurants are lovely little places where a dinner and a beer can be had for under $5. Most also offer western cuisine and I’ve had French fries instead of spring rolls a few times. If you are after nicer places to eat, there is no lack here either. Its not just Pub Street which is somewhat over-priced for the food. I found a Khmer restaurant there which basically had marked up the local dishes by dollars but it was the same stuff. Lok Lak or Amok or whatever but just costing more. You can walk a few blocks and find the same stuff for dollars cheaper. I went to Pub Street not to have Khmer food. I had pizza there and some decent Mexican food a few times when needing that. But get a bit farther from Pub Street if you want to find a good cross section of foods. Sok San Road is ideal for that and its a busy road with hotels, pricier residences, and hostels all lined up. The restaurants range from local places to more western style dining. All places it seems have dining outside where you can sit and watch the evening unfold and the people wander by.

As you can tell, food is a big deal for me. I happen to love to eat and I love testing and tasting the food no matter the cost really. I sometimes want a bowl of green curry, rice, and a spring roll. Other times I want a BBQ or a western style breakfast. I tend to find those places or ask others where such places exist out there. That’s how I found Sister Srey Cafe by the river. If you are wanting breakfast, I strongly suggest a visit. Prices are not way down there but if you are wanting something like a plate of hashed brown potatoes, an egg, and bacon on top; this place delivers the goods. It is my only real recommendation since sometimes breakfast can be challenging.

Food is not the only thing that Siem Reap has going for it. History and archeology are simply incredible here. The temples vie with each other to amaze and delight you and sometimes challenge in climbing or finding that one picture of the face at the Bayon Temple. Some want to read a favored temple and I have one. While Angkor Wat is incredible and I saw it at sunrise Bayon temple is by far the best. Its stone carvings and mysterious faces cut in stone are incredible. You have to see Angkor Wat but you must see Bayon Temple. Then there are the rest lined up with all different things you should see. I took two tours that the hotel gave me but was left to my own to see the temples each day so I just wandered around and took lots of photographs and read the information on the sites from the historic context to efforts to preserve and protect the antiquity.

The temple are so important folks. They are a bridge between the past, today and tomorrow much like what archeology does. It is not the face carved so much as the message translated across the times. The art and science and work and grand tapestry it all provides. There should be some mystery so you keep coming back for more. In the Antelope Valley in the Mojave Desert in California, we did not know why certain canyons in the foothills had rock art while others nearly the same did not. Something inscrutable and unknown and never defined had been at work and we shall never really know. I think that’s best for the history of Angkor too. The museum here is the other part and it provides a beautiful context but also admits to a lot of unknowns about the past periods. Its better I think to not know the “Why” of things. We can imagine or dream or wonder the unknowns.

Finally and by no means the last thing here in Siem Reap are the people. The people across Cambodia are friendly, honest, and kind. More smiles and “hellos” here from old and young you will find than other places. I was astounded before in Vietnam when people went out of their way to cross a street, introduce themselves, in Da Lat Vietnam ask for a picture from a stranger, and then wave goodbye. Here it seems even more sometimes. For an old retired guy from the SF Bay Area where people are just the way they are; its always a nice change to find genuine people here.

So I tried to not write a clickbait post and call out the 5 things or 7 restaurants or the budget items here or what to do in 24 hours or a week here. I don’t like those blogposts at all. They try to reach our lowest common denominator I think which is finding how many countries we can do in X months, how many things we can do in each country in Y days, and how to budget it all across Z weeks. The clickbait posts are just filler material to me and I would prefer reading past them to find the genuine posts. But some blogs have no genuine posts sorry to say. They are simply clickbait posts and others that are sponsored content or reviews of a shoe or a nice camera or something. I always feel like asking,

where’s the unique content? where are your feelings? I don’t need socks or a new camera. I want the real you.

I’ll always try to create content that you may love or love to hate. The photo album of 30 days in Siem Reap comes next! But first is packing up for tomorrow’s bus ride to Battambang. Another city to explore with a different setting.

See you all when I get to Battambang!

Siem Reap Times – Meeting another blogger and travel plans

Last week in Siem Reap and today got to meet a fellow blogger I follow. Here’s the back story. I was walking yesterday by the Siem Reap River just kind of enjoying the cooler day out and looking around and I thought I saw someone that looked familiar walking away from me. He was quite a bit ahead of me but he had turned to look at something. I wanted to be sure so after dinner and a few beers I checked his blog. On his About Page there is a picture. Sure enough. It was! I did not want to yell and disturb him so I wondered whether we would meet again somewhere. Siem Reap is not such a large city and though I wander in non tourist areas a lot today I walked by the Sister Srey Cafe which is a breakfast and brunch place right on the riverside and there he was!

I got to meet Cornell Sandifer, the publisher and author of this blog! One I admit to following for a few reasons. One is he travels kind of in a similar orbit in Asia but we always seemed countries apart. He would get to Vietnam as I was leaving. We had a chance to talk briefly and he let me know how his travels were going across Asia. It was really cool meeting someone who maintains a blog I follow. After a few minutes of talking about traveling and the places we both were going or had been, we parted but it felt good to meet him. Thanks Cornell! Really a pleasure meeting up with you in Siem Reap!

Days Fall Away in Siem Reap…

My days are slowly falling away here. Its my last Sunday here and its been a great place to visit. I’m down to only 5 full days left and then I board the bus to Battambang for 2 weeks.

In a way I kinda feel ready to go. I think walking the city, eating all the great food and seeing the temples has really recharged the travel batteries for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about the travels next year. I have wanted to firm up the plans after 5 months in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. I decided to do the following:

  1. Vietnam for 6 weeks. I’ll spend 2 weeks in Saigon, Da Nang, and Hanoi.
  2. Lao for a month. I’ll visit Lao for a month.
  3. Back to Phnom Penh around mid September. I need to renew my retirement visa extension of stay for another year.
  4. China in early October. I will get the Visa in Phnom Penh when I get back. Should take a week or so.
  5. Philippines maybe/maybe not. I don’t feel some desire to really go to the Philippines. Its never really been a place I have wanted to visit. A friend had told me that their retirement visas are good but the problem there is its an island or a group of islands. No train or bus service. No neighboring countries easy to get to like here.

So my desire early next year is to lock in all of 2019 in travel plans. I’ve been thinking a lot about India and I would want to go in early 2020 and see Chennai first and catch up with so many people there I know. I likely would want to spend more time in India.

That’s been the line of thinking my last few days here. I feel better having a basic plan in place so I know what 2019 has in store for me.

So it has been really good days here in Siem Reap and I always ask myself if I would return. I don’t think so now. There are only two places in Cambodia I would return to. One is Phnom Penh and the other is Kampot. Both offer something of value on opposing ends of the spectrum. Phnom Penh offers the big city stuff. The Central Market and shopping while Kampot offers the small city charms with such a diverse selection of food and bars and fun. I also need to get to some other places in Kampot which I did not do last time. I’ll be back there in January before flying to Singapore.

I also thought through settling down somewhere and staying longer. It would be in Cambodia since I have the visa extension of stay. There is nothing I gain from staying longer anywhere. I simply lose the time to see things that I want or the fun of the slow vagabonding that seems so good for my soul.

It will be good to see some people in Vietnam again but I have to be honest. I am only going back to get back to Da Nang again because I love the place so much. Saigon and Hanoi are extras and I can book the flights through all of them easily on Vietnam Airlines.

And that is a wrap for today! I got to meet a fellow blogger today that I follow, got to see down side streets and feel mighty good at the walking and how the warm Cambodian sun beats down on me and makes me feel so good. I sweat but those 5 to 7 miles slide by with the camera.

I’ll be publishing my photo album here by next Friday or so. Stay tuned! The adventure continues.

Angkor Museum, History and Thoughts – blogging and thoughts too

Another day in Siem Reap beckons. Today’s plan is to try a new bakery this morning and then head out to the Angkor National Museum for a few hours. Its a 30 minute walk from here give or take and that’s if I go in a straight line. I may decided to take a few extra turns.

I went down to Pub Street last night and walked back the longer way after getting a few tacos at this street food place. Yes tacos! They were really good and I enjoyed them on the walk back. I then stopped at this convenience store and got some chocolate chip cookies which also were quite good.

If you have not been to the Night Market or Pub Street in Siem Reap, its kind of unique I guess. The Night Market opens at night of course and there are stalls of people selling goods, a lot of food stalls selling just about every kind of street food including different fruit and ice cream concoctions, and a cast of characters that will hold your interest. You can stroll around for free and shop for clothing, souvenirs, or other stuff. Its not really like the Old Market in town. Its more of a arts and crafts and food thing. The Pub Street is a bunch of restaurants and bars, food stalls, massage parlors and yet another cast of characters. There are some prostitutes that ply the street and some of the massage front people are a bit more persistent. All in all, its just a fun place though. I don’t go often to Pub Street or the night market. I prefer this adjacent street called Sok San Road. The restaurants there are many but its a little quieter.

A nice thing wherever I have been is sitting out under the stars and eating and drinking. In Da Nang most of the restaurants along the riverwalk had tables set out outdoors so diners and drinkers could enjoy the evening. In Kampot it was the same. Here in Siem Reap the restaurants also have tables almost on the streets. Nothing like Hanoi where the streets were the dining areas for the most part. There, little plastic tables and chairs sprouted up on the streets at night and everyone wove around them, the street vendors selling Banh Mi or whatever, the shoeshine guys trying to damage your shoes first and then fix them. For a price of course.

One of my fav places is Kuriosity Kafe on Sok San. It has this elegant yet kind relaxed vibe. The menu is international and food and beer flows quickly. Beer is cheap and mostly tourists and ex-pats visit.

Update… Back from Museum

I had decided to wait to post this blogpost until after the museum today. After the bakery, I walked the longer way around to the museum. The Angkor Museum costs $12 to get in but I think its well worth the museum and its beautiful artifacts and history presented. The museum is divided into halls of different periods of history like pre-Angkor and Angkor and the carved stone artifacts, lintels and stele are just beautiful. These are all real artifacts from the various temples around Siem Reap and even farther to Vietnam and Thailand now. It gives you a view of the pre-Angkor period but the best part has to be the presentation of the Angkorian period and how Angkor Wat and its style. It may be better to go to the museum before, but I don’t think it really matters if you can read the displays at each of the sites. I got more out of the museum displays after being able to correspond a specific temple like Bayon with a style. Bayon temple is a intricate masterpiece of a temple with some of the most beautiful and stylized stone carvings. You get to see artifacts that were either lost to other governments including the US and those found during rescue archeology or ongoing preservation.

Since the museum is split on two floors, you can choose where to start but the museum interns gently guide you to the second floor first. In one of the displays are over 1000 figures of Buddha. Simply breathtaking and complex.

It’s difficult to present history in a compelling way. I dealt with this awhile back working at museums in New Mexico and California. What the anthropologists and historians think is important can be confusing to the visitor. Just presenting lineages or culture temporal frameworks means a lot to the studying professional and perhaps even to the avocational but visitors are more visual. This is where, I think, the Angkor Museum shines. There is an attention to detail which separates out the technical details and gives it back gently so you can grasp the significance of the 1000 years or so of history and even prehistoric information.

So my take is that this one of the nicest museum properties in Cambodia and should not be missed. There is a richness of display and the sweep of time is explained well. Its all reinforced by physical artifacts that depict how the different chronological ages relate to the historic sites you may visit on a tour.

A last thing…

You probably have realized it but this blog has no ads or content that someone else has purchased. I don’t do that. I think you come here for the words. The precious words that tie the thoughts together. I put some time into writing the words that then become content because it gives me pleasure to create but it also seems to be a need I have. I enjoy the creation of words and watching how my travels have moved across time and space.

If you blog and sell your content and write sponsored posts and have ads, good on you. If you create content that is then hard to read because of the ads or sponsored content, chances are you will get complaints. You are free to do as you please and I’m happy if you have found a path to blog profitably. Others have the same right to complain. Don’t confuse a privilege with a right.

Blogging has assuredly changed and someone from the old days that has stopped asked me,

why even continue?

It is really simple. Because I love to. And I have to. Its like the 5 pound chicken and 10 pound egg thing. I feel compelled to write words that become content that you may choose to read or not. This blog will not go away with zero followers. It simply does not matter to me. You can comment or follow or not. It is all okay by me. See a picture I post that you like? Just take it. You want to use it or to say you took it, I’m good with that. Its all a creative outlet for me and the photography I am still learning.

That’s about all I have to say about blogging for profit. I won’t do it and you can. No judgement given or taken. I wish you luck with it. Don’t complain too much if people ask questions about your ads though. You chose them. You live with them.

13 years with wordpress.com

An interesting perspective is that I have had an account on wordpress.com 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?

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.

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 wordpress.com when it feels right and consider moving to a self hosted wordpress.org 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, WordPress.com 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.

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.