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.

Christmas Day in Battambang

Its Christmas morning here in Cambodia. I’m spending the morning in the hotel room watching BBC News and planning out the next few days here which is all I have left. Christmas here has restaurants with buffet lunches and dinners and there are decorations out in the shopping centers with Christmas trees up. Many of the coffee shops are dressed up too with decorations.

I’ve been thinking a bit about the last year in retrospect and all the things which have come about and the things to come in 2019. In some ways it seems like a dream after waiting so many years to have it happen. Back in 2009, life did not seem so good and it took 9 years to get through the bad times to reach the good. Now with a simpler life, blessed with few possessions, no debt, no credit cards, no car and a life spent slowly on vagabonding; I’ve reached a goal of sorts. I think I’ve found the method that I looked for so many years and when I used to travel to Asia, I would want desperately. 

Of course its all different after the intervening years but the nicest thing I have to admit is not working this holiday. For the last two I had large projects which seemed to occur over the holidays and be due right after so it meant long work days. Last year or year before I sat outside a convenience store in Mountain View on a WebEx call right before Christmas and worked up until the day itself on some emergency stuff for the project that had to get done. Its something to put all that down and realize truly that a year has gone by without working and I am so thankful for that.

Another thing I am quite grateful for is figuring out how to do this and then making it happen. It is not such a complex endeavor to leave forever it seems in retrospect but leading up to it was something in January and February this year. I had felt that the time would come but it seemed almost a fantasy when it did. To actually leave with a backpack and knowing that I was leaving a clean slate behind has meant the difference to me.

Perhaps when I look back at year’s end this year it will come to me what a wonderful, unique, and sometimes challenging thing this is to wander the world as I want. There’s always a story to be told of a thing I think. A tale or two which have escaped and not been related and after blogging and doing retrospectives in the blog many times, this year is no different. I’ll not be in the United States to celebrate Christmas as I used to do with my daughter and son but as the time has gone on I’ve learned that we all change and the things we hold or that are dear to us change too. 

I also kinda think back to work colleagues of the past, friends still there and some gone and I am thankful even more for what I have and have been able to do the last year. Some have told me that they could not do this because of fear as they retire. I understand that because I felt the same fears but I also knew if I did not take this on, do the thing I wanted for so long, that life would simply slip by and I would find myself sitting in some McDonalds eating a breakfast sandwich wondering where it all had gone.

So as the year comes up and Christmas comes and goes, I do think of my kids a lot. They are always there but the reality changes and both of them take on life completely differently now. Both are unique and special and I hope they have the best of holidays but I want them to know we all have the dreams and dreams are not limited to youth. Everyone finds a dream they wish to take on. It may be risky or challenging and it may take awhile but without them we are less.

So Merry Christmas to you all wherever you may be. Have a wonderful holiday and look at the things in your life and see where they meet. Don’t forget your dreams and ideas. I never did.

The tale my old Merrill Moab Ventilators Shoes can tell…

The cell phone rang this morning while I was reading and enjoying some moments of morning solitude. First it was someone that did not speak English and then it was a delivery driver for an overnight shipping company asking me if I could be available to sign for a package. The package was a pair of walking shoes I had shipped from my mail service to Siem Reap almost two weeks ago. They had stalled in Phnom Penh and I thought that FedEx may send them back or Cambodian customs may stop them because they had questions. But in the end, the shoes made it through and then were placed with a local delivery agent and this morning I received them!

These are the only shoes I can really wear with any comfort at all and they are not sold here so once a year or so I have to buy a new pair. My old ones have really seen better days after lasting me through the miles since March. If they could tell a story it would be:

  1. Welcome to Japan. You used me for 2 weeks and 3 cities sometimes walking further and longer. I was there for you in Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Osaka and we got to see each city together.
  2. Then we were off to Vietnam together. Thanks for taking me along! You first took me to Hanoi for three months but we did side trips to Hoi An and Hue and then we left for a few days to go to Hong Kong. I really liked Hong Kong and you put the miles on me there too. All told we spent a long time together in Vietnam and ended up going to Da Lat, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City a few times. We also did a few other trips like to Nha Trang and Cham Islands. Cool stuff! All told you and I saw Vietnam for 6 months. I was there every step of the way. I’m only a shoe but I think you found some value and we got to walk some city streets, some temple grounds, got to see the Golden Bridge and so many other sights in Vietnam.
  3. Then we left for Cambodia. Oh Cambodia! You took me along for so many walks in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville and Kampot and now in Siem Reap. I heard rumors though that perhaps my time was coming up and that new some shoes on the block would arrive. And so they did. I’m not jealous or mad. I know I am here for a mission and the new pair of Merrills and I talked a bit and they will serve you well. My time is just about done. I have some rips and tears but I’ve been loyal and steadfast here in Cambodia.

So the Merrill Moab V2 shoes have seen me through a lot and many steps and miles have been done. I’ve tried Sandals but they rub my feet the wrong way. So I always ended up back with the Merrills and they have been good to me.

Now I have a new pair and I’m good for another year. Next December I’m sure that these Merrills will have a similar tale to tell. The old ones get retired here. Their time has come and I’ll spend the last few days in Siem Reap saying goodbye to them. I don’t know about other shoes and these are not the cheapest but for my feet and the 5 to 7 miles every day I do, they are just the best for me. No break-in period. No blisters. No hurting feet. I’ve worn them for years actually and always they have been there for me. I won’t be trying other shoes or buying cheap sneakers. I’ll spend the money and let them tell their tale next year at this time.

Thanks to Merrill for making a shoe that is more than the sum of its parts. A shoe that can tell a story and be there for me in the steps I take. No product link. No affiliate. Only a recommendation from an old retired guy that walks a lot.

Happy Thanksgiving 2018 – some thoughts and recollections

Thinking about a few things on Thanksgiving Day here in Cambodia. Not a holiday that is celebrated here; however a Khmer festival has been running for a few days called Water Festival. So its handy to have our Thanksgiving along with the Water Festival here where long boats take to the rivers to celebrate the reverse of current from the Tonle Sap. End of the wet season and beginning of the dry. Our Thanksgiving where we give thanks. A nice combination of holidays.

Speaking honestly, the last few years the holidays have become less for me. This is, however, the first holiday season where I did not have this huge project which hung over me and meant that I did not get the days off but sat on phone calls, in meetings, on my company cell phone with some network engineer and cloud architect in Colorado and Florida. A wondrous reprieve and perhaps a thing to be thankful for. Sometimes its a “pinch worthy” thing to remind myself that I do not have those things hanging over me any longer.

I also listen to people and read their blogs and accounts on twitter of their desire to travel the world, to be vagabonds, to find ways to become digital nomads, or perhaps to retire as an ex-pat in some foreign land. Another thing for me to be thankful for. While retirement income is no panacea and will hardly take you anywhere in the US, the truth is that if you want a change you can live comfortably and perhaps even well somewhere else. There are some things that I hesitate to call challenges. Cultures are completely different and how people act and react are different. Money means a lot in a cash culture like Cambodia. You have to get used to dealing with changes in how things as minor as your unlocked cell phone work. You have to find ways to get things done that are different and perhaps require a bit more work or at least different work. For food, there is no real challenge. Vietnamese and Khmer people simply love to eat and drink. Some boundary of a country drawn on a map does not impact what a person thinks of Fish Amok or Pho Ba. You may have to get used though to a different diet.

Travel may be different but it is cheaper. Hopping a tuk tuk to a place or flying is cheaper once you are here. Finding decent accommodation is easy once you are here. Finding ways around a city are different and learning how things operate in your new city or the one you are currently in are different.

Happiness is different as well. What used to make you happy may have been a house full of possessions, beautiful stereo equipment and large format TV, wonderful services a phone call away. In another land, these things are not what generates happiness. Its a simpler life where you gave up those things willingly to have something else. Happiness not tied to material possessions.

So all in all many of the things are so different but yet we are all human beings and we all share in some of the joys of being one. The smile that the Khmer children give me in the mornings and waves hello. When the Vietnamese gentleman in Saigon posed for me as I walked a small alley. Children in Hanoi shyly waving on the streets but wanting their picture taken. Beautiful young people in all the places saying hello, talking, laughing and finding the same basic joy in living. I had missed all that in the US. Something there was broken for years for me. It was the job and the stress of divorce and the aftermath. It was losing my friend Freelan and dealing with not knowing sometimes if I could leave. Then it was knowing in November of 2017 I would leave leave when I gave notice. As February rolled around and I knew that I would wake up on 1 March and not owe anyone anything, it was the supreme moment.

So all of this has made a difference and as I think back on this Thanksgiving Day 2018 it makes me realize that no matter where you are, you can make something better. Perhaps its not traveling slowly or finding a new country to kinda call home. Maybe it is. Maybe you are like me in some ways and want a sea change in your life. If not, it’s not a deal. You have a thing you want. You perhaps can see it glinting in tomorrow’s sun. It can be yours.

Then perhaps you can find the path to being happy. Life is not about sacrifice or giving everything away and adopting some minimalistic lifestyle which I happen to think is bogus. Its more about finding the path and then knowing what it takes to follow the path. If you have too many possessions, be a realist. You cannot pack the TV and the car and clothing as you go. So being a realist means they have to go. If you have suffered through the pains of a previous set of life events, they can be dropped but it takes so damned long sometimes. Nothing happens in a day and I’ve read that it can take years to get through all the stages of loss. So be prepared for that too.

Finally, chart your course and know that I have found the way to be happy on this Thanksgiving day in the Kingdom of Wonder. Its not a delicate path or one that requires huge amounts of work. There is nothing special to be done besides the goal you have to make a difference in your life.

You will notice I said nothing about friendship. There is a thing about friendship to me that sets the bar. If you want my friendship, I can be a loyal yet demanding and sometimes demented person. I am very egoistical, selfish, perhaps narcissistic. Those could be my better traits. I feel that a person must meet me at a place and give something of value and that the place I go to and the thing of value I have to give back is commensurate. To me, friendship is bartering a thing of value for a thing of equal value. You give me love. I give it back. You give me dedication, its back at you. You give little; don’t expect a lot from me. You don’t offer anything, its not friendship.

I’ve made and lost friends over the years because I have a set of requirements if you want in that palace. I have a few that are there but many have dropped out. They were not able to meet me at an equal place. It’s fine really. I don’t wish them any less of a happy Thanksgiving.

The reality is that I have found a thing I value and I know how to get from where I was to where I am now. Its not so much of a climb and you don’t have to sacrifice. You can find your warrior and move forward and become both less and more. Some of the things above were met and some I still am challenged by. A friend asked whether I wanted someone else in my life. Someone to share the holidays with. Someone to travel with. The answer is no. For the decades I gave to it, I gave to it. I reached the end of that rope and that climb.

So I’m thankful for what I have and have not. I’m thankful to never have to work and worry about money ever again. I’m thankful for the walks I do every day and the people I see. For my few friends, I am thankful for them. Life for me has again become something to be thankful for. I miss sometimes my boss Lee and his boss Payman. Both were friends and both helped me in so many ways realize my final goals which they really did not know until November of 2017 when I gave notice.

So if you want to chart a course and whether its down the street or flying to Asia, I’m here to tell you that with retirement and basic planning you can be happy too. I only talk about those retired because its my current path. There is no real secret to doing it. No special character or values you need besides the ones I elaborated above.

Mostly be thankful on this Thanksgiving Day 2018 for your have’s and have not’s. I am.

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.

A look forward in Cambodia

Its been a holiday here last three days in Cambodia so most places are closed. Its a bit hard to find a place to eat around the hotel so I end up riding to downtown where all the tourists are because the restaurants are all open there. I found a few little places kind of hidden away where a pint of beer costs cheaper than some of the so-called ex-pat hangouts. Not so many people go there and while dinners cost more because of location, I think the food is just better. One of the places has really good Khmer food like Amok and Lok Lak. You get both with a nice helping of steamed rice and the food portions are decent. Tonight I may ask the hotel to buy pizza again for me and get a few beers for the room and perhaps find a movie to watch. Tomorrow is gonna be busier around here and I have some stuff to do like get my laundry done one more time and take the XT2 camera to the service agents here to have them send to Singapore. I will be buying the X100F camera to take its place. In retrospect, I should have just kept the original X100F but it was acting up too because of water and its not resistant at all. I think it was on the way out as well but who would have ever thought I would only have the XT2 for a fucking month and then the shutter button would freak out? I told the dealer in Vietnam that I spent almost $2k US on a camera that lasted a month give or take.

I don’t know what I’ll do when the XT2 gets fixed besides have two cameras. I could just happily live with the X100F for the kind of photography I do. Its really a nice and compact travel camera. I may get a small bag at one of the markets tomorrow too. I think I can find a bag at the Russian or Central Market for about $10. Having two cameras just really means more weight next January when I leave Cambodia for 5 months on my swing through Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. I may decide then what camera to really take or try to sell one or the other. The XT2 is just bigger and heavier but its water resistant but I just don’t trust it any longer. What’s to stop it from having another shutter button issue in a year or six months? I never had anything like that with the X100F.

So today I ended up downtown walking around the independence park area which is really nice for walking. Wide sidewalks and monuments, beautiful park and open areas, and then nice restaurants and bars just a walk away. I really wished to get the normal walk in today so I do not feel so grumpy and out of sorts. I really need the walk and the camera every day. I need to do about 5 to 7 miles every day of the week and take whatever photographs I want to take. Its become this habit for this old body and I feel really good when I do it and bad when I don’t.

I also started working on the second retirement report I want to do. I think by end of the weekend I will have it up on the site. This led me to thinking this morning about some other content creation. I’ve felt for a long time that I had this other longer thing somewhere inside. Perhaps a novel or a mix of fact and fiction. I don’t think it would be hard science fiction or fantasy but there is something in there I have felt that wants out. I may start outlining what it could be in Ulysses and see. I have this vision its some kind of story but have not really taken time yet to work on it. Maybe sitting on the beach some days in Sihanoukville will give me some moments to consider it. Its gonna be nice to see ocean and beaches and perhaps swim. I’ll need some swimming trunks which will be no problem there in one of the stores I would imagine.

Transitioning to Sihanoukville

The next real step is leaving Phnom Penh and taking the 4 hour bus ride to Sihanoukville. I’ll be there a month as well and will slowly explore the areas, go for walks on the beach, find the other beaches and cool places to eat and drink and hopefully work on this content which I have felt bubbling under the surface. Its my second stop in Cambodia and I’m excited to see more of this Kingdom. I’ll then head to Siem Reap to see the famous temples or Wats there and then on to the second largest city in Cambodia Battambang. Each place gets a month which is the way I like going and each thing is a bus ride to the next.

Here is a little layout of Cambodia for you to visualize what I’m doing.

You can see that I kinda skip around and don’t go in a basic straight line. It kinda keeps with the random nature of what I like doing. If something makes sense often I just don’t do it. Call it some resistance from the decades of doing project management where every task led to a milestone and had dependencies, frustrations, and irritation built in.

Then finally when done with this initial exploration of the wonderful Kingdom of Cambodia, I will return to Phnom Penh for a week and prepare to leave for 5 months. One of the big goals was the retirement visa extension of stay which I got. Without that I would have had to leave Cambodia and re-enter next week. Now I have a year here of multiple entries and exits.

Anyways at 1k level, that’s the view. Exciting times, some frustrating camera times, and mostly fun times in finding a home here to stay in with some very nice people. Since I will never stay here longer than a month, the hotel works out very well for me. I get free breakfasts, its close to services I need like laundry and food places I know now, and I also know how to get around a bit walking and taking the tuk tuks here and there.

Hopefully my next post is on my resounding success getting my camera in to the shop to get fixed and picking up the replacement. I’ll defer trying to figure out what to do with two cameras until that happens in January next year. Take care all. Hope your days are good. If you are on the road, travel slow. Its worth it!

Google Plus Goes Away

Goodbye Google Plus! Some would say the service was a failure and that no one used it but my news feed and friendships made there were much better than some of the crapola I see on Facebook. The technical merits of communities and collections and circles were very cool. I just wish LinkedIn would offer even a semblance of the filtering of news that Google Plus does.

I shared my photography albums from Google Photos to Google Plus quite often and had a collection there to post to which had over 4k subscribers so the idea that no one used it even in my small sample size is incorrect.

I started with it when it was announced back around 2011. Then it was a simpler thing and one could argue perhaps it was better then. Now with the news of the security breach and the end of the platform, one can cast about for a fitting replacement for what I think it did well.

One primary thing it really did well on was the signal to noise factor. I got more open source and technology news there in a threaded format that was quite easy to follow. I could create circles and subscribe people to them so I had circles like Friends, Android, Linux, Open Source. I could create collections and have content be posted there like my photographs. Facebook does not even come close to the signal to noise ratio. Sponsored posts, stupid news I don’t care about, ads for things I would never buy but yet there is no real way to opt out of makes FB a conscious decision for me sometimes. Unfortunately, most of the people on FB are true friends that I have known for years so I am not inclined to end posting or using that service.

The second thing was the integration with Google Photos. It was easy to “share” an album and create focused collections such as I did with photography. I also could manage the collections pretty easily and turn off comments if I so wished.

Another cool thing is the concept of circles. A circle is a sphere of influence and you could create numerous circles with different focus points and influences. I always thought that approach created more value than the FB approach which is to just slam your feed with stuff or you find a group to join. I don’t think FB groups are in any way comparable to communities in Google Plus.

Finally, it’s the people! I met great people there primarily in open source and Linux and even Linus Torvalds was present. I met a whole host of others especially in open source that became friends.

So whether you used the platform and service or not, there are alternatives to always consider out there but nothing simply takes its place. Facebook could never do that and LinkedIn could only hope to have the same functionality in how to create and manage feeds of news you want to focus on.

Goodbye Google Plus. You were a lot of fun and there were always more people with the hallmark on quality and approach.

A week to go in Phnom Penh – Great Times!

My last week in Phnom Penh is here. Its been a great three weeks and I’ve seen a number of places, ate some good food, drank some beer, and fixed my camera for awhile hopefully. I’m glad to be staying away from the downtown or riverside areas. I like the restaurants and a few of the nice riverside bars but I don’t like the nightlife and bars too much. Being away from it is much more peaceful. I did the bar thing years ago in the military and I don’t think much has changed. I much prefer the non touristy areas with the camera.

Its pretty nice spending a longer time in places and getting settled. I’ve learned the local laundry place, money exchange, quick places to get some latte and food places. There are places to eat where the food is excellent and the prices are too. I don’t need the swanky places and normally only will eat once or twice a week at them.

Another thing which is good is finding this hotel. The place fits my lifestyle rather well and I will be staying here on my short trips back as I prepare for travel to other places. A week here in January when I finish my tours of Cambodia cities I want to see first off. Then a month here in June to get my Chinese tourist visa for two months. I’ll come back here in September and renew my retirement visa again. The hotel works well for me because they do room service, free breakfasts, and care about me.

Next Stop: Sihanoukville Otres Beach

This will be my next stop after a 4 hour bus ride there in a week and some days. I’ll spend a month walking the beach, walking to the nearby beaches and seeing the city and villages that make up the area. Its a more relaxed vibe so the photography will change a bit and the walking will not. I must walk each day that I can the steps I do. I don’t feel good if I cannot get the walk in.

After Cambodia: 5 months on the road

After I’m done this first time with Cambodia I’m on the road for 5 months going to Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. This fills up my first 6 months or so in 2019 with slow travels through three places. I don’t know all the locales I will visit in Malaysia and Thailand. I will have 60 days after my initial stay in KL to see things so I may venture gradually north to Georgetown and prepare slowly for the border crossing to Thailand.

The Ex-Pat Life

Finally, some thoughts on the ex-pat life style. I’ve met more than a few European and American ex-pats and retirees living here in Phnom Penh. Last night over a few beers I met a English bar manager for hostess bars here who has been working here for some time tending the bars. Interesting life but not a thing I want. I don’t think that ex-pats want to travel and after meeting a few in Vung Tau I would venture to say the less traveling the better. I think they want stability in a place and to consider a place like Phnom Penh home. Maybe find some local friends, establish themselves, have a regular life. There is also the side here regarding qualifying to retire. Its simply easier here to get a retirement visa extension of stay. Nothing to really show if you are retired and over 55. You just find an agent that is reputable and let that person do the work.

The ex-pat I met last night had never really been to Vietnam. To me, its rather amazing since Vietnam is next door and less than an hour’s flight away. Its easy to get a tourist visa from here to go there and you can even ride the bus if you want cheaper. Maybe even a boat. Why don’t they travel? I did not ask but he mentioned more than a few times how he wanted to go but yet had not. I cannot see ever staying indefinitely in a place, setting up roots, not leaving. There is just too much to see next country over.

I’ve ruled out ever just finding an apartment here and settling down. What I do want is the visa with the multiple entry stamp in it. That lets me always come back here over the next year and not be concerned about not having a country to return to.

I’ll be publishing my second retirement article soon on that page on the blog. I will also publish my final photography album and share it soon.