Its the Little Things

I’ve been messing around with how I can transit the Phnom Penh International Airport for two flights that are not really connecting but I will leave it to your wisdom to see. Here’s the facts:

  1. I fly from Saigon to Phnom Penh International Airport on 19 October after a delightful week seeing L and a few others. I will have my travel backpack checked because I am lazy.
  2. About 5 hours later the same day I get on an international flight from Phnom Penh to Taiwan. I have to get my ticket, check my bag, and do all the normal stuff.

So the question came up whether this is considered a connecting flight or a layover even for hours. If its a connecting flight I have my tickets and can check my baggage on through. This is not that. So bingo! I need a visa even for hours. I need to basically exit the transit area and then proceed to my next airline to get a ticket, check my bag, etc.

The visa laws are rather grey on this when you read about it online but I think the key difference is the “connecting flight” part. If I was ticketed through to Taipei, I could just board the flight in Saigon, connect through Phnom Penh and then go on. This is not that. So I need to get an e-visa for Cambodia for hours. The e-visa can be done online easily for only $30 and I have no worries that customs will boot me somewhere else. I also could have just renewed my retirement extension of stay but it costs so much and I won’t be here in SE Asia for 7 months so I started questioning why would I do that? Now there is a gap (gasp) of three days from the time my retirement visa expires to when I come back to Cambodia. I could just pay $10 a day to overstay if I were in country but I am not. I will be in beautiful Vietnam entertaining and having fun with Vietnamese friends.

Definitely a grey area sorta kinda but the kind that will cause problems because of how visa laws work or don’t work. International travel here is full of those areas. Some countries have no visas needed like Malaysia. With a US passport you just get 90 days with no questions asked. Singapore is the same. Some places like Thailand have exemptions but the entire visa process is confusing once you get to the airport. The scenario in Bangkok is:

  1. Stand in wrong line for 30 day tourist visa and then realize as an American I can enter with an exemption. Of course the signs don’t mention who and what.
  2. They want me to show my airbnb reservation. how to do that with no wifi and cellular? They are confused by Airbnb. Not a hotel but a condo I tell them. You will live here? No. (thankfully.  BKK would drive me crazy). They tell me I am in wrong line
  3. Go to right line. Its short. But sign only says Visa Exemption and nothing else. Leaving it all up to the imagination of travelers.
  4. Land of smiles? No. Easy to transit? No. Level of Stupidity? High.

I’ve mentioned Bangkok is on my never again visit list but these little things can drive you crazy.

Here is another little thing from years ago going in and out of Chennai India for work dozens of times. Coming in to get flight to Singapore, you need to check in and get a specific baggage tag for your airline. You are told to go back and get correct baggage tag if you just grab one. I complain to Singapore Airlines and they sympathetically nod and let me know its India. I am asked to show my passport at least 10 times from the time I get my ticket to when I get to the gate to board the plane. One time when coming in I am told I do not have a 10 year business visa. It says right on 10 year multiple entry visa. Customs officer calls manager. Manager berates officer and sends me on my way.

So here is my advice for the little things with all this. Don’t try to game the system and make it do a grey thing. Its simply not worth the hassle. If you think you need an e-visa just get one. I don’t know the rules for connecting flights and I bet no one really does but if you do not have a connecting flight ticket in hand I am willing to bet you have been bit by a small thing. Just do the needful as my friends in India would say. You may find little things come up often as you bounce around between countries in SEA. Little grey things like:

  1. suddenly a debit card cannot be taken for a room. Find an ATM and withdraw cash. Its best to have an account that reimburses the fees!
  2. the guesthouse asks to keep your passport the length of your stay. Tell them no and that they can have a copy.
  3. someone tells you to carry your passport all around with you. Don’t do that. I have yet to be asked anywhere except at a bank in Vietnam when I was depositing money into a Vietnamese friend’s account for my passport. The bank teller was satisfied with the PDF of it.
  4. just carry your wallet around with all the credit and debit cards and a huge wad of cash in your back pocket or backpack. It will be ok. NOT! This is a little thing that can turn into a major thing. Like your passport, leave the wallet at the hotel. Just carry local currency to last you for some days. Forget using the card for purchases at 7/11 or VinMart. Why the heck people do this is beyond me.
  5. the last little thing involves ride hailing services, SIM cards, and being safe. As my friend L says its important for Mike to be safe at all times. So always use GRAB for ride hailing. its easy to hail a tuk tuk or taxi and you know what it will cost up front and the route. You need the other little thing which is a SIM card. To get the card, you need an unlocked phone. Why people would elect to travel to the frontier places in Southeast Asia and not have an unlocked phone is beyond me. Its a simple thing that can cause major problems in airports with no wifi, on the streets with no working google maps. In other words its a simple thing that can become huge. For heaven’s sake, just get a SIM card and some data on it. You can satisfy all the things about ride hailing and being safe.

I don’t have an exhaustive list of the little things or the grey things. I just know they sometimes frustrate me and I do think of gaming the system. Its not worth it. Telling fabrications to customs officers is a sure way to get yourself in trouble. So the final little thing is tell the truth at all times to customs and immigration officers. If you feel like you want to do some gaming, get the phone out and play some Pokemon Go!


The journey of many retired guy steps

Life is a journey so they say. There are way points along the way where you can stop and refresh. Or perhaps you find someone or they find you and you halt yourself for awhile. But even if we stop, the path and journey continues. Just other paths become available perhaps some dim their lights. My friend and companion L says it is destiny we met and that the Buddha determined that she and I should be together. I agree. I think we are destined to find things and people at either good or bad times as we begin, transition, change or even end our participation in the journey. Yet the road goes on.

I’ve stopped a few times and thought this would be a nice place to kick off the path I have chosen. If I had done that before meeting L I would not have met her yet other things good and bad would have undoubtedly happened. Instead my journey took me to a certain hotel in a certain district of Saigon where I met L. Its a interesting thing how people cross your path and how you cross their’s. L believes its all destined to happen and that our paths were carefully woven to meet. So we did meet. All of this requires steps and decisions and other things that all have to line up. But they do line up and sometimes it feels like life stopped for me in 2009 with divorce and I had to spend 10 years in some kind of dark Hellish place to be able to find the new path that had opened when I retired from IT. All of these are steps guys. Steps we choose or that somehow are chosen for us. Perhaps someone or something works on our destiny.

Its also amazing how the steps add up. Thousands and thousands of steps in many cities and countries have I done. I am unsure how many miles and steps I have done in all of 2019. My iPhone can help me:

  1. In 2019, I have walked an average of 5.5 miles every day. I have taken an average of over 12k steps every day of all of 2019.
  2. In 2018, I was not walking the same way all the year. I walked an average of 4.7 miles in 2018 and my average count of steps was over 11k.

The basic fact is that once I started doing this kind of walking every day in 2019, my mileage picked up and so did my steps. So my steps and miles have gotten better since retirement. That is pretty cool! The real fact though is that I stopped counting the steps and miles after 28 February 2018. From then on I walked each day to see the city much like I had done before seeing Vancouver or San Diego or wherever. No more GPS coordinated and times to get in. It became a thing with no goals or requirements much like the rest of my life.

So in all those physical steps, there were some mental steps to be taken too. Nothing lives in isolation and it took me some months to get over 20 years of doing brain damaging Information Technology Program Management. When I got on that plane on 1 March 2018 heading to Japan, I had planned out a series of adventures that would get me through end of the year. Then I started working on the first 5 months of this year. Next it was 2 months in Vietnam with respites at home in Phnom Penh as needed. I would then visit Vietnam again and now I am Laos. Soon I will go back to Phnom Penh and visit Saigon and Can Tho to see friends but then leave Southeast Asia on more steps. I won’t be back to Cambodia until June 2020. Still more steps.  So many steps. So much walking with the camera to see things. Many things have changed that are vehicles so to speak to carry me on my wandering ways. Cameras have changed. Shoes have changed. The camera voyage has been rather frustrating but I ended up with the X-T30 which has treated me very well.

What about shoes? I first started with Merrill Moab Ventilator shoes and thought they were great. They would last about 6 months and then would lose support or would wear through. I went through three pair of them. I got tired of them though because they gave me calluses across my poor retired man’s feet. Then I tried Birkenstock Arizona sandals in Malaysia and they lasted two months before falling apart. They also are the most uncomfortable sandals I think I have ever worn. I tried cheap sandals and got the same amount of wear time.

I ended up with these beasts.

Image result for chaco men's mega z cloud

These are the Chaco Mega Z Cloud sandals. Of course you cannot easily buy them in Southeast Asia. They take some break-in time and don’t believe anyone that tells you that you won’t get blisters. You will. I got them between toes, under my feet, one on my big toe and now I have one on my heel from when they got wet and rubbed my ankle. But let’s just be honest. These things are tough and when you get them broken in, they work. Are they comfortable though for the everyday miles I do with the camera? Yes. I don’t mind the small blisters every so often because they heal up and then get tough. But they will keep you going and I truly believe they are indestructible. Its probably the way they are made that make them that way.

It ain’t some overnight love affair no matter what the reviews and reviewers say though. Your feet will hurt and your tender skin spots will get bloody. These shoes whip the hell out of your feet but they give you something back. You get a sturdy and reliable pair of shoes to take you to the limits.

You want some break-in advice? Here is some:

  1. Wear the sandals barefoot for a limited time every day for the first few weeks. Say for an hour or two to a nearby coffee shop. Let them and your feet get to know each other a bit and say hell-o. And there will be some hell. Now put on socks to interpose a soft layer of protection the rest of the time. Forget what everyone says about socks and sandals. Just do it. Your feet will thank you as you do the break in.
  2. Be sure to get them fitting right. Remember its just one strap all the way around so you have to pull and adjust to make them fit. I get them the way I want and then just release them and then try to never adjust them again. Keep on with the fitting stuff though in your first weeks.
  3. Now go longer after 2 weeks to a month. Try longer walks but perhaps carry some socks in your backpack to ease your tired feet.
  4. Been over a month and perhaps, just perhaps, these beasts are gonna give you some good times. Maybe they will also decide to be bad to you and let your feet or ankles or soft skin parts know they are still there. Try bandaids under the sandals or continue with the socks.
  5. Soon months. Now you have the distinctive barefoot tan lines that marks you as a Chacoan or whatever you want to call it. Your feet and the sandals have gotten somewhat at peace.

I am at Stage 5 and still I find that I will get something like a small blister that turns to a callus. But they give me the steps and I believe they give me a respite from ordering shoes or replacing cheap ones. Are they good? Hell yes. Do they last? I think so. Are they the best travel sandals ever? Could be. Your feet may decide that they do not like the Chaco’s though. You never know until you know.

So this lets me bridge the gap from the metaphysical journeys to the grunt force physical ones and its a continuum. Steps lead to steps. For me it has taken both of the kinds of steps to reach a balance of sorts. I’ve done more in 2019 than 2018. I have found something of value with the steps in L and others along the way. Life has also taken its steps along with me. Happiness and joy go along with me each day walking and taking photographs with the camera. Whether its in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia or Vientiane Laos; its been steps.

Both kind of steps. Those that let me see these neural connections of things and events and then the physical steps that lead me to the mental connections. Assuredly one leads to the other but that’s for another post.

I’m leaving Vientiane tomorrow so will sum up my adventures and share some final thoughts. My steps go on.

Reading the in-between parts of lines

I don’t always think of the wandering or the places or alleys or even the prostitutes that offer services in Hanoi. I like the small parts of writing a blog and I touched on some of this the other day. Popularity or numbers of page views or likes or dislikes or following are not important to me. If you follow or you don’t follow or like or don’t like, its grist to this mill. I read really only a few blogs these days but my friend Mikka maintains one that illustrates the point well. Here is what he had to say. I like his title for the post. We all get sucked into the parts of this where we effuse and want and desire the followers. We publish and get published and gush about what we are doing or what someone else is doing on some platform. The two candidates are instagram and twitter. Both offer “likes” but wordpress offers likes too. Consider what a like is and whether you exist for likes and followers and you gush over how many page views or what your domain ranking is and whether your pinterests are attracting and your instagrams are engaging.

This is not where blogging started though. It started in a rough and tumble world where the few, brave, free, showed themselves. We wrote on different platforms now gone like Advogato which combined news posts, blog entries, and almost a diary-like format. People were voted by their peers at different authority levels. You probably never heard of it. Between the lines though were the people folks. I have never written nor will I to garner your likes or become smitten with your comments or gush over how many people follow me. As a point in fact I don’t follow people but I do read their blogs. I choose to read between the lines and find the important parts for myself. I don’t need social media likes or follows to tell me anything. I do like what Mikka said here,

I’ve always been the type who doesn’t do things to write/film/photograph about them, but just does things, makes media about that stuff, and sees what happens. If no one reads, watches, or listens to me, that’s OK. And, hopefully, it’ll stay that way.

Source: Mikka Luster The Like Trap, 2019

I advise you all to consider carefully what you are looking for between the lines when you write these things. These days, writing to create or have fun or to share but not expect any followups is on the decline I feel. We do not create for its own purpose and I think its sad. Instead we are fashioned and pushed and create for other sakes. I have a choice to. I can choose to read the lifestyle and travel blogs or not. I am but a little voice in the wilderness. I would like to see more content for its own sake and not depending on the whims of others. I want less subsidized posts and more “you” posts.

So ask yourself the same question. What’s between the lines for you? If you do it for money and fame, I get it. If you want to be a digital nomad and find location independent work streams, I hear your story. I’ve met a few. One named Lauren that I met in Hanoi was pretty open about talking about doing the Digital Nomad thing for two years across Southeast Asia. I don’t know what pulls your strings though. What you see between your lines.

Do you?

How we wander

There are the usual questions. Difference between tourist and traveler. What is a digital nomad? How does a gap year work and why do you want one? What is a RTW? In a previous twitter existence I met my share of all the above. I read a few of their blogs. I was not amazed. I would say I was disappointed but that’s still too positive. Where the hell is the real content I have wondered. Where is the You in the Blog. Where are the things you feel when you wander? I see the 5 things to do in 24 hours and the three days in Taipei things. So where is the you? Where are your feelings about what you do, see, find? Your happiness, joy, sorrow. Consider that it is you doing the traveling not your affiliate link or your sponsor. Its fucking you. Your feet wandering. I would love to read travel blogs that focus on both worlds. Like tell me your feelings on the road. What was the first thing you saw yesterday when you left the hotel or hostel? How about a post on a single thing you found off the beaten path? Maybe an alley in Hanoi where the people sit laughing and waving. The small coffee shop selling egg coffee you just must try. The Vietnamese Grab driver that offers boom boom to you. Its all the human condition but it seems how we wander is all worn down into the categories and the Pinterest and the Instagram.

Why? I wonder where the real content is. Your spirit and soul. How you felt that day when you get lost in Saigon? Or maybe the beautiful small streets in Kuala Lumpur where there is nothing of note or consequence yet you are there anyways. You are there because you are intrepid and a wanderer. You are there to see and feel and think. Not just to write sponsored posts, jealously count your page rank and followers and visitors and click throughs and google page rank and SEO. Or to take your acclaim and post the 5 things to wander against on your 24 hours in Phnom Penh Cambodia. Assuredly, you cannot see Phnom Penh or Siem Reap in one day or three or even a week. There are streets to see with nothing on them at all that are asking. Friendly people that want to wave at you and give away smiles and laughs.

So big time travel blogger and influencer and lifestyle blogger; where are your posts about you and the ones that matter? Not the travel itineraries or how to do a quickie in Seoul Korea. Where is the you in the blogging?

You are doing the wandering for heaven’s sake. You are in control.

I gave up on the twitter feed with the handle @mpmilestogo because it was littered with so many different kinds of travelers and I realized I am not a traveler. Or a tourist. Or a gap year, or a RTW or a digital nomad (whatever the hell that means). I live here but I wander. Wandering and getting lost and thereby finding more of value.

What do you do?

Technology, Security and Passwords

I’ve written about technology choices and alternatives before but there is one area you should consider. Or perhaps two. lets see how I go:

  1. Password Management. Hopefully you don’t use the same password for your valuable identities and you make use of a tool to help you. It really comes down to only remembering one password versus trying to jot down tens or hundreds of them. I guess it is simpler if you use the same one but its can be damned destructive. So consider a password management tool out there that runs on all your favored devices and on your ecosystems. I used LastPass for years but after some strange things with the master password I had enough and move along to something else. I think the best solutions are open source solutions because the companies engaged have a vested interest in maintaining, making it better, and working with the communities. My choice was to use Bitwarden on my MacBook and iPhone over LastPass. I like the philosophy better and the premium cost is much more friendly to your pocketbook if you go that way. And you should. Companies that sell open source software want to make profits and then pass along that to their employees and also give it back to customers in the form of upgrades of features, functions, and approaches. What you want out of all this is something secure but something that gives you access. Lets call it reasonable protection. It should not be so secure where you cannot use it. A friend once lost the password to a Linux server that was key to its use. As my friend told him then its very secure now. Even you cannot use it. So use reasonable security and protection. This is especially true if you find yourself in hotel rooms, guesthouses, coffeeshops, train stations, etc.
  2. Security. People will say its pointless to use VPN and I say to them “right”. You never know what’s pointless or useless until someone does something to you because your enter passwords in the clear at a Starbucks. Why even take the chance? I am really an advocate for VPN security too. I use ExpressVPN a lot going here and there. Its not cheap but its valuable to me and it works on all my ecosystems. It also allows me now to use certain sites which do not work for whatever reason in Vietnam or where I find myself. If you don’t believe its useful or protects you, have at it. Do your thing. I will always use and pay for VPN security services. An IBM architect once told me “don’t be stupid. VPN”.

So there you have a few tips. Use or not as you will. I will say if you vagabond around like I do both are incredibly useful. Having a password management tool besides a spreadsheet or pad of paper means not entering your password in the clear each time. It also means you don’t have to remember thousands or hundreds of them. Good ones will also generate new passwords which are powerful and then apply them to the “vault” of passwords it manages for you.

Technology is some powerful stuff for vagabonds. It will let you create value, content, connect to things like your wordpress powered blog. Just be careful out there. Be happy vagabonding and seeing the new places or like me revisiting a beautiful place like Da Nang. Here’s a little something for you of the beauty of the place. Get here if you can.


It is so worth it!

Final Day Out Walking

I had saved a walk here in Phu Quoc that looked interesting that would let me see part of the island I had not seen before. I could walk through the non touristy areas, see small markets and stores, and luckily an electronics store because the lightning cables seem to not last long being packed and used a lot. I found a store and bought a 2m cable for about 150k VND. If it lasts 6 months, its all good!

Then I decided to take another road which was through kind of a less traveled area and the rain held off. Then finally over a bridge to take me back to the area I stay in. I can tell when I get the walk in that makes me feel best and I had not been able to for a few days so I felt rather uncomfortable and irritable. Even more irritable than I normally am on a given day. I also did not carry the FujiFilm Camera because its not water resistant and I don’t feel like losing a camera body to water damage.

I reached this bridge I was curious about after seeing it on Google Maps. Either side looked like this. You can tell that its rainy season by the look of those grey skies.

After crossing the bridge, I was back in familiar places since I had walked there before. I did see a rather remarkable Karaoke establishment on my way back right before a torrential downpour started and I had to take shelter under the awning of a closed building.


Pretty darned incredible! That is some building.

The rain really came down for about 30 minutes and then I was able to reach the hotel again but I was still soaked. It does not really matter though.

Tonight I will go back to this really nice Bun Cha place I visited before and also stop at the night market and get a oversized t-shirt for a friend in Ho Chi Minh City that likes to wear huge t shirts. It must be yellow and say Phu Quoc on it :-).

I also will start getting my stuff together and packed up this afternoon and evening and go out in the morning for a last walk here. I really don’t like missing days and the way Sunday is being a transit day I will probably not walk all that much.

Maybe next blog post will be from Da Nang or I will write something about HCMC when I get back for a night. Hard to say.

Two weeks in Hanoi

Well, I’ve been here in Hanoi for two weeks now. I’ve walked the city in a few directions, got lost, got found, relied on Google Maps only at the end, and found places where a beer tastes mighty damn good at the end of 13,000 steps. I feel like I have a regular regimen now about doing things. i rarely get going for the day before 11am or later and find a place for breakfast and coffee. I decide to take off in a direction and spend some hours walking in a variety of directions. Around 2pm I decide to generally head back because I like stopping for beers at 3 or 4pm. its not really difficult to navigate here because the “court of last resort” is Google Maps which will always get me back. If I did not have a data plan on my phone, things would be more drastic I think. l have not walked down every street here too many times, but I have found the streets that lead me back to Hong  Kiem Lake which is handy. One could get by with a static map but lets face it for a few bucks US you can get a data plan for your phone.

I’ve heard a few questions about how long I plan on staying. I got a 6 month multiple entry Visa here for a reason. I plan on staying in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City that long. That’s not to say I will not take side trips or tours in each place. In a few weeks I will go to Halong Bay for some days. Then after will go to Hoi An. I think people come to this using business travel as a yardstick. Business travel sucks. I have done it way too many times. You go to a place and the business dictates your stay. It tells you how long and where and what to do. In effect, you are at the beck and call of the company and its requirements. Long and slow travel is different. You decide the length and what you will do. Its not about how quick you an fly out and back and take care of the meetings. Its about finding your way in a city of mystery with an exotic nature and settling down. To live. Business travel is not about settling down to live. You chalk up the frequent flyer miles and Visa stamps. Done deal. You have a plan that is the company’s plan. It tells you your start and stop. You are simply along for the ride.

No dear friends. This is not like that. This travel unwinds slowly and you find things of value that are up to you. Its completely different. If you want to plan a RTW and mark of countries on a list, great. At the end you will have accomplished a thing. Not for me. I’ve done the business travel. It was great when I had it. Now this is different. This is moving in and finding out the joys and mysteries of Hanoi or Phnom Penh or wherever you set your course.

One friend did not get it. I think he believed I had to have a goal. So many places in so many days. Truth is I only have two stamps in my new passport. One for Japan and one for Vietnam. Life unfolds slowly. There is no webex calls to do. There is only the ebb and flow of Hong Kiem Lake and the people that are moving faster than me.

Its a Dongle Life we lead

Its a dongle life one way or the other no matter what device I decide to travel with. I’ve settled on a laptop which is the MacBook 12 inch 2017 model with a single Type C connector. It has a headphone jack too. A single Type C connector for all the “connectedness” that I may have.

What’s needed then is a dongle. I must dongle. So I go shopping for a single dongle which will do power, memory card, USB drives, etc. There are a few types. One type plugs right into the port and sits against the body of the laptop. I don’t particularly like those. The second type has a type C connector and a separate body which sits apart from the laptop. I like these better. So, I went shopping for one on Amazon.

I found this one which I have tested a few ways.

This one has a variety of inputs and also does power but it has the little cable connecting it and sits apart from the laptop. So I tested it a bit on the laptop by:

  1. Time Machine backup while the device is powered on the dongle with a 2TB USB drive. Success!
  2. Basic power supply with my type C power connector. Success!
  3. Memory card access. Success!
  4. Small Flash drive access while powered up. Success!
  5. And… multiple things at the same time. Success!

So the dongle life is good and by buying a device on Amazon, I extend the ports significantly while still allowing power delivery. If you’re interested in the device, I can recommend this one on Amazon. It works very well and is not terribly expensive. It does not sit flush against the laptop body and that may be an issue for you. For me, its what I want.

We’re getting to the point hopefully of a single interface on laptops and maybe someday on phones that is a Type C connector. The important part is that my laptop only has a single port while yours may have multiples. What I give up though with this laptop is made up with the form factor to me. The 12 inch MacBook 2017 model is the bees knees for productivity and mobility.

Just remember you need to lead a dongle life!

Ulysses is my Tool User’s Choice

I’ve been thinking a lot about a centralized publishing and writing application on my new ecosystem; namely Apple. The truth is that Apple devices whether they are MAC or IOS are very well suited for finding a single application which can provide service to write short-form articles or longer term book or story type publications. I’ve settled on Ulysses on my IPad Pro as the central environment from which I can do blog posts like this, write longer form stories, or diary and journal entries.

What does it take to have a single application that will provide a full and multi-faceted document creation and management environment? I’ll play back a huge error I made in Starbucks today and you can see what you do want.

I inadvertently deleted three years of journal posts in long text files which I painstakingly imported from google docs into Ulysses. I was mad and disappointed at the stupidity of what I had done. Then I remembered that I had chosen Ulysses for a reason. It does really nice backups and restores. So I launched the “manage” function and found the latest backups for my journals and restored them. This was the “huzzah” moment I must say. I then knew that Ulysses with its intelligent handling of backups and restores was my perfect thing. You can have a wonderful integrated environment but with no service wrapped around it, a stupid yet human error can bring it all down.

So the single application you want manages all that and when the time disaster recovery time comes you have the acid test of how it handles a oops. I got my files back with a single touch or maybe two. I became a happy camper at Starbucks and realized that I should not split the journal across multiple apps nor should I install a second app that may provide writing services. You want to find an application but you really want the service that backs it up and makes it relevant and useful. We are all tool users and the idea that a single thing with intelligent handling of my files really makes the subscription worthwhile to me. I don’t mind paying for a thing that provides a set of values and when disaster hints offers me a path.

Here is where it ends up at least for me.

The use of Ulysses is not just a text or writing application. It’s an integrated solution which lets me create but it also protects me from myself. I don’t want to lose things so if I split things across multiple applications or clouds I may lose sight of where a thing is or the latest. Multiple applications cause that faster because I will hunt which app was it that I put X or Y in.

When I go to travel first part of next year, I will want to record the things but have a place to track my things when I get ready to leave the US after my train trip across it.

If you are looking for an application and you are on this ecosystem, consider Ulysses. I moved ecosystems to IOS because I wanted that centralized set of tools that I believed Apple offered. Sure I could have done it all on Google Docs. But I wanted the presentation layer too. I wanted a thing which made creation fun and extended my use. I am not an Apple lover. I don’t really care for it one way or the other. What I do care about is the presentation of information it does and how the applications I have chosen extend across the available environments. If you are a tool user like me, a habilis by trade, you know. You don’t want to use a metate for a projectile point.

Find the tool that may work. It may surprise you when you weigh what it can do. I sure was.

Digital Doodads and Sunday Thoughts

I’ve been considering my upcoming trip next year a lot lately. One of the areas which is key for me is what mobile technology to bring. I have some requirements especially for train and international air travel. I also have a few devices I am currently testing which may or may not survive.

MacBook Pro 2017 13 inch no touch bar. I love this device. Its made for creating, being productive. Its speed and reliability is perhaps legendary and the applications and the OS are sturdy and resilient. Battery life is not so bad. One needs to have a Type C dongle or two. I have a multi card reader which works very well for taking photo’s off my memory card and then populating Google Photos. I don’t really need more dongles but the face I am even discussing dongles is interesting. One must consider dongles with the new Type C laptops though. The laptop wins in many areas for me such as size, speed, use.

iPad Pro 10.5 2017. This is a newcomer to the battle zone. It has some advantages since I also have the apple keyboard case with it and have bought the pencil. Battery life is no slouch and I get a group of apps I really like to consume, read, and do tasks. I could share the same dongle if there were an adapter from type C to lightning which seemed decent. Most of them on Amazon get three stars and they look cheap. The iPad wins due to its flexible screen and size, ability to fold it up on itself and save a lot of space. I don’t have to remove it going through security at airports. It runs Ulysses which is where just about all content comes from these days.

I don’t have to make some final choice for some months. I can dally around and test each and enjoy both of them. The real test is the one that takes place when I go though. I won’t know which one is the best or most reliable or useful until I go. I can read thousands of blogs and news sites which tell me that one or the other is better. There is no way of knowing until I actually use one or the other in my real life adventures. I think when I do the rail trip here next year, I will have an idea about which one will work. My gut feel is that the MacBook Pro is the one. But the iPad Pro has a lot of nice things going for it.

Notice there is no smartphone included. I’m pretty convinced a smartphone, with its requirements for a SIM card and data plan and phone number and more cables and all that is not a choice. There is nothing necessary about the need for a smartphone when traveling. Google Voice/Hangouts, Skype, or a VOIP service can do it all and mean no extra cables or charges for data plans.

The idea is to travel light and flexible and not have enough stuff where you forget a cable or plug or something. A single device is the way to go when your duffle is limited and you plan on moving slow.

What do you all think? Best device to interact with a real camera? Best to use in a life spent on the road? I will not use the term digital nomad. That seems to carry a certain connotation which I am not desiring. I will say “on the road with no clear destination”. There’s a device out there which fulfills the requirements and I may own it now. I hope I do. I don’t want to spend more $$ on digital doodads.