Small things for the vagabonder in you

Here’s some minor things to consider when traveling. Not the big things but some stuff that has either got me and I had to fix in Japan or Vietnam and some things which I took care before I left. Here’s a starter list of things which I think are really important to consider when hitting the road internationally.

Power strips and adapters are the unsung heroes of the road or they are the things you curse in the hotel room at midnight. Here’s two alternatives.  See what you think!

Source: MakeTech Travel Power Strip

The nice thing about this device is the size. If you look at it, you will find two AC plugs and three USB chargers and its rated at 110 to 240. I’ve used it in Japan, Hong Kong, and Vietnam and it works really nicely and its easy to pack.

The second part of this to consider is the wall adapter. This has a US grounded plug and some Vietnamese plugs do not have the ground so you must find an international adapter. After some degree of hunting around, the one I am using now is this one.

Source: Flight 001 4 in 1 adapter

I like this one because its smaller and the plugs all fit together. That being said you may find one that works for a lot of places but not India or another place. I’ve had to go out to the local electronics stores and get one. In Japan, its pretty easy to head over to the Akihabara or Yodabashi Camera and you can find camera and electronics stores easily in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh city as well. I feel this one works pretty well though and I like the size and component part of it. It fits the first device perfectly!

Remember that this is not a converter. Its only a plug adapter so be careful with devices.

I plug into the above two things a variety of things like a MAC laptop power adapter. One minor rant. Who in the ever loving world ever decided to build MAC power adapters with that size? My gosh. The thing is huge! Anyways, it goes into one side of the Mastech where the AC plugs are. In the other side, I can plug in my camera battery charger to charge batteries outside of the camera.

Then in the three USB powered adapters I can charge my iPhone, my camera, and my portable charger, kindle or whatever. You will need the cables so don’t forget them. I forgot the micro USB cable for whatever reason and had to get one in Japan and then my lightning cable started acting weird so I got two new ones in Hanoi plus the charger for the laptop started acting kinda strange so I bought a Apple charger in Hanoi.

So for the three USB chargers I normally only use two but I have charged something in the third port and it was fine.

So these are just little things which I have collected to help in hotel rooms, hostels, homestays. Always check the power ratings on things you buy especially when traveling to Asia and remember to get things that charge other things with correct power ratings or things could go boom!

I hope this has been useful. I always find that there is a thing I bought that when I look closer it just won’t work. I started with another device that I thought was perfect for travel but it ended up not supporting the 110 to 240v requirements so I found these things which have great reviews on amazon for their use. Bear in mind that the colored and cute little plug adapter may or may not work everywhere. I don’t particularly like the big round ones with all the plugs coming out because they are hard to pack and I have had them break at inopportune times.

I’ll publish another once in a week or so that focuses more on internet and cellular service since that has been another area which has been a learning experience but thankfully now in Vietnam I have it pretty well figured out.

Services when Vagabonding – Part One

When you travel forever, how do you handle these things:

  1. Phone Service that may require a US SMS and phone number
  2. Physical Mail Services

Before leaving I gave these two things a lot of thought folks. It seemed like I could do things any number of ways. For the first thing why is a SMS service tied to a US number needed? It comes down to a few security and authentication things. Many dual factor authentication approaches use a second trusted communication method like SMS and so do banks. BofA wants to send texts to a US number and many other services like social security want a US number. Although Social Security will send authentication numbers to an email address and I guess banks can be set to send to email as well, having a US phone number that can be used has been a good thing. I’ve had to call some people that use a US phone number as a gateway. How do you handle it when you are gone? I have two ways of handling the first thing. One is free and one costs a bit. The first way is with Google Voice. You can get a US based number that receives texts and voicemails for free on Google Voice. You can make calls as though you are calling from a US number and receive calls to the number. On Android devices you can now make wifi calls. IOS is coming at some point. All of this is free and it works very well.

The second way I want to point out is finding an app for your phone that will give you a second number. I used the Hushed app. The service can be used for a so-called burner number but its equally as well suited for a permanent number. The app on IOS and Android registers a real phone number for you that you can choose and you then can get and make calls, get voice mails, send and receive SMS which are all the requirements I had. Why choose a paid one you may ask. I would answer “skin in the game”. Google frightens me at times with its desire to shake loose technologies and sunset them. While Google Voice just works and the service is actually pretty good for vagabonds, who knows how long it will be. A second thing is that Google just now is releasing wifi calling direct from the voice app. Prior to this, one had to use hangouts integration which is another story in the mixed up, muddled up Google view of messaging. Hushed just cuts through all that gives you the basic things and you can get an annual service plan. BTW, Skype or WhatsApp are not solutions for this. I would not ever trust Skype and I don’t believe they do SMS to US phone numbers. WhatsApp does not call non WhatsApp numbers at all. You want something that is a true footprint of your needs for this one I think.

There are others you can find as well. Find one that suits your need. It may be that Google Voice just works and you are good! The main thing is to consider the needs you may have to get and receive calls and SMS when you vagabond. I have found that this is one thing that has been vital for me with banks and security and dual factor authentication and validating access.

Lets talk about Thing 2. Physical mail service when you are gone forever. Popular choices may be getting a mailbox at UPS, the USPS, or sending mail to a family member and letting them judge what is important. To actually see the email though you have to get a picture taken or have the mail scanned and sent. What about packages? You may think you will never need a package from Amazon but don’t count on it. I have found that at least in Vietnam and probably other Asian countries on my list in the future, I can find many things like hats, shorts, belts, and other things. I have not been able to find T shirts that fit this old retired body. So I tend to order things occasionally and have them shipped. But where does this stuff go? Many US services do not send packages to places like Vietnam directly. You need another service in-between that will do that for you. There are services that will have the package shipped to them and then send via FEDEX or UPS. But what about regular mail?

Its better to have a service that takes care of you without involving family members that will sooner or later go crazy with receiving your email. If you are going for independence, why not find a virtual mail service? If you google it, you will find many that do this. The primary idea is that there is a clearing house of services that will receive your mail to an address, arrange to scan that mail with your approval or junk it, forward parcels as you need. Some charge per piece of mail received. I’ll make a pitch right here to get services online and get out of paper submittals but some agencies like IRS and Social Security are not there. I need to receive the mail that matters and I don’t want to burden my family. So again, enter the idea of a virtual mail service. It basically takes the responsibility back to you to deal with your travel and independence. My ex-wife has some patience in dealing with sending things to me but its better to simply leave her out of it and find a service that will provide the support you need.

The one I ended up with is US Global Mail. The differentiation is in the service to me. They charge a base rate for no matter how many pieces of mail you get. You will pay for scanning services so its another pitch to go through all the people that send you real mail and do something more permanent. Opt out! Get rid of debt and things. When I had a car, Allstate sent all manner of emails wanted and not. Once the car went away, I stopped receiving mail from Allstate, the DMV, and other things relating to the car like service announcements. Goes to show that simplifying your life, removing debt and creditors, can act in your behalf a number of ways.

Two things! More to come…

I had mentioned in a post I would create a story or static page about how I dealt with things moving out and vagabonding full time. My goal was to remove others from the responsibility where possible and not leave the needs around mail especially up to family members. Even though I pay an annual service fee for the mail service, the degree of independence is liberating.

Consider just these two things and ask yourself how you intend on handling the basic things when you cut the ties that bind. If you are doing what I did, I will never go back to the states so I need long term solutions. Paying for a quality solution can be good but like I pointed out for calling Google Voice works. Leaving your physical mail to a family member is not free. You are simply shifting the responsibility to some poor ex spouse, brother, sister, son, daughter who probably have enough on their plates.

Give it some thought before you hit the road. Have you considered lessening your footprint of real mail? How will you receive calls that for whatever reason want a US phone and SMS? Its easier to deal with things head on when you are taking a big step. There are always a series of smaller steps to consider that make up the big one.

I want to add one thing here since I am updating this post a bit. If you are vagabonding forever or on an extended trip, for heaven’s sake get yourself a VPN! Do not believe that a coffee shop or airport is safe folks. I use Express VPN. Its not free but the security is bulldog like. Protect those passwords. Use a password manager that encrypts and not a text document! A VPN is also handy for things like watching Amazon Prime videos since they check where you are coming from. With a VPN you can look like you are coming from the US based on a thing called an IP address that they source. The final thing is that neither of the services are good unless you use them. Do not trust to banking anywhere on wifi without security for your connections. Just a word to the wise. There are bad people out there that will grab that information that is over public or coffee shop wifi and use it for nefarious means. Be wise! VPN and use a password manager. You can do this not only on laptops but on phones and tablets. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Use a trusted connection all devices that do sensitive transmission of details.

I’ll be posting a few more as we go of the things I found in my adventure of one to meet needs I had. Stay tuned!

Vagabonding Ways and Means – There’s a way and means to do it

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about personal choices and how we do things or have to do things when we travel long term. We have to make choices about basic things and how we will manage our affairs if time finds us in Cambodia or Vietnam or elsewhere.

I found a few things that have come up in my experiment of one that were significant. Luckily there are solutions for these things with how the cloud operates to our benefit. See what you think about my things:

  1. Postal Mail Service. If you are gonna be gone what happens to your mail? Do you rely on family to help out with picking it up, sorting through it, finding things you need to deal with? Do you rent a USPS or UPS mailbox and let it go? Give that one some thought.
  2. Dual Factor Authentication and retaining US Phone Services. I have a need to have things like SMS and phone calls go to a US phone number but I am in Vietnam. I need to get the SMS authorizations to a number in the states. I also want to be able to send SMS as though they are from US phone numbers too. Secondarily I want to be able to make and receive calls from US Phone numbers and also have voicemail. What do you do about this?
  3. Debit and credit services while traveling. I believe you need to have two different accounts with different banks with different travel philosophies. I use BofA because its what I have used but in all honesty their travel stuff sucks rocks. So I also got a Capitol One 360 checking account and its debit card. I don’t use credit cards at all. They are evil incarnate. What do you do?
  4. Personal technology like laptops, cameras, phones and charging them. You need to be able to carry the devices with you easily but you need to charge them in a variety of rooms in a variety of countries. What do you do?
  5. Personal luggage solutions. Do you check your bags or carry on? What kind of bags? Does it really matter? Short answer is yes it does.

I purposefully am not posing answers to the questions because I am working on a longer document which relates how I have solved these problems which I will be posting as a story on my blog. I spent some months planning each of the things, looking at alternatives, and finding finalist things which now I use on a daily basis. Each one of the things is significant for traveling but remaining in contact at home and there are services you can find that will solve the problems for you.

I have solved every one of these and found the solution to be very easy to maintain. There are some prerequisites to them though which I will also be discussing.

The main goal with long term travel or forever vagabonding is feeling secure that your basic needs which still require some kind of presence in your home country can be solved. It may cost some dollars to get there but the goal is to find the services and products that will be the best fit. The second need is to find solutions which scale for you and identify whether you have to have things like two debit cards with completely different banks or institutions. The final things are around personal choices you make to hit the road. What technology, what bags, what choices do you make for your life on the road?

The difference can be wide as you travel to new places. Its one thing to let some randomness seep in and let things happen. Its another thing to not be able to get cash from a ATM machine in a new country. Do you wanna eat, sleep, need a SIM card? Basic stuff folks.

My Story will be…

Some answers to the questions and perhaps more questions to go explore. I will look at what I did to retire overseas and try to take care of the needs I had in the states still. I have not found a way around the need to have US based SMS and voice phone services even though once I thought a smartphone was the height of luxury and not needed. Forget that part guys. I hope also to pose questions about how you travel and what you do to prepare and do the travel. Finally the story will pose some personal tech questions and whether you will chronicle the voyages with camera, blog, journal and diary.

Stay tuned for the story on my blog. I hope that it may help answer or pose some additional questions on how I did things and the why of them.

Photography for Fun and no Profit besides my own

So this post is about cameras and not so much about travel or vagabonding. I have a few interests in my every day retired life. One is to make every attempt at getting over 12k steps done each day and I have been pretty good. The second is to take my FujiFilm X100F camera with me and blaze new frontiers. The last or maybe the first is to simply enjoy life, drink the beer, eat the food, and remind myself every day that this is not travel.

In the interests of the camera and what I do with it, I have been messing with a variety of customization options and since I’m new I tend to do research online to find more experienced people that may have done the same thing. I’ve come to find out that there are a number of things particular to the Fuji X Series cameras which need testing and experimentation. The first are the film simulations. There are over 7 I believe and some have multiple options like Standard, Red, Yellow, Green. I cannot possibly test on all of them so I narrowed down my choices to two and I based this on the quality of the images. The two I like on the Fuji X100F are:

  1. Classic Chrome
  2. Acros

Both bring you back to the film days one way or the other. Classic Chrome has this wonderful look to it that to me is made for daily exploration in a city with vibrant colors. Acros on the other hand is a black and white simulation but it has this funky look and it has four options to try that each have different use cases. I’m sticking with Acros Standard and Red for now.

Then there are a whole slew of customization options and here is where the rubber meets the road. Its easy to go bat shit crazy and find whole bunches of different options to try. The customizations are:

  1. Noise Reduction
  2. Sharpening
  3. Shadows
  4. Highlite Tones
  5. Color

You can see the problem, right? Too may options and every photographer has a set of favorite changes. The problem is when you see their images and you do the changes rarely do you get a similar look. What to do? I decided. I went back to a resource I use which is a book written by Dan Bailey on the Fuji X series cameras. I basically reset them all to defaults since I was getting frustrated and the quality of the photographs were starting to flag and the fun of the whole thing was going down the drain. Photography is not a job for me. Its supposed to be a fun adventures where I learn, test, try, record and save. Yet all these settings frustrate me. I decide to try yet another set of customizations and then I’m calling out in pain so to speak. So I visit Dan’s ebook for help. The help is reset all of them to 0 and start with the basics. The next thing to learn is Exposure Compensation since most of us shoot in Aperture Priority mode anyways. This has an immediate affect on what you see in real time. Darken, lighten. Make immediate choices and see the results.

These other settings I have decided are important but I will only go after two of them. One is Highlight and the other is shadow. If I use them, I will want to build this subtle S curve in the camera. One either turns down or up the highlights and the other turns up or down the shadows.

Now that is an achievable target. Not 5 or 6 of them. Enough to test with. Lets first get the basic stuff working and learn the two film simulations better. Then lets learn the direct effect of Exposure Compensation. Then lets start with the settings that can change the images by adding or removing shadows or highlight tones. This is achievable. Reading settings that Fuji Pro’s use is not. I will never be able to duplicate nor would I want to their settings. What I really need is my own style so I created one.

My style I dub “Urban Photography”. I want to take pictures of people, buildings cars, parks, trees, historic sites, whatever but I want them to be done with my settings so they are marked as mine. I also do not want to edit RAW files or shoot in JPEG+RAW. Its too much damned work and I don’t want to sit around and edit files that have all the color simulations pulled out that I am so carefully learning. So the uses of Lightroom or Affinity Photo or Photoshop go away except to perhaps minimally edit the JPEGs.

Fun then comes back and life becomes better for my goals. I get to enjoy the photography and the walking and not deride myself that I cannot create an image in the likeness of some Fuji master. I am not a master nor do I want to be. I want to create images I save and share and perhaps are somewhat good. But, in the end, they are my images.

If you do photography, what are your goals? Do you have your own style or approach? Do you shoot in RAW format and then edit the photographs in Lightroom?

I think each of us has a style or approach or a knowledge thing we want with something. Whether it was before making projectile points from Edwards Plateau Chert or now shooting photographs in Hanoi. We cannot emulate the masters or our work is not our own. And the fun goes out and is most likely replaced by misery. Misery which my ex-wife would tell me is “optional”.

Glue for my Travels

Working my way back to using Ulysses for blog posts. I use it for all else pretty much. Since it runs on my Mac laptop and iPhone it becomes much easier to start a post and then pick it up on the Mac later in the room.

A lot of my posts are about the travel and photography and the philosophy of it all. You need glue too. Glue keeps all the little parts together and lets me share across devices in just about real time. Glue allows the start of an idea or thought and decide what I want to turn it into. Blog post, article or story I will publish, or amplify into a diary post.

It’s hard to have glue if the adhesive comes in all different containers. I’ve tried before to move off the tool. It changed to a subscription model so I tried Byword. I tried Day One for Journals. Nothing works when it’s all in pieces. Byword has the components but not the organization or integrated model of groups and sheets and document management. It’s a push for me to adopt it.

No matter what though I think when you hit the road and want to chronicle the life ways you need a central repository. It’s the place where ideas spring forth and travel plans are kept. It’s central idea is the home for your words. Long, short, bullets or free form. Find a thing that can give you the power to create and use it.

It could be Google docs as well. It has power across platforms. This Ulysses thing to me though has a central essence that is missing in all else. Perhaps it’s power or control or freedom.

What do you use as that central tool to help you track and manage the moments, creativity, plans of your life? If on the Apple ecosystem check out Ulysses. If not, google documents is very powerful.

All in all, it makes the travel easier to manage and quickly capture ideas that are then presented back to me in my room at night. Ideas are good. Capturing them and getting a workflow is key.

One other note…

I am not satisfied or happy with how the accounts and storage space are computed on wordpress.com. There is no way to upgrade storage only and I have raised a support question. I will not upgrade to a business account to pay for a storage upgrade. Photo’s take a lot of room and yet there is no way to share photos with google photos which is my chosen photo management utility since it has applications and easy sharing to facebook, twitter, and google plus. I don’t like just posting links.

If I do not see a path by December to upgrade the storage, I will be forced to leave for . self-hosted wordpress.org solution on DigitalOcean. I mention this because wordpress.com has no real plan on upgrading storage only while keeping us on the same overall plan. That’s not good if you write a lot, upload lots of images, etc.

I won’t do a business plan for my blog so by December I view the time and space I have to be dwindling to a point where I have to make a choice. I’m calling on you WordPress to make storage available by itself so we can upgrade as we need. Capturing and sharing photographs is a primary thing I like to do. I have no qualms about downloading my backup/export file and moving to DigitalOcean and installing wordpress from scratch. I don’t really want to leave the wonderful community here and I enjoy reading all of your blogs. WordPress is not supporting those of us who are photographers or image editors whatsoever though.

I’ll wait and see and then comment on this post when I hear something. I want to continue sharing my travels here but I won’t just hop and skip through different plans. Storage should be a cheap upgrade without changing the plan itself.

Update:

Hi all. I have a few options on wordpress.com which I don’t believe will work. I can upload my photos to another site like flickr. I take on the average of 100 photos a day and I only share a few out of concern of storage space. Then I would have to consider what my cost would be to upgrade to the business plan. That would be almost twice the cost and I would then have features I would never use.

So, long story short; wordpress.com is not going to work after about December when I reach about 70% of available space. I am going to migrate the domain to a self-hosted installation on a cloud provider by end of the year instead of renewing my account.

When I first started the blog here on wordpress.com, it seemed then it would be a great deal for me to ease back into blogging. What has happened is that now I am traveling with new demands especially for sharing photography. I could see uploading 20 to 50 photographs a day from my camera and sharing. At that rate, 13gb of space will go rather quickly but 80gb of data will last me awhile and then I can simply buy more storage.

I think for the  majority of people that the personal account is good if you share a few things every so often. I’ve faced the same issue before with hosted providers and have stopped at one place and then moved to another. I really like the community here but the travel and the photographs have demands that I don’t mind paying for if there is a path to pay for it.

I can re-point the mikesplaces.blog domain to my own registrar at google domains pretty easily and then bring up wordpress. You may never run into issues but I have plans for this blog in serving up my photography on a daily basis.

Thanks to you all for following me and reading along as I go through Asia slowly. I have some months before moving things but now I know there is not a path forward at wordpreess.com besides buying the business service for which I would only use the storage.

 

Does your camera offer fun?

I imagine from the Nikon’s and Sony’s and the other cameras around Hanoi that photography is an important thing. People invest money in lens and bags and camera bodies. Then they invest more in time in learning how they all work. I watched a guy today overloaded with camera gear as his wife wanted another lens from a bag he was carrying. He hunts through the camera bag and meanwhile misses a hundred interesting street moments. He finds the lens and his wife snaps one off and the other on and puts the old one back in the poor guy’s bag. I kinda wonder how all this works. I don’t have a camera with a prime lens and a body and all the stuff. How does one do it all? Isn’t that bag kinda heavy and you always have lens envy? What happens when you want a shot that’s in a moment and the moment soon disappears? I am not chiding the significant number of people carrying big gun lens and cameras. No. And I am not deriding or lowering their abilities. I’m sure they shoot better than me with all that gear.

I travel light you see. My gear is a FujiFilm X100F camera which fits into a smaller bag and lets me get the street or urban shots I want. But here is the main thing. Its fun! Let me tell you how. Fuji included film simulations on the camera and different enhancement possibilities with color, shadow, etc. One can dial in a new film simulation but then also start changing default shadow, color, sharpness. A single shot can take on multiple personalities. One can go out in a day in Hanoi and practice a single thing. Like today I started shooting with the Astia simulation but then bumped color and shadows to +2 for the halibut. Suddenly the shots got sharper with deeper colors and it was…

Fun!

Fun because you can change the elements of the camera and make it do things that are fun and strange and weird. It makes a day out with the camera an exploration of a film simulation and then more fun with the different effects you can dial in. So its not just the photography which may be serious or not; its the fun of trying new things. Here’s a few I did today of the Astia, Classic Chrome. and Provia simulations with different sharpness and color at +2. I shot a few at the Hanoi Historic Water tower with various settings.

Notice the subtle changes in color? I had moved up color to +2 and sharpness to plus +2 and I was shooting with the Astia film simulation. No matter what, its fun. The camera is fun folks.

Now I’ll share some others with the settings changed here and there around Hanoi.

As I looked at the JPEGs, its dawned on me. I don’t need Photoshop or Lightroom. I have these special film simulations that the good folks at Fuji gave me and I have the Q button to change different sharpness and contrast settings.

I don’t own a Nikon or Sony or something. I have this FujiFilmX100F. I’m curious if the other cameras with the bags of lens and filters and what not are fun. Do those cameras have these different custom settings which can effect how the JPEG rolls out?

For me, its a difference of night and day. I go out each day and experiment and have fun with this camera. I keep all the photographs and upload them to Google Photos. Some good. Some not so good. Its all in the learning.

In the learning and in the fun.

On the learning trail with the Fuji X Series Camera

For awhile back in the states I kinda stopped learning and using the camera. I just ran out of gas after 14 hour days on a single project that had its issues. I promised myself that once I retired I would begin anew.

The first thing I decided was that I needed to start learning the camera again but I wanted to start with some known qualities. I have always enjoyed good black and white photography and the FujiFilm X100F plus a large number of other Fuji cameras have some excellent film simulation modes to play with or learn with. Learn with and play with :-).

I have over 125 photographs just from today wandering over Hanoi’s French Quarter south of Hoan Kiem Lake trying one set of custom settings. I am going to copy those over to my external drive and will share some but it was so good to get back to learning. The camera is a fun and funky little thing and you can find a baseline thing to try by setting out or looking at others that have done similar. I wanted to find someone that had used the Acros+Red simulation and had some sage advice on what they used. So I found an interesting site by Tom Grill here which shows how he manipulated the Acros+R simulation and got some interesting results. Now I had a baseline to start with.

What I wanted were buildings and sky and I liked the older architecture and style so I headed out this morning with the camera to play. I will share the photos in a subsequent post but the main thing here is getting back to playing. I take photographs for my own enrichment and learning so I keep everything unless its something I have a multiple of. I have a 2tb drive which I am going to start using to record my moments again. I also back everything up to Google Photos.

Now with one day of play under my belt and having sweated most of the day out doing my other goal which is to go over 10k steps each day, I found fun and profit on the trail with the camera.

I don’t think you can have this much fun or at least I cannot with a smartphone camera. I need something which lets me make mistakes, learn, re-apply learning. The Fuji X camera is just so perfect for the novice in me.

Thanks to Fuji for building a fun and funky camera easy to travel with, fun to learn, and a great and able recorder of events. Highly recommend you find a camera if you are so inclined. I can get my steps in each day and feel better plus engage with the outdoor world.

Content Creation on the Road

I’ve been working through how I create blog posts, journal entries, and notes about travel that I want to have easier access than gmail. I could create folders on my laptop to store the notes and stuff; but then how would I reach it from my phone. The main thing always is integration. You want the same stuff on the phone as on your laptop. You need some things.

  1. Cloud storage. Some kind of cloud storage that respects the laptop and the phone and that’s sane. I tried for awhile using a Linux virtual machine and I would ssh to it and do my stuff. This is not the same. Its not stateful. So I moved on to Evernote for awhile. Evernote appeared to take care of the cloud storage and sync thing well. Then they decided to raise the ante on the subscriptions and lower things. I would have probably paid but it kinda made me decide to find something else. That leads me to point 2.
  2. Application that can handle your use case. Lets be fair here. My use case is your faux pas. My solution is your problem. My choice of platform is your hatred. To be fair, I moved off from Android to IOS and a MAC laptop not because I love the platforms. A better reason was the security and updates. I get updates to my phone and MAC as they’re released. But the main thing was a killer application that would meet my needs. So what are those application needs? They are the ability to maintain state, the ability to use a cloud solution (point 1 above) and the ability to create files in clear text. Clear text or markdown is the ultimate in portability. i create documents in clear text and use an application to apply markdown to it. if i have to bail on the solution, the files are still just clear text. There are many apps so I won’t go so far as to recommend one. I will suggest that you look at Byword or Ulysses on both IOS and MAC. I use Ulysses because it has this sweet document and library management credo. But if you want to get straight to writing, go for Byword. Remember the other thing; Portability. The apps must exist on all your platforms. This is  a big thing to integration folks.

So when you bring it all together on a Sunday evening after some beers and a bowl of pho and fresh spring rolls, you get a both 1 and 2. You get 1 and 2 in complementary interfaces. My journal and my travel notes and attachments of image or pdf files are all there. I can create a workflow if I want to bring things in to an INBOX then circulate them around to groups or folders. But I don’t. I just create and abandon and cleanup and start it all again.

If you use Android, a similar functionality awaits you with Google Docs. It works just as well and in some ways better. I did this before using Google Docs and it was easy on an Android phone. But I left the platform awhile back for many reasons and not only the application and integration. I left because of security primarily and updates. I could buy a Samsung Galaxy S9 plus but what OS level and when would I get security patches. I travel to foreign lands. This is a big deal. What guarantee do I have that Samsung will release the patches that El Goog makes available. None. Nada. Zip. They can speak to it all each time but when I had a Galaxy S7 stuck on two release past; it does not instill a lot of trust.

I don’t like IOS and MAC. I would prefer to use a Pixel 2 and a chromebook. That crosses over a few boundaries. One is the killer app that will let me do all I want. Making a choice of an app based on an ecosystem may be dumb. But I wanted more. I wanted complementary applications that worked the same way. I wanted security. I wanted to believe that Apple would take care of my iPhone 7 plus and my Macbook 2017 12 inch. And they have. I still don’t like the platform.t

But it works for me. And it works for my choices and my two big reasons. Travel with the devices has been good. I had an iPad Pro 9.7 inch which I left at home. No real need for it.

Give it some thought and choose. It can be daunting to change but not impossible. Or if you keep everything in clear text, a piece of cake!

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.