A short distance to a minor deviation

Catchy subject eh? I am a master of creating subjects or headers with no real basis in what I am gonna write. Call it my particular skill or irritation and frustration point. Perhaps you have stopped reading already. I’m totally cool with that. You will miss a minor deviation from all the wonders of Ho Chi Minh City.

Taking Notes on Mac and IOS – my 2019 and onward revisions

I like taking notes and then being able to edit said notes on my iPhone or my MacBook. Its a thing I do sitting in the room in the mornings and then when I’m out eating lunch or having coffee or over dinner. There is always something more to take note of. I also enjoy applications which sync flawlessly using iCloud between devices. I want the same info and roughly user experience between the devices and if I pay for a subscription, I expect to have gratification from the application developers.

To reach there, I’ve tried any number of Notes apps like OneNote, Apple Notes, Evernote, Ulysses, and on and on. This is all leading me to the app which now has my attention and is actually a joy to use whether in the room on the laptop or on the move. That app is Bear. So what about bear keeps this old retired guy enthralled and using it and not hunting a new app? Here are a few reasons I can think you may want to consider to try or not try:

  1. Its fast. The syncing action is not a sinking action on the MacBook and my iPhone. Everything happens in really fast time and my notes are there when I need them.
  2. The UI and its beauty and simplicity. I do not need a thing overly complex and I really enjoy the use of tags to split or join notes and see them in various sections. I also enjoy linking to another note by typing two left brackets and seeing the existing notes show up. If I am in a tag area like #writing and I create another note it maintains that tag. Cool beans and it lessens workflows to get things where I want them.
  3. Linking notes to other things. You can link between Bear and other apps. By coping the Bear Notes Link it will open from the other application on the MacBook or my iPhone. There is a nice collaboration at work there.
  4. Subscription Models work. I believe it’s a value thing for subscription models and application developers will create value if they see you have skin in the game for the long term.

My Diary on MacBook and IOS in 2019

I’ve gone back and forth on an app to do this. There is a separation line between the blur of consciousness stuff I want to record like a conversation for my future self or a thing to clear from my mind or a frustration or a vent and a note that captures a thing to me.  The note is often undated while the journal entry is not.

So enter Day One for the diary. I use this app on both my MacBook and iPhone too and it has some of the same rationales as above. Its a joy to use and it tags the location and keeps track of where you are and will bug you to create journal entries. I need that sometimes. I don’t have a list of reasons because many cross over. What I expect from a diary app is crispness and a clean interface that lets me get right to writing these time and thought based blurs of things. If an area  demands more exploration or explanation or links of thought, I create a note in Bear and link it as mentioned before. If I start something Bear and I want to reference it in a Day One journal post (like about travel ideas) I can create that linkage.

Combining it all into one thing

That’s impossible and I no longer want a single thing like for awhile i did with Ulysses. I appreciate the closeness but separation of well-designed applications with different UI and purposes is very cool and a desired thing. I want to have my travel notes reference the detailed list of things I keep in Google Sheets but be separate. I want to reference diary posts in Bear. Easy peasy!

Finally, I want to bring it all and find it all on my devices. For me the whole Apple Ecosystem just works the best for me. For you it may be Google Docs. I used that for a long time and its closely integrated. If I moved to a Chromebook particularly with an Android phone, I would export and move.

That’s the final thing for me. I want the ecosystem integration but I also want a way to bail if the time comes. Both of these apps offer attractive and advanced ways to export information and I’ve tested both with a different journaling app that resides on Google Drive.  I cannot see myself leaving though.

What I can see is upgrading in 2020 to a new MacBook or getting the 2019 iPad Air device with the smart keyboard and bidding adieu to laptops completely. It would be easier to travel with just the iPad and iPhone I think. Charging and maintenance, weight and size, comparable use and applications would be ideal!

Give it some thought in your experiment of one. I have not found the final end point. I have found a way station stop along my path that lets me integrate my notes and diary entries. Does it make it all worth it? Perhaps. It does make the trip more fun and keeping detailed notes on travel in Bear is the best! Day One really lets me focus and create thoughts and talking to my future and sometimes past self. I think both are important and finding ways for me to tie them together thoughtfully has been damned good.

Sunday in Vietnam

Here it is Sunday in magical Vietnam. I had some nice Vietnamese Beef Stew last night for dinner after wanting Bun Cha at a particular restaurant but it was closed for some emergency. Today I will venture forth camera in hand to further test and have fun with the new F2 35mm prime lens on my X-T30. I can say if you are looking for a good combination of travel camera, prime lens, and kit lens; consider getting the X-T30 with the F2 35mm prime lens and buy the camera and 18-55mm kit lens together. The cost is very competitive and you will get the same innards as the world class X-T3 camera. FujiFilm does this a lot so I thought I would offer my own take on the value of this camera for someone like me that moves very slowly in places in Southeast Asia.

  1. size and weight. The heft of the X-T30 is excellent for travel related activities and when you bundle it with the kit lens you get something which is not outrageous size wise. It will fit in a smaller over the shoulder bag you can find easily. I would consider though getting one of the smaller prime lens for day to day use. The F2 35mm prime lens is a perfect size and reduces the heft of the camera. So if size is a prerequisite for travel but you still want interchangeable lens at a good price, this camera size with the prime lens is nice.
  2. quality. My goals are to never edit photographs or take RAW images. I simply do not want to be bothered with the editing and time it takes. My goals are to find devices which work to meet my needs not for me to adjust to meet their needs. The quality of Fuji JPEGs is legendary and with the wonderful film simulations available like Provia, Classic Chrome, and Acros, you get different takes and abilities at quality to get the image with different effects. Wonderful for lazy people like me!
  3. price. Lets talk price. You can find the X-T30 body only for under $900 and you can find deals on the body with kit lens at decent prices hovering around the 1k mark. I don’t do links where I make money when you click. Go use a browser and view them at amazon or something. The second price is for the prime lens. I paid $369 for it here in Vietnam at the FujiFilm Style Store downtown. That’s pretty comparable to prices all over internationally and its backed by Fuji. So you can get the whole works for less than the cost of the X-T3 camera body only. Wow! A camera that captures the essence of the X-T3 in a lot of regards for less. Give it a look price wise.
  4. fun. This stuff is supposed to be fun folks. If you are not a professional photographer or believe yourself to be one or you are like me and just want a way to capture images to share, you will want something fun. I use an iPhone 7 plus for photographs as well as the X-T30. Both are fun but lets be honest; a dedicated camera has more knobs and dials. I like to play with knobs and dials. FujiFilm cameras have them in abundance and they are retro style so you look plenty cool as you mess around. Finally its supposed to be FUN.
  5. learning and education. Photography can be an expensive habit. Look at me. I went through a number of experiences mostly bad with cameras. I am hoping that the X-T30 lasts longer because along with FUN I want to learn. Not composition and the rule of thirds or light and shadow. I could care less about those things. I want to learn more about the places I go and then capture them so I can refer back or share them good or bad. I’ll take a few good images but many more bad ones and for me its all grist for the mill. I rarely delete photographs since Google Photos lets me upload them for free. I have found that by not deleting images, I can go back later to my albums for my two weeks in Japan and find things there I simply don’t remember taking.
  6. Finally, sharing! Sharing is what I enjoy doing at a few levels. I want to share the photographs so you can perhaps get a sense of a place but I get to choose the mechanism and the places. I don’t do Instagram or Twitter because I find no value in either of them. Instagram honestly is a joke to share photographs. You cannot even comment with an image of the same place or a different place. There is not even a desktop application for the site. What the Hell is that about? So its a joke really and its full of people self-promoting, taking scads of pictures where they are in each one (perhaps to prove they were there) and then writing the vapid captions which are the real purpose of the site. Lets just call it micro-blogging with basic photo sharing. Twitter is not much better in my book. It is full of a bunch of bloggers who do the same self promotion, pompous sponsored posts, trying to gain followers to the other social sites like Pinterest or whatever and its monolithic. You cannot find a photography community on twitter because all there are are hashtags. In the final analysis for me, neither site works so I share on the blog, Facebook (which is actually better at photo sharing than its bastard cousin Instagram), and the wonderful and focused Mastodon instance I belong to. That’s where I share the photographs. I choose the sharing and you choose to visit the blog and see them and read what I write.

So it is Sunday in Vietnam and the camera awaits some pleasure I will find. First will do the morning coffee somewhere and gather the moments before me like the net thrown out in Mekong Delta that the fisherfolk use. The moments always illuminate the places to me and I can capture with the camera the things and people and the places that either matter or don’t matter.

Welcome to Sunday in Ho Chi Minh City! Come on over. It’s a wild, wonderful, magical place where you can find a measure of things you may seek and a few you do not.


Having fun in Ho Chi Minh City – glad you are not here

Its been a good almost week now for this retired kid. Been walking and playing with the new camera in a city that stretches all the boundaries of photography and fun. This city has it all for photography. Beautiful parks, wonderful skylines, lots of people if you wanna reach your street photography soul, and finally beautiful old buildings that blend old and new together into a fanciful mix of life and history.

In walking the city on a daily basis, one can see so many different sights and get lost in the moments on the streets. Going down a block here or there one can find the little alleys and side streets with the small coffee shops that are always inviting, little Pho or Bun Cha places that have the wondrous aromas moving all around, and businesses that do everything from fashion to camera or phone supply stores. People move slowly down the alleys perhaps stopping at each place to do a bit of business. I stopped this morning for an iced milk coffee at a nice little Pho place and sat at the aluminum table for some priceless moments of reflection while the city thrums and hums its business soul all around me. I came to a few conclusions about life in general which always seems to happen when I have the moments with the coffee and no place to be:

  1. life in general is pretty fucking awesome now. I have no place that requires my presence so if I sit for an hour with the coffee or move to the park to watch the children playing, its all part of the moment or moments I have.
  2. blogging has been fun and that’s a good thing for me. In the past, after 20 some years of doing it I grew tired of the ebb and flow of a blog. Back in the late 1990s, it was about things like authority and referring to another blog by linking or amplifying what that blog said by referring to it by its perma-link. That’s all changed and as a friend would say most likely for the worst. Its always been the case though that I have not blogged for anyone else but just for me. I do this for the creation of the words next to each other. If you get joy out of that or you disagree such is life. I ain’t doing this for you though nor do I care whether you read or not. I will continue to write my drivel whether I have a single page view or not. This has brought joy back into mudville for me.
  3. travel and tourism is not what I do. I’ve come to realize reading a few things that what I do is is different at a seminal level than the travel and lifestyle bloggers, the backpackers, the gapyear-ers. I don’t need to have a “back” to go to at all.
  4. fun and profit and good times are important! Why do things if you don’t have these and this has become even more important to me. Things like photography, walking, writing content that perhaps no one reads, is all done for its own sake. I also compile a daily diary for a different audience. Namely me. I have had fun and profit and adventure doing this exactly this way for over 20 years using many of the parts of things.
  5. finally, YMMV. You may do any of the things for different reasons and I’m good with that. You can read this to mean I don’t give a damn. For one thing, I pay for this space and I write these words and you pay for your space and you write your words. If you write your words to make someone’s lot better, good for you.

Realizing the 5 things over coffee this morning and then considering it on a taxi ride later and a walk back to the hotel made me realize how doing what I do in the five areas has enriched my life in so many ways. Its like someone said once though,

if you depend on someone else to make you happy, to challenge you, to get you going, you are fucked

Perhaps that was me. I ain’t sure. So sue me. I also will just continue to do this so if you follow along on the voyage, I’m glad to see you. If you don’t, I am glad to not see you. What makes me the happiest is seeing words on a page which takes things from here to there. Whether they are personal words in a diary or drivel I write here; only matters to me.

Those are the things that Ho Chi Minh City gave to me today and why I’m glad you are not here. You’d probably gum up the works.

Just kidding 🙂

Traveling to Vietnam

Tomorrow I fly off to Vietnam for almost three months to do whatever I want to do there. I think the first thing is to have a bowl of Pho at this small stand down the street from the hotel I am at. I don’t have a list of things to see or do there or attractions that are must see places. This is more of a day to day thing there just enjoying the hustle and bustle of a truly remarkable city. Enjoying coffee in the mornings at a bakery or Vietnamese coffee house. Eating at different places. If you have not been, Ho Chi Minh City is wonderful for food and you shop until you drop across the city. Vincom Center is nice when you need an AC break and Bud’s Ice Cream will build something nice for you while there.

So many different things to sample, delights to find down a street of a walk and its one of my favorite cities to just get lost in with a camera. Each place I decided to visit I wanted to get back to or they are places I have not been. I just built the itinerary on a whim with no real desires to reach X or Y place besides the obvious. Here’s a sample of the obvious and not so obvious in each stop of my trip:

  1. Ho Chi Minh City – Just a wonderful city to wander but getting to the beautiful colonial architecture, the churches, the parks, and just seeing the city streets with skyscrapers somehow mixed with small streets of local businesses makes HCMC a wonder to visit to me.
  2. Can Tho and Phu Quoc Island – Have not been so will wait.
  3. Da Nang – My favorite city. It has all the components! A beautiful river runs through it and there are myriad dining and drinking spots along the river. Across the river are beaches to visit. The less traveled paths though are away from the main street of the Han River and to the local streets with small restaurants serving delicious noodles and soups. Coffee shops dot these streets and you can find the neat little places where the baristas welcome you with gusto and the coffee is the same. You can spend a week there and not run out of unique coffee spots that also feature foods. Also it seems that the people of Da Nang have this essence of friendliness and fun that I love to see with the camera. They truly enjoy seeing people that see their city and I have had some great times getting away from the downtown areas to small parks.
  4. Hanoi – Some will say its the Old Quarter but its not. The Old Quarter is only a part of the city and its usually the part I tire of first. Its just too busy with cars, bikes, scammers sometimes that seem to want to fix your shoes, give you a ride on a Cyclo, or tell you of some wondrous tourist deal. Its better to walk north of Hoan Kiem Lake for about half mile to the access road to the historic Long Bien Bridge and spend time north. Then walk over to West Lake which is simply beautiful and is the largest lake in Hanoi. From there a walk to the Mausoleum is very possible and walking on beautiful tree-lined streets. South of the Hoan Kiem Lake one can find the French District with beautiful old buildings, malls, restaurants and coffee shops. Lets just spend a moment on coffee though. Coffee and Vietnam! Its like a wondrous combination that is shared throughout Vietnam but Hanoi makes it all come alive. One must make it to the The Note Coffee Shoppe by the Hoan Kiem Lake and have an egg coffee. Its not the only place but it is unique and full of friendly, boisterous, and wonderful staff and team members.

There are so many other places but if you are designing a trip to Vietnam, simply asking what you can do in a week is counter-productive. A week to see Vietnam is like a day at Disneyland. Its possible but why do it? More time is needed to experience Vietnam and see the other places I have not mentioned that are day trips away from the cities. Take Ba Na Hills where the Golden Bridge is. It takes a day to see it and feel like it was time well spent. Ignore the Instagram ignoramuses and twitter tweeps that tell you to visit quick and get that visa stamp. Vietnam is not meant for a quick weekend. It offers so much but some of it is hidden almost in plain sight. Strike away for days from the tourist enclaves and find other worthy places. Walking, while challenging sometimes, is a very good way to explore the cities and not add to the confusion of cars and cyclos and buses that jam the tourist areas.

I love Vietnam and its people and the cities and the parks and the natural sights that are there. Can you see it all? No. Hell no. Why even try. A place worthy of exploration should be explored more than once. Stop counting your passport stamps and find the places worthy and settle down to day by day and watch. You will see so much more and perhaps find that street that leads to wonder.

Vietnam thoughts, Blog Themes, Other Cool Things that do not go bump in the Night

I’ve been pretty consistently writing on this blog since I left last year. It seems amazing that a year ago I was in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam and that’s where I am going back to in a few days. I’ll swing through Vietnam for about 2 months give or take a day or something. I could have stayed longer but I designed the trip to Vietnam for a shorter time since I already spent 6 months there and went basically north to south then. Now I am going in reverse and will not go back to a few places that I went before. I won’t see Da Lat again or Nha Trang. I will see Can Tho and Phu Quoc Island. I have not been to either of those before. Then I will jet off to Da Nang which is my favorite place and end up to see a few people in Hanoi.

I already know what I shall eat my first night in HCMC (trying valiantly to not write Saigon). I will have Pho. Down the street and around the block is this little Pho stand I shall visit where the broth is steamy and its a nectar of taste and wonderful sensory overload. For three weeks, I’ll walk around again in the beautiful, crazy, sometimes wierd city of HCMC and its districts. I’ll visit the Ben Thanh Market and try not to buy anything and take pictures with my iPhone. Talking about the iPhone, I am working on my second report on explorations with it and should post it before the weekend.

I don’t have a set itinerary there in HCMC. I will get back to Vincom Center and have Bud’s Ice Cream. I mention this because only time did I feel down or depressed being alone in the last 1.5 years. I ended up eating ice cream in the Vincom Center Mall at Buds. It was a moment where things swung around and I saw so many people walking, talking, some arguing. Those lower feelings soon dissipated and I have not felt that way since. Perhaps I am just built for solitude but I remember what someone said once,

Loneliness is being alone and hating it. Solitude is being alone and loving it

I don’t know that I’ve lived those words but I have come to realize that I am not a terribly social person. I have bad traits. I am selfish, narcissistic and I set a high bar for friendship. Perhaps all those things have combined to make the last years mean even more and some of it is destined every so often to come out in blogposts which let me revel in the backwash of 20 years of blogging or so.

Blogging or so…

It has been over 20 years of writing these things. Most people I met doing this have moved on in many ways. Others have stormed in. What once was a means of expression and creation has become something else. Perhaps it serves those new bloggers in some way. I am a dinosaur though. I still write these things for the joy of creation. Someone could offer me a kazillion dollars to write a sponsored post and I’d decline. I’m just not that willing to set such a low bar for myself to accept money for something I love to do.

In other moments of blogging, since getting the business account, I have been trying themes but not many plugins. I am now on the free Twenty Sixteen theme that Automattic does. I like the theme. Do you?

I think it looks pretty nice on mobile devices and its simple. I don’t like themes with lots of grids or boxes with featured images or themes made for small businesses or lifestyle blogging or selling things or ads or whatever. I want a theme which does a thing well and what it does well is show my content. I don’t need it hidden behind READ MORE… or kludgy boxes. I want you to see all the crapola I write so you can decide whether its worth to read. I don’t really care if you do or don’t but I do enjoy you finding something perhaps that strikes a chord in your life.

I also read a lot of blogs. Okay. Maybe only a few. I try to read the blogs that like my blog. I am not good at following and I apologize in advance. I hope though you do find something in this stuff that lets you see that living life at a slower pace, seeing places with no itineraries or instagrammable moments, or ads is something you maybe like. I like throwing it out there whether you do or not.

Wrapping it all up…

So now I do what I usually do. I wrap all this up for you in a few concise or not so sentences. Life has been damned good for me traipsing all around in slow motion. Ive found ways to enjoy the day to day which was so missing before. Someone asked me once if I missed all that work. My question is,

what the F is work?

I have forgotten. Hahaha.

End of Five Months or so

I left for Singapore on 21 January 2019 and spent a week walking all around and loved it there. Then I flew to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia and spent about three weeks there. I traveled to Melaka, Kuantan, Port Dickson and George Town for about 81 days. Then I left for Thailand. I cut that part of the trip short because Thailand was a disappoinment and Bangkok especially is a city I will never go back to.  So I flew to Siem Reap from Bangkok on 14 May.

I’ve spent 31 days in Siem Reap now and tomorrow I fly off to Phnom Penh for two weeks and then leave on the 29th for Vietnam for just about 60 days. I’m getting back first to Ho Chi Minh City and plan on taking it day by day there for 3 weeks and then I catch a bus to Can Tho for a week. I will fly from Can Tho to Phu Quoc Island for a week and then off I go to Da Nang and finally Hanoi and then come back to Phnom Penh for a week and off to Laos for three weeks.

Its been an interesting 2019 travel-wise and I’ve found and lost more than a few things. I have managed to go through about 4 cameras since I’ve been gone and two cameras on this trip. That has been rather disappointing for the amount of money spent on cameras but it has reinforced my desire to learn better approaches on my iPhone using two new applications to take and edit photographs. I also decided if I did buy a new camera, my luck with cameras would probably stay the same and it would break or become defective at the worst possible moment leaving me again with my iPhone 7 plus.

Other things have come and gone as well the last months. I reached the point with my Merrill Moab shoes that I have worn the last 7 months since the last time I was in Siem Reap that they are just about done. I get about 6 to 7 months of wear out of them walking every day for 5 to 7 miles. A number of pairs of sandals have come and gone as well. I don’t believe Sandals are made for walking like I do and after seeing Birkenstock Arizona sandals only last two months if that, its reinforced my belief that I will never find shoes that approach the use of the Merrill Moab shoes.

Another thing was changing some ideas about what would happen after I visit the US early next year. At first I had no real idea what I would do and had almost decided to just fly back to San Francisco and then go back to Southeast Asia somewhere. Instead, other parts of the world called out so for six months I will see Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, and Dubai. Still not sure what happens after that but I have managed to book all the hotels or Riads in Morocco and I know the date I will leave for Turkey. My next step is to book that flight and also get my visa online for Turkey. I may stay for a month or two in Turkey. Egypt will be quicker and I may or may not do some kind of tour to maximize my time there. Dubai will be a week to kind of slow down and also decide if I will go on to India or Sri Lanka or what.

I have also managed to meet a few different retired expats and today met Monty at the coffee shop. We talked for quite a bit of time about retiring in Southeast Asia and traveling around. I also met this guy Bobby that is doing something different than retiring. He just does visa runs to places and then goes back except now Thailand is blocking that travel so he has had to find other options. Neither of these people do what I do really and while its nice to meet people on the road, I am just as thankful when the time comes to say adios. I just don’t want to exchange email addresses, facebook contacts, or whatsapp stuff. Its interesting to talk with someone but its just as nice when I leave and can walk the places I want to go without them. Its kind of reaffirmed my beliefs (not that I needed that) that my type of solo wandering just works for me. I don’t want a home or a new wife or something else. I don’t think another person could put up with me and I know I could not deal with them. I’ve heard too many arguments from people traveling together about little things. I can imagine how the big things go.

So a bunch of this and that type things. Things found and lost. People said hello to and goodbye to. Now tomorrow I say goodbye to Siem Reap and I don’t know when I will return. I’ve been here twice now and I don’t feel a desire to come back. Later in the year I will visit Kampot and Kep Cambodia for a few days before leaving for Taiwan and Philippines. I want to get back there because I really like Kampot and Kep will be a stay at a nicer resort before leaving for Taipei.

I kinda always mentally sum up the good and bad things. What I’ve gained and lost and what it all has meant. This year has been about getting back to places and finding new places and also planning on going back to the US for a few weeks. As Monty told me today he would never go back and I can see that. I could just as easily not go back too. There is nothing in America that holds or binds me to it besides my daughter who wants to see me. Truth be told the travel across the US is another thing though. Riding Amtrak almost completely across the US was another dream that I missed a few times because of work. Now there are no blockers.

And that’s a good thing I think.

Learning iPhone Photography – there’s more to it…

And I am pretty glad to have found a few things to help me learn more. Since I started focusing on using my iphone 7 plus, I have wanted to find an app or two on IOS that would maximize a few things. First thing is the ability to both take automatic shots with reasonable defaults but also have manual controls which extend how I use the camera in new ways. I found the Halide application which has a wonderful default set of functionality but when you are ready to pick up the pace it offers a bunch of under the hood power. The app allows reasonable and sensible automatic controls but since the iPhone 7 plus has twin cameras it can also provide additional functionality. One of the other things it does which I am just getting to is shooting RAW files. For a long time on digital cameras I swore off ever shooting RAW files because of the cost associated with apps that were then required to edit those files. Having it all on the iPhone makes it simpler with an app that is integrated with Halide. So enter Darkroom. When I want to create images that extend beyond what the defaeult does with automatic shooting, focus, and basic management; I can shoot in RAW format and then pass the files to Darkroom for processing. I had not thought that this would be a thing I would do but learning how it can all be done in a basic workflow means I can extend photographs which I choose that should be post processed but still on the iPhone.

I bring all this up for a few reasons and perhaps it has challenged some preconceived notions I have had with how powerful and flexible iPhone photography can be. There is a sense of flexibility with using a device like the iPhone 7 plus with an app like Halide that is a powerful learning and education tool but then since I have nothing but time really I can get RAW files into Darkroom that I want to work on and create an additional level of value. Its all about learning!

The iPhone 7 plus and perhaps in the future a new iPhone when I get back to the US means I do not need to buy expensive digital cameras for what I want to do ever again. I have a set of never-ending learning tools in Halide and Darkroom and if I just want the basics, Halide does that too.

I’m very impressed thus far with the flexibility and use of both apps. I plan on taking them both out for a few walks around Siem Reap while I’m here for the next days and then extending my use of them in Phnom Penh. Its exciting, challenging, and a sense of fun to find a thing which I thought was so basic and sometimes without a sense of learning to have levels of functionality I never knew existed and not have to spend countless thousands of dollars to do things which I can learn at my own pace on. Its all in the same device I use day to day for other things which really makes the whole flexible, fun, and creates new levels of entertainment.

I wondered before while still using a variety of digital cameras what it would be like to just shoot photography on the phone. Now I can see that whatever I may want to do to an image, the combination of these two applications and whether i have an iPhone 7 Plus or whatever I upgrade to, will always be a sense of fun and rewarding times!

I am very appreciative of apps that really cost so little that will give me entertainment, knowledge, and a sense of fun again around photography.


Changing Gears and Gear

Nothing much has changed gear wise for me in the last almost two years of slowly gallivanting around Southeast Asia to destinations I have wanted to see. I’ve captured a lot in photographs and blog posts here and as you probably know I am an opinionated asshole at times and just say what I think of bloggers, photography, instagram, twitter, facebook, whatever. Ain’t apologizing. Too old to change my ways so live with it. One of the rather frustrating rituals has been with expensive camera gear that goes wonky sometimes after only months. Sitting here in Siem Reap I started wondering why. Why do I just buy into more gear that may go sideways in months that costs? I then look at my other travel companions that have not been replaced. My 2017 Macbook 12 inch laptop has been sterling and a great companion for traveling. Great battery life, very forgiving at times, and I love the display. Then there’s the iphone 7 plus. Another device I bought used that has lasted me very well with plopping in SIM cards, lugging through airports, banging on restaurant counters, but never seriously taking photographs besides the food shot every so often. Why? Its not because the camera takes bad photographs or should not be used. It actually takes very good photographs in most situations without expensive add on gear. No lens, no additional things to buy if I would just use the iphone for photography.

So I wondered, why not this morning. What is it that makes carrying a camera the best of all worlds and why should I reconsider things. Simply put, whatever I take a photograph of is for me to keep and share, to backup on social media. I am not into selling photographs or writing up gorgeous trip reports for National Geographic. Simply put the photographs and their maintenance, editing, and final disposition on Google Photos can all be done on the phone itself. I don’t need a device to do this. So why the hesitation? For awhile I believed I wanted to learn photography. Its basics and applications and then apply to my travels. After three or four cameras that have gone sideways, that goal has changed.

Now I want to take photographs of the places I am at, will visit, people, streets, etc. Doesn’t the iphone 7 plus do this well? Don’t I already own a good camera? Doesn’t it backup almost automagically to Google? Yes, yes, and yes!

Its like a rabid thing of what photographers call the GAS. Must acquire the newest gear or just find something that may replace a thing that actually works well because its there and I can do it. No matter that down the road I will wonder why. I am not going to defeat that because I think every techhead has a similar thing. We want relevant technology that will deliver the goods. But what if we temper that a bit and apply it reasonably?

What if I decided to only replace the iphone 7 plus with a later iphone down the road? Perhaps in the states when I see the 2019 phones and I buy a generation old phone like I do that will last years but takes the requisite photographs like Apple delivers to us?

Who am I looking to get approvals from with my images? Why no one of course besides me. Changing gears and gear makes sense then. Simplifying a final area makes sense. Using a thing that I have had for years with me makes sense. It all makes sense until it does not make sense any longer. I may change the backpack when I am back in the states and get new shoes becaue shoes do wear out and the backpack has some features I don’t use at all so why heft it around? But a camera is not one of those things. It ain’t gonna fit on my feet or make the images I wish to share on the blog, on facebook groups, on Mastodon any better than what I get now.

So its time to become a bit accepting, defeat one incarnation of the GAS devil that grips us with acquisitions and just learn to enjoy what I have. It was always there but somehow in the rush to find the camera combination, I ignored the prime directive. For your enjoyment and approbation here it is:

Have fun, enjoy the voyages, record what you want and enjoy looking back on it

That is the prime directive. Nowhere in there does it say to spend thousands of dollars on camera gear that could go sideways in mere months. Be gone that small devil and affliction that makes me think its OK to simply buy another camera because I can.


Slowing Down to Speed Up — World Travels with no goals set

Its an interesting perspective and one I’ve heard over coffee in Siem Reap, donuts in Da Nang, and on park benches in Hanoi. How much time to spend and how many places to see? How to maximize the country count in your gap year adventures. It may mean only spending a day in a place. I’ve read on twitter when I was still hanging there about people asking for one day advice in Hanoi. Stuff like,

Hey! I have one day in Hanoi. Tell me the must see places!


But I did not go either with or without exclamation points. It seems we are in a headlong rush to cram as much as we can into a set period of time. Perhaps fearing a thing will not be seen, we scrape instagram for the places others have said were worthy. There with the pictures of the place we can read the cute little micro-blog content that says to spend only two hours at a place or take the five day tour or almost like Gilligan the two hour tour. Constantly mired with time we seek to find the best that someone else spent finding our way in the world. I’ve speculated before what in Hell does it matter except for your twitter bio if you spend a year but only see 5 countries versus a year and see 30 countries? Is there someone that carefully tabulates the places and compares with your instagram feed? Does Pinterest get nervous if your “pins” aren’t so many? Do some twitter followers (like me) balk at your blog posts if every one is only about the itinerary for the busy millennial that must see it all in that year?

My manifesto is slow down dammit! Time is such a bad explainer of the effort of seeing things. When you combine time with never returning to a place you have been before because you are after the count of countries and the pageantry and pomp of the passport stamps with accompanying visas that all blend on the pages, you are captured and enraptured by editing those bio’s and adding yet more counts. Why? Here are my points:

  1. why use instagram to plan what you are going to see in a place you have never been before? why not start with the idea of spending moments instead of time in a place. Just book what you think you will like. I started planning a trip to Morocco and took different baselines of time because I don’t believe what everyone that has visited says. Why do you? Instagram is not a purveyor of truth. Its barely a photo sharing service. Its really just a micro-blogging content provider that specializes in ads interspersed with instagrammable moments of guy in front of temple with girl taking photo and then girl in front of museum with guy taking photo. If you use instagram to plan the daily adventures, good luck. All you will see is what others have plotted as instagram moments.
  2. why use twitter to plan what you are going to do? Twitter lays no more claim to fame to providing rich content either in the characters allotted or the blog posts referenced where you get the 5 tips in 10 days or the 3 things in 24 hours or how to monetize or do affiliate marketing or become a digital guru while on the road and make your mark as the digital nomad in the neighborhood.

Why use anything at all besides following your nose in a new place? Here is my take. Get lost in a place. Get turned around day after day with no hope of finding the path. Have the moments to spare to get found perhaps but spend the amount of time you spend following your nose. Perhaps allocate a day for a museum or two or seeing the must see sights but the rest of the time you have a nose. So follow it. Slow down folks. I promise to not judge you if you only see 5 countries in a year and you return to one twice. I will judge you though if you post on twitter or instagram of your exploits with the cute little photos of you and the temple and, in fact, every picture on your feed has you in it with some cute whimsical philosophical sayings in the caption.

So instead my manifesto says slow down. Follow your nose. Walk the city streets. Turn left and right and left or go the opposite way. You will have time to see the big things like temples and palaces and museums. I promise. Don’t you really want to be in charge of the moments though? They are yours. You earned them so why spend them on the journey of another’s thousand steps. Be master of destiny. Own the road. Go slow. No one judges unless you happen to take advice of the countless thousands of mavens who post on either of the social media sites about their adventures in 24 hours or 5 days in Hanoi. Just let me be clear 5 days is both enough and not enough in Hanoi. It all depends on your moments and what you do with them.

So don’t set goals as you walk out the door. Forget twitter and instagram as guideposts along your path. You are not put there to satisfy another’s goals or expectations. Further, forget the distinctions between tourists and travelers. Its all BS. A tourist can go to places that are not touristy (whatever those are or are not) and a traveler can visit Petronas Towers. Seek what the travel guru in your soul tells you matters. Slow down. Follow your nose. Don’t set goals or timelines. Create a reality for yourself above and beyond them.

Perhaps when you return from your RTW or gap year, you will not have found as much as that esteemed social media guru who has a travel and lifestyle blog who breezes through the places but I bet your experiences would never match up anyways.

Instead just be happy with what you did without goals and timelines and country and city counts. Get the experiences count instead.

Why I bought the WordPress Business Plan

I am not a business nor an affiliate or selling anything nor will I ever sell anything. There were a few reasons that I decided to go with the business plan and I’ve since thought through what I will do next. I enjoy the better storage options with the business plan. I like the ability to upload themes which opens a larger net to being able to customize and produce more of a photography element after awhile. I enjoy being able to use plugins that can be uploaded. There are a few other options as well which perhaps are important. One is stability and use. My blog is important to me whether it does e-commerce or sales or other stuff or not. I want to publish posts on my travels and not be challenged with different security or other issues. I also want to play with the blog a bit. The business plan does not really allow much in the way of play like hosting the site on a Linux VPS would but the VPS solution, which I have done many times with WordPress, means I have to pay attention to Linux updates.

I know I will not stay with WordPress past May of next year because of the expense but I also know that I will be testing a new provider way before then to ensure that the basic things work. I do not believe that a2hosting would have ever worked and frustration had struck so its easier to just take the current option and take the credit I got for my account and pay the difference.

Here though is what I would like for a hosting provider:

  1. unlimited storage and unmetered transactions. I don’t want to be bullied over a photograph or something and I don’t want access to be throttled because of some reason.
  2. i don’t like unmeasured security that causes a lack of functionality for the basic use case. WordPress.com is not perfect here either but for the meantime it works for me.
  3. themes and plugins to use as I wish to extend my site and be able to manage images and content against the visual quality of the site. I’ve enjoyed playing with themes the last few days.

So in the final analysis, is the business plan worth it if you are not a business owner or digital marketer or online or affiliate? No! Its not worth it but I got a discount because of my current account with them. I would never just renew the business account for a year at the price and I believe wordpress.com does us a dis-service but not offering more textured upgrades. We are not all transitioning from premium to business.

So what’s next…

What’s next is to find a hosting provider that will give me a basic and vanilla Wordpess installation with no security plugins, blocks to access, and meets the thresholds. Will I last until next year here? It is kinda doubtful. I could move again and not renew the plan and export my content and leave. I am not 100% with how wordpress.com does stuff. I do believe there is the element of doing a thing that will not last but give me some fun and enjoyment so when that wears off, I may decide to move again this year or next. Nothing locks me into using wordpress.com and I cannot see paying the full cost for a business plan again. In the meanwhile though, its nice to have something that functions, that I can update, that I can play with as I want.

If I were to find a thing that is the next thing tomorrow, I would probably do the same things again. Try it out, see if its a thing I want, etc. Blogging is not about making money to me. It is more about a platform I can enjoy and use and be happy with. I want to share more photographs, more travels, more places with everyone. I do this only because I enjoy it and I don’t really care about the expense of it all except if the expense means a limiting factor is suddenly employed.

Should you use wordpress.com? I don’t think so in all honesty if you are going to move past the premium plan and you are not a business. Its not super impressive what you get besides the points above which are significant to me. Again, there is the familiarity, ability to use a similar interface to publishing, the storage, themes, and plugins. All of that can come with a different provider for less.

So let’s see where things go. I do know where I am going in three weeks. I am leaving for Vietnam for 3 months or so end of June and that has me pretty excited! A thing though that has really frustrated me is the camera thing again. Yesterday the little Lumix camera just started with errors and finally would not even start but only show a system error each time. Cameras are the bane of my existence but I have to have a camera. I dislike shooting photographs with a phone. There is something about it which is not fun or playing or how I would use the camera to record a thing. Now I have no camera again which is frustrating. So when I get back to Phnom Penh in a week I will sink more money into cameras and buy the FujiFilm X-T30 camera. I hope it lasts longer than three months. Maybe I should just wait and buy the Sony RX100 Mark VI camera. I don’t know that the little compact cameras any more will just work for me either. Cameras are extremely frustrating points to me. They are not stable things, do not last, and cause problems when I least want them to. If I just shot photographs with the iPhone I would have still had the same camera since I left for Southeast Asia.

Very frustrating.