Kinda like Thug Life, but the exact opposite….

4 Steps to Getting an Awesome San Francisco Apartment


It’s pretty well known that getting a good apartment in San Francisco is a difficult task. There is plenty of information about how to choose your neighborhood, or how to find good listings. But once you find that perfect place, it is highly likely that there will be 6-10 other couples also applying for the same apartment, all of which are financially qualified. Very few of the existing apartment hunting guides give strategies to maximize the odds that you are the chosen applicants amongst many.

The Key to the Game

As we have hunted for apartments in San Francisco, I have talked to a lot of landlords, and they all said the same thing. They are looking for tenants that are a good fit. They want people who walk in wide-eyed and say, “This is the place”. All other things being equal, that attitude is going to be the deciding factor.

With this in mind, here are the 4 steps to signing the lease on that perfect place.

Step 1: Deal with Horrible Craigslist

Let me just save you some time. I tried to find other places online that do a better job of apartment listings and they simply don’t exist for renters in San Francisco. Craigslist is the place landlords post, so you’re just going to have to suck it up and use its horrible interface. It will be easiest if you bookmark the exact search page and hit F5 over and over and over again every hour or so.

The best time to look is Friday night and Saturday morning. The number of listings will triple in rate, particularly on Saturday morning.

Once you have hit F5 a million times, internalized what the market is supporting for by price range and neighborhood, and found your perfect listing, move on to step 2.

Step 2: Show Up Late to the Open House

It seems quite rare that a landlord uses the time you show up to decide who gets the place. But most people show up exactly at the opening time of the open house anyway. This creates an awkward situation where 5 couples walk around, whisper quiet observations to each other, and pretend the other people don’t exist. A few people will surround the landlord to quickly try to become their best friend. It’s a weird scene. It’s a lame passive aggressive competition, which is forced and no fun. Showing up early makes you a face in the crowd, and it makes it difficult for the landlord to remember you.

Instead, show up late. You’ll get one on one time with the landlord where you can leave a more lasting impression.

Once you have found your perfect place, shown up late, and gotten the landlords undivided attention, it’s time to move on to step 3 of the plan.

Step 3: Impart an Impression of Extreme Excitement

Landlords want tenants that get excited about the place and the neighborhood. So you should memorize and repeat these words.

“Oh my god. This place is awesome!”

Rehearse them if you must. But you should say it no matter what, because the goal is to get the apartment first, even if you don’t like it. You can always say no later.

Try to dress so you look like you blend into the neighborhood. Don’t wear a suit to see an apartment in the Mission. Tuck those dreads away if you are looking in SOMA. When we found our apartment in the Mission, the landlord told us that we looked like we had gone hiking before coming to the open house. I think our dirty appearance definitely worked to our advantage for the Mission.

Walk around and gush about the place. If you see something that is an obvious shortcoming, make a mental note and keep it to yourself. Pointing out things like, “No dishwasher? That sucks.” Will only make the landlord think you’re not that excited.

If the landlord asks you questions that may go against you, just bend the truth a bit. One landlord asked Geraldine if she plays any instruments. “uhhhh…..nope!”

20-Aug-2011 22:45, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D700, 4.0, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 640



After sufficiently showing your enthusiasm, it’s time to move on to the final step of the plan.

Step 4: Close the Deal

You don’t want to walk out the door without making it abundantly clear that you will do anything for this apartment. You need to close the deal. Make eye contact and use one of these lines.

“We’ve looked at a lot of places, and this is the first place I really think I can make home”. (Editors Note: Soooooo lame. But it worked)

“What can we do to put ourselves the front of the list? How can we make sure we get this? We’ll name our first child after you!” (Editor’s Note: Our first-born son is now named Kahn.)

After that, you’re at the mercy of a landlord’s 15 minute reading of your personality and potential to pay rent on time without destroying the place. When done well, it can have some surprising outcomes. We had a landlord call us back and offer to lower the rent if we would take their place because they didn’t like any of the other applicants.

If you get rejected, don’t take it personally. Landlords’ impressions of you after such a short time can be way off. We lost out on a place because one landlord thought the neighbors’ parties would be “grating” on us. Ohhhh, the irony. If only she knew.

In all cases, just keep hustling. You will get a spot, and you will master your apartment hunting technique eventually. But these 4 steps should get you started.

First Impressions of San Francisco


People smoke weed everywhere

I knew weed was prevalent out here, but I didn’t realize people just smoked it everywhere. Bar with a patio? People getting high. Walking down the street when a few people open their car doors? Clouds of weed smoke in the street. Sitting in a coffee shop at 10am on a Tuesday in the middle of the financial district? Coffee shop smells like weed.

There are a lot of crazy people

Big cities have crazy people. But San Francisco seems to have more than usual. I like to think these are the smarter of the crazy people, because at least they made it to a city with a stable, above-freezing temperature. So far, the crazy people are OK with me. The other day there was a guy playing a hell of a drum solo in the middle of the road, but he could have used some help with the vocals. Screaming at the sky really took away from his drumming skills.

Hills….there are hills

I thought I knew how to drive a manual transmission before I got here. But you don’t know if you can really drive a stick until you are stopped at a red light, facing up a hill with a 10% grade, with a shiny BMW sitting 2 feet from your back bumper. Some of these hills give me the same feeling of taking off in an airplane. The ridiculous part is that before I arrived, I was aware there were some big hills. But looking at a map somehow flattened them out in my mind. Then I got here and realized that they are legit.

Microclimates

If you ask people about different neighborhoods, they will tell you that the weather changes a lot from place to place. “Microclimates”, is the explanation. Or sometimes you get, “I assume you know about the microclimates”. In reality, I think people really just like to say the word microclimates. It sounds smart and stuff. Like you are a serious weather professional. But really, the weather changes a lot because there’s a bunch of hills between two big bodies of water.

Weirdness is the Norm



We have been in SF for 2 weeks, and I’ve already gotten used to the natural state of things being weird. Driving to see an apartment, we drove past a grown woman dressed in a fairy outfit, pulling a cart full of fairy stuff. I went to go see an apartment and when I asked the landlord how his day was, he replied, “Great! I’ve already been to Mars and back.” He turned out to be a NASA scientist who runs Mars spacecraft simulations, but still, who says that?

And that’s pretty much par for the course. Moments like these seem to happen all the time around here, and that’s exactly what I like about it. We have only been here for 2 weeks, but so far I can see why people love it. So far so good for us.

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day

I usually don’t use this space to advertise for things, but today I’m making an exception, even though I get nothing out of it.

Today, one of the more well-known travel bloggers out there, Nomadic Matt, released his book called How to Travel the World on $50 a Day.

Buy it. Read it. Then go do it.

Since we have returned home from out trip, one of the things I have noticed the most is how much people overestimate the cost of our trip. Most people assumed we were staying in places that cost $200+ a night, or that we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars doing what we did. It’s important for people to realize that travel is much more affordable than they think. And most importantly, when you travel on a budget, you get a better experience! There are few things in life that are win/win, but this is one of them. Traveling on a budget allows you to have more local experiences, while saving money at the same time, and extending the amount of time you can stay on the road. I cannot stress this point enough.

If you have been reading this blog and wondering if you can do what we did, my answer is simple. Yes you can. Reading this book will get you started.

Or you can keep slaving away at your job you don’t love, hoping to escape for 1 week per year to overpay an expensive resort that cuts you off from the local population. It’s your choice!

Winding Things Down in Sri Lanka

08-Dec-2012 13:28, Panasonic DMC-TS4, 5.7, 17.4mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100

If I don’t write about Sri Lanka now, it will probably drift off into fond memories. So I should write about it now. I have done a little write-up on every country we visited, and just because Sri Lanka was last, it shouldn’t get skipped.

Because Sri Lanka was awesome.

Our time in Sri Lanka was purposely designed to be stress free. Surf, relax, chill on the beach, have some beers, and do it all over again tomorrow. At all costs, avoid going to temples! All I wanted to do was try to go surfing twice a day. I figured if I did that for a month, and still couldn’t do the basics, I should probably quit surfing while I was ahead.

Sri Lanka was by far the best place to learn how to surf we have been to on this trip. Australia may have better waves, but it was crowded and expensive. Indonesia has better waves and is cheaper than Australia, but a lot of the waves were too big, and unfortunately located above coral reefs. Hawaii is perfect, but once again coral and costs become a problem. India had no waves, and even if it did, you would have to surf around all the dead cows in the water.

But Sri Lanka was perfect for us. The majority of our time was spent in Hikkaduwa and Welligama. Hikkaduwa had pretty good nightlife, lots of travelers, and the occasaional confused old lady that would approach your house gate every day at the same time and try to come in, before her family gently led her away.

Welligama, on the other hand, had none of that. The only thing to do there is surf. It had about 5 guesthouses across the road from a beach with an amazing beginner break. It broke consistently in the morning and at night. The waves were slow enough that they rolled down their faces, instead of barreling over as they tended to do in Hikkaduwa. Yet they were tall enough that they gave you a good ride and made you feel like you were challenging yourself. We could roll out of bed, step outside our door and see the waves from our doorstep.

09-Dec-2012 11:44, Panasonic DMC-TS4, 3.3, 4.9mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100
05-Dec-2012 12:03, Panasonic DMC-TS4, 5.5, 13.4mm, 0.025 sec, ISO 400
05-Dec-2012 13:09, Panasonic DMC-TS4, 3.3, 4.9mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100

By the end of the 10 days there, we knew the guesthouse staff pretty well. Jason, our fisherman friend with one eye, spent many nights having beers with us while regaling us about the pros and cons of Russian tourists. The owner of our guesthouse took us to his family house for lunch one afternoon, and showed us his giant fish in a well. His Dad was an Ayurvedic doctor, and he kindly gave us some Ayurvedic oil to cure sore muscles. I didn’t work at all, but it still made for great massage oil.

08-Dec-2012 13:13, Panasonic DMC-TS4, 5.7, 18.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
08-Dec-2012 13:28, Panasonic DMC-TS4, 5.7, 17.4mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100

And after spending 10 days in Welligama, I started to get better at surfing. Getting up on long boards became easier. I got the hang of making turns and avoiding getting hit by other people. When we returned to Hikkaduwa on the way back up the coast, I switched to a shortboard and went out to the point break that breaks over a reef that’s only about 4 feet deep. After catching 3 waves, I paddled in. I only caught 3 waves, but I was pumped. I felt like I really accomplished something, and since our flight home was to depart in 48 hours, I was happy to get out of there with no sea urchins lodged in my kidneys.

So I left Sri Lanka content with what we did there. I came expecting India-lite. What I found was something more like Indonesia, but a bit more relaxed on all fronts. It was cheap but not super cheap. The food was good and spicy. And it was small enough to navigate easily. All in all, it was a perfect place to finish our trip.

The Final 2PM

OK, I hate leaving things unfinished. The 2PM thing needs a proper send off. So here it is.

When Geraldine got hurt, and our camera broke, we quit for awhile. But we started recording them again once we got a new camera in Nepal. But then we couldn’t upload them because the internet in that part of the world sucked.

Since returning to the glorious land of Verizon FIOS, that problem has been solved. So I uploaded everything from Brett and Hilary’s visit in Nepal to the Everest hike, to India. In India, we lost steam for the whole project, but we still managed to film one last 2PM in the ocean in Goa, a year from the day we started.

Here are a few of the best:

Hilary Crosses the Death Bridge


Nepali Taxi Ride


Cockpit View of Flying into Lukla, The World’s Most Dangerous Airport

(Jump to 2:20 for the good stuff)


The Summit of Kala Patthar, at the base of Mt. Everest


Crossing the India Border by Bike Rickshaw


And the last one, where I admit to listening to Justin Bieber, but the sound gets muffled, so I really didn’t say that:



And the whole thing, in one long, 3 hour playlist, for people with lots of time to kill and/or stalkers:



If you ever want to browse them all, go nuts on our Youtube Channel.

So that’s a wrap. There are plenty of embarrassing moments in these videos, but I’ll be glad to have them around when I’m old and gray. I hope this showed a little insight into what these types of trips are like.

One Picture Per Country

America

20-Aug-2011 18:06, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D700, 4.5, 58.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 500

It’s easy to forget that this whole trip started out as a honeymoon. There was a wedding that kicked this whole thing off. There are many pictures to choose from for the America picture, but I have to go back to where it all started. Idoozapalooza! By the way, who is the guy in this picture? No beard? Short hair? What a corporate square! (Solid photo bomb by Brett and Josh, however)

Australia

10-Jan-2012 12:39, Canon Canon PowerShot S90, 7.1, 18.189mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 80

This was taken at South West Rocks in New South Wales. We camped out for 4 or 5 days, and at one point we found our own private, tropical tidal pool in some rocks that contained little tropical fish. We met two really cool British campers that made for some good company. And on our last day, I went bodysurfing when these dolphins decided to join me.

New Zealand

25-Jan-2012 10:23, Canon Canon PowerShot S90, 4.5, 18.189mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 160

There are many beautiful pictures from New Zealand. This is not one of them. But it is a heartwarming picture. Meet Yumpy, the Handicapped Goat.

Indonesia

Indo was all about visitors for us. First, we had our friend Josh make the trip, followed by Antonin and Christine. It was great to see familiar faces for the first time in a long while. While Josh was visiting, we experienced one of the most epic sunsets and hangouts ever, on Gili Trawangan.

Vietnam

08-Jun-2012 15:34, Canon Canon PowerShot S90, 4.5, 6.0mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 125

One really fun weekend I didn’t write about in Vietnam was the weekend we took the delightfully-named Rock Long, Rock Hard Halong Bay Tour. The reason I didn’t write about it is because it was beyond ridiculous, and it was better to keep some peoples’ actions off the internet (not our actions, of course. We’re angels). Let’s just say that going on a 3 day booze cruise with a bunch of 20 year old kids, who refered to us as the “cool married couple”, was a blast!

These three jokers jumping off a 25 foot boat deck are Dan, Lee, and Ben. We hung out with them a lot in Vietnam, and we met up with Lee again in Vang Vieng. Good times.

Laos

Ummm....Ummm....
Ummm....15-Jul-2012 15:10, Canon Canon PowerShot S90, 4.0, 6.0mm, 0.01 sec, ISO 125

In Laos, you can buy pictures of elephants having sex. hahaha!

Thailand

Geraldine's new style for the next 3 months.Geraldine's new style for the next 3 months.
Geraldine's new style for the next 3 months.29-Jul-2012 19:59, Canon Canon PowerShot S90, 2.0, 6.0mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 500

Thailand was cool, but it was a lot of downtime while Geraldine rested in her shiny new back brace. I think this picture sums up the experience pretty well. This is Geraldine in her back brace in our hotel room. We called it “Jaws”, which I think is appropriate.

Nepal

23-Sep-2012 07:20, Panasonic DMC-TS4, 3.5, 5.5mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100

Nepal also had a few vistors, including Brett, Hilary, and Antonin. As we were told about Nepal before we arrived “Nepal is all about the trecking!”. This is correct.

India

11-Nov-2012 11:07, Panasonic DMC-TS4, 5.0, 10.4mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 800

India reminds me mainly of my Dad’s visit. It was awesome to see him again, and I was so glad that he made the long trip. There are many pictures to choose from of all the usual suspects, including camel riding, elephant riding, zipling, and the Taj Majal. But I like this picture of Geraldine, Dad, and Dad’s friend Anurag walking through the busy markets of Old Delhi on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Sri Lanka

Honoring the broken surfboardHonoring the broken surfboard
Honoring the broken surfboard25-Nov-2012 17:39, Panasonic DMC-TS4, 5.9, 22.8mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 800

Sri Lanka was all about surfing. We went twice a day, nearly every day for a month. As a result, we can both stand up and do the basics, as long as the waves are slow and our boards are long. But the most memorable part was watching the good surfers in action. On on a big surf day in Hikkaduwa, we watched this Japanese surfer get his board snapped in two pieces. In typical Japanese style, he showed honor towards the board by bowing to the broken half as a crowd of onlookers observed. It was a fitting end.




Best HDR Picture

31-Dec-2011 06:29, Canon Canon PowerShot S90, 2.0, 6.0mm, 0.4 sec, ISO 80

This is a picture of the first sunrise of 2012. It was taken on the top of a mountain at the Woodford Folk Festival in Australia, while Buddhist monks chanted the sun up. As a regular picture, it was pretty boring. But the HDR effect really brings a lot of detail out.

Best Panorama Picture

07-Oct-2012 09:20, Panasonic DMC-TS4, 10.0, 4.9mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 500

This post would not be complete without a picture from Kala Patthar. This is the mountain next to Everest that provides the best views. It was tough to get to the top, but we did, and this picture makes it worthwhile.

7 Lessons Learned from 15 Months on the Road


Everybody Is Pretty Much the Same

When you spend a long time in one place, it’s easy to think of people outside those borders as different. They seem dangerous, as if they have completely different values and goals in life. This trip showed me that no matter where you go, the differences are only superficial. A smile is universal. Everybody loves kids. Most people judge their wealth by their family and friends, not their bank account. And everybody pretty much wants to live a life where they can live in peace and be treated fairly and with respect. This includes the rich, the poor, Muslims, Atheists, and every religion and nationality you can find. Anybody who thinks otherwise needs to book an international flight as soon as possible.

97% of people are inherently good, and the other 3% are pretty easy to pick out

While in Salt Lake City, I couchsurfed at a guy’s house who was a prolific host. At that point, he had hosted something like 100 people at his house. Out of the 100 people, only 3 had caused any problems. In each case, the host told me he had a queasy feeling about hosting them from the outset.

These numbers seem to match up with my experience. Nearly 97% of people we met on this trip were decent, honest people. It’s the other 3% you need to watch out for. The good part is that the 3% are pretty easy to pick out. The more you interact with a wide range of people, the stronger your gut feeling about these people will be.

This means that the world can be a pretty safe place, but only if you go out and gain experience interacting with it. Sitting at home limits the number and variety of people you meet, which makes it harder to pick up the telltale signals of somebody who is about to screw you over.

People Love Obama

Wherever you stand on the politcal spectrum, this is an undeniable fact. By far the most common coversation I have had with locals everywhere goes like this:

Local: Where are you from?
Me: America!
Local: Ahhh America. O-bam-a!
Me: Yeah!

This is a big change from when I was traveling around Europe in 2002 and South America in 2006-2007. It’s really nice to not brace yourself for a negative reaction when you say you’re from America. This is quite a change from the Bush years.

It’s Nice to Travel Where There are No Guns

Sometimes people assume that traveling to other countries, particularly poorer countries, is dangerous. So I tried to think about the last time I felt scared for my personal safety with regard to crime. The last place I could think of was a ghetto in Hawaii.

In Asia, unless you cross the mafia or the police, you’re pretty safe from guns. But in America, that is not the case at all. While my family was worried for my safety this summer, I kept turning on the American news to see a mass shooting every other week. First it was the Batman premiere shooting, then the Sikh massacre, then the Empire State building shooting. It was crazy. It’s really nice to travel in places where the worst situation that can occur involves a knife that you can run away from. In the meantime, I can only laugh at people who think our trip has been dangerous while they live in a place with such a prevalence of guns.

Don’t Measure Your Travels by Completing Checklists of “Must Sees”

Every place has a list of “must-see” things to do. Without fail, travelers show up and start going down the checklist, as if their vacation is a series of tasks. You don’t need to do this. In fact, you should not do this and you should not let other people make you feel guilty about not doing this. The only thing you need to do at the end of the day is to ask yourself one simple question.

Did I enjoy today?

If the answer is yes, you’re doing it right. If not, then slow down and do less stuff. Sometimes, this means sitting around watching movies and screwing around on the internet all day. That’s fine. Maybe you just want to sleep all day. Fine again. Just do what you please, and you will go home refreshed. Going to see that one last building, market, or cultural show is not going to refresh you. It will simply exhaust you.

Remember that traveling is not a competition. There will always be somebody with a bigger list of sites they saw, parties they went to, crazy stories they had, “authentic” experiences they had, or hot people they hooked up with. It’s a losing battle to compete with those people. So while you’re on the road, just worry about enjoying your day and everything will work out fine.

Sometimes, a simple beer run on an lazy day can make your entire week. One time I went to grab a beer in Vietnam, and I ended up seeing roughly $30,000 USD being casually counted in front of my face. It was just a stack of hundreds, about 2 inches thick. We never did see Ho Chi Minh’s tomb, but experiences like the 30K gangster roll aren’t in the guidebook.

Don’t Measure Your Life By Counting the Days

Most people measure life by their age. They hope to live to be very old, at which point they’re going to do all the stuff they’re putting off from doing right now. Measuring your life by measuring your days is foolish. Life should be measured by what you did with those days. You could always drop dead tomorrow, so you can only control what you’re going to do with today.

Don’t assume that the stuff you want to do when you’re 25 is the same as what you want to do when you’re retired at 65. It won’t be. And even if it is, you may not be physically capable of doing it, or you may have other responsibilities then that you don’t have now. So go out and do what you want to do now. I’m not saying people should completely ignore the future, or take unecessarily dangerous risks, but don’t put off enjoyment of your babyless years for a day that may never come. After all, how many seniors do you see sitting around saying, “Man, I wish I had done less stuff when I was younger.”

I am One Lucky Person

One thing nobody has any control over is what I call the birth lottery. It’s who you’re born to, where, and when. I hit the birth lottery Powerball. I was born to great parents who gave me every opportunity to succeed. I was born at a time where my passion, computer programming, became very valuable with the advent of the internet. I was born in a country where the sky is the limit with regard to financial success, and one that allows me to travel to pretty much any country I would like to. I started working at a time that allowed me to make enough money to save up for a big trip like this one. And I will return to America during boom times for the sofware industry.

It would be nice to say I’ve worked hard and overcome some crazy obstacles. But while I have worked hard, I would not have had the experiences I have had without having struck it rich in the birth lottery.

Many times we meet people on the road and it dawns on me, they can’t come to America even if they want to. Some countries have a limited number of other countries for which they can obtain visas, and even if that were not the case, the cost of travel rules it out for a large number of people worldwide. In all likelihood, these people will never leave their home country. And it’s not because they don’t work hard, aren’t smart, or aren’t deserving. They were just dealt a different hand.

All I can do is be thankful for my own luck, and keep this lesson in mind next time I meet somebody who is less lucky and could use some help.

The Best and Worst of the Trip

It was the best of times, it was the BLURST OF TIMES?!!



One of the questions I get asked a lot is “what is the best/worst place you have been to on this trip?”. Answering that question is a bit impossible. Comparing countries is usually an apples to oranges comparison. How do you compare a place that is big on history, like India, to a place that is big on nature, like New Zealand? You can’t. However, I’m a quantitative person. I still like to rank things. So here is a set of more fine-grained comparisons, best-ofs, and worst-ofs of the trip. Keep in mind these comparisons only involve the ten countries I have visited on this trip: America, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia (Bali, primarily), Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka.

Beer

The Best – America

Many people, particularly Europeans, will laugh at the idea that America is the best country for beer. Those people usually make this judgement based on the quality of American beers that are exported. When you consider the huge number of micro breweries in America, it’s not even close. America has the biggest diversity of quality beers of anywhere in the world. Every region of the country has a whole new world of local brews that you can always try. Every beer style, color, taste, strength, and price is covered. It’s a beer lover’s paradise.

The Worst – Any Southeast Asian Country Except Laos

All the beer in Southeast Asia is pretty much the same. Every country has its own national beer that is light yellow, tasteless, and pretty terrible. In the end, I judged them by their only difference – the price per alcohol ratio. Laos is the one exception. They have a Laos Dark beer that is the only dark beer we found since leaving Australia. It’s not terribly good, but at least it’s not the same as every other beer in SE Asia.

Food

The Best – Vietnam

No other country even comes close to the quality and price of Vietnamese food. This is the easiest ranking in this whole post. Vietnamese food incorporates the fine flavors of french cooking, the soy/salty/spice combination of Asian food, and the price of Indian food. And unlike Indian food, it’s a whole lot less likely to give you a tapeworm. Banh Mi! Pho! Shrimp spring rolls! Cau Lau! Just writing this makes me miss the place.

The Worst – Australia

Take the British pallate, mix it with a wannabe American menu, and remove bacon, and you have the Australian food scene. That’s right. There is no bacon in Australia. They have something they call “bacon”, but it’s realy just a strip of ham. The day they get real “streaky” bacon, as they call it in New Zealand, it’s going to blow their minds. Until then, they will just be stuck eating the only native Australian foods they have – Vegemite and meat pies. Fail.

Not Real Bacon

Best Single Meal of the Trip

Eating lunch in the chili pepper fields of India. Spontaneous, spicy, unexpected, and awesome.

Worst Single Meal of the Trip

“Pizza” in Periche on the Everest Trek. It was made by a teenage girl that was scooping up yak poo earlier. It included cabbage and ketchup and no cheese. I’m pretty sure she had never seen an actual pizza in her entire life.

Coffee

The Best – America

I swear, I’m not going to rank American number 1 in everything. But for coffee, it deserves its number 1 ranking. There are coffee shops everywhere, and they make everything from espresso, to flavored coffee, to drip coffee, usually with free wifi included. Other countries, such as Australia, come close, but drip coffee only seems to exist in America, so the selection is not quite as good.

The Worst – India

India is a tea country. Most coffee is weak instant coffee. It’s tough to find a “real” coffee. I just switched to Chai tea while in India, for the most part.

Honorable Mention – Vietnam

Vietnam has coffee that is unlike coffee anywhere else. It’s a completely different drink and it’s delicious when done right. You must drink it iced, with condensed milk that makes it very sweet. I tried drinking it hot and black, and it’s undrinkable. But when done the Vietnamese way, it brings it!

Cell Phones

The Best – Vietnam

Cell phone service quality is almost entirely dictated by population density. When there are thousands of people everywhere, it justifies building cell towers everywhere. And if there is one thing Vietnam has in spades, it’s people living everywhere. You may look at a hill and see nobody, but in reality there are 500 people living up there. This is how they win wars. Unlike other countries, there was no paperwork to fill out to get a SIM card. We spent $10 bucks on a SIM card, and it never stopped working for the 2 months we spent there. And this included 3G data too! Nerd heaven!

The Worst – America

You’re telling me I have to sign up for a 2 year contract and pay $100 or more a month?!! And even if I do that, my “unlimited” data is limited, and I won’t get service on major highways that stretch across the middle of the country? Fail fail fail.

Hotness of Girls

The Best – Australia

Go to Bondi Beach. Australia wins.

Australia FTW

The Worst – New Zealand

I’m pretty sure all the cute girls in New Zealand moved to Australia.

Worst Person We Met on this Trip

Her name is Natalie and she lives in Sydney. She rented us a room in her place for a week. The room was not as advertised, and she was strange about everything. After we moved in, she kept advertising the rental online, and when she found somebody to take our room for a higher price, she left us a note saying that we had to move out, as if we had an understanding we were renting for 3 days instead of 7. Then she tried to charge us for 4 days. She was a liar.

We got the last laugh however. The night before we were kicked out, I downloaded about 5 gigs of data on her internet connection, which caused it to shut down for the rest of the month. Nerd justice!

The Best Person We Met on this Trip

Ian!! Ian in Maui put us up for more than two weeks, when we would otherwise have been camping. He gave Geraldine a safe place to stay while I returned home for my Grandpa’s funeral. He gave me a welcoming place to get my head straight after the funeral. And he did it all simply because Geraldine had been a coworker of his childhood friend. He also predicted the NY Giants would win the Super Bowl in October, which is a pretty incredible feat, in hindsight. It was at Ian’s house where the whole 2pm Experiment idea was hatched.

His roomates were great and took us surfing and provided boards. I ended up taking them flying along the Molokai cliffs. It was the least I could do.

I hate this superlative because it implies other people weren’t great as well. That’s not the case. But Ian is somebody I would hang out with anytime, anyplace. I can’t wait to see you again, buddy. And next time, I’m taking you down at Monopoly.

Big Runner Up to: Kim, Brad and Kirsen, Rhea, Elise and Lloyd, Morris, Shay and Dan, Eva and Bruno, Tariq and Marantha, Ben, Lee, and Dan, Rawia and Matthew. Let’s do it again soon!

Biggest Disappointment of the Trip

We never created a location independent business that could forever fund our travels, even if we chose to stop traveling. We tried with GigaBadger, but the adoption is just not there. It will be a great code sample for future job interviews, but it will probably never be a moneymaker. So it’s back to the corporate grind when I return home.

Biggest Good Thing to Come of the Trip

My relationship with Geraldine. We have spent nearly every hour of every day for 15 months side by side. That can make or break a relationship, even a marriage. But now we face an enviable problem. We must remember how to coexist when we are both running around doing our own separate things when we get home. It’s an amazing problem to have. If it weren’t for Geraldine, this trip never would have lasted this long. Solo travel can be tough, and having another partner in crime makes everything flow easier when you figure out how to divide the work and fun without driving each other insane. I love you Geraldine!

Worst Place We Visited

Varanasi, India. This is not a tough decision.

Place I Most Want to Go Back To

Lombok, Indonesia. After spending so much time in Bali, we didn’t have enough time to really explore the place. I can’t wait to go back and see more of it.

Best Overall Country

OK, I said I couldn’t compare countries because it’s an apples to oranges thing. But screw it. Let me at least try. I think I can break this down into an A, B, and C list. So here goes.

A List – Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand

I’m a sucker for beaches. So it’s no surprise that the A List is full of countries that have excellent beaches. Sri Lanka and Indonesia actually feel quite similar. They are cheap, but not dirt cheap. The beaches are great for surfing. The food is spicy and delicious. And the people are beyond nice.
Thailand doesn’t have surfing, but it has amazing diving and exceedingly idealic, crystal clear water. It also has Bangkok, which is the one Asian city I could live full-time in. Bangkok has the best of the east and west, a thumping nightlife, amazing shopping and food, and endless stuff to do all in one place. It’s by far my favorite city we visited on this trip.

B List – Australia, New Zealand, Nepal, Vietnam

Australia should be on the A list, but the Aussie dollar is doing too well. This makes it a very expensive place, which, like it or not, affects how much I could enjoy it. Otherwise, Sydney is one city I would love to live in one day. Along with Bangkok, Sydney is the only other place we visited on this trip that I could see myself living permanently.

New Zealand was cool and has some of the best natural sites you will find in the world. But it just felt a bit behind the times for a western country.

Nepal was also amazing. It’s one of my favorite countries on this trip. However, it shrinks itself down to 2 cities, Kathmandu and Pokhara, and a ton of hiking treks. We did two big treks, and that satisfied my curiosity of what Nepal has to offer. If I were to go back, it would be more of the same, which is why it ranks in the middle of the pack.

Vietnam started off rough, but improved over time. The locals are nice, but you have to stand your ground on negotiations. I would love to go back to ride more motorcycles. But the natural beauty doesn’t compare to the A list countries.

C List – India, Laos

The C List is nothing to be ashamed of. C is a passing grade, and even C students can become President (see: George W. Bush). OK, forget that last sentence. George Bush gets a failing grade, while these countries certainly don’t. What I mean to say is that I do not dislike these countries. They just ended up not being amazing for different reasons.

India could be great, but it’s not, and it didn’t grab me.

My feelings on Laos are greatly affected by our misadventure there. By the way, Vang Vieng was shut down a few weeks after we visited and the bars on the river were recently bulldozed. It’s funny to think of how different this trip would have been had we visited a few weeks later. But such is life.

But What About America?

Well, I can’t wait to get home. I never seriously considered setting up shop outside the States. Because despite its flaws, the US offers the most economic opportunity of any country in the world. If there is one thing that I have learned on this trip, it’s that all freedom is economic. As my Grandpa used to say, “no money, no funny.” So it’s time to return home and try to take over the world from within the US borders.

So I guess that puts it at the top of the list, even though the cell phone situation sucks! USA! USA!

India – The Land of Paradoxes

On a good day, India is a country of paradoxes. There are incredibly rich people living across the street from slums. It is beautiful, but full of trash. The holy cities are venerated, then treated with complete disrepect. The cows are worshipped but neglected at the same time.

However, on a bad day, India is a place that has all the beauty in the world, but screws it up every time. India is a land of wasted potential. You visit the Taj Majal, and you can’t see it because the smog is so thick. When visiting old ancient ruins in Hampi, the old wells are filled with trash. You can eat some of the best food in the world, which costs next to nothing, but will likely make you sick and give you a parasite.

17-Nov-2012 08:25, Panasonic DMC-TS4, 5.6, 15.3mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 100
Even in an historic ruin, the locals trash it.  Lame.
Even in an historic ruin, the locals trash it. Lame.04-Nov-2012 14:41, Panasonic DMC-TS4, 3.3, 4.9mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 160

People fall in love with India in a way that I have not seen other travelers fall in love with other countries. It happens for many reasons. Some just love the fact that you can live very well for very little money. Some are addicted to the nonstop energy that courses through the streets. Some love the yoga and the eastern religions that are prevalent. And some love the fact that it makes your head explode with all the paradoxes.

However, after spending 5 weeks here, I have come to realize that I did not fall in love with India that way so many other people do. Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed my time here. My Dad’s visit was a great highlight, as was our motorcycle adventure through the south. The people were nice beyond belief. But in the end, India falls into the category of countries that are nice, that I had a great time in, but that I won’t miss too much when I leave.

I like to do stuff when I travel. And I find that India is a country where there is plenty to see, but not much to do. For such a big place, there really aren’t any beaches that will provide good waves or crystal blue waters. There is a party scene in Mumbai and Dehli, but India is not a party place. If you are a history buff that loves going to forts, palaces, temples, and ruins, then India is for you. But most of this involves walking around, seeing buildings, and taking pictures.

18-Nov-2012 12:45, Panasonic DMC-TS4, 4.3, 7.8mm, 0.025 sec, ISO 160

I think one thing that has consistently hurt my opinion of India is the trash. I have been frustrated by the way natural beauty has been ruined by local trash problems since we landed in Indonesia. It’s a problem throughout south east Asia. But India takes it to a whole new level. I think it finally crossed the line for me. I find it ironic that so many self proclaimed tree hugging hippies visit and end up loving India, as if it’s the hippy promised land, when the whole place goes against every environmental belief they hold. I guess the hippies just get good at ingoring what is directly in front of their face. In their defense, this is one of the most important skills to have in India – the ability to ignore.

But in the end, constantly ignoring things wears on me. One day I will return to India. It is such a big, diverse country, it’s foolish to talk about it like it is a singular place. Perhaps I went to the wrong places, or didn’t spend enough time in India to justify my opinion. But for now, there are many other places I’d like to explore before coming back to India.

Shit that Happened on Our 14 Hour Hampi to Goa Motorcycle Ride

04-Nov-2012 16:34, Panasonic DMC-TS4, 4.9, 9.8mm, 0.013 sec, ISO 125

In hindsight, we should have broken this ride into 2 days. But we wanted to get back to the beach. And the thought of staying in one of the trucker hotels along the way in some lame little town that only exists because 2 highways intersect was too much to bare. So we set out, at 6:30 am, on what we thought would be an 7 or 8 hour, 250 mile journey from Hampi to Mendrem Beach in Goa.

It turned out to be much longer, mainly because we got lost….a lot. Unlike modern highway systems, the Indian highway system just dumps you in the next town, with no instructions on how to connect to the next highway. On the rare occasion that there are signs, they are in Hindi. When you ask for directions, people will understand you, but most reply in Hindi. Those who reply in English just give you the general direction. “Go straight.” “Turn left up there”. Don’t get me wrong. People are exceedingly nice and I’m delighted by the effort they expend to help. In fact, Indians are some of the nicest people we have met in a long time. But despite this, you will still get lost.

So here is the shit that happened on the journey.

While cruising at 50 mph on a major highway, a monkey darted across my path in a dead sprint. Yes, a monkey.

We pulled over in the middle of some farmland to stretch our legs before entering a small city. Once we pulled over, a group of farm workers in the fields invited us to sit amongst the chilli peppers and eat lunch with them. The food was trememdously spicy! And awesome! It was an incredibly lucky, random, awesome experience. Seriously, the odds of pulling over in farm country, that stretched as far as you can see, right near a group of people that invite us to lunch? Unreal.

Our lunch friends!Our lunch friends!
Our lunch friends!06-Nov-2012 11:10, Panasonic DMC-TS4, 3.3, 4.9mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 160

I had about 30 large instects crush me in the face, neck, legs, and eyes. A butterfly at 50mph is surpringly stingy. A beetle to the neck is unsurprisingly painful.

Geradline almost got taken out by a dog.

I got chased by a dog in the darkness. Despite my sweet bike, he kept pace with me for 50 yards or so. What I would give for 5 minutes alone with that mangy mut.

While we ate breakfast, we watched a tiny pig try to mount a giant pig. Play on, playa!

I asked for directions from roughly 60 people. Find a rickshaw. Ask for directions. Pull up to the next rickshaw. Ask again. Try to figure out which of the opposite and competing directions we should follow. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

I ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere, and while Geraldine drove to buy some, 7 school kids surrounded me for 10 minutes without saying a word. They weren’t threatening. I tried talking to them, but they didn’t respond since they didn’t speak English. They just stared at my bike, as if it was The Ring. Occasionally they whispered to each other. They literally never said a single word to me. It got really awkward, so I just started staring at my bike too. Geraldine laughed. I challenge anybody to pull over in India and find peace and quiet. People just pop up out of nowhere. Then you look around and ask yourself, “Where the hell did all these people come from? I picked this spot purposely because it was empty!”

We rode through 60 miles of flat, well paved roads surrounded by sunflower fields with no traffic. It was the best stretch of the day. It sounds lame, but fields of sunflowers are pretty sweet.

06-Nov-2012 09:34, Panasonic DMC-TS4, 3.4, 5.2mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
06-Nov-2012 09:35, Panasonic DMC-TS4, 5.0, 10.4mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100
06-Nov-2012 09:36, Panasonic DMC-TS4, 10.0, 4.9mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 500

We rode down a giant, switchbacked hill during sunset. When we rounded the corner, I noticed a car coming uphill, being followed by 15 monkeys running up the retaining wall. I looked back a Geraldine. “WTF was that?? Awesome!”

We arrived looking like we just got out of the coal mines. Our faces and clothes were black with soot.

We arrived in one piece. No injuries. No crashes. I think I’m going to take a break from motorcycles for a bit. It was awesome. But 14 hours of Indian craziness makes me feel like a winner at the craps table. Time to pick up the chips and stop gambling for a bit.