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I really agonized over the purchase of my latest jacket. For about fifty dollars more, I could get a jacket that was .8 ounces lighter than the other one. It sounds crazy just writing that. In the end I found a deal to get that jacket for the same price, so I was spared the agony of having to make decision.
Managing every ounce in a backpack sounds ridiculous. I get it. It seems like obsession gone awry, excess for its own sake.
But a couple weeks ago, walking through Budapest, I decided to take my backpack with me for the day. I wasn't sure if I'd find some time to sit and do some work, and we were thinking of going to baths, where I'd prefer to have my own soaps. But, as it was our first day in a new city, there would be a lot of walking.
We barely took public transport, instead walking miles up and down streets, across bridges, and up a huge hill for the view. And, for maybe the first time, I realized that I didn't notice the weight of my bag at all. At nine pounds or so, it was so light that it didn't encumber me in any way.
I almost never travel with anyone who doesn't just travel with a small or medium sized backpack. Anything beyond that is such an encumbrance that it's incompatible with my style of travel.
But although it's doable with a medium sized back, or even a heavier small one, there's a cost to it. I've walked around with people looking for a luggage locker, because they didn't want to carry twenty pounds around for half a day. We've had to go out of our way to check into an Airbnb rather than just going straight into town. And, with five or six hours at the airport, heading into the city for lunch and a walk around just isn't as appealing with a larger bag.
That's not to make anyone with a larger bag feel bad. There are obvious benefits to it, as well. One of my frequent travel companions always has snacks in her bag, and I'm sometimes the beneficiary of those snacks.
But the point is that there's a real tangible benefit to having a tiny backpack. We all have different goals and values, but I think it's easily worth giving up a little warmth, snacks, and versatility to be able to go anywhere anytime, without any consideration for one's bag.
That crossover point occurs for different people at different levels, and I don't have enough experience to predict where it is for any one person. I don't even know where it is for me, only that somewhere along the line, slimming from 30lb to 9lb, having a my backpack with me became a complete non-issue. And the lighter and smaller it becomes, the more eager I am to have it with me.
If you travel a lot, as an experiment, go super light one one trip. Maybe it's a trip to a warm place so you can leave behind warm clothes. And maybe you give up things like your ipad and extra shoes, just to see what it's like. I think it's one thing to have a heavier backpack and say you don't mind it, and another to experience what it's like to travel with a bag so light that you don't notice it's there. Just don't forget it somewhere...
Photo is me packing preaching the gospel of ultralight packing in a chapel in Budapest castle (not my top recommendation in Budapest).
I'm not sure how many countries I've visited in the past year, but the fact that I have no idea gives you an idea. Four in the past week, if you don't count the US. A lot of good flight deals popped up, and I booked them more quickly than I could ask myself if traveling constantly was really the best use of my time. But here I am, in the air between Budapest and Amsterdam, on the last round the world I have booked.
On these trips I've been to a bunch of new places. There wasn't a single one that left me unable to find something to love of the city, but certainly some were better than others. Budapest, totally unexpectedly, is one of the best new places I've been in a long time.
That's not to say that it's objectively better than anywhere else, only that it fits my peculiar tastes remarkably well. I flew into Budapest without being able to list with certainty a single country Hungary borders. That's a good indicator of how little I knew about the city. I figured, like other European cities, I'd go to museums, walk around the city, admire the architecture, and eat delicious unhealthy food. I did those things, but also found a lot more.
Budapest is beautiful. It straddles the Danube river with three different bridges, and along those banks are beautiful old European buildings. But go a bit further in and you also see really well done modern architecture, sometimes integrated with old buildings.
I think that there are two main things worth building in life, not as ultimate life goals, but as valuable waypoints to whatever goals you may have. Those two things are an amazing group of friends and enough money to survive for a long time.
To some people, mostly those who have already done it, that sounds easy and obvious. Others will have done one, but not the other, and only one seems difficult. And to those who haven't achieved either yet, maybe both sound difficult.
But regardless of how easy or difficult these things seem, maybe we can all agree that they're possible and helpful. After all, plenty of other people have done these things already, and don't they seem to be benefiting from them?
Why these two things? Because they're universally beneficial and within reach of anyone. It's not often you can prescribe something universally. On the other hand, there's no simple answer as to how to get them. Each one relies heavily on our individuality.
Some cities I love because they're full of things I like to do. Tokyo, Shanghai, and Budapest, for example. Others I love because of how they feel, but I don't always know what to do with myself there. Amsterdam is one of those cities. I love walking along the canals, I love seeing people biking, and I love the great art, but those things don't necessarily fill my days.
This morning my friends were going to the museums. Great choice, but I'd been to the Rijks and Van Gogh museums recently and wasn't particularly excited see the modern art museum. Most western European countries don't have much for tea, but I figured I'd take a shot in the dark and see if there was anywhere I could go sit and have some nice tea while writing or pondering my future.
One place stood out: Formocha. It wasn't clear whether it was actually a tea house or somewhere that just sold tea, but it would be a nice one-mile walk along the canals regardless.
The sun was out, which I noticed only because I hadn't seen it the whole time we were in Budapest. I walked along the sunny side of the canals, enjoying seeing the drawbridges and houseboats. But when I arrived at Formocha, it was closed.
When I hit them up for blog post ideas, my friends say that I should write posts about how I decide what to do next. I'm not sure if it's because they think I make good decisions when faced with the question, or because my choices are so bizarre that they require explanation.
I don't feel like my decision-making process is so unusual that it necessitates a post, but sometimes it's the things most obvious to us that are most interesting to others. My friend Leo is a dad every day of his life, but I find each parenting decision he has to make fascinating.
What to do next is a question that has to be answered constantly, both in the short term and the long term. What big project should I tackle next? What should I work on this week? What should I make for breakfast?
To further complicate things, each question has nearly unlimited possible choices. Should I do another startup? Become an artist? Join the circus? These tend to be my favorite decisions to make, though-- those that combine imperfect information with possibility trees that can't fully be analyzed.
My natural instinct to procrastinate is about as strong as natural inclinations get. Back in school, major papers were often done on a tiny laptop the period before they were due. I'd then tell the teacher my printer didn't work, and take my floppy disk to the library and print it out.
It's tempting to say that, just like early birds and night owls, there are two equally effective types of people. Some, like me, just work well under pressure and get their best work done that way. Others feel better when they get things done early.
Tempting, but I don't think it's true. Procrastination is worse, and people who procrastinate have a fundamental flaw that ought to be overcome.
For most things, I don't procrastinate anymore. I just don't have the time. My todo list is longer than the day, so things have to be done constantly. I guess in the right environment, many problems are solved automatically.
As I mentioned in other posts, I've bought a place in Vegas and have officially moved there (although I still spend a lot of my time traveling). Living in Vegas is a weird sort of loophole that most people probably aren't even aware of, so I figured I'd talk about why I decided to do it, and the unique advantages that Vegas presents.
If you work independently or remotely, Vegas is very likely to be a place you should consider moving. If doing so would require you to find a job, Vegas is probably not for you. The job market here is terrible, which is part of why this opportunity exists. That barrier is suppressing demand for housing.
The biggest reason to consider Vegas is the very low cost of living. There's no state income tax, and housing is cheap. Ridiculously cheap. My place would have cost approximately twenty-two times as much if I had bought it in San Francisco. Thats crazy! I bought a 1000 square foot place for under $45,000.
The thing that makes this amazing is the location. My place is six minutes from the airport, eight minutes to the center of the strip, twelve minutes from downtown, and five from Chipotle.
I'm fascinated by the attitudes of high-level professional fighters. It's such a strange job. Two people spend months preparing for a fifteen minute event, and one of them must lose. This weekend I'll be watching Ronda Rousey and Cat Zingano fight, both of whom are undefeated. One of them, probably Cat, will lose that designation.
Usually when you're doing your work, it's just a matter of being good enough to succeed. Half the office doesn't fail; most do good work and continue. But fighters have to have this very strange mentality where they accept that they may lose, but have to simultaneously delude themselves into believing it's impossible.
In interviews, you hear them talk about how everything they've been doing has been leading up to this single fight. You hear them talk about their training and their gameplans. For a lot of them, you get the impression that they believe that they are special. Maybe not in a cosmic sense, but that they are destined to win due to their preparation, their training, and the arc of their life story.
I'm not sure that you can be a successful professional fighter without some level of this attitude. I think you have to see your path paved with capital W's, and disregard the fact that each one of them produces a big L on someone else's record. And I wonder if this attitude is one that us non-fighters should adopt as well.
The other day I thought about getting a job in the most abstract sense. I thought: what would it be like if I just turned one hundred eighty degrees and got a job. The idea is literally repulsive to me, but I make myself think these things once in a while, just to check in; once in a rare while the answer surprises me.
No surprise this time, though. I definitely don't want a job. I thought of a few positives, but the negatives stack up so quickly for me. The biggest negative, the one that really keeps me from doing it, is the idea of having to be accountable to someone else for many of my waking hours. It's really a foreign and ugly idea.
Right now I'm in Maui. It's sunny, and the temperature is in the low eighties. I know this because I checked on my phone, not because I'm outside. My friends are hiking a lava field and going to a beach, but I'm on my laptop working. I made the decision to stay in because I thought about a hike in paradise and I thought about debugging Cruise Sheet, and I was more excited about Cruise Sheet.
I'm not averse to work or offices or coworkers or responsibility. I'm averse to obligating my time.
I got into a tuktuk in Chiang Mai to meet my friends for dinner. A tuktuk is a motorcycle with a built in passenger cart behind the driver, which serves as a taxi, but doesn't have a meter. You negotiate the price up front to avoid getting hit with a big surprise when you arrive.
In broken Thai, I asked the driver how much the ride would cost. He thought for a long time and said 150 baht. I countered at 120 baht and he accepted.
How much is the twenty minute ride worth? I'd probably pay eight or ten bucks. I'm only here a limited amount of time, the restaurant sounded really cool, and I'd been cooped up on my computer all day.
His opening offer was $4.50, and I countered at $3.60. A local would have paid something like $3, and I could have gotten it there if I'd been willing to argue for a couple minutes.