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When I first bought an RV to live in last year a lot of people thought that it was a phase I would quickly snap out of. Part of me thought the same thing. Would a move from a 2000 square foot condo to a 100 square foot RV be bearable?
As it turned out, it was more than bearable. I loved it. When I left the country to travel, I sold everything including the RV I loved so much. Seven months later, back in Austin and faced with the proposition of finding somewhere to live, the decision was simple.
I wanted another RV, and it had to be even smaller.
Christophe was moving his office and had to get rid of a piano. But one does not simply get rid of a piano. He and Todd concocted a plan to bring it to a public place so that it could be enjoyed by many. Locations were kicked around and Bernal Heights, an amazing park in San Francisco, won out.
I'm embarrassed to say that I wasn't all that into the idea. I thought it was cool, but I'm trying to spend all of my time working on our startup, SETT. Still, there are some friends you'd help move a body, some friends you'd help move a piano, and Todd is both.
All together there were about six of us that night. We loaded the piano to and from the Ziptruck, pushed it on a dolly up the hill, and carried it over the guardrail and onto a perfect flat area Todd had scoped out that overlooks both bridges, the hills, and downtown. It was perfect.
We hung out for an hour or so, taking turns playing the piano and taking pictures, and then we left. Predictably, the piano was all over the Internet the next day.
I used to dislike to work. I saw how most people lived their lives, slogging through work that they hated, and I was determined not to fall into that trap. I made the mistake of generalizing, lumping all work together in the same bucket.
Since then, things have changed. In terms of monumental personal life changes, becoming a hard worker is the most recent one I've undergone. About a year ago, for reasons I touched on in this post, I decided that it was imperative for me to become a hard worker. I didn't do it because I had suddenly fallen in love with work, but rather because I had began to feel as though I was behind. And believe me, it wasn't love at first sight.
To fall in love with hard work, you must understand why it's necessary. When I was young I was told that sugar was bad, but I never understood exactly why it was bad, so I kept eating it. Only when I learned how it chemically affected my body did I finally give it up. The same is true of work-- if you don't know why you have to work hard and love it, you'll probably never actually do it.
Work is your gift to the world. That sounds corny, but it's true. And believe me, you owe the world a gift or two. Think of all of the various things that millions of people around the world have done for you to enjoy the life you have. They made up languages, invented stuff, procreated at the exact right times to create your ancestry, and managed to not kill each other in the process. We're lucky to be here, and the high standard of living we all enjoy now is only because of those who came before us. Some, like Einstein, had huge impact, but even people you don't notice, like the janitors, are making your life better.
It started about five years ago. On the internet I saw a picture of a really janky looking pathway that was nothing more than some two by fours bolted high into the side of a mountain. I immediately wanted to go do it. I did some searches, but came up empty handed. The name and location of the mountain was a mystery.
A couple years later I saw another picture of the mountain, and this time it had a name. Hua Shan. I looked it up, and it was in the middle of China, two hours east of Xi'an.
When I booked a three week trip to China a few months back, I didn't have any good reason or any definite plans except for one-- get to Hua Shan and climb it.
So last Friday my friend Carl, who I'm staying with here, and I took a fourteen hour overnight train ride to Xi'an. Immediately after arriving, we wandered around until we found a bus going to Hua Shan. A two hour ride later, we walked up a hill to the ticket gate. We thought it would be free, and hadn't brought much money, so we walked back down the hill, found a bank, and came back to the ticket gate. From there we began our ascent.
Recently a comment was posted where someone asked why I don't drink. I do seem to mention it in a number of posts, mostly those where I'm complaining how hard it is to find a girl who also doesn't drink, but I suppose I've never explained why. I also don't do drugs, smoke, or take medicine.
I've never had a drink in my life. I went to a private school in Andover, Massachusetts for middle school and I don't think anyone there drank. Maybe they did and I was blissfully ignorant. I remember one kid got caught for smoking and it was a huge controversy.
After middle school my family moved to Austin, Texas and I went to a public high school. My first day there I got lost and happened to have wandered behind the building. to my surprise there was a huge mass of kids smoking cigarettes and pot. One such kid, a Junior, picked me up and put me in a trash can.
Just as there are a million ways to drive from Los Angeles to New York, there are a million ways to get from where you are now in life to where you want to be. But, like the road trip, some ways are better than others. As I've tackled different problems in my life and watched others do the same, I've stumbled upon a sequence for progress through life that seems optimal to me.
Following is the sequence, with notes and thoughts on each step.
Isn't it convenient that humans all need the same amount of schooling? Four years of high school, four years of college, and then we're prepared.
Isn't it convenient that driving a car is the exact maximum risk that 90% of Americans are comfortable with? No one thinks cars are too dangerous, but very few are willing to take greater risks.
Isn't it convenient that the standard American diet is the optimal balance between nutrition, taste, and health?
Isn't it convenient that TV is the perfect entertainment medium for all of us?
I'm on a Southwest Airlines flight right now, heading from DC to San Francisco. The way food works on Southwest is they hold out a big basket full of snacks, and you take whatever you want for free. None of the snacks are healthy; it's crackers and cookies and chips.
I have to admit, I was really tempted to take a pack of Oreos. The justifications are easy to come up with: I've already paid for those Oreos, I'm coming off a long trip where I was off my diet, one small packet of Oreos doesn't really matter.
No Oreos for me, though. The huge basket was dropped on the middle seat next to me, I saw all the glistening blue packs of Oreos, and I avoided taking them. I don't always make the disciplined decision, but I make it a lot, and I'm getting better at it all the time. The trick, I've found, is to consider the aggregate long term in every decision.
Oreos are a short term play. For a period of thirty seconds or so, I will have the pleasurable biological response of eating something fabricated specifically to elicit that response. It's not about hunger or nutrition, it's about very short term pleasure. That by itself isn't so bad-- taking momentary pleasure in the joys of every day life is an excellent practice.
Okay, okay, okay... I'll write the gear post before the year's over! One of the things that keeps me from writing all year is that it never really feels like the stuff in my pack has changed all that much. I switch one item at a time, never thinking I have much to write about. Then the end of the year comes, the citizenry demands a post, and I'm always surprised to see just how much has changed.
I called last year's gear post the Style Edition because although it was 100% functional, I also made a few choices to have slightly better looking clothing. That trend has continued a little bit this year, but I'm calling this one the Zen Edition because my already minimal packing list has become even shorter.
When I first started traveling, the minimalism aspect of it was pure coincidence. I had intended on buying a normal backpack, but Todd convinced me to go smaller. Our first 28L Deuter Futura backpacks seemed impossibly small at first, but after a year of learning what is and isn't necessary, space gradually opened up. My response was to fill it with new gadgets-- eventually I had a portable kettlebell, a full cot with silk sheets, and who knows what else.
As the years went on, Todd continued to get smaller backpacks, which influenced me to get smaller backpacks as well. I would always pack them completely full until recently. Last year I had some empty space, and now my pack is less than halfway full. If I could find a well organized and designed 12 liter pack, I would use it.
Part of the reason I have less stuff now is because technology keeps getting better. My laptop is tiny and light. The camera I have now couldn't exist five years ago when I started all this. Everything charges with the same cable. The other reason I've continued to reduce what I travel with, though, is because carry unnecessary items makes your trip worse. They weigh your pack down, clutter it up, and make it take longer to pack and unpack. The less I travel with, the better my experience is. At this point my pack weighs 10.7 pounds, which makes it trivial to carry it all day, even when climbing through the mountains.
Today I was walking home from a rousing game of Rummikub with some friends. I mentioned that my phone was at critbatts, a strange shortened version of slang that Todd and I use, which means "critical batteries". To give credit where it's due, our good friend Elliot actually invented that particular phrase. Until that, we'd only used maxbatts, modbatts, minbatts, and nilbatts.
Anyway, after explaining what critbatts meant, I told my friends about a time in Thailand when Todd was running out of Thai money, Baht, and declared that he was at critbahts. We got a good chuckle out of it since critbatts had since become nearly an everyday word, especially given our use of GPS and such on our phones.
I then remarked that to hit critbahts is difficult, because the money is worth so little - less than monopoly, I joked - that it was almost impossible to run out. Wait a minute.. maybe that's not a joke. Maybe Baht really are worth less than Monopoly money. Math followed shortly after.