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One of the best travel deals out there happens to be in the country that most people (mistakenly) believe to be one of the most expensive. Japan has the JR Rail Pass, which, for under $300 gives you unlimited access to nearly every train in Japan for a week. Using this pass you can easily take thousands of dollars of trips within a week, putting everything in the country within your reach.
I've done this a few times and, as a result, have visited cool places all over the country. Here are a few of my favorites in no particular order:
1. Deshima / Nagasaki. In Nagasaki is a really cool island called Deshima (which is actually connected to the mainland), where the Dutch used to live. For a period of time the Dutch were the only outsiders permitted to trade with Japan, and they were quarantined to this small area of Japan. It's now preserved and restored so that you can see what it was like. I really loved seeing the mix of asian culture (the buildings) and western culture (everything in them). Nagasaki is also an unexpectedly cool city.
2. Takaragawa hot springs. I love hot springs, and Takaragawa is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Japan. I think it earns that title easily. It's a series of pool surrounding an outdoor stream in a really beautiful valley. Getting there is a little tricky, but well worth it.
My friends and I have individual condos in Vegas, an island in eastern Canada, and a flat in Budapest. It's not the same group for each property, but there's a lot of overlap. I realized that none of our places are ideal for winter, though Budapest does have its charm, so I started thinking about tropical places that would be good for quick escapes from winter (it even gets cold in Vegas).
When buying these shared places, cost is a major factor. The property has to be cheap enough that everyone can afford it without needing to go there constantly to make it worth it, and also so that no one ever needs to sell to free up cash. Every property we've ever bought has been under $100,000. Those factors eliminated a lot of popular winter spots.
My first choice was San Juan, Puerto Rico. I had been once and thought that it was a really cool city with a mix of good beaches, good healthy food, and a nice downtown area. I sent out an email to my usual group of friends, got a group together, and booked a cruise that ended in San Juan so that I could go check it out.
In the meantime the hurricane hit, but I was undeterred. I figured that I could see which buildings could survive a hurricane and if I still liked the city at its worst, it would only get better from there. Plus, maybe some people would want to move to a non-hurricane-prone city and prices would be good.
A while back, around the time I switched to Linux, I had the realization that any amount of effort I spent customizing my computer would probably pay off. I use the thing just about every day and gains are cumulative so I may as well think about how to make my computer better for me. This, incidentally, makes it nearly impossible for a normal person to use.
It's certain that not all of my customizations will be good for you, but maybe some will be, and if you use a computer a lot, the general idea of customizing it to your specifications is probably a good one.
To start, I use Linux. If you are reasonably technical, you should probably be using Linux of some sort. If you are a programmer, I can't imagine how you use something else. The two biggest factors are 1) Linux has many different flavors, so you can always use whichever one is best for you and 2) Linux is by far the most customizable operating system.
I think a lot of people are afraid of Linux because they think it is hard to set up and use, but that's really not true. I did a fresh install of both Ubuntu Linux and Windows 10 on my Lenovo (designed for Windows) laptop, and Ubuntu worked way better. Windows was a nightmare of drivers, but Linux just worked.
This is such a niche thing, but you'd be shocked at how many requests I get for information on how I did it. A couple years back I gave a talk about automation, ranging from home to habits to business, and almost all of the follow-up emails I got were about the curtains.
I first automated my curtains because I thought it would be a neat novelty. My apartment in Las Vegas is a very inexpensive one which you'd never expect would have anything fancy inside, so I thought it would be fun to have automated curtains. After using them for a few years, though, they've proven to have far more utility than novelty.
There are three primary advantages to having automated curtains.
The first advantage is that you can have sunlight when you wake up in the morning. I like sleeping in and don't naturally jump up out of bed in the morning. But when I can hit one button and sunlight starts streaming into my bedroom, I find it really easy to spring out of bed. I also use Tasker on Android to automate this so that if an alarm goes off, my curtains open. I almost never use an alarm, but when I do it tends to be for an early flight, so it helps to get out of bed quickly.
I get asked often how I choose what to work on. From the outside, I can see why people ask. The projects I work on are fairly wide-ranging, from coding CruiseSheet to writing blog posts to random adventures and building things.
Things make a little more sense when you understand that making money is only a secondary priority for me. I do like to make money, but I will never do something I don't want to do for money. Google could offer me $1M for a year of work, which is a life-changing amount of money to me, and I would not take it.
Now, that's a massive luxury. Through mostly sheer luck, I happen to be in a position where I can do whatever I want and survive. I have few expenses and some skills that ended up becoming valuable even though it wasn't at all clear they would be when I began learning them.
If I had a family and I needed to put food on the table and didn't have the skills I have, I would gladly mop toilets to provide. I don't believe that I'm above any sort of work. The point is that along the spectrum of trading freedom for money, I'm way over on the freedom side.
I've talked before about how important it is to live frugally. A lot of people probably brush it off because it sounds like too great of a sacrifice or not relevant to them, but I think that's a mistake. It is possible to live frugally and to love it at the same time.
In general, that's a key to how I live my life. I try to figure out what the empirically "correct" thing for me to do is, and then I convince myself to love it.
How much money you should be saving is hard to determine. It depends on your age, your earning ability, and your goals. I will say this, though... there is some way for you to save more than 50% of your income.
That number is probably shocking, as most millenials have a negative savings rate. I'm not saying that you will do it, or even that you should, only that you can. It's worth considering poor immigrants, many of whom work minimum wage jobs and still manage to send significant amounts of money back home. Some people are doing it.
I don't think I'm qualified to suggest how to kick major vices like heroin and alcohol, but I have plenty of experience with minor vices like procrastination and time-wasting activities, both with myself and people I coach.
The fundamental first step that many people skip is determining why they want to eliminate a vice. That it's not a "good" thing to do is never enough. If you don't have a strong reason for quitting, you'll never actually quit.
Sometimes good reasons may exist for quitting something, but they might not be obvious to you. So dig up and find both good reasons to quit and good reasons to continue. If you don't examine both sides, you won't trust your analysis.
If you can't find sufficient compelling reasons to quit the vice, don't bother trying. It's better to table the idea than it is to try when failure is inevitable.
Maybe this is true of most things, but the variance between great tea and terrible tea is absolutely enormous. If tea was what nearly everyone thinks tea is, I would never drink it. A great cup of tea, though, is one of life's great pleasures. And despite being a luxury and an indulgence, it's very healthy for you.
I'd like to share a few of my favorite types of teas and how to brew them to make them delicious.
#1 — Gyokuro
Gyokuro is a Japanese green tea that's shaded for the last three months of its life, which causes it to struggle and produce more theanine and caffeiene, which gives it an incredibly intense sweet and umami-rich flavor. Amongst my friends who like it, most of us consider it to be the best flavor on earth!
Last year I had a truly spectacular todo list. It ranged from building a cabin on the island (with no idea how to do so), getting the floors replaced on a rental property in Las Vegas, a huge number of Cruisesheet bugs and fixes, work on a book, a few dozen emails, and then tens of random tasks that can't fit in any one category.
This happens to a lot of us, especially as we expand too much and take on a lot of big important tasks. And it's actually a pretty crummy place to be, as the psychic load of a big todo list is a major distraction.
The fundamental problem is that the items that cluster on a todo list tend to be the ones which are never urgent enough to warrant action. So we just keep dealing with more urgent things, and simultaneously accumulate more non-urgent tasks.
To get through this, you must treat "clearing your todo list" as a big urgent item, not because any one thing on it is urgent, but because having a big pending todo list is holding you back and affecting your more urgent tasks.
I had never been so happy to have a sore throat, especially such a bad one. My throat hurt so much that it actually woke me up. Surely this was a reasonable excuse to get out of the talk I was supposed to give in a couple days. I sent a text to the organizers saying that I wasn't feeling well and would probably skip the trip to Kazakhstan if I didn't feel better the next day, when I was supposed to leave.
Four months earlier I had felt differently about the trip. My friend Ben Yu got a random email inviting him to speak at a conference called GoViral in Kazakhstan. The people organizing it offered to show him around the country if he could make it out there. When he asked if I wanted to see if they would have me come too, the idea sounded wild enough that I said "of course".
As the date approached, though, I was regretting the decision. There were a lot of other trips I would have preferred to do, and now I was stuck going to Kazakhstan for no real reason. I also didn't know exactly where Kazakhstan was before I agreed, but when I went to buy tickets I realized it wasn't near anything and was going to be a long flight in and out.
My throat got better and absent a very legitimate excuse, I felt that it would be rude not to show up. So I hustled to the Tokyo airport for my long journey to Kazakhstan.