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It's been a crazy few years. I was going to say few weeks, then few months, and then I thought about it and realized that there's no reasonable starting point more recent than a few years ago. Since then I've been traveling non-stop and have had very little stability.
If you rarely travel, you might dream of getting away from it all and going on vacation. But when you travel constantly you fantasize about being in one place for an extended period of time. And while my life has mostly been a collection of quality time with friends over the past couple years, I've been yearning for some time in one place.
The problem is that I've been relatively unproductive over these past couple years. Major progress has come from isolated concentrations of time, usually on a cruise ship, where I've worked hard to complete projects. My median day is shockingly unproductive, especially in the past year.
Now I have around two months in one place, then a cruise, then no plans. That is by far the most sparse my travel schedule has been in years, and I'm excited about it.
Today we went to a gelato place called Gelatology. The owner, Desyree, used to have a place called Art of the Flavor, which was shut down under suspicious circumstances. From outward appearances it seemed as though the landlords kicked her out and then continued a business under the same name. I was excited to take my cousin to that place when she visited, but the shutdown had taken place a day or two before.
Tonight we found that she recently opened a new place, so we went.
There were fourteen flavors of gelato, most of them really interesting flavors like jalapeño honey, apple mustard, and pear gorgonzola. Right off the bat Desyree suggested that we try every single flavor. Between the three of us, she went through 42 different sample spoons. I've never heard of such a thing and thought that she was exaggerating when she encouraged us to try all of them.
Of course tons of the flavors were amazing, so we each got much bigger portions than we anticipated. I usually get the smallest ice cream available, but I got the second biggest.
I'm almost done watching Making of A Murderer. I don't know how it ends yet, but it's not much of a spoiler to say that it opens with a story about a guy, Steven Avery, who was wrongly accused of rape and served eighteen years for it.
The evidence was only a shade more substantial than non-existent, but even his appeals and hearings for probation yielded nothing. Everyone thought he did it, so he lost eighteen years.
Later in the show there's question of police planting evidence for a different case.
I went to court as a spectator some months ago. I was there for just half of the day in the middle of the case, so my knowledge of the case was quite poor. But from that glimpse it appeared to me that he was guilty of robbery. The police found the evidence on him-- case closed.
Our ship docked in Dubai today. Very often the ship docks so close to downtown that you can walk, but sometimes you have to take a bus or taxi into the city center. The Dubai port, on the other hand, is pure insanity.
We got out and found ourselves in a giant parking lot with all sorts of buses and taxis in it. The mob descended on all modes of transportation, making each unusable. The taxi queue was enormous. Eighty year olds literally elbowed me out of the way to get into the free shuttle to the mall.
We called an uber, but the parking lot is such a maze that our driver got lost and gave up. After that we tried to taxi queue, but all of the drivers were trying to rip us off by about $10. We kept refusing, and we got kicked out of two taxis in a row. Then we called another Uber, and he finally made it there.
It took us a total of ninety minutes just to get on a vehicle out of the port. And we are four very seasoned travelers.
Well, there goes another year. Every time a new year rolls around, my initial impression of the past year is that it was pretty uneventful compared to previous years. Then I go through my blog archives and think about what has happened, and I realize that it has been, again, a pretty monumental year.
First some highlights:
As expected, dating was a big theme this year. I started out with a new relationship and ended the year with a failed attempt at another. I definitely had a fantasy that I would fall in love with the first person I met and settle down with her, but that's not how it happened. Still, it feels good to be dating again and I do feel like I'm moving towards finding someone to settle down with.
When I'm booking a flight, I don't search by shortest duration, I sort by longest. My favorite flights are those that include one or more really long layovers during the day in an interesting location.
Earlier today I hiked up Diamondhead, ate a Hawaiian burger, waded into the ocean at Waikiki, and visited the Honolulu Art Museum. But I'm not on vacation in Hawaii, I'm on a six hour layover on my way to Tokyo.
My favorite way to do a long layover is to have a big list of things I want to do, and then hit them at whatever pace I feel like. I want to avoid wasted time at all cost, but not rush myself.
We rented a car in Hawaii, which is almost always worth it in these situations. For $40, we were able to avoid any sort of waiting around or having to conform to time tables. We did things like lunch and the hike, where we'd have only limited control over our schedules, early so that we wouldn't end up in a situation where we haven't got the check yet and we have to hustle back to the airport.
Whether you think I'm a minimalist or maximalist isn't important to me. In some ways I am quite minimalist, but in others I'm the opposite. I have a lot of teaware, for example. Way more than I really need. But when it comes to packing, I don't think there's much debate. I pack very lightly.
My bag currently hovers right at ten pounds. It's actually at ten and a quarter, which is essentially ten, but doesn't allow me to claim single digits, which would be exciting for no good reason at all.
I pack lightly not because I am a minimalist and must conform to some set of ideals, but because packing lightly is objectively a better way to travel. Almost everyone agrees with this, including heavy packers who "should really get rid of some of this stuff."
Packing lightly is better because it enables you to do more, and traveling is fundamentally about doing. If you don't have checked baggage, you can abandon legs of your flight, which gives you more flexibility. If you have only one carry-on, your hands are always free. If your bag is under twenty pounds or so, you probably won't mind carrying it on long walks or even hikes. If your bag is around ten pounds, you barely notice that it's there anymore.
Nothing makes my way of thinking about it the one correct way, but I think of money spent as three different things: Assets, Experiences, and Indulgences. I do this because it helps me create rules and guidelines for how to spend my money so that I can do well in the long term without having to micromanage finances.
Assets are things that should be worth something significant in the future. Maybe more, maybe slightly less, but nothing consumable or with huge expected depreciation. Examples would be certain high-end watches, art, gold bars, or real estate. Even my motorcycle would count, only because I waited to get a really good price on a used one, and it's still worth the same as when I bought it. I also count anything that will directly affect my productivity. I just sold my last laptop for a $900 loss, but I made a lot more than that with it over the two years I owned it.
Experiences are obvious things like travel and visits to museums, but I'd also count dinner with some good smart friends. My defining line is that an experience is something that has some reasonable potential to impact me long-term. I don't expect that every time, just as I don't expect every asset to increase in value.
And everything else is an indulgence. I choose this word intentionally because it has a negative connotation in my mind. I don't think that any of us can or should go without indulgences, but as the lowest ROI spending, a bias against them can be helpful.
Steam rises from my little glass teapot. It's the fifth brewing of the Tung Ting Oolong, so it's a little bit weak even though the color is still a clear gold. Employees of the tea shop are in front of me, an older couple across the way, and a single girl behind me. In the other room are more groups. The chatter rises above the music, but I can't understand any of it because it's all in Hungarian.
I'm here by myself. Two friends visited, but one had to go home to London, and the other to a conference in Zürich.
I have a tendency, when traveling alone, to stay holed up in my AirBnb. But after a day of that I wanted to get out. This place is perfect. I can drink my tea, feel like I'm around people, but not be distracted by their conversations.
My favorite game to play by myself is to imagine a kid version of myself could see me now. What would he think? Usually he'd just be surprised, I think. How random is it that I'm sitting in Budapest, by myself, writing? It's not significant in any way, but I wouldn't have guessed it, either.
Welcome to the 2016 Gear Post! This is my most anticipated post of the year, which means that it's the one I'm harrassed about the most. Due to popular request, I did individual photos for each item, which takes considerably longer to do. My curent backpack weight is around 10.5 pounds, and as you probably know, this is everything I take with me to 20+ countries per year. A huge thank you to the people who buy items through my Amazon links (which fund more experimentation for the next year) and to all of the companies that give me free products to evaluate.
If you are one of the many travelers who bases your own packing list off mine, consider linking to this post.
My main criteria when choosing clothing is versatility. I need clothing rugged enough that I can blaze trails on the island, yet formal enough for nice dinners. For many years this balance was impossible to strike, so I opted for rugged clothes that got the job done but made me look like a confused alpinist. Now such great options exist that most people don't realize just how versatile my clothing is.