(Note: if you haven't read last year's post, you may want to read it first, since this is only the gear that is different)
During South by Southwest this year I was lucky enough to see the Kanye West show (thanks to my brother, Devon, and Colt Woody). Kanye had about a million different guests with him, ranging from Jay-Z to people I'd never heard of before.
Mos Def opened up the concert dressed in a suit, wearing a sequined mask. Rihanna came out with a futuristic halter top that looked like it was made out of seatbelts or something. Halfway through the set, I notice something strange-- a stagehand dressed in all black is singing one of the choruses. Kanye does his verse, and then the stagehand starts singing again. What's going on?
It turns out that the stagehand was actually Bon Iver, but unlike the rest of the artists in the set, he was dressed in boring clothes. Ahh, I thought, maybe there is some function in fashion after all. This guy is at a huge concert, on stage, singing, and I STILL thought he was a stagehand just because he was dressed so plainly.
For new readers to the site, or old readers who haven't been paying attention, I live in my small RV. I bought my first RV in 2007, and except for short term travel rentals, I haven't lived in a house or apartment or any other non-wheeled dwelling since then. This sounds rather extreme, but I honestly don't feel like I live in a car.
When I'm parked my RV feels like a small house, complete with all of the comforts of a stationary home. Of course, these niceties haven't come easily-- I've spent hundreds of hours working on my RV, coming up with new ideas and implementing them in the home depot parking lot. Because I actually live in this thing and the improvement process is ongoing, it's never possible to say that I'm done. That said-- I can't really imagine too much more that I can do to this thing. I only have one or two big ideas left, and no immediate plans to implement them.
Here's what's new this round:
1. Painted everything. For a long time I've been hesitant to paint the RV, because I worried that the paint wouldn't stick to the disgusting fake-wood walls. Luckily an all purpose primer did the job. My RV is only 20' long, but it took me fifteen hours to mask the whole interior, prime everything, and then layer on two coats of paint. It was the first time I'd ever painted anything, and most of the time was spent dealing with all of the weird little angles and protrusions. As I mention in the video, I was hoping to get a grey color, but somehow ended up with blue. I'm not entirely sure how that happened, but I do remember saying, "I'm sick of picking colors... let's do this one."
Yesteday Todd and I were choosing a place to go to lunch. I normally go to Whole Foods because they have healthy delicious food, unlike almost everywhere else. However, we wanted to try somewhere new. How about Veggie Heaven?
I'd never been there before, despite living across the street from it for two years. I used to eat awful food on a daily basis, and considered vegetarian and vegan food to be for hippies. I still do, actually.
Anyway, we get to the restaurant and are handed three menus each. The main menu had almost fifty items in it. Many were marked as being vegan. Hey, this must be healthy, right?
A couple months ago I was minding my own business, reading a book, about to go to sleep. I give twitter one last check on my phone and see a message from my friend Jenna telling me of a deal to go to Lima, Peru for $380 round trip. I have no particular reason to go to Peru, but I decide to start booking it and make the decision as I go through the steps. The deal is about to go-- it's disappearing from different booking sites one by one. Hey, might as well go, I think. For how long? Well, I can't think of anything off the top of my head in Peru besides Machu Picchu (which I already decided I had to see before I died), so I play it safe and book eight days, figuring that will give me enough time for Machu Picchu and maybe one or two other things.
After booking, I begin to do a little research. The thing to do is the Inca trail, which is a four day hike from the Cusco area to Machu Picchu. You have to go with a tour group, and you have to book far in advance. I booked too late for that. The standard alternative is the Salkantay trek, which is typically a five day trek. It's harder than Inca and has better natural scenery, but no ruins along the way and doesn't lead directly to Machu Picchu like Inca does. I try to find a good tour group going there, but none of the published dates fit into my short window in Peru. Fine, I think, I'll just go solo.
I order a lightweight tent, sleeping bag, and mattress pad, and that's the extent of my planning for over a month. With a week before I leave, I figure I ought to see if I need train or bus tickets. That's when I learn that Cusco is almost 24 hours away from Lima by bus, and that getting to the trail from Cusco takes several hours as well. Long story short, it looks impossible for me to Salkantay. But I've had it in my head for a month now that I'm going to do it, so I don't give up easily. Finally I find a way I can take a bus to Arequipa near the end, and then take a flight from there to Lima just in time to catch my flight. The problem is that this leaves me only about 3 days to do the trek, and less than 24 hours to acclimatize.
A week later, my trip begins. I'm overjoyed when my tent stakes make it through TSA security. Actually getting to the hiking trail is contingent on several fairly unlikely assumptions, the first of which is that the titanium stakes will make it through. The flight to Lima is long, but I somehow manage to get an exit row seat to Panama, and a whole row to myself to Lima. I get the best plane sleep I've ever had.
I slept in until eleven thirty today. Three months ago that would qualify as an early morning, but I"ve shifted to becoming an early riser, and now that feels late. Usually I have my writing done by twelve, but it's one thirty now, and I'm still working on the second sentence. Okay, third now. I don't feel particularly motivated. Maybe it's that I just finished some big SETT things yesterday so there's nothing pressing there. Maybe I'm a bit disappointed that I slept late. I brewed a new tea for my morning pot this morning, and it's not very good. Maybe that has to do with it.
Today is the most important day, I remind myself. Actually, yesterday was the most important day, but it's over. Today is the next most important day, making it the most important day I have left in my life.
What makes today so important? Well, I'm as young as I'll ever be again. I work every day to sharpen my mind, but I'm fighting nature, I think. I have the most time ahead of me as I'll ever have, making today an excellent day to start new habits, and an important day to keep old habits. Writing every day is one of those habits, so I have to write this. It would be an insult to those even-more-important days in my past where I started this habit, if I didn't.
Every day I'm alive, I risk death. Not in a great measure, but I live in a big city, I drive a motorcycle, and weird stuff happens. If I lost my legs tomorrow, how would I think about today? Wouldn't I think about I should have used them when I had that chance? It's sort of like, after you break up with a girl, you think about the last time you were together, and you think that maybe you should have made it a bit more special. It was your last chance, after all. Today's probably not my last day with my legs or my brain or my eyes, but you never know. Weird stuff happens.
In 2009, probably within the first couple months of its existence, I downloaded the Bitcoin client and began mining bitcoins. Back then it was really easy-- you could get hundreds of Bitcoins per week for free, but they weren't worth anything. Not wanting to waste my time, I deleted the Bitcoin client, and any bitcoins I had mined went along with it.
Last March I thought about Bitcoins again and decided to check up on them. As I read about the progress that had taken place in the preceding years and learned more about the technical aspects of Bitcoin, I was blown away. This is going to change the world, I thought.
So I bought a few when they were around $30 a coin, a few more at $80, and then again at $110. I'm not a Bitcoin millionaire or anything awesome like that, but percentage-wise, it's the best return I've ever gotten on anything. In case you don't fanatically check the price like I do, it's at around $825 per coin as I write this.
I'm going to write the rest of this blog post to explain why I think it's important that you buy some Bitcoins, but take it all with a grain of salt. I do know a fair amount about Bitcoin, but I don't know much about investing or, more importantly, your financial situation.
The market is tanking, we're treading water in expensive wars, unemployment is high, people are eating garbage, school is failing us, our government is dysfunctional, pollution is rampant, kids are hooked on drugs, and our prisons are packed. Many things are going horribly wrong with this world, and I'd even say that some metrics we might judge ourselves by are at an all-time low.
If you focus on these things, and by that I mean "watch the news", you might reminisce about a better time. You might think of the booming markets of the 1980s, the relatively peaceful 2000s, or even the pollution-free 1500s. You could yearn for the fifties when kids listened to their parents, ate their vegetables, and could count on a solid career right out of college.
But that's just one side of the coin, and a one-sided coin isn't worth much of anything.
One of the most frequent criticisms I get is that I'm too focused on serious things like productivity, self improvement, and learning. I value those things highly and often focus on them at the expense of fun. Here are a few paraphrased quotes:
"Life isn't just about work."
"As long as what you're doing makes you happy, it's okay."
"Life is about balance between work and play."
Seven years ago, I wrote a post called "How to Be Happy. Always." It's pretty poorly written, but starts off with an important concept-- we live in a society where happiness is the number one priority. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No one really questions that, but maybe we should. Is happiness really the best goal we can come up with?
In the time that's elapsed between when I wrote that post and now, I've thought a lot about happiness, and I still think that maximizing it is a bad idea. But before I get into that, let's talk a little bit about what happiness is.
Happiness is an good state of mind. It allows you to be optimistic, to see the good in people, and to be productive. On the other end of the spectrum, when you're very unhappy, you have a lot of barriers between things like productivity and socialization. Clearly, being happy is much better than being unhappy. It's important to be happy. Is there such a thing as being too happy? I don't think so. I've never seen someone make a mistake because he was just too happy.
So what's my problem with maximizing happiness, then? Well, it's the method, mostly.
Fundamentally, I think life is about taking action. It's about drawing information from your surroundings, formulating that into a decision, and then finally acting on that decision. People who are successful and happy tend to be those who take a lot of action.
My beef with video games, TV, movies, and other sorts of passive entertainment isn't that there's NO value in them, or that they're fundamentally evil things. It's that they promote NOT taking action. When I see someone whose life is made up mostly of going to a mindless job and then coming home and indulging in passive entertainment, I think of their life as being on pause. Days spent that way just don't count.
A lot of what I think about is what makes people take action and what makes people abstain from taking action. I think about times that I've taken action, and times that I haven't, I think about others around me and their relationship with taking action, and I think about how we can all take action more frequently.