Travel & Adventure

Research, global citizenship

I’ve talked about this idea here and there in the past, and am working on a longer piece about it but I wanted to throw out some ideas here and get some feedback to see what people thought and what issues are the ones most likely to be stickiest. So this is obviously a continuation of some of the ideas that have come from the technomads discussions and kind of gets into the roots of what citizenship is all about. And how that all plays into the world in 2013 and beyond.

When thinking about citizenship I think it’s useful to discuss the pros and cons, as well as the past vs the present. Let’s think of the big ones.

Most obviously the major benefit of being a citizen of anywhere is the support that comes along with that. I think this is the main thing – having a government “watching your back” so to speak – at least while traveling internationally anyway. You could argue that many of the benefits you receive as a citizen inside any country are also shared by many non-citizens inside that country so classifying those as perks of citizenship are difficult. Being able to vote is a plus, at least if you want to help influence the direction of some level of politics. If you don’t live in the country you are a citizen of that becomes less important, until you start thinking about “branding.”

The “branding” (I don’t know what else to call it) that comes with being a citizen of somewhere can be positive or negative depending. In some places in the world advertising that you are an American for example could attract some unwelcome attention – people who are upset with actions the US government has taken might project those feelings onto individuals. Similarly being an American might grant you some extra freedoms in other parts of the world where there are positive relations.

In the past, being a citizen of some place related much more to where you were, since people didn’t travel as much as they do now. And there was risk of neighboring people invading you, so having a country looking out for you was a pretty good thing. These days, with much more bouncing around the world which passport you happen to have is just as likely to cause problems and headaches as it is to open doors. The argument that a citizenship reflects a culture makes sense in really small geographic countries, not so much in widely spread ones.

I’m thinking a lot about the value of “where you are from” vs “where you are” as well as “where you are going” and how these things play together – nicely or not. I have a lot of questions and not a lot of answers. Would love to hear peoples thoughts on anything that might relate to this.

Global Neighborhood

Somewhere between Vienna & Paris, from above

I was incredibly lucky as a kid to have a family that on occasion took me to far corners of the earth. And while most of it had goofy religious justifications I was really too young to understand that, but still old enough to know I was going on a great adventure around the world. I don’t remember every bit of it, actually just flashes like a slideshow. In fact it’s weird what images from those trips are burned into my head. My grandfather standing in a hallway of a hotel in Rome. My cousins walking through the lobby of yet another hotel looking out over the Adriatic Sea in Split in what used to be Yugoslavia. Some people standing on the side of a street in Medjugorje, current day Croatia. I barely remember the landmarks, but I remember these images vividly. Anyway, point being when I was growing up I was exposed to this wild stuff and it great.

It was great because it taught me that nothing was out of reach, and even these places all the way around the world were accessible. And there were people there just like me.

That understanding continued with me through my teens and early adulthood even though I wasn’t traveling as much at that point. But I missed it, and when I had the opportunity to go somewhere far away and different again I jumped at the chance. I’d dreamed of visiting Japan for as much of my life as I can remember – originally because of an obsession with Japanese monster movies and robot cartoons, and later an affinity for a handful of Japanese film directors and martial artists, as well as the cultural aesthetic in general – but I’d always had a reason not to go. When I finally said fuck it and just went, I was both delighted that it was better than I ever dreamed, and disappointed that I’d talked myself out of visiting so many times previously.


I just wrote the stupidest blog post in the history of text being transmitted across the internet. Seriously it was a nightmare of epic wtfness. What’s worse is that I wrestled with it for hours. Hours! I was thinking about it while walking around yesterday and started typing it up last night and then hit a wall and thought I’d go to sleep and clarity would hit me and then I could polish it off and post it in the morning. I woke up still stumped but I forced my way through and turned it into something that at least had some kind of clear start and finish then then I went to have breakfast and came back to reread it and wanted to punch me in my own damn face for wasting a second it it. Or at least on the approach I was taking. Delete!

Because I know I’ve piqued interest now and I don’t want to leave anyone flustered wondering if what I’d written was dramatic, or somehow impacted them, or what I’m hiding I assure you it was none of the above. It wasn’t a big tell all or anything scandalous. The post was about how isolating being in Japan can be, but in a good way. Good for me anyway, I can certainly see how what I feel when I’m here could be interpreted as loneliness to some people and it might bother them, but I really enjoy it. I talked about how not understanding the chatter around me, being ignored by marketers, having only the most basic of conversations with employees at establishments etc means that there are almost no distractions inside my head, the only conversation is the one I’m having with myself all day long. It allows for some fantastic focus and clarity.

And at the same time because I do have a network here, people and place I know and enjoy visiting it’s almost like my own personal secret society. There was much more to this and I rambled on with a bunch of useless references and then I realized how masturbatory the whole thing was and that’s when I killed it.

Trust me, it’s much better for both of us this way.


Today is a travel day.

I’m heading out in a moment to catch a flight to Japan for 10 days. A few days in Sapporo for a conference and then to Tokyo for a Safecast hackathon. I’m bringing one small suitcase that fits in the overhead compartment of the smallest airplanes and a very thin backpack. This is almost identical to the baggage I had with me while we spent December in Europe. Truth is, packing for one or two days is difficult, for anything over 4 days is easy. In fact, I never pack clothes for more than 4 days. I do laundry in my hotel room every night so at any given moment on my trip I have the clothes I’m wearing, a set of clothes drying in the shower, and one or two sets in the closet ready to go. You never need more than that. For this trip, I might even have more gadgets than clothes.

Checking luggage is one of the biggest headaches in air travel. It costs more, you have to wait around for ever to get it, you have to deal with dragging extra bags all over the place, lost or delayed luggage is common and throws giant wrenches into your plans. It’s not worth it. When you have carry on only, checking in is a breeze. Getting out of the airport is lightning fast. Getting from the airport to wherever you are staying is painless. Carry on only is the way to go.

I’ve been preaching this gospel for years and I’m still confronted with people who scratch their heads in awe of how someone could travel without bringing their entire wardrobe with them. The worst thing you can do when you travel is bring too much stuff. If you get home and there is something in your bag that you didn’t use that is a fail. If you are traveling to any kind of a city, chances are you can default to bringing less stuff and in the worst case you can buy something there if you really need it. Think closely about everything you pack – is this something you are going to use every day on your trip, or just once – maybe? If I can avoid it I never pack a “maybe” item. A mental game you can play is to threaten yourself – if you pack something and you don’t end up using it, you aren’t allowed to bring it back. With stakes like that getting choosy is a little easier.

I put 90% of my stuff in my suitcase, and keep a very small bag for under the seat. In that bag the only I have is my laptop and power cord (in case I’m lucky enough to get a seat with an outlet), my kindle, my camera, an eyeshade, earphones, ear plugs, my geiger counter (for logging in flight) and a flashlight. Maybe a snack bar. That’s pretty much everything I could need. Jackets never got in suitcases – just shove them in the overhead.

As nailed as I have my travel set up, my real life is a disaster compared to that. Boxes of stuff in the closet, in the garage. Mental clutter. I think about how painless and awesome my approach to travel makes my life, and try to take those lessons and apply them elsewhere. I’m not quite as good at that, but I think it’s a worthwhile goal. We need the stuff to get through today and tomorrow. Worrying about next week doesn’t help at all. It’s all about today. It’s all about right now.

2012: The year in review, in photos

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know the drill, 6 years ago I did a post looking back over my previous year by looking through the photos I took and posted online. My thought being, if I’d posted it online it was important enough to remember – so I restricted it to that as opposed to crawling through personal libraries as well. It was cathartic to say the least, so I’ve done it every year since then. (Feel free to take a stroll through my visual time machine… 2007 & 2008 & 2009 & 2010 & 2011). I find it to be kind of wild looking back at a full year in one shot like this, so here we go for 2012….

The first thing I noticed as I began this is that I posted considerably fewer photos to flickr at the beginning of the year than I had previously. I think I was going through some question about the future of the service – I’ve been a long time user but Yahoo! had all but abandoned it and over the years my friends had slowly dropped off as well. That changed by the end of the year with returned enthusiasm from both my friends and Yahoo! but for a good chunk of 2012 I was trying out lots of other photo sharing / storage options and trying to find something that fit. Disappointingly, I don’t even remember everything I tried and thus whatever I might have posted has drifted away to forgotten land. Which is a bummer, and makes me again realize how important flickr has been for me and why I keep using it.

At the same time, I started shooting a lot of photos on film rather than digital, which when you add in developing and scanning times and my own habits of waiting until I had 10 or so rolls to make a trip the lab, means something that happened in January might not have been documented online with my photos until April. It seems like even some digital stuff I shot didn’t end up on line until months later for some reason. Every year that I’ve done this I’ve searched through my archive using the “posted on” date, but this year “taken on” became much more important. But even that is confusing.


KaffeeKüche - Vienna
Start typing. Select all. Delete. Stare. Stare. Stare. Type. Stare. Select all. Delete.

Today was a travel day. Travel days can be hard. Today was one of the harder ones.

Packing bags from a month in Vienna, lugging them across a city, making sure the kid doesn’t get lost en route. Boarding passes, clearing security, waiting for the plane, boarding, flying, landing. Dealing with luggage and trains and changing trains and train stations and walking and finally getting to the new hotel in the new city.

No food. No coffee. Sinus infection. Pseudoephedrine.

The first day of the new year comes to a wrap. I’m sitting on the floor in the bathroom with my laptop and sloth speed wifi while the rest of the family tries (though from the sound of it unsuccessfully) to get to sleep. Lights out in the room, curtains drawn. I’m awake and restless. Looking at Tumblr. Reblogging shit.

Kitties and titties and Otakugangster are the best Tumblrs in the world, for the record.

Good night Paris. Tomorrow you better deliver some falafel.

2011: The year in review, in photos

Back in 2007 I had a crazy idea to skim my flickr stream and pick a few photos from each month to try and illustrate how I spent the year. I found it to be pretty cathartic and gave me a whole different impression of the year I’d just experienced. I liked it. So I did it again in 2008. And then in 2009 it was kind of “a thing” so I did it again. And then again in 2010. I really like doing this. It’s a pain in the ass, but it’s awesome to reference.

I’ve been slow getting to it this year for no good reason, I can’t believe it’s April already. Gah. I’m sorry. So here it is. The first photo I posted in 2011 was this one of Ripley and Lucky cat just waking up. I guess that’s a good way to get this moving

Waking up, sort of

Which I think must have been followed by a hike up to Runyon Canyon with the family based on my pics. I had a beard.

Bite your tongue!

My Travel Coffee Setup, 2012 edition

A few years ago I wrote about my quest for the perfect travel coffee setup. I travel a lot, I like good coffee, so ensuring that I can have good coffee when I travel is kind of important. Since then I’ve been pretty much sticking to that same set up – Kitchen scale, Porelex grinder, V60, Kettle… It’s served me well but it’s not small and that’s always bugged me as I like to travel as light and compact as possible. I’ve messed with some minor variations (collapsing fake V60, etc) to no avail. For 2012 I decided to throw caution to the wind and start from scratch.

People keep raving about the AeroPress – especially in travel situations. I’ve resisted because frankly the shitty to delicious ratio for cups of coffee I’ve had from this device leans heavily on the shitty side. But I decided to give it a shot. If there’s any way I’m going to force myself to figure it out, it’s in a hotel room on the otherside of the world at 3am when Jetlag is making me surely.

Moving to the AeroPress means the slow pour kettle is no longer needed, which is actually the biggest motivator here for me as that’s the most obnoxious thing to try and fit in a suitcase.

Scale wise I switched the the larger countertop model I had to a higher end pocket sized guy that a friend gave me a while back but I hadn’t made much use of.

I’m sticking with the Porlex Hand Grinder because it’s really the best option out there for a hand grinder. I’ve tried everything, trust me, this is the one to get. However, since it’s *exactly* the right size to fit inside the AeroPress, and I can grind right into it I went ahead and pulled off the bottom part where grinds are usually collected.

I also have one of those wacky metal AeroPress filters so that I don’t need to worry about paper ones, but honestly I might not be able to put up with the silt so I’m bringing a couple paper ones just in case.

As you can see, all compacted that’s a pretty small load. Actually the bag of coffee beans I’ll be bringing takes up more space in my bag. At least those get used and don’t have to be brought home.

I’m heading off to Japan tomorrow and will give this a test drive over the next week. I’m excited about trying something new, really excited about how much smaller this set up is, but a bit nervous that the AeroPress will turn my delicious beans into crap. Fingers crossed.