Archive for Insights

Fayetteville, Arkansas

After Austin, we headed to Fayetteville, Arkansas to visit cousins of mine. It was really good to see them all two nights in a row. It’s always interesting to see people grow throughout the years, and since we seem to meet up every six or seven years, it always makes it more interesting catching up after/while going through various stages in life.

In fact, the last time we all got to hang out, my hair was dyed green, I had one visible piercing among others, and I was in the dead-center of my rave days having just taken the lease on a warehouse that would further change my life. Now, we’re growing up, drinking beer, getting married, and making our lives our own in the best ways we know how…whether it’s going back to school, living in a van, exploring e-commerce, or making your life and business 40 minutes outside of the nearest town.

In addition to catching up on lost time, Karma, Katherine, Bauer and I went on a beautiful hike through part of the Ozarks. One of the things we’ve mentioned on this blog, and even more often between Alexi and I, is that there seems to be an infinite number of environments in this country. The Ozarks brought yet another environment to explore.

The Ozarks feel as old as the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains, but instead of being on an igneous foundation of granite, they are on a sedimentary foundation of limestone (Though I’ve also heard there’s phenomenal sandstone climbing around there as well). Being that Fall is finally over, there were no leaves in the trees, offering an austere scene from the higher cliff lines.

We also got to see some of downtown Fayetteville’s massive spectacle of Christmas lights, their “very accurate Statue of Liberty”, and got our butts whipped at Mario Kart and shooting pool. I’d say that the humiliating defeats in sport and game really topped off the trip.

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Popularity: 100% [?]

Public WiFi

It’s funny that I worked at a (the?) major distributor of commercial WiFi for just about 3 years and never used the product once. That’s not to say that I never used wireless, I just never had to pay for it before. And I still wouldn’t, if I wasn’t a such a fan of convenience.

Read why after the jump.
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Popularity: 96% [?]

Staying up Late in a Van

Normally when I can’t sleep it’s no problem to stay up & surf around Wikipedia or the BBC. Now, it’s a blessing.

We’re currently taking advantage of the cheapest way to live in LA: park your camper on the side of the street. It seems that we’re not the only ones either, there’s tons of RVs & vans all over the place, more than anywhere else. There’s also a lot of $1M houses and I suspect a correlation. But I digress.

Living in a van is a truly unique experience. For one, when people walk through a parking lot back to their car, they probably don’t expect anyone to be having dinner near by. Little do they know of the society of folks who are cooking pasta just a thin sheet of aluminum away!

Similarly, an oft overlooked necessity of life is… how can I put it gently… relieving ones self? Not having a toilet on hand dictates that you either consume & locate yourself strategically or get creative with containers. Let me say that crawling out of the van, groggy and hungover, at 7:00am in an otherwise peaceful & orderly neighborhood, looking for a bathroom, makes you question your life choices.

So, what I’m saying here, is that there’s a lot more to consider than not having a lot of closet space. Living in a van requires that you develop new abilities to transcended comfort and societal norms, and it’s not for the faint of heart. But it will help you realize what you need and what you can live without.

Lately we’ve had to question the “luxuries” of trying to: get online, go to the bathroom, get a shower, exercise, eat well (or at least decently), and get a good’s night sleep. Hopefully you’re not taking all these things for granted.

;-)

Popularity: 39% [?]

Seattle Shoutouts

So Alexi’s Twitter post from his cell phone last night ended up getting us a great recommendation from Miles to head to Pioneer’s Square, ultimately ending up in a night of awesomeness that will forever be remembered.

Seattle has definitely had a significantly higher amount of interaction than other cities.  While at Beth’s (which I am now completely freaking stuffed from about 10 eggs of the 12 egg omelet), we got an email from Monica.  Monica happens to be the resident of the apartment near where our van was gloriously resting and recommended that we hit up a show tonight for the Mob Law.

This resting place also resulted in us getting a free CD from one of the band members which we’ll be listening to later today which we’re now also planning on going to the show tonight.  So, if you’re there as well, look for the short Greek dude and the pastey-white blonde guy and say what’s what.

I’d also like to give shoutouts to three other very special people:

  1. Our cab driver last night who informed us of interesting stories that can only be experienced as a cab driver.
  2. Frank, the awesome (assumedly) homeless guy that we talked to for about 30 minutes.  I love Frank.
  3. The girl who engaged  us in a great, short conversation involving this gem: “___ You!  I know he’s not a mute!”  Apparently, I have a way with the laydeez.

If any other Seattle folks have ideas for tonight, send Alexi a text message (his number’s at the right)!

Popularity: 32% [?]

Canadian Observations, and Whatnot, eh?

Right now, we’re sitting at a place called the Linux Caffee. It’s just our speed. Coffee, bagels, Radiohead on the speaker box, and a stack of programming and OS books in the corner available for public consumption. Our van (and we) slept well last night in a busy street.

The dude behind the counter is a bit hippie-ish, but not to an uncomfortable or awkward degree. Their everything bagel with butter is, quite literally, the best bagel I’ve ever had in my entire life. And the laydeez that roll through here have been cute in that dorky, nerdy, fun, unpretentious way that we all know and love.

Speaking of women, hands down, Montreal has the best looking women I’ve seen in the entire world. We were told to expect the same of Toronto, but it’s not the same.

Montreal and Toronto downtowns are both really, really clean. Montreal carries itself with it’s touch of French; proper, prim, and a perhaps a bit rigid. Toronto feels more laid back like this cafe.

Both feel safe and are places that would be easy to live in. Apartment prices seem reasonable compared to similar cities in the US.

Both cities are amazingly bike friendly, which is rad.

All in all, the Canadian cities get my vote. I have a feeling that I’m really going to like Vancouver as well.

Stay tuned for “The Montreal Story.” French cuisine, late night boozing, and how train tracks and a GPS saved the day…night.

Popularity: 16% [?]

Lifecation Tip: Weather on the Go

Find yourself eating every meal in different ZIP codes catching glimpses of the Internet on the hot spot du jour? One way to make this lifestyle a little smoother is a handy little website called IP Weather. It’s a bookmark that will give you a 3-day weather forecast based off your IP address. Neat, huh?

Popularity: 22% [?]

Lifecation Tip: Planning Your Attack

Planning a trip into a new city can get tough. There’s all sorts of questions: What are you going to see? Where are you going to stay? How will you get around? One of the best tried & trusted tools of the traveler has been, no surprise, the map. But paper maps get folded, torn, lost, and above all else, are hard to share with other people. Even more difficult is collaborating on these maps with all your buddies.

Enter the “My Maps” feature on Google Maps. It’s a relatively small feature to the already superbly popular mapping program, but it provides a lot of bang for your buck. Basically you can use it to scribble on maps to mark areas & points of interest. We here at RoadTrip20.com are using it to figure out things like:

  • Where all the Wal-Marts are
  • Where the coffee & free WiFi is
  • What sites we want to hit up
  • Where the bars & restaurants are
  • And when we park, where the hell we left the van!

Toronto is the first city we’ve really put it to use, but it’s already proving very helpful. I could have prevented myself from stealing WiFi in a urine-infested park if I used this in Montreal. Anyway, enough rambling. Check out our map if you’re interested!

A legend is provided after the cut.
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Popularity: 29% [?]

Montreal: Europe without the Eurotrash.

This could also be true for the rest of Canada, we’ll have a better idea later. The first European impression is obvious: everyone’s speaking French. But it goes much deeper than just road signs and overhead conversations on the Metro. The architecture and design have apparent roots overseas, too. The biggest similarity is the people. Everyone (and by everyone, I mean about 80%,) are in shape and seem to have a sense of style about them. You just don’t see people here eating their filet mignon in last decade’s sweat suit, unless of course they’re from out of town.

I could go on, but I’m sitting in a public park stealing WiFi from a near by “linksys” and power from a municipal building. And it smells like urine. Ahh, the joys of being on lifecation!

Popularity: 18% [?]

Web 2.0/3.0/X.X??? This One’s for the Marketers

Expert online marketer Andy Beal was not only kind enough to sit down with me for an interview, but was also kind enough to mention Road Trip 2.0 on his much-acclaimed website, Marketing Pilgrim. For those of you who may have ended up here from the Marketing Pilgrim post, welcome!

Imagine this:

You’re driving around Boston on Lifecation. You’re looking for the best Irish pub in town, and have no idea where to start or who to ask. You prefer a bit of a dive bar with sports playing on multiple TVs and a late 20s/early 30s crowd. You are looking for a hotel in a specific price range, and would like for it to be near the bar…you don’t know how late of a night it’s going to be, since the Red Sox are in the World Series, after all.

As you drive into the city, your GPS/Cell/WiMAX Phone displays a comparative list of bars and hotels within 5 miles of each other. Each bar/hotel combination also displays the level of matching criteria based on your previously-input requirements. A dive bar with sports on multiple TVs, but with a college crowd, might display as matching 67%. It may be paired with a hotel two miles away that meets your price range, amenities, and availability at 90%.

A couple of blocks later, you happen upon a bar and hotel combination that are both 90%+ matching your criteria and within a mile of each other. You set it to book your room, park at the hotel, check in, and head straight to the pub just in time for the opening pitch.

Andy mentioned the fact that so many people are trying to define Web 3.0 as Web 2.0 becomes more settled into our marketing psyches.

In my opinion, Web 3.0 is in the works and it’s a combination of three key things that are happening:

  • Microformats
  • GPS/Geographic Location
  • Open Wireless Networks

What Are Microformats?

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Popularity: 39% [?]

Mobile Lifestyle Lesson: Always Have Something to Do (Especially if it’s analog)

Today, I’m spending most of the day as a work day…I just spent quite a bit of time putting receipts into our shared Google Spreadsheet, which we’re using to manage and balance expenses.

One of the things that I’ve learned on this trip is to always have something to do, because you never know when you’re going to not be able to do what you intended to, when you’ll be waiting on someone for something, or when you’ll end up on a Metro with 20 minutes to burn.  This happened a bit ago as I ducked into Starbucks to get some work done…no power outlet and my laptop battery was dead.  Here I was, with a stack of receipts and nothing to do with them.  Since I rode my bike here, I’m a few miles from the van and my books that I usually bring along with me.

What I did have, however, was the smaller of my two digital cameras and a stack of receipts.  I also have a group of virtual assistants based out of India through a company called GetFriday.

As I was organizing my receipts, waiting for a power outlet to open up, I seriously considered photographing each receipt, sending the images to GetFriday, having them enter the data into a pre-formatted spreadsheet, then I would just copy that to the shared spreadsheet.  The idea is that I would be able to at least make progress in the meantime rather than simply wasting the time away, listening to my iPod, waiting for an outlet to open up.

Cumbersome?  Absolutely.

Luckily, as I was organizing the last of the receipts, a table opened up near an outlet and I input them myself.

But, I think that this exemplifies the mantra of “Always have something to do” and what becomes possible.  When I talk to people about outsourcing, the first response I always get back is something to the effect of “I have no idea what I would outsource.”  Until I made the jump and hired them, neither did I.

In this instance, what would otherwise be considered laziness could have turned into an efficiency.

Next time, though, I’ll be sure to have a book on hand.

Popularity: 25% [?]