HOWTO: Travel more intelligently

This year I’ve taken 23 trips, travelled just shy of 106,000 miles, visited 28 cities, 4 continents, and 9 countries. Tomorrow I’m heading to London for my 29th city and my 10th country. It will also put me within striking distance of United 1k status. Over the course of such a travel schedule one tends to learns the tricks of the travel trade. I thought I’d share a few of mine.

  • Remember to download enough TV, movie, music, and game content before you embark on your journey. Network connections on the road, particularly in hotels and in foreign countries, can be extremely poor. I have more music than I know what to do with and tend to download enough video content to cover 150% of my travel time as I tend to wind down at night with a little TV. In order to take a gargantuan amount of rich media with me, I’ve purchased a 1TB Western Digital Passport, which I used to store my iTunes and iPhoto libraries.
  • Buy an iPad or iPhone or Android or some other device that will play music and video. I’d recommend one that allows you to install lots of cheap casual games as well. Both the iPad and iPhone 4 have 10 hours of video playback, which should comfortably get you through many long flights.
  • That being said, the longest flight I’ve ever flown was from Chicago to Hong Kong and took 15 hours. My iPad or iPhone 4 would have ran out of battery 2/3 of the way through. To rectify this situation I’ve purchased the Zagg Sparq 2.0, which adds between 5 and 6 hours of battery life to your iPad. Additionally, I ensure my laptop is fully charged so I can use that as a glorified battery charger in the air.
  • Ever try and find an outlet at an airport only to find them all taken by people charging their laptops and their cell phones? Yeah, me too. Go and buy a Belkin mini 3 port power strip and don’t worry about that problem anymore. In addition to turning a single outlet into three, it has two USB 2.0 powered plugs. Beware though! The USB plugs will not charge and iPad. Also great for conferences.
  • If you’re traveling with a friend or your significant other, you might consider buying a headphone splitter. When Diana and I travel, she can plug her headphones into this and we can both comfortably watch my iPad.
  • Speaking of headphones, do yourself a favor and buy some nice over the hear, noise canceling ones. I have the classic Bose around the hear headphones, which are comfortable and block out the jet engines. Even without any sound they do a great job of blocking out the sound of crying babies during takeoff and landing.
  • Get yourself a 22” carry-on. It’s not really well known, but domestic carry-on limitations are usually more liberal than international ones. 22” is the international standard.
  • You don’t need to pack 14 distinct outfits for a two week vacation. I promise that they have washers and driers wherever you are going that operate, more or less, how the ones at your home does. I don’t think I’ve been to a hotel yet that didn’t offer wash and fold service either.
  • When you’re picking your seat find a seat that’s as close to the front of the plane as possible. This allows for a quicker exit when deboarding and usually keeps you away from toilet seats. Be sure to check out SeatGuru before you choose your seat.
  • Avoid any line containing one of the following: families with children, elderly people, someone in a wheelchair. Instead, look for people with roller laptop bags in suits; they’re the ones who will navigate lines the most quickly.
  • Stand on the right and walk on the left.

The last note I’ll mention is to find a decent worldwide carrier and stick with them until you hit status. Things get a whole lot better once you hit status on a single airline. I love United, which is #1 among the top carriers in on-time departures. I’ve heard others who enjoy Delta.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” –Mark Twain

Year in Review

  1. The year began in Koh Phangan, Thailand with my friend Chris Lea. We spent a month laying on beaches, swinging in hammocks, and drinking booze out of buckets.
  2. While in Thailand I got some more bamboo work done on my left arm.
  3. In February I went down to Miami for Future of Web Apps to talk about scaling your tech teams.
  4. Around my birthday I was able to score a copy of Netscape Navigator 2.0, still in the box, signed by Marc Andreessen.
  5. March brought the usual trip down to Austin, TX for SXSW. I spoke on a panel titled, “Designers and Developers: Why can’t we all just get along?”
  6. In April I attended the Social Foo Camp, which is an invite-only nerdfest put on by O’Reilly.
  7. May was an insane month of travel in a year of insane travel. I spent a week in Michigan, a week in Prague, a day in Phoenix, and a few days in Boulder, CO.
  8. While I was in Michigan, Jonathan and I got our pictures taken by my high school sweetheart, Erica, for our mom for Mother’s Day.
  9. When I returned from Prague I’d made the big decision to leave Digg and build a startup with Matt Galligan. Matt and I created a company called Crash Corp. that was going to build augmented reality and location-based games.
  10. In June I got a new face.
  11. Matt and I agreed to each take a month off to clear our heads before jumping into startup mode. For unknown reasons he decided to spend his month in the Midwest. I, on the other hand, chose to go to Amsterdam, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, and London. This marked my second month off for the year, which was awesome.
  12. I spent about ten days in Norway with my buddy Arne Fismen (Side note: His last name means “fart man” in Norwegian, which is definitely worse than my last name) and was able to fulfill a childhood dream of mine by visiting the world famous fjords of Norway. I can’t express my appreciation enough for what Arne and his family did for me. It was truly a magical experience.
  13. When I returned from Europe I spent a few days in San Francisco before heading down to San Diego for my buddy Dana’s bachelor party.
  14. After Dana’s bachelor party I moved to Boulder, CO to get to work on Matt and I’s company.
  15. Soon after getting on the ground and starting to work through things Matt and I realized we needed to change direction. As a result SimpleGeo was born, which provides location services to developers.
  16. While building SimpleGeo I decided to, after 11 years, switch from PHP to Python as my language of choice.
  17. The change of direction was a watershed moment for the company. Things crystallized for both us and the investors we were pitching. It wasn’t long after this that First Round Capital agreed to be our lead investor.
  18. October was mostly sent flying around to New York City and San Francisco pitching investors, VC’s, etc.
  19. In November we closed a $1.5m round of financing from some of tech’s most well-known investors. I consider this to be the greatest achievement of my career so far.
  20. Over Thanksgiving I spent a few days down in Tulum, Mexico.
  21. In December I flew up to Seattle, WA for a quick visit. It’s still home to me and I can’t wait to move back.

According to TripIt and Dopplr I spent 142 days traveling this year. I don’t have complete numbers, but I’m guessing I logged over 80,000 miles this year on various airlines. As in the tradition of last year, I think it’s only appropriate that I create a list of my year in cities.

  • Koh Samui, Thailand
  • Koh Phangan, Thailand
  • Bangkok, Thailand
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Miami, Florida
  • Austin, Texas
  • Sebastopol, California
  • Ypsiltanti, Michigan
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • East Jordan, Michigan
  • San Francisco, California
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Boulder, Colorado
  • Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Roskilde, Denmark
  • Oslo, Norway
  • Bergen, Norway
  • Askvoll, Norway
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Cork, Ireland
  • London, United Kingdom
  • New York City, New York
  • San Diego, California
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Ashland, Wisconsin

Creating the perfect bathroom

I do a fair amount of traveling and have been subjected to at least three, arguably four, cultural buckets (European, North American, Asian, and South American). One thing that I always find humor in is the drastic variations on bathrooms from one culture to the next. My experiences have led me to think about what would make the perfect bathroom, by taking bits and pieces from around the world to create a single bathroom.

  • Toilets in Europe and the UK have two flush mechanisms. One is a small button with a single dot on it and the second, larger button, has two dots on it. I find this to be an extremely simple and elegant solution to conserving water.
  • Speaking of toilets, have you ever crapped on a Japanese toilet?! Holy. Shit. Besides my Googler friends, who have been happily crapping on space age Japanese toilets for years, we’ve all been missing out. Seat warmers, bidets, music, automatic lids, and freaking medical sensors! I mean, why don’t they just add laser beams?
  • Public restrooms in Europe, the UK, and Japan have fully enclosed small rooms for their toilets. There’s absolutely no cracks or open air around you. Total privacy while taking a crap in public. Pure genius.
  • Showers in every place I’ve been to in Europe and many in the UK have two knobs, as you’d expect, but they do totally different things. One knob is temperature (many have the actual temperature numbers on them) and the other is pressure. Never fumble around adjusting hot and cold until you get it just right!
  • In Thailand their plumbing systems weren’t made for flushing toilet paper and such so they have a small spray hose (think of the sprayer by your sink attached to a wall by the toilet). Toilet paper is merely used to dry off your clean bottom. I got used to this method pretty quickly and much prefer it over toilet paper.

If I ever do build my own home or renovate another bathroom I’ll be including all of these in my bathroom as I think they really do make the perfect bathroom all together.

Year in Review

  1. The end of 2008 marks the end of my first year as Digg’s Lead Architect. In that time we’ve rewritten the majority of the site using frameworks that I built. We’re currently rewriting the underlying data access layer to be horizontally partitioned, elastic, services oriented and multi-homed.
  2. In early January, Digg Images launched and, with it, the result of months of work resulting in a completely rewritten submission framework for Digg. This project resulted in me writing and releasing Net_Gearman. I consider this project to be some of my best work at Digg.
  3. In early January I snuck off to Vail for one last snowboarding trip before back surgery. It was on this trip that I finally became comfortable with Western black diamonds, including an awkward drop off of an 8+ foot precipice into 3+ feet of fluffy powder.
  4. On January 23rd, 2008 I went in for back surgery. Two hours after surgery I was up and walking around without a hint of sciatica or back pain. I can’t thank Dr. Fred Naraghi enough for what I view as a second chance at life.
  5. 2008 will be known as the Year of the Conferences for me. I spoke at Future of Web Apps in Miamion a panel at SXSW on scaling websitesMySQL Conference on Services Oriented Architecture, Web 2.0 Expo in New York City, Future of Web Apps in London with Blaine Cook, Future of Web Design on the friction between developers and designers, and Q-Con in San Francisco on Digg’s architecture.
  6. The summer brought another bout of triathlon training. Along with my friend Mark Lewandowski, I trained for my first Olympic distance triathlon, which I ended up finishing in 2 hours, 50 minutes and change. As part of our training Mark and I also did a 72 mile bike race around Lake Tahoe. The race included 3,900 feet of vertical gain over 72 miles and is, without a doubt, the most challenging endurance race of my life. I finished the race in 4 hours, 15 minutes and change.
  7. In June I was elected to the PEAR Group, which is the governing board of my favorite PHP project.
  8. In early September I launched PleaseDressMe with my friends AJ and Gary Vaynerchuk. The site continues to gain traction in the tshirt arena and is, to date, my most successful side project.
  9. In October Aubrey, Kevin and I went on a whirlwind tour of Europe that included Oktoberfest in Munich, London, and Amsterdam.
  10. November brought big news at Digg with the hire of my friend and release manager for PHP6, Andrei Zmievski, as Digg’s first Open Source Fellow.
  11. November also brought about me finally diving into Python and Django for a side project. I’ve built an API for iPhone games that my friend Garren and I plan on releasing soon. More on this to come.
  12. December brought another trip to Thailand with my good friend Chris Lea. We’d originally planned to do Thailand, Cambodia and either Laos or Vietnam, however the islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Samui had other ideas. I type this sitting on Haad Lamai on Koh Samui. So far it’s been an epic trip with highlights including New Year’s Eve on Haad Rin Nok and a trip back to Haad Rin Nok tomorrow for another Full Moon Party.

This year I’m going to follow the year in cities theme that so many other blogs follow because I feel I really have done a ridiculous amount of travel this year.

  • San Francisco, CA
  • Miami, FL
  • Austin, TX
  • San Diego, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Vail, CO
  • East Jordan, MI
  • New York, NY
  • Munich, Germany
  • London, United Kingdom
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Bangkok, Thailand
  • Haad Leela, Koh Phangan, Thailand
  • Haad Lamai, Koh Samui, Thailand

I’m going to start a new theme here today. Below is my year in open source software. This is a list of projects I’ve released publicly and/or have contributed to. I’m not sure how many lines of code this is, but this is, by far, my most prolific year in FOSS contributions.

Travel guide for Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here, but I’ve been to Thailand. I went last November. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life so far and I knew as soon as I arrived that I’d want to revisit Southeast Asia. The culture, pace, lifestyle, landscape, people were absolutely amazing.

Fast forward a year and I’m heading back to Southeast Asia with my friend Chris Lea for almost a month. A few friends have asked me what I’ve been doing to prepare for this big trip so I thought I’d write up some notes here.

  • First off, go to your local immunization clinic and get immunized. You’ll most likely get Typhoid, Tetanus, Hepatitis A/B and flu vaccines. Additionally, they’ll probably give you an antibiotic in case you eat something that “doesn’t agree with you” and malaria medication. In addition to these medications, I suggest you get a small first aid kit and some basic pain medication for those bucket induced hangovers. 
  • Make a color copy of your passport and give it to a friend or family member. Additionally, scan a copy and send it to yourself in an email as a PDF.
  • Register with the State Department that you’ll be overseas along with where you’ll be.
  • Call all of your credit card companies and tell them that you’re going to be out of the country, which countries you’ll be visiting and when you’re leaving/coming back. I went ahead and put fraud prevention on one of mine, which covers all of my cards against identify theft, including my bank accounts.
  • If you own an iPhone get the Pwnage tool and jailbreak/unlock your iPhone. It’s extremely important that you use the Pwnage tool as the QuickPwn doesn’t unlock the SIM card. In addition to this, I’ve installed a VoIP client, which will get me 1.8 cent phone calls back to the US from WiFi access points.
  • When you pack make sure to put a copy of your passport and your driver’s license in one bag and your passport in another. Additionally, split up your credit cards in this manner. Do NOT keep all of your identification and forms of payment in a SINGLE place.
  • Buy a key lock. All of the places I stayed at in Thailand last time had lockers in a secure closet/room. You could either use your own lock or one of theirs. I highly suggest you use your own.
  • This time around I’m leaving the camera to my companion, who is a professional photographer. If you’re not so lucky I highly  recommend the Cannon XTi or similar. In addition, I’d get a decent lens (I used the Canon 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens with great success last time) and an external hard drive that lets you rip photos directly from the camera’s card to the hard drive (e.g. DigiMate II).
  • If you’re going to be truly backpacking then I suggest a light sleeping bag, small travel pillow and a towel.
  • An absolute if you’re going to be island hopping is an LED headlamp.

Overall, Thailand is a great place to visit. It’s insanely cheap, easy to get around and the people there are very welcoming and accommodating.

Off to Thailand tomorrow

I’ve spent the last five days running around like a crazy man attempting to get everything in order for my forthcoming epic adventure. Tying up loose ends, wrapping up Digg Images, and purchasing last minute items. I’ve spent more time planning for this trip than I have any other trip in my life. The following is a list of things I’m taking with me.

  • My Chrome bag loaded up with my Canon Rebel XTi, Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens, Canon 28mm-135 f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens, a mono pod, a few books, a change of clothes, medications, 80GB portable hard drive that accepts CF cards for backing up my pictures and my iPhone for checking email, watching TV and listening to music.
  • I bought a REI Mars multi-day pack and loaded it up with clothes, more books, etc.

I’m not sure what else to pack. I’ve got a copy of all of the necessary documents, double checked that I have all the cables and chargers I need, notified all the necessary people where I’m going, etc. So, with that I’m going to take Crash to a friend’s house and get plenty of rest.

Thailand trip all fleshed out

So I spent a few hours in the Detroit Metro Airport fleshing out my trip to Thailand. I’ll be flying into Bangkok on the 14th of November. I actually arrive on the 15th and plan on spending four nights in the city at the Le Fenix Sukhumvit. Everyone I’ve talked to has told me to spend as little time in Bangkok as possible. I think four days should be plenty of time to see a few sites and get a feel for the city before leaving for the south.

On the 19th of November I board a plane for Ko Samui with a final destination of Had Rin Nok. I’ll be staying in a modest beach bungalow at the Sarikantang resort, which is located across the island on the  Had Leela beach. The reviews appear to be spectacular and it’s hard to argue with $30USD a night, which is actually on the high end for beach bungalows in the area. On the 24th I’ll be joining 10,000 travelers for the Full Moon Beach Party.

I’m really looking forward to this trip now that it’s more fleshed out. I plan on spending a lot of time relaxing and I hope to stay unplugged for most, if not all, of the trip. It’s also my first trip solo to another country, which is exciting.

If you’re going to be in any of the areas above at the same time as me feel free to contact me.

Better late than never

So in 2005 I said I’d travel to two different continents that year. Well, in 2007, just one year late; I’ll be visiting Europe and Asia. Earlier today I booked a ticket to London. I’ll be attending the Future of Web Apps conference and speaking about various Web 2.0’isms at The London Knowledge Lab.

I leave October 1st and come back on the 7th. If you’re going to be in the area and are so interested please do contact me and we’ll get a pint (or ten).

I'm going to Thailand

Well, it’s all set in stone. I bought a ticket this morning whose final destination is Bangkok, Thailand. I’m planning on spending a few days in Bangkok and then taking a flight down to the Surat Thani Province for the Koh Phangan full moon beach party.

If anyone has any input on what gear I should take with me, any sites I should definitely see, etc. I’d love to hear about it. Post it in the comments for all to share.