Work-caytion 2016 begins now!

I have the next twenty days to myself.

Meaning, I have the next twenty days (480 hours) to be completely in control of my own life, my schedule, who I see, where I go – I don’t think I’ve had that level of freedom in a long time.

It is currently some ungodly hour on GMT + 1 and I’m bubbling over with a sugar rush from chocolate and the sheer excitement of being here (okay, so maybe I’m a little bit jetlagged too).

I have great things that I have planned, both alone and with friends. And for the next twenty days I will see those plans to fruition and go home refreshed.

Here’s what’s different about this time rather than the past number of times I’ve been to Europe.

I will be stationary for the next 20 days (for except day trips to other nearby cities).

I wouldn’t be moving around as much.

Why?

Because traveling too fast is exhausting – for both your energy levels and your bank account.

I can only speak for myself, but I can’t possibly get anything worthwhile done, when I’m going around different cities in a whirlwind – as I’ve found out last time, by the time I stopped for 3 short days in Amsterdam then went to Vienna for a week, all I had wanted to do was to sleep. Not only did I not have the energy to do anything in Vienna, but it’d feel like that time was wasted – and I’m not a fan of time-wasting.

Not only that, cluttering your schedule with tasks and sights takes the enjoyment out from the traveling experience (and this is another reason why, I almost always do solo traveling, as with others, compromises will have to be made).

So now it’s 4:12 AM. I’m making up a day’s plan and delegating tasks, a great start of the day I’d say.

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WestJet Transatlantic Review: Cheap Flights to Gatwick

For what it was worth and for what I paid – which was around 200 USD in total, I can’t really complain – the fare was phenomenally cheap – however, now I know why. I don’t have previous Transatlantic experience with WestJet, in fact they’ve only been offering their Transatlantic flights since the beginning of May and I was eager to hop on board to see what the fuss is about, especially, how they stack up to rival European budget airlines like Norwegian Air (which by the way is one of my favorite airlines of all time).

From the start, it all looked promising, the boarding procedure went smooth, the staff were friendly and the seats were comfortable (though, the WestJet 767-300 isn’t as comfortable as Norwegian Air’s 787-800.)

However, with the WestJet base fare, things like seat selection and meals are to be bought separately – and so I ordered ahead of time a seat and a meal. Drinks too, of the alcoholic variety, are for purchase (unlike various other major airlines.)

While the seat was no problem, the meal came as a great shocker – wait, was this actually made for human consumption?

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To begin with, the mashed potato was dry, the meat was rubbery, and the vegetables tasteless. The only edible thing in there was probably the brownie. 

Luckily, I had packed a separate salad from WholeFoods ahead of time, so I ate that while chatting to my seat mate. However, my experience with WestJet only seem to get worse after that – because the staff apparently didn’t bother with garbage collection until well after the meal. I was a little ticked by the lack of efficiency and got up to give them the tray myself so I could use the washroom and not deal with it later.

Then after I came back from the washroom my seat mate told me that they’d only began collecting trash because I’d complained.

Oh, how nice to know.

Then a couple hours later – we were served another ‘meal’ except, it couldn’t be hardly called that – apple slices and a piece of banana bread ? Really?

Not exactly what I was looking forward to eating.

Horrible food experience and timing onboard aside, the flight experience itself was good. But would I do it again for the cheap fare and horrible food? Most likely not, especially when their European rival Norwegian Air offers more pleasant experience with more competitive offerings.

The inspiration behind working anywhere

This is a picture I took at Schloss Schönbrunn of me, well, working. My phone prompted important emails for me to answer and I thought, since I had my laptop with me, why not sit down and type it out – as it’s way faster – so there I was, sitting in front of one of the most important architectural, cultural and historical monuments in Austria and typing away.

How totally North American of me to work on “vacation”, or so my friends would say.

The thing is though, I used to dislike when I was contacted during my personal time, however now I realize that comes with any job – there are going to be emergencies, there are going to be times when there’s no choice but to plop down anywhere and deal with the situation. Instead of shrinking away from the responsibilities, one must be prepared to take care of them no matter where they were.

So if this was already the case, why couldn’t you work for yourself anywhere? The principle is the same. Only you’d be in direct line of communication with clients rather than management etc. and in which case, it might just be easier since emails are not passed on and issues could be dealt with first hand.

Home: things I didn’t know I’d miss until I wandered afar

Familiarity of home was one thing I didn’t think I’d miss all that much when I began to travel.

Why should I miss a familiar place when all I had for it was contempt?

Though now, I do have a different perspective. I’m going to enjoy myself no matter where I am, or how I am.

First day back was easy. I started slow, easing myself into the day, surprisingly though, I’m not experiencing any jet lag after flying for 14 hours and not catching a wink on the plane.

I decided to treat myself today – and treat myself I mean, picking up some fresh fish and cooking it – I’ve been traveling and eating on the go and admittedly, the stuff you’d usually eat might not be available at the destination – or it might be exorbitantly expensive, or ill-fitted for your tastebuds.

For example, I challenge you to try and find fresh seafood in Vienna (possibly difficult feat.)

And of course my diet has been a little atrocious as of late…

Read: Schnitzel, schnitzel, schnitzel, sausage, cake, apfelstrudel, cake schnitzel sandwich, beer, beer, wine, wine…wine…and more wine…

I went a little all out there and ended up missing vegetables and home cooking.

So today, first day back, I decided to cook for myself and the result is – healthy, delicious, home cooked food that I didn’t think I would miss, but really really did miss.

 

How to achieve the results you seek

If someone asked me this question before my trip, I’d give them the reflexive answer:

“Work hard! And don’t stop until you get there!”

Well – yes, hard work is required, there’s no doubt about that, but to facilitate the outmost productivity in one’s day (ex: think about an orange juicer – cheap with many parts that don’t work well together and a more expensive and sleek looking one that can be calibrated to give the most output and overtime equates to less cleanup time and headache on your part) which one would you prefer?

In other words, you don’t want to wake up everyday without a plan – not knowing how to use your precious 24 hours. It’s easy to get lazy and not want to do things – it’s also easy to lay in bed until 1pm, ‘thinking’ about what you’re going to do, and only do them when you realize it’s 3pm in the afternoon already. Clearly, this route about things is not productive at all.

So, how do you achieve the result you seek?

I say work backwards.

Look at the results you want and work backwards from there.

It is always better to give yourself plenty of time by over-estimating than under-estimating how much hours you need to put in to get something done.

Say you estimate something will take 100 hours to complete and you have 2 weeks to do it.

Depending on your preferences, you could divide that 100 hours up to neat 8 hour days, or alternatively you could work 10 hours or even 12 hours straight to get it finished in less time, so, in the case of 10 hours / day you could take 4 days off to do as you please, knowing that the project is finished and submitted.

Setting your own hours and working flexibly changes the game completely. How I see and experience travel now is not the same as taking a ‘vacation’ anymore. I still manage to work remotely, albeit on much reduced hours, still, work is work. And in my previous post: “how much work can you expect to do while traveling?” the case becomes, how well did you pre-plan your day to day activity around this chunk of time you’ll have to sit down and ignore all distractions? And depending on the timezone you’re on, you might have to wake up at odd hours to conference. Ultimately, my goal is that I could work anywhere, just like I’m back home. Whether there is an office space, or I’m in a cafe, working away. It shouldn’t make much of a difference to me.

And since I’m currently packing to head home for a couple of weeks. I’ve set up this calendar. Since my ultimate goal is overlooking environment and being able to work anywhere – I did some preplanning of the next 3 weeks – that way, I can ensure there’s reduced chances of any last minute surprises and forge on ahead smoothly.

What am I doing here?

Life is a journey. It’s never about the place you find yourself in, if you know where you’re going to next.

I’d scribbled this down in a journal while sitting on a train. After stopping by in various European cities again, I’d began to understand this concept. It isn’t about where you are in life – as there is a common denominator in the way of life no matter which continent, which country, which city you find yourself in. However, what can be distinguished is your ambitions and desires – what can be distinguished is your desire to be somewhere, and how that plays into your personal growth.

Everyday is a journey. Everyday is a lesson.

You’ll never know how much you could handle until you’re caught in the situation.

Life is about moving forward.

Life is about managing disappointments and soldiering on.

Life is also about doing all those things that scare you and not playing it safe.

Life is about savouring the moments.

Life is about following intuitions.

Life is about being open to opportunities.

There are times where I’m scared and I doubt, times I’d rather pull the cover over my head and wish everything away – but then I tell myself – where is the fun in that?

Already on this trip, there are times I think it would be so much easier if I just stayed in North America but then, I also wouldn’t have realized things as I realize them now – or be as willing to work for things as I am now.

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The things you take for granted, someone else is wishing for

I didn’t know what I expected when I found myself back in Amsterdam.

Though there were things on my to-do list, I had very little expectations in the process of crossing them off – in the beginning, there wasn’t all that much motivation. Not really, for one reason or another, I was hoping my love for this city would wane over time (wouldn’t that be easier? If I had nothing to try for? ).

However, Amsterdam, a city I’ve had the pleasure of visiting for almost half a dozen time now, looks as gorgeous as ever.

I’m lucky, it didn’t stop being sunny since I got here, my friend tells me. And I reply that I have great timing. Every single time.

Between chic cafe visits and photography, I had time to squeeze in a date on the patio. It was one of the most memorable dates I’ve had, not just as of late, but kind of in the Top 3 category, though I know I shouldn’t really give it too much weight or meaning, even though I just did.

Yes.

And it’s more than just that.

It’s kind of the bits and pieces of everything that comes into the peripheral and into my consciousness. It’s the bits and pieces of everything that remind me how life could be, if not a blurry outline of what I already know I want…

Yes.

It all then became a reaffirmation.

That I was standing in my own way, dithering away, telling myself I shouldn’t, even though everything else points to I should.

I tell myself it’s not a big deal.

I tell myself I don’t want to see you again.

I tell myself a lot of things.

Then in a crowd, I always look for you.

And when my mind’s blank, it always drifts back to you.

Even though I tell myself that’s not what I want.

And it loops.

Amsterdam.

 

How long should you travel for?

“Travel as much as you can, as far as you can, as long as you can. Life`s not meant to be lived in one place.” – Unknown

As I sit in a cafe in Hamburg, Germany I’m wondering, just how long in a city is optimal. It all feels like a whirlwind to me, landing back on this continent on the 14th from Los Angeles, then flying to Hamburg on the 15th from Oslo, Norway. I’ve been here a total of three days and two nights and now I’m waiting next to the ZOB Hamburg (Bus Port Hamburg) ready to move on to my next destination.

But just how far should you travel for, or linger in a city?

I used to think I have a clear idea how long that would be.

A week. 7 days. It’s neither too long nor too short in a city if you want to travel slow and appreciate the city and leave room for more experiences than just marching to all the sights, take two hundred selfies and get out before sundown. For some, that might be the type of travel they prefer, quick and intense, but for me, I prefer slowly exploring a city, often aimless and without much expectations, because often, you’ll never know what you’ll see, you’ll never know who you’ll meet that inspires you in some way.

Nowadays, I find that a couple of days or even a week is insufficient. I’d love to be in a city for a lot longer like a couple of weeks instead of just one, in order to capture the vibe and essence of the city. Or better yet, as I travel I’ve become bolder and more spontaneous in my decision making. So really, in time this question becomes – “How well do you want to know the city? On how many different levels?”

Travel Hack: Book 2 one way ticket instead of round trip!

I dont mean to brag but

I don’t mean to brag, but I sort of also do. What you’re looking at is an one way transatlantic ticket, booked at the decisive moment by yours truly. I don’t know about you, but when I saw that price, a non-stop flight too, I thought many…many things.

One of them was, damn, that’s practically free!

And of course, ‘take my money, take my money right now!!!’

$214 wouldn’t even cover half the cost of this leather jacket I have my eyes on…less than the price of an unlocked iPhone 5s…less than going out for two weekends…less than a lot of things. But look at this, London is now officially happening! How fun!!

This is the first time of me booking an one way ticket (gasp!) and I have never done that before…cause I always thought I return at a set date ‘x’, however, booking only one leg of the journey gives me unimaginable freedom over when, and where I chose to return from.

Not only that, this open flight also opens my mind up for different ideas. Should I go to Germany, get a job and apply for a work visa when I get there? Or should I go do some extended volunteering work somewhere in Europe? Should I go rent an apartment somewhere and figure it out for the duration of my stay? Should I flock to where my friends are and where my interests lie? The possibilities are endless. And it’s so freeing to have them be so endless.

So take away point: say fuck it, and go do it!

New clothes or another plane ticket? Well, that’s easy.

It’s a bit funny how I got the news just a mere two days after I penned the piece, Travel Hack: make traveling affordable for yourself. So I have some good news and bad news. Bad news is, icky extended relatives are visiting at the end of May – good news is, that’s a good reason to get out of here…Yes. This plan is backed by even my own mother to say the least.

That would make that I’ve been to Europe how many times now this year alone? 3? Wow. This is really fantastical isn’t it. It’s almost as if I’m fulfilling a dream one step at a time, because, I always had that dream of splitting my time between continents anyways and this year…it’s happening (though not exactly the way I wanted it, but it’s happening!)

So this definitely makes the coming two months the busiest in a while, but I’m confident in making things happen. Like I always do!!

Let’s do this!