I’m going to go surfing on the east coast of florida… and, decisions.

For my sister’s birthday, we went for a beach weekend on the gulf coast at a resort. After a month of hanging out at my parents house, getting really ready to go do something, when I got there, my wanderlust kicked back into full swing.

So, I began to really crave travel.

Lately I’ve been thinking. I want to do something meaningful with my life. I want to live with no regrets. And my options are to find a town in America to settle down in and get a job. Buy a house. Make some friends, and engage with a community. A beautiful town, mind you. With nice people.

My second option is just to travel the world because, why not. Instead of settling down, I will practice my favorite skills (surfing, hiking, climbing, snowboarding), and instead of getting to know my neighbors I’ll be getting to know fellow travelers and locals. I’ll be attending meetups and nomad startup events.

I’m 27. I’m really hitting the ripe age for solo travel. I have always made decent money working remote, so the working thing is totally covered. My only question is, will I enjoy it.

If I use NYC for 3 months earlier this year as an example:

  • I didn’t attend many events (except in the first 2 weeks)
  • I loved exploring
  • I got bored after 3 months
  • It was a little too expensive
  • Living out of a backpack was interesting and not an overly negative experience.

If I use living in Boulder, Co. for 3 months last year as an example:

  • I attended plenty of events
  • I didn’t snowboard, even once.
  • I loved the coffee shop scene.
  • I met a bunch of cool people.
  • I got bored after 3 months
  • It was a little too expensive.

Truth is, I’ve never lived away from mainland USA. I think a 1 month commitment is plenty for any spot, and I’d want to make sure I can either Hike, Climb, Surf, Skate, or Snowboard every single day. I’d also possibly prefer to be with a group of people to avoid social isolation. But being by myself can be fun, too.

So, since my home base is Florida, and I have a wedding to go to in 20 days, I’m going to pack my bag in my car, go to the east coast of Florida, and go surfing. I’m going to head up and down the coast between Miami and Jacksonville, stay in AirBnBs (and hostels in Miami), and if I’m stoked after a week or two of surfing, I’ll head up to Asheville, NC to do some hiking and stay in hostels. Thats my stretch goal, I doubt I’ll get farther than Asheville in 3 weeks.

During this time, I’ll be exploring what it means to be a nomad in America. This is much different than being a nomad in other countries because it is more expensive and I have my car. But the similarity will be the novelty of being in changing surroundings on a regular basis, hostel living, and focusing on what I love (surfing and hiking.)

So, it’s another test, similar to NYC.

At the end of those 3 weeks I’ll be heading to a friend’s wedding in Vegas and then I’m free to either move to the west coast & get a job or to set my first destination for my travels.

Dark Days

My current contract expires in 1 month. The product we spent 3 months building turned out to be a flop. I learned a ton of new skills, mostly design and frontend development skills, so it hasn’t been a total waste. I also got to spend time in New York, getting everything paid for.

But now I’m a little depressed. Not because I’m “losing my job”, but because I don’t really know what I want to do next.

I considered trading in a car and getting a van and traveling around, living in the van and hiking/climbing. This is a big maybe.

I deleted all my social media and my 4G cellphone plan in favor of having a throwaway phone.

I feel like I’m shedding all this baggage I’ve had in my life. Every month I shed more of it. But I have yet to find something to replace it with.

I feel most at peace when I’m walking/hiking/climbing/traveling. So I suppose I will do that until I figure out next steps. Currently, I’m spending 4-5 hours a day in central park, just walking around and climbing boulders (barefoot.) It soothes the soul.

I’m going to take a break from coding. I think being a coder is one of my biggest roadblocks to uncovering the purpose of my life, because I always feel pressured to join a new project. It’s time to start something different. Do some manual labor. Get some fresh air. Be a ski lift operator.

 

AirBnBing in Joshua Tree and Yosemite.

I just turned 27. My best friend Anthony works for AirBnB, doing social media stuff. Part of his photography job is to take pictures of sick AirBnB’s. So he invited me to come along with him to keep him company.

It was a very last minute arrangement, but I got a last minute flight from NYC to LAX and we jumped in the car. First, spending a night under the stars on a hill at Joshua Tree (pictured below), and second, spending a day in Yosemite.

When I landed in LA, my friend was at work so I ubered to Venice beach and proceeded to get day drunk (so glamorous.) In the bar, I met a fellow nerd and we talked about World of Warcraft and Skyrim. Hilariously enough, the bar tenders joined in and we had a rousing nerd conversation.

The next day, we drove out to J Tree. I was made anxious by the desert (PTSD from living in Southern Arizona without an A/C), but by the time I got to our AirBnB I was ecstatic. We took pictures of abandoned houses and walked through the rattlesnake infested fields. Joshua Tree does feel extremely peaceful, and it feels as though you can reach out and grab the horizon.

We drank a bottle of wine on the rocks under the stars and talked about our lives, as we are prone to do.

The next day we were off to Yosemite. It was a grueling drive through typical central Californian boredom. But when we arrived at the foothills of the Sierras we were once again lightened. The rolling green hills looked like something out of “Oh, The Places You’ll Go.” A completely surreal landscape, winding higher and higher into the mountains.

We listened to “Say Hi To Your Mom” as we ascended the mountains at sunset. It was my first time listening to that band, and I was completely taken aback by the combination of “basic-ness” and smooth-as-butter melodies. I’m glad I found a new band to listen to. Here’s probably the most catchy song on the album:

We took pictures of the AirBnB for work, and headed to Yosemite Valley where we spent the day winding through trails and seeking boulders to barefoot climb. The granite in Yosemite is extremely unforgiving compared to the boulders of New York.

That was my birthday. I was out of cell phone reception, so I was unable to receive calls from friends and family, but I received an overwhelming amount of facebook attention and it touched my heart as always.

I can’t say the experience this week has been wholly positive. I am exhausted from the heat and the desert. I was planning on spending summer in LA but now I am thinking twice. My friend had to leave early due to a family emergency which is definitely bringing down the mood and making me think twice.

I am sitting in his apartment in LA, waiting for tomorrow, when I will fly back to NYC by midnight. When I get home I just want to close my heavy blinds, watch netflix, and sleep for 24 hours, but I have work on Monday morning.

That’s okay – I know the exhaustion will pass.

I get exhausted easily. It makes me second guess living a nomadic lifestyle – but I know I am fine as long as I am slow traveling and not racing around the country, having 12 hour flight days multiple times per week. In fact, I find that kind of jet setting to be the epitome of anxiety for myself.

The reason I made the last minute flight was simply because I wanted to experience something amazing. And I did. But now I am tired.

There’s so much to this story that I was unable to recount here.

~ Good night from Culver City.

A Month in a New York City AirBnB

I’m writing this at 7 AM on the morning I leave my AirBnB. I woke up early due to drinking IPAs last night (I don’t handle hops well.) But it was just as well, because I’ve packed up and cleaned up my AirBnB and I’m ready to go.

A month ago I embarked on a journey to New York for 3 months to test my ability to live a backpacker lifestyle. At the end of these 3 months I am planning on going back to Florida for a bit, getting a passport, hanging out with a friend in LA before backpacking the summer in Southeast Asia or Europe (haven’t decided.) This trip is a test of my ability to slow travel with just my 40 Liter backpack (Osprey Farpoint). It’s also a test of how much I will enjoy living the digital nomad lifestyle.

So on to my month-long minimalist nomad/AirBnB experience in New York.

Where, and How, I Lived

I lived in Greenwich village, which is located next to NYU. Notable venues are the Film Forum, IFC theater, Washington Square Park, The Uncommons (boardgame coffee shop), and a host of cool bars. I lived in a 2 bedroom AirBnB with a work roommate.

I generally felt inspired. The energy of the city and the freedom of my life gave way to heightened creativity. I am now more interested in colors, design, art of all types. The world seems brighter, my brain feels lighter.

For the first time in my life, I allowed myself to relax on weekend days. “Wasting days” sleeping in, reading, etc. I believe the reason I could do this is because my apartment was very dark (since it is shaded by taller buildings.) Also, because I felt that I was “part of the action.” I never felt “cut off from society”. Rather, my apartment was my refuge, and I took it very often.

Contrast this to suburbia where I go stir crazy in my apartment after 8 hours.

I am chronically stressed, so this is actually a huge step forward in my life. I can nap and “chill.”

I worked hard. I worked out hard. I chilled hard. I socialized hard.

As an introvert, I am more social when I travel, and that feeling never left me. I met a lot of new people. I went to a lot of new venues. I had more than one hangover. I love /r/nycmeetups!

Backpacking Thoughts

I didn’t bother washing my clothes at a laundromat – I just did it in the sink. It was a fun experiment and the clothes came out pretty well. Will continue doing this.

It’s hard to be minimalist during winter. You need a lot of heavy clothes and various layers. It’s definitely possible, but I imagine having an all-year wardrobe that fits NY’s unstable climate would be a challenge. I suppose this is why most backpackers hang out in balmy countries (southeast asia).

I purchased a couple of things – a Nintendo 3Ds, an Amazon Kindle, some jogger pants, and a new shirt. I had to get rid of a pair of pants and a shirt to make room for the new ones, but it felt like a good  trade-off. Everything I bought was with the intention of being travel-friendly.

I had to be conscious of travel size while making purchases. This kept me from making unconscious/rash decisions to buy things, and saved me money.

It was very easy to eat well without any cooking supplies. I don’t foresee any issue eating regular meals as a backpacker, provided there are some restaurants and grocery stores around.

I started thinking about having a permanent residence. Some kind of hunger for a “house” to “settle down in.” I suspect this is a consequence of feeling transient. All things in good time, I suppose.

The 30-day residence quickly felt like home. I rarely felt out of place. I felt happy.

Final Thoughts

I definitely feel that this lifestyle fits with my personality. It will take work in order to make it work long-term. It may be that I need a bit more than just a 40L backpack to do this long term, simply due to the difficulty of having a varied, all-season, minimalist wardrobe. But maybe I’ll figure it out.

I am also realizing that I’m a city person. I have such a craving for energy. New York is the only city that enjoys walking almost as much as I do. Please don’t make me drive a car, ever again.

I feel focused, clear, and simple. My life does not feel stagnant right now. I feel that I am living in the Tao. No complaints, mannnn

~Om Shanti

I Survived a Week in NYC

I survived one week in NYC.

Things that I have found cool so far:

  • “The Uncommons” – a coffee shop right by where I live where people play Magic The Gathering and other card/board games.
  • I met people from Japan as well as Paris. Meeting internationals is easy.
  • Unlimited food options.
  • People have good fashion sense which is fun to watch.
  • Endless niche stores, including a japanese game store which sells every system under the sun.
  • The public library at Bryant Park has a vintage, old world, scholarly vibe which is new to me.
  • Manhattan has everything. Russian bath house? No problem.
  • I live right next to IFC Center, which has an endless stream of indie films playing.
  • Jaywalking. Everywhere. And the pedestrians own the streets.
  • My room gets really dark because the sun is shaded by buildings
  • Lots of cool old signage, buildings and grunge/decay porn.
  • I went to a satsang, chanting sanskrit on the 17th floor of a business building.

Things I have found hard to deal with:

  • Cant see the sun even when its a nice day because the buildings are too tall.
  • Tons of noise at night when trying to sleep, and especially in the morning around 7 AM.
  • I miss the beach and sunlight.

The photo that leads this article was taken on 42nd street in Midtown. I have never seen a fallout shelter sign before.

I feel inspired by the city to look at art, be creative, and to be my own person. I feel as if I can be whoever I want to be amongst all the possibilities here. The suburbs, in contrast, cater to the lowest common denominator of humanity.

Packing for NYC / 3 Month Trip

Okay so today I’m packing for NYC, for a 3 month startup/business trip. I’m leaving tomorrow. I have a car and half of an apartment worth of stuff that I’m leaving in storage. Video games, a desktop computer, and a ton of books, a bike. About a car full of stuff.

Originally I wanted to pack my Osprey 40L bag + a full large suitcase. But I can’t bring myself to do it.

Below is my first attempt at packing. 3 Pairs of pants, 2 shirts, 1 sweater, a big jacket, 4 pairs of socks, a few pairs of underwear, 2 pairs of shorts, a beanie and a few t-shirts. Two pairs of shoes (my vans and some generic H&M shoes.)

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Beyond that, I’m only bringing my laptop, charger, toiletries, ear-bud headphones, etc.

It turned out to be too much stuff (I was pretty sure this would be the case) so I left out a few pairs of shorts, the jacket, and the extra backpack. I switched out the big jacket for a lighter jacket with no hood (wouldn’t work in the dead of winter.) But then again, I wouldn’t be bringing shorts or tee’s during winter.

Below is my final setup with everything packed.

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I really wanted to bring my Fjallraven backpack. It’s an amazing daypack. But I’m just not sure how I could do it (can’t you bring two bags on planes?) I decided against it.

So I guess the plan is to empty my bag of all the clothes once I get to the Airbnb, convert it to a messenger bag, and use it to bring my laptop to work everyday.

So look, I really am ready to leave the country for a while…

But I have this new job which is fun and exciting. I will hold off  leaving the country for the next 3 months while I explore what it’s like to be a nomad living out of a 40L bag.  My first thought is that packing for the changing seasons is a real pain.

At the end of the 3 months, I might elope. Or I might go to LA to surf. Either way, it will be a good learning experience

I’m the kind of guy who spends a lot of time inside…

When I have nothing better to do, I play video games. Sometimes I netflix and chill. and I hate that part of my life. I’m hoping that by having no “comfort” possessions I will be released from that cycle and I will go out and explore everything NYC has to offer. I want to get into doing yoga in a classroom setting (I normally do it by myself) and explore the music scene.

I’d love to have a guitar to play on, but I can’t bring my guitar on this journey.

There are a lot of limitations to this lifestyle.

My Career Ends at 30

Let it be known that I’m not a chump.

I read a lot of lifestyle design blogs. Early retirement stuff. Minimalist travel blogs. Those guys are not chumps. In that world, you’re only as cool as your mobility and freedom.

The old paradigm is to work for 40 years, enjoy a brief retirement followed by a stroke on a golf course.

The new paradigm is to move to Chiang Mai and live like a king while blogging about it and selling ebooks to americans who are trapped in cubicles, following you on instagram.

Sort of joking. Sort of actually how it is.

Anyway, what’s my plan?

Directly after college I worked for 2 years at a normal 9-5 job. I saved a ton of money. Essentially after that 2 years I can go spend 10 years in Chiang Mai if I want. But I didn’t do that.

I kind of just wandered around the U.S. for 2 years, living in like 5 states and hanging out with my friends, rock climbing and surfing. I didn’t travel internationally once. I also had maybe 3-4 “jobs” all of which I quit within 2 months. I started 1 startup, quit, then re-started the same startup and quit, costing about 6 months of time. I got involved with some weird shit. Career-wise, it was 2 years of “what the fuck am I doing?” followed by making enough money to get by.

But I grew so damn much in those two years.

Now I have a job, but with all the skills I’ve learned over 2 years of failure, I snagged a leadership position with a nice salary and a ton of creative and lifestyle freedom. I get to travel to big cities and live a fast paced lifestyle. I get to lead a team. I get to work remotely whenever I want. And my work makes a huge difference (at least to this startup.)

I’m 26, turning 27 in April. I figure I’m going to keep working in earnest until age 30. So it’s a race to make as much money as I can. Which means I’m not taking the safe bet of a safe job, but rather working in high growth positions for startups.

But I’m doing it with the reckless abandon of someone who doesn’t actually give a shit about the outcome. And that gives me a huge advantage.

At age 30, I’ll either be rich or I won’t. Either way, that’s the cutoff for my time in the rat race. At that point, I really will be traveling internationally for extended periods of time, and most importantly not being a full time programmer. I want to do other things with my time at that point (like write, make art, human-centric jobs, teaching, etc.)

Just because I’m grinding until age 30 does not mean I’m putting life on hold. I do most of my conference calls by the pool. I work long hours when I’m passionate, and when I lose that passion I spend days at the beach. I am excited about the opportunity to work in a metropolis (NYC) and meet people who are passionate about their careers. And I will still take vacations (sometimes extended) internationally.

If I wasn’t excited or passionate about my career, I would be busy traveling the world. But I choose to. It’s like a little game.

I want to make a million dollars by 30. It’s a difficult mission to accomplish. If I don’t accomplish it, I won’t beat myself up. But it’s driving me to make sure my career here in the states is exciting and rewarding.

Side note: I may possibly join remote year later this year if my job becomes more steady. I want to build a remote company that travels together, partying and building code.

Live like you’re going to die. Run your career like you’re about to retire.

Hacking, and Living out of a Bag.

I’m writing this blog lest I cease to exist. Over the past few years I have become somewhat a ghost. I feel that I’m melding with the internet and losing any personality I once had before I started my career. Not that I mind, I rather enjoy it, and if it weren’t for the fact that the coffee which I so desperately love may kill me, I may do it forever.

Or perhaps I am worried that my personality won’t be shown – I am so reclusive and self centered that I rarely find the time to communicate my intricate inner life. From the outside, I may look positively bland, which is terrifying and understandable. But reader, understand that there is infinite depth in this bearded computer hacker.

Foremost, I am a hacker. I have an engineering degree, but those days are long gone. I do believe that there is a place for engineering in the software world, but not in my world. I have no interest in building perfect, reliable systems. My interest is in building software that works to prove a point. Software that is alive, with all the bugs that come with it.

The decision came shortly after school. I got straight A’s on my algorithms courses in school, and I was recruited by the big name companies (Amazon, Linkedin, Google)… I just had to pass the interviews, which took a lot of preparation. Or I could join a startup which needed engineers and would hire me on the spot. I’m glad I chose the latter.

Years later, during an interview for Uber, I immediately ended the interview after the first question (write an interface for an iterator in Java.) I declared that there wasn’t a “culture fit.”

Anyway, I build systems, mostly by myself, very fast, and to prove a point. This is a startup mentality, and I don’t suppose I’ll ever grow in maturity to the point where I put this mentality down. It’s too fun. Instead, my career question has switched to: “where can I find a company/business that needs to rapidly prototype a technical solution to a problem that would provide them massive benefit if it were solved?”

The above question led me to my current position as the interrim CTO of LiveVoice, inc. It’s a company with 25+ years of experience in the call center industry, but they need a new platform built from the ground up in order to allow customization and rapid growth. This is where I come in. My current challenge is to build the whole system in a couple of months. They’re so used to working with slow dev agencies that they didn’t believe this was possible. I am very happy to be getting paid a salary + some equity to be a hacker. So right now my career is going well.

I currently live out of 1 or 2 bags. I have an Osprey 40L international travel bag, which can carry my laptop as well as about 4-5 changes of clothes and various other knick knacks. I also have a suitcase that contains more knick knacks. I am moving to New York City to live out of AirBnB’s with nothing but my Osprey bag and perhaps the suitcase.

Let me back up, I’m in Atlanta right now. My car broke down last night and I’m staying in Midtown on Williams street right next to the adult swim headquarters. I was watching adult swim last night, which was a weird feeling. Anyway, I’m staying on the 11th floor of a Hilton Garden Inn that was $200/night. After a long road trip from Denver, my car’s wheel got bent by a piece of debris in the road. I was almost home to Tampa where I’m going to drop off my WRX and all my things for a few months. I’m going to put a tarp over it and go to NYC.

So the NYC experiment is to live out of AirBnB’s. You get a good discount when you rent for a month or longer. I went to college in Orlando, went to SF after college, moved back to Florida (Gainesville), moved to Tucson, AZ for a year, and then Boulder, Co. In Boulder I bought furniture and tried to settle down. However, I was unable to settle down since I work remotely and I felt isolated (story of my last two years.)

The reason I feel isolated is because I work remote, at least I think. I Can recall living in Gainesville and working for Sharpspring as a happy time, surrounded by coworkers who became my friends. I have been seeking that. So I am going to NYC to work directly with the founders of LiveVoice. We’ll be in a WeWork every day, building out the system. I expect this will be a fun time.

But while I’m there I want to live in an Airbnb. Just to see if maybe in 3 months i can live in 3 Airbnbs in 3 different places in town (Soho, Williamsburg, Park Slope). Maybe this will be the coolest thing ever. Maybe I can set fire to my WRX and all the remains of my stationary life back in Florida. But I doubt it. I’ll most likely end up grabbing my WRX after the 3 month trip and moving to LA or SF, where we’ll hopefully continue to grow the company. Either that or I’ll love NYC so much I won’t want to leave. Either that or I’ll renew my passport and travel the world for a year on Remote Year.

But anyway, I have some real wanderlust. Or not really. I’m not sure, but I can’t stay in one place. This is partially because I’m always new, always passing through. I’ve become a tourist. And I kind of hate that. I would love to set down roots but right now my wandering mind leads me to new and interesting places.

The most important rule I can give myself is that, wherever I am, I should go out and meet people. Because during the past few years I have learned that although seeing the world is nice, and making money is nice, human relationships are more important.

I wish it weren’t so.

But there will be more to talk about that, as well as my other neurotic thoughts, in a future post.