Thinking of a Master Plan

I left my job of 3 years in April to focus on developing my own apps and exploring other ways of making a living. I was burnt out and needed a sabbatical. Six months later, I’m looking to pass the mantle of President of Team Hangout to someone else on Remote Year and get back to work. When I left for Belgrade 60 days ago, I assumed that I wouldn’t need to return. I sold most of my possessions. I left someone I trusted in charge of selling my house. I assumed that I would be gone for at least another 6 months, yet I find myself back in the United States.

So What Happened?

The best laid schemes of mice and men, Go often askew

During my presidency, I spoke with a fellow Battuta who is making a living selling private label products on Amazon. I was familiar with drop shipping from an entrepreneurship class in grad school but hadn’t given online selling any serious thought since.

I decided to dip a toe into by creating an Amazon account and selling my books/electronics. While most of the items that I owned were not worth listing, I found a few gems that fetched a decent price, like a chord book of Prince’s The Hits that sold for $100. After watching my sales for a few weeks, I was hooked. The only problem was that I was out of inventory.

So What Now?

  • I’m sourcing products for retail arbitrage for FBA while I’m stateside. I’m both excited and nervous because I’m not sure if this is going to work. I’m currently packing the first shipment of items to send to Amazon. I’m still researching private label products.2016-10-16-12-55-14
  • I’ll continue working on app development (more app-specific posts to come). I haven’t lost my love for creating things, I just needed to diversify my attention (and income sources).
  • The house is still not listed for sale. The situation is further complicated by the effects of Hurricane Matthew. My house sustained damage but thankfully it’s not as bad as the countless others who have been displaced.
  • My tentative plan is to remain in SE Asia after the conclusion of Remote Year. It is inexpensive, the food/weather/people are awesome and there are communities of remotes that are working on both types of businesses where my focus lies.

 

Advertisements

Where Have You Been?

When I started this Remote Year, I thought that I would be frequently blogging my experiences, keeping everyone updated on my travels. I also thought I would still be working at my job, and returning to the States at the end. It’s amazing how much can change in a year.

In an effort to reignite my blogging efforts, I’m going to start by trying to simply capture my travel life so far, borrowing from a post by Thirty30Courtney

A: Age you went on your first international trip: 26. I took a trip to Toronto for a conference.

B: Best foreign beer you’ve had and where: I’ve had so many great beers while traveling, it’s nearly impossible to choose. One of my favorites that comes to mind is my first Hofbrau at Oktoberfest. It’s so good that even my domestic beer loving uncle became a fan.

C: Cuisine [favorite]: Thai, hands down. So many flavors.

D: Destinations: Favorite– Spain (Malaga, Barcelona, Sevilla and Cadiz)

Least Favorite – Belgrade. I still had a good time but there has to be a least favorite.

E: Experience that made you say wow: Riding the Death Road in Bolivia. Tearing down that 15,000 foot descending tiny rocky road on a mountain bike was sheer joy! IMG_2323.JPG

F: Favorite mode of transportation: Train. Despite the constant delays and occasional fire (I’m looking at you, Amtrak), I still love riding the rails.

G: Greatest Feeling While Traveling: Freedom. It’s the reason why I do it.

H: Hottest place you’ve ever traveled to: Kuala Lumpur has been the hottest in my international travel but it’s still not as bad as Miami/New Orleans/Atlanta

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced: Home cooking class and dinner in Montevideo img_1745

J: Journey that took the longest: Tie – Cusco, Peru to London/Split, Croatia to Kuala Lumpur. The second was had a long layover in Doha, Qatar so I was able to go into the city and do a little exploring/eat.

K: Keepsake from your travels: I tend to keep money from different countries that I’ve visited. Not big bills but I find the difference in currency interesting. (On that note: Brits, cut it out with the arbitrary coin sizes! You’re better than that)

L: Let-down sight, where & why: While I definitely like some places more than others, there hasn’t been a let-down sight for me yet. The most underwhelming has to be the Sistine Chapel. As a counter, I had much more fun in Croatia than I imagined I would.

M: Moment when you fell in love with travel: My first trip to Europe. I went with no real plans other than visiting a friend in London, seeing an exhibit in Glasgow and going to the French Open. I ended up staying 3 weeks and had some of the best experiences of my life. From there, I was hooked.

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed at: Poshness is wasted on me but I once got a free upgrade to a suite at the Beau Rivage for a poker tournament. The room was massive and for one night I felt like a whale.

O: Obsession:– what do you take photos of while traveling: Great street art and small streets always catches my eye.

P: Passport stamps:– how many & from where: 24 (not counting duplicate entries) – Croatia, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Scotland, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, The Netherlands, The Vatican, Malaysia, Singapore, Qatar, Singapore, Canada, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Uruguay

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where: Not sure it qualifies but the Witches Market in La Paz had some oddities.

R: Really frightening- a place where you felt unsafe or uneasy: The bus ride to our hotel after riding the Death Road. That was far scarier than riding the bike.

S: Splurge- something you have no problem spending on while traveling: Food and drink. One of my favorite parts of traveling is trying new dishes and libations. Thankfully, the best stuff is typically not expensive but I’m willing to spend if its a great experience.

T: Touristy thing you’ve done: Hop on/Hop off bus tour in Barcelona. Turned out to be a great to get a lay of the land.

U: Unforgettable Travel Memory: Portugal Road Trip with my roommates in Malaga, Spain. 5 guys crammed into a tiny car. We had no itinerary but one goal: get to Lisbon. Along the way, we shared stories about our lives, partied, ate great food, slept on the beach, clubbed all night to avoid getting a hostel.

V: Visas- how many and for where: 1 visa for Bolivia. 2 more upcoming for Thailand and Vietnam

W: Wine- Best taste of wine while traveling and where?: Malbec in Argentina is my new favorite.

X: eXcellent view: 3 day hike to Machu Picchu had some of the most incredible views I’ve ever witnessed. I highly recommend taking a few days to go through the mountains before arriving at the city. img_3319

Y: Years Spent Traveling: 18

Z: Zealous sports fans and where: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks, Manchester United

The Hardest Goodbye

As my departure date quickly approached, my stress level increased as did my apathy for preparation. I’ve never been big on planning but I’d become even less so as it became clear that I really just wanted to leave my old life behind and start fresh with a new journey. But before I could embark on a new adventure there were loose ends to be tied and goodbyes to be said. I traveled to Atlanta to clean my storage unit of the remnants of my life there. Having to transport so many possessions made me realize how long I’d been away from my home city and how much old baggage I was still literally carrying around. I’d gone through boxes of things that I should have sold, given away or discarded years ago. When you make a decision to move on, it’s best to just deal with it then and not let it linger.

Before I left for a year, I also wanted to spend time doing what I love most, hanging with my friends and eating good food. I made the rounds in my normal hangout spots in Atlanta, Greenville and the Triangle. I even took a detour down to Orlando to play golf with my golf crew for a few days. It was so good to see everyone and share with my excitement for my upcoming travel.

The trip wouldn’t have been complete without sampling some of my favorite foods and squeezing in some new spots before leaving. I mixed visits to old haunts (Grady’s BBQ in Dudley, NC and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack in Atlanta) with new discoveries (Dame’s Chicken & Waffles in Durham, NC and Filipino Cuisine in Angier, NC). Needless to say, I packed on the lbs before leaving, justifying it with the knowledge that I’d walk a lot more once I started traveling.

I ended up doing a better job of packing my belly than my bags. Last minute changes and procrastination got the better of me and I was scrambling to make final decisions an hour before I was supposed to leave. I even made a last minute trip to buy more pants that I thought I’d need for the trip (Spoiler Alert: I didn’t).

IMG_1683

With my bags finally packed, my mom over to help me get my place cleaned up, and my uncle on the way to take me to the airport. I was finally ready to go. All of the goodbyes leading up to this day were fairly easy. Except for one. The hardest goodbye.

IMG_1540
Gramps and I enjoying one of our many coffee and bacon rich breakfasts.

Since relocating to North Carolina, I have spent more time with my grandfather than anyone else. It wasn’t until I got to know him as an adult that I realized how alike we are. After a serious illness two years ago, he has bounced back and with that knowledge, I was finally able to even consider a trip such as this. It’s been an absolute joy to be there for him. I’ve been with him for everything from doctor visits and shopping to travel/dining with him and his girlfriend (yes, at 87 he’s still got it). It was so difficult to leave my “running buddy”, but we were able to share one last breakfast and a final tear-filled hug before sending me off. His life has been an amazing journey and I’m grateful that he’s shared so much history and wisdom with me. I’m looking forward to returning the favor with amazing stories of my own.

 

Context Switch

It is the end of a calendar year and normally I would post a list of places in the US that I intend to visit in the coming year: conferences, festivals and other events that attract my interest. In less than 30 days, I‘ll be embarking on a journey that will take me to at least 12 countries over 12 months.

In computing, a context switch is “the process of storing and restoring the state of a process so that execution can be resumed from the same point at a later time”. As the departure date approaches, I am putting old things aside and making room for new ones. I will be placing my essential belongings into a couple of backpacks, shutting off unneeded services and preparing for life on the road. I’ve been asked by many people, “What are you going to do with your house?” which is reasonable considering the distance and duration of my trip. This house has stood for well over 100 years and like the many unfinished projects within it, will be here if/when I return. This past year has been full of unexpected and unwanted change.

In the coming year, I remain hopeful without the rigidity of expectation. I don’t pretend to know how this next year will transpire. I’m just open to seeing what happens.

Feb – Montevideo, Uruguay

Mar – Buenos Aires, Argentina

April – La Paz, Bolivia

May – Cusco, Peru

June – Istanbul, Turkey

July – Prague, Czech Republic

Aug – Belgrade, Serbia

Sept – Cavtat, Croatia

Oct – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Nov – Koh Phangan, Thailand

Dec – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Jan – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

For my friend, Kevin Miller

This morning, I was hit with heart breaking news. A friend of mine perished in a traffic accident last night. We had just spoken in the morning. He and I hadn’t spoken in months, outside of some exchanges on Facebook. The call from him came out of the blue. He was looking to buy a MacBook and, as the resident Apple evangelist in our crew, he sought my opinion. After a few minutes discussing the merits of the particular model and the price, we move on to talk about our lives. He recently became a father, of a little girl just a few months old and a seven year old as well. I was the same, having just gained custody of my two youngest nephews. We talked about the changes that we dealing with. We discussed the role of parents, fathers in particular, how to nurture our children while also being stern, and preparing them for the very real challenges that they have to face in this world. We were both in a new chapter of our lives, sharing something new in common.

I met Kev through a mutual friend. My friends and I schedule frequent get togethers (“Man Dinners”) where we take the opportunity to catch up on life, share some laughs and reminisce about our college days (most of us were roommates). Kev was a friend of one of us and came out to join the group. The conversation went from sports to cars and the Aston Martin (because of course it would) and I made a statement about the price of the Vantage. Kev checked me on it and after verifying it on the internet (because of course we would), I found out I was wrong. It was the beginning of a friendship in which we challenged each other.

Like me, Kev had been boxing and was a big fan of the sport. We got to talking about our previous experiences and he spoke about wanting to fight again. He set a goal to get back in shape and train for a fight. I was up for that as well and decided to join him. I loved to train and so did Kev. We would get our road work, jump rope, heavy and speed bag work in each session. We’d mix in things like plyometrics or weights and pad work when we had access to a trainer. I even introduced him to capoeira, as it is great core work. We talked about our favorite fighters (Tyson, Pacquiao) during our session breaks. We’d try (unsuccessfully) to match PacMan’s punch output on the bag. Our mornings began with a text to each other to meet at the gym. Those messages were a challenge to not let excuses get in the way of our goal. We each held the other accountable. Get your butt up and let’s “get this work in”. We went hard, got it in and got out. We had other challenges awaiting us.

Kev was one the hardest working people I’ve ever met. While he was working one job, he started a training program for another and then picked up part time work as well. He was always about “getting this work in”. We’d have occasional conversations while he was in route to one job or another. He was always thinking about improvement and working towards other goals. Whether it was the mobile training manual for his staff, a new mobile app for getting the newest sneakers or talking about joke writing (we were both giving standup a try), our interactions always revolved around joyous work. I admired that most about him. His actions pushed me to be better, to keep moving and not let life stop you.

Real friends challenge you. They push you to be better. They’re not afraid to tell you when they think you’re wrong. And you know they’re your friends because you love them for doing it.

Kev, I love you and I’ll never forget you. I’ll keep pushing and getting this work in, like you always did and pushed me to do.

RIP Kevin Miller 1975 – 2015

The Little Engine That Couldn’t (Coding By Train: Leg 3 Chicago to Denver)

Our train arrived in Chicago an hour late (a pattern that I’d soon learn is quite common). I can;t say anything about the city itself, as I never left the train station. From the ride into the Windy City, I was only able to make a single assessment: the place looks massive. Without a decent public transit system, I couldn’t imagine trying to make my way around.  I walked through the food court to see what local food I could sample. I now understand why vendors offering local fare are present in airports and train stations. It’s not cheesy tourism. For some travelers, it’s a close as they’ll get to the city. I’ve always had the luxury of time in the past to explore but when the forces of time are against you, you settle for the depot hot dog stand.

By 10am, the station was filling up with Bears fans making their way to the stadium. The long line at my departure gate was comprised mostly of Cornhusker fans coming back from a victory over Northwestern. They have long memories, including the loss to the Yellow Jackets in the 1991 Citrus Bowl (during my glorious freshman year)  We shared a laugh about how every football program has a Voldemort in its history, that coach who inflicted so much damage that they’ve earned the title of He Who Shall Not Be Named. This was confirmed by the t-shirt of one fan listing the coaching lineage from Devaney to Pellini with one redacted. (Interestingly enough, both school’s Voldemorts are named Bill).

It wasn’t long before I realized that I was aboard the Little Train That Couldn’t. Two hours outside of Chicago, the train stopped and we had to wait for another engine to complete the journey. Conspiracy theories about the efforts of Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific and other freight trains to ruin Amtrak were tossed about at dinner. One of my companions rattled off a statistic of 7% on-time arrivals for Amtrak, a stat that I found highly suspect until I checked the Amtrak website  (11.5% on-time arrival for the California Zephyr in the month of September)

The second night of sleeping was surprisingly more comfortable than the first. I didn’t get a neck pillow but I did learn how to work the lower leg rest in the recliner. The morning leg was pleasant enough with another grit-based breakfast and a view of sunrise from the observation car. Not much in terms of scenery though as the landscape between Chicago and Denver looks like a stock image set on a loop.

On the coding front, I didn’t get much done. I spent most of the evening unsuccessfully trying to get a VPN client to work (Thanks, Yosemite).

Coding By Train: Leg 2 (Washington, DC to Chicago)

After a snack in Union Station, I  boarded the train for Chicago. There was an option to make reservations for dinner in the dining car. Seating was limited and community seating is used, providing an opportunity for you to meet new people. I opted to skip dinner in lieu of hanging out in the observation section with few beers (shocker!). This time the only decent offering was a Sierra Nevada IPA. I spent most of the early evening looking at the beautiful trees, which had started changing colors and reinstalling Xcode. I made the mistake of not checking for compatibility of Yosemite with older versions (which I use to support legacy apps). Without wi-fi on this segment, I was forced to consume 1.6 GB my precious data plan’s monthly allocation. Note: Xcode 4.6 still does not run on Yosemite.

The most interesting part of the trip after sunset was listening to a One Direction look-alike try to chat up a young lady traveling solo. All was going swimmingly until his dad came over and started making jokes. I closed out the evening with some light reading (Marcus Zarra’s Core Data). I didn’t get much actual coding done this day but still felt productive.

As the first overnight portion of my trip, the lingering question was “Did I make a mistake in not getting a sleeper?” While the coach seats are roomier than anything I encountered on planes or buses, the reclined position was not optimal for sleeping but I managed to make do. In the future, I’ll have to invest in a neck pillow. Having no idea how far we traveled, I awoke thinking we reached Cleveland but kept thinking “this looks too nice. Why do they call this the Mistake By the Lake?”. After checking my map, I realized we were in Pittsburgh and it was only midnight.

For breakfast, I opted for scrambled eggs and grits, a brave choice considering I was no longer in the South. My fears were unfounded though, as whoever is in the kitchen knows their hominy. Perfect balance between thick and thin and paired well with the eggs. I was seated with a nice couple from England and a young man from Chicago. It was a nice conversation, mostly swapping travel stories and sharing options for exploring Chicago prior to my next departure.

Coding by Train: Leg 1 (Wilson, NC to Washington, DC)

For the next week and a half, I am experiencing a new form of travel. Rail. Rather than take my normal flight from RDU to DEN for one of our company meetings, I’ve decided to take the scenic route via an Amtrak train. The first leg of the trip is the Palmetto line from Wilson, NC to Washington, DC.

Cost

The cost of a ticket from Wilson, NC to Washington, DC is pretty reasonable at $51 each way. It’s a 4.5 hour ride and allows me to travel without dealing with the traffic issues that has aggravated me in the past.

Seating

The seats in the coach class are comparable to those on an airliner. The main difference being that if you aren’t comfortable, yo are free to get up and move about, I spent about half of the trip in the dining car. The food selections are bit limited but not without some variety. They ran out hot dogs pretty quickly but had pizza, sandwiches and tons of snacks. The beer selection was about all I could expect.  Lots of American standards with the only “real” choices being Heineken, Dog Fish and Sam Adams (my choice). Hoping for a better selection on the next leg as I am all about that barley life.

Connectivity

Internet is free on Amtrak and works well enough for pushing commits and general usage (email, Facebook). The connection is a bit spotty, particularly between Rocky Mount and Richmond, VA. While testing an app, I got tons of errors when calling remote services. I didn’t have to resort to using my phone’s data plan, though, which has allowed me to save my precious bytes.

Ride

People on the train have been very courteous and I had no worries about leaving my carry-on in the coach cabin while I went to the dining car (unless you have a sexy underwear fetish, why would you want my bag anyway?). The train does jostle a bit at times, reminding me of some of the more turbulent flights I’ve experienced but for most of the ride it’s pretty easy to read/write/type without trouble. If you are prone to motion sickness, it might be a bit difficult in spots. I was unable to fall asleep but that may have been due more to my excitement at starting the trip.

Lessons learned so far

I really enjoy not driving. And not having to sit still for hours on a plane. And not having to take my shoes off. And not going through metal detectors.

Bring an ample supply of snacks that you like. You are also not allowed to consume your private stock of alcohol outside of your sleeper cabin. With the price of the available sleeper at $1100, I’ll settle for Sam Adams.

My first thought upon arriving in DC was “why didn’t I do this sooner”. It took only a few minutes walking from Union Station to remind me why I loved working here years ago. There will be a lot more train rides to DC (an possibly points north) in the future.

As We Begin Again

With this post, I am hoping for a return to more frequent and relevant posting to my blog. It is my opportunity to begin again. The year has been quite busy (too many projects undertaken) but I’ve not taken time to reflect on the things that I have experienced, which is the whole point of this blog. In the interest of brevity, I’ll just summarize:

  • On the development front, iOS has undergone a massive amount of change this year. A new programming language, Swift, tons of new APIs (HealthKit, WatchKit, etc.) and even more devices (iWatch!) means that more time is required just to keep up and maintain quality of existing apps.
  • Speaking of existing apps, my current apps (Capoiera Songs, Team Tryouts) are overdue for updates and those are coming but they will have to wait a bit longer as other projects have priority.
  • Conferences this year have been awesome. AltConf, 360iDev and the 360iDev min were great experiences and opportunities to make new friends and reconnect with old ones. And the year isn’t over, as CocoaConf Atlanta is taking place in December. Next year, I’ll be looking to present.
  • Speaking of conferences, though I didn’t attend, I was excited by the announcements at Google I/O. I will be returning to native Android development (in addition to, NOT in lieu of iOS. I’m not a sadist)
  • I joined the panel of the iPhreaks podcast. I’m grateful that they invited me on and it allowed me to fulfill my wish to return to podcasting. Each week is a learning experience as I am exposed to areas of develop that I be otherwise unaware of.
  • Pending apps such as PomoTracker are still in development (though I may change the name). My past year in beta testing combined my current work has shown me that I needed to change the tool’s design/focus. It wasn’t meeting my needs so I’ve gone back to the drawing board.
  • A passion project, Gateway Transit, is also in the works. It is a mobile app for the local transit system in my county. I’m hoping that it is the first of many volunteer projects that allow me to give back to the local community.
  • I have been Mobile Developer at TeamSnap for over a year now. It is an awesome company with great people. If you are a customer, we’ve got more cool stuff coming your way.
  • The Cocoa Nomad blog wouldn’t make sense without more from the road. Though I’ve neglected to post from San Francisco, Denver and Greenville, SC this year, I will do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

More Cocoa. More Nomad to come

2014 Schedule (iOS Dev, Beer, BBQ, Sports, Comedy)

  • January 15 – Open Mic – Three Layers Cafe (Jacksonville, FL)
  • January 16 – Open Mic – Rain Dogs (Jacksonville, FL)
  • March 16 – 20 – Snowboarding (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • March 22 – 29 – Spring Break Poker Classic (Biloxi, MS)
  • April 4 – 5 – CocoaConf Austin (Austin, TX)
  • April 7 – 11 – TeamSnap Team Mtg (Boulder, CO)
  • April 15 – NSCoder (Greenville, SC)
  • May 9 – 10 – CocoaConf Raleigh (Raleigh, NC)
  • June 12 – 15 – US Open (Pinehurst, NC)
  • August 12 – NSCoder Louisville (Louisville, KY)
  • August 14 – 17 – PGA Championship (Louisville, KY)