Sunday, June 25, 2017

ENTJ

Many people have taken the Myers Briggs personality test. Like many personality tests, it qualifies you on a handful of elements as being either "A" or "B". "Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning?" "When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances?"  And so on...

As someone who doesn't tend to see the world as either black or white, I have a hard time with these types of tests and justifying whether or not I think the test came to the correct conclusion about me.  I took the Myers Briggs test a couple years ago in the process of a training course that I was taking and I was intrigued by the results.  The training course had us take the test before the course and then during the course we evaluated ourselves based on the elements of Myers Briggs before finding out our results.  

The big thing I always struggle to identify about myself is if I'm an introvert or an extrovert. That is, do I prefer to focus on the outer world or on my own inner world?  Depending on the day, my mood, and the situation, I clearly exhibit qualities of both.  This is probably because my mom is one of the biggest extroverts I know and my dad is a huge introvert.  Unlike my brother who is generally introverted himself, I managed to get qualities of both.

What amazed me when I took the Myers Briggs test is that in evaluating myself, I recognized that I am both introverted and extroverted.  But the results of the test showed that I am an introverted extrovert.  That is to say that I am an extrovert, but I'm am so close to being an introvert that it's sometimes hard to tell.  After finding this out, I felt like my life made so much more sense.

Introverted extroverts aren't very common, but I think there are more of them in this world than you may think.  I find it interesting about myself that I thrive on being around people and I tend to be able to hold a conversation with most people, whether I previously knew them or not.  Yet, on the other hand, I enjoy staying in on a Saturday night by myself and I love to travel solo.  To be able to explain this quality is a bit challenging for me.  I know that it is who I am, and I love that about myself.  

I think, for me, it has to do with my independence.  I am one of the most independent people I know.  I don't like to rely on other people to go places and do things (mostly because people often times back out of plans), which means that many times, I go alone.  I still thrive on human interactions, but I'm also perfectly content by myself.  I'd be curious to know what drives other introverted extroverts.




Note: There is a difference between an introverted extrovert and an extroverted introvert. An introverted extrovert gets energy from other people, but still enjoys having time alone. An extroverted introvert gets energy from being alone, but still enjoys interacting with others.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Simple Answer

Often time when people find out how much I've traveled, they ask me "What is your favorite country?"  At first I struggled with this question.  I felt stupid not knowing which country I liked best or enjoyed the most.  But finally, I realized that I don't necessarily need to have one favorite country.  Many countries and regions are unique to themselves and can't be compared in the way people think when they ask me that question.  I feel like I simply have countries that I like and countries that I don't like.  Granted, it's not quite as black and white as that.  In the end, I guess I could recommend a country or destination based on what you are looking for in a vacation.  Or I could tell you why I enjoyed a certain place.  I could maybe qualify favorites based on region, but even that doesn't seem particularly fair.

Ultimately, the answer is: I don't know.  Just as when I came back from Peace Corps and people would ask me: "How was it?", I can't answer these questions in a few words as most people want me to.  I can't sum up two years of my life in one sentence and I can't give you a simple answer as to which country is my favorite.  It's just not that simple.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Traveling Is More Than the Destination

Being an avid traveler, I often wonder what leads some people to want to travel and others to simply stay home.  I often think the reason I love to travel is because I love to see new places and experience things that I've never experienced before.  Although recently I had a couple trips that proved to me that sometimes there is more to a trip than where you are going and what you are seeing.  Traveling isn't always about the destination.

A great trip can sometimes be solely about the people you are with, whether those are people you are traveling with or people you are going to see.  I recently went to visit a couple of friends of mine who recently moved to a small town.  I was so excited to go and I couldn't quite figure out why, as I already knew that there was little to do and see there. But when it came time for me to leave and I didn't want to go, that's when it all hit me.  I didn't have a great time because of anything in particular that I saw or did.  I enjoyed my trip so much because of the people I got to spend time with.  As someone who often prefers to travel alone, this was difficult for me to comprehend.


After I came to this revelation, I just want to travel more.  I want to travel to places that I don't care about to see people I love as well as travel to places I love (or I think I may love).  This isn't a game-changer, but it does put a new spin on my desire to travel.  I guess I just love experiencing all the great things this planet has to offer as well as the people that grace the surface of it.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

I Keep Hustlin'

I have a theory that if you want more money in your bank account, you either have to make more or spend less.  Since I'm not willing to give up too many aspects of my current lifestyle, I usually opt for making more.  I'm always trying to find new ways to earn a buck on the side.  I make a decent wage at my 9-5 job, but I could always find uses for more money.

I've been hearing the phrase "side hustle" more and more these days.  A side hustle is something other than your main job that makes you money.  I currently have at least a couple of these going on and I'm constantly looking for more.

The first side hustle that I got into was renting my car.  To many people this probably sounds crazy, but to me it was something I wished was possible long before I found a service that does it.  Many city dwellers don't use their cars on a daily basis, leaving them unused most of the time.  This is a pretty wasteful habit, if you ask me.  Last October, I started renting my car through a service called Getaround.  Getaround allows you to rent your car when you aren't using it, but still block out whatever time you need for yourself.  This type of side hustle takes a bit of faith and can be risky because Getaround charges $99 to have their system installed in your car so users can unlock your car with their phone and so Getaround can GPS track the car.  They also charge $20 a month to maintain the system they installed.  In addition, they keep 40% of your profits.  This may sound like a lot to overcome, but so far I'm convinced.  For me it started out slow, but lately I've been making over $300 per month and using my car as much as I want (which I'll admit isn't that much).  And, in fact, this is for my old dinged up 2005 Toyota Corolla.  I suspect a nicer newer car would make even more money.

The other main side hustle I have going on at the moment is dog walking.  It sounds simple and obvious, but I don't believe regular dog walking is an easy gig for someone with a day job to get or to maintain.  On the other hand, I walk for a service called Wag!  It is basically the Uber of dog walking.  When owner's need their dog walked, I get a notification on my phone and I can either request or decline it.  If I don't take it, someone else will.  And Wag! only sends me dogs that are near where I am.  Plus I can walk as much or as little as I want.  For example, I've been pretty busy lately and I've only been walking about one dog a week, but the last few weeks I haven't done any walks.  This is no problem.  Walking for Wag! also requires a lot less risk and cost because you only have to pay $25 towards your background check to become a walker.  However, they generally only accept walkers who have some kind of experience with dogs.

Although those are my two main side hustles, I'm constantly looking for new opportunities.  My dad thinks I'm going to be a millionaire someday and I always tell him that that's the plan.  Someone told me recently that most millionaires don't have less than seven sources of income.  I'll get there eventually.  I'm not even thirty yet, so I have time.  For now, I'll just keep hustlin'!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Nicaragua: A Hidden Gem

Back in mid-January I decided to take a short trip with a close friend of mine.  We debated over where we should go, but we ultimately decided on Nicaragua.  I had never been to Central America and Nicaragua seemed to be the perfect choose.  It was cheap, warm, and relatively safe (compared to other countries in the region).  I really enjoyed this somewhat unexpected getaway and I'm about to tell you a little more about it.

Until I had done my research, I wasn't really thinking about Nicaragua.  It wasn't top of my list.  Quite honestly, I didn't know much about it.  We started off our trip in Managua, the capital, and what a waste that was.  There really isn't anything in the city (if you can even call it a city).  I really wish we would have left town upon arriving at the airport, but you live and you leave.  Luckily we only spent one night.

Granada
The next day we traveled south to Granada and what a lovely little town that was.  There were so many colorful building and old church.  I just couldn't get enough.  This was also where we started to get a real feel for Nicaraguan food.  It seemed really common to go into a restaurant that looked a little questionable and get some of the most amazing food you could imagine for cheap.  Nicaraguans rarely make a bad meal, in my experience, and their menus were typically expansive like the Cheesecake Factory.  You could get steak, pizza, pasta, chicken, noodles, plantains...whatever you wanted and it was all fantastic!


The view from our room with a volcano in the distance
After Granada, we went further south and got on the Ferry to Ometepe, which is an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.  The island was really scenic being made up of two volcanoes.  We even tried hiking up one of those volcanoes, but unfortunately, as we got closer to the top, it got too cloudy to get a good view.  One of the things I really liked about Ometepe was the place we stayed.  It was a farm that rented out these fabulous little eco-friendly guest houses.  They were not necessarily in the trees, but they made you feel like you were staying in a tree house, which seemed a bit exotic.

After Ometepe, we traveled back through Managua to go north to Leon.  This was our last stop and this country wasn't about to disappoint me there.  My favorite part of our stay in Leon was when we took a local bus about 30 minutes to the beach.  Most tourists frequent the beaches in the south, such as San Juan del Sur, but we decided to try one of the more northern beaches and it was nothing short of amazing!  I had read that it was frequented by locals.  It wasn't deserted, but there were fewer people there than I would've expected.  It was also just the perfect day for laying out in the sand.  In the middle of the day we took an intermission from sunbathing and went up to one of the restaurants that looked out on the water and had an amazing seafood lunch.  We ended the day perfectly by buying coconuts from a street vendor and drinking the coconut water on the bus ride back to Leon.  Life just couldn't get more ideal.

Where we ate lunch at the beach

All is all, I really enjoyed Nicaragua.  It seemed familiar but different from anywhere I had been before.  I also got a chance to struggle practicing my Spanish skills, which was a challenge because I have been learning German lately.  I'd have to say, if you are looking for an inexpensive tropical vacation and you aren't too picky about accommodations and transportation, go to Nicaragua.  It might surprise you.


For more information regarding traveling to Nicaragua, check out this article I found in the Economist 1843 magazine:  https://www.1843magazine.com/travel/travelling-on-the-edge

Saturday, January 28, 2017

We Help Kill What We Love

As an avid traveler and experienced globetrotter, I often enjoy watching shows such as the two that are hosted by Anthony Bourdain, No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Anthony Bourdain likes to explore the world specifically through experiencing all different kinds of food. Although he is a chef, he also digs into the places, people, and cultures that he visits as well. I like watching these shows to get ideas for my next trip, learn more about places that I have plans to visit, and to relive some of the places in this world that I truly love.

Aside from simply recommending that you watch these shows, I'd like to reflect a little on something Anthony Bourdain once said on air. If I remember correctly, he was traveling in Laos and filming an episode of No Reservations. He was in a remote part of the country witnessing the monks stand in a line and receive alms when he commented that "that's the problem in making travel television, when we succeed, we inspire others to travel to the places we care about. And, in a sense, we help kill what we love."

On the surface, Anthony Bourdain doesn't seem like one of the deepest people you'd ever meet, but in that moment, he realized something and he had a great point. When we travel and visit new places, we often recommend to others that they should go. I find myself describing places as being "less touristy" in a positive way, but, in essence, when I do that, I am encouraging people to visit and essentially destroy what I loved about that place by making it more touristy.

Along with other avid travelers, I like to find the places that few people visit. There is nothing worse, in my mind, than being surrounded by hundreds of Americans (or just other travelers) taking pictures and buying souvenirs. I generally don't like the places that everyone says "you have to go". In fact, often when I hear about a tourist attraction that I "have to see", I think "what are my alternative options?" The Great Wall of China is a perfect example of this. Everyone told me I had to see the Great Wall and, although I didn't disagree, I wasn't very excited about going to the part of the wall that all the tour groups go. If that was my only option, I would've went, because the Great Wall was something I really wanted to see, but instead I sought out an alternative. There are other pieces of the wall that are close to Beijing, but most people don't visit them because they are overgrown and not maintained to look like they haven't aged over the last several hundred years. I didn't need to see the restoration of the tourist part of the wall; I wanted to see what it was really like (and it was a bonus that there were very few people there). But a problem that could stir my morals is that now that I've told people about this kind of alternative trip, they may go there too. And then they will tell people who also may go. Eventually this amazing part of the wall may be overrun by tourists and in great disrepair. So that is the conundrum. I want my friends, family, colleagues, etc. to have the same amazing experience I had, but in doing so it may kill the experience all together.

I'm not exactly sure what the answer is to this problem. I don't think ceasing my travels is the best choice, but maybe promoting conservation and traveling with less carbon footprint could be a start. I'm all about traveling light, taking public transportation, walking when possible. I prefer not to fly when I can take a train or a bus. I choose hostels and Airbnb over fancy hotels. So I guess I am a bit of a conservative traveler in a way. Now I need to figure out a way to promote this idea even more.

I feel like this was the heart of Anthony Bourdain's pondering too. I'd love to know if he has any alternative solutions or at least how he deals with this dilemma and still continues to travel the world. I might just have to keep watching his shows to see if he has further comments.

Monday, January 2, 2017

45 by 30

As we move into a new year, people often reflect on the year past. Seeing how I will be turning the big 3-0 in this coming year, 2017, I'm led to reflect on more than just the last year. Lately, I've been thinking about the last ten years of my life. It's been quite a decade!

If you know me well or if you've looked at my "Where I've Been" section of this blog, you'll know that I've been to 42 different countries in my lifetime (so far). Most people find this quite extraordinary, but what I find most amazing is that out of those 42 countries, I've been to 30 of them for the first time between when I turned 20 and now. Out of the 12 that I had been to before I hit the age of 20, I've been back to 7 of them in my twenties (some of them I've been to several times). That means that I've been to 37 countries in the last ten years.

As I've been getting closer to my next decade of life, I've been thinking about whether or not I should have a goal to hit before I turn 30. As I'm closing in on this milestone, a realistic goal has been getting clearer. It would be nice to be able to hit 50 by 30, but that seems a bit insurmountable at this point, even for me. At my peak, I may have been to about 20 countries in one year, but with my current job and lifestyle, this volume is a little bit  more infeasible. So a more realistic goal would be 45 by 30. That means that I have to go to 3 new countries before October 2017. Depending on how this year shapes up, that could be quite difficult or really easily. We'll have to see how things go. I already have a trip to Nicaragua planned in a few weeks, so that's a pretty good start.

I always like to think that my lifetime goal is 100 countries, but at the rate I'm going, I often think that that isn't ambitious enough. I have so many places I want to go, but I've already been to many of the easy marks in Western Europe where it takes little effort to rack up 20 countries in a year. At this point, I have a hard time imagining going to more than a handful of countries each year. I guess I'll just have to see where life takes me.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

What Makes a Trip of a Lifetime?

So many people throw around the phrase "trip of a lifetime" that is has made me really think about what makes a trip worthy of that title.  Is it that it is a favorite trip, an unforgettable trip, or maybe just a trip that you will never take again?  I'm not really sure, but here I'm gonna ponder a little on my thoughts.

Can a single country trip be a trip of a lifetime?  I think it can, but I don't think I've ever been on a trip like that.  For example, if you spent a month or more traveling all over China, that could easily top the list.  But I don't think spending four days in the UK would count.  It's just not quite monumental enough.

Then again, I guess you could spend an extended amount of time in one place and that could be a trip of a lifetime, depending on what you did while you were there.  For example, spending two and a half weeks on a remote private beach in the Maldives might make a trip of a lifetime, mostly because you probably won't ever do that again and it's amazingly beautiful.

Sometimes you might qualify something as a trip of a lifetime based on what you did.  For instance, if you went somewhere and did an intense amount of hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, and cliff jumping, that might be a trip of a lifetime.  I think often times beautiful places with exciting activities make quite memorable, unable-to-be-replicated trips.

As anyone who reads this blog would know, I have done a lot of traveling, but I'm not sure that I've yet found my "trip of a lifetime".  I guess I'm just too hesitant to label one trip like that and then change it later when I go somewhere and do something better.  But then that begs the questions: Can you have more than one trip of a lifetime? and, Can my trip of a lifetime change over time?  I think the answers are yes and yes.  I think a person could have several trips of a lifetime, but if someone tells me they have ten or more, I would probably question their standards.  I also think that your trip or trips of a lifetime should be changing over time as you go to new places and experience new things.

For me, I feel like I'm just too young and have too much more traveling to do to tell you what my "trip of a lifetime" is yet.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Under Duress or Trying to Impress

I started going to yoga classes about 8 months ago and I completely love it.  I find it so relaxing, but also strengthening.  Not only do I get in the stretching that I desperately need sometimes, but I also get to build up to fun poses that I never thought I could possibly do.  I can no longer think of a better way to start off my weekdays.

Based on the classes I've been to, it seems pretty obvious to me that yoga is quite female dominated.  That's not to stay you don't see guys in class from time to time, but I would say majority of the time my classes are made up of only women.  I'm still trying to fully understand why this is.  I feel like many of the poses would be easier for men because they have much more natural upper body strength than women do.  However, I suppose women are more graceful, in general.  Needless to say, I would argue that most men are not as taken by yoga as I was.

Despite this fact, I, all too often, see men who are clearly dragged to a yoga class by their significant other.  This is something I will never understand.  I feel like yoga is an incredibly personal thing for me.  I don't even know if I would enjoy yoga as much if I went to classes with friends that also enjoy yoga.  It's a rather solitary time for me.  I could never get someone to love yoga the way I do, by dragging them there kicking and screaming.  Most of these type of men that attend under duress do actually try to enjoy it, but it's still distracting to me, because they are clearly trying to impress their girlfriends and the girlfriends themselves are trying to prove that yoga is amazing.  Sometimes I wish they could have separate classes for such couples so the rest of us didn't have to experience this, but I'm sure this will never happen.

Even though I hate seeing such a misuse of yoga class, I still love going to yoga.  I think that I will continue to love yoga for as long as there are girlfriends coercing their boyfriends into going with them to yoga class, which is to say that I don't see this as a phase for me.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Myanmar, or Should I Say Burma?

Myanmar is a country most people don't know unless you refer to it by its previous name of Burma. This has to be one of the most incredible countries I've ever been to. I hate how so many people have such negative feelings about places they don't know anything about. When I told people where I was going I often got quite dramatic responses. Just like you can't judge a book by its cover, you can't judge a country by its name or its history.

Aung San Suu Kyi's Childhood Home

Myanmar has a turbulent history with 50 years of military rule, but that doesn't in any way make it unsafe to travel to. In fact, I found Myanmar to be one of the safest, friendliest places I've ever been. The people were so accommodating and helpful.

Shwedagon Pagoda Lit Up At Night (as seen from my hotel window)
I started my trip in Rangoon (aka Yangon). This city is not the capital, but it is the largest city and it used to be the capital. Coming from India, I found it quite incredible for several reasons. First of all, you could actually walk places because there were sidewalks and traffic lights. There also wasn't nearly as much honking of car horns as in India. The city almost seemed calm and quiet to me. In the first two days I was in Myanmar, I explored Rangoon. I felt like the tour I gave myself was surrounded around Aung San Suu Kyi and her life. I started off at the house she was born in which was a tribute to her father, General Aung San, Myanmar's national hero. Then I made my way to the Shwedagon Pagoda where I wondered how one would make a speech to a large crowd from the top as Aung San Suu Kyi did in 1988. The second day I was there, I started by walking from my hotel to Inya Lake where Aung San Suu Kyi's house is. This is the house she spent the better part of 15 years in prison in. I knew it wasn't open to the public, but unfortunately you couldn't even see the house itself. I only knew I was there because of the NLD signs and flags outside the compound, but I couldn't see much more than the walls. I also made my way to the Aung San Market where you can buy all kinds of souvenirs. This is where I realized that they really don't refer to her by name very much. They call her "the lady". People also found it comical when I would call her Daw Suu. I don't think most foreigners know enough about Suu Kyi and Myanmar in general to know that terminology that is often used by locals.

Sunset Over the World's Longest Teak Wood Bridge
After Rangoon, I left on the train to Mandalay. I was told that these trains can be incredibly delayed and very bumpy. Luckily for me, only half of that was accurate for my train. We were right on time, but the trip was so bumpy that I could still feel myself swaying even hours after I got off the train. I met a British girl on the train and we toured around Mandalay together. We saw everything. We started by going to the Royal Palace, which on the way I realized was just a replica of the original. Then we had lunch at a road side stand and went in search of the world's largest book. I eventually realized that this wasn't a book in the traditional sense and we had already seen it. We didn't even know it. Then we traveled to the top of Mandalay hill for some spectacular views before making our way to the world's longest teak wood bridge to watch the sunset. This day was so busy, but I'm so glad we saw everything that we did.

The View From My Balcony
My next and final stop was Bagan. I was told that you can't go to Myanmar and not visit Bagan. To get there I took an eight hour boat ride down the Irrawaddy (or as the locals call it the Ayeyarwaddy). This ride was really calm and relaxing. It totally beat taking the bus or train, which probably both would've taken just as long. Once I got there I enjoyed the sunset from my private balcony on the river and made a plan for the next day.

I had heard that the best way to get around Bagan was on bicycle, but after getting there I realized they also had e-bikes, which were basically electric scooters. Riding these on the roads might have seemed dangerous, but considering almost no local people live in the town, there is very little traffic. I really enjoyed this option. Plus it was so hot even though I wasn't biking or walking that it was totally worth any risk.

My Viewing Spot For Sunset
I started off my day by trying to see the sunrise at one the "best" temples for seeing the sunrise. This seemed like a good idea, but there were so.many.tourists. There was even one that had a drone. It was like trying to watch the sunrise with a helicopter flying overhead. Even so, it was a little bit too cloudy for a good sunrise. So after going back and having breakfast at my hotel I set out again. I feel like I saw so many temples that day and only in a matter of about 4 hours.  Despite the recent earthquake most of the temples were still accessible. Considering all I did and how early I had gotten up, I went back to my hotel to relax by the pool and take a nap before setting out to see the sunset. This time I wanted to find a more unique spot. I started by going to this bigger temple not too far from my hotel where I came across this young girl who insisted that I see the smaller temple next door. She showed me the secret staircase to get to the first terrace. Then she helped me physically climb to the next level and climb some more stairs to the top level. From there you could see all the big temples in Bagan as well as the sunset over the river. We must have sat up there for 30 minutes until after the sun went down. This was just another example of the overly helpful people of Myanmar. Turns out that this girl was selling post cards but she wasn't pushy about it at all. In the end, I bought a set of postcards from her to pay her back for helping me find the most amazing sunset spot I could've imagined. She was much appreciative as she was trying to make enough money for her schooling. On my last day, I spent most of the day laying by the pool, relaxing, and packing up. I tried to find a local monastery to see the monks receive alms, but I couldn't find it. I also went to the local archaeological museum where they have a lot of relics from the temples. There were so many Buddhas. Bagan really was the highlight of my trip.

All in all, Myanmar was amazing! It was a shame I only had one week there. I could've easily spent 3 weeks exploring the country. I definitely see myself going back there at some point as it not only fascinates me, but it is such a welcoming place. I can't wait until that day comes!