Published: August 13th, 2012
After taking a 10-month hiatus from the blogosphere, I’m happy to be back.
To be honest, I am not fully sure why I stopped writing. Maybe it was my new job. Or maybe it was because I felt like I had pigeonholed myself into a particular series of blog posts on The 9 to 5 Alternative. Or maybe, because I was no longer romping the globe as a cost-of-living analyst, I lost the spunk to sit down and crank out a few words.
Maybe. Maybe that was it.
Regardless, I missed writing. I missed the community of 500+ subscribers. The comments and emails. Meeting new people. Sharing and receiving stories, business ideas and images.
I believe in synchronicity, or meaningful coincidences. About a month ago, two events happened within the same week that made me realize I needed to write again. They were small experiences, but something clicked.
First, I received an email from Jeffrey Cammack of Safari Guide Africa. I had never met Jeff before. The email, titled “Keep writing,” included the following, and only the following:
Just found your blog, and appreciated the read. I saw you have not updated for about a year, so wanted to give you the encouragement to get writing again.
Jeff, you’re the man. I really appreciate you reaching out.
Secondly, I was publicly called out on a well-read blog, The Tropical MBA, a blog that I’ve been a huge fan of the last couple of years. I didn’t even know I was on this guy’s radar, which made the mention more surprising.
So, I kicked myself in the ass, took a cold shower, hopped back on the proverbial blogging horse and created a brand, spanking new website:
It’s still new and needs some work, but after a month of tinkering I was ready-enough to hit the publish button.
So here I am, clicking publish. Look forward to seeing you all again.
In the meantime, you can find me on Twitter or Linkedin. You can also subscribe to my new updates via RSS or email.
Published: October 6th, 2011
I’ve always been more of a nature guy.
Mentally drawn to lush, distant valleys and high-altitude passes, I often yearn for the natural aesthetic—for green, for calm, for walking and camping and simple living. Sometimes at night, I look upwards and imagine an unpolluted sky—brightly dotted with the periodic streak of a shooting star. When was the last time I saw the Milky Way?
Living in a city though, despite its artificial light, is fascinating. Vibrant, bustling with its own particular nuances and collective personality. Similar to Mother Earth and her palpable energy, urbanism evokes its own tangible power.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been putting together a photography portfolio, hosted on one of my favorite domain names, Photobunga.com. I built the site to organize and showcase the many images I’ve been so fortunate to capture in my travels. Like this blog, Photobunga is more of a personal endeavor—somewhere to document memories and to reflect. That said, all of the images are for sale, so if you’re interested, let me know!
Paying homage to the urban world, here are eight of my favorite city shots:
Sydney, Australia | May 2010
Taken from the Royal Botanic Gardens, which cover 30 hectares and contain 7500 species of plants from all over the world, this image presents Sydney’s impressive cityscape. It was raining that afternoon, and to conquer the flat light I shot this image in sepia.
Baku, Azerbaijan | November 2008
The capital and largest city in Azerbaijan, Baku is a port city that is experiencing a resurging oil economy, and with that, a lot of construction. I took this image from the top of the Park Inn hotel, on the balcony outside of the Mirvari Club, a sushi restaurant.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | February 2011
Rio de Janeiro is, in a word, breathtaking. With it’s beautiful geography and people, it’s a true photographer’s playground. I took this picture from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, a granite and quartz behemoth that juts up from the city. I believe this cable car was featured in a James Bond movie?
Astana, Kazakhstan | November 2009
The top of Bayterek, a monument and observation tower, offers a 360-degree view of Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital and second largest city. These days, the Soviet-era buildings are now being removed and replaced with new structures–President Nazarbayev has paid particular attention to Astana’s aesthetic, with internationally acclaimed architects and designers being brought in to redesign the city.
Minsk, Belarus | May 2009
With its wide, lick-ably clean streets and monolithic Soviet facades, Minsk represents the grandiose aesthetic of Stalin’s massive post-war rebuilding. Things I remember about Minsk: stiletto heels, supermodels and surprisingly good Indian food. Yummy.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | November 2010
Taken from the Petronas Towers, the tallest building in the world from 1998 to 2004, this image showcases Kuala Lumpur’s urban core. Limited to 1000 tourists per day, the skybridge is definitely worth waking up early for. I waited in line for 1.5 hours to get tickets!
Luanda, Angola | August 2010
While this is not a particularly impressive photograph, I decided to include it due to Luanda’s unique situation. Not only is it the most expensive city in the world for foreign workers, or expatriates, it’s undergoing massive reconstruction efforts that will significantly alter its cityscape over the next few years. My time in Luanda was chaotic–the traffic was remarkable abysmal–but I enjoyed the novelty of being there.
Seoul, South Korea | May 2011
I love Seoul. I was fortunate enough to experience the city during a festival–the Han River pictured above, which bisects the city East to West, was full of art installations that made for a fun walk. With it’s many neighborhoods, amazing food and nightlife, Seoul is a must-visit if you’re taking a trip to Asia.
Published: September 22nd, 2011
I had it all planned out.
In late May, I’d write an epic post about my six week trip to Asia, where I went to South Korea (and quasi-North Korea), Russia, Guam and Japan. I’d talk about the food in Seoul, my weekend in Kyoto, the broken, snowy streets of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and an end-of-the-world inspired nudist beach party, sparklers and all.
In mid-June, I’d write about my trip to Portland, Oregon and all the amazing people I met at the World Domination Summit. I’d talk about Nate, who is walking across America; Joel, who is launching an Impossible League and Mark, who is building an online marketplace for parking spaces. It was an engaging and inspiring weekend, unlike any conference I’ve attended. #wds2012 anyone?
In July, I’d write about a one-week cost-of-living survey in Reykjavik, Iceland, where I ate fermented shark, hung out at a geothermal spa and enjoyed nearly 24 hours of continuous sunlight. I’d upload pictures, talk about the people I met and share a few stories. If I was feeling particularly sprightly, I’d even mention a road trip I took through Maine to Acadia National Park.
But no! Despite a rock star summer, it’s been 100+ days since my last update! What happened?
No excuses, folks. My break from the blogosphere was a bit too long, and for that I apologize. Let it be known that I’m back!
I, er, Left my Dream Job (the Most Amazing Job in the World)
After 3 years and 50+ countries, I ended my tenure as an international cost-of-living surveyor. As you might imagine, my travel stamina was beginning to wear thin, the jet lag starting to take its toll. I’ll cherish those years for the rest of my life and only hope I can keep the bar set as high as it’s been. A big shout out to my former employer for such a precious opportunity and set of experiences.
So, what’s next?
Excellent question. I’m currently exploring the realm of funemployment–looking at full-time gigs in the digital marketing/web analytics space and working on a number of side projects in the meantime. I landed my first freelance web consulting gig with a real estate firm, Assured Commercial Mortgage Company. I’m building a few websites, putting together a photography portfolio, selling some things on Craigslist, you know, trying to optimize my days as best as possible. It’s been tough to stay motivated, but I’ve been enjoying the hustle. The Tropical MBA guys would be proud.
Nerve Rush | Gut-Wrenching Adventure
I wanted to highlight one of the projects I’m working on, as it officially launches today. Back in June, Joel Runyon and I started talking about working together in some capacity. We’re both into the extreme sports/adrenaline space and figured that would be a good place to start.
Fast-forward a couple of months, shared Google Docs, emails and phone calls –> and Nerve Rush was born. We’ve already got a load of content published, with more on the way. Any feedback at this point is highly appreciated, as we’re still working through the kinks and figuring out where to take the site. If anything, this will be a fun side project for us.
Talk soon! Woot woot.
Published: May 18th, 2011
Case Studies in the 9 to 5 alternative: No. 10
Welcome to a series of profiles on alternative lifestyles. If you think that you (or someone you know) would make for an interesting interview, get in touch!
Meet Becca Alper. For the last several months, Becca has been living in New York City, working for a real-time media company called Sulia. I’ll let her tell you more, but Sulia filters Twitter content into a series of specific content channels, many of them on timely events and breaking news. These channels are made available to other media companies like Flipboard and WSJ.
I chose to feature Becca (and Sulia) for two reasons. Not only do I adore Becca–she’s a close friend of mine–but I think her situation makes a great point, that not all 9 to 5 jobs are [insert negative connotation here]. Becca raves about her job and had been given a fantastic opportunity to exploit her interests and to provide value in a corporate structure. I applaud her for sharing her experience.
How and when did you end up joining Sulia?
I started at Sulia in October of last year. My friend from high school has been with the company almost since its inception and reached out to me as soon as she learned Sulia was going to start curating Portuguese twitter content.
What are your job responsibilities? What are you working on these days?
When I arrived at Sulia, they had one Portuguese language Channel, Brazil. Sulia has thousands of live, English language Channels, so I had to play a lot of catch up. By now, I’ve built over 300 channels, based on our English taxonomy: sports and teams, fashion and beauty, politics, business and professions, living, etc. Only a few of the channels I’ve built don’t have English equivalents, like samba and Spiritism, a religion that believes in communication between spirits and living people, that is hugely popular in Brazil.
I also build channels around breaking news stories. I recently covered a horrific shooting that happened in a Rio middle school. Combing existing channels about Rio de Janeiro, public safety and national news, I created a live stream of updates from major news outlets, political leaders, and community activists. It’s fascinating to see how these live Channels evolve. In this case, from the time the story broke with few confirmed facts, through the funerals of the 12 school children who were killed, to the discovery of a video the shooter recorded before he executed his plan.
What are your hours? How is the office laid out?
I get to the office by 9:30 am and leave between 7:30 and 8 pm. The Internet doesn’t close after business hours, though, so it’s not unusual that I find myself tweeking Channels that need help or building Channels around breaking news early in the mornings or on the weekends.
You told me you loved your job. Why is that?
I have been passionate about Portuguese language and Brazilian culture, ever since I studied abroad in Northern Brazil my junior year of college. To be paid to know everything that is going on in the Portuguese speaking world and curate Portuguese Twitter content to reflect that is a dream.
I also love living in New York, which, in my book, is second best to Brazil. Part of covering trends and current events in the Brazilian Twittersphere is immersing myself in all things Brazilian, even when I’m not at my desk. I go to Brazilian bars and shows, I take samba lessons, and I even celebrate the Jewish holidays with a Latin American congregation. Not only do I love being able to pursue all these extra-curriculars, but I also appreciate that my co-workers at Sulia encourage and take an active interest in my endevors.
Where has Sulia come from, and where is it headed? What role do you see yourself playing in the future?
Sulia has not always been Sulia. CEO, Jonathan Glick, started TLISTS back in 2009 as list-making tool for web publishers and Twitter clients. Lists are a way to begin organizing twitter to make it easier for users to follow topics, instead of hunting for accounts one by one. We quickly realized that lists need a filter to sift out junk and off topic tweets. So last fall, TLISTS rebranded and launched Sulia, a realtime media company, focused on filtering Twitter into compelling, high-quality content Channels. There are lots of great lists out there in the Twittersphere, and by crowdsourcing lists on topics, we create Channels, filtered streams of Twitter content from only the best-regarded experts on any given topic.
Sulia’s Channels on thousands of evergreen topics, timely events and breaking news are available on its own website. In addition, Sulia makes its Channel streams available to media companies through its API and customizes the channels to their specifications. FlipBoard, WSJ.com, Gannett properties and Everyday Health are some of the companies currently featuring ourChannels. We’re also working on a bunch of different consumer experiences, across platforms, in collaboration with our partners.
Sulia has already proven it can successfully adapt to the changing media landscape, so I’m confident we will be around in some form or another, for a while to come.
I am building our Portuguese language content to the point where Sulia can start working with Brazilian media groups and American media companies with Brazilian users. A little farther down the road, I see myself spending more and more time in Brazil as Sulia begins to work more closely with Brazilian media companies and eventually opening Sulia’s first foreign office in Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo.
I have a personal goal of living in Brazil by the start of the World Cup in 2014. I’m optimistic I can achieve it with Sulia.
You can reach Becca on Twitter (@GringaInformada) or on her newly launched blog, Manhattanlandia.
Published: April 4th, 2011
And poof, just like that, we’re already three months into 2011.
Each quarter, I like to take a step back and reflect on my goals for the year. In January, I started a new goal-setting experiment by seeking out twelve month-long challenges.
Three months in, so far so good. While January’s cooking challenge and February’s writing challenge both went well, I didn’t approach March with the kind of gusto I had originally intended.
For the last thirty days, I’ve been reading about and practicing Parkour, the art of getting from point A to point B, most often in an urban environment, as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The challenge, when I wrote it out, was to learn Parkour. In January and February, I had specific metrics outlined for each goal. Looking back, I should have done this in March. Learn x number of moves, or put together x number of videos. Something more concrete to keep me motivated and accountable. Something more compelling than a broad idea. It’s hard to know whether or not you’ve hit a goal if you don’t have any specific milestones laid out.
Despite my lack of direction, I did learn quite a lot about the sport. I watched Banlieu 13, or District 13, a French action movie where the main character is a Parkour traceur. I scoured the Internet for tutorial sites. I even found a few meetup groups in the Boston area to join when the weather gets warmer.
As promised, I put together a short video of one of my practice sessions. Compared to people who actually know what they’re doing (and are in much better shape), I’m as amateur as they come. That said, I had fun putting this together. Shout-out to my coworker Alex for helping me film:
Since it’s the start of a new quarter, I also wanted to let you know what I’ll be working on over the next three months.
April: Bucket List Smackdown.
The Challenge: Knock three items off of my bucket list.
The Details: Of the 38 challenges currently on my bucket list, I’ve only completed one of them. I haven’t decided which ones to tackle this month, but some are significantly easier than others. I’ll try to mix it up. Any suggestions?
Get Involved: Have a life list of your own? Let me know what you’re working on. For more inspiration, check out these lists: Nate Damm, Sean Ogle, Heath Tulley, Tyler Tervooren, Joel Runyon
May: Hustling, Hour by Hour.
The Challenge: Work 10-15 hours on a side project or business venture.
The Details: I tend to be pretty scatterbrained when it comes to business and project ideas. The purpose of this month’s challenge is to buckle down and focus on one of these ideas, putting at least ten hours into it to push it forward.
Get Involved: All of us have side projects in the closet or under the bed. What have you been putting off? Join me this month and put some time into your idea.
June: Do it Yourself.
The Challenge: Spend 5-10 hours on a DIY project.
The Details: I’ve always looked up to my mom for being so hands-on. Problem with the sink? Ten minutes of Google research and she’ll be inside the cabinet, tightening bolts with a headlamp on. You rock, mom. This month, I’ll attempt to build a solar panel. First step..locate a soldering iron.
Get Involved: For your own DIY project, check out Instructables.com, DoItYourself.com or DIYIdeas.com to get started.
That’s all I’ve got for now, folks. See you soon.