Tag: Travel

My 2011

My year end review is always one of my favorite posts to write each year (2009, 2010, 2000-2010).  So without further ado, here’s what I did in 2011.

2011 was an amazing yet tumultuous year.  I rung in 2011 in Pasadena, CA at the Rose Bowl with my family and friends.  Although the Badgers lost, I got to see a friend I hadn’t seen in three years and had a great time.  The next week, I did an hour long interview for NPR for the first time while San Francisco for Entrustet.  I returned to Chile with Jesse to continue working on Entrustet in the Startup Chile program.  As 2011 rolled on, I got closer to my new friends from Startup Chile and now consider them some of my closest friends in the world.

Salar de Uyuni

I continued to travel, going all over Chile and into Bolivia.  The Salar de Uyuni still is the most beautiful place I’ve seen on earth, closely followed by Torres del Paine in Patagonia, which I visited with my brother and one of my best friends.  My parents made the trip to visit me in Chile and we explored Pucon and the lakes region.  Two of my best friends from Wisconsin came to visit and we went to La Serena and Valle del Elqui.  I got to Mendoza, Pichilemu, San Pedro de Atacama, Buenos Aires, Hawaii, Austin, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

2011 was a banner year for Wisconsin sports.  Although the Badgers lost in the Rose Bowl to start the year, they were in the National Title hunt for most of 2011 and I find myself going back to Cali (Cali), for another new year.  The Packers went on an improbable run to win the Super Bowl from the sixth seed.  I watched with an international group of friends in Santiago as the mostly pro steelers crowd changed “roth-leeees-bour-geeer” over and over.  The Brewers had their best regular season ever, winning 96 games and getting within two games of the World Series.  The Packers are 14-1 and are favorites to repeat for the Super Bowl.  2011 might well be the golden year for Wisconsin sports.

Entrustet continued to grow, but slowly.  We continued to get press and were mentioned in over 125 publications in 2011.  We continued to sign up lawyers and work with insurance companies to try to help people protect their digital assets.  Jesse presented at South by Southwest and I moderated at panel on the Chilean Startup Scene.  We even had our first user pass away, proving that our system really works.

Friendsgiving 2011

On a personal level, I learned Spanish, made some amazing new friends and really grew a ton living outside my comfort zone abroad.  I have a new appreciation for the simple things in life like being able to coast through mundane life situations and watching as things come easily for me.  I  traveled back for Friendsgiving, the annual gathering of my best friends from college.  It was amazing to see all my friends I hadn’t seen in a long time.  I saw some great music in 2011, going to Lollapalooza Chile, South by Southwest in Austin and many others and I ended my time with Startup Chile by giving a speech to the President of Chile, completely in Spanish.

Looking back, 2011 has been the year of big changes.  I left Madison, traveled all over, continued to be an entrepreneur, found myself growing and changing, loving, making new friends.  If 2012 can match how much I enjoyed 2011, I know I’m doing something right.  I have no doubt it will.

Favorite Posts

A Tribute  – My favorite post of the year

How to Live Before you Die: What I Learned From Running Entrustet

How to Talk to the Media and Get Quoted in Press


The Customer is not Always Right: Sometimes He’s an Asshole


Overcoming Self Deception

A Reflection on Living Abroad

You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Til It’s Gone, so Seize Your Opportunities with Alacrity

I’ve been planning to write this post like this ever since getting accepted into Startup Chile, but it all came together the past few days.

I have stayed in a hostel in Santiago for the last nine days until I found an apartment yesterday.  When I went to take a shower the first day, it was great.  Nice bathroom, high pressure, plenty of hot water.  After 14 hours of traveling, it was exactly what I needed.  The next morning, I went to take another shower and everything was great again.  After about 5 minutes, the water got cold.  Frigid.  I had to get out.

Some days, there was no hot water at all and I skipped showering, some days I had the same hot shower as my first day.  You never know how good you have it until it’s taken away from you.  Luckily for me, I only lost hot water, not something more important like this young Packers fan. Because I knew what it was like to lose hot water, I got really good at washing my hair as quickly as possible.  I took my chance to shower with hot water with alacrity.  Big word, I know, but my Mom’s been saying that to me since I was 3 to get me to do things, so I had to use it here.

It’s easy to think that you’re living your life to the fullest, but you truly don’t know how good you have it until you lose it.  You can try to live like you’re dead as Dave Winer suggests in his yearly Thanksgiving post, but it’s much easier said than done.  For me, it’s easier to take a step back every once in awhile and think about all of the things I have: health, great friends/family, ability to travel, flexibility to start my own business, rather than the things I don’t have.  If you have a few basic things, you’re pretty much set.

When opportunities come up, seize them.  Take the trip, learn the instrument, start your business, go talk to people.  What’s the worst that could happen?  Live for opportunities and experiences, not things.  When you’re looking back, you’ll remember your experiences and the people you made your memories with, not the things that were around you.  Control what you can, let the rest roll off your back.  If Entrustet‘s taught me anything, it’s that in the long run, we’re all dead.  Don’t diminish what you have, because it could be taken away at a moments notice and when you have the opportunity to do something awesome, do it.  You won’t regret it.

World Cup 2010 Preview and Predictions

I’m on my way to South Africa for the World Cup right now with my friends Andy and Katie.  This morning, we flew out of Milwaukee to New York and will be exploring the city for the day.  Late tonight, we fly out of NYC and head to Dubai, where we catch a plane to South Africa.  We’ve got tickets for USA vs. England, USA vs. Slovenia, USA vs. Algeria and Spain vs. Switzerland and we hope to be able to catch Brazil vs. Ivory Coast and Cameroon vs. Netherlands.

We’re going to Johannesburg, Cape Town, Rustanberg, Durban and hopefully Kruger National Park for a safari and we’re all excited.  It’s my first trip to Africa and I’m hoping its as amazing as World Cup 2006 in Germany was.  I’m confident that the South Africans will pull off a great tournament, just like the Germans did in 2006.

I’m not really sure what to expect out of the US squad.  I think the US got a fairly easy group compared to what they could have gotten, but there are not easy teams in this tournament, save North Korea.  I’m thinking the US will advance and most likely lose to Germany in the round of 16.  I’m looking for Landon Donovan to continue to build on his breakout performance in the 2009 Confederations Cup and his loan stint at Everton and really show that he is a world class player.  Clint Dempsey will continue to shine out on the left flank like he has for Fulham.

With Charlie Davies not fully recovering from a deadly car crash, the US is really thin at forwards.  Luckily, three previously unheralded forwards seem to be hitting their stride right at the right time.  Look for big things from Hurcluez Gomez and Jozy Altidore.  The most improved player from qualifying til now seems to be Jose Francisco Torres.  I think he can have a breakout performance at the World Cup, attracting attention from clubs in the best leagues in Europe.

The biggest problem for the US is at the back.  Tim Howard is a world class goal keeper, but the defense in front of him looks shaky.  Oguchi Onyewu looks amazing in 2009, but suffered a knee injury in qualifying.  He doesn’t seem fully recovered.  Green Bay’s own Jay Demerit looks solid as the other center back, but the outside backs will have trouble with fast players like England’s Aaron Lennon and Wayne Rooney.

The African sides look to be really strong this year.  Ivory Coast looks really good, but they have a really hard group.  Cameroon and Ghana looked solid, but both are suffering from injuries and the hosts, South Africa have a decent squad that will be boosted by the home support.

So who’s going to win it all?  I’d love to see Spain win it all, but I don’t see it happening.  I think they’ll make a deep run, only to come up short.  Argentina is an easy pick since they have arguably the best player in the world in Lionel Messi.  As Arsenal’s coach said after getting lit up for 4 goals, Messi is “like a video game player.”  Ultimately I can’t see Argentina taking it because they have a moron for a coach in Diego Maradona.  England, Germany, Portugal, France and other traditional powers look to be weak, but you never know when a team will catch fire, like Germany and France in 2006.  I’m going to go with the safe pick and choose Brazil, even though they left Ronaldhino at home.

I can’t wait to be in South Africa and hope to write a few posts during my down time, but I can’t guarantee anything.  I have 2 posts scheduled to post while I’m gone, but any new posts I write in South Africa will be about South Africa.  I’ll be back on June 30th!

Do You Value Experiences Or Things?

I just booked my flight to South Africa for World Cup 2010.  I’m going with my friends Andy and Katie and we have tickets for all three USA group stage games, plus a the Spain vs. Switzerland group stage match.  Everyone I talk to says something along the lines of “oh wow, you must be rich to be able to go to the World Cup.”  When I talk about some of the other places I’ve been, people are even more shocked.

Although I am very lucky that I do not have any student loan debt and had a business where I made some money, I am not rich.  The reason I can afford to travel is that I value experiences over physical things.  Let me explain.

I value experiences like traveling, going to sporting events, eating good food and learning new skills.  I don’t value physical things like the latest tech gadgets, new cars, expensive houses, fashion and other material things.  That’s why I’ve traveled to Europe multiple times and am going to South Africa this summer.

I’m able to travel because I drive a scratched and dented ’95 Toyota Carolla (link isn’t my car, its too clean).  It is one of the cheapest cars to drive and maintain and my insurance is cheap because I don’t have comprehensive insurance, just collision.  I get 30 MPG and live close to my office, so I rarely drive.

I could afford to upgrade to a “better” car, but what’s the use?  I view a car as a way to get from point A to point B.  As long as the car is safe and reliable, why change?  I look at it this way:  I could have a new car or a trip to Europe each year.  The average US car payment is $400, or $4800 per year.  I’ll choose driving a “crappy” car every single day of the week if it means I can go to Europe once per year.

I also don’t need luxury living.  I pay $400/month to rent a room in a house that I share with 4 friends.  We have an entire house here in Madison and have plenty of space.  We have a great location, close to the Capitol, restaurants and bars.  I could live on my own for $700 or live with a roommate in a nicer apartment for anywhere between 600-1200/month.  That $200/month minimum difference in rent, or $2400, will more than pay for my flight to South Africa this summer.  It could also pay for my groceries, since I cook most days of the week.

I also have had the same cell phone for the past 6 years.  It’s functional, makes calls and I’ve had fewer than 10 dropped calls in that time period, unless I’m in an elevator.  Since I’ve had the phone for so long, I don’t have a long term contract and my rates are low.  I recently got an iPhone for business and the price difference is stunning.  My old phone costs about $40/month.  If this weren’t for business, a new iPhone can cost up to $100/month.

I don’t care about fashion.  Obviously, I want to look good, just like everyone else, but I don’t need to be on the cutting edge.  If I find something that fits and looks decent, I’ll wear it until its worn out.  I own (and wear) shoes from 2004, 2008 and 2009 that still are comfortable and look decent.  If you see me around Madison, you’ll probably see me in one of 5-6 different clothing combos.  I spent under $200 on new clothes in 2009.  I have friends who spend $200 on a single pair of jeans.  That savings will pay for my match tickets to 4 world cup games and my food while I’m there.

I also try to pack a lunch instead of going out to lunch.  A nice sandwich, salad and piece of fruit costs about $2 at most.  The average lunch at a sandwich shop costs $7.  That $5 per day difference goes toward eating dinners at interesting restaurants and trying new cuisines.

I don’t impulse buy.  I never buy cheap, plastic things that will only be used once.  I was talking with my friend Andy about buying things when we were on our way back from visiting our friends Mike and Pat in Chicago.

Andy said he remembered sitting in an intro Finance class sophomore year of college where the professor said “we all buy things everyday.”  She was trying to give an introduction to finance, but Andy couldn’t stop thinking to himself “No, I don’t buy things everyday.  Sometimes i even go 3-4 days without buying anything.”  I’m in the same boat.

In the US, you can say “we buy things everyday” and for most people, it is true.  I know when my parents were growing up, their families did not buy things everyday.  They bought a weeks worth of groceries at the store and cooked meals at home.  Eating at restaurants was rare and fast food places like Qdoba, Potbelly, Subway and others were nonexistent.  Going out was considered a special treat.  They wouldn’t buy candy from vending machines, cheap plastic junk from stores or close to 75% of the inventory in your typical Walmart.  It’s amazing that there can be stores in the US that only sell cheap plastic junk that will only be used once.  At least Walmart sells groceries and other necessities.  People buy all sorts of things without even thinking about them and many times, rarely use them more than once, if at all.

I think there are three subsets of people.  People who value experiences over things, people who value experiences over things, but get sucked into buying lots of material things and people who value things over experiences.   I don’t think there is a “right” way to live, although I personally can’t imagine being happy based on purchasing electronics, cars and clothes; everyone can be happy in any of the three categories.  The point of this post is not to chastise people who value things over experiences, but to point out that people in the middle group can get out of the “things” trap.  Instead of spending money on things to “keep up with the Joneses” they could save the money and actually do the things they’ve always wanted to.

What do you think?  Which category to you fit into?  What experiences would you like to be able to do in your life?