Short Trip to Abu Dhabi

I had a little bit of time on the way back from Borneo and Singapore, and I decided to drop in and see a friend in Abu Dhabi.  I hadn't seen her in four years, since we worked at the same hotel in the US Virgin Islands.  I enjoy maintaining friendships no matter how far apart they may be, it is important for me to show that I care and that I am committed.  Also, it's a good way to see the world!  When you have friends all over the world, it's good to use that as an excuse to check out a part of the world you might otherwise not have.  In this case, I was able to go to Abu Dhabi for a couple of days, and see an amazing person at the same time.  

Upon arrival, the heat was effectual right from the start, you can feel the wall of thick hot air as soon as you walk out of the airport.  The day I landed, the high temperature for the day was about one hundred and eighteen degrees (forty eight Celsius) and humid.  As I strolled out of the airport I was surrounded by many men asking me if I needed a taxi, and what type I was looking for.  This is where I made my first mistake, and I'm still kicking myself over it, I got ripped off and knew it the whole time.  A typical taxi into the city should cost about a hundred AED at the most, but mine charged one fifty and put another person in the car with me after repeatedly saying he wouldn't.  I don't mind sharing a ride, but only if it is going to discount my cost, it didn't and I was the sucker.  Take a normal taxi if you can, just wave them down and don't get caught up with one of those swindlers.  A ride back to the airport from town will be cheaper, usually around sixty AED depending on where in the city you are staying.  The other thing to note is they don't have Grab or Uber there like they do in Dubai, cash only taxi's are all that is offered, or Careem which is an expensive limo app.  There are ATMs right as you walk out of the airport, so stop here and stock up if you have fees for each withdrawal.  The ride takes about forty minutes if you are staying downtown, and make sure to screenshot your destination just in case the driver doesn't know where your place is, or which one you are talking about.  

One big piece of advice I will give you, something that is probably common knowledge but just slipped my mind, don't go here in the summer!!  If you can, do a winter trip and knock out Dubai and Abu when the weather is a tad more pleasant, summer is brutal.  When I first posted my pictures on social media, most of my friends had the same observation, no people in the streets.  Yes, the silly white guy was the only one walking around taking pictures in this atrocious heat, everyone else was at the mall or home comfy in their AC.  I spent about forty minutes walking outside, and that was a stretch, it was almost unbearable but I had to push on through with my limited time there.  I walked through Heritage Park, and then on to the waterfront which was lined with desert dunes on one side, and fishing boats along the Persian Gulf.  It was a different site for me, I had always wanted to be in the Middle East, and see the Persian Gulf, being here for real was quite breathtaking.  I spent some time admiring the sea, watching boats go by, and taking pictures in a shady spot that I had found until I had enough. Once I was finished I walked back to the Corniche neighborhood where my hotel was, and found a supermarket called Grandiose which had the necessary snacks for my room.  One thing I noticed at night was that people really come out when the sun goes down.  The trails were full of bikers, joggers, and roller bladers, and the beaches were full of volleyball games, frisbee, anything outdoors once it cools a bit.

That night I was supposed to finally meet up with my friend who I had flown all the way there to see but we had a snafu in meeting up and we had to postpone to the next day.  Luckily I had backup plans, although the first one I wasn't so sure I would be able to carry out.  That plan was to buy a bottle of wine, and stay in my room and have a little wine and get some photo editing and writing done, but finding take home wine would prove to be tricky.  The middle east is mostly a "dry" section of the world, with many countries not offering any alcohol whatsoever, others only offer at restaurants and bars but not to take home.  I scoured the internet looking for some answers of what I could do, and I came up with a solution and decided to give it a try.  I found a store next to the bar I wanted to go to that was called "high Spirits," my kind of place!  They had a wonderful selection of beers, spirits, and a decent wine selection as well.  There are very very few stores like this, and typically they won't sell to non-locals, so there is a little trick you can use to get passed that.  If you tell them that you live there and work for the Embassy they will sell you whatever you want.  I snagged a bottle of red from Italy for around twelve US dollars, and proceeded back to my room for the night.

I returned to my room and poured a glass, and proceeded to get to work.  My other backup plan also materialized at the same time, and I had to bail on my staying in night, but I'm very glad I did.  My brother had a friend from college that had been living in Abu Dhabi for the last five years, and he was able to connect us with the wonders of modern technology (Facebook). He was free luckily, and wanted to take e out and show me the nightlife that the city had to offer.  He came to my hotel, and we walked to a "western" bar across the street called Rock Bottom (I used to work at a brewery with the same name, so it had a certain charm for me). This place had an American cover band, cheap drinks, and apparently a lot of women of "negotiable affection" if you catch my drift.  We had one drink there, and he wanted to move on and show me the real Abu Dhabi.  He took me to a bar called "Asia de Cuba" which was a very nice place right on the beach.  A reoccurring theme started here, which was them not letting me in with shorts on.  This town is extremely strict with their dress codes, even though it's unbelievably hot outside, no flip flops, no shorts, and some places even require long sleeves as well.  This happened at a few places before he decided to just take the long trip out to the well known Irish pub called McGettigan's which could care less what you are wearing.  This place was crawling with westerners, loud music, tons of space, and random sports on TV.  We had a corona and watched Korfball, ever heard of it?  I hadn't either, it's like a combination of volleyball and soccer, very strange, but entertaining at least.  After a lot of talking, and many beers, we decided to go for a nightcap a little closer to my hotel, guess where we went?  Yeah, back to Rock Bottom where there were even more women of negotiable affection at this time, and the music was better with a little help from Carlsberg, Tiger, and Coffee Tequila...

The hotel I stayed at had a brilliant breakfast buffet which was mighty helpful the next morning as I was in dire need of something close to the breakfast I have at home.  After breakfast I was finally lucky enough to be able to meet with my friend who I had flown all the way there to see. She works at the St. Regis and we were able to meet at the mall that is attached to her office (there are malls attached to everything there).  Right next to her was the Nation Galleria across from the beach which was full of shops and restaurants.  We walked around for a bit, and decided on LOL for lunch, also known as Leopold's of London, fantastic food with an amazing view.  Then she took me on a wonderful tour of the St. Regis hotel, if you have it in your budget I would highly recommend staying there, it is one beautiful place in an amazing location.  In addition to the strict dress codes across the city, any form of public affection is also banned. So after not seeing each other for four years, and saying goodbye till who knows when, we were not allowed to hug, which was quite troubling but such is Abu Dhabi.

I had a late flight, so I decided to leave a little early and hit a few spots on the way to the airport.  I went to Emirates Palace, Etihad Towers, Corniche Beach, and walked around that area a bit before heading to the airport.  Once at the airport I was told repeatedly by many that I would not be able to board the plane in shorts, so make sure you bring some long pants and long sleeves in your bag just in case.

I was there for one reason, and that was seeing my friend, and I also wasn't there for very long. If I had some more time I would have done a desert tour with camel riding, sunset, and traditional dinner in a tent.  There is also dune surfing, ATV riding, and 4x4 trucks you can rent and tear across the desert in.  When I return at the end of this year I'm looking to attend most of those, and possibly even drive up to Dubai for New Years Eve which is a big deal apparently, and only about an hour and fifteen minutes drive if you are okay with driving on the left.  All in all it was a great experience, and I'm returning because I want to see my friend again, and I would love to experience all that UAE has to offer from the beach and sea to the desert, and I will make sure to bring pants this time.

Malaysian Borneo: A Walk around Kota Kinabalu

Once you are settled and have taken in the views, a little history and some sights are typically in order.  The downtown stretch of Kota Kinabalu is quite close together, and it is very easy to walk from one end to the other (depending on the weather).  If you do a little research you can find the hot spots, the historical buildings and monuments, and the specific events that make this city unique.  Once you have figured out what you will be doing and where to go, you can easily set yourself up on a walking tour and hit the significant ones in a day.

GAYA STREET SUNDAY MARKET

From early in the morning around 6:30 am until right around 1:00 pm there is a market and fair full of stalls which sell arts, craft, food, fruits, antiques and so much more. This indeed is the best place to experience the culture and the lives of the Sabahan families on a Sunday outing. This happens every Sunday and is well worth a visit, especially if you are in the market for some Borneo paraphernalia or wonderfully local seafood.  The market is towards the northern part of the city centre and is basically streets full of blue tents, rain or shine.  Once you have made your way through the trinket stands, and bought your t-shirts and gifts for your jealous loved ones at home, you should go to where the grills are.  A part of this market that is delicious is the grill area, where you pick your protein (mostly seafood) and they season it, marinade it, and grill it up fresh and hot right in front of you.   After your hot lunch, you can stock up on local vegetables and fruits, Malaysian junk food, and even donuts!  If you are staying a while and have the means, I would stock up on fruits if you can, they don't get any fresher.  If you are feeling naught you can spring for Malaysian Kuih which is one of their traditional deserts.  

SIGNAL HILL OBSERVATORY 

Once you are full and stocked up on your goodies, you might want to drop by your hotel and leave all of your things there before continuing on your day.  The next stop for us was the Observatory tower which is the tallest point in the city with sweeping views of the the downtown area, the waterfront, and the islands in the distance that are a part of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park.  The city is growing rapidly with a lot of new buildings going up all over town, and some right in the way of the beautiful view.  It is still beautiful however, and worth the trek up.  They do have water, soda, snacks, and even hot sandwiches at the top if you didn't get enough at the market, but we just took the views in.  There is a way to "hike" to the platform, but it's all on the road and not totally worth your time.  You can take a cab or a car share (We used GRAB) for only a few dollars and get dropped off right at the top.  Once you have taken your selfies and enjoyed the crisp breezes, you don't need to take a car back, there is a much better way that will lead you to our next stop.

ATKINSON CLOCK TOWER

When you leave the observatory head down the road towards town and look for a trail sign and a bunch of stairs.  It is only about a hundred feet down the road, and it will eventually lead you to the street and close to the clock tower.  When you get to the bottom of the stairs you will reach the street, hang a left and walk until you get to it, again, not a very long walk and you can see it from the observatory, and the street. The clock tower is the oldest standing structure in KK, mostly because the entire city was destroyed by allied bombings in WWII and it was the only building left.  The history is more impressive than the tower itself, but it is very interesting that this clock stood as every single building and home in the city was completely flattened.  It's a beautiful site and there is a description on a board in front, but you can't access the tower itself.  The one fun fact about the tower for me is that it is built entirely from wood without the use of any nails.  From here you will look towards the sea and take a stroll through a towering hotels, through American fast food joints, local bars and coffee shops, and make your way to the waterfront promenade.  

As you walk through the downtown area you will notice that this city is not set up for pedestrians.  Drivers are not taught to stop for walkers, and will absolutely not if you need to cross where there isn't a crosswalk or stop light.  Even if you find a stop light with a walk signal, it will be a lucky day if it actually works.  Then there are the roundabouts that have a never ending stream of cars that make a point to never stop for anyone trying to cross the road, so use a lot of caution.  If you can, try to find the pedestrian bridge which is a few blocks south and goes over the main road and has stairs down to the waterfront.  There are two landmarks that you will be looking for on or near the waterfront, one is the Marlin statue, and one is the KK statue above. There are beautiful views to be had here, a local fisherman's dock, and many tourists trying to take the perfect picture with their straw hat and Gucci sunglasses.  I'm not sire if it is illegal or not, but I would highly suggest you don't try to mount and climb the Marlin statue, I saw a kid try it and it didn't end well.  Even though I made fun of the tourists with their straw hats, it's not a bad idea to have a hat on, the sun can be absolutely brutal during the day.  Make sure you are smart about walking around in the sun right above the equator, it can be quite overwhelming if you aren't used to that type of heat. The best thing to do is hit up a coffee shop after this and chill in the air-conditioning and have some juice and fill up your water bottles.  There are a lot of backpacker lodges and hostels in this area, so that means there are lots of coffee shops with free wifi and water.  We utilized one for water, and to call ourselves a GRAB to get us back to our hotel and rest before our evening. Before that however we loved this view and the wonderful breezes looking at Pulau Gaya and the surrounding islands.  This is also where you can negotiate an island hopping trip if you want to.  There will be local boat drivers walking the boardwalk asking if you need a boat, and you can ask them to take you around to the islands for a fixed price.  If you have gear on you to snorkel and swim, that can also be a part of the trip as well, just let them know you want to snorkel and they will take you to a good spot.  So, say goodbye to this view for now, and we will see if we can top it with our plan for the evening.  

Once you are rested up, showered, and ready to go out we ended up finding an amazing bar on the most exclusive and luxurious resort in the city with amazing sunsets, guess what it is called?  Sunset Bar, very clever I know, and it is located at the Shangri-La resort and spa.  You will need a cab or GRAB to get you there, and for some reason cabs have a special price it seems and it will cost you 30 RMs to get there from pretty much anywhere in the city.  If you take GRAB or another car service it will be about one third that price, but they are still working out the "kinks" for the service and you might be cancelled on repeatedly.  If you want to get some shots in before you sit, there is a walking path that follows along the ocean within the resort, and has stunning views.  The bar is open to the public but getting a reservation for a sunset view table is next to impossible without being a guest.  We just walked up and were charged 25 RMs for a cover charge per person, but it did come with one "free" drink.  The tables were all reserved and they asked if we would be willing to stand at the bar, which we did.  We received our drinks and luckily one of the workers located a couple of chairs for us and we sat at the bar and had our drinks.  They have a live jazz band on Sundays which was wonderful, and the drinks were good. You will hear people say they drinks are over-priced, and they may be, but they are really not that bad in the scheme of things.  The food is limited, but fresh and grilled up right behind you as you watch the sun set.  This resort is it's own peninsula and has a very serious view all around, and the sunsets are breathtaking.

There are many things you can do in this town, it is bustling and interesting, and the people are some of the nicest in the world.  What we did was perfect for our limited time and what we were looking for on a lazy Sunday.  Everybody has different agendas and other ways to explore a new city, and this was just one day here.  For us, we wanted history, monuments, local flare and flavor, a bit of walking, and a relaxing sunset drink with a live band, I think we checked off our list in it's entirety.  

Malaysian Borneo: Mari Mari Village

I flew in to Kota Kinabalu which is the capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo.  Borneo is occupied by three different countries, Malaysia to the North, Indonesia to the South, and Brunei which is situated right smack in the middle of Sabah on the coast.  If you look at Borneo, KK (as it's called by the locals) is on the northwest side, right on the South China Sea. The city itself is quite modern in comparison, with many American fast food options, as well as British pubs to go along with colossal malls and local food markets.  With so many modern conveniences and city selections I decided to make my first day a step back before the sprawling city was built.  

After scouring the internet and forums I found that a tour of the historic Mari Mari Cultural Village was my best bet.  You can book a tour (which is highly recommended) and you will be picked up right at your hotel or home stay and driven to the entrance.  Once you get to the entrance you will be lead to "registration" which has fresh water, some pet lizards to meet, and a brief waiting period while they assign certain groups to guides.  I was able to secure a discount and tour through the shop I will be working with, but there are numerous tour companies in the city or you can go directly to them at Marimariculturalvillage.com and book a tour which is 180RM ($42 US) per person.  It is well worth the price.  You will be exploring an ancient village that used to house five different tribes and the tour guides are all descendants of these same villagers.  Our guide came here to visit his grandmother as a young child who was still living in their old long house and living off the land.

Once your group is put together you will be greeted by a guide and taken to the entrance of the village and given a brief run down of what you will see, and what to expect.  We were quite lucky as it was cloudy that day, so it wasn't all that hot, although it is quite humid here.  Once your guide has finished his introduction you will follow him into the village.  The guides are incredibly knowledgeable, fun, and all of them provide an English speaking experience.  Don't be afraid to ask them questions or to engage with them whenever you want to, they enjoy answering questions and sharing their heritage with all of us.

The first thing you see is a rope bridge that isn't all that high off the ground for those of you that aren't great with heights, but it is a sight.  It isn't a giant swinging bridge connecting two cliffs but you still need to proceed slowly and with caution.    Taking a picture of my mother on this bridge wasn't easy, you will need both hands to secure your crossing.  There is a rumbling creek below, and beautiful trees and sounds all around.  Once you are over this bridge you will join the rest of your party and proceed down to the first tribes area.

Once you all gather around the first tribal dwelling you will get a glimpse into the simple life that housed these people for generations.  Simple and hand built long houses that protected the entire village all in one domicile.  These villagers lived off of what was around them, so their construction, food, and way of living were unique to this one little area.  You get a nice story explaining how they lived, how they cooked, and more importantly, how they made rice wine.  A tasting is followed after being told how it is made, and you get to take a shot out of cute little bamboo shot glasses!  Rice is so incredibly important here, between the wine and the food, without rice I can't imagine how this tribe would exist, it is that important.  We were brought inside and a local girl was hard at work making the rice wine, getting prepared for all the visitors.  Another fact we were told was how to spot the single ladies, they have no sleeves, so the girl making our wine was available.

After our shots we were lead out of the house to the produce section, where handmade bowls were full of local vegetables.  The villagers go out and pick whatever they can find in the surrounding forest and make eclectic dishes with what they have around them.  Beautiful pottery made specifically for what they hold, all different sizes, and a myriad of designs.  The jungle around is lavish and makes for an easy experiment of different dishes.  Palm leaves are used as a sort of sanitation paper to line the bowls and serving dishes.  Traditionally the women are in charge of the kitchen, the picking, and the making of utensils and dishes.  The men hunt and protect the village, as well as do the heavy lifting and building.  

One of the most fascinating details for me was how the tribe lived in the long house.  The house was just that, long, and housed the entire tribe.  When you walked in there was a long hallway in the middle, bedrooms on the left, and a mildly raised platform on the right with sleeping pads.  The young single girls slept in the same room as the parents, but up high above.  They would climb a ladder to get to their bedroom, then the parents would remove the ladder once they were up there so nobody could reach them (and they couldn't sneak out).  The brothers would sleep outside of the rooms on the raised part on the front of the house to be able to fight if they were invaded.  The homes were all made from bamboo, and raised up off the ground in case of flooding and attack.  A very tricky ladder was used to enter the house which was basically a log with tiny steps carved into it that could be brought up once the whole village was inside.  There was also a kitchen in the house that was a flame grill with logs that could keep food fresh and eatable for a day or longer.  The also had "air-conditioning" which consisted of pushing the roof up and placing a stick strategically to pull in excess air from outside when it was windy and not raining.

One of the things that I was curious about was activities, what do they do for fun?  They have to do something to pass the time, much like we drink and watch Netflix or check Facebook and post cat videos right?  They actually have a bunch of entertainment to pass the time, and their interests are quite interesting.  They make beads and turn them into beautiful bracelets, earrings, and necklaces.  Henna is made for tattoos, musical instruments (especially drums and gongs), pottery, blowguns and darts, tobacco cigarettes (just the plant, no additives or chemicals), armored vests that can protect them from opposing darts, pots for cooking, and clothing.  Their hobbies and fun create functional items for the village.  

Once you have finished up with the history and making your way through the whole village you will go to lunch.  A buffet of local food prepared by the villagers will await you in the bamboo dining hall equipped with a gift shop of course.  Roasted chicken, rice, local vegetables and fruit, a delicious lunch in a tranquil setting before the show.  The main event is what follows the lunch, and it is a traditional dance that has been passed down for generations.  They have a band that consists of different types of drums, and a singer for a few numbers, but all the young ones celebrate with a number of dance routines.  Obviously they have grown a bit and have lighting, speakers, and a microphone to make the experience a bit more modern, but it is still full of tradition and incredible.  They always welcome photography and video, and at the end invite everyone up to try their dance routines with some minimal instruction.  

If you ever make your way to Borneo and find yourself in KK this is #1 on my list of things to do.  There is so much culture, and so much to learn if you are interested in learning about an ancient tribe you would have otherwise never known about.  The people are so nice and accommodating and incredibly happy to share their ancestry with you as you would be them.  I have been to many countries and experienced many cultures but this was an experience I will never forget because of how it was presented.  I know that most of the performers albeit genuine and descendants are just that, performers, and you are likely to see them in jeans and a t-shirt at the bar later, but does that make it any less genuine?  They still dress up in their parents and grandparents garb and perform the same dances, and show us exactly how their family lived not all that long ago, so it is just as palpable.  I left some things out of the experience as I think certain aspects are better experienced firsthand and didn't want to ruin the reality.  This was such an amazing event, and I'm so happy I was able to experience Sabah in this manner, and will recommend this village and tour to everyone every time I speak about KK.

Dive Equipment: What you should rent vs What you should buy

For divers, there is always the issue of what we should own, and what we should just rent once we get to the shop.  Every diver is different of course, but there are certain items you should try and purchase on your own and have with you for every dive.  Other components might not be necessary, and could be troublesome to travel with.  Here I will highlight my thoughts on five items, and whether or not you should purchase or rent them.

1) Regulator - Own

Having your own regulator is important for many reasons.  First and foremost, you are in charge of cleaning it, and only your saliva is going in and out.  One of the weirdest things was using regulators at the shops that had been breathed in by a hundred people, spitting and drooling all the way, yuck.  You also don't know the cleaning procedures of the shops, although I would say most follow proper techniques, its still strange putting your mouth on something hundreds of others have.  With your own regulator, only you are breathing out of it, and you can clean it any way you please.  They roll up nice as well, and if you have a decent case they can be incredibly easy to transport, fitting in a backpack, or taking up a small space in your suitcase.  They aren't cheap, but they are totally worth it if you dive often, or if you just don't want to share a breathing tube with a hundred people.

2) BCD - Rent

Having your own BCD for some is an accomplishment, and it proves that you are a seasoned diver and in turn know what you are doing.  Some are quite particular and want their own custom BCD with their own clips, and get comfortable knowing everything about it.  That is completely understandable, but if you are traveling to dive you might want to consider renting. Most shops carry the same one you will purchase, and it's not very expensive to rent equipment typically.  While having your own is great, it can be bulky and laborious in your luggage, taking up valuable space while flying.  If you have a preference I would just contact the shop and ask if they carry that style or maker, and if not ask what is similar.  Most of them are engineered the same way, and the companies stick to a similar design plan so you won't be terribly uncomfortable.  

3) Mask - Own

Having your own mask is imperative.  Every shop has an assortment of masks available, but you don't know which one isn't going to leak, or fog up.  With your own mask, you can work out the kinks and break it in and know exactly whats's going to happen once you are down below.  Vision is kind of important down there as you can imagine or have experienced, and there is nothing more annoying than a fogged-up and leaky mask. With your own you can burn it, rub toothpaste on it, and make sure it won't fog or leak. It's also very easy to travel with, but keep it in the case as much as possible as it can get scratched easily.

4) Fins - Rent

I actually went back and forth on this, and this one is kind of a combination of the two.  If you are able to dive locally, I would absolutely own your own pair, or even if you aren't traveling far to dive I would own my own.  Fins don't take up a ton of space, but they can be damaged in transit, and the shop might have the exact same pair available upon arrival.  Again, I would ask the shop if they have that make or a pair that is similar. Shops usually have an assortment of fins, but if they have many customers there is a chance that your pick is taken out for the day. I would own your own booties however because they are as small as socks, and then you can take out rental fins but have your own socks which solves any issue.  So for lengthier trips just rent and save the space.

5) Wetsuit - Own

This is a no-brainer, in fact I will double down and say that you should NEVER use a wetsuit from the shop.  Not everyone shares the same etiquette as you might, and as you know it is very hard to get certain "fluids" out of a wetsuit.  Even if you own your own I would highly suggest that you hold it during the dive and never relieve yourself in your suit.  Not only will it fade faster, it will smell and is just not good overall for the suit or you.  Rental suits can carry a lot of bacteria, and have strong odors, especially if they aren't cleaned properly.  So buy your own and keep it clean.

Did you know?  Hypothermia can happen in warm waters, even Caribbean seas that have water temperatures in the eighties.  If the water is cooler than your body temperature (which we all know is 98.6) then your body temperature is lowered and hypothermia can occur.  Wearing a wetsuit is beneficial for a couple of reasons, keeping your body temperature at a stable rate, and skin protection.  In warmer waters a "shorty" suit is more than sufficient. 

SUMMARY

These are just suggestions and based on my personal experiences talking with many divers and traveling for dives.  Dive equipment can be bulky and cumbersome, so that played a large role in what I suggested for rentals, but everybody is different.  The two most important pieces of equipment for me are your regulator and mask because breathing and seeing are essential. Those also happen to be the smallest and easiest to store while abroad, so it just seems automatic that you would own them, along with a wetsuit that is also easy to bring along.  So to recap, spit in your own mask, drool in your own regulator, and don't pee in any wetsuit (especially your own).

5 Small Things That Make a Big Difference For The Environment

If you are like me you try to do as many little things as you can, even the smallest change can make an impact.  Now, we can't stop oil pipeline leaks, or nuclear waste being pumped into the ocean, but there are a few things we can do to make the world a better place.  Some of these things aren't easy, and changing your behavior is never easy, especially when you are so used to certain habits, but it is imperative and necessary right now given our oceans current state.

1) SKIP THE STRAW

Plastic is bad, we all know this, but straws are worse because of their unique shape and weight. I'm going to include a video with this post that is very hard to watch, but if you care at all about our underwater friends, it might just change your nature.  Straws are streamlined and can get stuck in the nostrils of turtles, and other similar creatures that are just trying to breath. I know it isn't easy to skip the straw when most of the time you receive one without asking, but when you have a choice, skip it.  If you are given one that is still wrapped, leave it and get used to sipping out of the glass or cup directly.  You can also purchase a reusable and dishwasher safe one you can carry around in your pocket or purse that's made from stainless steel!  Is it weird to get used to drinking out of the cup at fast food and lunch places, as well as restaurants?  Yes, but it's totally worth it, and that many straws won't go into our waterways.  If you do end up with straws in your possession there is a way to dispose of them correctly.  Look up Earth911.com and see where there are recycle spots in your area for them.

2) PLASTIC SILVERWARE

Anything that is one use and thrown away is bad, very bad, it just goes into landfills and oceans.  Now I know it isn't possible to completely cut these things out of your every day life, but making better decisions based on these items would be best.  It's just like a diet, skip the fast food and order a salad instead, similar programming.  I know it's so much easier at barbecues and gatherings to just have plastic utensils for everyone to use, but it's a horrible practice in the long run.  They have disposable alternatives, and you can always just wash normal silverware after the party, it's not that hard to make the switch.  The overall consensus here is just to skip the plastic, and find an easy substitute.  There are some places you will go to that will only have plastic ware available, and it really isn't the end of the world to carry your own.  Bring some recycled disposable utensils with you if you can, you have a purse full of random stuff right?  What else are you going to put in your satchel buddy?

3) GROCERY SHOP MORE OFTEN

I know I know, this sounds like an odd idea to help the environment, but bare with me.  In Europe they typically shop four times a week, and you should to for a myriad of reasons, most of which will cut down on waste.  If you do one big bulk shopping trip you will typically buy a bunch of frozen and lengthy shelf life products that will stay in their prospective places for months, maybe longer and end up being thrown away.  If you go shopping a few times a week, not only will your food be fresher, you will cut down on so much waste.  Canned goods, frozen items, boxed foods that last forever end up sitting around for so much time, and many times never end up being eaten.  Outside of condiments, you don't need as much as you think, only enough for a couple of days.  If you go to the store three or four times a week you will be healthier, have fresher foods, and you will massively cut down on waste.  It's in good practice for so many reasons, and you will enjoy it once you get in the habit of going so often.  It will also be easier only getting a few items, as well as saving some bucks!

4) VISIT YOUR RECYCLING CENTER

Do you know what's recycled in your area?  I don't, I just assume most things are if they are made from paper, cardboard, certain plastics, etc.  Going to the local recycling center can be enlightening and beneficial, and you can share that knowledge with your friends, roomies, and neighbors.  Less than forty percent of all plastics are recycled, not because they can't be, but because they aren't properly placed where they can be taken care of.  I know it can be a hassle, and many people don't have the means to, but bringing items to the recycling center can make a difference.  Also, if you have a MOMs Organic Market nearby, they have a long line of bins in their store to recycle everything from batteries to water bottles.  Grocery stores themselves will typically take excess plastic bags and reuse them as well, before you trash it, you most likely can get it reused.  If you throw an old printer in the trash it gets put in a landfill, if you take it to the recycling center it gets broken down and reused, this article is about the little steps, and this is one.  Very few things CAN'T be recycled these days, so take some steps.

5) STOP USING SUNSCREEN

Okay now I know you need to protect your skin from the damaging rays, and you can still do that but you need to check out what you are putting on your skin.  Our reefs are being destroyed by many things, and sunscreen and tanning lotions are a big part of it.  I'm not saying that you can't use it all, but you need to make sure you are buying ocean-friendly lotions that won't damage and kill our life below the sea.  More than seventy five percent of all sunscreens are harmful, but there are alternatives if you just take a minute to look into it.  The best sunscreen is a hat and a coverup, or mild exposure.  I haven't used lotions for years, and I lived in the Caribbean, worked on a boat for a living, and was constantly on the beach and in the sun.  Not only are these lotions bad for the environment, they might not offer the protection they promise, and can cause skin irritations and worse.  Get an umbrella, wear a rash guard if need be, limit your sun exposure to twenty minutes at a time and you will be good.  For children it is different of course, but just be choosy and do your research before purchasing any harmful lotions.   

SUMMARY

It takes a lot to change habits, to refuse things everyone else seems to think of as normal.  You will get awkward looks when you refuse the straw, or bring a bunch of bags to the store to return, but you are educating everyone else that you know.  It really is the little things that we can all do everyday and spread it to our friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors.  These little steps might not change the world, but if millions of people do this it can, and we can see cleaner waterways, less damage to animals, and overall a better feeling in the world.  Education is key, and at one point I was sub-consciously throwing multiple plastic items into the trash with no regard.  I know better now, and I am hoping to reach more people with what I have learned.  Do I carry around a set of silverware?  No, but I always have my refillable water bottle, reusable grocery bags, and my silver straw with me at all times.  Again, small steps to make a big difference.

5 REASONS YOU SHOULD HAVE A ROOMMATE IN YOUR 30S

This is obviously directed more towards those that are in a single situation, but everyone can take note.  If you are in a long-term relationship than obviously you will want your own space, and not some party animal ruining date night all of the time.  But those of us that are (as I describe it) "Professionally Single" it could be a good idea to live with someone, even into our 30s.  Below I will list my personal reasons of why this is a good thing, because I believe it to be positive, even if you have the means to live alone.

#1 - EXCUSES EXCUSES EXCUSES

As we get older we typically want to go out less, and our party days get further and further behind us.  Have you ever committed to an event and then wanted to back out at the last minute?  Yeah so have I, quite a few times if I remember.  We usually make the commitment off of instinct and in the moment, and then later on we just might not be up for it.  Sending that text, or making that call to cancel on friends is never a pleasant experience, especially without a valid reason to do so.  Well having a permanent live-in excuse generator would sure be helpful!  So many easy reasons can be blamed on the roomie, but just make sure they know that in case of a run-in with that friend at a later time.  Is your roommate sick?  Are they going through a breakup?  I'm sure they need you in some capacity, and this will work everytime! Never again will you have to come up with an elaborate lie to cover your desire to stay home and do nothing, now you only need a simple lie that blames everything on your roommate.  It's one hundred percent foolproof.   

#2 IMMEDIATE SIGNIFICANT OTHER

Invited to a wedding with no date?  Going to a couples party alone?  If you are unable to get out of these events and have nobody to go with, your roomie will always be there for you. This works with any gender these days, it really doesn't matter if your roommate is a female or male, and you are either, it's 2017 so anything goes!  Now, you will have to be careful going to many of these events together because gossip is rampant, and people love to talk.  But it can be a lot of fun, and it will bring your friendship much closer.  Does it work for all events?  No it does not, sometimes there are things you just don't want to do, and don't forget you will need to return the favor one day, so don't make it too harsh of an affair.  I will say though, it's hard to say no to free food and drinks, even if the episode is less than enjoyable.  Some of us don't mind going to celebrations alone, and don't care what others think, but sometimes it's just good practice to have someone with you in certain circumstances.  Also, if you are out together and some creepy person is being too eerie on you, roomie can come over and save you from an awful situation.  Seen it, done it.

#3 A RIDE

If your roomie is like you, then they are typically home most nights and don't want to go all out all the time.  BUT, let's say you did go out and had a few too many oat sodas (Beer for those of you that haven't seen The Big Lebowski, and need to now) and now you need a ride home, and might not be able to work the Lyft app.  Does your roomie have a car?  Most likely but not definitely, in any case they can at the very least hail a ride share for you if not come pick you up.  My roommate (at the time) worked late and had to park on the street in a questionable area, and I would wake up in the middle of the night, drive down to where she parked, pick her up and park back in my original spot, every night she worked.  If they have a vehicle, they might want to just come get you themselves, and this is a big plus.  Also, if they have a car you can borrow it sometimes!  You're trustworthy right?   Don't abuse the privileges.  

#4 FREE PETS

Not in every case, so this is mildly specific, but if you love animals but travel too much or just can't own one at the moment, you can have a pet without responsibility!  Sometime certain people have a tough time getting roommates because of their pets.  I've talked to many people that had a rough time finding trustworthy and viable roommates because they had an excess of pets that some are just not comfortable around.  There are fears, allergies, and a myriad of other reasons why some people can't live with animals.  If you are someone that loves being around them, this can be such an amazing setup for both parties.  For one, you get a free pet to hang out with!  On the other side, they can potentially have a free pet sitter in house that they have already seen with their precious loved one.  Every case is different, but if they are on vacation or out of town on business, you an watch the pet and possibly negotiate a free utility bill in return, or something similar.  It's expensive to board, and hard to find someone you genuinely trust with your pet, so this can be such a perfect system for everyone involved.

#5 COMPANY

Movie night, wine night, frisbee day, travel buddy, hiking friend, so many options.  Now I like to do things alone most of the time, but sometimes it's nice to have a friend to do certain things with.  Frisbee day alone is a tough one, it's quite strenuous throwing the frisbee and running to catch it, it's so much better with another party involved.  It's also wonderful to have someone there all the time to show things to, and ask opinions of.  New outfit, blog post, youtube video, whatever you have going on you always have someone that will listen and give you a genuine response regardless.  Even if you are a loner or introverted, I can't tell you how amazing it is to always have someone to bounce things off of.  I felt like I had a sibling with me at all times, like I always had a sister to talk to when I needed her.  You also double your friends, there is a special connection between roommates and you will gain lasting friendships through their friends, and they will yours.  

SUMMARY

I know that gaining your own place is some sort of independent achievement, and that's great! But even if you buy your place, getting a roommate can help out with your mortgage, social life, and overall well-being.  I also understand that I have been incredibly lucky, and have heard horror stories of situations that didn't work out.  Communication is key, if something is bothering you in their living behavior, you are better off to let it be known instead of letting it fester.  Celebrate that you have another like-minded person in your home, make the best of it, and create amazing and lasting memories you will remember forever.  I will never forget my roommates as long as I live, and we grew closer living together instead of drifting apart.  I can't make a list of best roommates and rank them because they would all come up as #1.  Enjoy the partnership of caring for a home together, and make the best of the things you have in common.  This can be the best situation where you love coming home each day (I always did) or it can be toxic where you never want to be there.  Stay picky my friends.

Cargo Shorts: Are they okay?

If you are materialistic and only care about how something looks, and not their actual functionality then no they are not okay.  I'm not sure what all the flack has been on them, do they really look that bad?  Do they define your personality and automatically make you immature if you wear them?  I don't think so, the people that are royally against them have never lived outside of a city, and never needed them as a functional piece of their wardrobe based on their every day life like some of us do.  Do you hate backpacks too?  I caught so much slack when I moved back to the city after being abroad because I wore my backpack everywhere, I was made fun of so much and even caught a nickname "backpacks."  Well I worked remotely and needed my laptop on me at all times since I was always on call, what was I supposed to do?  Eventually I switched to a more business laptop bag, but still what's the big difference?  Live abroad, move to a "developing" country and you will need cargo shorts and a backpack every day.  Lets go over why they are not only okay, but necessary when you are traveling.

1. THEY STORE YOUR STUFF

So when I was abroad, I always had to carry my passport (among other things).  It was also hot all the time, so shorts were all I could wear, and I'm not a big jorts guy.  So at any given moment I had my passport, wallet, phone, and usually my mariner credentials or TWIC card as well so I could work.  You can also fit a six pack of cans in those pockets pretty easily, athough they will make your thighs cold.  Tough to store six things in your pockets when wearing your jorts or khaki shorts huh?  I mean if you want to wear a fanny pack for your stuff, your are more than welcome too. People have been trying to come up with a stylish way for dudes to carry their stuff, and have failed miserably.

2. WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES?

I dunno about you, but this guys seems to be fine in them and he was able to taste a tiny bit of success.  He looks a lot less stressed out now than the last time I saw him, wonder what has changed in his life?  It looks like the weight of the entire world was suddenly lifted off and he is finally free, strange.  Anyway, he looks comfy, what would you wear in their place?  Let's explore!

FANNY PACK

Is this appealing?  I mean I don't know what your type is, but I'm guessing most of you would not date this man.  This character even talked about how unappealing he was, that was his whole persona.  We don't have a lot of options that DON'T get us made fun of to store our things, but we can't put everything in a wallet.  Where are we supposed to store our denture cream, rogaine, and "touch of grey?"  Yes, we need extra pockets!  Now if you have and wear one proudly, and need it for some reason more power to you!  It's just a little bag, who really cares what other people think as long as it serves your purpose. Would I wear one?  No, probably not, it isn't functional for me until they make laptops the size of playing cards.  Again, I just needed a couple of extra pockets, and not something that can get caught on things and potentially cause harm.

SATCHEL

Well there is always a satchel! Yes, while this does serve the purpose of storing all of our things, we don't really want this, we just need some extra pockets.  When I was living abroad I either didn't want to wear or carry anything, or needed to have my laptop handy so this wouldn't qualify for me.  I don't judge anyone that has one of these, it's just not serviceable for me, but to each his/her own.  If you own and wear something that is functional, I will never pass judgement, and you shouldn't either.  You don't know what they may need it for, and I never understood why people made such a big deal over extra pockets on shorts, or a bag someone needed to get through their every day life.  Let people do what they need to do huh?  #Letpeoplenjoythings

PURSE

Now, unfortunately not all of us can be this guy and do whatever we damn well please. He has a day time show about cooking or something correct? If you want to go full in though, you can just get a purse and tell everyone to go kick rocks. If you aren't snoop status however, I'm guessing you will have issues with this in your circle and family.  Do I care what other people think?  No, not at all, but there is a fine line between worrying about what your friends and family will say, and just not wanting to deal with all the vitriol.  People will tear you apart over shoes you wear (or don't wear), a bag you carry, and how many pockets are on your shorts, and it's just not worth it to deal with society and their touchy judgments most of the time, so just skip it and wear what you want.

3. THEY ARE DARN COMFORTABLE

Go ahead, tell me this guy doesn't know anything about style, he is literally a poster boy. Now, he probably has another person carrying all of his things around for him, but not all of us have that luxury do we?  I bet he has a deflated soccer ball in one of those pockets, just in case.  So far there seem to be a lot of interesting people that are enjoying their nice cool pair of shorts!

4. THEY ARE COOL

Those ladies are so impressed with those shorts they can't stop staring at them, plus they are breezy and keep the temperature down.  I would suggest keeping the fly up however unlike this fellow, but he looks to be in a bit of a rush.  Not sure what this guy is so busy doing, maybe there is a boat going down or something, who knows?  The hat, I mean, do as you please, I just don't think I could pull that off, but this guy doesn't seem to care all that much.

5. THEY COME IN MANY COLORS

Even though it may be hard to see these, they still serve whatever purpose this guy is going for.  Maybe it's to hide from that cheetah that is grabbing on him, maybe it's just that he doesn't want to be recognized.  I think I've seen him before, is he Captain America?  Or wait no that's not right, is he a dancer?  Anyway, whatever he does he is free and clear in those invisible shorts, and looking good.

BOTTOM LINE

Wear whatever you want, who cares what other people are going to say.  Is it necessary for you to get through your day?  Than do it, they are probably just jealous that they can't pull off those wonderful, light, stylish, and functional garments as easily as you can.  If everyone is so focused on what you are wearing and you just can't stand them anymore tell them to go to the beach.  Once they are at the beach tell them to kneel down on the sand, and just pound all of it, just pound all of the sand.  I'm going shopping today, there is a sale on cargo shorts and I need another color before I move to Mexico.  Adios!

5 Helpful Hints For Working In Paradise

So you want to move to paradise huh?  That's great!  Hopefully you have already done extensive research on the area you are planning to move to, or even a PMV (Pre-move visit).  If so, then good luck on the move!  Now, once you get there what are you going to do for work?  Most likely it is a touristy area you are moving to, as most paradises on this planet are.  In that case, there will be plenty of work for you to show off what you love in many different areas, but here are some helpful hints to get started.

1. Work on a boat

This is an unbelievable experience, good pay, and a great way to meet people.  You don't need experience right away, but you will need training to become a mate, or eventually a captain!  If it is possible, you can knock out a lot of the required training and have credentials before you leave home.  Look into getting your STCW locally before you move, it will put you above others without the training.  It isn't required right away, but it is within a month or so after receiving a boat job.  It takes about 5 days to complete, so getting this certification before you move makes sense so you don't need to take that time off later.

There are different types of boat jobs, from day charters to lengthy excursions.  It depends on what you are looking for out of the job.  If you like being home every night, look into local charters that do snorkel excursions, eco tours, island hopping, and even SCUBA trips!  If you work on a dive boat though, you will need to be certified as a diver at the very least.  Some companies want you to be a professional diver (Dive master or Instructor) for that, so maybe put that on the back burner.  There are typically sail or motor charters that can hold anywhere from six to over a hundred people.  One company I worked for had twelve different boats, some held forty nine people, some a hundred and fifteen, and they did shorter snorkel and tour excursions for cruise ship passengers.  The other company I worked for had three boats that went to five different islands, had a snorkel stop, and even a nice hike as well as lunch and drinks.  Be prepared to work long hours (twelve+) and possibly weeks at a time during the holiday season.  I once worked ninety five straight days because we were busy, and we had some other mates quit in between.  You also don't typically get a schedule, you call each night to see if you are working the next day.  I'll cover all of this in my next blog post "The life of a mate."

2. Resort/Hotel jobs

Hotels and resorts are great gateways for future careers, in addition to being a temporary paradise job.  They also have many options and departments in which you may or may not be interested.  If you have worked in restaurants before, you can do that here!  You also get discounts, benefits, and a higher wage than a stand alone restaurant (I made $6.50 per hour vs $2.15).  They also have options for a much cooler section.  If you look in the picture above, see those blue chairs?  That was my section as the Pool and Beach Server at the Ritz-Carlton.  This is another great option that allows you to be home everyday, and even greater if you aren't comfortable on a boat or in the water.  If you stay six months you can usually transfer within the resort to another department (based on openings), or to another hotel with the larger companies.  I was a server for eight months, then transferred inside to become a concierge.  Now, there are more rules and stipulations involved when working for a larger company, but it's a great way to get started.  The best way to get hired is to simply walk right into the hotel, ask for the HR department and speak with someone about their openings.  The other great thing about the resorts is they have a lot of turnover, so there are frequent openings, and they also hire couples!

3. Internships

 

Right, not a boring internship in a mail room doing busy work for free, there are OTHER types of internships that most people don't even know about.  I did a Dive master internship, and could've proceeded right into becoming an instructor.  Now, you do have to pay for these internships, but you usually get "free" accommodation, lunches, diving, experience, and training.  If you have a couple of months to kill, and have a little money saved up this is one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences you will ever have. If location isn't an issue, it can be much cheaper in places like Thailand, The Gili Islands, Utila, etc. just do a little research on DM internships.  I did a summer internship that took me 2 months and I made lasting friendships with people from all around the world.  If you can afford it I would do a full package (there is typically a discount) and go all the way through and become an instructor.  Most shops or ones close-by will offer you a job right away, some right after your Dive master and you can work your way through the certification levels.  You can then become a digital underwater photographer or videographer, get into marine conservation, MSDT, etc.

4. Work Remotely

This was my work station in Bali at a private villa.  There are many ways to work online these days, and you barely need any tech skills for a lot of them.  Online travel consultant, copywriter, translator, etc.

If you have experience as a travel agent then becoming an online travel consultant would be an excellent opportunity.  All you really need once hired is a laptop (some companies will even give you one) and access to an internet connection.  As long as you are available during business hours (always check time zones while traveling) it is an easy job.  It doesn't pay all that great, but traveling to many countries can actually be cheaper then living at home.  If you do it right, you can easily survive for less than a thousand US dollars a month depending on where you go.

Do you speak more than one language?  You can become a translator, translating web pages, documents, and other kinds of information either into English or from it.  The best part about being a remote translator is that you work as much or as little as you want. You can work 12 straight hours, or take a day off, it's completely up to you which is great while abroad.

There many ways to work remotely these days, you can just research remote jobs and typically find something you might be interested in.

5. House Sitting

Whether it is an apartment in Florence, a condo in Singapore, or a cabin in Norway, people will pay you to live in their house.  There are numerous sites setup to connect sitters and offers.  You have to setup a profile, take a background check, and usually pay a monthly or yearly fee to join the site, but it can be worth it.  If you are good with animals and house chores, this is a great way to stay somewhere for free!  Certain people are unable to rent out their home due to laws, pets, or simply not wanting too, and that's where you could come in!  Sometimes you will have a cat to take care of and water the plants, other times you will have to walk a couple of dogs twice a day.  The tasks will be put into their ad on the site, and you can take it or leave it.  There is some competition for these gigs, however if you aren't picky you will get a chance.  Best thing to do is have a friend write a review about how responsible you were taking care of their place (even if it isn't true).  I cared for a friends cat and watched her place so I had first hand experience doing this, so her review was legit.

Summary:

If you are looking to change your life, take a break, or simply experience something different, look into any of these opportunities.  They are all based on my personal experience, so I'm sure there are other ideas out there, just do some research and maybe you will find yourself somewhere incredible.  Each of my experiences was unique and amazing, and I have built a global network of business contacts and friendships.  You MUST go for it though, dive in with two feet and take off.  You might be wary, a little scared, and nervous just like I was when I first left.  I went to an island I had never visited, knew nobody, had no job, and nowhere to live.  Once I landed I just started figuring it out, asking strangers questions, meeting people, reading the local paper, and researching the area as much as possible.  I even shipped a car down there without ever even knowing how to get it tagged!  If you are tired of a mundane and routine life, quit your job and go somewhere, anywhere!  Don't regret the things you never did, go do the things you've always wanted to.