The morning ritual that helps me get in tune with what’s important and increases my productivity throughout the day
There are some basics steps you can take to ease stress and reduce anxiety. The simplest step is to stop and take a deep breathe or two or three when you are feeling overwhelmed. To incorporate a sense of purpose in your life and get a fresh start each morning, read my post on Medium where I outline the morning ritual that changed my life.
We all know that smartphones and tablet are everywhere. But as I travel around the country visiting boatyards, boat dealers and marinas, I have noticed that very few business operators are taking advantage of this phenomenon and utilizing these devices to boost margins and efficient.
I was recently asked the the Marine Retailers Association of America (MRAA) to write a series of blog posts outlining how marine businesses can use mobile devices to empower their workforce and drive customer loyalty while improving internal efficiencies. The first post in this series lays out the primary benefits of using mobile devices in a boat dealership or boatyard. It boils down to the three C’s: Communication, Collaboration and Control.
I wrote this post for Capt Ken Kreisler’s blog, The Boat and Yacht Report. In it I outline the 3 things you can do to ensure that your boat is properly maintained so your time on the water is more enjoyable. Preparing for a day or week on your boat requires planning. It can be disastrous when those plans are dashed because of an engine or system failure.
Could the little lights that shine through the night be negatively impacting our sleep? Whether you know it or not, some experts feel that lights from clock radios, alarms, TVs, audio/visual equipment, routers and smoke alarms keep us from getting the sleep we need. Could it be that when we travel and have less control over our environment that the problem is worse?
This post explores whether this issue really does effect people and whether the problem is more acute while on the road. You can read the complete post on @LinkedIn.
My wife and I are extremely thankful that she’s been able to stay at home with our children from the time they were born. Next year our eldest son is entering high school (which we can’t believe) and our daughter is entering middle school. Since we are way past the thought of having “just one more”, my wife is now interested in re-entering the workforce. Since I have been the breadwinner from the time our first child was born, I forget just how much has changed. So the thought of joining the working world after such a long hiatus seems really daunting to my wife.
On Memorial Day we think of those that served in the Armed Forces and died for the freedom that all of us in the United States enjoy today. But there are others that fought for freedom and an equal right to vote who also lost their lives. These “freedoms” did not exist in the South before 1965.
Thinking about the influence of family and role models inspired me to “finally” publish a post that I’ve been working on for a while called “Selma and the Transformation of a Segregationist”. My father’s second cousin was Gov LeRoy Collins of Florida. Gov Collins was Florida’s 15th governor but he is probably best known for his stance on Civil Rights during a period of great racial unrest in the South during the 60s.
Given the riots that we are witnessing from Ferguson to Baltimore, I began to read about Selma and the courageous stance that was taken by many Americans and those that died fighting for civil rights.
We’ve been back in the States now for a week and a lot of people have asked what my biggest takeaways were from being on the road, with my family for 5-weeks. For Americans, a 5-week holiday is a lifetime. I remember talking to a young couple from Holland who were on an eco-bike tour with us. When I told them we were from the U.S. and on a 5-week holiday the wife said, “That’s very odd for an American”.
I am thankful to many people for allowing me, my wife and kids to experience 5-weeks in Southeast Asia. The support I received from my company to allow this to happen was incredible and I want to thank everyone at My-Villages for covering for me. My wife is going through hundreds of photos and videos. We will publish them on Shutterfly soon.
You can read the full article on “What I learned in Bali” here.
We stayed in Ubud for 2-weeks and while planning the trip one of things that I wanted to do was a take a side trip to Lombok, the island just east of Bali. However we had limited time and we wanted to simply get a feel for the island life. A couple of friends recommended that we visit Gili Air, the smallest of the three islands northwest of Lombok. “Air” means “water” in Balinese.
There are a couple of good posts on what to do in the Gili Islands. But if you only had two days and one night is it really worth going? If you want a place to completely get away from the congested traffic, motorbikes and crowds of tourists in places like Ubud, Seminyak and Kuta during the summer; the Gilis are a good respite. But you really need more than just two days to allow yourself to unwind and enjoy some of the things the islands have to offer like cruising, diving, surfing and fishing.
Gili Air doesn’t permit gas powered motorized vehicles on their tiny roads. To get around you either walk, bike or a hire a donkey drawn wagon. Once you realize how small the island is you realize that the wagons are more of a tourist draw than anything but they are great for photos and for the share “check list” factor.
One of my favorite things about the Gilis are the colorful “spider” boats found through both Bali and Lombok. But due to it’s tiny size, the colorful boats of Gili Air are especially spectacular. We didn’t have time to hire one but we did swim around them as we shared the shallow reef while snorkeling with a number of tourist dive boats.
The snorkeling right off of the beach in Gili Air, especially behind and to the east of Smugglers Beach Club Cafe provides for some great diving that is easily accessible at depths of 3-5 meters. We witnessed a good selection South Pacific marine life. Interestingly we met a volunteers at the California , we were able to catch a glimpse of this ecosystem with our own two eyes.
We stayed at Smugglers Hideaway, which is made up of a small collection of motel rooms and a nice pool. While not right on the beach, it was a short walk from the beach and easily accessible to the beachfront cafes, bars and dive shops. “Easily” means 15 minutes that once you leave the Hideaway takes you between a couple of homesteads.
Interestingly, Buddhist chanting could be heard through the night over a loudspeaker that apparently was being emitted from the , seemingly random.
The statue to the left symbolized our state of mind in Gili Air. It’s a popular figure as we’ve seen variations of it throughout Bali but the rustic, sleepy and tranquil nature of Gili Air is embodied in the sleeping man.
We have been in Ubud, Bali for 10-days but you quickly lose count of what day it is our how long you’ve been here once you let go and get immersed in the pace and energy that is “Ubud”. The travel journals will say that Ubud is the “art and cultural” center of Bali. I would have to agree that the culture here is intoxicating. What surprised me personally is how long it took me to immerse myself in it. I had a much harder time letting go of the stress I brought from home than I thought. But a handful of massages from Soni at Juuk Manis Reflexology and a couple of Vinyasa Flow classes at the Yoga Barn, and my attitude adjustment finally kicked in.
Other than the Gili’s, as of this writing I haven’t spent much time anywhere else in Bali. Next week we are going to Sanur and Seminyak. But for now we are immersing ourselves in the food, massage, yoga and spirit that is Ubud. Ubud has a wide array of restaurants, cafes and warungs (small family-owned shops). I love the Balinese food with its variety of spices, rice, noodles and choice of protein.
Nancy and my daughter took a Balinese cooking class at Bumbu Bali that included a trip to an authentic Ubud market. They both came back to the villa with a cookbook that included a number of Balinese recipes so we can enjoy these dishes at home. There are numerous Asian, Mediterranean, Italian, French and American style eating establishments as well. We enjoyed Terrazzo, a small bistro very close to our villa where we found Mojitos along with both Balinese and contemporary Italian-influenced dishes. Last night we enjoyed pumpkin stuffed raviolis, carpaccio and fresh seared Ahi tuna with a pesto spread on top. The Ahi tuna was $9.00 which was about 1/2 to 1/3 of what it would have been at an upscale restaurant in the States.
On the flipside, wine and liquor is expensive by American standards so be prepared to pay a premium. The local beer, Bintang, has a monopoly in Bali and is two-thirds the price of imported beers. Nancy took a liking to San Miguel Light which on average costs about $2.50 per bottle.
While Ubud exudes “peace”, the streets are far from “peaceful”. You have to get off of the main road (Jalan Raya) and make your way to the gardens, jungles and numerous walks through rice paddy fields to enjoy all the beauty that Bali has to offer. We chose a villa that is inaccessible by car. The only way to get to the villa is on foot or by a motorbike. So while we were within a 15-minute walk from the busy “Main Road” and Monkey Forest Road where most of the shops and cafes are located, we were removed from all of the noise and commotion of the traffic and tourists.
Our villa is situated in a rice paddy called Juwuk Manis which is Balinese for “Sweet Orange”. It is during these walks through the rice paddy that you can discover the peace and tranquility that the interior of Bali is known for. Ubud is laid out in such a way that rice paddies are incorporated and preserved in the midst of urbanization. There seems to be a conscious effort to preserve green space. This is likely due to the fact that foreigners cannot own land in Bali and much of the land is owned by Balinese farmers. Foreigners typically lease plots of land on a 30-year term and build villas, resorts, etc. Foreigners can buy land through an intermediary but they can not legally hold the title to the land. In these cases the purchaser will often do a 60-year lease just in case the government decides to can the whole concept of intermediary ownership.
You hear the constant banter of roosters, birds, and ducks feeding on rice in the fields along with strategically placed wind chimes and the occasional motorbike passing by our villa. The rice paddies are active and they are worked daily (sunup to sundown) by rice farmers. Rice farmers create small huts where they store supplies and use as a retreat from the sun. They will often stay in these huts overnight. In the midst of the active rice paddies, new villas are being built as well. Developers typically select builders and laborers from nearby Java because of their work ethic. The Java workers will also build huts that they will live in until the construction project is completed.
There are a number of posts on the process of cultivating rice in Bali, so I won’t get into the details here but basically rice is harvested four times per year if its hybrid rice and twice per year if its organic. The primary reason for growing rice in Bali is to feed the Balinese people. The rice is only sold on the open market if there is a surplus. But as an engineer, I am fascinated by the hand carved aqueducts and irrigation system used to flow and then drain the fields. Once the rice is harvested ducks are used to eat the last bit of rice in the field. Then the fields are tilled, new rice is planted and then the flooding process begins. We were told that most of the water comes from a single source, the deep cratered Lake Batur which lies in between Mount Batur and Mount Agung. The water flows over 50km from this lake into the aqueduct system throughout Ubud.
When we first started looking into flights from the States to Bali, we noticed that many of the airlines allowed you to book multi-day layovers in their hub cities. I call these “stay overs” as utilizing this option allows trans-Pacific travelers to catch-up on jet lag and to visit a place that you may have never been before. We booked the Le Meridien for four nights (one before we arrive) because our flight landed at 6am. This would give us three whole days to spend in Hong Kong. But when we missed our flight out of SFO that pushed everything back 24-hours giving us only 2-days in Hong Kong.
As we read and talked to people about Hong Kong, a couple of different themes kept coming up. Aside from it being the financial and business center of Asia, Hong Kong is known as one of the most delicious cities in the world. You can find an unbelieveable bowl of noodles with your choice of protein for until $3.00 (which we did) or you can spend upwards of $2,000 on seafood delicacies (which we did not!). The other theme we latched onto was the idea that you can buy quality stuff cheap in Hong Kong. I am sure this is true but the gravitational force of finding “a deal” on the other side of planet turned into an effort in futility and to my disappointment we missed out on some of the rich cultural amenities Hong Kong has to offer.
One of the things my wife wanted to do was have some palazzo pants made for her and my daughter. We found a really nice pair in San Francisco that my daughter wanted but my wife told her that we can surely get five pair made in Hong Kong for the price that we would pay in San Francisco. The hotel concierge gave tips on which markets to go to and where the most reputable tailors could be found. One was the Lord’s Tailor near the Central Station on the main Hong Kong island. This was our destination until we asked the fateful question “what market can we go to to find the real deals?” We were then directed to Mong Kok district. On the map it showed bazaars featuring electronics, womens clothes, mens clothes, sporting goods. “That’s the place for us” we thought.
Getting there was the fun part. We traveled by taxi to the Star Ferry building on the northern tip of Hong Kong Island and then we traveled by ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui. Using the Star Ferry was the only thing we did that made the Time “Hong Kong: 10 things to do” list. Here you will find find people from all over the world who have come to take in Hong Kong’s energy. The skyline view of central Hong Kong from the harbor is a popular place for tourist to snap memories.
The Clock Tower sits in the center of the Tsim Sha Tsui square. There are a number of cultural attractions here that are probably well worth seeing like the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Cultural Center. We did go to the Hong Kong Space Museum and if you have ever been to a space museum in the States do not waste your time going here. We live in Florida and our kids grew up going to the NASA Kennedy Space Station, so we really should have known. But after dragging our son aimlessly through bazaars in Mong Kok, it was the only thing he wanted to do.
We traveled from Tsim Sha Tsui to Mong Kok by subway. This was a fun experience for us. Keep in mind that since Hong Kong was a British colony for so many years that most of the signs are in both Chinese (de facto Cantonese) and English. My kids have only been to NYC once, so I wanted them to experience this. When we emerged from the station everyone was hungry so we found our way to a “food court” type environment and quickly noticed that we were the only tourists. We spotted a place called Viet’s Choice serving a number of Vietnamese dishes including one of my favorites, fish cake noodle soup.We knew we were in the right place when the waitresses (who could not speak a word of English) were fighting over who would be forced to wait on us. We pointed at menu items and made some rudimentary hand gestures to get our order across. It was a big oversight on our part not learning some basic Chinese. Everywhere I have traveled, people really appreciate it when tourists at least attempt to speak the native tongue.
After a day running around the streets of Hong Kong it was great to make our way back to Le Meridien Cyberport. We had first class service and food at this hotel, and getting the Starwood Prefered Guest upgrade was a great added bonus. In my Mini-Retirement post I talk about how we accumulated enough points to get both the upgrade a free hotel stay.