Tag Archives: Tips

8 Travel Tips For Backpacking In Third World Countries

I’ve been to a handful of third world countries on four different continents over the past few years, and during my recent travels to South East Asia I decided to write down some universal tips that seem to be true no matter where you are. Here are a eight easy things you can do to save yourself time, money, and headaches while backpacking in third world countries.

1. Pack light and buy things as needed.
It is usually cheaper for things like clothes, sandals, and medicines. More often than not you would pack things (and in turn have to lug them around) that you won’t need. If you find yourself in need of some cold medicine, a new pair of flip flops, or some extra t-shirts, head to a local market and you’ll be surprised at how cheap you can get basic items.

I bought these flip-flops for about $2 at a market in Thailand and threw them away at the end of the trip.

2. If someone walks up to you with a smile on their face and offers to help you, turn it down.
Ask for help from someone who doesn’t have anything to gain from you. In nearly every third world country that thrives on tourism you will find people who want to take advantage of you, and they are very good at their own games. Don’t give them the chance to play! Just say no thank you and walk away.

In Bangkok, Thailand, there are hundreds of tuk-tuk drivers that will offer to drive you around all day for about a dollar. However, instead of taking you where you want to go, they make stops at jewelry and tailor shops where they earn commission for bringing you there.

3. Everything has a price, and everything that has a price is negotiable.
If you want something that isn’t offered, the right amount of money can still make it available to you, and anything that is already offered can always be bargained for a cheaper price. Get good at negotiating and haggling. Start at half the price they initially tell you.

We I were told by four different travel agencies that the city we were in did not offer bamboo raft rides down the river, but after offering one of the agencies more money than they were asking for, we got our ride. Shooting a sunset while relaxing on the Mekong River was well worth it.

4. Explore the city how the locals travel.
You will see more and have a much better experience than if you attempt to travel in a way that you are typically “comfortable” with. Just like in Los Angeles where you drive a car, and in New York where you take subways, follow this trend abroad as well.

In certain parts of Cambodia, renting a car would be a nightmare and taking a taxi would be insanely impractical. Even though I've never really driven motorcycles before, we rented one a few times, and it made our visit much easier.

5. Learn a few words of the local language.
This goes much farther than you would think! By showing the natives you are not a “typical arrogant tourist,” they will be much more friendly and helpful.

6. Bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
Other countries and cultures simply don’t live the way we do, and trust me, you’ll be glad you have this stuff.

Very few places will have the option of buying toilet paper from a vending machine, so do yourself a favor and be prepared.

7. Plan for delays in travel.
In East Africa I heard a man say “American’s count time like they count money.” In other countries staying on schedule is never a guarantee, so don’t ever expect to be on time.

Not every journey will have a five hour delay due to a bus crash mid-route, but it's still not uncommon to be tied up for several hours for some reason or another just about every time you try to get to a new destination.

8. Eat where the locals eat.
If there is a long line of local people waiting for food, it’s probably a good place. You can’t truly experience a culture without sampling their cuisine.

Don't let street vendors like this slip through the cracks. They may have some of the best food you'll eat on your entire trip.

*Bonus Tip: In Thailand, no matter how much it may like a doughnut, unless it says “Dunkin'” on the box, it is NOT a doughnut.

Yes, I know those two round pieces of dough look exactly like what you would call doughnuts. So did the other 14 round pieces of dough that I bought all over South East Asia. I promise you though…they are not doughnuts.

Here are a few helpful sites for planning international travel:
travelfish.org
lonelyplanet.com

10 Must-Have Items For Your Home Office

I’ve been working a full-time job from my home for just over a year now and running a side business from home for about five years. And before that I was running my college and home life like a business, too, so I think it’s safe to say I know quite a bit about spending lots of time in a home office. Here is a list I came up with of 10 must-have items that will help transform any room in your house into a comfortable and productive home office.

If you have other tips of your own please post them in the comments of this post.

Here's a look at my personal home office in my bedroom. Keeping your space simple, clean, and free of clutter will always help keep you working more effectively.

1. Comfortable Chair
If you are going to spend up to 2,000 hours a year at your desk, you may was well spend a few extra bucks to get a nice chair that you’ll be comfortable in.

2. Second Monitor
Using a second monitor (combined with proper workflow techniques) you’ll be able to get twice the amount of work done in half the time.

3. Good Mouse
This goes hand in hand with a second monitor and proper workflow techniques. A mouse with two buttons (left and right click) and a track wheel will save you a ton of time while working.

4. File Cabinet
Being organized on your computer and hard drive is super important, but having all your paper files organized is crucial as well—especially when April 15th approaches. If you keep your files organized throughout the year, and you’ll have much less hassles when it comes time to do your taxes.

5. Cutting Board, Xacto Knife (With Extra Blades), & Metal Ruler
If you don’t do any kind of hands-on work, this one may not be a “must-have”, but if you do any type of creative work, these items make a big difference and produce much better results than scissors.

6. Good Ink Pen
Aside from the inconvenience of when a cheap pen decides to stop working for no reason, having a good pen that you love to write with will put you in a good mental state when you are writing. I’ve been using Uniball’s Fine Vision pens for years and wouldn’t want to change pens even if you paid me to.

7. Stapler, Tape, & Scissors
These items are basics of any office environment, and they are basics for a reason and should never be left out.

8. Hard Drives
Backing up your work is the only way to go. In a digital age you have to be prepared to pull up work from years ago in a matter of seconds. You can’t afford to lose your digital assets if one drive breaks so it’s important to have your files on at least two different hard drives. I have one drive stored away for every year in addition to the large drive I use throughout the year that has multiple years’ worth of work on it.

9. Fast Internet Connection
Getting your job done quicker helps everyone involved. The only thing a slow Internet connection is good for is adding frustration and stress to your life.

10. Assorted Sized Permanent Markers
From big ole fat ones that can write on cardboard boxes to little skinny ones that can write on DVDs, you should be able to write on anything and everything whenever you need to.

Basic Mac Workflow Tips – 18 Easy Ways To Improve Your Speed & Productivity

I’ve been using Apple computers with the Mac operating systems for nearly a decade now, and as a graphic design student turned professional Web site editor and photographer I’ve become extremely proficient at getting a lot done on the computer in a short amount of time. A lot of that can be attributed to practicing good workflow tips that allow me to move around within my machine quicker than the average keyboard jockey. After helping a friend speed up her workflow recently I realized that just about anyone can increase their speed and productivity on a Mac just by learning a few simple tips and tricks. Here are some of the basics and my favorite Mac workflow tips…

1. Use A Mouse With A Track Wheel
There is no way you can work as quickly without one as you can with one. Having a mouse with two buttons (right and left click) and a track wheel is one of the best things you can do to improve your overall workflow speed. The track wheel can quickly scroll down through documents and Web pages.

Nothing fancy here, but I've been using this same mouse for several years and it gets the job done quickly and efficiently.

2. Use Arrow Keys Within Folders
Often times when navigating through a series of folders through OSX’s finder it is quicker to use the arrow keys as opposed to a mouse.

3. Use Space Bar To Preview Documents
When searching for a particular file, instead of double clicking a document to open it, when it is highlighted simply hit the space bar to see a preview of the item.

4. Use Two Hands
Having one hand on the computer will only let you do half the work as two hands. Keep either both hands on the keyboard, or one hand on the mouse and the other on the keyboard at all times.

5. Use Keystroke Shortcuts
Use as many keystroke shortcuts as possible while using the finder and while in applications. At the bottom of this post I have a list of some of the most common Mac keyboard shortcuts that will speed up your workflow.

6. Keep Your Open Documents To A Minimum
The more documents you have open at any given time, the more energy your computer is using. By keeping only the documents you need open, you will free up the short-term memory on your computer, which will allow your computer to work faster. Also, the less windows you have open, the less visual clutter you will encounter.

7. Keep Your Visuals Simple & Clean
By keeping your desktop clean, organized, and clutter free, and keeping a simple image set as your desktop background, you will have less visual distractions. Visual distractions lead to mental distractions, which lead to more stress and less productivity. Likewise, keep your Internet browser theme clean looking for less visual distraction.

Here's how my desktop looks on any given day. I also feel that a relaxing, beautiful photograph helps with your energy and mental state while working.

8. Save Your Work Constantly
Saving your work every few minutes (or seconds) by hitting Command + S will ensure that in the event of a system or program crash you can jump right back into working on your project where you left it off. If you loose half of your work because you forgot to save the file before the program crashed you’ll have that much more work to redo, and a lot more frustration and stress.

9. Use Tabbed Internet Browsing
Once you get comfortable using “tabbed browsing” in Firefox or Safari you will be able to navigate through multiple Web pages much more quickly.

From within your browser, click on the preferences option and open this tab.

10. Hold Command Key When Opening New Links
When you are opening multiple Internet pages, hold the “command” key when selecting the links to open those pages in new tabs of the browser. A good example of this is when you are using a search engine like Google to look for articles on a particular topic and you aren’t sure which of the top five articles will best suit your needs. Open all of the top five articles in new tabs, go look at each one, and if none of them work for you, close them out and you still have the Google search left open.

11. Right Click In Dock To Quit
Depending on what you are working on and what you have open, it is often quicker to right click and select “quit” from an application in the dock as opposed to maximizing that application and quitting it from within the program.

If an application is hidden, then reopening the program window and scrolling to File > Quit (or even hitting Command + Q) takes longer than simply quitting the program from within the dock.

12. Use Search Properly
Learn to use the spotlight search (the magnifying glass in the top right corner of your computer to locate documents, files, or programs on your hard drive. Also, learn to use the search function of Internet browsers (Command + F while in the browser) to easily find what you are looking for within Web pages, and the search function in your word processor to locate items in your written document quicker.

13. Use Colored Labels For Folders
To help visually organize folders and files on your hard drive, select the item and right click on it. Then select a colored label for the item. You will have to figure out a labeling system that works well for you. For instance, I have one folder for my invoices. If the invoice has a green label I know it has already been paid. If it has a red label, I know it is still pending payment. This organizational technique eliminates the need to break one folder of invoices into two separate folders.

14. Use Hot Corners
In the System Preferences of your computer there is a section for “Expose & Spaces.” By setting “hot corners” you can perform a number of tasks simply by pushing your cursor into a pre-set corner of your monitor. I find it most useful to have my top left corner reveal all open windows and my bottom left corner to reveal my desktop.

15. Compress Items Into A .Zip
Instead of attaching multiple files to an email, compress multiple files and/or folders into a single .zip file so you only have to attach one item. To do this simply select all the items you want to compress together, right click them, and choose “Compress X Items.”

16. Enter Changes File Names
Instead of double clicking on a file or folder to change the name of it, when it is selected, simply hit enter/return and type the new name.

17. Keep Your Dock Basic
The “hiding” and “magnification” effect of the Mac OS X dock is kind of fun at first, but not very convenient for a serious worker. Turn the hiding and magnification off, make it small, and keep it at the bottom of your monitor. It will make opening applications quicker and will allow you to see which programs are open easier.

18. Organize Your Folders
Keeping your folders and files organized is probably the thing most people have trouble with when using a Mac. I keep only two folders on my desktop at all times, and those are used on a daily basis. Most files are within those folders and their sub folders, and all other items that aren’t used as often are kept in the dock (as opposed to on the desktop), or on my hard drive. When trying to figure out how to organize your folders, think about what you use your computer for the most, and then break those needs into sections.

Most Common And Practical Mac OS X Keystroke Shortcuts
Command + A = Select All
Command + C = Copy
Command + X = Cut
Command + V = Paste
Command + Q = Quit
Command + W = Close Window
Command + Z = Undo
Command + Y = Redo
Command + M = Minimize Window
(In Most Programs) Command + H = Hide
(In Most Programs) Command + N = New
(In Finder) Command + N = New Finder Window
(In Finder) Command + Shift + N = New Folder

Private & Personalized Mac 101 Classes
If you live in the Southern California area and would like a private lesson of these techniques and more, along with a personal analysis on how you can use your Mac more effectively in the workplace, please email me at fattony4130@gmail.com.

Travel Tips For Pooping While Flying

Taking a number two isn’t something most people talk about openly too often, but anyone that knows me can tell you that I’m not most people… After traveling for years now I’ve come up with a few really helpful tips for dropping brown while at an airport or in an airplane. If someone had told me these little tricks years ago they could have saved me from a lot of hassles and headaches, so I’m passing my secrets on to you in hopes that I can help you have a better traveling poop experience. Feel free to post your own tips in the comments, but please keep your personal photos to yourself.

1. Deactivating Auto Flush
One of the worst things about dropping a deuce in a public restroom is the surprise of a toilet that decides to auto flush before you have removed your bum from the bowl. The fact that you have to get up to avoid backsplash while the flushing ensues is a real buzzkill on your concentration. For years I thought this was just something that was completely unavoidable—that is until another seasoned traveler posted this tip on my Facebook wall. Thanks again, Chad Kagy!

To deactivate the auto flush of a public toilet you can take a small tear of toilet paper, spit on it, and adhere the wet paper to the sensor. With the sensor covered you are free to sit around as long as you need to in order to finish your business before removing the paper and allowing the flushing to commence.

2. Keeping Yourself Clean
Whether they speak about it openly or not, a lot of people really enjoy a nice, clean bottom after taking a dump—and let’s face it…dry toilet paper isn’t always the best way to clean yourself. When you are in the comfort of your own home it is easy to keep baby wipes on hand or to drizzle a bit of water on the toilet paper to make sure you finish off with some proper sanitation. However, keeping it clean becomes a bit more difficult on the go. To avoid skidmarks and ensure a clean sweep while at the airport there are a few things you can do: You can take a small pack of baby wipes with you in your backpack or briefcase, you pick up a few wet wipes at the airport steakhouse, or you can simply bring a bottle of water into the stall with you to wet down some TP.

3. Pre-Lining The Bowl
If you’ve made it out of the airport and onto the plane before realizing a BM is knocking at your back door you are faced with the discomfort of having to go mid-air while a line of people wait in a cramped aisle for that little sign to switch back from “occupied” to “vacant”. As uncomfortable as this affair may already be, it becomes much worse when you have finished and flushed but are still left with unsightly bowl stains staring back at you. The lack of water in the plastic or aluminum airplane toilet bowl makes for some sticky situations. Mud tracks left on the bowl are not only gross and unsanitary, but they can be downright embarrassing when you walk out of the lavatory and realize that the next person in line will have to deal with your repulsive remnants.

The solution to this common airborne conundrum is a simple one… If you tear off a handful of sheets of toilet paper and drop them in the bowl before you sit down it creates just enough of a barrier between your poop and the proverbial porcelain to allow the unconventional flushing technique of the airplane toilet to remove all signs of muck you may have left behind.