Thursday, November 30, 2017

At home on the road

This summer, after leaving Kenya, we took a ~5 month road trip with the goal of picking a new home city!  This research included career options, lifestyle, and lots of time with family and friends after 4 years abroad.

We lived off of a portion of our savings -- less than you'd think!  While we were mostly frugal, we had one big expense: We bought an amazing used Mercedes/Dodge Sprinter camper van that we love, and hope to keep for a long time!  (Note, we did not embrace the popular "VanLife" and advertise on social media the products which paid us most.)

Here's a walkthrough of the van:

We spent:

  • Roughly 150 nights on the road, at 62 different spots (2.5 days / spot on average).
  • Roughly an average of only $14 per day in accommodation (=$430/mo), including 117 nights of $0, and a couple of necessary fancy hotel visits.
  • Roughly half the nights sleeping in the van itself, and half either tent camping or staying in friends' guest beds (thanks, friends!).

During our road trip, we:

  • Traveled ~12,000 miles, at ~21 mpg of diesel.
  • Hiked many days, swam many creeks, kitesurfed, and star gazed.
  • Visited countless local, State, and National Parks - a huge draw to North America for us.

When it comes to career & work:

  • I  had 50+ meetings with startups, investors, accelerators discerning my next career step.
  • I had ~30 consultations with startups that I advise; most by phone.
  • Meagan worked part time through the summer, and tried various coworking spaces for possible future offices.

What we learned:

  • We visited and had many, many conversations with residents of towns we visited, whether existing friends and new acquaintances. The overwhelming, vast majority were in their town/city as a consequence of a career move.
  • We paid attention to gender attitudes in the cities we visited, and while the west coast is definitely the "left" coast, we noticed a large portion of the child-rearing responsibilities fell on women, even in otherwise progressive families.
  • We confirmed that we can be happy in many places - and ultimately our decision was *not* driven by things like days of sunlight as we'd intended, but rather by deeper motivations to live a lifestyle that we believe in.
  • We also learned that we love being on the road and love our van, Kifu (short for Kifaru, meaning rhino in Swahili)!

Our most important lesson, however, was that although Denver was high on our list, we ultimately picked Vancouver, BC!  When visiting, we really connected with the city - it shares our interest in work/life balance and also a strong premium for the environment, human diversity, and compassion for global refugees and local underserved communities. Meg's a dual citizen, and has wanted to live in Canada for a while as well; I've applied for my work permit and residency.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Finance Index Card

I love the Freakanomics podcast, and recently really enjoyed their episode titled:
"Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Money (But Were Afraid to Ask)"
You can find it here; it's totally worth a listen. 

In this episode, they introduce an idea that all this finance mumbo jumbo is allowing people to lose the forest for the trees, and that the basics really aren't that hard for the average consumer.  To illustrate this, they brought on a professor who posits all the important, basic stuff can fit on an index card.

I paused the podcast because I loved this idea, and I wanted to challenge myself to come up with an index card of my own, and see how it matched up with an index card from 'the expert.'

After spending just a couple of minutes, no cheating by googling, and re-copying for legibility, I came up with this, my index card:

Here's the expert's notecard:

And a different version, from the same expert:

Source 1 (2013) and Source 2 (2017)

Of course, as the podcast mentions, these are guidelines for most Americans. If you're totally scraping by, it may not be possible to follow all of these rules off the bat, but the point is to help prioritize what's important to you (long or short term) by writing it down. (e.g. Are movies or food more important?  Are you ready to go into debt with a mortgage?)

What am I missing that is important / common enough to make it onto an index card?  What would you throw out / ignore from my card?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Denver co-working roundup: June 2017

As we passed through Denver, we wanted to check out the local coworking spaces – find out quick reviews below, and chime in in comments if we missed some!
Overall, we were really impressed with the professionalism in each space, the blend of networking opportunities, and the quality of perks. We’d happily work at these places again!
  1. Green Spaces – newish space with a definite warm community focus on environmental sustainability. Lovely yoga on Tuesdays and other events; very welcoming! (link)
  2. Galvanize – entrenched big national brand name, strong focus on learning and professional improvement through courses. Slightly modern corporate feel in the interest of productivity. (link and link) (2 locations in Denver)
  3. Shift – modern cozy professional vibe, amazing steampunk-ish design in their new location, standard amenities plus extras like a gym! (link) (2 locations in Denver)
  4. Thrive –  modern cozy professional-but-edgy vibe, family run and slow sustainable growth seem to be working in their community. (link) (2 locations in Denver)
  5. WeWork – huge facilities (1200 desks at Union Station location) and associated nationwide network of 198 locations globally make this an outlier compared with above. Huge network, but not clear how well-linked/tight it is as opposed to simply a coworking space (that Microsoft and Sprint use) (link) (2 locations in Denver)
  6. Union Station – not a coworking space, but many folks come for the awesome interior vibe, plethora of coffee, ice cream, and restaurants, and apparently wifi.  Free, but bring headphones!

Sample pricing
SpaceSample PackagesNotes
Green Spaces$75 for 2 days/mo, $195/mo hot deskSolar powered, focus on green companies
Thrive$50 Starter; $275/mo hot desk2 locations, family-run
Shift$25 Day Pass, $279/mo hot desk2 locations, gyms!
WeWork$45 Day Pass, $220/mo hot desk2 locations (near each other)
Galvanize$349/mo hot desk 2 locations, learning-focus!

If you want more reviews, check out this list and this directory!

Why choose?  You can sign up for a Deskpass that lets you change work spots very frequently (though not all above spaces are eligible) – check them out here!


We loved the decor at Shift @ Bannock – hard to tell but the piece hanging above the bar has moving gears. The roll-up doors to the balcony create an open, inspiring vibe.
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Shift @ Bannock – comfy and beautiful retro design, 
allegedly using old hardware pieces found in the building!
IMG_20170623_163043627 (Medium)

Denver is eminently bike-able!  
Union Station is beautiful inside, and not a bad thought for a work space, as long as you’re not distracted easily.
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Hard to ignore how beautiful the streets of Denver are, this time of year!
IMG_20170706_152358585_HDR (Medium)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Hottest inhabited place on Earth

Happy to share a few pictures of the hottest inhabited place on Earth, up in Ethiopia.  Beautiful in lots of different way!

"The Danakil Depression is the northern part of the Afar Triangle or Afar Depression in Ethiopia, a geological depression that has resulted from the presence of three tectonic plates in the Horn of Africa." -Wikipedia 

While we were there, the temperature routinely went above 45 Celsius / 110 Fahrenheit.  But so beautiful!

Lots of guys harvesting salt from the salt lakes; tough labor for very low pay (13 cents per block, then it's carried by camels for 60 km and sold for $2.25!)

I loved taking photos of the people there (and more great pictures!)

More salt and camel pictures:

Sunrise was beautiful, but the suns rays were so harsh even at 6am!

A bit toasty.

Then we went over to some hot springs nearby (no bathing, serious stuff!)

Had to bring some guards because there's been some issues with tourists and Eritreans, apparently (a while ago). 

Finally, we hiked up a live volcano: Erta Ale -- this means I've been to two of the only six active lava lake volcanoes in the world!  This one appeared briefly in "Clash of the Titans"

"Not much is known about Erta Ale and the surrounding terrain is some of the most inhospitable on Earth making travel difficult and dangerous." - Wikipedia

See the red smoke in the distance?

Hiking after sundown to get to the rim:

The good stuff!

I loved hiking down the next day, to see the frozen lava folds:

Big risk of falling through this stuff all over the place -- plenty of people on our trek with bloody shins including me, from falls of roughly 5 inches up to 1 foot.  SUPER sharp rocks.  Not very safe.

And I loved looking at some of the iridescent lava rocks up close!

And even upper-closer!  :)

And some awesome windmills to take all the wind generated from the sun's hot rays!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Climbing Mt. Kenya

Recently I climbed the hiking route (non-technical ascent) of Lenana Peak, the third-tallest peak (still respectable 16,354 ft / 4,985 m) of Mt. Kenya. We used the Sirimon route, both up, and down.

We left Nairobi on a matatu (public minivan) on Friday afternoon, slept in Nanyuki town.

Woke up Saturday morning, started hiking, slept at Old Moses Hut Saturday night.
Hiked up Sunday to spend the night at Shipton's Camp.
Woke at 3am, climbed up to the summit by sunrise, and then all the way back down to Nairobi by Sunday night!

End of hike pic:

Snow melt and ice; great for hot feet on a hike!

A couple of guides & brothers, with the peak in the background

It's been a bit dry lately...

Shipton's camp in the backgroud; doing an afternoon hike to help acclimatize.

Cute mice & horax here and there.

Peak had some weather coming & going

Hiking under moon + starlight!

Getting near the top at first light!

Orange lichen, I guess?

So cool looking!

Does anyone know what kind of bird this is?
What kind of bird is this?
Check out some other crazy birds here!

Beautiful symmetry of succulents!

High-altitude chameleon!

Not sure what these are!  Birds of some sort

Full moon setting just as the sun rose!

Random little brown birdie I got close to.

Chipmunk! Don't see many in Africa!