Man, Laptop And World: How To Travel Efficiently
Make More Money… By Not Being An Unhealthy Bastard
Why I’m Trading Thailand For London

Man, Laptop And World: How To Travel Efficiently

Over the last seven months, I feel like I’ve spent more time logging in to hotel Wifi systems than I have in my own office. When you make the decision to travel, whilst working on the move, efficiency becomes a major issue. How can you get the most out of your time, while severing many of those hours in pursuit of greater thrills?

I recommend travelling to anybody who has the chance. If your business is self-managed, it makes little sense to constrain your time and freedom to a single city, especially if you already know that city inside out. Many people cite the influence of outside factors for not being able to travel.

“The wife won’t let me…”
“The kids are too much work…”
“I’m tied in to a rental contract…”

Admittedly, those with less ties than myself have more problems to solve before they can take off around the world, but none of the factors are hammer blows to the idea. They just take a greater leap of faith and/or commitment to overcome.

If you’re stuck between indecision and lack of information, here are a few pointers I’ve picked up along the way:

1. Travel as lightly as possible.

If you are a notorious hoarder of junk, traveling is an excellent excuse to throw out the crap that’s being cluttering your garage for so long. When I moved to Thailand, I completely overestimated how many clothes I would need, and indeed what type of clothes I would need. Sticky heat-trapping shirts barely cool enough for the English winter? Definitely not going to be needed in Bangkok. Did I bring them anyway? Of course I did.

It’s tempting to fit a lifetime’s accumulation of crap in to your suitcase, but ask yourself one question. Is this so important that I can’t buy a replacement while I’m away? The answer to most items will be no. Traveling light makes moving around much easier, not to mention saving you many many pesos in excess baggage charges.

2. Hotel Wifi has a recurring tendency to suck balls.

I’ve learnt that if I don’t do research beforehand, fate will typically conspire to hand me a shitty hotel Internet connection. Working from a laptop instead of a dual screen Mac took some adjusting. Working from a laptop on 56K dial-up speeds merited a full blooded sucker punch to the balls. If you’re staying in a hotel, make sure the Wifi is good and included free of charge. Or risk paying £30 for a few hours of patchy usage at somewhere like Novotel Rim Pae. Screw you, Novotel.

3. Don’t stay in flash, rich, luxurious hotels.

Wifi is worth investing in if you’re running a business from your laptop. But I’ve never understood the craze behind booking hotels for $500/night. Ultimately, a bed is a bed. Unless you plan on doing something other than sleeping in it, why pay through the nose for something that rarely gives you a true taste of the place you’re visiting? Overpaying is considered by many to be a macho display of ballin’. Invariably, traveling with set requirements of the pampered existence you need to get to sleep at night defeats the bloody purpose of traveling at all.

4. Learn the language.

My biggest regret as I move on from Thailand. It’s difficult to truly appreciate a culture if the standard conversation leaves you scratching your head and whipping up Rosetta Stone on the smartphone. Learning a few basic phrases is a must, while learning conversational basics will give you a much better understanding of what’s happening around you. Not to mention, a whole new world of local prices become accessible once you display a better grasp of the native vocab than a regular tourist.

5. Dropbox.

Dropbox is the new rage. Okay, to most people, it’s yesterday’s new rage. I was slow to jump on the bandwagon, but I’m glad that I did. By using Dropbox, you can afford to pull a Tim Ferriss. Sod off the face of the Earth completely, leave your laptop behind and restrict work to bursts of activity in an Internet Cafe just outside the Angolan Jungle. Dropbox gives you access to your important files anywhere, synchronizing them across devices and affording you the title of Digital Nomad.

6. Use time differences to your advantage.

Initially, I was concerned about the time difference when I first moved to Asia. Companies and reps based in the UK, Canada and America would still be asleep while I was busy with work. What if I needed to talk to them? It didn’t take long for me to figure that this was a great blessing in disguise. Zero distractions and zero interruptions. By the time those in America had woken up and replied to my emails, I would be happily relaxing and unwinding in the sun.

7. Have back-up support in place.

When you’re traveling, even with laptop in tow, it brings peace of mind to have somebody ready and waiting to act on any emergencies. I hired a Virtual Assistant from EasyOutsource.com, which is by far my favourite place to recruit cheap but talented labour.

You can have all your mundane tasks handled by a full-time VA for as little as $250/month, although I would recommend you invest a little more for quality’s sake. It’s also better to hire a combined workforce rather than a single employee. An individual is just as prone to “sick days” at inconvenient times as you were back in the day job. Hiring a team removes this worry.

8. Reduce any unwanted papermail before leaving.

In the UK, I use the Royal Mail’s redirection service to have my post sent to family while I’m away. If it’s important, I’ll have them send it on for me. This costs £8/month for domestic redirection and up to £30/month to have mail routed overseas. It’s a good idea to deselect paper statements from your online credit and store card accounts. Who needs to be reminded of yesterday’s vanity purchases, anyway?

For tax purposes, I have any important documents from HRMC sent to my Thai based address. This is easy to do by updating your current profile after receiving the Government Gateway ID. For everything else, I don’t stress. If it’s important, I’m sure the sender will find a better way of contacting me.

9. Tell your bank and credit card issuers where you’re traveling.

Very important and the source of much frustration while I’ve been attempting to use ATMs overseas. Fraud detectors are sent in to a frenzy if you withdraw £500 from a Cambodian street market. Your bank will routinely cancel payments and refuse to process ATM withdrawals if you don’t make it clear over the phone that you will be traveling to a particular region on a certain date.

For this reason alone, I chose to open an HSBC Advance account before moving to Asia. They have a strong presence abroad and it’s reassuring to be able to walk in to a branch that knows your name if you have any problems.

Recommended This Week:

  • If you’re not already registered on PPV Playbook, you are missing a beat sunshine. Easily the BEST place to learn from marketers who are actually making money. It has some awesome case studies. The catch is that you will need to pay some of your hard earned pesos to access it. I swear from the bottom of my black heart, joining is worth every penny

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Make More Money… By Not Being An Unhealthy Bastard

As far as case studies go, this probably isn’t going to win any awards for innovation.

A few weeks ago, I decided to change my life for the better. I knew that it was time to look myself in the mirror, face up to the truth and ask “Finch, you unhealthy bastard, do you want to be a stud muffin or just a slob who ate all the muffins?

By saying adios to junk food, crappy eating and lack of sleep, I theorized I could create a lifestyle change that would snowball in to something resembling vitality and full health. This, in turn, would allow me to thrive in the workplace with optimal levels of concentration and focus.

The ultimate goal was an improvement in mind, body and spirit. It was time to say “kiss my balls” to the unhealthy bastard in the mirror, Michael Jackson-style, minus the unhealthy interest in kids.

The Challenge

I spent days, literally days, hunched over a laptop in Cambodia researching the best possible diet to give my body a healing rest from it’s regular abuse. Detoxing is a controversial subject. It’s very hard to strike a balance between listening to the raw food psychopaths who’ll give you dirty scowls for even glancing at a cow in the wrong way, and the All-American Americans who believe eating an entire livestock of chickens isn’t just a delicious choice, but what the chickens wanted.

I decided on a 4 day fruit detox, followed by a slightly more lenient diet that would be more sustainable for my non-commital ass in the long run. Minimal processed foods, minimal caffeine, no added salts and sugars.

I haven’t tasted alcohol for over 6 weeks now, so that was never a problem. No doubt my tolerance will be tested when I return to London, however.

Surviving The Detox

For those of you who haven’t tried a fruit detox, the first effects are typically a raging headache and the growing despair that life is not worth living. “How am I to survive if I don’t find a kitten to kill soon?

Detox symptoms vary from person to person. The heavier the symptoms, the more toxins you’ve accumulated in your body that are struggling to come out.

What follows is a detoxing process known as “retracing”. This is where your body undergoes the strange sensation of re-experiencing recent illnesses and weaknesses. If you didn’t know any better, you’d assume that the detox is adding to your woes rather than working for the greater good. But it’s all part of the recovery so don’t go quitting while the going is tough.

Your body is actually flushing harmful toxins in to your bloodstream at a rapid rate, much faster than the body can dispose of. The toxin-filled blood rushes to the brain and creates a surreal sensation where you experience many different pains and illness symptoms in short bursts.

The symptoms were always there. But it’s only when your body is in “recovery mode” that the organs can actually deal with them. Of course, this triggers the instinctive “I feel worse than when I started. Somebody get me a burger. Cheeseburger. Shit, it’s getting worse. Get me some extra cheese with that…

This period of headaches, fatigue, volatile stomach reactions and irritability lasted for a couple of days on my detox. Caffeine withdrawals can lead to massive headaches, and if you like your sugar – which I don’t – you’re also going to suffer. My longing for food with meaty texture almost lead to the butchering of a gecko outside my hotel room. It’s not easy to fight your cravings under a barrage of physical aches and pains.

But when the symptoms begin to pass, and here’s the big incentive, you truly do feel a million times better than you did before. Your body begins to accept and use the nutrients of the fruit to your advantage, unleashing enormous swirls of energy and a sense of clarity the likes of which I’m still wondering how I ever did without before.

It probably helped that my detox was aided by an endless supply of fresh coconut and grapefruit juice, two of the most renowned superfruits in the world. I have since re-introduced lean meats in to my diet, but never at the expense of leafy greens and an overcompensation of fruits. I’ve replaced alcohol with smoothies, diet coke with water, and coffee with green tea. The effects are here for me to see, and I’m very happy with them.

33% Diet, 33% Exercise, 33% Rest

No healthy lifestyle can be sustained by simply eating the right foods. It’s just as important to exercise and get a sufficient amount of sleep. Even though I have a gym and swimming pool downstairs, I’ve often found my work “too pressing” to find time to exercise as much as I should have. That is changing by simply forcing a work-out in to my daily schedule, no matter how many servers are crashing and burning around me at the time.

My sleeping habits, ironically, were fixed when I started my detox. The overwhelming fatigue that I felt after a few days of eating only fruit was enough to get my body clock back on track. The sensation of waking up naturally at 8am, fresh, energised and blessed with clarity is a million miles from how I felt just two months ago. Then I would slip out of the bedroom at 1pm, feeling just as lethargic as I had when my body finally passed out the night before.

A good sleeping pattern makes such a huge difference to what I feel capable of achieving in a day, and certainly to my attention span while I’m trying to achieve it.

Many entrepreneurs argue that they’re “not morning people” and work most efficiently at night. While this may be true for some, I would bet that the majority are simply closet insomniacs making the best out of a bad situation.

Finch’s Sickly Generic Final Thoughts

Striving for a healthy lifestyle isn’t something that should be born out of wanting to make more money. There’s no point in stacking towers of dollar bills if you don’t have the health and peace of mind to enjoy them. This is something I have struggled and grappled with for a while.

I see it as a common trait of young entrepreneurs. We have so much money, and such little sense of value. If your work ethic is harming your health, the only future you’re contributing to is your own self-destruction.

While I can say that the changes definitely did improve my focus, concentration and work productivity, these are secondary to the satisfaction that came from looking after myself and actually feeling a sense of working with my body, rather than dragging it kicking and screaming through the night against it’s will.

Western society, particularly America, is riddled with quick fix cures for conditions that can’t possibly heal with the popping of a pill. Papering over cracks is the term that springs to mind. But that doesn’t stop people from trying. Many of us will find any excuse, or quick fix, to continue living unhealthily, until it becomes impossible through the damage we’ve already inflicted to ourselves.

If you’re going to try a detox followed by a change in lifestyle, be prepared for several days of complete and utter Hell. It gets a lot worse before it starts to get better.

Be truthful with yourself, get educated, and find ways to cut out the crap that’s holding you back. Your mind and body will reward you by working at their full potential. And if you’ve been operating “half-arsed” for as long as I had, this can feel like an incredible burden lifted.

Recommended This Week:

  • Check out Filthy Rich Mind, a brand new project I’m collaborating on with a couple of other writers in the self-improvement market. It’s a fun project and if you like off-the-wall advice for improving your lifestyle, subscribe here for updates.

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Why I’m Trading Thailand For London

Last year I wrote what turned out to be one of my most popular blog posts when I announced why I was trading London for Thailand. It’s time for Part 2, the part where I explain why I’m heading back home in July.

Now, there are many reasons why I could be looking to leave Thailand, aren’t there? I know what you want me to say. The supply of ladyboys could never last forever. Shockingly enough, it goes deeper than that.

The last seven months have been a hugely fun and unforgettable learning experience for me. I’ve had to embrace a culture that I have about as much in common with as a fish out of water. For anybody who has dabbled with the idea of visiting Thailand, I say do it. It’s a friendly and vibrant country, with some of the best damn beaches you’re ever going to see in your lifetime.

One of the reasons I left London was to chase full value for my money. When you’ve spent your entire life in the Greater London suburbs, it’s not difficult to put a high price on a tropical climate and a diet of fresh coconuts. These were things that appealed to me immensely, and they still do. But in leaving London, I’m sure I underestimated all the comforts and relationships I’d be leaving behind.

When I ask myself whether I could spend six months holidaying in Thailand every year, the answer is a resounding “show me the booking form“. But it’s difficult to settle here, and it feels like a temporary home.

Traveling alone is much different to traveling as a couple. My girlfriend works in fashion and if you know anything about the fashion world, you’ll be aware that it revolves around the major cities of New York, London, Paris and Milan. Her work almost demands that she be in the thick of her industry, and as much as we both love Thailand, Bangkok Fashion Week left a little to be desired in the prestige stakes.

We also have two puppies. I’d like to point this out to anybody who gets suckered in to the cute fluffy pet markets of Bangkok. Do not buy pets unless you’ve researched the quarantine regulations in your country. I wouldn’t give up my dogs for the world, but getting stiffed with a quarantine import bill for £5000 ($8000) was a major shock when I made their travel arrangements back to England.

There’s a misconception that Thailand is cheap. I guess it is, for certain commodities. But you have to understand that the tourist economy is vastly different to the local economy. And unless you know more than Hello and Goodbye in Thai, you’re going to find it pretty difficult to escape the tourist traps. My outgoings in London were roughly £1000/month ($1600). After noting down my expenses last week, I worked out that I’m spending on average £4200/month ($6700) in Thailand.

Those costs are inflated by living on the cusp of Downtown Bangkok, in one of the city’s prime locations, with an expansive 4 bedroom apartment. It also hits the wallet when you have to renew your visa every 60 days. I’ve already ticked off trips to Malaysia, Singapore and Cambodia with other adventures planned for my last two months here.

So in response to those who say Thailand is a cheap recluse for oddballs who can’t survive in the west, I would have to say try it for yourself. Going by the prices I’ve experienced on my travels, America is one of the cheapest places I’ve ever visited. And Singapore is definitely the most expensive, although luxurious from coast to coast.

It could be as luxurious as my balls, I’m still going to refuse to pay $5 for a small pack of Oreos.

The weather here is hot and humid all year round. I don’t recommend heading to Thailand in April or May, unless you’re prepared to get down and dirty in your own sweat. I would also advice you not to make the schoolboy error of venturing in to a Bangkok thunderstorm under the assumption of “Eh, fuck it, I’m used to London showers, what’s the worst that could happen?” The worst that could happen is a monsoon in your face.

I’m definitely going to miss having a wardrobe full of shorts and summer shirts when I head back to London. Yet there are changes I’m looking forward to that have made the move a necessity. Seeing friends and family is obviously uplifting. Just being able to communicate freely, in my own language, is something I’ve learnt to appreciate. I find it quite difficult to express myself in broken Thai, and expression is a fundamental quality in all of our lives.

Looking further ahead, I’ve definitely caught the travel bug. I could never be one of the single state gremlins who knows little about what’s outside his city, let alone what goes on in a different country. By the end of 2012, I aim to have visited every continent (including Antarctica!). Until then, I think I’m going to enjoy the sun for a little while longer.

Seven months in Thailand and I’ve almost turned a shade of “slightly brownish white”!

Recommended This Week:

  • If you’re not already registered on PPV Playbook, you are missing a beat sunshine. Easily the BEST place to learn from marketers who are actually making money. It has some awesome case studies. The catch is that you will need to pay some of your hard earned pesos to access it. I swear from the bottom of my black heart, joining is worth every penny

  • Help a virginal Finch. Subscribe to my new FinchSells RSS feed. And if you don’t already follow me, add FinchSells to your Twitter.

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