Back in September I went on a short little vacay to NYC.
Was rad times. Love the vibe of the city. I could live there for a little bit. But it would be expensive. Manhattan is like a millionaires mall. Not sure if it’s affordability allows for young people to take chances.
Brooklyn was cool too. There was a ton of tasty restaurants close to our Airbnb, which I highly recommend using. Have you heard of Airbnb? It’s a website for people to rent out apartments and houses.
Not only do you save money on accommodation, but its just a more fun personal way to visit a city. In this particular case, we rented out the entire apartment for more privacy.
I made a short video of our stay, including a tour of our Airbnb apartment!
Interested in checking out this place yourself ? Just email me – firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you the link.
Everything you’ve done up until this point is because of certain habits.
Back in 2009, I had a goal of reading 40 books. I read 28.
Then in 2010, I had a goal of reading 50 books, I read 40.
This year my goal was one book a week. I’ve read only 30 far. I’m built weak I know. By the way, I’ve come across recently an article on reading a book in one hour from the Personal MBA website by Josh Kaufman. Click here to check it out.
Anyways I know you’ve heard how good reading is for you. You don’t accept things on face value. If you read a variety you relate different ideas together, string them together. Gives more confidence about what your talking about it…. I mean if you can’t talk about it casually you don’t know it. And EVEN if you can talk about it casually, doesn’t mean you know it.
But this all came about taking some small steps that eventually became a habit. I actually enjoy reading for leisure now.
Back in university days, I barely read anything outside the text books compared to now. This changed rapidly, as I read books like the awesome Four Hour Work Week. I decided I wanted to go backpacking! Traveling with family is fine, but backpacking with friends sounded unreal.
One of the places I visited was sunny Australia.
Now ever since I watched the movie Point Break I wanted to sky dive. Remember the parachute scene?( click here cos it’s awesome). So I finally did it in Mission Beach on the East Coast. I remember this day fondly. It’s that feeling you were suppose to be dead, but you were still alive!! I loved it.
Soon after landing, the Aussie Sky Dive man, John, had the nerve to ask me “Why is this so amazing to you?” I was a bit dumbfounded by his question. Then he mentioned he jumps out of a plane 4-6 times a day, 5 days a week. It became not such a big deal to him, but a routine. He was curious how his regular job resulted in one of the most adrenaline packed day of my life.
Well John, because its not usual to jump out of a plane. There are so many ways to interpret this, but I think the main thing for me was keep doing things that stretch you, ignore your lizard brain – could be as simple as waking up on time every morning.
I recently visited Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the first time to checkout the Carnival. It was non stop action. I initially thought I could get around Brazil with broken Spanish. That didn’t quite work out. Portuguese doesn’t read like its written! Too many accents on words! Did my head in.
Despite all this I enjoyed making a fool of myself by attempting to learn the language. I realized I’m not going to retain this, but I just enjoyed trying to communicate. Especially with the Brazilians ladies.
Now apart from the beauties of Rio, I noticed a few peculiarities in how people pay for things at restaurants and bars. One of my favourite type of restaurants was the Comida a Kilo. You fill up your plate with all the food you want and the cost is then determined by the weight! Churassco and feijoada were my favourite dishes.
They also got these wicked juice/snack bars on almost every corner of Copacabana and Ipanema. This is where you just hang out and shoot the breeze with other locals. One night I was with a loud mouth New Yorker who decided to ask this young couple where the party was happening that night. They mentioned they were going to a favela party. The New Yorker just burst out laughing roughly saying “dude i would never send you to the Bronx if you asked me in New York, now really tell me where’s the party at? ” This couple laughed a bit, but seemed visibly offended. They then said in a monotone voice ” no were actually going to a favela party” . I smiled and really enjoyed the tension this created! Nice one on the cultural sensitivities Mr. Americano! Apparently its cool for locals to enjoy a local samba party in a favela. But if you’re a foreigner, even from outside the city, its not advised.
By the way safety wise I felt fine. Luckily in my case, many of the locals mistook me for Brazilian, which led me to nodding and laughing in agreement to pretend I knew exactly what they were saying! But yes, you do have to be careful as you do in any big city. The guys can be quite assertive, as are the girls which I didn’t mind obviously. So don’t keep too much cash on you, travel in groups, etc. But for the most part, Brazilians are extremely friendly and happy that you didn’t get scared off by movies such as City of God (watch it).
Anyways the fast food at these juice bars looked and tasted much better than what I expected. I especially enjoyed the Acai drink. They have a system where you pay first, and then take that stub to a 2nd person for the order to be made. I actually thought it resulted in faster service.
Then there was the bars, where the party really starts to begin at about 2 am. You’ve probably heard of bottle service in Vegas. They had a toned down version using a card system. The premise was they give you a card for 50 real for all your drink needs. I found this to be very smart.
Why? Because they got at least 50 bucks out of you. This requires you to chill out for a longer period of time to spend the 50.00 real! Unless of course you are able to slurp down 20 shots in 5 minutes. You don’t wanna leave spending less than 50, cos you feel you didn’t get your money’s worth! Right? So you order till your card runs out. Which is very easy to do. Using a card makes you feel like you’re not spending as much anymore, ie: why they use chips in casino’s. Also because you stay longer, this attracts more people to the joint, cos people wanna go where the party’s at!
Oddly the bar next to this place, Melt in Leblon, does the opposite. They gave you a card too initially, but you pay the damage at the end of the night. Again, when you have plastic, you spend more easily than cash…exactly what the bar owners want! At least you knew before it was just 50. Oh, but you will have a great time! They had a live samba band in the middle of the club.
Apart from the dancing, greeting each other by kissing on cheeks, beach activities, street parties, I didn’t feel too much of a culture shock, until I got back.
They dress the same as us, okay perhaps a little less clothing because of the humidity. But I feel the world is becoming homogenized. You can get the exact same things from any shop.
And yes you can get way with English, but its a shame to only know one language really well. You can’t relate to people the same way. Definitely need to learn more than one to enjoy this world.
ps: check out this nifty idea by the Brazilians. t-shirts that represent old bands and new bands inspired by them:
and here’s a video of me and my friend Kunal at the Samba Dome!! We had fun to say the least:
On my recent travels I was fortunate to have gone trekking in the Kathmandu valley of Nepal with my brother. During our stay, there was news of a Maoist strike planned for Kathmandu city. This threat ended our trekking tour prematurely – as we were forced to drive into Kathmandu a day early.
Now the trekking tour manager informed us that he would make up for the lost night and dinner included in our package. So he offered to take us on some excursions around Kathmandu the next day, as the Maoist strike was later canceled!
He never showed up the next day. And why would he? He already had our money. Whats it to him? A whole lot. The fact that I didn’t get full value for my money is not what most bothered me, but the fact that this guy lost any goodwill I’d have of spreading word about his company to my family and friends.
All he had to do was offer something, anything to make me feel he cared about my experience. Just some effort to appease the customer on his part would have helped his company far more long term, then this short term gain.
This post isn’t to persuade others not to travel Nepal. It’s an awesome, outer worldly experience from the modern bustle of North America. Walking around buildings, temples that are thousands of years old is an experience you can’t quantify.
However, if someones asking me about trekking tours in Nepal, I will say it was a decent experience. It could have been an awesome experience, but it was just okay because of this encounter. Whether this trekking company manager realizes it or not, he also represent Nepal tourism to me, my first impression. I will be more cautious agreeing to a tour next time I visit Nepal. But others who encounter this kind of service might never return to Nepal!
Whats the point?
The best kind of marketing is actually giving a damn. Make your customers experience with you a positive one. Something worth remembering. You want them to leave your business being an happy, enthusiastic, walking spokesperson for your company. Focus on this far outweighs all the thousands some companies spend on marketing brochures explaining all there nifty products and services. Listen, have some empathy and you might win a customer for life.
I recently got back from a family trip to India and it was awesome. Amongst other things, I attended my cousins wedding, checked out the Taj Mahal and ate a lot of great food. Man I wish I had a personal Indian cook.
Anyways one of the most useful documents I’ve attained in the past few years has been becoming an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI). You can read the detailed benefits here. To make a long story short, its not dual citizenship (not allowed by Indian government – get to work on that!). So I can’t vote in elections in the worlds biggest democracy. However, the main benefit is multiple, lifelong visa to India. So for the Canadians out there, if you parents were once a citizen of India, then you can get it for approximately 300 CDN. Set for life. It definitely pays for itself after even 2-3 visits, since you have to pay approximately 82 CDN for tourist visa and more for a business visa.
How else did it pay for itself? Well I like to visit historical places, old forts, palaces, etc. Safdarjung’s Tomb, Humayun’s Tomb, Jama Masjid in New Delhi, cost me mere 20 rupees each (50 cents), othervise would have been 750 rupees per monument. The Taj Mahal also costs 750 rupees each time for foreigners. I saw it twice cos of my OCI card for 20 rupees. Same thing for Fatehphur Sikri, the former Mughal capital of India. Sure its like basically 10-12 bucks/each for foreigners converted, but it adds up! And why not take advantage? Plus it led to some interesting events for instance the agents at the Taj Mahal ticket windows thought I was a government VIP. I was like “this is awesome” in my head.
And it worked in Nepal too. I had to pay 20 USD for the visa entry. But after that it was back to home town discounts. In Nepal they have special price for neighbouring South Asian nations, and so in all instances I simply said few lines in Hindi and they believed I was from India. I didn’t have to flash the card there once as my hindi had improved at that point (still working on that).
Its not just about an emotional connect either, it makes eminent business sense too. It also works as a business visa, sparing the need to obtain separate work permits. India’s growing importance as an economic destination was enough to convince me to get it.
PS: I filmed a little video while inside Shah Jahan’s old stomping grounds. I wasn’t allowed to, but they didn’t realize iphones have video capability. Enjoy!