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Adventures

Traveling without Tech

London from the top of St. Paul's Cathedral!

Hello from London!

I spent last weekend at an SEO conference in London called Ungagged. (Yes, poor me, I had to accept a trip to London to talk about social media law.) Initially, I thought the trip would give me another opportunity to practice minimalist packing, but it gave me a much richer experience of traveling without a cell phone.

Before I left for this trip, I contacted my wireless provider and added a small global package to my phone. Unbeknownst to the clerk or me, they gave me a plan that doesn’t work in the UK, so when I arrived I had a cell phone that was worthless as a phone. I could still connect to the hotel’s Wi-Fi, but otherwise, my phone was an oversized pocket watch that was set to Arizona time with a built-in camera.

Whenever I wasn’t in the hotel, I felt like I was back in the late 1990’s when I had to go back to the computer in my college dorm room to check my email. Actually, it was better than that because I had a pager in college so there was always a chance my hip would start vibrating. I bopped around London virtually tech-free. Many times I left the hotel without taking my phone with me and when I did take it, it was only to be able to take photos.

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

I loved walking along the Thames River, looking at the various shops. I navigated only with the recommendation from the concierge – not even a map or a guidebook to direct me. I figured if I got lost, I’d stop at a shop and ask directions. It was quite freeing to travel untethered to my phone – nothing to distract or direct me. I simply followed the streets and whatever whims moved me. As I walked along I thought, “This is what being a tourist used to be like.”

My hotel was located near St. Paul’s Cathedral which has a dome that towers above much of the surrounding skyline. When I wanted to return from whence I came, all I had to do was turn around and head in the opposite direction. If I moved in the general direction of cathedral, I knew I’d get back to my hotel eventually. I was never afraid of being “lost” in the city.

It was so wonderful and relaxing to leave my phone behind and enjoy London. I suspect I got to see and experience more of the city merely because I wasn’t distracted by notification chimes or tempted to bury my head in my phone. It’s definitely a practice I want to adopt more often.

Return to Costco

Photo by Leslie Easton (Creative Commons License)

Photo by Leslie Easton (Creative Commons License)

Last weekend I went to Costco with my white board sign to pick up a prescription for Rosie the basset hound. The staff was obviously alarmed by the fact that I was carrying my white board sign. (My behavior otherwise was completely innocuous, quiet, and polite.) The clerk escorted me out of the store after I had completed my transaction. Non-members of Costco are allowed to use their pharmacy and to purchase alcohol; however, the staff member told me that next time I needed to inform the clerk working the door of my non-member status so they could escort me in and out of the store.

That made sense. I can understand why Costco only wants people who have paid for memberships in the store, eating the samples, and making purchases.

Fast-forward to this weekend. Rosie needed a refill for one of her other prescriptions (it’s hard to predict when you’ll run out of doggy eye drops) so I returned to the same Costco as before – this time sans white board sign. I presented myself to the greeter and told her (with my best British accent) that I was not a Costco member and that I wished to use their pharmacy. Without hesitation, she pointed toward the pharmacy and let me proceed unaccompanied.

Photo by Mike Mozart (Creative Commons License)

Photo by Mike Mozart (Creative Commons License)

The pharmacist said it would take approximately 15 minutes to fill Rosie’s prescription and he handed me a larger Costco pager device that would ring, vibrate, and light up when it was ready. I was allowed to walk through the store to observe the other patrons and their carts piled high with large quantities of goods. The idea of buying such large quantities of one thing in a single transaction baffles me.

When the pager went off, I returned to the pharmacy, completed the transaction, and walked out without incident.

Costco Lessons to Date:

  • They don’t want you to be in the store with your whiteboard sign.
  • They will allow you to be in the store unaccompanied when you don’t carry a whiteboard sign.
  • They will allow you to be in the store unaccompanied if you use a fake British accent.

Hmm…do you think they’ll let me use the pharmacy if I walk into the store wearing fairy wings?

I Wish I had a more Walkable City

 

One of the things I love doing during The Undeniable Tour was taking walks. I often spent my first evening in a new city getting my bearings by walking around the neighborhood. In many cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle) I could easily find a grocery store, drug store, coffee shops, things to do, and plenty of people watching within a mile of my hostel. I loved it. I barely drove when I was in the cities because it was more convenient and more fun to walk. My friend to relocated to Seattle from Gilbert, AZ said they gave up their car because they could walk to most of the places they needed to go. For everything else, there’s public transportation, taxis, Uber, and rental cars.

Phoenix Arizona Downtown Night Aerial Photo from Helicopter by Jerry Ferguson from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Phoenix Arizona Downtown Night Aerial Photo from Helicopter by Jerry Ferguson from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I didn’t have any plans last Friday night and I decided I wanted to get out and take a walk around 7 p.m. And then I thought about what’s in my neighborhood within walking distance and there really isn’t much, so I loaded up Rosie the basset hound and we drove a few miles to Tempe to walk along Mill Ave. She loved all the new smells and letting everyone love on her. (My apologies to the staff at The Handlebar. I let her walk into the bar when a group of patrons near the door was excited to see her.) I enjoyed getting out to relax in the warm night air.

It’s ironic that Phoenix, a desert city, is so spread out. You would think that the hot weather would inspire builders and people to want to stay close to work and day-to-day conveniences. With a walkability score of 38 (out of 100), that is definitely not the case. (Phoenix’s bikeability score is 52.) The walk scores for my home and work zip codes aren’t that much better, at 49 and 54 respectively. I looked up Tempe since I lived near the Phoenix/Tempe border and they fared better with a walk score of 50 and a bike score of 75.

I think there is hope for Phoenix. It appears that more people are moving closer to the city and there seems to be a higher demand for conveniences within walking distance and effective public transportation. I’m lucky than I’m not as dependent on my car as others since I lived right next to a bus stop and I’m close to two light rail stations, one of which that has a park and ride. I’m starting to consider what I would have to do to be able to bike to work, especially on the days when I don’t see clients and I’m just working in my office. I friends gave me some recommendations about the best way to transport my laptop with me.

One of the things that’s missing from many neighborhoods is having grocery stores, drug stores, and similar conveniences close to home. Even downtown Phoenix and many places along the light rail lack these essential businesses. Our transit system is doing a great job at getting us to major venues and town, but they’re not necessarily getting us to where we need to go on an everyday basis.

For now, I will have to drive most of the times that I need to go somewhere but I hope that will shift and Phoenix will become a place where transit lines and bike-friendly routes will become the most desirable locations for day-to-day conveniences.

Hostel vs Budget Hotel – Give Me a Hostel Any Day

I’ve been staying in hostels for most of The Undeniable Tour, mainly for economic reasons. There was one area that didn’t have a hostel so I opted to stay in a budget-friendly hotel. After comparing the two, I’d rather stay in a hostel any day.

My bunk at the hostel in Hollywood

My bunk at the hostel in Hollywood

Feels Safer
I feel safer staying in a hostel dorm room than I do staying in a hotel. For one, there are other people around. Every night in a hostel this trip, I’ve had between 2 and 23 roommates. There’s no funny business going on with an audience. The door to the dorm room has a lock and everyone has a locker in the room where they can lock up their luggage, but I’ve seen people leave their laptops on their beds without worry.

Each hostel has a staff, and most have someone working the desk 24 hours a day. They’re the gatekeepers who keep non-guests out. Many have front doors that are locked at night, unlike hotels that are usually open all the time.

Because I feel safer in a hostel than a hotel, I tend to sleep better. Usually it doesn’t bother me if someone snores or turns on the light once I fall asleep.

Communal Kitchen
Hostels come with kitchen that is stocked with all the typical kitchen tools so you can bring food and cook for yourself. Many hostels have a “Free Food” section of food that’s been left from previous guests too. Everyone seems to be respectful of others’ food – you label your food when you put it in the fridge or cupboard. If anything, people seem to be offering to share what they have.

Community Resources
Hostels are made for adventurous travelers. More than hotels, hostels are teeming with maps, lists of nearby restaurants, shops, and attractions, and many hostels organize outings for their guests.

Better Value
When I travel, I typically need a room to sleep and Wi-Fi to check my email. Sometimes extra bells and whistles are nice, but they’re not necessary. And it’s ironic that the more expensive hotels charge for Wi-Fi whereas many hostel stays come with free Wi-Fi and breakfast. I’d rather pay $22-50/night to stay in a bunk bed in a hostel than $50+ to stay at a budget-friendly hotel.

If you are interested in connecting with me while I am traveling please follow me on Twitter. If you have any questions or comments about The Undeniable Tour, please shoot me an email.

Minimalist Traveling – Managing Laundry

All Smiles in Santa Monica

All Smiles in Santa Monica

I am on The Undeniable Tour and living out of a suitcase and a backpack for two weeks. I only packed what I knew I would need for a week with plans to do laundry at one of the hostels where I’m staying.

When I packed my bag, I rolled most of my clothes which makes it easier to maximize the space in my bag. Rolling takes up significant less space than folding. One of the downsides of rolling your clothes is you can’t have a clean clothes and dirty clothes pile in your bag and it might be hard to determine what you’ve worn – especially things like socks. I didn’t want to create a mess when it came to sorting out my clean clothes from my dirty clothes come laundry day, so here’s what I did at the end of each day.

  • Take off shirt from the day and flip it inside out (inside out = dirty; right side out = clean).
  • Lay shirt flat on the ground.
  • Put dirty socks and underwear on shirt.
  • Create a mini bundle of dirty clothes by rolling up shirt with socks and underwear in it.

My suitcase is still filled with rolled up clothing, but come laundry day it should be easy to manage because all I have to do is shake out each bundle with an inside out shirt into the washing machine and turn it on. That’s my master plan at least. We’ll see how it goes.

I’ve been traveling with rolled up clothes for decades. I’m surprised it hasn’t dawned on me to roll up bundles of dirty clothes before. It’s definitely made it easier to get ready for each day because my dirty clothes are segregated from my clean ones.

Traveling definitely helps me see what things I really use in my day-to-day life and makes me question if certain things actually add value to my life or if they’re just taking up space. And for those of you who read my Burning Books post, I started the tour with 6 books. I’m currently down to 3.

When You Come to the Fork in the Road…

I love the Yogi Berra quote, “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.” It’s a reminder to me to keep moving forward whether that’s physically, emotionally, or professionally. When I knew I would be passing through Pasadena, I knew I had to stop to see the actual fork in the road.

Fork in the Road, Pasadena, CA

Fork in the Road, Pasadena, CA

This this is freakin’ huge! It’s at Pasadena Ave and St. John Ave. in a residential area. It’s so unassuming that it’s easy to miss it.

If you want to see what weird stuff is in your city or wherever you’re traveling, check out Roadside America.

My trip to Pasadena is part of The Undeniable Tour, which wouldn’t be possible without my awesome sponsors.

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Hostel vs Hotel – The Experiment

I did an experiment during my recent trip to San Francisco for the Dad 2.0 Summit. To save money during The Undeniable Tour which is coming up later this month, I thought I would stay in hostels instead of hotels. I used this weekend trip as a trial run and to compare the hostel experience to a traditional hotel stay. I spent my first night in San Francisco at a hostel near the conference hotel and I spent the second night in the hotel itself. Here’s how the two compared.

My hostel bed.

My hostel bed.

The Hostel
Until recently, I didn’t know there were so many hostels in the U.S. Unlike hotels that have a fancy front entrance, this hostel was a nondescript building that had the hostel’s name on the front door and window. At check-in there was a sign that said we had to show our travel documents (to deter homeless people and others who may try to live there). The clerk handed me my sheets, towel, and the key to my room and reminded me that I had to show my key each time I entered the building.
The Room: Tiny room with two bunk beds, a small sink, and a power strip plugged into the wall. One bed was obviously in use (rumpled bedding, suitcase next to it) and the other beds each had a folded comforter on it.
The Bed: My sheets were clean and soft and the comforter seemed as clean as any hotel’s. The single pillow was flat and made me wonder if there is a life hack for a thicker pillow for my upcoming tour. At the end of my stay, I had to strip my bed and turn in my sheets with my key.
The Bathroom: Divided into three rooms – sink in the dorm room, single toilet down the hall, and the women’s shower room with five shower stalls. The water in the shower was warm but there was so much air pushing it through the shower head that it felt kind of cold by the time it hit me.
The View: None from my room – just four solid walls.
The Price: I paid a deposit of $4-something when I booked the room online and paid the balance of $23 at check-in which included $5 to purchase a towel. I also had to give a $10 key deposit that I got back at check out.
Wi-Fi: Free public Wi-Fi throughout the building.
Roommates: I had one roommate when I arrived – an MBA student. We got another roommate around 1:30 a.m.
Amenities: Free coffee, tea, and cocoa available at all times; make your own pancakes in the morning; communal kitchen; communal lounges on each floor with tables, power strips, and books.

My Hotel Beds

My Hotel Beds

The Hotel
The Room: Two queen size beds, private bathroom, desk, table lamps, TV, and dresser.
The Bed: Beautiful white linens with five pillows on each bed.
The Bathroom: Private bathroom with more towels than I needed, a bath mat, and shampoo, conditioner, and soap; no issues with water temperature or pressure; no extra fees for the towels.

The gorgeous view from my hotel room.

The gorgeous view from my hotel room.

The View: One wall was a window that overlooked the Moscone Center and San Francisco Bay.
The Price: $199/night – and that was the special conference rate.
Wi-Fi: Available for a fee.
Roommates: None.
Amenities: Cable TV, ironing board, hair dryer, fitness center, concierge, and room service.

The hotel was about 87.5% (7/8) more expensive than the hostel, but I would not say that the experience was 87.5% better. I enjoyed the casual nature of the hostel and how friendly everyone was. For a person who is traveling on a budget and open to adventure, I think a hostel is a great way to go.

The Undeniable Tour will last fourteen nights and I will be spending eleven of them in six different hostels. I’m excited for the different people I will meet and the new experiences I will have by being in a more interactive environment compared to traditional hotels. I’m curious to see if my perceptions of hostels will change by the time I get back.

Coming Home

Dad 2.0 SummitI spent the last few days at the Dad 2.0 Summit – a conference for dads who blog. I didn’t know what to expect, especially given that I am a woman and a non-parent. I wasn’t sure if it would be a locker room grunt-and-scratch environment where any naturally occurring source of estrogen would be deemed an outsider – but that couldn’t be further from the truth. These were the kindest and most open and welcoming group of guys I had ever met. There were no pecking orders or ego issues. All the attendees were interested in being good parents, having work-life balance, and using their sites as platforms to share their experiences. They embody what it means to be a real man, not the stoic muscle man or the blundering idiot father that are too often portrayed in the media.

As I boarded my flight home, my mind was bubbling with new ideas about gender norms, parenting, and a how companies should treat their work force when it comes to parenthood. I thought about my new guy friends as I walked through the airport after my flight landed. There was a priest on my flight traveling in his black “uniform” and white collar. A pair of similarly dressed men greeted him with open arms after we crossed the threshold at Security. They embraced as I rode the escalator that would take me down to the shuttle and eventually my car. No one was there for me.

My Rosie watching "Dog TV"

My Rosie watching “Dog TV”

I enjoyed the quiet ride home in the early desert evening. It was a reprieve from the cacophony of sounds of the conference and traveling. I thought about my new guy friends as I walked through my door into my dark condo. I envision them being met with warm embraces from spouses and shrieks of “Daddy!” and leaping hugs from their kids or for the guys with little little ones, the sound of “Da da” and chubby arms reaching up to them from cribs. My home was silent, dark, and until I was in it, empty. I can pick up my “baby girl” from the kennel first thing in the morning.

I don’t think I’ve met a group of more content and self-confident guys than the ones I met at Dad 2.0. They know what’s important to them and they don’t need your validation. I aspire to have what they have. Does this mean I suddenly want kids? No. I aspire to figure out what matters most to me into simply do it – not because it makes me rich, wins me awards, or makes me famous in certain circles. It’s just what I’m meant to do. And hopefully I’ll have someone wonderful to share it with.

The Dad 2.0 Summit has an amazing community and I feel lucky to be part of it. I hope to see you all again at the 2016 event.

Night Sweats Experiment

Since my doctor suggested that my dizziness, fatigue, and night sweats are not due to a cardiovascular problem, I decided to do some research on the other causes of night sweats. I read an article that said that most night sweats are simply caused because the person is too warm at night. I wondered if I fell into this category before reading this article, and I tested it by pulling down the blankets before going to bed at night. I still woke up in the middle of the night with the soaking wet shirt. However, I decided to test this possibility further.

This is how my bed looks when I go to sleep - 2 fresh shirts ready to be switched out for sweaty ones

This is how my bed looks when I go to sleep – 2 fresh shirts ready to be switched out for sweaty ones

I have two sets of sheets. My summer sheets are simple cotton sheets. My winter sheets are also 100% cotton, but they are T-shirt sheets so they are thicker, softer, and warmer. I usually switch the sheets on my bed when the rest of the world changes their clocks to “spring forward” for daylight savings time or “fall back” to standard time. In the winter I usually have two blankets on my bed as well. One is a fuzzy soft blanket and the other is a heavier blanket that is crocheted using acrylic yarn. I like the weight of the heavy blanket on my body and the softness of the fuzzy blanket against my skin.

This is been a particularly warm winter in Phoenix. The high temperature during the day is often 10° above normal – in the mid- to high 70’s or low 80’s. The low at night is only in the 50’s, and my home is really well insulated. It made me wonder if sleeping with T-shirt sheets and two blankets were contributing, if not causing, my night sweats.

So this past weekend I switched out my T-shirt sheets for my summer sheets. I took the fuzzy blanket off my bed completely and I folded the heavy blanket down so that it’s only on the foot of my bed. I read somewhere that you get the best sleep when your head is cold and your feet are warm.

I wore this shirt with the cooler set up. It was still this wet 5 hours after I took it off.

I wore this shirt with the cooler set up. It was still this wet 5 hours after I took it off.

When I put myself to bed the first night in my colder arrangement, I was absolutely exhausted. I thought I would have no problem falling asleep – but I was wrong. Despite being in a condo that was around 70° inside, I felt really cold. I was uncomfortably cold, so much that it made it hard to get comfortable and fall asleep. I told myself this might have to be the payoff could not have night sweats.

I was wrong about that too.

A few hours later I woke up with a soaking wet shirt. I’m pretty convinced that my night sweats are not due to being too warm at night. But at least I have evidence of this to take to my doctor when I see him later this week.

I Still have a Defective Heart – But That’s Not the Problem

So here is the update about my heart.

My doctor called me late on Tuesday afternoon to let me know that the transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) showed that I have a hole in my heart (PFO) but there is no blood flowing where it shouldn’t be. My doctor said unless I have a stroke, I don’t need to have the hole patched. I seem to be one of those people who have a heart defect, but it is not problematic.

GRRR by Meghan Dougherty from Flickr (Creative Common License)

GRRR by Meghan Dougherty from Flickr (Creative Common License)

The good news is my fatigue, dizziness, chest pain, and night sweats do not appear to be caused by a cardiovascular problem. The bad news is I’m still having the symptoms and we don’t know why.

So it’s back to the drawing board. I made an appointment with my primary care doctor and we can attack this problem from a new angle. I suspect he’ll order blood work to see if my numbers have changed from my last full physical. I may ask him to throw in a hormone test to see if it might be early menopause. I called my other cardiologist to ask if I needed to keep taking the beta blocker. (Remember: I’ve never had high blood pressure.) His office called me to say that he wants to see me for a follow-up. Perhaps he’ll have some suggestions about what else could be causing the problem.

Since my heart defect isn’t causing my symptoms and my symptoms didn’t show up until I was running 15 miles at a time or more, I hope I can start working out again soon. Before I started training for the marathon, I was running 22 miles and biking 19 miles a week. I was doing two 4-mile runs and two 6.5-mile runs each week. I’d like to get back to that.

It’s frustrating to feel like part of my life is on hold. Part of me wants to say “fuck it” and do whatever I want whether that’s running the hills when I’m in San Francisco for the Dad 2.0 Summit, taking a high intensity step aerobics class, or treating myself to a few hours of trampoline tumbling. I don’t like being told that there’s something I can’t do. I definitely plan to have a candid conversation with my doctors about being more active while we figure out what’s wrong with me.

In case you are wondering, no, I haven’t become completely reckless. And yes, I make sure I’m wearing my Road ID before I leave the house, just in case.