The perfect year

After my wife and I got married, we did an exercise that had been suggested to me. And that was to sit and writing down, your perfectly average day, week, month and year.

You get your spouse to do it too, then you compare notes. And this helps uncover what’s the same, what’s different but it also gives you a language. This is what we’re working towards as a couple (amongst other things) and when things get hard, or when you achieve that, it brings you together.

And of course, what you do on a day, is what your life is. So it’s also a fantastic way to define how you want to live or aspire to live like.

BUT only recently have I clicked, that doing the same exercise professionally is probably a good idea. We all set new year goals, have KPIs or OKRs or objectives we are trying to achieve. But spending the time to jot down what the perfect year looks like.

  • What happens and when?
  • How would you balance work and play? Friends and family?
  • Learning? New connections?
  • Conferences? Events?

For me, more conferences or getting better at repeating the same events each year, to build up that rhythm through the year and habit.

February 21st, 2024

Using AI as a writing coach

I’ve been using AI as a writing coach.

For example, I would describe a style of writing (or what I want the reader to feel) and ask for tactics on how to do that.

Then I can edit my post, or write it, and compare. Then revise.

I guess you could also drop your piece in and ask, how could I adjust this to do recreate that. But the former way teaches me, versus just modifies the writing.

Other methods I’ve been using are, check this piece for me, does this make sense? If you were this audience, what would you think of this piece.

Around this topic I really enjoyed this chat from Derek Thompson on how ChatGPT can change the future of jobs, including your own. In it, they talk about how the tools can take say a B player to an A player. I’m hoping it can help me do the with writing!

But I like that lens, doing it for you is great, but teaching and improving is better.

February 21st, 2024

West Village

Or another title for this post, can you live in the city and have a good lifestyle with a family?

Being from New Zealand, this is almost incomprehensible. Typically when kids come along, you go back to NZ. Because it’s so good!

And like any parents, as kids come along and grow you, you feel those pressures to the suburbs. For more of the outdoors. More space for less money. I wanted to share, what I share with friends, about living in the West Village or in the city with a family, in New York. I really love it. I love the feel, and the energy about it.

The first couple of things, schools are very close, sub 4 minutes if I speed walk. Within 10 minutes, there are at least 8 different playgrounds. And – so is the social group for their friends, you don’t need to organise get togethers with friends, because you’re going to bump into them. You still do but the bumping into friends factor is high.

And then there’s lots of events through the year:

  • The school organizes a Halloween Monster Mash. Bleecker Park (yay!) hosts a Halloween event, an Easter event and others through the year. With activities, magician, horse carriage rides (?!). And an organized trick or treat route.
  • Halloween itself is a buzz of activity, with a warmth and generosity around the neighborhood. Something foreign, compared to the idea or image of Halloween.
  • At Christmas there are tree lighting ceremonies, multiple. There are ice rinks, Chelsea Piers, Brookfield and last hear The Standard had one at the base.
  • Apple picking upstate! Or stomping the grapes. Skiing in winter (we don’t do enough of!)

New York (and the US) has a massive summer break, spanning 10 or so weeks. Which gives fantastic opportunity for travel, or these days, travel + remote work. To see friends & family.

Socially, I can catch up with friends all times/places.

  • Jump up early and we go for a run together, with a coffee afterwards. Go do a gym session.
  • Or even go out after the kids are asleep for a couple of drinks. Go to an event late, for work. And within 5 minutes you can be catching up with a friend, you might even only go out for an hour. It’s the ease of doing it, which means you end up doing it more.

That’s quite different to New Zealand where social events have to be more organized and any get together is a big one! In New York it’s more frequent smaller catch ups.

Food wise

  • There are lots of restaurants & bars nearby. All highly rated. And you easily find the ones you enjoy. Friends who have left said it’s the diversity of food that they miss.
  • But then, there is also a Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Target at USQ. In summer, the USQ food markets are on (but can be pricey). So you can shop high end organic, value and fresh from the farm.
  • There is a great local butcher, Pinos Prime Meats (cash only), Raffettos for fresh pasta, Puerto Rico Coffee company for wonderful coffee. Each a joy to stock up on. And that’s without even considering the coffee/cafes, Buvette, Elk, Merriweather (and almost anywhere else).
  • Joes Pizza for a slice, or pop into Murrays Cheese for a charcuterie top up. Recently I discovered Di’Paolos in Little Italy, for meats & cheeses. Also a delight.
  • The local wine shop, Seagrape, remember your name & make recommendations for whatever the occasion.
  • If you’re tired, or had a long day, or no sleep, food delivery is available. As well as groceries. This is a big level up, especially when the kids are younger.

The walking distance availability of food, at a mixture of prices/quality, so you can pick to suit is so good. You don’t feel stuck with just one place.

The geography also contributes to the energy, you are 2-4 blocks from the westside park i.e. the waterfront. Which only gets better year in year out. Last summer we even got our own beach?! But summer before was Little Island. And Pier 57. It’s a playground down on the water. Lovely for an evening (or morning) run with the sun. The Westside Hudson Park really is a gem.

On top of the low rise buildings, the streets where the trees overhang. Pre-covid riding down 7th, turning off onto 11th, you feel like the world has just got a bit slower, easing into the weekend.

Physically the houses & apartments are smaller in size and footprint, you will get more square footage elsewhere. But you will find it hard to get the same amenities just around the corner. At least I’ve struggled to beat it! I guess it has that European feeling but with access to New York (and US) benefits. Which is pretty hard to bottle or replicate elsewhere.

Mobility, most of my movements these days are jumping on a Citibike, to get around the city. Since I’ve been here, I’ve cycled over 6,000km! You can fallback to train, which is reliable (but admittedly not as good as pre covid). Commuting is fast for work, 15 minutes to the office, or 20 minutes to most meetings. Can’t complain there.

Car ownership wise, the cost to park (and insurance) does make owning a car a bit cost prohibitive. Or put another way I don’t really want to pay that premium, for the convenience. SilverCar used to be good but scaled back in New York, so do use Turo when need to. Owning a car would be a level up though.

Then airports, it’s not long to Newark, JFK and Laguardia are a bit further, but you do have three options.

And then of course, you have the playground that is New York! If anything interesting is happening anywhere, chances are it will come through New York. Music, arts, business, sports. You name it. When there’s a big trend happening, or field opening up, like AI is right now. You can be in the room and be part of the change. Which is wonderful.

That is all to say, living in the city ain’t bad, yep it’s not the same. But it is pretty good if you ask me.

February 8th, 2024

Experiments with Helium, the P2P cell network

I’ve had on my todo list for a while, to try using a second sim on my phone for data. Most modern phones let you have two sims, to either swap between. Or you can use one for calls and the other for data.

But first let me rewind, I use Google Fi, Google’s cell network. Service wise its fantastic. Google hasn’t built their own physical cell network, it sits on cell phone networks called a MVNO. But unlike cheaper providers they usually have negotiated top priority on the other networks, so your connectivity is fast.

Then when you travel, it seamlessly swaps to the local networks, and your cost stays the same. This was the main drawcard, as when traveling before on TMobile, you were on a slow network or they didn’t have a local partner.

Compounding this, with Google Fi, you have the extra security layer protecting your account, your Google account. This helps diminish the risk of someone stealing your sim or accessing your account.

BUT, the data is expensive, $10/gig. They do have an unlimited plan, which is more reasonable but I’ve kept hearing that this isn’t so good whilst abroad, often being cut off.

So I wanted to explore, why not add a cheaper sim, and set that one to ‘data only’ for domestic use, then Google Fi data when abroad.

In effect:

  • Keep Google Fi as primary phone number, and data whilst abroad.
  • Use a secondary provider, for data.

And it is a low risk thing to try, because if it doesn’t work, just turn off the other sim. And resume your current plan.

Enter Helium, I happened to see the launch early December, $20/month for unlimited calls/text/data, and 5gb tethered.

It has a history, of wanting to make a peer to peer network, where instead of a centralized network, it’s a network of individual participants powering the network. You yourself can get a hotspot and contribute network coverage. Pretty neat. Subscribers can also earn tokens for helping map the network and indicate where data is most needed. This is called Mapping Rewards.

Whilst they continue to build out the network, to stop gap coverage, they have T Mobile as a back haul provider. This provides continuous service where their participants don’t yet have coverage (which to be fair looks fairly nascent).

So I got set up early December and thought would share how the experiment is going. So how is it going? Nearly two months in:

  • I have found I haven’t had to pay yet, as the mobile mapping rewards cover the account fee. Which is a bonus I didn’t expect.
  • The data seems fast, not as fast as Google Fi in the same spot but still it is 5G.
  • I haven’t had any major connectivity issues, a couple of minor ones except ones indoors and then when I popped to NJ, there were a couple whilst it reconnected.

I haven’t tried calling on it, so can’t comment on that.

So far so good, I have reduced my overall mobile bill to circa $18/month (Google FI) plus taxes/international calls. Which is impressive.

A notable downside of Helium, if you enable mapping (which is optional) it does impact your battery. But so you can decide if the trade offs are worth it. I could turn it off and lift my bill to $38/month and it is still pretty reasonable for the set up.

I imagine some of that battery drain is the fact that the phone is running two sims. If you didn’t want to do Google Fi, you could use Helium & Airalo, to grab data when aboard. As Helium is domestic only, at least today.

If you want to join Helium, do use my code, I think we both get $5 off. Same with Google Fi. And/or Airalo.

In signing up to Helium you are by virtue supporting innovation in the mobile space. Forward looking, there’s a view where our cell service might be provided by lower satellites, from Starlink (or others). And a token based network might play a role in that future, to provide global connectivity.

February 4th, 2024

Distributed Living

The obvious has been work from home, and working remotely around the world.

The less obvious trend has been when families adopt this, as a distributed family unit. using the technologies to stay connected. 

For example a friend shifted countries for work, wife stayed behind and they alternated going back and forth. Not an ideal set up, but a way to maximize the opportunity and also alternate between two hemispheres. The tools make this more seamless. 

Or, kids out of school and to the other side of the world for a few months. Or sailing around the world on a boat. Using the tools to stay working, connecting and growing. 

Or another, the kids are now at university, around the world, and the family keeps in touch, near constantly. 

This in my mind is a logical step of remote work but maybe an under appreciated one. Beyond education, what new opportunities does the distributed family unit create?

September 5th, 2023

What about a world citizen passport?

I thought I’d blogged on this before, it seems not.

But wouldn’t it be neat, to have a world citizen passport, one that allowed freedom of movement, to live and work.

Passports, naturally, provide freedom of movement with reciprocal agreements between countries. And we can apply for visas to work in different countries.

But what if there was a passport, anyone could apply for, that gave this ‘global citizenship’. With the added distinction of being able to live and work.

It’s not for everyone, but there is a pool of highly capable folks, who can shift and work/live around the world. And if such a pool of passport holders existed, who wouldn’t want to grant them time.

It’s not without quirks, tax structures need to work within it. But it could work. I’m not sure who would govern it, UN? Someone else?

This probably exists in some form already, if you know what it is, please do share.

May 10th, 2023

Grann on ideas

I was listening to the Longform chat with David Grann (thanks for Noah for sharing). I enjoyed it so much, I ended up listening to all four of their interviews!

I like how he describes tackling stories and an idea, to go into a story and see how it unfurls. he talks on the Squidhunter, where he (over) pitched the story. Then reality didn’t match up, to the intended story. Which he was stressed about. But that was ok, the story that unfurled was interesting and that was the story.

With entrepreneurship, it’s the same, staying open minded, agile and seeing how it unfurls is key. Sometimes there are things you can shape and form, but it’s net net it’s better to see how things play out and adjust.

That’s counter, to the stereotype of entrepreneurs, but really is a skill of the best.

May 8th, 2023

What’s your rest ethic?

I particularly enjoyed this snipped of Kevin Kelly’s chat with Tim Ferris:

“I think I had some advice in the book. I put it that I think we over overemphasize our productivity and efficiency, but the most powerful thing you can do for productivity is to — the best thing for your work ethic is to have a rest ethic.” -Kevin Kelly

What a wonderful perspective. If only collectively we put as much work into thinking about rest & rejuvenation, as we do about productivity.

We all have a todo list, goals, bucket list. What about developing our rest ethic, defining our time off, how we want to spend our rest time.

The chat digs into sabbaticals & time off, same thing, taking some time to wander to explore, to tinker. What else is all that hard work for!

May 4th, 2023

Always be growing

Tickling the brain, expanding the mind, building new things. 

March 30th, 2023

58 years of investing

And Warren Buffett synthesizes that most of the success comes from a few good decisions in this years annual letter.

“At this point, a report card from me is appropriate: In 58 years of Berkshire management, most of my capital-allocation decisions have been no better than so-so. In some cases, also, bad moves by me have been rescued by very large doses of luck. (Remember our escapes from near-disasters at USAir and Salomon? I certainly do.)

Our satisfactory results have been the product of about a dozen truly good decisions – that would be about one every five years – and a sometimes-forgotten advantage that favors long-term investors such as Berkshire. Let’s take a peek behind the curtain.”

Not many of us get that insight, to look over 58 years of experience in one job (he was investing prior of course). It is astounding to think, that the bulk of success, is going to come down to a few truly good decisions, that come about every five years.

Of course, it’s not obvious when those decisions are made, that they are the ones. But it is humbling to think.

March 1st, 2023

The unconnected

Been thinking about this – connectivity and literacy.

An estimated 37 per cent of the world’s population – or 2.9 billion people – have still never used the Internet.

New data from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs), also reveal strong global growth in Internet use, with the estimated number of people who have used the Internet surging to 4.9 billion in 2021, from an estimated 4.1 billion in 2019.

From International Telecommunication Union.

Yet, “71 per cent of the world’s population aged 15-24 is using the Internet, compared with 57 per cent of all other age groups.”

Why is this so?

95 per cent of people in the world could theoretically access a 3G or 4G mobile broadband network, billions of them do not connect. Affordability of devices and services remains a major barrier. The widely accepted target for affordable broadband connectivity in developing countries sets the cost of an entry-level mobile broadband package at 2 per cent of gross national income (GNI) per capita. Yet in some of the world’s poorest nations, getting online can cost a staggering 20 per cent or more of per capita GNI. 

Read more in the ITU report.

January 31st, 2023

Reading things that massage your brain

It can be hard to replicate consistently, but being able to read things, which massage your brain – and get you thinking is invaluable.

I notice it, I’ll take a deep breath, whatever I’ve been reading has made me pause for a second. And mentally feel refreshed after reading. It’s a great feeling. But one you can forget.

This post is about not forgetting that, and a reminder to continue to seek things that you enjoy reading and stimulate you.

October 14th, 2022

Travel Activity Packs

I’d mentioned my wife puts together these great activity packs when we travel to keep our kids engaged. Whether its at a restaurant (so we have peace and quiet), in a car, or a train but mostly on planes. I’ve tried to convince her to sell them – but to no avail.

The packs get adjusted based on the mode of transport, and if we’re on a bigger trip, she’ll keep activities back, to keep them fresh and engaged with new things. And everything is washable.

On our recent trip they included things like:

  • Lego dot bracelet, that they put together on the plane. Aldi/Lego.
  • Dinosaur figurine, which they constructed and put stickers on. From FlyingTigerCopenhagen.
  • Happy Meal toys, can source from eBay.
  • Water pen books, you fill a pen with water, and they can paint in the picture. Endless re-use. Or Magic Ink books, but they’re single use. Water Wow by Melissa and Doug. Or FlyingTiger has some.
  • Scratch & reveal books. From FlyingTigerCopenhagen.
  • A small pencil case, with a mini notebook and washable crayola crayons. And usually some stickers, to go in the book.
  • A new book to read.
  • Reusable sticker books.
  • Miniature soft toys, or small plastic animals (like insects, bugs). Matchbox car. A little toy to play with, that’s also quiet.
  • Magnetic dress up like Petite Collage.

When they were smaller:

  • Something can put stuff in/out of, zip ouch, with pom poms, in/out of. Or old wallet, with coffee cards for in/out. Old milk bottle, miniature pegs and colorful rainbow erasers in/out.
  • Threading games.
  • The plane itself yields a few activities, plastic cups, the flight safety manual, sick bags, blanket or headphones.
  • Busy books.

When they’re a bit bigger:

  • Mini pots of play dough.
  • Travel magnet games, like snakes & ladders.
  • Mini pick up sticks.

Initially she used oversized travel document holders (A4 size) that had buttons to close to store these in. Then once they were bigger, a drawstring bag each, with their names sewn on. And we also put their headphones in each of their bags.

Most of these items cost $1-$5 each, so are not terribly expensive. Some of the magnet/reusable stickers can be a bit more pricey but they last for years. Dollar stores are good places to look to fill out the bag – stickers & small toys. Ebay. And then Amazon. Aldi often has little toys as well in their weekly specials if one is nearby.

The bags will also have snacks or treats in them. Something they like and something new.

October 10th, 2022

Two months travel with two under five

Are we mad? That’s exactly what I asked my wife, the night before we were to fly out to Europe. Readers know that I love to travel, I get itchy feet at about six weeks from the last trip. The compounding problem is that she’s the same! Without kids, it was much more flexible. Although we’d always be up against the paid leave limits.

But so, in 2018, we spent three weeks traveling around Europe, Germany, Sweden, Greece. And wanted to double down and do it again in 2019. But our second daughter arrived that year, then cue covid in 2020/21. Even this year, when planning through winter, it was kind of uncertain if this year could be the year.

I thought I’d share more of the – how did we actually do that. And maybe some trip highlights in another post. Yes we probably are a bit crazy. Hopefully you find it helpful for your own travels and maybe consider traveling with your kids more!

Initially we started out with a view of getting a place (i.e. house), or two places, and doing lots of little trips from there. This sounded good, but we felt like we’d be coming/going too much. Also, it was harder to find a place. Because if you have a good place to rent, why rent it for a month, when you can rent it for a week and charge a bit more. The ole slice it up and sell it for more trick. Or the other factor, if you were the type of person to go for a month, if it’s a good place, you would book it for the next year, to lock it in. Finally, all the travel from post covid was swamping supply.

When we left, we still had over half of it unbooked, but an uncanny thing is that you would see AirBNB supply adjust to suit, with new listings coming online. Either people themselves going away for a month and renting their place, or completely new listings.

But I’ve skipped ahead a little, so how did we plan this? We started off, over a drink and nibbles, just jotting down all the places we wanted to go. Nothing off the table, just places we’ve always wanted to go. That gave us a list to work from.

Then we would research and plan itineraries for each place, how do we get there. What’s going to be our best entry point from New York. We also wanted to minimize flying/trains for covid reasons (this turned out to be prescient, as we saw all the flight delays over summer and lost luggage). However in the end we did use trains. And ended up with a disjointed flight, New York to London and return via Milan. Often airlines will give you the same rate for this, as they would return from one destination. So am a big fan of this approach.

This let us plan accordingly. We wanted to visit friends and then have us time to explore. A couple of times, we spent too much time, trying to work in with friends, when we should have just kept it shorter, and whilst maybe not enough, have made full use of the time. i.e. come in for 2-3 nights, have a blast, then keep going.

A key part of our itinerary, meant using rental cars. Which is where prices were mental too. So what we did, is opt to look at local car sharing services, like a Turo. Through this, we found Share Now and Virtuo. Both offer cars for driving around the city but they also let you drive out of the city. And in Share Nows case, if you pay an extra fee, to other countries. And given with two kids, we can’t get the smallest car available, this meant these services were cheaper than a rental.

However, they were not without trade offs. Virtuo was especially nice, they drop a car off near you, you pick it up and go. Have to fill it up, and return, and notify that you’ve done that. They have a slight surcharge for miles, but it was reasonable. We got a little Mercedes A-Class, it was tight with luggage but did the trick and perfect for getting through the smaller lanes across the UK.

Share Now, you can pre-book the car, and then go pick it up. Share Now is primarily used in cities, to get around, or quick trips out. This means that they’re not always clean. A couple of times I had to reject a booking once got there because it was dirty. This introduces some uncertainty, where it may take a couple of tries to get a car. Which then means planning this into your itinerary. However that timeframe was usually still less than you spend at the car rental desk.

Both use an app to open the car. Virtuo, I believe has a key, but Share Now often didn’t. Which did mean, when the car wouldn’t unlock via app, we couldn’t unlock the car at all. Which ended in tears in France. More on that later.

But these were both great options, there was another option Hiyacar we considered in the UK, but it wasn’t available to tourists. Note, for Share Now, you had to sign up, pre authenticate with a license. Then send in your entry visa on landing, as they can only offer it for first 6 months of entry for tourists.

Time wise, we had thought three months, but that was with the idea of getting a place as a home base. With that not working out, and also, sandwiched by when our daughter would start school. We ended up at 2 months. It’s kind of nice, the US School Summer holiday is longer than NZ. And timing wise, it meant we started our trip before others had finished school, and then at the end, kids were back at school. So we got some quiet periods of travel.

Traveling with two kids, and also me doing some work late afternoon to evening, we planned our days like this. We would jump up, have breakfast in, or have something lite and have a bigger morning tea. And get to what we wanted to do for the day early, meaning we could be back by late morning/early afternoon. This meant we mostly avoided crowds, the heat wave was less of an issue and it gave the kids (and us) built in downtime each day. It actually was a brilliant way to travel. Sure sometimes we broke the schedule and did a couple of days all out, but this as a repetition worked well. We also tried to do more popular things during the week, and chill out in weekends.

To keep them entertained, we did take some toys, and at destinations (which we forewarned them on) we’ll get some more toys. Like the beach, or Munich. And they could add to it. This paired well with, we took gifts for friends, and as we unloaded those, we replaced with those! We didn’t do lots of shopping on things to take back, but did top up on clothes at various spots. Or nabbed some European brands we liked. Flying Tiger Copenhagen is ideal for activities and only a couple of euros each, if you can try stop at one on the way. Unfortunately through covid the New York ones closed down.

My wife is also the master of activity packs, they each had a little bag, filled with little activities, they could do on the plane, or in restaurants, so we could have some peace and quiet. This could be coloring books, stickers, little toys, scratch and reveal. This also meant no screen time activities.

In terms of screen time, we would save a few shows/movies offline so they could watch those. AudioBooks, Spotify Kids if you fav a book, it saves it offline. As well as Duolingo Kids, Duolingo itself (doing it with us) to practice the local language. And Khan Academy Kids.

We use Google Fi, which worked in most places, but occasionally you need to run off ‘automatic network’ detection and manually swap to another. In Italy, it would sometimes not connect, so we had to reset a few times, so the sim would register on the network. Otherwise it worked well.

On luggage, we did need to keep it light. We wanted it, so between us we could carry everything, for at least 500m, which was a good plan in the end. We swapped out our regular car seats, for lighter/travel ones. We have a Cybex travel pram. We stayed at places which could give us a travel crib. We used travel pods, just Amazon Basics ones, which worked brilliantly for packing, as we had a pod each type thing. Made it so so much easier. I even went – how can we take less charging cables etc, and ended up swapping for a Anker MacBook charger and they have a European adapter, with two USB plugs on it. And then one Apple iPhone USB charger, but we have the travel adapter kit. This combo covered us, for white noise machine, charging. And saved space/weight.

My personal list, was like two pairs of shorts, togs, jandals, three t shirts. Pair of sneakers. One sweater. Two pairs of pants (should have only taken one). Socks. Boxers. Three summer shirts (could have taken two). Hat. Running shoes, exercise bands, running singlet/shorts/boxers. I also never wore my sweater except for the flight!

It’s hard, as you sometimes need to look nice/smart casual for restaurants/activities. But then you need to be able to go up Garmisch with the kids. This combo worked well.

Our itinerary, took us through the UK first, with the first 3 days in London – specifically for jet lag recovery. For those without kids, they recover before you actually can. Which is why we planned it that way. And it worked well.

Basically we flew into London. Rented a car and drove about. Then flew to Milan, and used car/train to get around Germany/Hungary/Austria/Italy and France. A few mechanics here, I once took a train to Munich, to pick up a car and bring it back – as cross country drop off wasn’t going to work. So we had to build flex into the plan.

Currency wise, most things were in Euros. We use Wise (ex TransferWise), they have a travel debit card, which means you can pay all transactions in local currency. And they either convert it on the backend, or you can have loaded currency prior. And that’s what I did for the six months leading up to it, each week I’d buy some currency, just a little, but it was a nice build up, to think about the trip each time I did that. And it also meant we got a good price on the currency. You can also withdraw local cash, up to $150 free, then a small charge after that. We used this for most local purchases. Super handy.

Where did we do our planning? It would always be a mix, see if we can get some Monocle travel video for the town, TripAdvisor, just Google. And also, would follow a subreddit for the place for a few months, to see what common questions are – and the recommendations.

We do know, in each place, our kids want to see animals! My wife likes stationery shops. And I like a good cafe/restaurant – and if I can find a place to run. So we’d try work that in, so each of us was getting some of the things we know we enjoy.

Where we stayed, we leaned into AirBNBs, because they tend to have more family friendly accommodation around Europe. Hotels are good, but often small, or we’re all in one room. Whereas for the same price, we could get a couple of bedrooms, washing machine, and stay in a neighborhood. But we would mix it up and treat ourselves. For example staying in a hotel in Florence, with a rooftop pool.

AirBNBs don’t always work, but reviews help ease that, some places had like 500 reviews, which is nuts. But usually meant a smooth operation. Others we were some of the first guests, so you know they’re working out the kinks but that’s usually offset with a better price. So some give and take. Hotel Tonight was good for finding spots but the rates (at least more most of this trip) were as good as booking direct.

Gadgets -> we didn’t have a lot. iPad mini, kindles (for us to read on) and GoPro. The latter I am a big fan of, as you get nice footage and helps bring the family back to that moment in time. Also their GoPro Quik app, means you can quickly make little videos to share. Also a shout out to Apple Memories in Photos, this is so good and is getting better over time.

We like to use Google Photos to put together photo books (now that Apple doesn’t have it built in). But are finding this more cumbersome when you have lots of photos. So if anyone has tips – let us know!

Travel insurance isn’t used as much by US travelers we’ve noticed but kiwis definitely do. So yeah we got that again for this trip, it usually costs a few percent of your coverage. If needed, RentalCover is a good alternative to the rental car insurance, which we’d use where the economics made sense. We didn’t end up making claims for this trip – but a prior earlier this year – we have noticed delays in processing them.

That does bring me to, our car broke down in the South of France. Which I’m ambivalent about, if you travel enough, a car has to bread down somewhere – and as far as I can recall we’ve not had a break down on any trip. However, with two kids, it does complicate things. The car basically bricked itself, like an iPhone, we couldn’t unlock it with the digital key on our phones, and the rental car company couldn’t do remote unlock. So we had to get it towed, then make our own way back. Which was pretty challenging, last minute, with many of the trains around France booked out in a holiday weekend. But we figured it out and as a bonus got to see Nice. Our AirBNB host was very gracious and even gave us a ride to the next town, when taxis weren’t available – thank you.

Eating wise, we leaned into more eating dinner at home as a default, with planned special evenings here and there. And we’d eat out at lunch/morning tea. This worked well, food in Europe is quite cheap (and delicious). And it was kind of nice some days to know, oh we’re not going out again, so can recharge the batteries.

Fitness, I know people have a mixed bag on this. And I respect either way, when traveling its hard to keep up routines, the days can be long/physically draining anyway. But so, I tried to run in each place we stayed, see my post on the Foreign Run, am a big fan of this. And I keep them to 5km, so its not like I can’t do that and still have a busy day. And then I took exercise bands, and used those with a few different exercises, either where we stayed or at a park nearby. Usually trying to sneak out first thing in the morning, or in the afternoon when we were staying put.

I didn’t do anything before the trip to prepare but a few months before someone on Twitter had said to incorporate carryalls into my workouts, which I did, ironically two 20kg kettlebells. One day as we humped the luggage through an airport, I realized that was the perfect weight for this actual scenario ha. Also, with kids, you are going to carry them more, with more steps, they’re tired etc.

For keeping track of the itinerary and all the bookings etc, we use Evernote. With a shared notebook, so we have redundancy, and have synced that offline on both our phones. So we have cloud, and a version each. For each city, we would make an Evernote, then jot down the things we wanted to do, and then if we had any bookings. This worked well. And its something we’ve done for years anyway.

How do you rationalise all this? It’s a bit mental. And with young kids, its easy to go, there are other things that are easier. But they are only this age once, and we don’t know what the future holds, if we can do it now, why not know. I’ve never regretted any travel I’ve done. And it is a heck of a lot of fun, the payoff is worth it. When thinking about it, starting with your dream destinations, and then they things you want to do in each place, helps too. As you’re like, wow I’ve always wanted to do this. The alternative was another summer in the city with trips upstate/around. Which is idyllic, but an adventure like this every now and again is healthy. For us it was also very cathartic, to get out of the city for a sustained period of time, to try lots of new things. And to return mentally fresh – to tackle the new challenges.

I think that’s it for this post, so that’s some of the how, I’ll share more of the highlights in another post. It was a phenomenal trip. And so good for the whole family, to each have their own experiences, to meet new people, try new things and just work together through things. Not easy at times but I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

October 6th, 2022

Public Water

In line for the Medici art gallery, Capelle Medicee, Florence, Italy, there was a public tap, and I thought surely you can’t drink from that. But in the heat, a couple of people went up, filled their water bottles,  and it turns out, sure enough they do. In fact they have to be drinking level quality.

Later that day, I discovered that in the Piazza della Signoria, not only is there more water on tap. But sparkling water! Now that is civilization. 

The public water service is provided by the local water provider in Florence, Publicaqua. Whom are held to quality standards set by legislation. 

There are 61 parameters, divided into the following categories: microbiology, chemical, indicators and accessories; the quality of the water distributed by Publiacqua continuously and fully satisfies the requirements set forth by the law.

What a wonderful public good, and in the heat wave of this summer, a necessity. I wish more cities did this.

September 27th, 2022

What are you doing all the way down here? You could:
- View my about page
- Or for first timers the New Here? page
- Or maybe email this to a friend
- Or subscribe to get blog updates