being early

map-room
Map Room at the Vatican Museum – a long, long line.

 

We were in Santorini and needed to be up in Northern Italy in a week to meet our dear friend Kathy. While being truly stunning, Santorini is like an amazing desert and you can’t really eat dessert for very long so we had some time to make our way.

Doing all the usual research, we decided to take a ferry to Athens and from there fly to Rome. We’d stay in Rome for 5 days then continue our journey north to Stresa to meet Kathy. The first part of this trek was the ferry to Athens. It left Santorini at a shocking 3am. Ugh.

We arranged for a cab to take us down the mountainside to the port at about 2am, an hour early. Lots of people asked us why, or tried to talk us out of it. “Too early,” they’d say. “Why? You’ll just be sitting around?”

On this trip, something we’ve learned – it seems given very deeply into our culture that an “optimal” experience is to spend as little time as possible in line, as close to your desired time to do the thing you’re in line for. A distant second seems to be waiting line for a long period, but getting to choose the time of day you do your thing; it’s great if you can do the thing at 2pm,even if you have to stand in line for 4 hours before. It will suck, but you’ll get to do this thing at exactly the time you want to.

We’ve also learned something even better – if you’re willing to change your preconceptions about time and you’ve got a little leeway here, you can be much happier, get screwed by bad happenstance a lot less, and avoid a lot of crowding. Just be early.

For the Santorini ferry, nothing went wrong and we wound up chilling on the dock for an hour. A rough hour, 2-3am, but a lot could have gone wrong if we’d waited. The way to the dock is a crazy switchback road. We weren’t knowledgeable about taxis in Greece an had to rely on others for help. If we missed this connection, it would have been about an $800 mistake, as it would cascade into many other things that had to be timed right. So, we went early,and things were fine.

In Florence, the line for the amazingly popular and picturesque climb to the top of the Duomo is usually about 3-4 hours long. The Duomo opens at 8am, an as it turns out if you’re there at 7am ( early ) none of the tourists are there yet. You get in line, and wait no-time-at all. Time in line is 1 hour, not 4. In the cool morning, another serious bonus. Without all the hawkers in your business; another bonus.

At the Vatican, the line to see the museum is about a quarter mile long, hours in the hot sun. Unless you go early – there by 730, in by 915.

It doesn’t work all the time, but being early in the day or earlier than others for some connection has never, ever hurt us an has saved us a number of times. The hardest part ( after you reframe your timeline ) is keeping yourself occupied during the wait. Talking, reading, verbal games, Facebook, and a little patience seem to work just fine for this.

Interesting research on digital nomadism

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Kayleigh Franks of NHTV University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands has published a thesis on digital nomadism as part of her BS requirements. “Digital Nomads: the drivers and effects of becoming location independent” is posted up on Scribd. I discovered this through my weekly subscription to the always-interesting Digital Nomad Weekly newsletter.

From the Executive Summary:

The aim of this study is to explore the drivers and effects of becoming a digital nomad focusing on: contingency structure, lifestyle preference and social and psychological attitude. Firstly, a literature was composed in order to gain knowledge and insight on the aforementioned topic. Furthermore, three initial research questions were formulated to guide the research: 1. How digital nomadism differentiates from other forms of long-term travel? 2.What are the push/pull factors of becoming location independent? 3. What are the effects of becoming a digital nomad?

Naxos vs. Kauai – a throwdown

We just moved into our new place here on Naxos, our home for the next month. As I sit in this little beach bar doing a couple hours of work, I thought I’d SQUIRREL! take a few moments to inventory and see how this place compares to my home back on Kauai.

How Naxos and Kauai are similar

  • much sun, much water
  • warm and welcoming to visitors
  • lots of casual beach culture
  • mountains, all over the place
  • It’s Five ‘o’clock somewhere. All. The. Time. Mai Tais, anyone?
  • great local food – poke, organic rum, and poi on Kauai; tzatziki, uzo, and honey-yogurt on Naxos
  • public wifi is very common; widespread access to the laptop lifestyle if you look
  • amazing, profound local culture with roots going back a long way
  • traffic rules are pretty chill
  • most evertywhere feels very safe
  • lesbian-gay-friendly
  • both have an off-season, where it’s still beautiful but ( even ) more affordable and ( even ) less crowded
  • kinda diverse visitor base
  • there’s always a chance you’ll see someone famous

great things about Naxos

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The Naxos sunset
  • most places open late, including car rentals and street grocers
  • most everything is very inexpensive
  • soooooo many  beach bars/cafes, right on the beach
  • no American points of stress – guns, politics, religion – are nonexistent here
  • quads are street-legal
  • freakishly clear water
  • very self-sustaining; serious food production and export happening here
  • way cheap inter-island transport
  • ruins. Who doesn’t like ancient culture?
  • freebie after dinner
  • more arid – less humidity, less allergies, and less rain
  • traffic rules are more like guidelines
  • many mom & pop hotel/stay options, as well as independent food options
  • stray animal kindness – cats are fed leftovers, given special dishes outside people’s homes, and mingle freely in the outdoor spaces. Dogs are treated well, but are much less common
  • [edit] no centipedes or roaches!
  • also, if it’s your thing…
    • european beer – lots of variety, and inexpensive
    • less conservative – more bare skin on the beach
    • smoking in bars, cafes, and restaurants
    • more dudes in Speedos

great things about Kauai

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The Kauai sunset.
  • it’s tropical – lush – wet and green all the time
  • there’s English everywhere, all the time
  • for Americans, it’s easy to get to, relatively speaking
  • there’s surfing, in many varieties
  • everything is kept up – very little graffiti or crumbling infrastructure, no abandoned structures ( except for CoCo Palms, of course! )
  • more choices for American beer ( and other products )
  • spirit of aloha prevelent
  • no smoking in bars, cafes, or restaurants
  • it’s all in dollars – not cheap, but you already have them in your wallet ( if you’re American, that is )
  • shipping things to the mainland US is a sure thing, and not a roll of the dice
  • everything closes down early – a pretty sleepy place
  • you can flush the toilet paper. You don’t know how great this is until you can’t do it.
  • a very organized rescue and response infrastructure, just in case
  • traffic – the streets, signs, traffic laws and enforcement you’re used to
  • because it’s in the US – language, military, border restrictions, symbols – although different, Kauai is probably tucked more snugly inside American visitors’ comfort zones
  • easier to stay connected to American sportzing via sports bars
  • intentional culture – very little littering, premium on organic goods and processes
  • less speedos

 

Is there a winner to this throwdown?

Kauai is home, so I won’t be moving there too soon. But so far there doesn’t seem to be a clear “winner” for me.

“local” movies

So far, we’ve been here:

  • Ireland
  • France
  • Great Britain
  • Italy
  • The Vatican
  • Greece

We’ve watched mostly-ridiculous movies set in these places while we were in each. Can you guess them from the pictures below? ( their order is shuffled – no help there. )

amelie

tuscany

jimmy

mammamia

bjones

ad

 

Do you know the movies? Post below. Also, what are the movies we -should- have watched, to get in the spirit of these places?

(^_^

Seven ( yes seven! ) remote jobs for you

A great little article  from FastCompany was included in the current Digital Nomad Weekly newsletter and details seven different jobs that are very well suited to remote work. The jobs all require a bit of learning on your part, but none of them require a specific ( or any ) degree, or a set number of years of experience. You can self-learn any of the disciplines ( with some self-discipline ) and start up in your spare time before you make any big leaps.

I’m familiar with all of the seven options they discuss; if you’d like any addition information, feel free to reach out in the comments or by direct message.

Also, I couldn’t help but notice that UX architect ” was not listed, so we’ll just call that job #8.

 

Note – at this moment, I am sitting at a coffeeshop in London, writing this post and doing some work as a Content Entrepreneur, as well as a UX Architect.

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Today’s office – Maison d’etre, Canonbury, North London

 

mind the gap

You may have noticed, there’s been a gap of about two weeks since we’ve posted. Kim’s been facilitating at a meditative retreat outside Florence where they take a vow of silence ( and no net access-shivers ) while I spent two weeks back in the US. We’re both back in London now, for the next 3 weeks or so.

Kim will likely write about her retreat, but during the time we’ve spent apart she’s developed an even deeper appreciation for from-scratch foods, and is much more mindful. In general, and about how she’d like to see her day go.

For my part, I spent time with friends and family. In sad news, our family dog Marius had to be put to sleep. I was there for a time very close to the end and it was painful to watch that decline, but I’m taking some comfort from the fact that now ( I believe ) he’s in a better place. Certainly my life is better for him having been with me. In happier news, I also spent time at GenCon, “The Best Four Days in Gaming.” I haven’t missed one in the last 18 years and it felt like a special sort of nerd homecoming, being back in Indy. 

I need to get back in the walking habit, and the not-eating-garbage habit. I know Kim will help me with this.

(^_^

I also need to get back into the blogging habit.

Florence – how we visited

cathedral
The facade of the Florence Cathedral

If you ever visit, you may not have a month to explore the city like we did, but maybe some of the things we did can help you make decisions about how to spend your time. We have visited more places then we described below, but these have been the high points so far.

Of course during our stay in Florence we wanted to see all “the big things.” We had the luxury of not feeling rushed, and we managed to check everything off our list.

First, let’s talk about the stuff downtown

Six of the most renown sites are collectively referred to as “The Florence Duomo Complex.” These sites consist of:

  • Giotto’s Bell Tower – affording an amazing view of the Florentine city and countryside
  • The Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore – amazing and immense gothic basilica
  • Brunelleschi’s Duomo – an amazing rotunda atop the cathedral
  • The underground archeological site below the Cathedral, Santa Reparata
  • The Baptistry, a large domed building across from the Cathedral
  • the Opera del Duomo Museum

We bought a combo ticket for all of these sites for 15 Euros, a great deal for what you see. You can buy the ticket online here, but we bought ours in person at the base of the Bell Tower, in an office that opened at 8am.

A note about the combo ticket – it’s good for 7 days after you purchase it, but once you validate it at the first site on the list above, you have 48 hours to see all the sites before the ticket expires. Plan accordingly.

The ticket allows you to stand in the general admittance line for each of these sites. For the Cathedral and the Duomo ( the Dome ) we recommend you show up early, on different days. These lines get crazy-long very quickly. These two sites open at 830am, and we were in line for our visit to the Duomo by 745am with a very comfortable position, almost first. We splurged and spent 15 ( additional ) Euros apiece to see the Cathedral with a guided tour that enabled up to bypass the huge line.

A note about the Bell Tower and the Duomo: if you’re a little claustrophobic like I am, I can’t recommend strongly enough the importance of arriving early for the ascents of the Duomo and the Bell Tower. Both of these sites involve walking up serious stairs in very cramped passageways. If you are near the front of the line in the morning for these sites, this insures that after you ascend to the top and look around you can descend back to street level without pushing up against a mass of sweaty people in a cramped passage.

amzing view
Up high view of the Duomo

As I walked past the seriously long line at 2pm in the sweltering sun this afternoon, I hope these poor people -love- what they are going to see, for they are surely suffering for the opportunity. Baking in the hot sun for 3 hours, then squeezing past their sweaty neighbors for a dizzying climb is not my idea of a good time on vacation.

That being said, the views are amazing, inside ( the Duomo ) and out. But the tight spaces…  ugh. Rough for me. The Duomo in particular.

Also, there’s this – the Duomo and the Bell Tower afford amazing views, but if you’re at all afraid of heights, these attractions probably aren’t for you.

The Bell Tower also has a line at times, but this seemed to vacillate during the day. We went early the first day, buying our tickets and seeing the Bell Tower with no line, then as I’ve mentioned spent the additional 15 Euros to jump the line for the Cathedral ( and the crypt Santa Reparata ), and then the next day got in line early for the climb up to the top of the Duomo.

bell tower-looking
atop the Bell Tower

The Baptistry has no line to speak of, nor does the Opera del Duomo Museum, which are both really a neat experiences. At the Museum you see up close many pieces that were made for and once a part of the Cathedral.

Other sites

We purchased tickets separately to see Michelangelo’s David in the Academia Gallery. We recommend spending a little extra and getting the time stamped version of these tickets. Also, if you buy tickets online make sure you get printed out versions from the little kiosk across the street from the entry. Ugh.

Getting here early probably helps, but our stamped time was for 545pm. We stood in line for about half hour and made it in almost exactly at our scheduled time.

david
David’s ass.

Our favorite spot for gelato was “La Milkeria” with their homemade masterpieces, perfect on a hot day.

babtistry
the dome of The Baptistry

We didn’t have a favorite spot for wine or cappuccino; there were too many perfect places everywhere we looked.

Our favorite place to laptop and do a little work was The Cafeteria delle Oblate, near The Duomo. It’s not like any cafeteria you’ve ever been to – it’s an amazing multi-level open air space with great food, wine and other drinks and free wifi. It’s frequented by students and tech workers, and really is a pretty sweet spot, with a view of the Duomo.

We took a day tour to Pisa to see the leaning tower and the local cathedral. The same tour brought us to the amazing Tuscana World Heritage site of San Gimignano, and the city of Siena. If we had to do it all over again, for the timing of this tour… It would have been perfect to spend a few hours in Pisa and a few hours in Siena, and another tour to spend all day at San Gimignano. But we got amazing pictures.

us
Pisa.

For our place – we stayed at an AirBnB right near the Talenti tram stop, about a 40 minute walk from the Florence city center and it seemed like a perfectly fine option. neighborhood markets and lovely people, as we’ve detailed elsewhere. This put us close to the amazing park just north of the Arno river and west of downtown Florence.

park
A great park along the Arno River

We rented bikes at the SMN train station ( the main one in Florence city center ) for a day for 10 Euros apiece. The bikes were nothing special, but we had an amazing day going through this park in the morning and through Florence itself later on. There is also a bike route that circumscribes old Florence, but there’s really very little to see along this route. We recommend taking your bike into Old Florence despite the crowds, and possibly across the river at Ponte Vecchio.

Those are the highlights that we haven’t discussed elsewhere on the blog. We have a week left and we will try and see a jousting, a concerto, and a few other things before we wrap our stay up. If you have any must-sees, let us know.

isidecathedral
Inside the cathedral in Florence