For the love of Kindle – the ultimate nomad library

When I pictured my dream house, it always had a lot of books. Maybe even a dedicated „library” room, with walls invisible under shelves of volumes, all neatly stacked.

Of course, one of the bookstands would hide a secret passageway. There has to be a secret passageway in a dream house, duh!

Now I do have a house and I am sorry to report that there is no library room and its fine. I did not give up on my childhood dream nor gave up reading. In fact, I do read significantly more.

But I did quit physical books.

There are no bookshelves, stacks of first editions nor walls covered by volumes.

Almost all my reading happens on a Kindle, precisely because it does not have to happen in a library. And replacing the whole room for this device has several benefits.

⚖ Weight

I bought my first Kindle when I started traveling a lot. The books I read tend to be on the thick side, and they were taking too much damn space inside the carry-on. Kindle Paperwhite weighs 205 grams. Hardcover version of „Song of Ice and Fire” volume 1 is 970. That means that the first part weights as much as five kindle readers.

🤷 You don’t have to decide

Or take books „Just in case.” What if you finish that first part? Seven volumes of George R.R. Martin’s finest work weigh as much as 14 kindles.

🌍 Any book in the world at your fingertips

Let’s imagine you are traveling through Africa and you just heard about a fantastic book that would complement your understanding of the culture. Chances, that you can stumble upon that title in a country that uses a different language are very slim.

But Kindle can instantly turn into ( almost ) any book in Amazon’s offering. You can buy a book on a whim and start reading it 2. MINUTES. LATER.

In fact, in our house books are the biggest „impulse spend.” We had to delete a Credit Card from the Amazon account since we used to buy any book recommended to us.

Some of the books on my reading list I have not bought yet

Books are not like cars (in many aspects). It mostly does not matter what you drive. It will still get you there. On the other hand, the difference between the best book on the topic and the 5th best is sometimes immense.

The friction of paper books means that sometimes you read what is available – and not what is the best reading choice.

Of course, chance encounters of hidden literary gems that serendipity put in our laps should be cherished. But being stuck with a terrible book and the responsibility of finishing it is a waste of time life What you read matters. Much more than How Much.

Amazon has the best selection and arguably the best electronic reading device. That is why I don’t bother with any other brands. They may be technically better or cheaper, but removing the hassle from procuring a book works out to my advantage.

The highlights, OH MY GOD – the highlights

I believe that concrete takeaways are more important than reading more books. Recollection or even reflection upon the concepts, thoughts or mental models can further my understanding of the world. My reading list contains a lot of non-fiction, sometimes called „self – help.” This is a dubious term because they usually are about the workings of the world. Topics like psychology, randomness, organizational design, business or innovation are sometimes dense, but biographies or history books are an excellent example of non-fiction that can teach you a lot about reality.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

This is a topic for a whole another blog post, but in essence – taking lessons from books is the single most valuable activity I can imagine.

Inspired by the amazing Derek Sivers, I started a practice of summarising every book that I read. While I’m reading, I do highlight a lot, sometimes even make notes on the kindle touch keyboard (clumsy but doable). After finishing the book, I will fashion some posts about the book.

Having it in public forces me to be more verbose and explicit in my notes. All the posts are written only for the audience of 1 – future me. The external accountability motivates me to put a little more effort into my writing. And future me is grateful for that.

Before Kindle, I was very reluctant to highlight stuff in the book itself. I grew up in a family that was not rich by any means and we cherished books. Highlighting anything feels to me like destroying something valuable. Even if I hesitate only a bit before marking a passage – that has an impact on the lessons I can remember.

But on the Kindle, I can highlight very generously. What’s more, I can also find these highlights with minimal effort. These two aspects of Kindle highlights fundamentally changed how I read.

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Here is what I do after finishing a non-fiction book:

  1. Copy my-clippings.txt file from my Kindle to my laptop
  2. Run a simple script to generate bullet points with highlights from a particular book
  3. Use that as a stub to write a book summary post
  4. Publish that, enjoy a wild success on the Internets, be famous, profit from my fame, start attracting the wrong crowd and have paparazzi publish my shameful deeds.
  5. In the meantime, review my posts periodically to refresh the takeaways.

Currently, I am experimenting with Twitter threads (like 1, 2, 3 ) WHILE I am reading a book. Join me!

My fiancee uses the service called Readwise that will send her emails with the highlights.

While automation is particularly appealing to me, I like the responsibility of having to summarise the takeaways myself. It makes me more focused during the reading.

Kindle Paperwhite backlight.

The paperwhite model features an ambient backlight. There are diodes on the sides that make the entire screen reflect a bit of light. It works differently from your smartphone – the light is reflected and does not interfere with your sleep.

But it means that you don’t need a reading light, which is a GAMECHANGER.

It opens an entire world of bedroom entertainment with your partner.

Particularly a sleeping partner you don’t want to wake up.

But the…

Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič – @specialdaddy on Unsplash

Yes, smell, feel… All that is nice. It’s nice to have something to put on your shelf as well. I know. The passageway…

In the world that turns everything into digital ephemera, having a hard copy of a book is lovely, grounding and tactile.

But in the end, it’s about reading. And if I did not have my Kindle, I would do significantly less of that.

And I will never give up on that secret passageway. Just watch me.

Matala, Crete

My life is a real struggle. To keep my hard-earned gold status on Star Alliance, I have to fly to Greece every year. This, obviously is a chore, because I have to eat a lot of food and sit in the sun.

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The first time my wife and I had to complete this particular „mileage run,” her brother was working as a tour resident in Rethymno on the island of Crete. That made it an easy trip to justify! We could have visited Joseph AND earn our status on the way!

Crete is the biggest island in Greece. They have plenty of olive trees, very tall mountains, reasonably friendly sheep, and spectacular beaches. The sandiest and calm ones are located on the north coast – that is where the majority of hotels and towns is, including Rethymno.

The south coast is more rugged and rocky. Like the life of a Polish teenager, it is sharp and devoid of any comfort, soft sand, and all-inclusive resorts.

It has character though, in particular, some of the most exciting geography found on Crete. Joseph has recommended we visit Matala – a charming city by the bay.

And boy, Matala did NOT disappoint!

Since the rocks were easy to excavate, many artificial caves were created. The word is that during Roman times, these caverns were a designated burial place. This story does not really hold together, since the caves clearly have rooms and they are quite roomy for graves.

You could for example sit and work there if you reaaaally wanted to.

Archeological research in progress. Were Romans able to do office work in these caves? Lets find out!

Hipster history

Since these caves are so comfy, why not live there?

That is what happened in the 60s. Hippies discovered the (then) secluded Matala, with it’s inviting caves, fantastic beach and the shining sun. Several celebrities spent time in Matala, including Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, and Joni Mitchell.

All was fun and games until the Greek dictatorship in the 70s. Hippies were chased away, and law & order got established. Fortunately not for long.

The hipster vibe is definitely felt throughout the town today. It is the most „Jamaican” place in the whole of Greece. Not in the fake, pushy, buy-Bob-Marley-T-shirts sense (although you can definitely do a lot of that!),

It’s just that the spirit of sixties seem to have lasted a bit longer here… Maybe Greece is a good fit for the free-love-enjoy-the-sun approach to life. Maybe it’s the sun, maybe ther is something in the water. Visit Matala to find out for yourself. You won’t regret it.

Map

If you are looking for amazing gorges, bays, and coves, check out this post.

To rest – move

“It was stressful, so I went to the gym.”

WHAT?! 🤯

I have seen this scene a couple of times in TV Shows or maybe movies:

Some jacked dude picks up the phone. There is a woman on the other side. She wants to meet. He says something along the lines of:

“It was a stressful day at work, so I went to a gym. I am going to take a quick shower and join you in town.”

It sounded ridiculous to me. If he was stressed – why didn’t he have a nap?! The gym is the last place I think of when I am tired!

Enter Tony Robbins

I always wanted to go to a Tony Robbins seminar. Trought his career he has coached presidents, movie stars, business tycoons and thousands (or probably millions) of regular folks. This man is a machine.

His “entry-level” seminar is called “Unleash the Power Within” and focuses on helping you raise your standards and commit to a better quality of life. If you get a chance – it may be the best investment of your life.

Apart from many takeaways, 2 things stood up for me in regards to fitness and energy:

  1. We spent a bulk of time on dialing in the health. In the western culture we view our bodies as mere vehicles for the brain (Read here how I blame Plato and Aristotle), but the physical well-being is the engine powering our mental capabilities and the source of energy. We learned that the plant-based diet is right for you, that most of us don’t hydrate enough and even that somehow, the modern folk have lost the way to breathe correctly.
  2. These four days were 16-18 hours long. There was no slowing down, almost no food or breaks, and yet, I was pumped and full of energy throughout!

The key was alternating lectures with proprietary SYA technique. The SYA technique stands for Shake Your Ass.

It was also way more joyful!

And did we shake our asses like there is no tomorrow! The movement generated energy that helped us keep focus, improved learning, and enhanced the attention.

We also had Pitbull to help us.

The stress and exhaustion we sometimes experience in the modern world are radically different than what our bodies were accustomed to. We face no real danger from our overbearing bosses, nor do we have to fight for our lives daily, even though it feels that way. Physical activity gets your blood flowing, nourishing your cells, and restocking all the supplies. It grounds you in what is real and immediate.

Jim Loehr and Tony Schwarz in the “Power of Full Engagement” agree with Tony Robbins. Cycling periods of physical activity with rest is the key to maintaining energy. Switching gears – mentally and physically – is the key to rest, not inactivity.

“The best way to manage your energy is to balance spending with replenishing.”

Sitting all day uses your mental energy, but let’s be honest – you are not moving much. Your exhaustion is mental, even though it feels the same way as physical. 

And, counter-intuitively, after a long, stressful day of work, the physical activity lets me gather my thoughts and rest.

According to Tony Robbins, there are

Eight gifts of pure energy

  1. Vital breathing and lymphasizing
    1. Breathe through your diaphragm, inhaling deeply
    2. Jump around, helping your lymph system to work
  2. Living water and live foods
    1. Drink water, for goodness sake
    2. Eat real food, ideally full of water – stuff that is green! (Except green cheese)
  3. Essential Oils
    1. No, not the magical aromatic ones. The ones like Olive Oil or Avocado. Monosaturated fats.
  4. Alkalinity
    1. Again, eat green stuff. It’s alkaline.
  5. Aerobic energy
    1. SHAKE. YOUR. ASS
  6. Maximum nourishment
    1. Just eat real food, mkay?
  7. Structural alignment and maximum strength
    1. Stretch.
    2. DO strength training.
  8. Directed Mind and heart
    1. Be a nice person. Don’t dwell on how people have wronged you. Think nice thoughts

Even though it all sounds a little woo-woo, it’s precisely what the doctors always said we should do. The more we keep dismissing all that as “basic”, the more critical it is to remind ourselves that we have bodies that need nourishment, water, and movement. We cannot keep punishing ourselves with Twinkies, Pizza, and beer and expect to be strong and healthy.

homer simpson eating GIF
Homer, following a Keto diet like a boss

We are somehow infected with the idea that good things have to be hard, inconvenient, and/or disgusting. It is all, of course, a matter of mindset, but physical activity can very well support mental performance. You have to get over your lazy self and shake your ass.

You’ll see you’ll feel better afterward and will have more energy to send these emails you’ve been putting off.

Learning to cook Indian food in Mumbai

Oh God, I love Naan! And my wife does too. I think this is an addiction, but I am afraid to seek medical help because I could not quit.

Fortunately, Indian food is quite popular in Poland, so we have a dependable supply of these delicacies. But it was always a mystery to me:

🤔 How is it possible that they are so delicious?

😋 Fortune favours the hungry

Fortunately, fate decided to help launch me on a fact-finding mission.

When we were roaming around Thailand, our company organized an event in India. Since we were reasonably close, we volunteered to help with the situation and visit Udaipur and Mumbai and enjoy the culture food.

And learn the secrets of the Naan.

👨🏽‍🏫 Naan-making class

On a trip to Paris, a few years ago, I have attended a croissant-making class. I highly recommend the experience, and I was on the lookout for similar fun since.

Somebody should tell Artur that these are not the Naan.

So, Naan being superior to Croissants, you would expect an even greater abundance of delicious learning opportunity in India, right?

Wrong! Cooking classes are very hard to come by in India!

blow your mind wow GIF by Product Hunt

How is that possible? Indian food is so Instagram-mable, delicious, hard to make, and popular that there should be no issue finding a cooking school. But there are none!

Fortunately, my Indian friends were kind enough to explain it to me in great detail.

What you went for a cooking class? Hahahahahahaha! You are so weird! Hahahahaha!

Kruti, my friend.

After the mockery was over, I learned that Indian people learn to cook from their mothers and grandmothers. There is 0 need for a cooking school because they will learn to make delicious Kadai, Kormas, and Naans at home.

As a side note, it is also quite accessible to hire a cook that will come to your house and cook you food for 2-3 days. In Europe and the US we are used to takeout, but in India, they approach this situation from precisely the opposite viewpoint.

You cook and learn to cook at home. Not at a cooking school.

Fortunately, I have used this thing called capitalism to find a cooking school in Mumbai (Click here for Chhabria Cooking Classes). After double-checking with the teacher that we indeed will be making Naan, we embarked to see the school.

Only to find out it was indeed someone’s home! A very enterprising Indian lady was running cooking classes for foreigners at her apartment. It was perfect because the kitchen had a very similar layout to ours, so we learned how to prepare delicious Indian dishes, Yes, including Naan.

Naan Recipe

Take a walk to get unstuck

Let’s start from the beginning.
Ever since Plato (423 BC), humanity was plagued by this notion of mind-body duality. Dark Ages have really entrenched the idea that the body is only a vehicle to move around our pristine and godly minds. The flesh pursuits are of lesser concern and don’t deserve much attention.

“Plato and Aristotle, conniving about derailing humanity’s understanding of mind-body connection”. By Raphael.

And this particular idea has seeped into western philosophy. We don’t pay specific attention to the link between the way we treat our bodies and mental performance

  • We try to “save time” by sacrificing sleep, resulting in severely diminished productivity and mental skills,
  • We sit all day on our asses, getting more and more stressed about some artificial situation, avoiding the solution that our bodies were built for,
  • We forget to hydrate or eat properly, because – of course – we “don’t have time.”

🛑 😩 How taking a walk can help you get unstuck

Shinrin-Yoku

Japanese, forest bathing: The immersive experience of spending time in nature.

Spending time in nature has a profoundly therapeutic effect on thinking clarity, overall health, and is a surefire way to lower the stress levels. Shinrin-Yoku (forest bathing) is a recognized treatment in Japan, and British doctors are looking into prescriptions for mindful walks in the woods themselves.

Our bodies evolved in green space, surrounded by trees, shrubs, streams, and rocks. We are familiar with the wild in the core of our souls. This is where our ancestors lived their whole lives, honing their genome to fit the environment.
Is life in a concrete jungle so drab? Can a few hours in a forest significantly improve my mood? I set out to answer these questions.

For a few years now, I document my thoughts in a journal. I have an Evernote-based system, where I mostly rate the previous day and recap what happened.
I will expand on this in another post, but one of the valuable insights I was able to discover is the answer to the question


“What do my happy days have in common”?

Every quarter or so, I review my notes and try to tease out what consistently made me happy during this time.
Over and over again, spending time in nature (and preferably good swimming) is at the top of the list.
Maybe it is because I was a scout for 11 years, and I am trying to reproduce the conditions of my youth. But perhaps it is because I am a human being, and this is the environment where humanity was thriving in for millennia.

My Wife, recognizing the importance of trees and taking a walk.

I try to plan my life accordingly, but as you probably know – it intervenes sometimes. Deadlines pile up, work has to be done, and I forget what restorative effect a walk has on my thinking.
I forget that it clears my head and allows me to get a fresh perspective.
I tell myself: “Tomorrow, I don’t have time today.”

🔬 What does the science say?

The science says that I’m dumb.

“To improve your thinking skills, move.”

Chris Medina, “Brain Rules”

Moving can help our brains via several mechanisms:

  1. Moving means more cardiovascular action, which means more oxygen. Our brains REALLY like oxygen. Brains like oxygen how I like the georgian meat pies. Often and in any quantity.
  2. Moving means neurons firing in the brain. Think of it as a bit of a rhythm. By making the body move, the brain gets into a groove of action, and any cognitive tasks get accomplished easier.

“Your lifetime risk for general dementia is cut in half if you participate in physical activity. Aerobic exercise seems to be the key. With Alzheimer’s, the effect is even greater: Such exercise reduces your odds of getting the disease by more than 60 percent.”

John Medina, Brain Rules

Before you embark on spending an exciting 60 minutes on a treadmill, consider the messy outside world. Moving helps but to get the best results, combine it with spending time outdoors.

“People living near more green space reported less mental distress, even after adjusting for income, education, and employment”

This is your brain on nature, National Geographic

What could you do to combine the amazing effects of moving with restorative effects of spending time in the green? Guess what! Take a walk in the forest!

Would it help to convince you, if you knew Steve Jobs was pretty insistent on walking meetings?

Check out Outside Magazine amazing feature “The Nature Cure

🤦‍♂️ Artur, but this is basic! DUH!

I clicked on your link expecting some insightful comment, and I don’t want to be lectured about such basic things!

I hear ya. But this advice needs repeating.

Intellectually knowing something is not enough. As Derek Sivers says, “If knowledge was the problem, we would all be billionaires with perfect abs.” We can know something is true and still act totally irrationally.
By all means, I am guilty of this as well. I sometimes discard this advice as “not serious enough” and “this is fine for those wellness people, but I have serious work to do.”
Intellectualizing is not the answer. If you care about doing something, you need to build a habit around it.

🌳 The Outside Challenge ™️

Do a test! Check if going outside is really for you.

  1. Get your ass outside first thing in the morning, for a week.
  2. Just walk around, notice things. DO NOT STARE AT YOUR PHONE.
  3. After 30 minutes, go back home.
  4. Be awesome!
  5. Crush your day.

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🌄 Remote work helps again.

I know not everybody has a nice green space near home.
But… If you worked remotely, what precludes you from living near a forest?
You could even have a view on the trees, getting the benefits of surrounding yourself in nature while you work.

Have you noticed that I post lots of pictures of my laptop opened somewhere in the wilderness?

Because for me, there is no better place to work than surrounded by tress, with wind on my face.

You don’t have to be in exotic place, or wait till the weekend to enjoy time in nature.

You can pick your laptop, hop on a bike (or into a car) and after an hour, you will most likely be in the forest. Yes, I’m pretty certain that they will have LTE coverage.

Now go outside and take a walk!


Is remote work hurting the environment?

No, it does not. This is a clickbait title.

Remote work helps me see the world, contribute more to our products and lets me enjoy life to the fullest. From the stereotypical Thai Beach office to escaping open space, it’s a clear benefit for my employer and me.

Hard work

But what gets me most excited about remote work is the environmental impact. If people don’t have to move to big cities, they can stay in their home towns, close to friends and family. Outside of metropolis, it is possible to consume locally grown food, eradicating the need for transport and packaging of perishables.
With a smaller density, the housing can be cheaper, and living conditions improve considerably. People working remotely from areas like Kentucky, Idaho or Ukraine can spend their fat tech salaries locally, raising the living standards for the entire community, providing new jobs and example for future generations.
According to WWF, the commuters in the USA alone are generating 1786 metric tonnes of CO2. That is 26% of all US emissions that remote work can help curb.

But of course – there is an element of hypocrisy in that grand vision of remote work saving the environment.

Producing CO2 in Cape Town

I fly a few times a year to meet my coworkers in person, and air travel is a contributor to greenhouse emissions.

Haunted by this fact, I decided to count how much harm did I do. I added up my flights for each year:

  • 2016: 4.4 tonnes
  • 2017: 8.11 tonnes
  • 2018: 5.51 tonnes

That makes a total of 18.02metric tonnes of CO2 emitted due to me flying over the past three years. I do not feel happy about this, but I found a way to ease the impact of lugging my ass all over the world.

CarbonFootprint.com lets you contribute to carbon offsetting projects around the globe. Their air travel calculator will help you figure out how much harm did you do while getting these Instagram photos:


I decided to fund tree planting in Kenya since it will both plant trees and provide work for the local community. I happily shelled out 280 EUR to buy the land, plant trees and help them grow. The trees should consume 20 tonnes of CO2 caused by my air travel, helping me sleep better.

Carbon emissions due to flying is a downside of working for a globally distributed company, but I still can do something about it.
I also believe that long-term remote work can be the answer to the climate crisis we are experiencing right now.

The Garden Route – Cape Town Road Trip

For the past 3 years, my fiancée kept on telling me how amazing South Africa is. We’ve had an amazing road trip in western Canada together, spent a month jumping into Yucatan cenotes, and worked from the beaches of Thailand like proper remote employees, so I felt a little bit insulted. While we were enjoying these amazing places, she extolled the virtues of a city that has both the ocean and mountains, and teased me with waterfalls, wineyards and the perfect steak.

Fortunately, the opportunity has come to say “I call”.

Maria’s team had to gather in April for some on-site R&R in Cape Town. This is a traditional practice for remote employees. Since you see your coworkers only on Slack or Zoom calls – its good to remind yourself that these are real human beings that like to eat and have fun. And that was the plan for that trip – I would sit tight and work from fabulous Cape Town coffee shops and Maria would eat, drink and have fun with her coworkers.

Afterwards, we would go for a 6-day road trip.

Garden Route

We picked an 800 km long route on the coast, west of Cape Town. Known as the “Garden Route”, it is home to multiple national parks and charming coastal cities. This is where Atlantic and Indian oceans meet and nature decides to show us the good stuff.

1 🐘 Addo Elephant Park

Addo Elephant Park has “Elephant” in the name. Nuff said. These gracious creatures are impressive not only in size – you should read more on Maria’s blog.

This is the furthest point of our trip, so we decided to hit it first and to do most of the driving up front. Cape Town is 830 km from Addo, so we spent 2 days on the road, arriving at about 1 PM.

Our second night would be in the park itself. We scored a lovely “Cottage” on the park premises, which would allow us to take advantage of early morning animal spotting. The cottages are available on SAN parks website.

Addo Main Camp is located close to a waterhole, which you can observe from an underground hide. And… oh boy! That came in handy when a Lion (I had no intention of seeing a lion, but he showed up regardless) killed a Kudu antelope right next to the hide. We could all see him resting for a while before he dragged the prey away from our prying eyes.

I managed to record a video before he vanished:

The park itself is a DIY safari. You take your car and drive around, spotting different animals and enjoying life. Safari was #128 on my personal bucketlist and I can proudly cross it off having seen:

  • Wild Pig AKA Pumba
  • Kudu
  • Elephant
  • Zebra
  • Ostrich
  • Buffalo
  • Antelope
  • Different birds
  • Hiena
  • Jackal
  • Dung beetle. Lots of them! The biggest challenge in the park was not to crush them when they were crossing the road. I guess this is how elephants feel about us humans.
  • And the aforementioned Lion

2 ⛰ Storms River Mouth / Tsitsikamma

My sneaky fiancée lured me to this country promising waterfalls. I am kind of a Waterfall afficionado junkie, so visiting Storms River was a must.

Unfortunately, on the day both the weather turned bad and I started having ankle problems, so we gave up on waterfall hike (3-4 hrs) :(. We will have to do it another time.

3 🌊 Nature’s Valley

Even though you can sleep in the park itself (Storms River has cottages), we spent 2 nights in the nearby town called Nature’s Valley. The Otter Trail connects it to Storms River and apparently we are the only 2 people in the world that have not heard about The Otter Trail. Everything in Nature’s Valley is named after an Otter, and I mean EVERYTHING. We stayed at a placed called Kamma Otter and I counted at least 5 other B&Bs named after an Otter (and this city has only 50 houses). If you see how many times I used the word “Otter” in the last paragraph, you’ll start to get a feel of Nature’s Valley.

Believe it or not, an Otter-based naming scheme is not the only charming thing about the lovely town. It is located between the lagoon and the ocean, has 1 restaurant, 1 shop and a very tight-knit community of bird lovers.

I think they throw you out if you don’t love birds.

4 🥪 Knysna

The view was amazing and the eggs benedict even better.

Do you see the white building just on the edge of the left “head”? This is Easthead Cafe. We had breakfast there. You should too.

5 🚀 Map of Africa paragliding spot

Soaring in the air like a sack of potatoaes tied to a parachute!

On the way back to Cape Town, we decided to check out the spot called “Map of Africa”. It’s a piece of land shaped like an African continent, surrounded by river.

My fiancée had dreamt of paragliding for few years now (this trip is all about the stuff she wants to do, isn’t it?). Every time we noticed people in the air, she would point them out and make sure I knew she is up for it 🙂

And there they were, running from the cliff and soaring in the air!

So how does this work?

  1. You drive to the “Map of Africa” viewpoint, expecting to see something vaguely resembling African continent,
  2. A random guy walks up to you, offering to strap you onto a contraption that puts you a hundred meters in the air. No reservation was necessary,
  3. Naturally, you say yes to the random dude,
  4. You pay 800 ZAR per person,
  5. This is a tandem flight so you are actually tied to an instructor who hopefully knows what he is doing,
  6. You run awkwardly a few steps,
  7. You start soaring like a sack of potatoes,
  8. You fly for about 15-20 minutes having the best time ever,
  9. If the instructor catches a wind current, you land where you started, with smooth grass and sheep to soften your fall. If not, he will drop you in the ocean land on the beach and they’ll pick you up in a car.

6 🌉 Kaaimans Bridge

While paragliding, you can get a glimpse of this decommissioned railway bridge. If you are not paragliding, you can stop at “The Dolphins Viewpoint” to have a look:

7 🐐 The Oude Post

This is a gas station and a sandwich shop. Which has Mini Goats, a turtle and the most delicious sandwiches imaginable. They serve traditional Roosterkoeken – a sandwich/pastry that is baked on the barbecue during traditional Braai.

Braai is to South Africa what Barbecue is to Texas. A human right.

8 🐳 Hermanus

Our trip had an end right on the airport, where we would return the car. But since we had extra few hours, we stopped in Hermanus.

Hermanus is a coastal city that is famous for one thing: Whales.

It is one of the best cities in the world for Whale Watching. The cliff offers great views on the ocean and these big sea mammals come close by so you can watch them from the shore.

The season is from July till November, so a whale watching trip in April was a bit of a gamble, but it paid of tremendously! A whale was doing whale things in the bay and standing on Gearings Point, we could see the back and tail popping up from the water here and there.

I tried to take drone photos, but birds attacked my drone, so I had to count on the return-to-home feature.

🗺 Map

Here are all these spots – and more on the map:

I have to admit that now I understand why my fiancée wanted to share immense beauty of South Africa with me. I will definitely come back here. I the meantime – you can check out Job’s post with much better photos. Or subscribe to my newsletter!

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Swimming with Seals in Cape Town

YES. You can swim with Seals (not the Navy kind) in Cape Town, South Africa. These gracious creatures are very playful, and they don’t hesitate to swim up close, say Hi or maybe do a high five (fin).

A Bit of Backstory:

In April 2019, my Fiancee (who also works remotely) had to go for a business trip to Cape Town. Since we all work in different places, our company flies the whole team to one place for a week, so we can get together and dose up on some in-person interaction. Since 3 of Maria’s teammates live in Cape Town, I was hoping that someday she would have to go there and finally they decided to do so.
Being shameless opportunists that we are, we jumped at the chance to spend some time in South Africa. Nature is fantastic here, people friendly and ocean cold. Real cold.
Maria was spending days with her coworkers, and I was working from the city’s amazing coffee shops and researching what could we do after her business was over.
During that research, I stumbled upon a Casey Neistat’s video where he went swimming with sharks seals.

This is the best stuff ever!

I know, right? Who does not want to swim with sea dogs?!

Since famous bloggers think alike, I went with the same company Casey did – the Animal Ocean.
They run an environmentally conscious operation, and they make sure the seals are fairly treated and allowed to unionize.

So here is roughly what happpens:

  1. You book your trip like 5 days in advance. They sell out fast
  2. You arrive on time to Houts Bay. We were scheduled at 11:30
  3. Park your car there, they are looking after it
  4. Sign paperwork, check out amazing shark socks
  5. You squeeze into wetsuit, you get a vest and one-piece suit with vest
  6. You put on wetsuit again since you confused the sides. ZIPPER AT THE FRONT!!
  7. You can rent a gopro if that’s your jam
  8. Leave all other stuff at their shop
  9. You go to the bay in a SealMobile!
  10. Ride in a speedboat to Duniker island
  11. Now you get gloves and masks
  12. You play with seals which is the best experience of your entire life
  13. After about 1 hour, you are so cold that you really want to go back on the boat (and life)
  14. They pour hot water inside your suit to make you less cold
  15. They give you hot chocolate – guess why .
  16. Speedboat and sealmobile back to the shop!
  17. You wear a cute seal hoodie while you get warm. Also probably a shower.

Want to know more about the seals?

These particular seals are known as “Cape Fur” seals. They hang out in Duniker island in Houts bay because:

  • Island is not connected to the land, so humans are not bothering them too much
  • There is plenty of food. They like Mantis Shrimp
  • They ocean has good temperature
  • Sharks (pretty common predator in South Africa) stay away from Houts Bay.

Check out this article by Animal Ocean if you want more reliable information about the seals.

Bring Your Own Friends – Dealing with loneliness when working from home

@MarkAgee

Remote Work is awesome. It is no doubt, the future of employment and for a good reason:

  • It can solve environmental problems
  • It opens up the access to suitable jobs for the people outside of a bigger city
  • It’s just better for the human soul to avoid the trenches of office buildings all day, every day.

But it has downsides as well.

Ryan Hoover from Product Hunt has recently asked about Remote work problems and loneliness came up #1


It gets… lonely.


In my previous corporate life, I was working in an Open Space at Samsung Poland. The company was voted 3rd best employer five years in a row, and the office had everything that a millennial fresh-out-of-college developer could want. We had fresh fruit, great coffee, slick building with state of the art technology, beautiful view from the window…

And friends.

In some ways, the modern office is a bit of an extension of college life. The scenery changes a bit, but you hop on from the student life to corporate existence without skipping a beat.

office crew GIF

Most tasks in the corporate world are not that urgent or even necessary to perform, so we defer to our primal instincts: keeping up the relationships.

In our past, this served us exceptionally well. In case of a cheetah attack, people helped you if they liked you, so making them like you was vital.

The chance of a surprise cheetah attack in a Samsung office is very slim. There are Cheetos aplenty though. But our biology did not adapt. Keeping thriving relationships is not only the default, but it is also proven to be healthy both emotionally AND physically.

The gains people derived from face-to-face socializing endured even years later. The findings were published online in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Source

But in this brave new world of Remote work, there is no office and no colleagues to socialize with.

There is no daily chit-chat by the coffee machine, no banter on the Open Space and no scooter race in the hallway. That may be the best for productivity, but the silence is deafening at times. Sure, we have Slack and memes and calls and all sorts of social glue that lets us keep sane, but we are a human and we need other humans.

While working from home, YOU are responsible for your socializing. Your employer will not supply you with a kindergarten full of bored peers to play with.

You have to bring your own friends.

🏖 👨‍💻 How to deal with loneliness in remote work.

Me and my fiancee have developed a set of tactics to deal with the loneliness of remote work. These improved our lives considerably, but we are still on the lookout for new ones.

🥳 Party time.

Photo by Delaney Dawson on Unsplash

I have a confession to make. I have a rolling calendar reminder to organize a party for my friends every two months. There is no birthday or another occasion, just a party. I would say, I have a 50% success rate, so in reality, the said bacchanalia gets thrown every four months, but it’s still a great way to remind your acquaintances of your existence.

Committing to a cycle has several benefits:

1 – Lower emotional stakes.

Have you experienced a little bit of shame before reaching out to a friend you did not talk to for a while? Do you sometimes worry they will laugh at you when you finally DO reach out? I have this nagging feeling sometimes. But guess what. They probably feel the same, and you are just two proud dummies not talking to each other.

Reach out. It’s not a big deal. Only one party out of 10s you are going to organize.

2 – More significant chance you finally get to see some people

We’re all adults. Well you are, I’m just pretending. We have lots of responsibilities, and not everyone will be able to make it to your party. By the 4th time you invite someone, they may be able to make it. Go ahead, keep asking this childhood friend. Maybe she will come.

3 – You will get comfortable with this.

You will not stress about having enough chairs (people can stand for 4 hours, nothing will happen to them). Your place will not have to be squeaky clean. The situation will be normal for you. You will develop a party-prep routine. I can throw the party in 2 hours, provided there are no dead bodies to hide lying in my living room.

Here is my tried and tested, patented Artpi Party Prep Scenario ™️.

  • 🍅 Dried tomato hummus
  • 🍠 Sweet Potato chili-sprinkled fries with garlic sauce
  • 🍆 Barbecue pulled-pork style Egglant
  • 🌯 Salmon-horseradish party wraps
  • 🥬 Home-made Coleslaw
  • 🥗 Greek-Style salad (arugula, feta, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, olives, honey-coated walnuts, vinaigrette sauce)

I can do this on autopilot. I do something else if I have energy, but having default makes it easier to commit.

📆 More reminders

Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash

Yes, I am a robot. I have three lists of people I should reach out to weekly / every month / every quarter.

I have a bot that will select a person from one of these lists every day. This is a custom solution, but you can achieve the same result by following fantastic Derek Sivers advice.

Reminder ensures I will remember about everyone. I do ignore them some of the time, but I still see value in refreshing the fact of someone’s existence. It’s nice to stop and remember that I have the person X in my life.

Being a part of the community

This societal problem is widespread and touches not only remote workers. You probably don’t feel this in an Open Space, but humans have a deep longing for long-lasting connections with people around them. We evolved in tribes and later settled into villages. Everything was communal.

Getting benefits of community without going insane require some planning. Currently, we are

And I think that one of the most amazing things that anyone can go through and can do in their lives is a variation on the theme of going on a journey, doing hard things surrounded by friends

Tobi Lutke, Shopify CEO

👰 Organizing a wedding

Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Photography on Unsplash

Now, I’m only half joking. My fiancee and I are in the process of a fabulous adventure that is organizing a wedding. And we are inviting A LOT of family members. Some of which I have never heard of before. I don’t even think it’s possible to be related to so many people, but so be it.

The surprising part is that I enjoy getting to know them, giving them invites and nurturing those relationships. I can see myself in the son of a distant relative, and it’s very fulfilling and gives me a sense of belonging. If you told me five years ago that inviting 150+ people for an ultra expensive party would be in my future, I would laugh in your face.

But here I am, you can laugh at me.

The point is that these tested rituals served some purpose in the past. Weddings, Funerals, Equinox parties, Easters and Christmases – all of them were kind of a glue that holds people together in the face of loneliness.

Remote work is changing this balance, and we need to find new rituals and again take extra care to nurture a connection to people around us. New technology can help but let’s not forget about the tried-and-tested approach.

Call your mom once in a while. Yes, ON THE PHONE LIKE A CAVEMAN (cavewomen have probably already figured that out).

You have to be deliberate about reaching out to your friends and making time for them. They are busy too and nobody will organize this for you.

Bring them with you.

Cheap ski weekend in Zurich. How much is it?

In February I found myself in Zurich.
You know, the go-to destination for cheap travel.

One of the advantages of remote work is that I don’t need to take time off to enjoy another part of the world. I can work somewhere and just take in the local culture, food and experience the change of scenery. I can pick a cheap flight at an unpopular hour and have a regular workday without skipping a beat.

My Fiancee was in Costa Rica at this time, so I decided to visit my friends in Switzerland. Not that I needed an excuse – Switzerland is a gorgeous country that has the things I love the most: mountains, forests, lakes, and waterfalls.


But since we spent last winter in Thailand and India, my main focus was to get a chance to practice my amazing snowboarding skills.

By amazing I mean perfectly average.

During the weekend I would ski, and on the workdays, I would roam around the city, have a nice walk and work from their home, maybe a coffee shop. Or a fondue parlor, since what you really need on your keyboard is not crumbs nor spilled coffee, but melted cheese.

OH MY GOD, THERE IS SO MUCH CHEESE HERE.

Me.

All this is cheese.
Just kidding. It’s cocaine.

Yes, this is a pot of cheese. You know that French trick where they put a little cheese in your soup? The do the same in Switzerland. Minus the soup.

🧀 Ok, enough about cheese.

There are plenty of ski areas nearby, so we decided on the closest one.

Here is the guide to Zurich Ski areas



🏔️ Flumserberg


Flumserberg is the easiest one to get to. The train from Zurich HB takes 1 hour to get there, and the lift starts 20 meters from the train station.
Swiss locals come into the train wearing their ski boots and with the gear on. It is perfect for a 1-day or a weekend trip.


It is also gorgeous. The city of Unterterzen is by the lake, surrounded by almost vertical walls of Fjord-like peaks

We came here with a 7am train, arriving at 8am and returned on Sunday at 5pm and were at Zurich HB at 6PM.

💳 Ski Passes

Swiss rail runs a special promo that gives you:

  • 10% reduction on the 1-, 2- or 6-day ski pass for the entire Flumserberg region.
  • Free baggage transport for the outward and return journeys worth CHF 12 each.
  • 15% reduction at Intersport Rent.


You cannot purchase it online though. You have to use a machine at the station.
Here are the details

I paid 156,80 for a 2-day ski pass and transport to Flumserberg and back.
Once you arrive in Flums, you have to exchange the coupon from SBB into the actual ski pass at the counter.


🏨 Juhui Flumserberg:

Theoretically, on these 2-day tickets, we could have gone back to our place in Zurich on Saturday evening and return Sunday morning. But since Switzerland is such a cheap country, we decided to live like kings and splurge on accommodation.
Which means that we got the cheapest option available on Booking and we stayed overnight.
And what a fantastic decision it was! We got to sleep in a 120-year old wooden hotel.

Don’t get me wrong, restrooms were not in the room, and it was very cramped, but we passed out almost immediately anyway.
We got sheets, towels and a big breakfast with fantastic views. We were happy.
We paid 149 CHF (including beers) for 2 people in a 4-person room. I would be very surprised if in 4 people would indeed fit there comfortably.
But it was 74 CHF after splitting between 2 people.

🎿 Rental

I had my Snowboard boots with me, but I had to rent the Snowboard and a helmet.
The passes from SBB should have given us a 15% discount on Intersport rental. But because of a misunderstanding with our friends, we rented in a place just by the gondola.
I paid 101 CHF for a helmet and a snowboard for 2 days.
My friend paid 65 for skis + boots etc., for 1 day.

✈️ Flights

I have Star Alliance Gold status, which entitles me to a piece of free luggage on all star alliance flights except „light” tariffs on Lufthansa and Swiss. But I found a cheap ticket on LOT (PL national airline, Star Alliance), also in the „light” pricing.
But because of my Star Alliance status – I got luggage for my snowboard shoes and drone for free.
Zurich is a peculiar place. It is a place of employment many expats, and they want to fly home for the weekend. Which means that if you come here FOR the weekend, you pay less.
I arrived Saturday morning and flew back Sunday. I paid about 55 CHF for all of that.

If you want to read some tips on how to get to Star Alliance Gold cheaper and faster – do sign up! 👇

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💰 Totals


So there you have it. I paid 331 CHF for the whole trip. If you want to include the flight to Zurich, that is an additional 55 CHF. So for 380 CHF, you can enjoy a weekend of skiing in Swiss Alps.
But then again, if you want it to be cheaper, then you probably should not choose Switzerland. 🙂


And here is Michał who organized all of this. Thanks Michał!