What travel teaches you: sometimes you have to swallow dead rats

Life Lessons on the Road

I can’t get a replacement ticket without selling my firstborn child. I fly to a border town instead, but the last bus just left. The airport WiFi isn’t working  – an immutable law of the universe – so I have to try and wing it with one of those old-timey maps made out of dead trees. It’s one Hail Mary after another: Over 16 hours, I take two taxis, a crowded minivan, two planes, a train, a ferry, a motorbike, and do plenty of walking, often in circles. I’m pulled aside at the border for questioning. An ancient vending machine swallows my last banknote. It’s think-on-your-feet, sprint to catch the last train stuff; an accidental one-man homage to the Amazing Race.

With exactly one sen (0.3c) to my name, I trudge the final stretch to my lodgings. It’s 11pm, and everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong. I’m soaked in sweat, desperate for the loo, starving, and absolutely knackered.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way…

Specialisation is for insects - Elon Musk's Roadster cruises through space

Specialization is For Insects

Elon Musk is the real-life Ironman, and exactly the sort of superhero we need – because he puts the lie to the tired old cliche; ‘jack of all trades, master of none’. In this post, I want to make the case that cultivating broad interests and skills not only dovetails perfectly with the frugal life, but acts as a sort of force multiplier – a booster rocket that can propel you towards your money goals at blistering speed…

How to Make Friends as a Solo Traveler

The first stage of being a solo traveler is fear. I flew into Bangkok in the middle of a thunderstorm. Sheet lightning and flickering neon signs threw the grimy streets into sharp relief as I took a cab through the pounding rain. The driver dropped me in the vicinity of my hostel, overcharged me for the fare, then pretended he didn’t have change for my fresh banknote. When I finally found my accommodation, soaked to the skin, I realised I was the only one staying there. There I was in a megacity of eight million people, and I’d never felt more alone…

Minimalist travel packing list

Ultralight Travel Packing List: 10 Countries, One 7kg Bag

I’ve been bouncing around Asia and the Indian subcontinent for almost two years now, with a pack that weighs in at 15 pounds (7kg). This minimalist travel setup has served me well through monsoon season, snow and ice, storms, jungles, mountains and deserts alike.

After the Pizza Diet: Losing 20kg and Readjusting to Life as a Skinny Guy

After the Pizza Diet: Losing 20kg and Readjusting to Life as a Skinny Guy

This is not you, the border control officer says. It’s true – the clean-shaven, crew-cut, slightly pudgy face in my passport photo bears no resemblance to the scraggly scarecrow leaning in front of him, all sharp angles and facial hair. Yes it is, I squeak. There’s a long silence. I, uh, lost a lot of weight. How much? he asks. Almost 20 kilograms. He tilts his head. You got sick? Uhh, no. I rack my delirious brain, and try to figure out how to explain…

Deep Dish 2017 spending report

2017 Spending Experiment: Living On Less Than $10,000 a Year

At the start of 2017, one of my goals was to try and maintain a flâneur lifestyle while living off less than US$10,000 (or NZ$15,000).
I’ve logged every rickshaw ride, every water refill, every bowl of noodles. Nothing escaped the merciless conditional formatting of my spreadsheet, which blazed a furious red whenever I overshot my daily or monthly spending targets. Now, with an entire year’s worth of spending data in front of me, it’s crunch time. Here’s how I did…

Best books 2017

The Best of the Best Books I Read in 2017

It’s been another self-indulgent year of funemployment for yours truly, which means I’ve had the time to read as much as I want; basically cruising around the library with my mouth open like some sort of bibliophilic basking shark. Since most people don’t have this luxury, I hope I can provide a small public service in filtering out the tastiest morsels that have passed through the bristle-like gill rakers encircling my giant, unhinged jaw…

Advanced Investing: The Barbell Strategy for Investing

Advanced Investing: The Barbell Strategy for Bastards

Marry an accountant, but have occasional flings with rock stars. Lift very heavy weights for a few repetitions, then do lots of low-impact cardio. Work a secure and boring job, while pursuing highly speculative ventures on the side.
The common thread running through all these ideas is called the ‘Barbell Strategy’, and it’s useful for all sorts of big decisions – from your career and work, to health and fitness, and of course, your investment portfolio…

A Sense of Perspective: The Time I Received Five Marriage Proposals in One Day

The Time I Received Five Marriage Proposals in One Afternoon

That fateful afternoon in the slums of Jakarta is seared into my memory forever. No ego-boost here – just people desperate to escape from grinding poverty. Travel is a uniquely powerful way of broadening your perspective, but talk is cheap. No amount of sanctimonious think-pieces and gratitude journaling will put food in hungry bellies. The good news is, we have an amazing opportunity to actually do something…

Podcasts: Getting smarter while washing the dishes

Podcasts: Getting Smarter While Washing the Dishes

Being the kind of person who gets antsy if any spare moment is left unfilled, I can’t believe it took me so long to dive into the magical world of podcasts. All that dead time, now brimming with life! It’s kind of trippy that you can be buying bog roll at the supermarket while an astrophysicist sits in your head and explains how black holes work. A vast ocean of knowledge and entertainment is available at the push of a button, and is 100 PER CENT FREE. Here are my top picks.