All life is an experiment cover: Einstein beakers illusio

The Self-Experimentation Guide

I started this blog with a vague premise that there was something valuable about trying weird things, and taking a few steps off the beaten path. I didn’t have any actual justification for this at the time, so I borrowed an impressive-sounding quote from some famous sage or other: ‘All life is an experiment.’

Emerson’s non-conformity schtick was enough to get me started. But now I have a much better model for why this is important, and how to make experiments.

Over the last five years, I’ve done something like 100 lifestyle experiments great and small.

Generally these have ended well; occasionally not so well. When I say I have a ‘much better’ model of how to run experiments, that’s a relative term. I have at least managed to avoid doing really dumb shit, although this was initially as much by accident as by design.

Here’s my rough guide to self-experimentation:

premature exploitation: popping the bubbles a little too soon

The Embarrassing Problem of Premature Exploitation

Babies love putting things in their mouths: dirt, insects, bits of grass, their own poo. They have no sense of fear or self-preservation, and come up with endlessly creative ways to place themselves in mortal peril. Once they learn to talk, their constant experimentation with the world transcends the physical to the philosophical. They want to know everything. They are bottomless pits of curiosity, with very little in the way of attention span or self-discipline. Your typical two-year-old can only concentrate on a task for six minutes at a time. Young children are not self-aware enough to feel much in the way of shame, or embarrassment. Nothing is off-limits. In a word, very young people spend almost all of their time exploring.

The elderly are set in their ways. The only foreign objects they put in their mouths are dentures and hard caramels; occasionally followed by a fork to extricate said caramels from said dentures. They tend to have stable routines, rituals, hobbies, and social circles. They rarely try new things or experiment with new identities. They’ve lived long enough to know what they’re about, and they intend to wring out every ounce of enjoyment before the curtains come down. In a word, very old people spend almost all of their time exploiting.

The ‘explore-exploit’ constraint is one of the most useful ideas I’ve come across…

How to read 100 books a year cover image

Tips For Reading 100+ Books a Year

There’s a stomach-sinking moment of realization that comes in every reader’s life: you’ll run out of years long before you run out of books. Like the monstrous hydra, every title struck off your reading list spawns three more to take its place. The unread piles glowering at you from the bedside table only grow larger. So many secrets, so little […]

Two Year Blogversary

Deep Dish Turns Two: Big Lube, Beards, and an Exciting Announcement

The blog has entered the terrible twos! In keeping with last year’s tradition, here’s a quick status report, a little housekeeping, then a look ahead to some new projects coming down the pike. By the numbers: 22 posts published in year two. I guess that means I have to do 33 in year three? Regular traffic is up ~800 per […]

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

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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…

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…

One Year Blogiversary: Trials, Tribulations, Lessons Learned

What I’ve Learned From One Year of Blogging

One year ago today – with trembling fingers – I hit ‘publish’ on my first ever blog post. A squalling infant entered the world, confused and alone in a strange land. It was ugly, weird, and coated in blood and slime. I named it ‘Deep Dish’. I’m a proud parent these days, and it’s been a rewarding year. But this little brat has also kept me awake for plenty of long nights. To mark the blog’s first birthday, I thought I’d give you a look behind the scenes, as well as a sense of where things are heading from here…

The 4 Hour Work Week Review: How Tim Ferriss Created a Monster

Living The 4 Hour Work Week (How Tim Ferriss Created a Monster)

After re-reading the 4-Hour Work Week, I finally understand the undercurrent of self-loathing in the digital nomad community. . Tim Ferriss’ seminal handbook on lifestyle design just turned 10 years old. While some ideas have stood the test of time, other parts have gone a bit rotten…

Hiking the Himalayas in Flip-Flops

My broken jandals are dangling by a thread; one solitary scrap of medical tape holding them to my filthy and blackened feet. They’ve carried me for 150km, over ice and snow and scree, across the highest pass in the world. For every gauntlet the Himalayas has thrown down – insomnia, gastro, altitude headaches, frozen toes – they’ve provided a constant rubbery reassurance. Now it’s all falling apart at the seams…

The 100 Books Challenge: A love letter to reading

The 100 Books Challenge (A Love Letter to Reading)

As a small human being, I made fortnightly trips to the public library with a garbage sack slung over my shoulder. Not a tote, not a grocery bag; a big ol’ garbage sack. Short stories, novellas, comics, teen fiction, non-fiction – all of it disappeared into the sack’s insatiable maw.

How I Got Bigger, Stronger and Leaner Eating 222 Large Pizzas In a Row

I was feeling weak and out of shape, with nagging injuries that had hobbled my amateur career in strength sports before it began. What better way to restore myself to peak physical condition than to hit the gym hard while devouring an entire pizza every day? With a whopping 1600 calories and a good whack of protein, the Domino’s $5 range represented absurdly good value for money. To top it all off, I could bug people out by getting jacked while gorging myself on the most sinful food imaginable…

An empty pier stretches into cool blue water on a blazing hot day.

How to Save $100,000 by Age 25

For the first time in my life, I have absolute freedom to only pursue the things that interest me. The last two decades have been an uninterrupted freight train of schooling and work, so it’s a pretty surreal feeling. There are moments of pure elation, and even the occasional faint trace of guilt. Did I cheat, somehow? Surely it can’t be this easy? I’m waiting for a giant skyhook to descend from the heavens and hoist me up by the seat of my elephant pants, violently jerking me back into reality. It wasn’t until 2013 that I even twigged this was an option…