Book of the Month: October 2018

Hey all!

For this month’s book, I’m going to go with my gut that the rest of the book is as good as the first half.  Being Mortal by Atul Gawande has been a revelation for me.  The easy to understand, though at times uncomfortable conversations Gawande delves into are things my mind hasn’t readily jumped to. But the power and importance of this book has not been lost on me.  Whether you yourself are creeping into old age or have a loved one who is, the contents of this book can change your perspective on aging and elder care.

As Gawande details, our world and how the medical world treats and handles the elderly has changed drastically in the last 50 years, but even greater change must take place.

A #1 NY Times best seller, this book should absolutely be on your shelf if it isn’t already.

Book of the Month: September 2018

We all know of that whimsically brilliant man riddled with rebellious hair.  But how did Einstein come to be the icon that we know today?  And what did he really discover?  Look no further than this brilliant documentary written by Walter Isaacson.  I loved the deep insights into this brilliant, yet greatly human genius’s life.  He was not always the iconic genius we refer to today, he was once just the same as most of us.  Just trying to make a name for himself with plenty of challenges coming his way.

Reading this book will give you a great education on the man, how far we’ve come as people, and what we still have on the horizons.  A wonderful change of pace read to go with your favorite novel.  Give it a try!

Book of the Month: August 2018

Though riddled with a slow start, A Gentleman in Moscow is a magical novel that sets a formerly well respected man, simply known as the Count, against the backdrop of a famous hotel in Moscow. Amidst this backdrop is the curious circumstance that has placed him in this hotel, house arrest.

As he navigates the wide corridors of his new prison, the Count finds himself at the center of the show that is everyday life in this living, breathing building. With a style of writing I’ve come to cherish, author Amor Towles, I think, has hit on a real masterpiece. You won’t regret learning about the Count, early 20th century Russia, and maybe even a little bit about yourself in this delicious read.

Book of the Month: July 2018

One of the beautiful aspects of a long commute on public transit is the ability to spend that time reading.  It’s something I’ve set my mind to taking advantage of since I began commuting into NYC last year.  Taking a ride through the pages of a train is one of the things I’ve come to cherish regularly.  It’s also no surprise that many of the books we’ve come to find as our favorites were passed down as suggestions from family and friends.  It’s with that intention that I’m starting my book of the month series!  I’ll be sharing some of my favorites and recent reads with the hope that maybe someday you’ll share the same delight in a particular book or story.

This inaugural book for July is Salt to the Sea.  Set in the alternately cold and grimacing grip of WWII in Europe, this is a story of tragedy and triumph beyond the tragedy with twists, turns, and splendid writing.  Based on an actual event, largely unforgotten through the vast volume of atrocities during this period of history, you will certainly learn something in addition to the entertainment value.  If you have any interest in historical fiction, this will be a riveting read.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25614492-salt-to-the-sea

A Hop Across the Pond

In a land far, far away, there is a place called Havana where the rivers run free and commercialism has yet to hold a solid grip.  Yes, you guessed it.  This place is Cuba.  Just a few years ago, the gates to this treasured place were opened up to Americans (only about 50 years after they were closed!).  Taking advantage of the opportunity, I traveled with friends and family to this incredible country and venture into the hidden corner of our continent.

From the first step onto Cuban soil, the first thing noticeably different was the cars.  Sure, they’ve got new European and Asian imports, but a significant portion of the cars on the road are cars that were last seen in the US about 50 years ago.  Cadillacs, Chevy Bel Airs, Plymouths, etc with their flowing bodies and hearty sizes spun down the streets with music blazing from their aftermarket engines and speakers.  It was a surreal experience to see what seemed to be images transported through time.  A truly unique sight.

Our first car ride was not as exhilarating (a minivan taxi), but that was our first contact with the people.

As can be expected, the people were genuinely warm and welcoming. Everyone was ready with a smile and some helpful tips. Also interesting was less of the sense that they were just after money. Having seen enough places in the world including my own backyard (NYC), these people were simply trying to make sure tourists were having a good experience.

For those who consider Cuba unsafe, as long as you stay to the touristed areas and don’t bring so much attention to yourself, you will typically not find any issues. We walked around freely with cameras and phones wallets and had no problems.

During the week, we saw hot spots in the capital of Havana (the Cathedral, Capitol building, classic car tours, etc). We also ventured out to the beautiful city of Trinidad in the southern central region of the country. That was actually the favorite place of many of us on the trip. The quaint and peaceful nature of this smaller city was enjoyable. Especially enjoying the setting sun ebbing down the steps of a central gathering place in town. This place also hosted live music for all to enjoy. Paired with some delicious mojitos and appetizers, and we were in heaven.

Our only other stop in the country during this long weekend was Varadero, one of its most picturesque beaches. We just managed to miss the rain and set up on the sand as the sun poked its head out.

We finished off the trip with some fascinating museums about the revolution and other history of the country. They really made you realize how close we are to each other and how the last 50 years or so have come to pass.

One jarring part of the country was the billboards. Many boards and murals depicted some sort of hatred for democracy/favor of socialism. One even had a picture of an Uncle Sam character that was overpowered by a socialism hammer. Being welcomed to the country while seeing these images was a fascinating duality, surely influenced by American dollars flowing in while holding true to their ideals.

All in all, this was a trip not to be forgotten. Especially with the borders restricted again only allowing organized group traveling, we can’t be sure when we would get another opportunity like this, if ever. Cuba is a beautiful country and even if you strongly disagree with their ideals, the historical context of visiting it should not be unnoticed.

One Year

365 days.  And what an incredible year it’s been!  On this day last year, April 9, 2017, I returned home from my 5-month jaunt to South America.  I have no problem admitting that I was homesick and missed family and friends like never before.  I craved NJ.  That’s something only a select few can ever say with any honesty.

After an action-packed and adventurous trip, I managed to find my way back into a ‘normal life’, even though that term lost some meaning.  As I found a temporary then permanent job, I was plagued with questions.  What did this trip mean? Did it mean anything?  Am I a different person for it?  Good news is I’m still myself. Bad news, I still don’t have the answers.  But what I do have is a stronger realization of the trip itself.

One of the difficulties I had coming home was just recognizing that I even went on a trip at all.  It felt like a dream for a long time, but it is finally starting to resonate.  It has been one of my greatest accomplishments, just for the blunt craziness I needed to pull it off.  Leaving a job that gave me comfort and a life that gave most anything I needed wasn’t easy.  But as I’ve mentioned, one of the best things about traveling is that the memories gained can never be taken away so long as you are alive.  Many many thanks to all of those who I was fortunate enough to cross paths with on this amazing journey 🙂

$85 a day

How much can $85 give you in one day?  A cart of groceries?  A fancy dinner and movie for 2?  An iPod?  These things sound good, even great.  But what if I told you that with $85 a day, you could travel the world?  Well…now I’m telling you!  $85 a day is plenty enough to see all of Machu Picchu, the Caribbean coast of Colombia, the nature filled Galapagos Islands, the ridge-lined Patagonian steppe, and much more.  All you need is an adventurous spirit, a little financial discipline, and desire to travel.  Not sure if you have the financial discipline?  Think again.  There are plenty of tools available out there to help you out.  Even as a CPA, I never would have been able to maintain my budget if I didn’t have the right tools.  Here are a few tips and tricks to use along the way.

Setting Expectations – Spending $85 a day traveling shouldn’t be a blind goal.  Setting realistic expectations while stretching for the experiences you travel for in the first place are both equally important.  If you’re traveling to London or Paris, $85 is unrealistic.  If you’re going to most places in South America or Southeast Asia, that’s very possible.  Researching costs where you plan to travel is key.

A Little Insurance – Give yourself a little wiggle room.  You never know what may come up and you don’t want to be strapped for cash when you just have to try that once in a lifetime…twice.  Budget an extra 10% for incidentals and emergencies.

Budget, Budget, Budget – Use a good budgeting tool.  Trail Wallet is a smartphone app that does the trick.  It allows you to budget with any currency and doesn’t require an internet connection.  Those are key functions for any travel budget app.  It also has some fun characters who keep you on the right track. (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/trail-wallet-travel-budget-app/id547171665?mt=8)

Beyond all of the effort that goes into a successful trip, make it that much better by living through it fully!  Just forget it all and smell the flowers.

One Thought: Transition

Change is a dread all of us feel many times in our lives.  Whether it’s changing a job, dating someone new, or graduating school, change comes during all phases of life.  No one can control change or prevent it from coming, but we can control how we approach change.  It just takes a focused mind and some practice.  Let’s think through a few examples together.

You’re at work.  An email comes through telling you about some new software that is being rolled out.  You LOVE the old software, but your bosses don’t like it and decided to get rid of it.  It’s pretty easy to get upset or just rebel against it altogether.  Who needs the new software?  You’ll be more productive anyway, right?  Maybe, but maybe you’re missing out on a feature you didn’t know existed.  Maybe you can spend even less time on this new software, even if it seemed difficult at first.  But how can you know unless you commit to it?  Here’s a hint, you can’t.

You just graduated high school.  Maybe you had a great time in school, maybe you hated it, maybe you are indifferent. Regardless, maybe you’re nervous about college because you’ve heard of the long papers you’ll have to write, the long chapters you’ll be required to read, the new friends you’ll have to make.  It can be daunting.  But what is the benefit of avoiding the change and sulking into the past?  While that may be a natural reaction, making a conscious decision to dedicate yourself to this new life can have irreplicable benefits.  Those new friends you just made, they’re your friends for life.  That knowledge you forged, that’s the basis for the job you’re about to earn.  None of which would be possible without a commitment to change.

You just had a brilliant idea.  This new business could make it BIG.  Or, it could fall on its face.  Here’s the catch.  You need to quit that cushy job with reimbursed travel, lots of free happy hours, and a great set of coworkers. Interested?  Maybe, maybe not.  A big part of the hesitation is not wanting to deal with the change.  Change in lifestyle, change in people around you, etc.  But without embracing change, you could be forgoing an even greater sense of purpose in building something from the ground up and creating a new team that will do great things.  All foregone because of that pesky resistance to change.

Would we have different reactions to these circumstances if any details changed?  Unfortunately, probably not.  Change, though initially painful, is the breeding ground of all progress and growth.  The next time you find yourself in a state of resistance, remember that the next best version of yourself is just beyond the horizon of revolution.

One Thought: Memories

Anniversaries have long been a source of nostalgia, remembrance, and reasons to celebrate.  From Christmas to July 4 to the passing of a loved one, anniversaries are our way of acknowledging a significant event some number of days or years ago.  This week happens to be the very week that I quit my job and took off on a journey I’ll never forget, one short year ago.  It is the anniversary of the birth and death of tangential chapters in my life.  But I look back on that time with a fondness irreplaceable, despite its ever lengthening depth in my memory.

The same memories that vibrantly ring in our minds during the moments, hours, and days that follow something memorable will sink back over the weeks, months, and years thereafter.  And so the Andean ridges and mountains and whispering oceans ring heavily in my mind like the echo of a cavern.  I miss those memories as I recall them but I don’t live in them.

Living in the past is not advised, but if we can look to our past to dictate our future, reminisce onward.  In fact, reminiscing is known to give some health benefits if done in the right fashion.  So maybe its flipping through an old yearbook or photo album, reading through your facebook stories of years gone by, or just daydreaming of youthful summer days.  Whatever your memories are, don’t be afraid of them.  Embrace them and make them into greater tomorrows.

One Thought: Positivity

Optimists, dreamers, idealists, unrealistic, impractical, etc.  Those are a few thoughts some may have applied to those flooded with that positive personality gene.  Positive people can easily be disregarded for their seemingly ungrounded position.  But if you’re a positive person you’re certainly not worrying about these things, because they aren’t…well…positive.

But therein lies the true beauty of positivity.  It’s not about ignoring the important things in this world just to put the mind at ease.  It’s about the focus on what matters in a positive light.  It’s also about putting a higher priority on making life more enjoyable by making the best of even the bleakest situations.

In this world we can be confronted by a range of provocations.  From that guy (or gal) cutting us off on the highway to the roommate who doesn’t change the damn toilet paper when it runs out.  There are so many opportunities to have the negative voice shout louder.  Change the script.  Think different.  Wave to the driver, hug your roommate with a smile, change the interaction.  More often than not that you’ll be surprised by the reaction.  Especially when they wave a smile back.

%d bloggers like this: