My 2018 year in travel

New year, new opportunity to reflect on how I opened my mind and my world through travel! Every year, I like to do a blog post which makes me reflect back on my travel throughout the past 12 months, and set some goals for the new year.

In 2017, I was bummed to not have traveled internationally (Canada excluded). This year I am happy to report that I did 3 personal, international trips! Additionally, I did spend a significant amount of time in Toronto, Canada this year. While technically international, it’s a very similar culture to the US, so hard to count. That said, I am really growing to love Toronto! I have my employer to thank for these opportunities to spend time there, we have a major office in Toronto, where most of the teams I work with are based.

My favorite trip this year was the trip to Paris that my fiancé and I took! We were having a particularly stressful time at work (we work together), and decided we needed some time to ourselves. So, we booked a week-long trip to Paris over the Thanksgiving holiday. There, we explored the city by foot and by Uber, checking out both tourists spots as well as local neighborhood life. The weather was cold, but dry, which made for a romantic setting as the holiday decorations came out.

Another highlight was a 5 day trip to Sayulita, Mexico. This small town north of Puerto Vallarta has a bohemian, surfer vibe. It’s a quiet, simple town, not overrun with tourists, but full of American expats. We rented an Airbnb right on the beach in a newer condo complex, and enjoyed an outdoor kitchen and living room, with Pacific Ocean views! When we weren’t at the pool and beach, or eating freshly made guacamole while relaxing in our outdoor living room, we were strolling the dusty cobblestone streets to shop and drink. We then got engaged shortly after this trip, so decided to do a destination wedding in Puerto Vallarta in 2019, “forcing” us to do a scouting trip in May of 2018!

Another highlight of the year was taking my 15 year old, soon-to-be nephew on his first flights! He lives in Connecticut and hadn’t had a reason to fly until we brought him to San Francisco to spend a week with us. Since he hadn’t flow before, I decided to fly to Hartford and fly back to San Francisco with him. We were scheduled to fly through Chicago, but a major thunderstorm was about to hit, and I quickly changed our flights to go through Newark. After a short, bumpy ride from Hartford to Newark, we had a long smooth ride from Newark to San Francisco, and he is now a comfortable and veteran flyer. He’ll be flying to Puerto Vallarta in March to be at our wedding!

I was also happy to see 2 new metro areas that I hadn’t been to before: Pittsburg and Raleigh-Durham. Unfortunately I didn’t get to spend much time there, with only 1 night in each and a schedule packed with meetings, but still fun none-the-less.

So, without further to do, here are my key travel stats for 2018:

  • 68,384 miles traveled (83% increase from 2017)

  • 52 flights (30% increase from 2017)

  • Average of 1,315 miles per flight (41% increase over last year)

  • 3 Airlines flown (United, Air Canada, Alaska)

  • 5 trips to Portland to visit family

  • 4 trips to Toronto for work

  • 3 trips to Las Vegas for work

  • 2 trips to Mexico for vacation (Sayulita, Puerto Vallarta)

  • 1 trip to Paris for vacation

  • First flight of 2018: Seattle to San Francisco, on January 1st

  • Last flight of 2018: Portland to San Francisco on Dec 27th

  • Longest flight: Paris to San Francisco, about 5,580 miles

  • Shortest flight: Hartford, CT to Newark, NJ, about 105 miles

I expect 2019 to come in about the same as 2018. I already have 2 Mexico trips booked in the first 3 months of the year, one for our wedding! We plan to take a honeymoon, and expect to make that an international trip, but we haven’t decided yet among Europe, South America, or Tahiti. I like to visit my colleagues in Toronto about once a quarter, so should have about 4 trips there in 2019. I hope to do one or two trips out east to visit customers, and will surely do 4-6 trips to visit family back in Portland, with the first trip already scheduled for January 26th.

Here’s to a fun, eye opening, rewarding, and safe year in travel for 2019!

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My 2017 year in travel

A number years ago, when my personal and professional life took a major turn, I committed myself to traveling more. Prior to that, I was fully wrapped up in work, and when i wasn't, I just wanted to stay local where I was comfortable. It was a short-sighted view that kept me from really experiencing life.

Since then, I've had some of the best times of my life while traveling near and far. I've grown in my knowledge, respect, and appreciation for other cultures. I've improved as a human being, and I think I've even gotten better at my job because of travel.

In 2017, I failed at traveling internationally. I try to do at least 1 international trip a year, but this year that didn't happen (I don't count Canada as international...its too similar to the USA to be considered a growth experience for me). I had planned to go to Argentina, but job changes resulted in putting that trip on hold, for 2018.

So, 2017 was a year of domestic travel for me! I traveled a fair amount, returning to some places for the first time in years, and revisiting common destinations. In fact, in 2017 I moved from Portland, Oregon to San Francisco, California, so some of my travel was to PDX, the first time I've been an adult visitor to my 'home' town.

This year's travel included:

  • Two trips to San Francisco as a visitor, before I moved in February

  • Five trips to Portland as a visitor, after moving to San Francisco in February

  • Moline, IL/Davenport, IA...also called the Quad Cities

  • Chicago, IL

  • Wichita, KS for a family reunion

  • Orcas Island, in Washington's San Juan Islands

  • Las Vegas

  • Seattle three times (once for work, twice to visit friends)

  • Two Hawaiian islands (Oahu and the Big Island)

  • Hartford, CT

  • Isle La Motte in Vermont's Lake Champlain (with some time in Burlington)

  • Toronto

I also got to explore my new home of Northern California a bit! I spent a few various days in wine country, including a spa day in Calistoga on one trip, some wine tasting around Heildsburg on another, and kayaking in Lake Sonoma while playing hooky from work. One weekend my girlfriend and I went to Palo Alto, just 30 miles away, in search of a hotel with a pool and air conditioning...totally worth it!

With that, here are my flying stats: 

  • 40 flights

  • 37,307 miles traveled

  • Average of 933 miles/flight

  • Most unusual flight: About 70 miles on seaplane with 3 take-offs and landings

  • 5 different airlines (mostly United)

  • Thats 23% fewer miles, 20% fewer flights than 2016

Here's to more international travel in 2018! Where should I go? Let me know on Twitter or Facebook!

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
— Mark Twain

My 2016 year in travel

Over the last few years, I've made it a priority to travel more. In the past, I had years where I either didn't have the time, didn't have the money, didn't have the interest...and in some years I didn't have all 3! When I went through some major personal and professional life changes in 2014, I made it a priority to see more of the world. About 6 months ago I wrote a bit about the various travel opportunities I've had and how it helps me be better at my job.

The year 2016 was a pretty good travel year for me. I started the year out in Cozumel, Mexico for a New Years trip. After a canceled trip to New York City in early February, I made up the trip in late February. In total I went to the east coast 3 times in 2016, adding Vermont and Connecticut to that Feb NYC trip. Of course, I had stops in Nevada (Las Vegas), Washington (Seattle), and a ton of trips to California (San Francisco 15 or so times, San Louis Obispo, Healdsburg, etc). One of my favorite trips of the past couple of years was to Mexico City, where I went in a desire to go somewhere that most others don't. Its an amazing city, with incredible history, culture, food, and people. I'll absolutely be back!

Of course, the highlight of my year in travel was 2 weeks in Spain with my girlfriend. I needed to be in Barcelona for work, so she joined me and we took a second week of vacation to explore San Sebastian, Haro, and Madrid. With two trips to Spain in the past 2 years, España is quickly becoming one of my favorite places in the world!

In total, it looks like I flew 48,510 miles in 2016, on exactly 50 flights (segments), which makes my average flight length just 970 miles. A whole lot of 550 mile flights to/from San Francisco will really bring down that average!

While nearly 50,000 miles and 50 flights seems like a lot, there were many places I didn't go. In 2016, I had hoped to travel to South America on vacation. I also wish I would have spent time in more states, specifically Illinois, Colorado, Georgia, and Massachusetts. Hopefully 2017 will bring me to these US outposts, and more! We have Hawaii booked for February, are talking about a Europe trip in the summer (France & Italy), and by the end of the year I'd love to work remotely from Argentina for a month.

What new and/or exciting locations are you traveling to in 2017? Let me know via Twitter or Facebook!

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
— Mark Twain

Build better products by vacationing more

Throughout my life, I've been lucky to do a moderate amount of travel. In the last couple years, my travel has increased significantly, including international destinations for work and play. In fact, over the past 12 months, I've traveled to Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Thailand, Mexico (x2), and even a small town on Canada's Vancouver island (via float plane, of course!).

While traveling, I can't help but notice the differences in the lives of the locals compared with mine back home. I'm talking small things, not the obvious things like income or weather differences. Lately, I can't stop thinking about these differences and how they should change the way I build products. They should change the way you build products. They should change the way everyone builds products.

Below are some of the small observations I've made while traveling this year and thoughts on how they might impact how products are built.

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Transportation

Do you have a manual or automatic transmission vehicle? If you are reading from the US or Canada, you likely have an automatic transmission. About 95% of new cars sold in the US have an automatic transmission. An automatic sure makes it easy for us to do other things in the car, like pull up Waze and get directions to our destination, or accept a new passenger in the Uber Partner app for those of you that drive for the transportation company.

However, outside of the US and Canada, I've observed manual transmissions dominating markets. From old, beat up, compact taxis to large, luxury, 10 person vans, manual transmissions are the norm in many countries (Thailand, Mexico, etc).

Now, think about using Waze, Uber's Partner app, Spotify, or any other mobile app you use in the car. Think your usage would be the same if you almost always have 1 hand on the stick shift? I bet not.

Differences in transportation go beyond that. I noticed in Barcelona and Bangkok, scooters and motorcycles are everywhere! Its possible that there are more scooter riders than car drivers in these cities. Knowing that, if your product was used for or during transportation, would you build it the same for scooter riders as car drivers? I wouldn't.

Also in Thailand, Tuk Tuks are the way to get around! Scooters modified to have seating for 2 behind or next to the driver! However, for those that do drive cars in Thailand, they all have these small, sharply curved mirrors at the very front corners of their hoods. What for? Turns out, Thai's drive through some VERY tight spaces, and this mirror helps the driver know how close they are to hitting another car, a wall, or a tree. They drive within centimeters of obstacles on a regular basis. If you are a car designer who's product will be sold into Asia, you probably should think about this before adding that bubbly fender design!

Finally, while Uber has made getting around a breeze in most cases, I experienced a problem recently that doesn't happen to me in the US. While in Mexico City earlier this month, I relied on Uber to get where I needed to go. It was easy, specific, cheap, and crossed the language barrier. There was one problem though: many of the destinations I wanted to go to where not in Uber's mapping database. I've taken for granted that every business or home that I want to go to in the US can be looked up quickly in the Uber app, pinpointing my drop-off location. Not true in Mexico City. Want to go to that great taco stand you read about on TripAdvisor? Don't expect to type the name into Uber and have a pin dropped in the perfect location! This happened to me about 3 times on during my long weekend there and appears to be common. Time to brush up on my Spanish!

Phones & Communication

If you live in a major metropolitan area in the US, especially on the west or east coasts, you are surrounded by iPhones. About 64% of American adults own smartphones, and about 47% of them use an iPhone. Now zoom out and look at the entire world. Less than half of mobile phone users around the world use a smartphone, and of those that do, Android dominates!

In fact, on a trip to Mexico City recently, I don't think I saw a single iPhone in the hands or vehicle of a local. Samsung/Android phones were the norm. In Thailand, outside of Bangkok, it was rare to see a smartphone at all. What the industry calls Feature Phones were the norm (in-between a basic phone with no advanced features, and a full on smart phone with fast web browsing, apps, etc). Building a mobile product for use outside of the US? You better think about these numbers and make sure you are building a product that your intended user can actually use.

Paying for things

Until I began traveling more internationally, I took for granted my reliance on credit/debit cards. At home, I almost NEVER have cash or change on me. This habit had to change when I began traveling internationally more. Go ahead, try to pay for something with a credit card on an island in Thailand. Almost impossible.

Cash is king in many destinations outside of the US, Canada, and Europe. In fact, even in Europe I am required to us cash more often than in the US. Most cabs in Barcelona have credit card machines, but some literally don't! Its nice to know that before you take a ride somewhere :)

In Thailand, I found that many cab and Tuk Tuk drivers didn't have change! Don't try to take a 30 baht ride and try to pay with a 1,000 baht bill. I did this once, and the Tuk Tuk driver had to take me to a 7-11 where I bought a water bottle and got change in smaller bills.

Even when you can pay with a credit/debit card, there are differences. Until recently, none of my debit/credit cards had chips in them. When paying for something in Europe, I found myself having to show the cab driver or restaurant employee how to run a credit card with a stripe instead of a chip. Seriously, it was foreign to them! Think about this if your product accepts physical credit cards and you want to sell your product outside of your home country/region.

This knowledge isn't just valuable when conducting a transaction. If you make wallets, pants and other personal items, remember that in some countries, your user is typically caring around currency. Paper bills, often pockets full of coins. What can you do to make their lives easier? Reinforce pant pockets to handle the change people carry? Provide more room for cash and less room for credit cards in a wallet? These are obvious ideas, I bet one of you out there has a much more brilliant idea!

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These are just a few of my observations, and while small, they could make or break the success of your product. So, what differences have you observed while traveling? What have you done to make your product more accessible to users in regions outside of your own? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter using the links at the bottom of this page!