Thursday, April 14, 2016

How you do anything is how you do everything

"How you do anything is how you do everything" I heard this on a podcast this week and it made me think. Is this true? Is how I do any one thing the way I do everything? This can’t be true…right? Is the way I studied for a Math test in high school the same way I would have prepared for my driver’s license test? My motivation for passing my Math test was zero while being able to drive around in my mom’s Hyundai Sonata was high. Is the way I prepared a dinner for myself compared to in an imaginary world where I made meals for girls? I don’t think so Tim…

While these are extremes, I do think the heart of the saying is correct. How I clean my room, create my gym routine, write my blog posts, plan my meals, think about money and the clothes I’m going to wear are all very last minute. I can’t think of one area of my life that is well thought out or well executed. I taught my grade 5’s the word improvisation this week. I should have put my picture next to the word instead of the definition I created. Why do I do this? I could think of maybe twenty reasons but then that would cause some serious self-reflection that I’m not prepared to do as a last minute action kind of guy but the main reason is because I’ve gotten away with it for this long and life has gone to a level that I’m satisfied keeping it at. The way I prepare for dates doesn’t drastically change from girl to girl. The way I prepared for my first teaching job and my last teaching interview wasn’t noticeably different. The way I approach thinking about the future 1, 3, 5 years from now is not much different than the way I looked at in when I was 18. (that's got to be bad right?)

There are tons of articles and quotes (which I love) that tackle this topic head on but I refrained from reading them because I didn’t want it to cloud my judgement. To this point, I think it’s true for the most part and also that I have a low amount of discipline and I could develop better habits. Discipline is a potential blog post topic because apparently it is a muscle that can be exercised and developed. I’ve heard that we only have x amount of discipline to use each day and once we have used our amount for the day, it’s gone so we need to be careful what we are most disciplined about. Now for what I’ve learned:
You know when you have done something at 100% of your ability. You know when you have given 80%, 60% and even 20%. How does that make you feel? If you are okay with it then you should continue giving that amount of effort. However, giving 95% one day can turn in 85% the next then you could be in a tailspin of effort, confidence and general life satisfaction. I’m confident that at some point my dad tried to preach this lesson to me but I needed a podcast twenty years later for it to enter my consciousness.

From “It may seem like you're just skimping on the unimportant stuff, or saving energy for your big tasks, but repetition makes a habit. Eventually, you get yourself used to the idea that doing most of something is okay, and one day that mentality can cross over into the things you do care about. You'll wonder why success eludes you, but the answer is in your process. If you do one thing lazily, you'll do everything lazily.
Doing everything 100% seems exhausting and daunting but would most certainly make me a better human. Do you give a 100% at everything?

From “I had accepted mediocrity as an option in my life and that’s exactly what I ended up with. If you have accepted mediocre in one area of your life, you have accepted mediocre. Full stop. The cure for this is to not allow mediocre to be an option in your life. If you don’t accept it, it’s impossible to end up with it.
This also has to be true and I have certainly been feeling mediocre as of late. So giving 100% would change this feeling I have?
One area of our lives affects the others. If our car is dirty and filled with garbage, we probably aren’t sitting at a desk that is completely organized or a closet that is being optimally used. Staying up late watching the OJ Simpson series will make you tired the next day which will make you crankier at work and with your friends.           (may be a real life example) Understanding that all areas of our life directly influence each other and how forming positive habits that make us feel like we are giving are all are important elements in these other articles.

Advice they give seems to be to start immediately. Clean your room for an hour, get three things done you’ve been putting off or a complete a task that will take a weight off your shoulders and do it 100%. That 100% will feed into the other areas of your life. Not leaving room for mediocrity to seep into our lives seems to be the best way to guard against it.

Entrepreneurship Quote 13

“Rarely have I seen a situation where doing less than the other guy is a good strategy.” Jimmy Spithill

Sunday, February 28, 2016

So what?

This has been a longer break than most during the last 4 years but some time periods are filled with appropriate, family friendly stories and some periods aren’t. Sunday night is usually when I like to get a little bit of my life in order and posting here for some reason helps me feel more organized and on top of my life. So I’m going to write about what is on the tip of my fingers and see where it gets us.

So I didn’t post in great detail about my Christmas Vienna, Munich, Paris, Barcelona trip and I also visited London, Amsterdam at the end of January and Canada until February 13th. Overall takeaway from those experiences? I feel as though even if I visited every country in Europe and saw every single sight there was to see, I would still feel that travelling solo makes me think in my mind: “Awesome. I’ve been to a new country and it’s great but who cares?” I’m starting to think that I’m not making anyone’s life any better by having this lifestyle and even if I went everywhere, it wouldn’t make me any happier. Maybe it’s just Europe. Europe is spectacular and historic spot but the places I’ve been to all kind of blend together. The problem might be that I yearn for more exotic places. I’m thinking Africa might solve my current complacency with my travels. Solution number two will not come as a shock to anyone here but finding someone to share these experiences with would drastically improve my outlook. Relying on someone else to improve your reality is a bad way to live your life but I can’t help but feel that it’s the answer. Does that mean I’m going to just settle down with the next Polish architect that wants to spend time with me? Maybe…..well no but I’m envious of couples who travel and love together.

So if my current mission is to find a wife, what steps should I take? Well I don’t plan on being in Poland forever so getting involved with a Polish lady might not be the solution however it might be. Return to Canada and find someone with similar values? Possible but I want to continue living abroad so I feel like I’m more likely to meet her whilst doing the thing that I think I love. Spending two weeks back at home also made me realize that I adore Canada but it's not the place for me right now. I also have next year to consider with money becoming more of a deciding factor in my next teaching choice other than fun (Thailand) and wanting to be in Europe (Poland). I don’t remember ever making a big life choice based on money but fun has dominated my deciding factors for far too long. I actually have a job interview on Monday which may become its own post depending on how well it goes. So to sum up, Poland is great, doing my own thing has made me happy but this whole wife thing needs to at least be moving in the right direction which I feel like it isn’t. Some might say we are regressing. I’ve also grown accustomed to a certain single lifestyle that might take some adjusting if I can manage to find a quality person to spend the end of time with. I'm also aware that each country I decide to live in certainly changes who I will marry. If I spent the next two years in the Middle East or two years in France, I'm almost 100% going to marry someone different. I understand how people become paralyzed by fear of making decisions. 

Next weekend my roommate and I are visiting Warclow, a small Polish city about 4 hours east of Warsaw. Paris for Easter is rapidly approaching with a Rome trip in May on the horizon. It looks like 6 weeks in Toronto for the summer is happening and I am looking forward to more than I should. My initial dream was to travel the entire summer but that sounded too expensive so I cut it down to three weeks until I spent two weeks with my nephew and 11 month old niece who I am madly in love with. When I started travelling people said I should do it now when I’m young because your priorities change. It feels as though my priorities are changing. I would much rather see my friends and family in Canada than travel Greece and Croatia by myself. 

Travelling is amazing but at the end of the day, I’m putting my head down alone on a pillow and I’d rather do it in a bed where the possibility of my 3 year old nephew opening my door with a Tupperware of banana bread at 7am, waking me up and asking me if I want some banana bread…ummm do you want some banana bread Ben? Hmmm sure uncle Bert…..

Being away really makes you miss small things. My brother and his wife were renovating their bathroom so I went with her and my little niece to IKEA to buy things for said bathroom. As we were getting the shopping cart and walking into the store I thought to myself “If I could spend the next hour with my family in this IKEA in Toronto or be alone in Cambodia wandering around Angkor Wat, I’d chose IKEA and it isn’t close." So you saw the Great Barrier Reef, I think that’s terrific but it’s not the most important thing at this point in my life. People over places in my opinion but I’m wrong a lot so let’s not all listen to me. That’s enough complaining from this Canadian. I look forward to another Canadian reunion this summer and look forward to finishing my European adventure strong these next 4 months. 

“No reason to stay is a good reason to go.”

Monday, January 18, 2016

26 mistakes in 14 days in Europe

Mistakes in Europe.

I got cocky. I’ve lived abroad for more than three years so obviously I don’t need to make a list or think this 14 day euro trip through in any detail. I’m not sure when I will learn to make lists, plan for errors and stop problems before they arise. I’d like to say 2016 is that year but it’s not off to the best start. I will rattle a few off and give however much detail I think is necessary. Will rate on a devastation scale on 1-18

turtle riding crocodile1 The Top 50 Pictures of the Day for 2015

1-Not bringing two pairs of shoes. 7.7 Need comfortable walking around shoes. I dropped the ball. One of my main thoughts was packing light. I reached that goal but sacrificed some important details.

2-Not bringing sandals. 2.8 Necessary for hostel showers and general walking around inside.

3-Not bringing a towel. 3.1 Need a good, cozy towel but space is a factor. I lost my quick dry towel a few weeks ago at the gym so now I’m a towel-less bachelor. Not looking up.

5-Not bringing soap. 1.9 Luckily they sell soap everywhere.

6-Not bringing a tooth brush. 1.7 Thought I could use a new toothbrush but didn’t think of it until getting ready for bed in Vienna. Not brushing your teeth for 24 hours makes you think crazy.

7-Not bringing tooth paste. 1.3 I don’t understand rules for bringing gels and liquids on planes so I essentially just avoid it altogether.

8-Not leaving enough time to get to the Paris airport on time. 7.9 
This was my second biggest mistake and could have been devastating. Not sure what I was thinking. Took me almost two hours to get from the airport to the Airbnb but for some reason I only gave myself an hour to get back to the airport in the morning before my flight to Barcelona. There goes 30 euro. 

9-Not bringing my laundry bag. 1.0 
Easy way to keep dirty clothes in a contained area and makes bringing laundry to a laundry mat much more convenient.

10-Forgetting my camera one day in Paris. 1.8 
A friend from Thailand has really made me question why people take pictures of most things in tourist centred places. I can find a thousand pictures online of the Louvre or Eiffel Tower but I bring my camera for what reason? I’m not in any of my pictures so I’m leaning towards not bringing my camera more often.

11-Not charging my camera battery one day after using it all day. 1.8 
Went to more places that day than the previous day of forgetting it completely. Love charging things so not sure how that slipped through the cracks.

train going through huge snow wall in canada The Top 50 Pictures of the Day for 2015

12-Not doing laundry until the second last day. 2.6
Clean clothes are almost essential and there’s laundry essentially everywhere you go. Just take the few hours and make it happen.

13-Not having my route planned out once I got to the Paris airport. 2.2 Writing this list is getting exhausting and slightly embarrassing. You need a plan of action once arriving to a new place. Hopefully a bus/train/metro route, some currency in that country and an upbeat attitude in trying to conquer a city in three days. Getting off the plane and thinking “Now what?” and there not being internet is not a place you want to be.

14-Not wearing a jacket/dressing up for the NYE party. 1.8 Bouncer said I wasn’t dressed nicely enough even though he let in people with tank tops later on in the night! Luckily our apartment was close by but wearing a jacket is almost always the right choice. (Actually learned this lesson again last Friday; there might be something wrong with me)

15-Forgetting my Canada t-shirt in Paris. 1.8 Just gives me a reason to visit Lyon and get it back!

16-Not bringing my day backpack. 3.2 Having a small backpack to carry around all day is quite convenient and will cut down on drink/food costs. Was worried about overall amount of size and space I had. Probably could have swung it and put my running shoes in it….

17-Not drinking enough water. 2.0

18-Not getting enough sleep the night before flight to Paris due to beer halls. .9 Worth it

19-Spending more money than my rough budget allowed. 4.0
70-90 euro a day is probably a good budget. I didn’t even do that many things but it adds up. 

20-I broke a glass… 0.4 Glass is fragile.

21-Walking tour in Munich was full so I should have booked free tour online the night before but I went the next day so this is barely a mistake. 0.8 As if you need to book a free tour! Spending twenty minutes researching the morning or night before a day exploring a new city is certainly worth it. Booking as much online and printing at home/hotel is recommended.

22-Not bringing or buying q tips. 2.0

23-A few wrong turns on subway stops but nothing catastrophic. 0.8 I didn’t study G.I.S.

24-Forgot lock. 2.1 Most hostels provide a locker but need your own lock, which I have two. The one I brought was too small so that didn’t even rattle me at all….

25-Not printing/checking in online with Wizz Air. 50+ euro mistake. 12.1 Don’t really want to talk about it other than almost always check in online and see what you need to print/bring/restrictions. I was too busy worrying that my carry-on bag was too small that I neglected that self-online check in.

26-I met a girl at a hostel bar after the beer hall tour and I had the thought in my head that I could marry this person. Would that be enough to ask/remember her name or add her on Facebook? Of course not Bert, of course not.  20?

I am certain I’m forgetting a few mistakes but the ‘Big Idea’ of this post is that planning and thinking ahead even mildly can solve many of your potential travel woes. Don’t get cocky. Be a humble, smart and thoughtful traveller. Almost everything you will do on your next trip, you could do more efficiently and probably for cheaper. Just keep Teacher Bert in mind next time you feel invincible and don't feel that you need that extra hour of prep time.

"Average people learn from their mistakes. Smart people learn from other people's mistakes."

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Vienna, Munich, Paris, Barcelona.

Two weeks sure does fly by. Not sure where to start. I finished school on the 22nd, took a train to Austria on the 23rd, spent 3 nights and
Christmas with a couchsurfer in Vienna, train to Munich on the 26th, hostel for three nights then flew to Paris with Nakhon crew in an Airbnb, flew to Barcelona where I met up with Jack in a hostel for a few nights now back in Warsaw. Let’s get to it.

Do you know why there is an enormous amount hype to see the Eiffel tower?  Because it’s breathtakingly unreal. I couldn’t build a tree house so I found it extra impressive. My expectations for the trip were low because that’s where all of our expectations should be but lowest for Paris because I was most excited to see my friends and haven’t heard great things about the French. Do you know what is convenient? Speaking the language of the country you are in. You come here for the hard hitting advice and you get it.

I find the French language quite lovely after having a 10+ year break from it and French people were quite kind. Now being totally upfront, a reason I may love the French is because on New Year’s people would just come up to me and tell me I’m handsome and give me drink tickets but I’m trying for that not to completely cloud my judgement. French food is quite good, Paris has tons to see and beautiful buildings. Metro is a little tough to navigate and humongous but after a few days started to get it. These are some of the things I saw:

Baguettes and coffee shops every 8 steps. Homelessness seems to be an issue and a big police presence throughout the city. French music? Incroyable!!!!


May be a tad on the expensive side but luckily I have a job. (As I’m writing this, I’m on a full train going from Barcelona city to their airport and a man has a stereo and a saxophone that is getting the people going. They do this on the metro and it’s not all bad)

Vienna? Gorgeous. Christmas is apparently a great time to go and see markets, the lights and horses. There wasn’t any snow so it lacked a certain Christmas feel to it but I’m glad I went. You aren’t missing out by never going to Vienna but there is tons of art, outstanding buildings, opera and high end shopping. Here are some of the things I saw:


Munich? Beer, beer and more beer. Went on a beer hall tour the last night I was there and it was the highlight of my trip in Munich. I made like 6 friends! 6! Without even trying even a little bit so I had people to chill with my entire time there. Train stations sure bring out the shadiness of a city. Once outside of the train deception area, you are home free. German people are smart, know tons of languages and are just down right efficient. I would say I prefer Munich to Berlin but Germany is a safe choice if you wanted to move or explore Europe. Here are some of the things I saw:

Barcelona? Dream Team? 1992? Olympics? Hercules? Unnecessary question marks??? Yes to all of those! Great waterfront, perfect weather, rich history and a party every night if you are down. Hype is real for Spain. Lots of parks, surfing, tapas, motorbikes and Spanish people. Took a walking tour with our main man A. J and he made learning fun! Quick story. George Orwell fought in the Spanish Civil War. He did not use that name because he made it up to sell books. His real name is Eric Blair. I spent my time in Barcelona with Jack and he’s much smarter and a better human than myself. Orwell is his favourite author and has read all of this books. So the guide asks who has read 1984. People lift up their hand. Then asks who has read Animal Farm. Less people lift up their hands. Finally asks who has read Homage to Catalonia, nobody lifts up their hands but Jack had read it but didn’t want to show off how well read he was. Complete opposite of yours truly. While he’s talking about Homage to Catalonia, he mentions Orwell isn’t his original name. I ask Jack what it is. AJ asks the group if anyone knows his original name. I shout Eric Blair! Everyone is super impressed. Except for Jack because he has realized he has a friend who is only into walking tours for the 5 seconds of glory. Sorry Jack.

Have three weeks of work then another 2 week break in February so I will be returning to Toronto on January 31st, hopefully an Ottawa trip then back to Warsaw on the 13th of February. I have another post lined up detailing all of the mistakes I made on this trip and will have another one about resolutions for the New Year. Hope your 2016 is off to a tremendous start and if you live in or around Toronto, let’s make a plan.


Never go on trips with anyone you do not love. – Ernest Hemingway


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

So you live in Poland; what’s that like?

What’s a Poland? Good question. Poland is a legit place that I feel very lucky to be a part of. Are the stereotypes of vodka, women, and pierogies true? Why yes it is. Are they also quite serious, a little tough to get to know and not big fans of people with massive cackle laughs? Yes to all three. While Poland might not be on the top of your European hit list, let me try and shed a little light on my home for the past four months.

Let me tell you a quick story about my most recent travel gaffe. The majority of poles are catholic so Christmas and Easter are huge here. We have been practising for our Christmas show for the last two weeks and my grade 5 show happened Monday and my grade 4 show happened on Tuesday. I would say both were successful. For my grade 5’s, I wanted to do something a little less traditional so we rehearsed a Christmas mashup to this video Now listen to it another 80 times and you will be on my level with IM5. After the show, parents brought in food and drinks. My Polish teacher welcomes them in Polish, I say a few things in my broken English and the eating begins. I get passed this:

Great. I’m hungry. Put on some Christmas music, eat my wafer, glad the show is over. Minute or two later, a student comes over, offers me their wafer, wishes me a Merry Christmas and a happy new year. He or she (I forget) tells me that I’m not supposed to eat my wafer but to go around the class, wishing people Merry Christmas and all the best in 2016. My wafer is now about 75% gone. Great. Can someone find me a new wafer? Embarrassing to be sure but I thought it was similar to a catholic communion where you eat what they give you. So this evening, my other Polish teacher asked me if I knew what to do with the wafer. Where was she yesterday? Polish people might find this funnier than you do but the lesson to be learned is if you are unsure about how to act in a new country/situation, give it a minute and act like everyone else. I also like the tradition because it is social and is an easy conversation starter. 

I saw my first wild boar family last week. At first glance I thought it was a bear. I’ve seen bears before in Canada but not wild boars so that was a surprise and a relief. Also had baby boars with it so that spiced up my Tuesday night. Apparently you need to run in a zig zag to elude them. Stupid boars.
Poland is definitely on the cheap side for Europe. Grocery shopping, Uber, alcohol, and most things are cheaper than in Canada. Most young people can speak English but there is a tipping point around 45-50ish and for sure grandparents are no hablo ingles. The amount of students, schools and studying that goes on in Poland is bonkers. Almost everyone who strives for a higher income/lifestyle has a Masters and is probably studying even more. Old or young, education is king. People from abroad and throughout Poland are a big reason I have a job so thanks Poland.

Making friends for me in general is a little tough because I’m not super outgoing and social to new people so by chance, one night we crossed the river into Praga, known as the more dangerous/seedier side of Warsaw to see what’s up. A random Australian and his friends started a conversation with me and another Canadian that I work with and we all hit it off. He works at a hostel in Warsaw so he likes talking to people and a hostel is a good home base to have to try and make new friends so progress is being made in the friend department if anyone out there is worried I’m staying in all weekend catching up on Touched by an Angel.

Two week break coming up next week that I’m greatly anticipating but I have another two week break in February that I’m even more excited for because I will be visiting Toronto, friends and family. Europe and travelling is great but family is what’s up. And snowboarding. And Underground. 
This will be my cheapest Christmas since I’ve been a kid due to lack of family nearby and a wide circle of friends in Poland. Weather has been quite warm which makes my 5 minute bike rides to school even more bearable. I’ve discovered that getting a masseuse to come over and get a hour and a half massage is only about $45ish dollars which I will be maximizing from here on out. Thailand was cheaper but I had to leave my house. Also paid someone under $20 to clean my apartment to a standard way over what I would have for myself and ironed my shirts. It’s the little things that get me about a country.

First few weeks went by a bit slowly but things are picking up now and I’m finding my groove. Will try and post a few more before the end of the year. Hope you killed it in 2015 and 2016 surpasses the expectations that you shouldn’t even have had in the first place. Don’t be a stranger.

“Three things cannot hide for long: the Moon, the Sun and the Truth.”