Wednesday, March 31, 2010


In a previous post I was talking about a debatable Free Will and how others influence most of our lives.
On a similar note, today I would like to share some things I learned about the need to feel important, which is THE ONE motivational factor for most things people chose to do in life.
Everyone is driven by the desire to feel important in the eyes of others, so many of our decisions are directly influenced by this - from the things we chose to wear daily, to the car or house we buy.

Food for thought: if you'd be completely alone on this planet, which things would instantly become unimportant, or at least drop on a very low level?

After acknowledging the power of importance, the next obvious questions are:
- how is this useful to us?
- where and how exactly can we apply this information?
Well, it is a priceless piece of information, as it reveals the proper way to talk to people and how to befriend them.
Asking people about themselves and genuinely being interested in their lives and well-being, makes even the grumpiest ones to open up to you.
Instead of talking about yourself and trying hard to get people interested in you, asking about the other person's thoughts and expectations, has a lot better and quicker results.

And it works everywhere!

Networking in a business environment starts smoother with a smile and a question about the other person's project. No matter how good your project is, praising it from the start will gather less interested people, than talking first with everyone about their own ideas.
Don't start by saying something like: let me show you how good I am. Begin by asking others about their own accomplishments.
It doesn't look like a direct approach, but that's the fun in it: a favor always returns with some extra stuff like relationships, feedback and even new ideas for improvement.
This way we found out that you don't have to work on selling your idea (everyone is already fed up with selling techniques anyway); instead, you give others what they need: a bit of attention and the feeling of importance, and you accomplish incredibly more this way.

At the supermarket, greeting and smiling at a bored cashier can speed up things, change the look on her face and generally increase the quality of the service/treatment you're receiving (be might also get you a serious punch from your girlfriend :)..).
The cashier doesn't do all these because you were nice to her, but because she feels important to you and doesn't feel anymore like a simple clerk serving the ...god knows what number of customer in that day.

I feel like I jumped in the middle of a subject without covering the basics. Here's something about conversations.
When meeting strangers, many people tend to be passive and wait for the other ones to start a conversation. Unfortunately, this doesn't work most of the time, mainly because the others might expect the same thing, or just they're not that interested in chatting.
As an "ice breaker", a sincere "how are doing today" accompanied by a hand shake, works like a charm, contrary to the simple and sometimes rushed salute: "good morning/evening.."
In an effort to make a change in my relationship with the elderly neighbors of mine, I tried this a couple of days ago: I started asking them about the dog they were walking, or about some trivial things such as weather, health, spring etc.
And now, instead of being cataloged as "that noisy motorcyclist", they put a smile on their faces when they see me (I'm talking about people that didn't have the initiative to salute me in the morning, or hardly answered properly to my salute).
With this occasion I also discovered a misconception of mine: I had this feeling that many old people don't wish or can't have small talks (especially with strangers or youngsters), that they are close minded and bored with life..
How wrong I was, you just have to get them started and then it will be hard to make them stop.
It's obvious they still have the same need as the rest of us, maybe even stronger because with the passing of years they stop being important in their circle: kids grow up and become self-sufficient, connections with other people are lost or diminished, society changes and their knowledge is not useful anymore.

With this post I just scratched the surface about one of the basic human needs. So, feel free to add your own ideas and fill in the gaps.
To anyone interested in the subject, I recommend this book: Dale Carnegie - How to Win Friends and Influence People


Thursday, March 25, 2010

One month on the road - preparations and travel plan.

The deadline for the one month traveling is closing fast and we're not yet ready with the most important aspects.

One thing we've done so far was to change the blog's template. Hope you like it :).
I worked really hard for two weeks in order to have it looking and working properly.

About the To Do list, our priorities look like this:
- visas for Syria, Jordan and Egypt;
- vaccines (don't know what exactly, but we're going to visit a polyclinic and find out more);
- backpacks - we've already ordered these ones from Amazon:

We preferred this model as it has side opening, allowing quick and complete access to the content, unlike top loading backpacks which require going through everything in order to reach the stuff placed at the bottom.
Also, there's a removable day pack in front of it, which is great to have on shorter trips while the rest of the luggage is back at the hotel.

- neck wallet:

There were cheaper models to choose from, but we decided on this one because it has a slash-proof strap and very good reviews.

- universal power adapter:

Couldn't find a proper adapter here in our town, so we ordered this one as well.
Taking into account the number of gadgets that will need recharging (notebook, two cameras and two phones) we'll have to throw in - a multiple outlet, as well.

- flashlight:

Well.., I'm not sure about carrying a flashlight, but Andra suggested to take one with us. So, since I already wanted a dynamo recharging flashlight, I ordered a good one (good price, nice reviews, waterproof). We'll see if there will be any situations where a flashlight will come in handy.

Total investment for the stuff ordered from Amazon - a little over 280 euros.
Too much for one month traveling, but OK taking into account that we'll also use these for the one year around the globe ;).

Let's continue with the list. Below are things we'll buy here in our town:
- emergency and first aid kit with usual content: bandage and disinfectant for wounds, pills (aspirin and analgesics for headache, stomach pills, antibiotics etc), compass, fire starter, whistle and other stuff.
We might buy one kit or just buy items separately (only the ones that are useful for us).

- vest for photographic equipment:

I'll take with me all lenses for the dslr camera (50mm, 18-135mm and 50-200mm), as I would hate to miss good photo opportunities because of lacking equipment.
So, in order to have quick access to them and be able to change fast, I'll be looking for a vest like the one above.
Special photographic vests are incredibly expensive (prices start from 70 euros), but I found that they're not that different from normal ones which are at least three times cheaper.
I'm also considering a special photo equipment belt, as an alternative. A lot more expensive though ~ 50 euros; also - too obvious and maybe uncomfortable in certain situations.

- pants 3 in 1:

I discovered them a couple of days ago and thought that they are really interesting: can help in lowering the number of clothes we'll have to carry (pants are usually the heavies clothes).
Andra immediately shared my excitement and we decided to go and check them out (next week).

- sleeping travel pillows:

We all know how hard is to sleep in a moving vehicle so these are very good for taking a more comfortable nap in such situations. They keep the head from moving too much sideways or falling in your chest.

- bandannas:

As Joel mentioned in his blog, a bandanna is like a multifunction tool - useful in many situations.
I already have one for motorcycle rides and it's great; so, one more is needed - for Andra.

Well, right now I can't think of any other stuff to put in our backpacks, except clothes and usual accessories one has in the house.
Anyway, we're open to suggestions, so feel free to give us ideas :).

Our route is: Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Egypt - in 30 days - starting from the end of May. Except for Istanbul and Cappadocia in Turkey, we haven't decided yet about what exactly we should see in the other three countries.
We'll update the travel plan as soon as we have a more precise route defined.

Joel - with his vast experience - is helping us a lot by answering to our many questions. Also his blog is a very good resource for long term traveling.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Free Will.

Working schedule over, usual evening at home..but not for long; ..until you hear a knock on the door.
You open it and see a foreigner, a complete stranger...and guess what, you naturally say: "hi there, just come on in".
And after that, what? A real adventure, I tell you.
Both sides work on crossing the language barrier, trying and succeeding most of the time, in deciphering the other person, by simply asking and sharing.

It's a natural process of bonding, learning and acknowledging. Pretty much the exact thing that it is currently being lost - especially in the cities - where people tend to become more indifferent and cold, to the point where minutes in the elevator or in a line, are minutes of embarrassing silence. Only because no one dares to take initiative and start a conversation with "strangers".
Those strangers could very well be possible best friends, nice acquaintances to have, or just a good way of passing time without losing it completely.

Changing the subject a bit: last week I followed a debate about having or not having Free Will.
And the resulting idea was this: while living in communities, our lives are mostly influenced by others and not by personal decisions. Like a surfer waiting for a mighty wave, we do take some decisions of our own, but afterwords we just go with the flow, until we're again able to take another big decision.
For example, we stop searching for a job after we get one; and from that point on, years are then decided by managers, colleagues, society and our fear of leaving the comfort zone.
Same for changing the city we're living in for so long, because we'll have to leave all of our friends and connections.

Who says we won't find other good and interesting people, or that we won't be able to keep in touch with the old ones? Who says there won't be similar or better opportunities?
Actually.., who says all these? Parents and good friends who are understandably afraid for you; friends or acquaintances that are a bit selfish and don't want to see you experience more; TV and media which emphasizes on problems rather than opportunities.

Talking about TV, there is one spot currently playing in Romania which sounds like this "There are many reasons to travel the world. We'll give you 10 strong reasons to stay at home!".
Gosh, it sounds so wrong, especially because many people are influenced by TV.
Sure there can be difficulties, but those are only things to be aware of and not reasons to "stay at home".

To conclude, these two seemingly different subjects are actually complementary: one contains the problem, while the other one gives just one of the many possible solutions - for taking the change in our own capable hands.
Enlarging our horizons and meeting new people doesn't mean we completely get back the free will, but we do increase the chances of receiving new opportunities and having a major change in our lives.

Written by someone just looking through the rabbit whole, still a bit reluctant to take the full plunge :).


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Week-end: couchsurfing & board games.

It's been a while since we've hosted a couchsurfer in our home, and Yohan was like a breath of fresh air in our usual week-end plans.

Once again we stayed up until late at night, chatting, teasing, cooking, sharing thoughts, comparing countries, praising, criticizing, debating on the world's problems :) and so on.
As usual, our discussion became more lively directly proportional to the quantity of white wine consumed :).

Yohan was kind enough to cook us a rather complicated meal, which we enjoyed a lot.
Also, the wine he brought from France, nailed our local assortment (from a well known brand). On the other hand, the home brew wine seemed to have impressed our guest (of course, judging by the quantities we all drank in one sitting).

On Sunday, we met with Cornel and Alina for a new game-board session. This time we concentrated on cooperative games, where the players had to work together in order to beat the game.
As for the result, let's say that the human side had most of the casualties; but we will have our revenge next time :).


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Old photos - New Technique.

The technique is "aggressive" cropping, and it is new to me.
I used to crop photos using the rule of the thirds, but never before did I think about massive cropping.
Hope you enjoy the results. I sure do :).

Here are three of the original pictures compared to the cropped result:

And a last example that clearly shows how a photo previously tagged as "unusable", turned into something quite nice: