Monday, May 31, 2010

Final preparations - Middle East trip.

On Friday we'll embark on our first long term travel: a one month pilgrimage in the Middle East.

Below is a rough route that may suffer significant changes, as we prefer to be flexible and avoid imposing a strict plan to follow. We'll simply go with the wind :) , relying mostly on advices from locals and couch-surfers that we'll meet along the way.
Of course, Lonely Planet guides and GPS will be among our tools, but interacting with locals is by far the best "tool" out there.

So, Friday - June 4th: bus from Bucharest to Istanbul.

13 hours drive.. enough to think ahead (make a list with things to see in Istanbul), listen to some audio books and have some sleep as well :).
June 5th - first day in Turkey.
We'll meet with our hosts and then we'll start exploring the city.

June 7th - fly to Egypt.
After two days in Istanbul - we'll fly to Cairo, where we haven't yet found full hosting in the couch-surfing community.

And here is where the plan ends. After 3-4 days in Cairo, we're going to see other attractions from Egypt: Luxor, maybe Hurghada, Sharm el Sheikh, then relly on ferries to reach Jordan (where we have way too many things to see).
Afterwords, Syria with Damascus, then Turkey again on the way back to Romania.

We'll keep everyone updated with route changes, stories and nice pictures from the locations we'll visit.

Right now we're taking care of the last details: visas, documents, luggage, bus booking, plane tickets, Amazon order (hope this one arrives in due time, otherwise we won't have with us the neck wallets and travel adapter).
We'll write again just before leaving the country, to update about the luggage details and share any interesting info.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A lifetime in numbers.

Have you ever wondered where time - our most precious resource - flies away during a lifetime? Below are some rough statistics for routine activities taking place in an average human lifespan:

- sleeping ~ around 20 years; - working ~ 9 years; - TV ~ 5 to 10 years; - internet ~ 5 years; - eating ~ 4 years; - talking on the phone ~ 4 years; - traveling/driving ~ 3.5 years; - cleaning ~ 3 years; - waiting in line for something ~ 3 years; - conversing ~ 2 years; - dressing ~ 1.5 years; - recreation ~ 1.5 years; - exercising ~ 1.5 years; - caring for children ~ 1.5 years; - shopping 1.5 years; - looking for misplaced objects ~ 1 year; - washing/grooming ~ 1 year; - opening junk mail ~ 8 months; - sitting at stoplights ~ 6 months;

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Overcoming obstacles.

There are many ways to introduce this kind of topic.. I'm going for a leap of faith and choose the worst one: I'm not the best person to talk about this subject, because I still have a lot to learn and a long way to master it. This was also the main reason I postponed introducing the theme in a previous post. At that time I realized that some more time was needed to digest all the things recently learned.

But still.., we're here to share experiences, and even though this one is not yet complete, it is worth to be mentioned. So, let's get started:

"Every wall is a door" (Ralph Waldo Emerson).
As already iterated previously, any problem should be seen as an opportunity. With this positive mindset, we can overcome even the most difficult situations, and also turn them into profitable outcomes.
But what happens when we either have no idea what so ever, or many solutions to choose from. Well, now it's time to explain the initially desired connection between creativity and obstacles: when overcoming the latter, creativity plays an important role. Just trying to do things the "right way", may not always be the right thing to do.
Also, experimenting or initiating a failure can actually help us gain more knowledge, than applying the same old solution over and over again.
Initiating failure by intentionally making a mistake, can open new perspectives. For example, I know a few people that enjoy DIY projects and always come up with new solutions to old problems. More than that, they don't apply the exact same solution twice, but continuously try to improve on the last one, or even create new solutions.
Of course, not everything turns perfect every time, but things evolve at a fast pacing in this manner.
Now, that's a successful collaboration between creativeness and boldness in assuming risks. So, taking some risks is a actually one of the solutions when faced with an obstacle.

Another concept that I discovered to be useful is to ask yourself: "how much is this particular thing going to matter in 10 years?" or "who would care in 10 years about this moment?".
These questions come in handy especially when panicking over some petty little things that no one is going to remember in a few months, much less in a few years.
We have this tendency to exaggerate over the least important things in life and we forget about the things that really matter.

Membership has it's privileges.
Doing things alone is not always a good idea. We are limited by our own capabilities as individuals and it's a well known fact that together we can achieve a lot more.
Being a member of a larger community grants us access to sharing of ideas, acquiring knowledge from more experienced members, and seeing things from different perspectives.

Since we were introduced to the Bucharest's business incubator (Bucharest Hub), things that took us 6 months to understand, started to become more clear in a matter of weeks. It was not the amount of information that counted, but it's quality.
We used to think that the internet can provide for anything. The problem is that the internet is too big, with a lot of fragmented information (from which, a lot is ideal or too general to be easily applied in particular cases). Is a lot more useful to talk directly to experienced people and ask for their qualified opinion.

And I'll end this post as abruptly as it was started: "to be continued" :)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hidden in plain sight.

We're staying 10 minutes away from this amazing place:

The bad part is that we've just discovered it entirely, although we've been living in this area for about 6 months.. We should definitely go out more often :)

This place is great for relaxing after a hard day at work. One evening, on the way to a couchsurfing meeting, one very tired Andra and a hasty Razvan turned into better, fully relaxed people - just by walking for a few minutes in the area.

Even 5 minutes by the lake can work wonders, so we will be visiting it regularly from now on.
Care to join us?

For those interested in the creating panoramas, it's quite simple with the Photomerge tool from Photoshop:
1. You need to have a tripod, or at least try to keep the camera as best as possible on the same line, between shots.
Now, in order to avoid having shots with different exposures, do the following:
2. Press the shutter button halfway while looking at the landscape, and note the aperture number and the shutter speed.
3. Switch to manual mode and punch in the previous numbers. Also, switch the focus to manual and leave it that way (if it correctly focused in the previous step).
4. Each shot must contain at least 20% elements from the previous shot, so that Photoshop can align them afterwords. Make sure you always include enough elements from one photo to another.
5. Try to shoot in Portrait mode, not just Landscape. It will take more pictures to cover the whole scene, but it also covers more in terms of height.

Monday, May 17, 2010

About inspiration, creativity and overcoming obstacles.

First, inspiration and creativity a few words (I wasn't trying to be ironic with "a few words", the post just got a lot bigger than initially intended).

hmm.. I wanted to start with something smart and comprehensive, like a "theory of everything" :) , but then I realized it's gonna be hard and it's probably more relevant to you all to start with some questions:
Where and when do you mostly generate new interesting ideas? Don't think about the trigger itself, but think about the circumstances; see if there's a pattern.
Did you notice that creativity tends to occur more often in cases like these:
- when going outside the comfort zone;
- after switching from the daily routine to a different environment (not necessary a major change, although preferable);
- when you have a total break from all the worries, tasks and whatever else occupies your mind most of the time.

All of these are true in my own case. If you dig a bit deeper and discover other situations, don't hesitate to share them.
About the last one, when in a getaway or a simple relaxation break, try to keep an open mind to everything that surrounds you, or that you come in contact with.
This last mention I think it is really important, as I can recall quite a few "breaks" in which no creative ideas surfaced, only because my mindset was to reject thinking and just craved for having fun & nothing else. We often do such things when we're fed up with work & routine, and then we just want to run away from them as far as possible, without taking into account the benefits of the "work & pleasure" combination.

Sources of inspiration.
The best ones are hobbies and areas in which you either invest a lot of time, or even excel at.
On the opposite end, new/unknown areas that you start digging into, can trigger some interesting connections.
A while back I had this purpose in life to know a bit from everything. It took me some time to realize that it's hard to keep up with the technological advancement and also it's pretty useless to now just a bit from everything, without having a topic to excel at.

I'll close this post mentioning some unlikely sources of inspiration:
- TV in general - yeah it can be a major loss of time unless you decide to follow programs relevant to your interests. Furthermore, it works just like Paracelsus's approximate saying: "the dosage makes the poison" ;) .
- movies or tv series that are worth watching.
Dragos Roua mentioned in his blog about acquiring "food for thought" by watching movies. I didn't actually got it immediately, but last night I saw one episode from "Being Erica" which was quite deep and meaningful.
Painfully meaningful I should add, because the ending part was awfully similar to some old discussions between me and Andra, when I was the one close-minded and Andra the creative mind :|.
On the same note, can you believe I once said & believed that motorcyclists are idiots that spend a lot of money on a useless mean of transportation :D. Yeah, I said that...please don't throw rocks at me.

About overcoming obstacles in another post..

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Learn and Share - Weekly Sum Up.

Wallpapers with quotes from books recently read (some I've instantly understood, with some I'm already experimenting, and others are yet to be fully discovered):

Business 2.0 principles (An interesting point of view about the "New Economy" - written in 1998!)
Matter. (It matters less.)
Space. (Distance has vanished.)
Time. (It is collapsing.)
People. (They're the crown jewels.)
Growth. (It's accelerated by the network.)
Value. (It rises exponentially with market share.)
Efficiency. (The middleman lives on in "infomediaries".)
Markets. (Buyers are gaining dramatic new power, sellers new opportunities.)
Transactions. (It's a one-on-one game.)
Impulse. (Every product is available everywhere.)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Nothing to fear, but fear itself.

"We have nothing to fear, but fear itself" (presumably written by Napoleon Hill for Franklin D. Roosevelt)
It was a perfect timing yesterday, when I got the chance to hear this quote and also test it.
I was on my way to the dentist, after two years pause since the last visit. Needless to say I was SCARED, especially because 13 years back I had a major repair on the same tooth - without any anesthetic what-so-ever (traumatizing experience..).

Anyway, I got to the dentist in 5 minutes after hearing the quote. The lady doctor was busy with something else and invited me to go directly into the consulting room.
After waiting for one minute, the solution struck me.
Instead of delaying everything and waiting for her to invite me onto the chair, then ask me to open my mouth - with the syringe in her hand, I took the initiative in order to ease my fear. Don't worry, I didn't take a tranquilizer or sting myself with anesthetic :) (although I was kind of taking into account those solutions too :D).
Instead, I sat alone in the chair and got accustomed with it (it was quite conformable). Then, we made some jokes when the lady doctor got in and saw me just laying there.
Next, when the sprayed anesthetic numbed my gums sufficiently, I told her that I'm ready for the shot.

What I did was to take the tough decisions myself, rather than waiting until I had no other alternative.
It turned out to be the best experience I ever had at the dentist. It wasn't perfect, because I didn't manage to stay relaxed all the time, but it was way different than the previous ones.
Where can we apply this? Well.., I can think of many situations where instead of delaying the inevitable and just waiting for something to happen; we can do everything in our own terms and drastically improve the situation.
So, fear only the fear and don't loose the chance to turn an unpleasant situation into a nice learning experience.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Time is I finally get it.

I've known this saying about time since forever, but I've never fully grasped the concept.
This week I've read (and listened) to some really interesting topics, related to optimal time usage.
Now I know that there is no such thing as "free time", and all the time spent doing nothing, costs us highly.

To put it bluntly, if we analyse everything from the money point of view, there are roughly three ways of spending time:
- learning and investing the knowledge (thinking about ways of reinvesting your profit / creating and reviewing new business ideas etc);
- simply spending money;
- or doing absolutely nothing (escaping in some temporary refuge like movies, sleep etc);
Now, it's not just about money; I only used the previous example to be as close as possible to the original saying. But.., to put it as Napoleon Hill says in his book: "riches" can be anything meaningful to you, not just material possessions.
If you don't use the "free time" to pursue your dream, no one else is going to do that for you. The world isn't simply stopping when you choose to do so, and you risk to be left behind.
So, stop loosing precious time and start doing something really meaningful (this last advice is also self-addressed).