17 Jun

Want To Be Successful? Surround Yourself With Better People And Level Up

Photo Credit: The Thinking Doll

It’s been seven months since my last day of cubicle work. A lot has happened since then. We sold all our stuff, visited family and friends for a while, moved to Chiang Mai in Thailand, started The Global Bookshelf, and set ourselves on an entrepreneurial path with all the ups and downs that go along with that.

The best thing we did though? Surround ourselves with passionate, motivated, forward-thinking, successful people.

Chiang Mai is a hub for digital entrepreneurs. The laid back vibe of the city, coupled with a warm climate, cheap living, and fast internet means that there is a large community of people making an unconventional living.

It took a while, and it meant really stepping out into uncomfortable to make ourselves go to the meetups, but we wormed our way in and were left nothing short of super inspired.

I realized that we always underplay our successes. I met people that I already knew on-line; people I consider successful and ahead of me. My confidence soared as I found that I actually know more than I realize and am just as successful as these friends. I just need to start using what I know rather than hiding behind always thinking I need to learn more. More action and less preparation.

I found that even the most innocuous of conversations can be a learning event. I would learn about a new process or method while chatting to someone while at our workout sessions. I would find out about a new tool or website while sharing a beer at one of the fabulous dinners our friends would host. I just needed to step out and take the time to ask the questions. Almost every single conversation I had ended with me running home to research whatever I had unearthed.

I now know just how hard people are working to make their dream come true. Being surrounded by successful people means being surrounded by some of the hardest working people I have ever met. The hours people are putting in, the innovative ideas they are generating, and the dedication they have left me reeling. It’s the difference between knowing the kind of time people are putting in and realizing just how much time that really is. I was left impressed and quickly recognized that we need to step it up.

It’s challenging to surround yourself with people who are better than you. It’s comfortable to stay in a familiar circle relying on what you know and feeling confident in your abilities. It’s more than worth it to step out and see what you can learn.

Two things I have learned:

  1. You know more than you think you know. Once I started talking to people I realized that my knowledge base is quite wide and deep and that often, even if I don’t know something, I can relate it to what I do know. Turns out that the chasm between what I want to know and what I do know isn’t that big.
  2. People want to help. They are willing to answer questions, tell you what they’re up to, and share their hard earned secrets. No, they’re not going to tutor you but if you listen closely, ask questions, and respect what it is they do, answers will result and then it’s up to you.

I had no idea of all the different things people were up to. Meeting so many digital entrepreneurs here has opened my eyes to the myriad of ways that people are out there making a living. Sure, it’s not all for me but I have learned something from every single person I have met. I can only hope that perhaps I have helped someone along the way also.

Success is definitely more than just what you know, it’s also about who you know and what you can learn from them. Agree?


10 Jun

Monday Moment: BOH Tea Plantation, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

BOH TeaHouse, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

The Cameron Highlands of Malaysia are a cool oasis from the hot, humid lowlands below.

I was surprised by the modern architecture of the BOH Tea House on the grounds of the plantation. I don’t know what I was expecting but it sure wasn’t this Frank Lloyd Wright reminiscent piece of work that jutted out over the tea fields below.

Others might have expected something a little more rustic, but I think it added to the scenery perfectly.

03 Jun

What Happens If The Worst Happens?

What would you do if something happened to your family? That’s one of the first questions people ask when they learn that we travel long term.

Our answer has always been that we would return home should ever the need arise. That we live a life that affords us the opportunity to be anywhere and that includes where ever we may need to be.

We haven’t lived near our hometowns, or families, for quite some time even before we chose a life of travel. In fact, our new travel life has only improved our situation in this regard. We can pick up and leave at a moments notice; being where we need to be without worry of job security, time constraints, or, for the most part, funding considerations.

It means that, for us, the ‘what happens if the worst happens?’ question is better answered now than it ever was.

Which is fortunate because we now find ourselves in a position to have to answer the question directly.

We learned last week that a family member is ill and so we have left Chiang Mai and returned to Canada. Although we are terribly sad that our summer plans have changed so drastically, we are also relieved to be able to return to help out where needed.

It’s an interesting emotional journey to get here. I’ll be honest here because the ‘what happens if the worst happens’ question deserves it.

After the shock of learning that a loved one is ill enough to warrant our return we sat on it for a day or so. We had made flight arrangements, managed leaving our apartment early, canceled rental agreements we had made for the summer, and withdrew from job competitions; all the stuff that needed immediate attention. And then we just didn’t tell anyone.

Telling people would make it real and, somehow, I just wasn’t ready yet. We needed to grieve a bit; feel sorry for ourselves and let the sadness find its place. So we moped a bit, had a few drinks too many, and got ready to meet it all head on.

It’s not selfish to do so. It’s reality. Often there can be guilt around thinking of ourselves; I think that’s bullshit. I don’t want to, and won’t, wallow in it but there is a place for grieving for what would have been, for realizing what you’re losing, and for coming to terms with the situation. And then it’s time to pull on the big-girl panties.

We’re here now, in Canada, getting ready for what might come, grateful that we can continue with our projects where ever we are, and proud of ourselves for being in a position to be able to help.

It goes to show that the one question that is often a hurdle for people actually has an answer that should remove the hurdle.


27 May

Monday Moment: Turkish Hammam

Turkish Hammam


That’s more than 500 years ago! The sense of time and history in Turkey was often lost on me as I tried to imagine what the world, and life, must have been like when this hammam was constructed oh-so-long-ago.

I wanted to experience a piece of that tradition and history while in Istanbul and so researched one of the oldest bath houses in the neighbourhood.

It was one of the most…ummmm…interesting experiences of my travels and, without doubt, spawned one of my favourite travel stories.

Read All Cleaned Up to hear more of the soapy tale.


13 May

Monday Moment: Novice Monk Procession, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thailand Monks

Waking to the sound of Thai blaring from the mammoth speakers in the back of the truck we stumbled out to the patio to see what all the hub-bub was about. The truck passed slowly shouting indecipherable commands to the empty early morning street. In its wake residents soon emerged setting up small tables with juice and food packets obviously waiting for something to happen.

We watched from on-high, as we often do, searching for clues to help us understand what is happening around us. In a country such as this, whose culture and traditions are so far removed from our own, we often don’t do well at the guessing game but we are happy to wait it out.

A minute later, in complete contrast to the noisy introduction, a procession of novice monks rounded the corner onto our street. Silently, in bare feet and vermillion robes, they padded along the street stopping only to receive merit offerings from the waiting residents.

In a moment they were gone, leaving only the incantations of the more senior monks giving blessings to those waiting.

09 May

Chiang Mai Street Food Tours

Where I’m from street food conjures up images of late night street corners, drunken frat boys, and hot dogs that have taken one turn too many on the merry-grill-round.

Here in Thailand street food is the epitome of everything we’re looking for; fresh, whole food, individually prepared, and some of the tastiest, cheapest noshing available.

Set up in what are parking lots during the day, night markets transform the landscape at dusk. Stalls emerge, tables are set up and full on food courts are born. I love the efficiency.

We visit these markets nightly but tend to stick to what we know. Familiar vendors who create the usual suspects; paad thai, khao soi, pork and rice. We’re intrigued by other dishes we see but lack the language to, #1 know what anything is on the written menus (that often don’t even exist) and, #2 ask.

We’ve evolved a little though. We sometimes point at other patrons and just have what they’re having without ever knowing what it is which, of course, means we can never have it again…because we don’t know how to ask.

And so, after three months of being here, we decided to try a street food tour. A guided walk through the markets and stalls that are familiar to us and yet still so unreachable.

Chiang Mai Street Food Tours got its start just this year. As a former hill trekking guide, Chai saw the need when clients would ask him about all his favourite places to eat after trekking. Realizing that street food seems daunting and inaccessible to visitors he got started showing them around.

Chiang Mai Street Food Tours

We started at the Chiang Puakor North, gate where the stalls are all lined up on the side of the road, for ease of drive by take-away, and tables are strewn across the former parking lots.

Chiang Mai Street Food Tours

Vendors spend their days prepping and preparing for the busy evening rush. Bowls of mild chilis, roasted pork, onions, garlic and greens await use in various dishes.

Chiang Mai Street Food Tours

Besides learning what each stand offers we are schooled in how to order.

“Ao khao ka moo” stutters Jason. The girl listens ever so patiently and then looks to Chai for confirmation of the order. Pointing and ordering is so much easier!!

Chiang Mai Street Food Tours

Pork, simmered in cinnamon, soy sauce, sugar, and five spice for hours, arrives at our table. We add the gingered, spicy, sauce ourselves. Not all Thai food is hot and often it’s possible to control the spicy-ness ourselves.

Chiang Mai Street Food Tours

Chiang Mai Street Food Tours

Pork sausage strings are served with cabbage, chilis, and vinegar sauce. The sweetness of the pork complemented by the crunchy heat. We hadn’t tried these before but we’ll be having them again!

Chiang Mai Street Food Tours

Pork buns. At least once a week we drive by the North Gate Market and pick these up for a light dinner. I think I’m addicted.

Chiang Mai Street Food Tours

It is the efficiency of these stalls that amazes me. With very little space and often only one burner they churn out some of the best food in the world. How do they stand over those woks for hours on end? To protect themselves from the chili vapor some wear face masks too. Stifling!

Chiang Mai Street Food Tours

At the Chiang Mai gate we found seats away from the crowd while trying Chinese curry noodles. By this time I was so full I could only manage one, tasty, mouthful!

Chiang Mai Street Food Tours

The tour was excellent. We tried many dishes both savoury and sweet; many we hadn’t tried before. Now we can add a few more places into our regular dinner rotation.

If you go I suggest you bring a sense of adventure, and skip lunch.


29 Apr

Monday Moment: Paharganj, New Dehli, India

Paharganj, New Dehli, India

It’s no secret that we really struggled with our time in India.

It’s a time that I still frequently think back on as I try to impart the lessons I learned then to my traveling life now.

It comes up more often now, of course. We’re meeting new people all the time; hearing stories of their travels, and telling stories of our own. India is always a source of fascination; whether a person has been and is interested in comparing experiences, or if they have not been and want to know what it was like.

I always try to tell our story emphasizing that it is our story and point out that there are many, many, factors that lead to a persons experience in any place. India is indeed hard but she wails a siren song that is difficult to ignore.

This picture is from the Paharganj area of New Delhi. We were staying just down this street a few blocks. I have no idea why the metal detectors are there as I’m sure they didn’t work although once in a while we were directed to walk through. Oh, India!

25 Apr

Dis-connecting At Bamboo Nest, Chiang Rai

Leaving Chiang Rai would be like a breath of fresh air. Except that there isn’t much fresh air to be had at this time of year.

Farmers are burning their fields and the still air offers no relief from the unrelenting smoke that fills the air. In fact, as we follow the river out of town and climb into the hills it seems to get worse. Soon, not only is the air so thick we can taste it, but huge black ash pieces flutter through it making their way to the ground.

It is, in fact, nothing like the stunning-vista’d getaway I had envisioned and is, instead, every bit a post apocalyptic movie sequence.

Pressing forward up ever steeper hills we realize just how remote our home for the next few days will be. Past the elephant camp and the massive Buddha in the hillside we are able to stay two on the bike until we reach the Lahu tribe village at the bottom of the single-track steepest hill leading to the red earth, pot-holed, ‘road’ to the finish. Here I must jump quickly off the back so that Jason can gun the engine and climb ever-so-slowly to the top.

Bamboo Nest, Chiang Rai

We made it.

“Sawasdee-ka”, we call to the seemingly empty clutch of bamboo huts sprinkled on the hillside.

Bamboo Nest, Chiang Rai

Noi is surprised to see us. A small, thin, wiry, man, he emerges from one of the buildings and immediately starts muttering as he rushes over to greet us.

“What is the date?” he asks as he searches on the endless keychain for a key that will finally unlock the reception door.

“It is the 22nd”, we say.

“And the day?” he follows up with.


“Ahhhh”, he sighs while slowly nodding his head, “we thought today is the 21st…Thursday…not Friday the 22nd. Your room is not yet ready”.

Not surprisingly, in this somewhat remote setting, he and his wife Nok have forgotten what day it is and weren’t expecting us today but in what would be their tomorrow. No worry, he points us to a sitting platform and gets busy preparing one of the huts for us.


Bamboo Nest lives up to its name. Nestled on a hillside the half dozen or so bamboo huts are tucked around a garden carefully tended by the couple. Here they grow bananas and pineapple, flowers and, not-surprisingly, bamboo.

The huts are rustic but surprisingly comfortable. Built by labourers from the village at the bottom of the hill, they are constructed entirely of bamboo. Floors, walls, roofs, porches and beds; all made from grass!

Bamboo Nest, Chiang Rai

Our room is soon ready and we easily settle in to do, well, absolutely nothing for the afternoon. There is no electricity (save for a little solar power), so no lights, no tv, no wifi. This is why we have come; to unplug for a few days, get our noses out of our computers, maybe even read a book!


Bamboo Nest, Chiang Rai

Surfing the line between asleep and awake I come to shore to the sound of a truck grunting its way up the track. With a practiced hand Nok guides the 4X4 up the narrow road while new guests hang out the windows wondering how the vehicle is clinging to the roadway.

Yay, more people!

As much as we like our own company, it’s been a while since we’ve shared a conversation with others and we’re looking forward to the interaction.

Making our way through the garden to the common area we meet our new friends for the next few days; two couples from France and a fellow from Denmark. We pass the evening learning about each others homes, travels, and future plans while enjoying a home cooked meal. Later on Noi builds a fire which we all eagerly gather around sharing travel stories and advice until sleep calls.

It is one of my favorite ways to spend an evening. It reminds me of our time at the Cave Lodge, another northern Thailand getaway reminiscent of early travel and adventure.There is definitely something to be said for unplugging from technology and reconnecting to each other.

We fall asleep that night to the sounds of jungle frogs and crickets; the cool mountain air a welcome relief from the heat we’ve been experiencing in Chiang Mai.

Bamboo Nest, Chiang Rai

The next day, following some lengthy lounge time on the patio, we manage a hike to the local waterfall. There are plenty of hikes in the area; many possible on your own or Noi can arrange a guide for single or multi day excursions. The hike is easy. Over cultivated hills and down into a valley before rising again along side the waterfall. Just enough activity to say we’ve done something to earn our beer but not entirely taxing.

Bamboo Nest, Chiang Rai

Bamboo Nest, Chiang Rai

The evening follows the same pattern as the previous. Our group is joined by two young English gap-year chaps; amused by their naivety while at the same time longing for some of it ourselves we again spend the evening chatting and laughing and enjoying each others company. Perfection.

Bidding good-bye early in the morning, we make our way back down the treacherous hill in the cool light. It’s been a tremendous retreat, a great way to reconnect with traveling and travellers, and a welcome respite from technology, but it’s time to head back.

There are a tremendous number of luxury resorts in Thailand but, if you want to get off the beaten track and really get away from it all then somewhere like the Bamboo Nest is perfect. If you’re in the area I recommend you stop by and spend a day or two reconnecting.


15 Apr

Monday Moment: Bus Stop In Northern Turkey

Northern Turkey

We were outside of the tourist bus routes while traveling in Northern Turkey so hopped on the commuter buses that run from town to town. Not only do these buses travel slower (and skip the mandatory tourist rest stops along the way) but they allowed us to see parts of the country we might not have otherwise.

I spotted this guy from inside our bus as we waited at a small depot for the bus to fill up with passengers before leaving. It’s one of my favorite photos.

11 Apr

The White Temple And Black House Of Chiang Rai, Thailand

Coming from a western world there is plenty of strange and unusual to be found here in Thailand without having to look too hard. There isn’t a day goes by without my head being turned by something or other. I try to learn, though, and can usually figure out some reasoning behind what it is I’m seeing.

Both the White Temple and the Black House in Chiang Rai defied all reasoning.

White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

The gleaming white exterior of the White Temple

Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Gloomy exterior of the Black House

Although seemingly polar opposites of each other (even being located at opposite ends of the town!) they actually are quite similar.

The White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Hell’s Gate walkway to the White Temple.

Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Surprisingly white out buildings at the Black House.

Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Altar (?) within the white domes at the Black House.

White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Close up of Hell’s Gate at the White Temple

Mostly it’s a weirdness that just defies description. A seemingly macabre bent that sits strangely in these places billed as temples.

White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Standing guard at the White Temple

Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Skulls, drums, and skins ‘decorate’ this building at the Black House.

White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

‘Welcome’ to the White Temple

Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand

In the main hall of the Black House. Adorned with horns from I don’t know what, long stretches of snake skin, and creepy statues.

But also, a certain beauty.

White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Peaceful Buddha image at the White Temple.

Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand

The sun pokes through a smoky haze at the Black House.




08 Apr

Monday Moment: Chumphon, Thailand

Chumphon, Thailand

To say we visited Chumphon would be an overstatement. We stopped in for one night in order to catch a ferry to Koh Phangnan the next day.

Just off the main strip of the town is a small river; a quiet getaway from the traffic in town. I spotted this small fishing boat as we crossed a bridge on our walk.