My favorite travel hacks for my most annoying travel pet peeves

So we can all pretty much agree that traveling is awesome. You get to meet new people, learn about different cultures, get out of you comfort zone and have life changing experiences that shape the very person you are. Right here would be a great place to insert any random travel quote that shows you just how cultured I am and how travel is so wonderfully, earth shatteringly, amazing.

Yet, we’re humans. And as humans, we feel like we’ve earned the right to bitch and moan about our first-world problems (like how annoying long-haul international flights can be). But seriously, hoowwwww annoying are those stupid long-haul international flights. Somehow you always get stuck next to the snorer, or the crying baby, or the unpleasantly plump woman taking up all of the arm rest. Well, after all these years of traveling, I’ve picked up a few tricks to solve inconsequential travel annoyances that seem very consequential at the time.

1. Personal space (or lack thereof) in immigration queues at airports

This one is simply bizarre. I don’t seem to understand why all the wierdos who have no concept of personal space in queues line up exclusively behind me. It’s not like you’re going to get through any faster if you rub up on me?! It’s one person at a time, man, and just coz you’re standing next to me like we’re conjoined twins, doesn’t mean you’ll get through any faster. This one is especially true in places in Asia and South America. Back the eff up, dude, no-fuckin’ touchin!

Solution: The Suitcase buffer

Always travel with a hand trolley. Use said trolley as buffer against idiots that are trying to re-enact R Kelly’s bump-n-grind video on you at airports, train stations, bus terminals and any other transportation depot. The further you lean the trolley, the greater the buffer.

Told you guys the trick works.. via kckal

Told you guys the trick works.. via kckal

2. Getting ripped off by cab drivers

This one kind of hurts. You’ve got your paper map, your lonely planet and a $1,500 DSLR around your neck. You couldn’t look more like a tourist if you tried.

uhhh.. okay maybe you could…

So short of wearing a signboard around your neck, it’s fairly obvious that you are a tourist. And when you’re a tourist, cabbies tend to know you have no idea where you’re going. I call it the “tourist tax.” You pay because you don’t know the route and the cabbie can pretty much drive you half way around Buenos Aires for a 30 minute cab ride which should in normal circumstances, be no more than 10.

Solution: Cached maps

News flash: You can make sections of maps on your google maps smart phone app available offline. So for most of us who don’t have data on our phone while traveling we’re no longer stuck to the paper map to try and figure out where we are (and how lost we are). Cached maps along with GPS on your phone means that you always know where you are and where you need to go. So the next time that cabbie wants to take you through a “short-cut” that’s decidedly long, you can call his ass out on it and not sit cluelessly while the meter racks up the charge.

3. Window shopping restaurants

We’ve all done it. You don’t really know where you want to go for dinner and you’ll be damned if you go to the “local hotspot” recommended by Lonely Planet that might have been a local a few years ago, but the mere LP mention drove out the locals and drove in the tourists.

So, you walk around the neighborhood, window shopping restaurants trying to strike the perfect balance between the food craving you’ve got, the restaurant’s menu & the crowd and ambience inside. Suddenly 2 hours have passed and you decide to just go buy some cheese and wine from the grocery store and call it a day. #truestory

Solution: Foursquare that!

Yelp is great, but can be pretty much useless outside the US. There’s versions of yelp around the world but in my experience, most of them have sucked. Foursquare has the “where people are” market on lockdown. You can see what’s popular around where you are, check out tips, figure out the menu and ambience and boom: no more window shopping. What’s even better is that people tend to like to check into places that are cool so you get the most up to date info on where everyone is.

Okay, so these are my most hated travel pet peeves, and my favorite travel hacks to get around them. What are some of your favorite hacks?

Intensive Marketing Email — The New Relic Approach

New Relic managed to get me back and use their service again, in part because of their marketing email strategy. It is intensive yet creative. Here’s the approximate email marketing strategy from a company that clearly gave this matter a lot of thought and testing (every title links to the respective complete email):

Clearly states what I get with the free trial. Tells me what do I have to do in order to setup New Relic and offers me help.

New Relic is a full stack monitoring tool. It’s all about reports. Clearly, you won’t have insightful data on day #2 after registering. That’s probably why they sent me a sample report.

I didn’t set up New Relic immediately. In fact, I was just hoping to get to know the service a bit better. On day #3, I’ve got this “not automated” message asking if I was having trouble deploying the agent.

How could I forget about you if you have been emailing practically every day? Still worried about me not deploying the agent on OutTrippin servers. “Maybe on the next email, they will offer me a gift, to make it tangible” i thought…

T-shirt yay! I’m still waiting on mine…

Another help offer and a reminder on their value proposition.

In my opinion this was the cherry on top. The feeling that someone actually went to outtrippin.com and lost one minute figuring what our business changed the way I looked at whoever is on the other side.

Some content that I never read.

After putting effort in adding one line about OutTrippin to the Day #10 email, it started to feel they were giving up on me.

The inevitable “You will be moved out of our list, but before, tell us what is going on, so we can channel you to one of the bars on the ‘didn’t convert during trial’ graph”.

Evidently, different products and different audiences have different ways of dealing with. Some may consider the New Relic system too hardcore, however, they made me know and stick to the brand.

I’m not advocating this system as universal truth. New Relic is a company in “scale mode” (considering they got a check written in February), and to increase their 15% paying/active user ratio[1] must be in their top priority. It’s totally understandable that they want to weed out customers that will never convert.

That said, to automate a follow up email system at “new relic” level can be overkill. Nothing better than start lean, measure, learn and tweak the system accordingly. I found this example good enough to extract some good ideas from.

 

5 reasons tech startups are like indie bands – but with better hygiene

Who’s tired of talentless, sensationalist superstars? (I’m looking at you Kim Kardashian, Kanye West and the poor child you decided to name North.) There’s a lot of hype around the rockstars of the startup world and I think it’s a hell of a lot more interesting than the celebrity gossip machine of the 90s and the reality tv bomb of the naughties. I saw a local Melbourne band on Friday called Gypsy and the Cat and started reflecting on how tech startups are scarily similar to indie bands.

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So here goes, the 5 reasons tech startups are a lot like struggling indie bands…

1. We all have kooky names
Not just because they’re kooky, because they’re trying desperately to secure a two syllable name and a dot com. Spelling, pronunciation and logic goes out the window. Ooooooc, Weebly, Zlio, Yoono, Diigo… for every good one there’s at least 182 shockers.

2. We are all waiting to be discovered
In the 90s, indie bands were waiting to be signed by a big label. For the delusional entrepreneurs of 2013, we’re all hanging out for the optimistic VC to arrive at demo day with his tongue and cheque book hanging out.

3. We don’t get paid
“It’s a passion, not a paycheck maaaan!” Hence the struggling musician diet is very similar to that of a startup entrepreneur. 2 minute (ramen) noodles, a lot of mystery meat out of cans, wine out of a box. One of my co-founder’s catch phrases is “Homelessness breeds character.” For outsiders it might seem a glamourous lifestyle. It’s not. It’s definitely not.

4. We work hard for years to become an overnight success
You rarely hear about a musician’s 6 failed bands that lead to the formation and success of their current one. All of that failure gives you the content and learning you need to be a success. Only the insanely driven ones survive.

5. We have groupies
When you follow your passion, you can’t help but attract other similar nutters to your cause. Quite frankly their passion for what you do can be borderline psychotic, but it’s all part of the fun as long as you don’t give them your phone number.

What else have I missed? I’m sure there’s plenty more so feel free to share your experiences. In the meantime I’m off to find us a BattleTrip tour bus. Peace out!

The book is not always better

I’ve used Lonely Planet. I actually spent time during my travels reading it on my ipad before going to bed. I never had the impressive paperback versions but I understand why people collect them. They sit in a row on your shelf, from Amsterdam to Zambia, the whole thousand of dollars.

In your home, conversations will be started around them, your friends and guests will admire you for your awesome journeys. But try to stop for a while and think about what part of the stories you tell actually depend on the guidebook. Probably you’ll remember that place you were heading, mentioned by Lonely Planet. It turned out to be closed, forcing you to actually connect with someone. And guess what? It can prove to be more valuable in 10 seconds than 2 pages about cheap restaurants that are most likely closed by this time. You hardly notice that the whole time you’ve been practicing your spanish (yes, I’m looking at you native english speaker).

“Flash news — shit’s happening around you.” (pic by auro@flickr)

Lonely Planet has definitely changed the way a lot of people experience travel but at the end of the day it is merely a reference book. A reference book makes you feel comfortable, after all everything is there if you need to find it (but you generally don’t). Also, they age very quickly.

Traveling with a Lonely Planet guidebook is like taking the bible to Church or the Kamasutra to bed. You are there, in the moment and instead of enjoying and making the most of it, you are just staring at a book afraid of missing something. *Flash news* — shit’s happening around you.

Why I’ll never be a solo-founder again

I’ve done it once before. And I’ll never do it again. It’s one of the single most frustrating endeavor that, to this day, I can’t fathom what possessed me to go down that path. I used to say, I’m waiting for the right person. It’s like marriage and you don’t want to jump in bed with just anyone. And while that’s all true, I can’t say that I really put in the time and effort actually find that “special someone.”

- As a side note, I should say I got incredibly lucky to actually happen to come across two people that are fucking awesome at what they do and IMO we form the perfect foil for each other. But, that’s just luck. I happened to come across one of them in a random Buenos Aires hostel and the other saved me when I was getting fucked over by my “contractor” developers in my previous start-up. 

Giving up control as a solo-founder is hard. You think you know best (you don’t.), you think you can make it on your own(you can’t), you posses plenty of self-confidence

Entrepreneurs making dinner at the footie stad...

Entrepreneurs making dinner at the footie stadium. via kckal

and could not settle for anyone that is not your “equal” (you don’t need equal, you need different). So you go about your day and you think you’ll make it. You’ve gotten this far, whats a little more. You can always use contractors and it will all work out okay(it won’t). You’re going to be the one with the whole vision anyway(you’re wrong).

But really, you’ve got this, right. How hard could it be?!

….From experience, turns out, very, very, hard.

And here are a few reasons why:

  • There’s no one to tell you that’s a fucking stupid idea: Even the best of us can have a few of these. The rest of us have a shit ton more. When you don’t have a co-founder, there’s no one to call you out on it.
  • Your vision is small: However big it is, it can’t compare to the vision of 2-3 talented, diverse individuals that have strengths where you have weaknesses.
  • You have weaknesses: You and you alone are your team. If you have weaknesses (you do), there’s no one to fill it.
  • Contractor developers are the single worst idea in the world: Seriously (and especially if you are non-technical). I can’t actually put words to how incredibly stupid this idea is. I assure you, your “great developer” sitting in Uruguay, is not going to lift a fucking finger if you’re app is crashing at 2am his time, even though that’s prime engagement time for your customers. Hell, you’ll be lucky if he even responds.
  • You’re human: You can’t be your best self every single day. Some days, shit happens and you feel like shit. If you’re by yourself, nothing gets done. There’s no one around to help, motivate, and get you out your funk and get shit done. So basically, this makes you part-time employed. Not many Start-ups succeed with part-time employees. Having co-founders keeps you going when you’re not necessarily feeling up for it.
  • You move faster: You can use simple arithmetic on # of people committed to the cause and # of hours in the day and figure that one out. But I’m of the opinion that it’s actually exponentially faster. You feed of each other’s good energy and things move. And they move fast.
  • Share the burden: It’s all well and good to carry it on for yourself, but I can tell you from first-hand experience, it feels damn fucking good when you can share the burden of this boulder you are trying to move uphill.

There’s plenty more reasons why being a solo-founder is the toughest job on the market, feel free to add in some other reasons in the comments!

Polite people are the enemy

In the lean startup world, is there room for politeness? People always tell us that they love our idea, but are they just being polite? If I surround myself with supportive, non-judging peeps who don’t challenge my oversights and stupidity, does that help me in the long run?  Or put another way…

If I’m driving towards a cliff do I want to see a sign that says:
Nice driving. Keep it up :) 

Or do I want to read a sign that says:
HEY CHUMP, YOU’RE ABOUT TO DRIVE OVER A CLIFF. PULL OVER!! 

The problem with politeness is that it requires no active participation on the nice person’s part. So, when things go bad, they’re not invested in my failure. Whereas people who challenge me, normally do it because they care. Even if I have an epic fail they’ll be the first ones to pick up a shovel and help dig me out.

As part of the #AC13 accelerator program we get asked lots of squirmy and uncomfortable questions that ultimately lead to our (early) failure or success. We’re used to hearing questions like ‘how does it make money?’  and ‘why are you showing me vanity metrics?”  It’s painful but necessary.

So for startup’s sake, don’t sugar-coat it, tell me how it is and we’ll all be better for it.

Pray what you preach — the Melbourne chapter

Indi was in Melbourne for some friends wedding. At the same time, Outtrippin was on the selection process for getting into the Angelcube 2013 program. It turned out that she had to stay for a while more than expected and we made our way into the final interview that would happen on Sunday, 21th of April 3AM (Portugal Time).

To be honest I messed up with the time zone differences and was totally sure it would be Monday 3AM. I was hanging around with some friends with my phone at 5% battery when I got an email from Kunal: “hey guys, let’s have our last brief before the meeting since it will be in 30 minutes.” Needless to say that I shat my pants, got in a cab (gross!) and made it home just in time.

Well, we learned on Monday that we got accepted. But it wasn’t all good news — Kunal was having problems getting a visa and it wasn’t until Tuesday that he magically sorted it out. So yeah, I bought a ticket to Australia on Tuesday, got on the plane on Wednesday and made it to Melbourne on Friday. I’m glad I had time to meet Kunal and Indi, have a shower, half a cup of coffee and make it to the program kickoff session just 5 minutes late. :/

We ended up crashing at the place of the freshly married couple (remember that Indi only came to Melbourne to a wedding?) for a week, while they were on honeymoon.

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Our “Punch & Painting Party” housewarming gathered some people around the canvas and some punch. Some new friends were made and no animals were harmed!

It’s been three weeks but now it is really paying off. We were able to focus harder, better, faster and stronger and as a result Outtrippin is no longer the only product we have to help travellers connect with the amazing community of Glomads. We shipped better tools for them to promote the itineraries they assemble and more than that, we redefined the way we offer the expertise of our community. Just tell us where you wanna go and what you want to do and our experts will pitch you why they are the best person to take care of your trip. After that you will work closely with them in order to design a kickass experience.

As a result we increased our Glomad community at the speed of light and we’ve got 40 trip requests on battletrip.co.

We’ve been busy!

This past weeks, we’ve been constantly in touch with what brought us together in first place;  this feeling of how small the world is and how much you can learn and experience out of your comfort zone is definitely what rocks our boat!

And oh, by the way; since you made all the way through this post,  I’ve got something for you. The next time you are planing a visit somewhere, just head to battletrip.co and we’ll make sure you won’t miss a thing! Just apply the ‘vegemite’ coupon code and you’ll get 20% off!