Jul 07

We said farewell to Prague on Saturday and made our way to Belgrade, Serbia where we’ll be living in for the next month. A handful of us chose to go rogue and do a short stopover in Budapest to explore the city. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to see and we drove right through it on our bus to Belgrade so it made sense to take advantage of being there and see the town. Check out some pics from our one day in Budapest below:

I spent most of the time there with Alicia and Ee – we did a total of 28,000+ steps that day and covered a ton of ground. Lots of pointy, old buildings and famous statues. I never realized the town is actually Buda and Pest split by the Danube River… learn something new every day…

Prague post-game commentary

So bottomline: Prague is amazing in every way and I could easily see myself living there. I already did a video walkthrough and a detailed writeup on all the positive attributes so I figured the more challenging task would be to come up with a list of the negatives. Here is the short list of those:

  • This guy sawing concrete outside of our apartment every morning at 7am was my least favorite person in Prague.
  • Czechs are a bit cold and standoffish when you first meet them.
  • Bring your own leafy greens when you visit. As Andrew from our group eloquently said “Prague is the city vegetables forgot.”
  • We saw a bunch of random fireworks displays but the fireworks all seem to explode at roughly eye-level. Curious how that goes for spectators near the launch site.
  • Czechs have an interesting escalator protocol coming out of the subways. They all form single-file line one at a time standing on the right but maybe only 1 in 100 walks up the left side. They effectively halve their throughput and create a massive traffic jam for the outlier use case where someone passes on the left. Not sure how you change a societal habit like this but it would go way faster for everyone if people just got on two-by-two.
  • BO in the subways is very real. If Pagely has a massive exit at some point I’d like to take some of my proceeds and install deodorant dispensers in the subways as a public service.
  • I think Czech drivers may have more regard for ducks than pedestrians. You have to be on your A-game while walking through crosswalks.

Other than those nitpicky points, what a fantastic city…

Thoughts on Remote Year travel thus far

aircraft-carrier-remote-yearThe best analogy I can think of is sailing the Pacific- sure you could probably figure out how to accomplish it on your own solo. But why? Remote Year is like sailing the Pacific with an aircraft carrier as your home base. You can still island hop, do side adventures in a skiff to get sailing fix but then you always have a stable/secure platform to work from and a community of fellow travelers to share the experience with. As I’ve written before, I had explored the notion prior to being on Remote Year of doing a working US road trip that would allow me to connect with folks I hadn’t seen in a long time while performing my role for Pagely. Unfortunately when I got down to brass tacks, the logistical overhead associated with planning accommodations and travel were ultimately preclusive. RY solves the logistical overhead issue and provides the community base to make the travel more social and enjoyable.

I setup RemoteYearBlogs.com to make an easy method for us to follow each other’s writing with the intent that it might lead to even deeper conversations amongst the people we’re traveling with. We have some extremely talented writers in our group and my hope was that by taking friction out of the task of monitoring each other’s long-form journal-style writing (vs the usual bite-sized tweets & instagrams), we’d all get to know each other on a deeper level. I’ve already had conversations that emerged from having read blog posts so it’s working in this capacity so far (at least for me). This should also have the beneficial byproduct of a being a really neat artifact for preserving a bunch of unique angles on the same experience when this is all over. After only 3wks of running so far that site has already collected 782 posts from people across the various RY cohorts. With the frequency of cohorts they’re sending increasing, I think this blog aggregator site could become a pretty substantial blog post “photo book” by the end of this year.
Here is a smattering of some of the posts from folks in our group that resonated most with me:

Nick Fico – Dear Mom
Nancy Levenson – What is Home
Jessica Schlauderaff – Being Homeless
Angela Rose – On Letting It All Be
Molly Falco – I’m not crying, you’re crying
Kelly Tappel – I’m just trying to live a great life
Chris Peloquin – One month down, eleven to go…
David Baaker – video trailer for an unnamed documentary
Lily Linquata – Landlocked
Update 7/9/16: Eddie Contento’s 1st vlog episode… holy cow. This is the best recap of our first month in Prague and gives you a flavor for the journey thus far:

First impressions of Belgrade

We’ve only been here a few days so far but my sense is this is a place we’re catching at a critical inflection point as it’s waking up. It has its rough edges but that’s also the rawness. The staff of Remote Year did a lot of expectation setting prior to our transition to lower the bar of expectations but IMO that was unnecessary. This place is great so far. Sure, user experience for a lot of random things here is just… off in many ways but it also feels like a city at a really interesting juncture with a bustle and yearning to it that you see only in developing, promising places. I’m looking forward to integrating here over the next month and continuing the adventure. This is the only photo I’ve taken here so far coming out our workspace on the main promenade area downtown.
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Quick update on Pagely progress

Q3 just started… unbelievable we’re already half-way through this year. One year ago today I had a phone call via my laptop over crappy wifi while kite surfing in San Quintin, MX with my friend and Pagely CEO Josh Strebel about the idea of coming to work for Pagely. Fast forward a year today and we’ve doubled our annual revenue. My goal over the next year while on Remote Year is to then double that again. We just hired our first sales person under me on Friday last week and I’m getting the much needed support on handling day-to-day prospect interaction that is freeing me up to shift my emphasis from tactical to strategic efforts in scaling our leadgen and ultimately growing out our sales organization. Super exciting times as I implement a bunch of funnel secret sauce that should allow us to take our foot off the brake and start driving faster. I’ll talk more about what specifically we’re doing on this front in my half-time commentary video walk through for Belgrade. If you want to get that update from me add your email below:

Jun 20

Here are a handful of panoramas I’ve taken while here in the Czech Republic:

This one in Karlovy Vary this past weekend crossing the river:

Another one from Karlovy Vary in eastern Czech Republic:

I took this on one of our first mornings in Prague running the Charles bridge- it’s got some wacky artifacts in it because there are so many people coming and going (the app doesn’t deal with a lot of movement well):

And this one from the first town hall meeting in the garden area of the K10 workspace:

The app I used to take these is called Photosynth and makes it super easy to capture these on an iPhone. You can see other panos I’ve taken here.

A few regular pics from Karlovy Vary:


The other thing I threw together this weekend is RemoteYearBlogs.com– an aggregator site of all the people in our Remote Year group who are blogging. It gives a river of the latest blog posts from all these folks in one place to make an easy way to follow along with what’s happening with our peeps. Pagely agreed to host it so I slapped a logo on there to give us some advertising. This is the plugin I used to construct the site. We have some fantastic writers in our group – check out a sampling of their writing via that site.

Jun 14

I’ll let these select photos taken by the skilled photographers in our group speak for themselves:



We’re exactly halfway through our month here in Prague and I wanted to take some time to share some observations and thoughts on this city and our band of nomadic knowledge workers.

General Impression of Prague

First off, I did a 10min walking & talking video short last week showing a bit of our live and work space. If you haven’t seen that already check this post to get a good flavor for our day-to-day setup. My buddy Chris Peloquin from AZ who is also on Remote Year just launched his blog and did an excellent write-up here. Some other good blog posts from folks in our group here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here and here. We have some talented writers in our tribe – highly encourage skimming their first impression posts.

This is our full crew at orientation:
our squad

Some things that immediately struck me about this city are its cobblestone streets, ornate architecture on even the simplest of buildings and its tree-lined avenues. Here’s what a typical street in Prague looks like:
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We get rain showers about every other afternoon which translates to Seattle-level parks and foliage everywhere. People-wise, the Czechs come off as cold and unfriendly at first but they warm up to you as you interact and are really nice people. The food here has been pretty solid- there’s just about every cuisine imaginable. The Czech traditional fare is hearty cabbage, ham, sausage, potatoes, and kraut. I had intended to cook about 1/3rd of my meals at home but I have yet to even cook one- it’s just so freakin’ inexpensive to get good food out a restaurant that I’ve been going out every meal (I’ll undoubtedly have a gut to show for this later but for now I’m indulging). We ate at a 5-star restaurant the other night- had appetizers, wine the entire evening, a huge entree, dessert, digestif and the bill per person came to $1000 CZK ($40 USD). You can eat like a king here for the cost of a sub-par meal in the States. I imagine we’ll cook in a lot more when in London where the prices will roughly double.
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The public transit in Prague is on point. We went to the Prague zoo this past weekend and took the subway and a connecting bus there in 45min and it was a breeze. They have above-ground trolley cars that look like they were built during the cold war era and both Uber and a local Czech Uber competitor exist for ride sharing at about 1/2 the price it would be in the US. I bought a $30 month-long all-access transit pass which allows me to use any form of public transportation around the city.
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Living accommodations are solid as well. The apartments we’re staying in were seemingly just remodeled and are roomy, modern and comfortable. It’s a little weird they don’t believe in top-sheets apparently – you have this split comforter thing going on but easy enough to get used to:


Location-wise we’re in the heart of Praha 2 just south of the towering Nám?stí Míru cathedral which is about a 15min run to the Vltava river and about a 25min cab ride from the air port.

Our workspace, K10, is in the former Dutch Danish embassy about a 10min walk from our apartment and likewise is all we could ask for in terms of a space. This is the work space and some photos inside and in the garden out back:



I developed the patent-pending “Tree-cliner” office chair and have been alternating between that and my precarious jury-rigged standup desk to mitigate tall-guy-back-issues:

Chris Peloquin put together a great short video showing off the highlights of Prague:

Getting work done

I’ve been remote for Pagely since starting last August so not much has changed workflow-wise for me, I’m just now 9hrs ahead of AZ. The timezone offset takes some getting used to but it’s actually nice to have the morning free to exercise and explore. There’s also something to be said for having staggered windows of availability with constraints on internal interaction – it forces you to be very focused and gives you fewer interruptions. I’m typically a night owl anyways so I usually do something fun in the morning, grab lunch around noon and roll into work at about 1pm, knock out anything I can do solo and do scheduled calls between 2pm-9pm essentially on East Coast hours now. I landed a massive client for Pagely on the 2nd day here so that helped give an immediate injection of confidence early on that this working situation will be fine. BTW for two great books on this new model for working check out 37signals Rework and Remote.

My second fear outside of timezone schedule was having a sketchy Internet connection – that has proven to be largely unfounded though we did had some dicey Internet in the first few days. K10 seems to have made some tweaks that have improved the wifi connection since we arrived. I upgraded our Uberconference plan and get a local Czech dial-in number. I now do most calls by using my alternate phone with a local Vodaphone SIM card to just call into the conference bridge on the local number instead of doing the web browser VoIP connection. This has worked well and been really reliable. The other nice byproduct of that is I can do calls in the garden even where wifi doesn’t reach. I tend to get upper-back issues from being 6’7″ hunched over a computer at a desk. I’ve been able to MacGyver a passable standup desk that I use for part of the day and then use my recliner in the garden when I need to switch it up.

One thing that is mildly annoying: I have a bunch of music gear stored at my folks’ place back home and had intended to sell it remotely via OfferUp. It seems they block both the iPhone app as well as the web app for both Czech Republic as well as for the US domestic endpoints of the Cloak VPN service I use to be able to teleport my connection around the world. I was able to spin up a Windows EC2 instance on AWS and access it that way but it’s a cumbersome way to go back and forth and the web app unfortunately only has messaging capabilities for existing items but no ability to post new ones :-(. A fellow remote in the group has recommended an alternative service for liquidating the music items so I’m intending to try that out as soon as time permits.

Random Observations

The first two weeks was a whirlwind of meeting people and cramming in various orientations, mixers, tours and different events. In Prague beer is actually cheaper than water – combine that with the demand for social lubricant in situations with 75 strangers rapidly meeting one another in a strange place and you can do the math. It feels like things are finally settling down though in the 3rd week and most folks have now met each other and established some level of comfort in the group. We have a great mix of people of diverse backgrounds and a few who have yet to join either for visa or personal complications.

We have a Slack team setup for the group to communicate and it has been an excellent way to self-organize but has also been a serious FOMO factory. It’s this 24×7 firehose of activity on what others are doing. We never had a “Slack etiquette 101” so a lot of folks are unknowingly abusing the @channel and @everyone functions. I’ve just this week had to mute all channels to prioritize the Pagely Slack channel. One interesting byproduct of traveling this way as a group: it’s almost like the group is this giant octopus organism with tentacles in various parts of the city at any given time. We’re able to parallelize sightseeing and learn which restaurants/events/trips are worth hitting. It’s actually a crazy effective way to split up, cover a lot of ground and minimize trial & error in finding the gems around town. This is a nice and unanticipated benefit of this mode of travel.

Future-looking-wise, even only two weeks into this year-long trek I find myself questioning how I’ll possibly return to a sedentary lifestyle at the end of it all. Some people are already talking about doing a year of Roam as a potential transition plan after RemoteYear and prior to settling down somewhere. I suppose we may all be tired after a year of travel and ready to settle but I certainly don’t see myself owning a house again anytime soon after. The idea of having a permanent residence at this point definitely seems more weird than not… which in itself is weird…

Other random thoughts cycling around my head lately: “Will I still remember how to drive a car this time next year? Do I even want a car anymore?” As my buddy Chris Kracht commented on a FB photo the other day, the vibrance and walkability of a city like Prague is a pure boost of energy for your soul. Hard to imagine returning to freeway commutes and strip malls but who knows, maybe it’ll get old.

Who the heck owns the patent on this flushing mechanism? Every restroom in Prague uses it. The inventor has to be worth at least a zillion koruna…I want his/her royalty check:
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Anyways, this post ended up being way longer than I had anticipated. I’m intending to do one of these halftime updates at the halfway mark in each city and hopefully a more introspective reflection piece upon leaving each locale. I also thought it’d be cool to include a look at the music I’m feeling right now- here’s two artists I recently discovered that I’m really digging:
Moving Mountains <- Taking Back Sunday meets Explosions in the Sky
Lonely the Brave <- Volbeat meets Peter Gabriel meets Frightened Rabbit

If you’re not already signed up to get my periodic email updates, you’re doing it wrong ;-)

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Jun 10

Ahoj! Here’s my first attempt at a quick video walking tour to give you a look into our living and working situation in Prague. I’m one of 75 people currently on Remote Year. Read this previous post if you want to know more.

Let me know what you think of this format and if there’s anything specifically you’d like to see covered in these updates. I’m going to do a longer write-up on my observations from our first half of the month in a few days. And I’m considering interviewing a handful of the folks in our group to showcase who they are and potentially some locals as well.

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May 28

bags

These bags are the sum total of my belongings for the next year. I’m hours away from departing for Prague and beginning the first leg of a 12-part journey that will take me across four continents, ten countries, twelve cities and all in twelve months. I couldn’t be more stoked.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams” is actually a misquotation of a passage from Thoreau’s Walden but it feels appropriate. I’ve dreamed of traveling the world and growing startups – I just never thought I’d get to do both at the same time.

So I’m going to do periodic video updates like the one above in each city we visit and try to capture some of the local flavor of the town we’re in. You can see our itinerary here. I’m also going to write a monthly email reflection from each city as we depart to distill my reflections, observations and learnings. I’ll include not just local cultural stuff in these emails but every digital nomadic workaround, business lesson and marketing hack that I’m using to be effective from the road. I’ll also share progress towards my goal of doubling the revenue for Pagely in 2016. This is an aggressive goal but one we’re on a trajectory just barely under currently. I have some tricks up my sleeve I’ll be implementing over the coming months while we scale our sales force and growth efforts – this whole thing is an adventure on multiple levels.

If you’d like to ride shotgun with me for this next year of adventure and follow along, I invite you to join over 400 others who have jumped on my email update list below. It’s going to be a wild ride and I hope to share all of the good, bad and the ugly with my friends and colleagues who want to participate.

Lastly, I want to say thanks to my folks, my close circle of buds, my employer & friends, Josh & Sally and everyone else who has been supportive and encouraging of this undertaking. Words cannot express my grattitude. I love you all. My next update will be from Czech Republic. Adios.

Apr 09

remote-year
I’m incredibly stoked to announce that I’ve been selected as the most recent addition to the RemoteYear.com posse. This is essentially a study abroad-type program akin to “Semester at Sea” that enables young professionals with remote working arrangements to travel the world while they work. I’ve looked at planning a work-from-the-road expedition like this myself previously across the US but the overhead associated with coordinating travel & lodging made it unfeasible to do solo. This is basically “nomadic working as a service” and makes it all possible and safer as we travel as a group with lodging/travel/event logistics just handled. It will be 12 cities in 12 months (full itinerary here). I leave May 28th for Prague.

Lot’s of loose ends to resolve before I hit the road but the whole trip seems far less-intimidating knowing that I’m traveling with my friend and fellow “outdoor cat” Chris Peloquin. I want to give a public shout-out here to Josh & Sally Strebel for their faith & trust in me to take this opportunity and continue delivering the results I have been for Pagely only from abroad. I had dinner with Sally last night to get her blessing and Josh, to his credit when I asked him said, “We should all create our own reality. I just care about results. I don’t care which continent you deliver them from.” If you want to work at a company that places that level of faith & trust in its employees and has a remote-work-friendly company culture, we’re hiring for a boatload of technical positions right now at Pagely.

I started 2016 with the stated goal to double Pagely’s sales this year. I won’t divulge revenue numbers as we’re privately-held but having just completed Q1 we’re exactly 25% to that goal and I haven’t even implemented the funnel tweaks that should have compounding effects. The improvement thus far was purely from shoring up followup and sales process. The hat trick I’m intending is to not only accomplish the stated ambitious goal of doubling our revenue in one year, but simultaneously doing it while seeing the world and documenting the strategies and techniques I used so that others can do the same for their endeavors and weave their own magic carpet.

Getting deep on the Why

I’ve been very public about my endorsement of Simon Sinek’s “Why University” program. He has a whole framework for unearthing what your core “why” is and embracing it. I wanted to take a sec here and deconstruct my why on this. IMO true foreign diplomacy does not occur from the Oval Office. It occurs at the dinner tables in foreign lands when strangers break bread together and seek to understand each other’s cultures, customs, celebrations, fears, religions, philosophies, aspirations, familial ties, frustrations and goals. This type of foreign diplomacy happens one conversation at a time and is how we meaningfully dispel stereotypes, bias, hatred, racism and prejudice. I pledge to be the best possible ambassador of the US (and Arizona – go AZ!) to the places I visit. It’s my hope that I can do a small part to represent our culture well and mend unfounded misconceptions wherever possible. You can read more on my Why on my about page.

I did an exchange program in Quito, Ecuador years ago in college. When I left I took a blank journal with me which I started on the plane. Unbeknownst to me my father had taken it and written the following words on the last page of that journal:

Observe
Inquire
Reflect

I have yet to come up with a more concise prescription for fellow travelers than those three words. My Dad is a very wise man. You should read more from him here.

If you know anyone in Phoenix who is looking for a place to live, I’m looking to rent out my furnished Phoenix apartment for the next year and hopefully return to it when I come back in summer 2017.

For all my Phx peeps, I will miss you guys over the next year. Chris and I are planning to do a bon voyage sendoff end of May. I hope you will join us and see us off. More info to follow on that.

Lastly, I will be doing a rolling monthly email update as we move city to city as well as obligatory Instagram photos of all the best places we visit. I had started these periodic updates in October last year but it’s been tough to stay disciplined with regular updates. The monthly move from city to city should provide a good framework for me resuming those updates. If you want to follow along with those get my email update here and follow my Instagram here.

I’m so thrilled to have this opp. I promise to make the most of it and share as much of the experience as possible here on this blog.

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