Categories
Life

Thinking big and doing the work

It’s funny that I have to write an article about this, but I recently talked with someone I trust and respect a lot about this topic. He’s been around much longer than I have and has worked with Steve Jobs directly at some point in his life. He’s also consulted with a ton of companies in the Bay Area.

He said that it’s rare to find people that think big and do the work required to implement their ideas. Most people do either one or the other well, and there’s people that don’t do either.

I used to be an ideas only person, well, frankly, because I was lazy. I though I was special just because I existed, so my ideas were great off the bat, so I should have to do any work, let alone hard work to get stuff done. But as I met more and more cool, interesting and successful smart people, I noticed something about them. They all did the hard, grueling work. They stayed up all night to perfect their pitch, the campaign, the proposal, the deck. They didn’t say “it’s good enough”, they pushed for great.

Of course, my lazy nature tried to fight back, but by pushing myself, I saw that if I put in the extra hour, or the extra iteration, I got better and better results. It got me more budgets, raises, promotions, an MBA degree, experience working in competitive markets like London or San Francisco. But even now it’s still hard to do the work, unless I remember why I’m doing it. If it’s meaningful, I’ll put in the hours and deliver my best self.

Something to think about on a Friday evening, as you’re going into the weekend.

Photo by Daniel Chekalov on Unsplash

Categories
Life

33 cool things I did before I turned 33

Yeah, it happened.

I managed to get to the great palindromic age of 33.

Some people imagine their lives as adults when they are still kids, how their lives would look like. For me, it wasn’t that. I mostly tried to make it at least 5 years into the future. After all, I couldn’t really imagine much from post-communist Romania, in a quiet corner of north-west Transylvania.

But little did I know.

Without further ado, here it goes:

  1. I traveled to over 30 countries. I think this year I was supposed to be up to 33, but then corona happened.
  2. I rode a 1700 cc Harley at sunset, near the Golden Gate bridge, in San Francisco.
  3. I went snowboarding for over 20 days in a season, up at Tahoe.
  4. I lived in London, UK, for 2 years.
  5. I moved far, far away from my hometown for college. Like a 12 hour train ride away, or 600km in Romania.
  6. I lived in Salt Lake City, UT, for a month just to snowboard and work remotely while at a crypto startup.
  7. I moved to San Francisco with about 2 months of runway in the bank and zero safety nets.
  8. I got married in a foreign country. After meeting her on a beach, at 3am, on the Romanian seaside.
  9. I camped in the mountains and on the beach.
  10. I built a website in 2009 and bought my first car with the money from it. Then decided to become a marketer.
  11. I graduated from an Executive MBA at 26, an age where most of my colleagues had more business experience than I had life. Also, I didn’t really know how I would eventually pay for it.
  12. I commuted by plane from Bucharest to London every month, for 2 years.
  13. Swam and snorkeled between continents in Iceland.
  14. Saw the northern lights, several times, also in Iceland.
  15. Saw the Niagara Falls while in Toronto at a decentralized identity event.
  16. Bought an investment property in Ohio.
  17. Paid $4,000 rent for a 1 bedroom. Per month.
  18. Earned $1.5/hour as my first real job, without a college degree, in 2009.
  19. Dropped out of my first college adventure in finance, banking and stock exchange.
  20. Finished college as a distance learner, with career switchers and high-school exam second timers. Also graduated at the same time as my wife, even though she’s almost 4 years younger than me.
  21. Lost money on the stock market using leveraged instruments and derivatives.
  22. Lost money in crypto ICOs
  23. Made enough money to pay that $4,000 per month rent in SF.
  24. Worked from home for over 10 months before we all had to. It sucked then, still sucks now.
  25. I organized tech and entrepreneurship meetups in London and San Francisco. Still organize them in SF, only virtually while we get rid of the virus.
  26. Worked in advertising, mining, consulting, food delivery, fintech, AI, crypto and identity, with vending machines, data. I’m actively interested in quantum computing, so who knows what’s next.
  27. Owned an Audi A1 at 23, bought with my own money.
  28. I surfed in the Pacific Ocean. It’s cold.
  29. Got laid off from a controversial gold and silver mining project and left my birth country to pursue tech.
  30. Won the Green Card lottery, even though when I first found out about it in 2012, i thought it was a scam. Applied a few years in a row to get it. It’s real.
  31. I jumped from a plane, at 30,000 ft, with a parachute.
  32. I traveled to Hong Kong in a business class seat with my wife, for fun.
  33. I started writing, again and again.

There’s a ton more things I could add here, but I’ll save some for other years. I’m sure there’s plenty more to come.

Happy birthday to me!

Photo by Flora Mipsum on Unsplash

Categories
Life

Two ways out of this coronavirus social isolation crisis

If you’re like me, you’ve been in “shelter in place”, or under some kind of isolation that your government decided for you. Some of us are lucky enough to be able to work from home. Beyond not being able to go out and grab a drink or dinner with friends, hang out with family members that don’t live with you, travel, life is pretty much the same.

What has changed, though, is that managers everywhere are coming to terms with managing remote workforces effectively; because they have to, there’s no other way now. And teams are still performing well, without that in-the-office-have-to-be-next-to-my-team vibe. This accelerates adoption of work-from-home as the new normal. It also opens the world up for one of the two scenarios I predict will follow in the next few years.

The fall of mega-cities

As soon as people figure out that they can work from anywhere in the world, they will start moving out of expensive urban jungles like New York, San Francisco and other areas hit hard by the coronavirus and isolation.

Why would you choose to pay $3-$4,000 per month to rent a small one bedroom apartment in San Francisco? You can buy a mansion in Wyoming for less than $200,000. Or you can rent a resort-style three bedroom with pools and stuff for less than $1,500 in Arizona.

Not only people start moving away and vacating these once profitable rental properties, but the commercial space becomes empty. If you run a 400 people organization in San Francisco, you’re probably paying $10M+ every year to have an office. Now that you have unlocked that capital, you can grow your company further, hire more people, invest in marketing, sales, research and development etc.

Meanwhile, smart people everywhere are moving around. New post-isolation communities are born in places that were traditionally more closed off, and had less influx of people. We’ll replace the office with social clubs and co-working spaces, home offices and other working amenities. But there’s another interesting consequence. You start competing with people within 3-4 hours of your timezone, not just the people in your area and potential relocations. This is exciting for the global marketplace, but will place a lot of people in a new, challenging environment.

There’s going to be a spillover effect into teleconferencing software. People will try to recreate life-like working conditions in VR/AR, so we can work from anywhere.

We will reopen borders, and we will travel again, provided there is a vaccine/immunity test available. But people will have moved out of big cities and into other, traditionally less desirable parts of their countries. This combination of factors will likely change the way we live in the next century.

Open source medicine

If cities are to survive this pandemic and isolation, then we need to change the way we work with medicine around the world. Right now, every country and every state have different rules and limitations when it comes to drugs, cures, medical supplies, research, patents and ability to develop, test and go to market quickly with solutions to health issues.

The world where mega-cities continue to be the main way we live, combined with large scale travel, the old normal we were used to, require a more agile approach to medicine.

Right now, countries and companies are protecting their IP, production assets. Instead of continuing this, we could create a bounty system, where everyone contributes to a pandemic protection mega-fund. It could be bundled into a travel fee, or health tax, if people don’t want to voluntarily contribute to it.

This mega-fund invests in global solutions for future pandemics, vaccine rapid creation, advanced open source medical research that any person, country, city, state or company can tap into. It could share profits from its endeavors, like a superVC, or it could be a not-for-profit. The capitalist in me would opt for the for-profit model. This can work with strong bylaws/checks and balances, like fixed pay-per-use, based on income/net worth. This is to avoid racketeering or price gauging during times of need.

This could give us a rapid-response vehicle better than the WHO, or governments, or big pharma, or even billionaires working on vaccines on their own. It would be global, and it would be open, and it would likely be more effective.

I don’t think we’re going back to the old normal, we’ll have to create a new one, just like people did after the plague, tuberculosis, yellow fever, influenza, cholera and other pandemics. This change will also be an opportunity for generations to shift, wealth to redistribute and new models to emerge for business and society.

Photo by Jesse Gardner on Unsplash

Categories
Life

Creative energy rant – a water jug approach

Yes, this a rant about creative energy. I’ve been traveling for work and personal reasons for the past few months, on and off. Sometimes close by, sometimes far away. I’ve also had a very intense, productive past few months at work. All good problems to have.

Creative work

The type of work that I do is highly intellectually intensive – strategy, decision-making, writing, conceptualizing. I also enjoy working with entrepreneurs outside my regular working hours, I read a lot of news, and sometimes I do research to justify financial decisions. On top of that, I try to keep learning, at least a few months. I know I need to cut some of these down and prioritize sleep and relaxation more, but that’s not always easy.

Water Jug of Creative Energy

The problem with this type of lifestyle is the cognitive overload that comes with it. The good news is that there are ways to reduce it. I imagine my creative energy like a water jug. Sometimes it’s full, sometimes it empties up.

When I’m in full busy mode, I pour all of my creative energies into my work, so when I try to write on my blog, for example, I’m tapped out.

When I’m out snowboarding, hiking, or traveling, and my mind has a few moments to stand still, the jug slowly begins to fill back up. Sleep sometimes does that too, but only when I do it enough to be fully rested.

There are shortcuts to filling the jug temporarily. Music works sometimes, coffee also works. Reading non-related things or hanging out with people can fill some of the creative jug, but it’s those moments of idle-ness that help the most.

I love what I do. But I need to constantly remind myself that doing too much in one part will end up sapping all my creative energy and leave none for other activities.

They don’t teach this kind of stuff in school. I wish there was more out there than generic advice on how to relax, disconnect and do mindfulness exercise every day. By the way, I found that I need some creative energy for those, too.

So far, I’ve been failing at one of my main goals in 2020 – making space to relax. But it’s only late Feb, there’s time!

Photo by Kouji Tsuru on Unsplash

Categories
Life

Guest post on HavingTime.com: Freedom through seeking closure with your former selves

People who know me well can already see the transformations I’ve been going through in the past year or so.

While working on myself has been a top priority in the past 10+ years, in the past I have shied away from doing anything too radical.

Not anymore.

Check out my latest guest post on HavingTime.com about redefining yourself and letting go of the past, especially if you remember certain negative things after 15+ years.

If you’re like me, try some of the closure tactics I describe in my article. I’m curious if it works for you the same way it worked for me.

Also getting an apology from a person that bullied you in the past is super-strong. Definitely a must try, if you haven’t already.

I’m working on a bullying related post, where my hypothesis are:

  • people who were bullies generally end up less successful than people who were bullied
  • parents of bullies are unsuccessful themselves, maybe not financially, but personally; or both
  • parents of bullied children are either conflict-avoiding themselves and believe in a greater good/peace, or haven’t resolved their bullying issues from their own childhood

More to come in a separate post.

Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

Categories
Life Strategy

Competitive people, choose your battles

Yes, you. I’m talking to you, the one that wants to win at everything. If it helps, I’ll admit I’m one, too, although this post is a way of toning down that overly competitive self that can drive to some pretty nasty consequences.

Communist catalysts

First, a little bit of background. I was born in (still) communist Romania, in 1987, from communist educated parents, and attended a fledgling post-communist school system. Our only goal was to get 10/10, and to get the first prize in class. My mom and my friends’ moms would always ask who got the highest marks on term papers, exams, tests and homework. If I didn’t get the highest, I’d get told off. If I got the highest mark, then they would ask who else got it, too.

I remember the only time I competed for marks by my own free will. It was when I bet with my parents that I would get a snowboard if I would get 10/10 in math over a whole semester. Obviously, they thought I wouldn’t do it, but I did and I’ve been snowboarding for over 15 years, as a result. Looking back, if they had given me similar milestones and if I had identified similar rewards, I would have been more involved in my first years of schooling.

Even childhood games were competitive, sports and any other stuff. I wrote about it earlier last year. This negative competitive attitude then went on to shape people, business and life. It creates bad work environments, bad relationships, bad friendships. It also takes a strong personal toll. If you have an internal conversation going on inside your head (I found out some people don’t, and that’s ok), even that can become competitive.

Manifestation

The way that manifested in mine for the longest of time was through comparing myself and my achievements with others. I know, slippery slope to depression and anxiety. It also fosters imposter syndrome and other nice side effects! If it’s not clear enough, I’ll spell it out: It’s really bad for you.

Naturally, I wanted to fix it. So here’s a few strategies I’ve been applying in work, life and sports.

Sports (for fun)

If you’re a competitive athlete, this obviously doesn’t apply to you – that’s more in the work section.

If you’re like me, and do sports for fun and casual work out, then hear me out. Up until last year, I was snowboarding and playing basketball like my life depended on it. While this was fun and I pushed myself to perform better, I often didn’t have as much fun. I was too focused on extracting every ounce of value or at beating my/others benchmarks. That took the fun out of my hobbies. Needless to say, when I stopped being competitive there, I started having way more fun.

At work

This is a tricky one. While in most situations, I would strongly encourage you to be competitive, there are different ways to approach this.

Not every battle is worth winning, and sometimes you need to give some ground in immediate battles to be able to get what you want long term. It’s like the long term greedy concept I talked a bit about in the fat cat/hungry wolf post.

So next time you’re in a work exchange of opposite views, ask yourself – do I need this win to achieve our collective long term goals, or will conceding here will buy me enough good will to get what I want/we need next time we have to negotiate? Good old fashioned politics, yes. While some people might hate it, it’s inevitable the higher up you move in your career.

Side-thread on politics – if you want to convince a large group of people to follow your lead, you’ll need to use some politics to do that. It’s as simple as finding the group leaders, the loudest people and the most likely to challenge you and working with them, not against them.

So while at work, choose your battles carefully. You might end up competing in a race that’s not yours.

Personal improvement

Here’s where I vote for going 100% competitive. Personal development is about yourself, and improving who you are every single day is a competition I love to be in.

Sure, there will be ups and downs, but overall, I’m ready to beat my previous results when it comes to being a better person, being inclusive, being kind to people, being generous and loving.

That doesn’t mean you have to beat yourself up about it. They way I see it, it’s like with my snowboard bet from high-school – you need to find that positive motivation that pushes you forward. I’ll share mine in a later post.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Categories
Life Startups

The trade-off of management roles

Over 10 years ago, when I started my professional career, working as an individual contributor, I couldn’t wait to become a manager. It sounded so cool – to have a team, to lead, to create strategy, run meetings, build agendas. Little did I know of the downsides of being in one of those fancy management roles.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a manager, and all the great things that come with the role – team, impact, benefits, comp, learning, status (in random order). It’s what I’m great at and will continue to practice it as long as I can build teams or teams invite me to lead them towards greener pastures.

Starting out as individual contributor

Coming back to my younger days, when I was IC-ing, I took something for granted that I soon saw going away as I rose in ranks. People saw me as one of them, and treated me openly and freely. I would get invited to every party and every going out group. I would hang out with the cool people and be able to rant about our managers (yeah, we did that, I know all team members at some point rant about their managers).

Manager roles in the US

That went on for the longest of times. When I moved to the US, I joined a tech startup as their Growth Manager. I helped them grow the team and recruit a lot of the people in the San Francisco office. As we grew, both the company and I felt the need to specialize and I went to focus on Marketing only, becoming Director. That’s when things started to change. Since I was hanging out with the founders, the VPs and Directors, I was no longer part of the group. I had become management and people started treating me like one.

When I moved on to another company, again, I started with more of an IC role. In a few months, however, I had recruited my team and had become Director again. Same story, there was the management layer which kind of hung out together, and shared stories. Everyone else had their own separate group. Sometimes I would get invited to the other group, but it was not the same as 2009.

It’s little things like who hangs out with you at the lunch table or goes out to get coffee with you that change, too. The otherwise rowdy table might quiet down a little when you want to join. Or people might not even want to sit with you in case you start asking about customers, projects stuff related to their day-to-day.

When you’re a manager, you also can’t just party like everyone else. We set examples of what the company culture should be. If we party until dawn at company events, or overcharge corporate cards, this sends the wrong message to everyone else. Sure, you’re not going to be as cool as the life of the party, but it’s easier to lead if you haven’t lost face the night before.

I’m not even going to talk about romantic relationships at work as a manager. There’s no such thing as a no-consequences one.

Loneliness, career growth, support

This part of management is rarely talked about. It’s a lonelier journey, as you get higher and higher in roles and responsibilities. Some people get there and are surprised by the fact that everyone seems to be gone suddenly. I know I was. Some even get depressed or anxious about it, and I can understand why. I think we have to talk about it more openly. We have to embrace that what leaders in organizations are doing is hard, both professionally and personally. And there’s often little support for it.

I’m lucky to be married to someone who understands this and whom I can talk to about my professional life. Not everyone is. Life at the top comes at a cost, and work social interaction is one of them.

For me, I found my groups outside of work, too.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Categories
Life Startups

Retrospectives, these powerful tools for growth

At the end of last year, I did two massive retrospectives for Romanian IT (2019, and since inception) and a personal one (private).

For the personal retrospective, it was the second time in a row when I did it. The first time I did it, at the end of 2018, it was super hard, and it felt like a huge chore. This time it felt a bit easier, and I had more of a put together process to lean on.

The 3 retrospectives I did got me thinking about the power they give you, as the person performing them.

Journey to finding retrospectives

There’s a ton of literature on journaling, on making lists, following up and looking back on quarters, years, months, days, whatever works. Unfortunately, for the longest of time, I thought that was mostly self help bullshit and avoided it like the plague.

It was only when I started running teams in a business setting that I discovered that Agile/Scrum can be applied for Marketing and PR, and that was my gateway to retrospectives. If you run sprints, at the end of them, usually, people spend time looking at what worked, what didn’t and what can be improved in general. This is how you spot overloads, missed goals, successes and opportunities for growth.

Back then, I didn’t pay it enough attention to formalize the process in writing, but I stuck to it religiously. I took it with me in every team that I build moving forward, in the past 3 companies. It allowed our work to focus on the right goals. It also allowed us to spot communication issues early, adjust and improve.

Seeing the power of looking back

Fast-forward back to present day. I didn’t expect what the 3 retrospectives would give me. If you read my previous piece on the imposter syndrome, you know that’s a struggle for me. I also have a few strategies for it. Retrospectives turned out to be one of them.

See, if you’re like me, you moving fast, with little time to look back. There’s very little time to look back and celebrate success or be grateful. Retrospectives give you that and more – if you take the time and go through every day, and every thing that you did, and allow yourself to relive those moments, at the end of it you might find that you did do all that you set out. And more than that.

That’s an incredibly empowering feeling, and it’s remarkably easy to do now, thanks to Google Calendar.

Try going through it 12 months ago and move forward. It’ll surprise with you what you’ll find in there!

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Categories
Change Management Life

From “hungry wolf” to “fat cat” – how culture can promote or hinder growth

I’ve been sitting on this concept since a conversation I had with a friend who visited me in San Francisco last month. She had been traveling since she started studying for her MBA degree at INSEAD and had left a successful career in commercial real estate in Romania.

Both of us have friends who are successful people in their fields in the country and we discussed the concepts of hungry wolves and fat cats, and their relationship to growth – both personal and systemic. I had already written a post about attitudes in the US vs Romania, so this intrigued me to the point where I had to write about it.

Hungry Wolves

A hungry wolf is the metaphor for relentless ambition, the kind that you need to break through glass ceilings, to start great companies, to win impossible races, to build amazing products, and, in general, to improve yourself and the world around you. It’s that inner fire you feel every morning and the drive to go beyond what’s expected of you and over-deliver. It’s that drive to change things for the better, instead of letting them fester. This is the kind of person that pulls communities forward, both economically, politically and socially.

It’s usually associated with under-privileged people, who usually have to fight harder than others to move up in the world. Immigrants, minorities and people from lower income backgrounds tend to be hungry wolves. Sometimes, the environment plays a key role in keeping wolves from turning to fat cats – high cost of living, working culture, social norms, competition can influence this behavior.

Fat Cats

A fat cat is someone who is content with what they have achieved. Generally, people become fat cats when they don’t feel their success is temporary and they stop growing/advancing. They stop and settle, and every day starts to resemble the previous one. There are two main kinds of fat cats: made and born.

The fat cat that made it is, usually, a former hungry wolf that decided it had enough and it’s time to focus on other things, and not fane those inner flames anymore. Maybe it’s early retirement, or desire to pursue a slower life, or they just had enough of the rat race. They stop giving it the extra edge, stop over-delivering and settle to do the bare minimum to keep things going, keep the lights on. You can spot them at work, in your friends groups and in the way the talk about their goals and ambitions. They don’t shine anymore.

The other type of fat cat is the one that was born like this. They usually come from wealthy backgrounds, have had safety nets their whole lives and are the representation of privilege. They don’t have to worry about the future, so they don’t invest time thinking about it too much. They share the same symptoms as the fat cat that made it, but the difference is that the born one might not have had a flame to begin with. They are easy to spot in the wild – spending money that’s not a result of their work, making poor life choices and surrounding themselves with fake friends to run from their own lack of purpose in life.

My Romanian and US experience with fat cats and hungry wolves

It’s 2020 and we’re still in growth mode globally, still let by the US economy, in spite of the crisis super-cycle that historians have identified. The US has had crisis ever 1-2 generations, and every time it has recovered because its culture is built on the hungry wolf concept. Some argue that socialist measures might stifle some of this drive and turn hungry wolves into fat cats, as more safety nets get built into the system. In key places in the US, though, there are some key factors that will delay and even prevent this from happening.

I have been living in San Francisco since 2016, and in cities like this it’s hard to see a majority of people turning into fat cats. The cost of living, its growth, the work culture and competition, the lure of the next biggest thing in startups, growing companies everywhere keep that flame alive. Hell, it even sparks flames in former born fat cats. This type of economy, while taxing for the average individuals – sometimes with burnout, depression, social anxiety, drives growth. It’s a price people pay for their advancement. This perpetual hungry wolf doesn’t think their prosperity can last forever, so it works hard so it has a base to land on if things go South. They create to invest, they prepare for long term prosperity.

On the other hand, I lived in Romania growing up and for a good part of my early adult life. The culture there, while still rewarding and encouraging for hungry wolves, has a very specific local flavor. Parents and other people in social circles that are risk averse repeat a very damaging mantra: “isn’t this enough for you?” (I wish there were a good explanation for this. Here’s my take on it: When you get a mortgage and a car, that’s when people start to say that you made it, and your mom tells you to stop pushing, because you have enough).

This type of culture socially punishes overly ambitious people and helps create an environment where it’s ok to settle for enough. While this can be great to the individual’s immediate quality of life, if prosperity goes away, and the fat cat becomes a skinny cat, then will it have enough drive to turn back into the hungry wolf it needs to be? Or will the former born fat cat have the strength to spark that flame on its own?

But back to the hungry wolf. The trap there is not to overdo the hungry part, and end up bursting from over-eating. It’s ok to be just a little bit hungry sometimes and not terribly hungry all the time. I’ve seen some people call it the long term greedy approach. Seems to work for successful and happy people.

This is the Romanian article (EN translation) that contributed to a few of the ideas this post.

Later edit:

I had a cool exchange on LinkedIn with a friend of mine, Ciprian (Chip) Borodescu (Co-founder & CEO at MorphL), and I wanted to share it with people reading this later here:

Hey Titus, interesting analysis and I think I agree 99% of it.  One thing that I struggle with is the very last thing you wrote: “I’ve seen some people call it the long term greedy approach. Seems to work for successful and happy people.” In my opinion success ≠ happy. I think the fat cat is very happy, don’t you think? (that’s certainly the case for my cat, haha!) Is that cat successful? It depends on the definition of success. Success for some people is external: if they have a great professional career or other people think highly of them, that immediately translates into success. If not, it’s a total disaster. Success for other people comes from inside – their own sustainable definition of success, that’s not attached to the success of a startup, project, deal, etc. Success is found within and they don’t seek validation from outside. Both have a growth mindset, only the latter has a more mature and balanced approach to life. You’re encouraging hungry wolves to find a balance: “a little bit hungry sometimes and not terribly hungry all the time”.  However, this places the balance in the realm of wolves still. How about placing the balance in-between the two? Cats are predators too – which I read as a “growth mindset” 😉

To which I replied: Great point! I think fat cats can be happy and successful too, as long as they are able to stay fat 🙂 for me, the two concepts are.about active and passive approach to life/growth. I like your internal / external lens, and to the definitions in the article, if you take an active approach to either success paths, you’re still a hungry wolf, seeking improvement. A fat cat is happy with where it it is.

Photo by Patrick on Unsplash

Categories
Life

One thing that’s ruining travel around the world

As you could probably tell from my last post, I’m in Thailand. We decided to head to Phuket first and then see Bangkok on our way out of this one week away from the craziness of SF life.

I love traveling because it helps me disconnect, unwind and recharge after giving it all and more to all our ongoing projects. But most of all, I love traveling because it allows me to discover cultures and foods that I can’t easily experience back at home.

We didn’t know what to expect coming to Thailand, so we chose one of the most touristic places in the country thinking it’s a safe bet – beach, weather, islands, elephant sanctuary. It has it all. Sure, it smells like trash in some places, the sewer is terrible, but that’s the result of sloppy city management and an unforgiving weather. The islands and beaches are great though, and the water is a heavenly blue color.

I was talking to Elena about one of our biggest shocks regarding Phuket, and not in a good way. We were surprised to see Central and Eastern Europe has started to creep into Phuket through Russian, Hungarian and Austrian restaurants. I can live with the smoking everywhere, the loudness of some of the tourists, but I get concerned when their habits start to change the local scenery to something too close to home.

From what I could gather, the Thai culture is extremely accommodating and that didn’t play to their advantage with this particular aspect – regarding food. Now there are tons of Thai places that serve local food AND a collection of pierogi, potato salads, Russian salads, all sorts of European soups and sausages – for the traveler who wants to feel at home, literally. I’m not saying Europeans are the only ones who do this, there are Australian chains, a Hooters, McDonald’s, Burger King and other stuff like that, but you didn’t find burgers next to Pad Thai in most restaurants.

I feel like this type of food blend/fusion is slowly eroding local cultures like the one in Phuket and I hope more people write and try to educate travelers to avoid eating what they would have at home and try out the local cuisine.

At the end of our Phuket visit, our question to the world is: why on earth would you travel 9+ hours on a plane and then go and eat potato salad and borsch, or wurst, if you have those at home?

Photo by Alyssa Kowalski on Unsplash