Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lessons learned in my visit to Melbourne

1. Melbournians LOVE their sports.
2. Australian Rules Football (also known as Footy) makes no sense to non Australians.
3. In a confrontation between you or a tram, the tram seems to always win. If you see one coming, MOVE, because their drivers will NOT stop.
4. If your tram hits a person, it's time to start walking, because that whole line will get shut down for hours (so please heed point 3 above)
5. Melbournians have a big chip on their shoulder against Sydneysiders.
6. You will learn based on #5, that Sydney has never been the capital of australia, but Melbourne has.
7. Melbourne is one of those cities that has been known to have all 4 seasons... On the same day. I actually experienced this.
8. Melbourne is one of the few cities where getting lost can be easily accomplished and will yield some beautiful discoveries of cafes, shops and restaurants in the tiniest of dark alleys.
9. Three days is nowhere close to enough to enjoy Melbourne, between the beauty of the Great Ocean road, the wine and color of the Yarra Valley, and the charm of this Victorian city I feel like I need several more months to fully appreciate it.
10. Great phrase from a Melbournian, "Sydney is wonderful for a one-night stand, beautiful and flashy, but completely superficial; but Melbourne is who you want to build a relationship and take home to meet mum" (see #5 above)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Totah tours Sydney - part 1

In an effort to visit every continent in our world, I decided to come visit Australia this year.

To say that it was a planned trip may not be fair, since I did quite a bit of research, and was helped by some great locals I was put in touch with. So far in my first 3 days I have done non stop touring. There is so much to do and see that I'm trying to do as much as possible every day. Including trying to get over 2 full days of traveling and the expected jet lag from flying to the opposite side of the planet.

Day 1: Arrived in Sydney after a great set of flights on Thai Airways (business and First class). In an effort to fight off jet lag I decided to go out and start exploring the city as soon as I could. Ian my first hours I covered a lot of ground, I managed to walk all over town and visit the circular quay area, the opera house and the botanical gardens. On a whim I decided to join a "free" walking tour of the city delivered by a very charismatic local tour guide, called Michelle. She walked us all over town visiting all the major landmarks and delivering some great information about these sights. I probably managed to walk for about 8 straight hours, which had the desired effect, by 6 pm I was drained. After a wonderful Greek dinner around the corner from my hotel at a restaurant called Medusa, I went straight to bed since I had an early wake up the next morning...

Day 2: Proved to be even more exhausting than the first day... Due to the jet lag, I couldn't sleep past 5 am, which will make for a very long day. Because I was told I'd have great weather on this day, I was convinced to book a tour to the blue mountains, which proved to be a great decision. This tour picked me up at 7:40 am and we set off around 8 from their bus terminal.

Our first stop was at an animal preserve called Featherbend wildlife park. In this park we got to pet a koala and kangaroos, see dingoes, alligators, snakes and a large amount of birds native to Australia. After the visit to the park we took off towards the Blue Mountains, our next stop was Echo Point, which is a great lookout with commanding views of the Three Sisters and the rest of the mountains. After a few pictures, we headed to Scenic World that allowed us to see the blue mountains from multiple vantage points and attractions. Including a cable car ride, a very steep train ride into the valley, some well placed walkways and another ride up from the valley. At one point I even managed to go "off-track" enough to almost get totally lost in the valley area. I will admit that that's where I captured the best views, but after 30 mins of walking around I realized I might be a bit "lost", so I doubled back and managed to meet up with the tour bus without a problem.

Our next few stops took us to the small quaint town of Leura and then on our way back we stopped at Sydney's Olympic park (site of the 2000 Olympics). On our way back our great bus driver, Greg, dropped us off at a Ferry terminal, off the Paramatta river, where we boarded a ferry that took me back to Darling Harbor a few blocks away from my hotel. After another long and exhausting day I had a cheap dinner at a riverfront restaurant offering 10 dollar steaks, which I will have to say for this town is a CHEAP meal... And still, the steak was nothing to write home about, but I was probably too tired to enjoy anything more than that. By spending a couple of hours at the hotel bar checking email, I managed to stay awake until after 10 pm, helping me reset my clock to local time... At least that was the intent, before Day 3...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dealing with ambiguity on vacation

At work we always use the term "dealing with ambiguity" as part of our competency definition. In a nutshell it's used to describe the ability to go with the flow.

Last night I got to experience it in a different context, when I found out that my long planned vacation, missed a key component. I didn't validate the information I was given about not needing a visa to get into Thailand. So, halfway on my trip I had to adjust plans on the fly and forego my stop in Bangkok... Never mind happy endings, this wasn't the happiest of beginnings to my vacation.

At least as much as it sucks, I now know better and I'll get to spend 12 fun filled hours in Bangkok's airport, waiting on my connection to Sydney.

The good news is that I was able to be flexible and am not letting the minor setback ruin the taste of this vacation.

Who knows, I may get to make it to the Great barrier reef after all...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Getting Ready to Fly

After a few months of planning, my vacation is finally about to begin. There's less than 24 hours to go and I have yet to start packing...

At least I'm very proud of all my planning and research so far. I have friends who have connected me with their friends in the different destinations and I feel like I have a good plan ready to go.

With the bags packed, I'll be ready to go on another adventure soon enough and will be posting pictures and updates regularly.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Tentative Australia Itinerary

I have finally booked my vacation airline ticket and it looks as if I'm good to go to visit Bangkok and Sydney. They say that the journey is a big part of the experience, and to make that also be a great part of it I figured I'd get plane tickets in first class, since after all I already flew enough miles last year to afford it as a reward ticket.

I'm trying to build a solid and packed itinerary, and having extended my stay for a few extra days, I now need to figure out where else to visit in Australia to make the most of my trip. Considering that I want to avoid blowing my budget anything I do will need to have a cheap way to get there and hopefully cheaper lodging than Sydney.

Here's what I have so far, if anybody has other recommendations or additions I'm all ears:

9/2: Arrive Sydney – Rest up and maybe do the city tour bus… Go out drinking (Friday!)
9/3: Tour around: Opera House / Bridge Tour – Drinking (Saturday!)
9/4: Museums and other touristy stuff that might be open (Probably Drink a bit more since it's Sunday!)
9/5: Wine Tour to Hunter Valley (Enough Said - Drinking all day!)
9/6: Blue Mountains
9/7: Blue Mountains or fly somewhere else (Melbourne, Gold Coast, Perth)?
9/8 Other city
9/9: Other City
9/10: Other City – maybe fly back in the evening and overnight at the SYD airport.
9/11: Take flight back to Sydney and leave Sydney at 2 pm.

Overall, should be a lot of fun!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On Leadership...

Today I had a good chat with my new manager about the change that takes place when one becomes a people manager from having been an top performing individual contributor in the past.
While I have a lot of thoughts on the topic from my team management experience a long time ago, I thought that in this case I'd go and ask one of my former managers that I respect the most at the company.
This was a manager that went to bat for me, when needed, to help me achieve my job faster. One other thing I'll say made a huge difference in working for her was getting very clear guidance on what success looked like for our team so we would know if we had delivered.
When I asked A. L. (her initials) about her management philosophy she boiled it down to the following 4 points:
1) Complete transparency

2. Your team shouldn't work harder than me. I should always play bad cop and take away obstacles

3) Promote my team
4) Manage the bad ones out
Personally I believe this is a pretty solid list of key practices for a good manager to follow, but what made A.L in my opinion a great manager was the following comment she made towards the end of our chat:
I am the exact person I am at home and at I am not role playing
This is probably one of the critical items based on my experience that distinguishes good managers from great managers. A good manager follows the list above, a great manager lives the list!
Thanks A.L. for the great chat today!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Vacation Plans 2011

After all the travel I have been doing for the past year, some of my friends ask me if I'm tired of it.

The truth is that, no i'm not tired of it... yet.

Though I have to admit it would be nice to plan a trip for personal purposes.

Since I have a goal of covering all the continents over the next few years, I figure that I'd like to explore Australia (leaving Africa as my final frontier to explore, maybe next year?)

I have been researching some options and I'm trying to figure out how to get there and maximize my experience (without breaking the bank).

This is an initial itinerary, but would love any reader's input (i'll be updating as the date gets closer and my plans become locked).

Also, note that the dates are relatively flexible and they may be pushed out it better deals become available, but this is just a rough draft.

Depart TX via LAX on Friday, August 26th.
Depending on the airline I'll probably spend until August 31st in their main stop. Current options are (will depend on price, but the airlines needs to be part of the Star Alliance or Continental partner to get me mileage credit):
  • Thai Airlines, stopping in Bangkok
  • Air New Zealand, stopping in Auckland
  • Emirate Airlines, stopping in Dubai (currently way out of price range
Arrive in Sydney on August 31st
  • Sept 1st  thru 5th- Sydney
Travel to Melbourne on Sept. 6th
  • Sept 6th thru 9th Melbourne
Travel back on Sept 10th

I'll try to expand on the plans for each leg as the date gets closer and I get more feedback.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Zen and the art of waiting

Considering how rushed we live our lives, I sometimes wonder why? What are we in such a hurry for? We all end up the same way.
With that thought in mind I am trying hard to control my impatience.
I was just congratulated at a restaurant for my zen like approach to a longer than expected wait. I'm not sure if the beer helped me find my chi, or if the chi was bringing me beers.
Either way, I didn't mind the wait as much as I thought I might. Even though I was starving, I believe the great food made it worth it.
Besides, it's not like I had anything more important to do.
Living the moment is what's it all about.