Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The beach

I went to the beach with Carlos, one of the Brazillan guys I met throuh Bruno.

The first thing I noticed about the beach was how unbelievably busy it was. Barcelona has over 5 huges beaches and they are all very busy. People are everywhere.

The second thing I noticed was how attractive....no, how unbelieveably crazy attractive the people are. Because it is turist season, you get the best of both worlds righ now. You have the sexy spanish locals and the crazy hot european tourists.

The third thing I noticed was the naked people - they were everywhere. Anything goes. I was laying down getting some sun and looked up..whoops, naked model guy was changing in front of everyone. I looked to the right and saw a naked woman getting a massage from the Chinese woman that walked around offering 20 massages for 5 euro. I looked to the right and saw two guys making out and rolling around in their speedos. Right in front of everyone. Peoples reaction? None. This was at the normal, non gay beach. It will be interesting to see other beaches.

One thing I found interesting was how most people come to the beach with longer shorts or capri pants on and then change in front of everyone right at the beach (into a speedo, no less).

It was a mind blowing experience.

My first few hours

My first few hours in the city were not good. Actually, they were awful. I realized while I was on the plane that I didn´t copy Bruno's number from my email. Mistake number one. Then, after getting off the plane, I had to wait over 45 minutes for my luggage. This was my first taste of how nothing happens quickly here. There is NO sense of urgancy in anything the Spanish do.

Thankfully, I was able to easily find the bus that goes directly into the city. It was inexpensive and had a lot of tourists on it. Let me tell you - it was not easy lugging my bags round. I felt like throwing one of them away after only 5 minutes. Several people suggested that I get off in ¨Las Ramblas¨which is the equivilent of Time Square in NYC. I did that and it was mistake number two.

It was crazy busy, I had no clue where to go after I got off the bus and was lugging over 100 lbs of lugguge behind me. All of the sidewalks are made of small tiles so my bags made a very strange sound as I was pulling them behind me. This caused everyone look back at my wonder WTF was making this strange noise. This wandering of the streets continued on and off for a little over 4 hours. I would walk a bit and then stop. Walk some more and try to ask people in broken Spanish if they knew where an internet cafe was. I would walk more. And more. And more. The strangest part was that I was not tired. I'm pretty sure that I working off adrenaline at this point. I was able to access my email after connecting to the internet in a hotel lounge. The woman was extremely nice and let me use the hotel phone to call Bruno. side note: the cost to call a cell phone here is crazy expensive. Like almost 1 Euro, regardless of what kind of phone you have. I've been using skype to skirt these charges. 2 cents per minute, baby!

Bruno and I met in the heart of Las Ramblas and went directly to his apartment. It is very nice. At this point it was about 10PM and I was still wearing the same clothes since I left Milwaukee over 24 hours ago. I was also working on 2 hours of sleep in the past 24 hours. Yet it felt fine. I took a shower, changed into some new clothes and we met up with some of Bruno’s friends to go out for the nite...it was Saturday night after all. Bruno is Portuguese and his 3 friends were Brazilian. Yeah, they are crazy hot. Did I mention they were Brazilian? Anyway, I won’t get into the details of the club now, but I will say that it completely blew my mind away. Never in my life had I seen anything close to it. Note to friends: book your tickets immediately...you will not regret it.

I’m getting my cell phone today and looking at a few apartments. I should have my new address within a week.

Just a few of the many things I’ve noticed

  • Barcelona is huge. It is much larger than I had expected.
  • Barcelona is very relaxed. People wear extremely casual clothes on the street. Pretty much anything goes. (more on that when I write about my first experience at the beach)
  • In general, the people are very friendly and willing to help out.
  • Banks are on every corner

Monday, August 28, 2006

Lovin´ it

I had a great farewell. Mom, Dad, Aunt Jean and Uncle Bob saw me off at the airport. We had some time to burn, so my Dad had the great idea to toss a few back in the airport bar. After drinking a huge beer and right before we said our farewell my dad came with 3 shots – for himself, uncle bob and me. It went down the hatch, we said our goodbyes and I was on my way.

The flight from Milwaukee to Detroit was pretty uneventful. On the ride from Detroit to Amsterdam, I set next to a very nice kid from Saudi Arabia. His English was excellent, so we didn’t have much of a problem communicating. Apparently most Arabs don’t know or even care to learn English. This is true regardless of age. He was in the U.S. for 2 months for school and was on his way back home. We talked a lot about the many cultural challenges he faced, which instantly made me think of all of the stimulating challenges that I will face. I found it somewhat funny that he was ending his journey just as mine was beginning.

I arrived in Amsterdam early because of a huge tailwind coming out of Detroit and had 4 hours to relax in Schiple. I figured that I may was well spend it like a high roller. Being the enterprising individual that I am, I managed to sneak into the KML business leisure lounge. It has the most amazing amities – all free. A sampling of them include internet, an amazing selection of food, free top shelf booze, an espresso/cappuccino/coffee machine (I’m on my second espresso as I type), newspapers, magazines and Heineken. This is so far removed from the hustle and bustle of the concourses that I felt like I was in travel heaven.

The lounge

The bar in the lounge

I thought that I was going to be extremely messed up by the time I get to Barcelona. I slept only 2 hours on the plane and it was awful sleep at that. Then again, coach tends to feel like poor mans travel after flying first class on my one other international flight (thanks again lee/peter!!!).

I have so much more to update you on, but I’m heading to the beach in 15 minutes.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

America's Drunkest City - Milwaukee?

According to Forbes magazine, Milwaukee is America's drunkest city. "Milwaukee has long had a reputation as a city built on beer. It was once the nation's top beer-producing city, home to four of the world's largest breweries: Schlitz, Pabst, Miller and Blatz. Legendary sitcom characters Laverne and Shirley fixed bottle caps on one of the city's assembly lines. Even the name of the town's baseball team--The Brewers--alludes to its boozy past"

Sadly, I don't find this surprising at all. Read the full article here.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Small is the new big

Small is the new big by Seth Godin

Life at the Border

"Life at the border is the most interesting. Physically traveling puts you at the borders of the world and literally provides cultural contrasts. But I wonder if we could extend this idea to thinking. We all need to have a "home" somewhere -- that is, a few core strengths, an industry we understand, a customer segment that's familiar -- but increasingly leaving home and thinking at the border is necessary. Spend time in new industries. Take new kinds of risks. Most important, expose yourself to new kinds of people." Read more here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Life as an Expat - Part 1

Ok, so the fact that I'm departing in 3 days is really starting to set in. As I tie up all of the loose ends and think of what is ahead of me, I wonder if I will feel like an eternal stranger or will I integrate into the local culture. How difficult will the language barrier be? How long will it take me to understand basic Spanish? A permanent job, housing, food, people...they're all unknowns.

The thought of my inevitable return stateside feels like like a lifetime away, while in reality I know it will be right around the corner.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Happy birthday to me. Below are some key events and interesting figures from the year I was born - 1982.

A brief but severe recession begins in the United States

  • Unemployment: 9.7%
  • Cost of a first-class stamp: $0.20
  • Cost of a gallon of regular gas: $1.30
Falklands War begins: Argentina invades the Falkland Islands.

Michael Jackson releases his second adult solo album, Thriller.

First US execution by lethal injection is carried out in Texas.
Time Magazine's Man of the Year was for the first time given to a
non-human, a computer.

Cats opens on Broadway. Becomes Broadway's longest-running

A permanent artificial heart is implanted in a human for first time
in Dr. Barney B. Clark, 61, at University of Utah Medical Center in
Salt Lake City (Dec. 2). Background

The space shuttle Columbia makes its first mission, deploying two
communications satellites (Nov. 16).

Washington University in St. Louis develops the Flavr Savr
tomato, the first genetically-engineered plant approved for sale.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration grants approval to Eli Lilly
& Company to market human insulin produced by bacteria, called
Humulin, the first commercial product of genetic engineering.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Six Tips For Happiness

Six tips for happiness from from Tal Ben-Shahar.
1. Give yourself permission to be human. When we accept emotions -- such as fear, sadness, or anxiety -- as natural, we are more likely to overcome them. Rejecting our emotions, positive or negative, leads to frustration and unhappiness.
2. Happiness lies at the intersection between pleasure and meaning. Whether at work or at home, the goal is to engage in activities that are both personally significant and enjoyable. When this is not feasible, make sure you have happiness boosters, moments throughout the week that provide you with both pleasure and meaning.
3. Keep in mind that happiness is mostly dependent on our state of mind, not on our status or the state of our bank account. Barring extreme circumstances, our level of well being is determined by what we choose to focus on (the full or the empty part of the glass) and by our interpretation of external events. For example, do we view failure as catastrophic, or do we see it as a learning opportunity?
4. Simplify! We are, generally, too busy, trying to squeeze in more and more activities into less and less time. Quantity influences quality, and we compromise on our happiness by trying to do too much.
5. Remember the mind-body connection. What we do -- or don't do -- with our bodies influences our mind. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and healthy eating habits lead to both physical and mental health.
6. Express gratitude, whenever possible. We too often take our lives for granted. Learn to appreciate and savor the wonderful things in life, from people to food, from nature to a smile.

Generation Y

It appears that my generation is pretty high maintenance. Below are some highlights from the article. Check out the full article here.

Who is generation Y?
High expectations of self: They aim to work faster and better than other workers.

High expectations of employers: They want fair and direct managers who are highly engaged in their professional development.

Ongoing learning: They seek out creative challenges and view colleagues as vast resources from whom to gain knowledge.

Immediate responsibility: They want to make an important impact on Day 1.

Goal-oriented: They want small goals with tight deadlines so they can build up ownership of tasks.

Source: Bruce Tulgan of Rainmaker Thinking

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Tentative Travel Plan

Below are the larger cities that I plan on visiting. As with most plans, it will probably change. I feel it's very aggressive, yet still doable. I've added a photos section on the right side of this page. In addition to the normal updates while traveling, I plan on posting more photos from each city. For simplicity sake, I'll add additional links as I travel to each city. It will be interesting to see what the final list looks like. Only time will tell.

Amsterdam (2nd time)

Prague (2nd time)


Sitges (Pacha)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Joie De Vivre - Joy of Life

Everyone wants to know "why".

I realized that I am totally responsible for my life experiences. I had safe and secure, but I craved the wild and unknown. Why spend the glorious days of my independent youth in a cubicle doing work that is unfulfilling? Why work for a company that is incongruent with your personal life philosophy? I'm in no rush to become boring. I want the unconventional & experimental.

I was making great money with potential to make even more. I was beginning to know what success looked and smelled like. Trouble was, it just didn’t look and smell good. I realized that staying in a job/situation you dislike can be just as risky as pursuing the one you love.

According to the Conference Board, 40 percent of employees feel disconnected from their companies, two out of three do not identify with or feel motivated to support their employee’s business objective, and 25 percent are “just showing up to collect a paycheck”.

I also realized that I was given an unbelievable freedom that many of my friends wish they had. According to one study, two-thirds of today's college graduates will pick up their diploma along with a load of student loan debt — the average amount is $20,000. At the same time, the average college senior had six credit cards, with a total balance of more than $3,200; one in five students had a credit card debt between $3,000 and $7,000. Miraculously, I graduated from UWM with no loans of any type.

My plan is very simple. It is to keep my eyes open and simply allow myself to enjoy what the world has to offer. Learn from everyone I meet and all the experiences I have. No regrets.

Goodbye Bremen, hello Barcelona!

"Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing." - Helen Keller