How to be Successful at any Sport

Rowers
No matter where you scull, winning does not require the stroke of a genius

Sports are an essential part of my life, and I think they can be a fun and rewarding activity for anyone. Since my early childhood, sports and other physical recreation have been an almost daily part of my routine, and this continues through today. I played three varsity sports in high school, one in college, and have won competitive tournaments in all three. I have been coached by professionals, including the coach of a previous top 5 tennis player. I have personally coached in three sports, tennis, volleyball and hockey, and continue to coach volleyball today. I truly believe that anyone can be successful at any sport; that’s not to say you can be a professional, but that you can learn a sport, play it well and reap the benefits, including the eustress might want to add a wiki or news article link here – not everybody knows what this is of a competitive environment, the camaraderie of teammates and other like-minded individuals, and win or lose, the satisfaction from knowing you played to your maximum potential. Continue reading

Going Local: Get the Best Vacation Deals and Embrace the Luxury Side of Budget

Angkor Wat
Ok, so your hotel won't look like this, but we want it to feel like it does.

Things were looking rather bleak. Our attempts to buy airline tickets from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Hanoi, Vietnam online had failed multiple times, and we wanted to fly out the next day. Nick and I trudged back to our guesthouse to see if the manager, Meang, could possibly help. His response?

“Sure, let me text message a friend who works in a travel office, she’ll reserve the tickets, and we can go over tomorrow to pick them up. It’ll be cheaper if we do it for you anyways. Does that sound ok?”

The next morning, Meang personally drove us to the travel agency to purchase the tickets at a 33% discount, waited until the transaction was complete, and then drove us to a restaurant he recommended for breakfast. After having the door opened for us to walk in, we were greeted by three smiling servers. The omelettes proved excellent, and each included a bowl of perfectly ripe exotic fruit, which wasn’t even mentioned on the menu.

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Off the Beaten Path: Self-Directed Travel without the Crowds

A rural road in Tanzania en route to Mount Kilimanjaro.
Ditch the tourism superhighways and leave the asphalt behind.

As we’re currently backpacking through Southeast Asia for a few weeks, we thought it would be a good idea to work on a collaborative post for the first time. We’ve both been to tourist traps like Paris, and far-flung places like rural Poland, and we have found there are several ways you can avoid the crowds, see the best and least-trodden attractions, and also get by on the cheap in pretty much any country out there.  This post will be the first in a series of self-directed travel guides.

Why You Should Blaze Your Own Trail Abroad

There’s a reason everyone should see the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, and London Museum – they’re all gorgeous, and most people can appreciate these beautiful sights. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to see these for yourself, in fact we encourage it.

However, along with popular destinations come a variety of annoyances, frustrations, and even dangers. Here’s just a few:

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Quitting Coffee

Only you can decide if its for good or evil

Coffee is a regular part of many person’s diet;  about 1/3 of people in both Europe and America regularly drink the caffeinated beverage.  Whether this is a good or bad thing is up for debate.  I have scoured the Internet and professional journals for years about a conclusion on coffee and caffeine, and there is none to be had.  The Olympic committee has banned the substance because caffeine has been proven to increase athletic performance in skills such as distance running. But from an overall health perspective, it seems coffee isn’t too bad, but nor is it a panacea.  There are numerous articles out there on quitting coffee, but if you plan to quit, you will need a good reason to do so, for as I have found, reducing caffeine intake can be a challenging task.

I have had an abbreviated history with caffeine, as I didn’t drink soda as a child.  I first stared drinking coffee regularly in sophomore year of college, and have been drinking it ever since.  Caffeine has a pronounced effect on me, probably in part due to my late introduction and perhaps just due to my body chemistry. The Mayo Clinic talks about caffeine sensitivity, but luckily its effects aren’t that severe with me, but a cup at 10:30PM will keep me up until 4am.  So why stop?  When I first started working a standard hours job, I wasn’t getting enough sleep, and was consuming 1 to 3 cups a day.  The experience was a daily emotional rollercoaster, a little too much to regularly handle.  I cut it down to 1-2 cups a day, but I still had a rise and fall in the morning and early afternoon, which would often conclude with a cup of tea around 2PM.

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The Myth of Personality

An artist looks in a mirror and paints a self-portrait.
Well, sure, that's your self-portrait today...

If you were to describe me, you might say something like, “he has blue eyes, brown hair…hmm….reads a lot, likes foreign languages…hmm….I don’t know?” None of these things are wrong, in fact they’re all correct, but after this, you’d struggle.  Not because I inherently defy description, but because it’s difficult to describe anyone past their obvious physical appearance and a few basic observations about their likes, dislikes, and habits.

Go ahead, try it, attempt to describe any of your friends.  You’ll feel you have a sense for what they’re like, but you will find it difficult to attach any concrete statements to their various qualities.

Now for something really mind-bending: try and describe yourself, beyond your physical appearance. Be honest, but try and be as detailed as possible.  Not very easy, is it? And so brings us to the thesis of this post: for all practical purposes, personality is a myth.

Everyone is Always Changing

I know, that’s a controversial statement, but necessarily so. The reason it’s so difficult to describe your friends or even yourself in any meaningful way is that people are not constants, they are constantly in flux.

What you like one day is not what you like the next.  How you act one day is not how you act the next, and how you act in three years is probably even more different. You develop bad habits and break them, you learn new skills and apply them, you treat others poorly one day, and royally the next. To describe yourself as “loyal” or “unreliable” or “petty” or “friendly” is really just an approximation – every person has such a range of possible behaviors, opinions, and opportunities for growth or recession that words simply fall short of appropriate description.

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Don’t Plan Your Trip to Europe

Make your time in Europe a walk in the park

It was the summer of 2008.  I had just landed in Kiev, Ukraine with my passport, $20.00 US, and not much else. The customs inspector didn’t speak a word  English, and I didn’t have a Ukrainian point of contact, nor an address of residency. Was I worried? Certainly not, and the trip proved a complete success. I had experimented with minimalist travel on a previous trip to Europe, and extending it further was a great experience. This time I hopped on the airplane with no concrete plans, no train tickets, and no room or board scheduled.  Over the course of a month I got to see seven spectacular countries, and not once had a serious logistics problem.  Although planning may be a compulsion, or even a joy for you, I recommend planning at least one trip by not planning at all.

No cash?  You’ll end up saving money

In the past, my parents went to AAA and brought hundreds of dollars in traveler’s checks before a trip.  Others go to the bank and get large amounts in foreign currency.  Besides being a hassle, the exchange rates are usually bad, and you have the burden of having a lot of cash that could be potentially stolen (pickpockets are a fact of travel).  As I have found in both Western and Eastern Europe, credit cards are nearly as ubiquitous as they are in the US. And given the right credit card, the exchange rates are always within 1% of market value, far better than any currency exchange service will give. Continue reading

personal. progress. simply.