Travel

I Love You India.

Photo for  Sundara  from the Z.P. Urdu school near Palghar

Photo for Sundara from the Z.P. Urdu school near Palghar

(But please tone down the spice level on my food ;P)

On my 6th year anniversary with my wife, I flew from Toronto to Mumbai. A mere 14-hour flight… We left at 9:10pm and landed at 9:10pm. Let me tell you, that messes a brain real good!

Definitely not our most romantic one.

We did a similar thing 2 years ago when we took a 13-hour overnight train from Xian to Ba Da Ling, close to Beijing. We were cramped in a tiny section with 4 other people sitting on a flat hard bench.

So hey, compared to that one, it’s this one wasn’t that bad!

Our Airbnb host was nice enough to let us check in late in our Andheri West apartment. We had a nice chat with her and went to bed.

We were thinking of taking it slow for a few days, but Audrey ended doing a business meeting and I ran around doing some SIM card and food shopping.

Classic Danny and Audrey.

In Search Of A Co-Working Space

When we were done with our mini-vacation, I contacted WeWork Marol for a place to work. That place looks great! Unfortunately, they were full, and they had just opened 3 months ago. I inquired about the one in Koramangala in Bangalore, because I would be staying there. Full again. And same thing, it had been opened only 3 months ago.

Obviously, I was quite disappointed since I really needed a place to work from and WeWork seemed great.

But that made me realize one thing:

The Startup scene in India, and especially in Bangalore, is incredible!

I did a quick Google Maps search after hearing the Koramangala was full, because we had booked our lodging for the month there and wanted to walk to work.

Turns out there were about 20 co-working spaces there!

We didn’t settle on one until we arrived in Bangalore later.

We currently work from WeWork EGL. It’s awesome. The people working there, and from there, are great. They make my stay there very enjoyable.

I love you India.

Nice Landscapes And Smiles

5 days after we landed in Mumbai, we went to a very small village north of Mumbai called Ashte. It’s a quiet village with really nice landscapes. It’s where I got started with my photography assignment for Sundara.

It took me at least two days to get back to it. I was quite rusty.

But this all changed 3 days after when I went to shoot at the Z.P. Urdu school near Palghar.

The kids were the most amazing in the world. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many beautiful smiles all at once.

They were genuinely happy. I don’t see that back at home. Kids in Canada are too concerned with getting toys. More toys. Always more toys. These kids played with each other and didn’t anything to have fun, smile and laugh.

It was the most fun I’ve had during a photo shoot.

I love you India.

Smily kids of the Z.P. Urdu school. Photo taken for  Sundara .

Smily kids of the Z.P. Urdu school. Photo taken for Sundara.

Brew Pubs

When we landed and arrived at our apartment in Bangalore, the first thing we did was look for a pub. We had heard Koramangala had a few.

We stumbled upon Brooks and Bonds, which had just opened recently.

It was nice!!

It had a really amazing 2-floor rooftop patio, and great pub food and beer.

The temperature in Bangalore is so nice. That pub night was one of the nicest we had in a while. That was a proper Danny-and-Audrey-style anniversary dinner!

Oh, and that was at least 3 times cheaper than Canada. So yea to that!

Yesterday we went to a place called Prost and had a delicious Red Ale and Steak. For $10 CAD. Beef is rare in India, so that was a real treat at a bargain!

I love you India.

There’s An App For That

India took Apple’s iPhone’s slogan very seriously. Especially in Bangalore. There’s an app for everything!

I haven’t cooked anything since I’m here. I’ve used Order by Zomato quite extensively, but there’s a bunch of other local apps. I have a list of 5 at least. It’s cheap, it’s good, it’s fast(ish), and there’s a lot of variety!

The PayTM app is accepted everywhere. Almost no one pays with cash. You scan the QR code and your payment is done. Simple and quick!

Ola and Uber greatly simplify transportation. I get picked up from my apartment and get dropped near my office for anywhere between $0.50 to $0.80. The return is more tricky because of traffic (which is quite insane…), but an Uber Pool costs me $0.80, door to door. Sometimes it takes 30 minutes.

Dunzo.in is something I really want to use. You have things you’d like to get done by someone else? Just pay them to do it for you for insanely cheap. It works for repairs, shipping, buying, home services, etc.

India, your use of technology is probably the best I’ve seen in the world. Your innovations never cease to amaze me.

I love you India.

Staying Long Term

Initially, I was thinking of staying about 3 months in India. I strongly considering changing my mind and staying longer.

I initially wanted to go to New York City after. I wanted a vibrant, hectic city where everything is fast-paced and everyone works hard.

And that’s what I found here in Bangalore.

Excellent startup vibe, great food, great prices, nice people, nice co-working spaces, perfect use of technology and innovation.

India, especially Bangalore, you’ve won my heart and beat NYC as the place I want to stay most currently.

So India, I love you!

Thanks for reading and sharing! :)

First published here: https://theascent.pub/i-love-you-india-582fb9fd2c96

Thinking Of Volunteering Aboard? Read These Tried And True Tips

Photo by  me  in Uganda

Photo by me in Uganda

When my wife and I left Toronto to travel the world for a year, we didn’t want to just see sights and selfishly “take from the world”, we also wanted to give back, and we thought volunteering aboard was a good way to do it.

We ended up volunteering in Bangalore, Siem Reap and Busan during that trip, and in Uganda during a different trip.

Having done it only 4 times, I certainly don’t consider myself an expert on the subject, but I’ve been asked the same questions multiple times and I think it’s worth sharing to help anyone wishing to volunteer aboard.

The following questions come from Maeghan Smulders:

1) how did you pick what organizations to volunteer with / how did you find them?

You can find travel expos in most major cities in the world. The general purpose ones usually have a few booths for volunteering organizations. But there are also volunteering-specific expos, like the Go Global Expo in Canada.

That’s where we found a good match for us. We had two potential opportunities: one in Ghana and one in Bangalore.

As for choosing the organization, we looked into projects we could do together, the reputation and seriousness of the business, the reviews and the location. Prices were pretty much all the same.

We picked a location that was on our way and where we really wanted to go. In fact, we planned the first half of our travels based on the project we chose in Bangalore.

We were serious people looking for serious work. It wasn’t a checkbox for us. It wasn’t to put in our resume. Some organizations were more catered to less serious people. And I’m not judging here, but it’s just not what we were looking for.

For the projects in Siem Reap and Busan, we found them through workaway.info. It’s a great website for finding projects where you exchange your time for lodging and sometimes food. It’s a great way to help local business owners or families while you’re abroad.

I also want to point out that we’ve met travelers and know people who do volunteer work through their religious institution, so it’s worth checking out for some people. We haven’t done it ourselves though.

2) did you apply or pay fees to do so? Did you notice a difference in opportunities where you have to pay vs free?

For the Bangalore project mentioned above, we paid an organization a fee.

They took care of our lodging, airport pickup, security, etc. The owner also took us on weekend cultural trips quite frequently. Here’s one I took part of: Ancient Jain Temples. We had a terrific experience with them.

The Siem Reap, Busan and Uganda projects were free. In fact, we got free lodging and food in exchange for our work.

In Siem Reap, we helped the AngkorHUB co-working/co-living space. A place I went back to for 2 months 7 months ago.

In Busan, we helped at the LZone Cafe for conversation exchanges.

In Uganda, it was an organization my wife started volunteering for remotely when we came back to Canada: Sundara. It’s a USA-based company.

The difference between paid and non-paid seemed to be on support mainly. For people who are concerned about security and support, paid volunteer experiences are the way to go. For more adventurous and potentially more authentic volunteer experience, free is sometimes better.

We had incredible experiences both when we paid and when we didn’t pay.

3) the software projects you did — did you identify the problem and solution yourself? Or was it a request from one of the NGOs that needed help?

When volunteering abroad, it’s hard to find projects that require hard professional skills.

One, it’s hard to find people willing to do it for free, and two, it’s rarely something that can sustain itself when you’re gone.

I was never meant to do software-related tasks in the projects I volunteered for, yet I did do it at AngkorHUB and LZone Cafe. I went there doing what I was meant to do, saw they had needs and proposed solutions.

4) do you continue to maintain the projects you created?

Sustainability is a key concept of any good volunteer project. We always aim to do things that are sustainable.

My work in Bangalore was to support teachers of a skill development centre. I did give a class or two, but it was always meant to teach the teacher. That way, the teachers keep the knowledge and can teach it to all their future students.

My wife put up a hygiene education workshop with the help of a local Indian employee. She presents the workshop all around India now.

In Siem Reap, the owner is a software developer himself, so he maintained the project after.

In Busan, I think they ended up not using the software after I was gone. I had proposed to maintain it, but since I was coming back to North America right after, I couldn’t afford not to do it for money.

In Uganda, we helped raise funds to build a borehole well for a village that had no access to clean water. The fund also covers maintenance for 10 years. The village leaders were taught on how to do the maintenance of the well.

5) did you organize the volunteer opportunities before traveling? Or coordinate while on the road?

We organized the Bangalore project before leaving, same with the Uganda project after.

The Siem Reap project, we found it on the go, 2–3 weeks before going. We did a Skype interview with the owner while we were in Vietnam. That same week, we did a Skype interview for the project in Busan, which was a few months after.

Organizing it on the road is definitely feasible. It’s just that it might be harder to get access to travel expos.

LZone Cafe is always looking for volunteers.

Reaching Hand, the local organization we volunteered for in Bangalore, is also always looking for volunteers. They are an excellent organization and we are very happy to see them again while we’re there next month.

Conclusion

Travel expos are a great place to find volunteer experiences that provide better support and security, but for a fee.

Workaway.info is a great place to find authentic experiences to help locals in exchange for food and lodging.

Sustainability for volunteer projects is an important concept you should always consider. Projects that are not sustainable may hurt more than they help in the long run.

Organizing volunteer work while already abroad is definitely feasible, especially if you’re flexible in your travel plans. It’s also a great way to have an impact on locals while reducing your costs dramatically.

Hope this helps!

Thanks for reading and sharing ! :)

First published here: https://medium.com/@danny_forest/thinking-of-volunteering-aboard-read-these-tried-and-true-tips-bb546b563897

You Are, Or Will Become, your Environment

Photo by  @rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by @rawpixel on Unsplash

In a series of stories, I wrote about how you are, or will become, what you readwhat you listen to, and what you do.

In this story, I’m going a little deeper on the same theme.

A lot of the inspiration comes from my own experience living in completely different areas of the world in the last few years.

In the past 7 months alone, I’ve changed more than I’ve ever changed in my entire life. I have many theories on how specifically it happened, but for the most part: it boils down to my changes of environment.

If you are not in the right environment, hopefully, my story will inspire you to change it and make it work for you.

To be honest, It’s not something I had given much thought until I read Benjamin P. Hardy’s book: Willpower Doesn’t Work. So thank you for the inspiration, Benjamin!

Toronto — Earlier than 7 Months Ago

Back then, I was living a more normal life. I had a nice 9–5 software engineering job in a rapidly growing tech startup in Toronto. I had worked there for at least one full year.

I was living in a modest apartment with my wife in the downtown area.

I was doing good, but I wasn’t standing out from the crowd. I felt I had stronger ambitions, but my environment was not prone to making me what I wanted to be.

Cambodia — 7 Months Ago

My wife and I went separate ways due to her job with Doctors Without Borders.

We would not see each other for 6 months, with the exception of a week-long break in between.

I had to choose where I’d go.

I ended up going to Siem Reap, in Cambodia, helping a friend who owns a co-living/co-working space.

That was quite the change of environment!

There, I finally started working full-time on my own startup, a video game studio called Power Level Studios.

The most important part of the environment there was the people. Everyone was working hard on their own projects, which they cared deeply about. 9–5 was not a concept anymore.

I was so motivated that I was working 15 hours per day, 6–7 days per week. And it wasn’t even that hard.

I become such a high achiever and came up with my 3 new skills a month framework.

But outside of work hours, I would go out for dinner with friends every night. There’s no way I would do that in Toronto, that would be way too expensive! In Cambodia, I could eat a meal for $3. That was with a beer.

That environment was perfect for working hard, but also playing hard.

In the two months I was there, I had finally started working on my own dreams. I also made many new friends and became way more sociable.

I also somehow started looking like Conor McGregor haha.

Thailand — 5 Months Ago

After Cambodia, I went to travel with a friend to Thailand for about 3 weeks.

We met new people almost every day and I did things way outside my comfort zone, like rock climbing outdoors and surfing. I’m afraid of heights and of drowning. We also crashed Turkish tour groups and went to ping pong shows with them.

I was a way more fun person than I was when I was in Toronto. I had ditched the excessive video game playing or toying around with my phone. In fact, my phone is pretty much a brick now. I use it for Google Maps while traveling and that’s about it. Oh wait, it’s also my alarm clock and music player.

Spain — 4 Months Ago

After my vacation in Thailand, I went to Málaga, Spain, for 3 months.

When I arrived, the co-working space I wanted to join didn’t have any desk left for me, so I was working from my Airbnb.

Honestly, I was pretty depressed. My productivity went down to about 10–20% of what it was back in Cambodia. The weather was nice. I had access to mountains and beaches. It was really hard to stay home. Plus the Spaniards live quite a relaxed way of life when you compare to North America. And I’m not saying it’s positive or negative, just different.

Anyway, the co-working space finally had a desk ready for me after 10 days. BOOM! Productivity went back up to what it was back in Cambodia.

There, I managed to continue with my 3 new skills per month. I gained 5kg of mass in one month (while losing 2% body fat), hiked almost once a week, gave public speeches, learned good conversational Spanish, started a fitness group, earned a grant for Power Level Studios, grew the company to 8 people, started writing and became top writer in less than one month, and made a business partner out of another co-worker there.

Gone was my introversion too. I would approach everyone and have wide-ranging conversions about everything.

I had become someone so entirely different from what I was only 6 months before. I had become much closer to what I’ve always wanted to be.

Toronto — 1 Month Ago

My wife and I were reunited on Valentine’s day.

She had a hard time adjusting to what I had become. I was so different mentality, but physically too. I had gained a lot of muscles and started looking like a Viking because I was about to launch a Viking store (it’s still coming soon).

But it’s been only one month, and somehow I’m starting to get back to my other habits from before.

I’m less motivated. I play more video games. I work less. The only thing I do without fail is working out. I started writing once every 2–3 days instead of every day. My environment inspires me less here for some reason.

India — The Next 3 Months

In four days, my wife and I are flying to India. We’re going to be spending about 3 months in Bangalore. We found our apartment and our co-working space.

I’m excited to be in a similar routine as in Spain, but in a completely different environment. I have much to learn from India. Apart from Canada, Spain and Cambodia, it’s the country I had spent the most time in before, and I absolutely loved it.

I’m excited to see how my environment there will shape me. I have a feeling India will have a very positive impact on my life.

What About You?

Take a moment to think about your current and past environments. Ask yourself the questions below:

  • What environment are you in?

  • Are you satisfied with it?

  • Why is that?

  • What could be improved?

  • What could not be improved?

  • What is positive about it?

  • What is negative about it?

  • What would be your ideal environment?

  • How do you get there?

  • What are the major roadblocks?

  • How do you overcome them?

  • How long will it take you?

Conclusion

I never asked myself these questions before. As a result, I “wasted” years of my life where I wasn’t where I really wanted to be.

I changed my environment many times now. I can only agree with Benjamin’s theory on how environments have the biggest impact on how you can change/grow.

I know it’s not always easy to change your environment, but you don’t have to go to extreme lengths like I did.

Baby steps.

With each small change, you’ll be more motivated to change more things, until without even realizing it, you will be in the environment you always wished you were in.

You can do this!

Thanks for reading and sharing ! :)

First published here: https://medium.com/swlh/you-are-or-will-become-your-environment-95d28aa4c583

Traveling Long-Term Changes Your Life Forever — For Better Or Worse

Photo by myself on  dannyforest.com

Photo by myself on dannyforest.com

Traveling Long-Term Changes Your Life Forever — For Better Or Worse

Three years ago, my wife and I “left” our jobs to travel the world for a year.

It was an amazing journey.

We saw the most impressive sights, ate the best food, had empowering volunteering experiences, but most of all, we met the most incredible people.

Lately, many people have come to us to ask for advice on long-term travel. So I decided I’ll share part of our story here.

When I said “left” our job, I meant we didn’t work for the year. We actually both negotiated a leave of absence.

So when we were “done” with our travels, we came back to Toronto. Back to our well-paid full-time jobs.

The Not-So-Glorious Return Home

It was painful.

We both liked our jobs. We both really enjoy Toronto. But it just wasn’t the same.

Most people didn’t give a damn about our journey. A lot of our friends were at a different point in their life. A lot of them just had kids. They had settled, we didn’t.

One of my brothers was completely avoiding me. To this day, I don’t even know why. Maybe he was jealous? Maybe he couldn’t handle our non-traditional way of life?

We were even kicked out from one of our family’s house because they could not handle the fact that we were helping people outside of our own country when, like any country, we also needed help.

Gone were the new amazing sights.

Gone was the deliciously cheap food.

Gone were the volunteering experiences (for me).

Gone were the incredible new acquaintances.

Coming back from traveling long-term is hard. I’m far from the first to write about that. Thankfully I was traveling with my wife, so we were in this together.

Whenever we could talk to other people who also traveled extensively, we did. It felt great to share experiences, but it was mostly great just to be understood by someone else.

Poverty And NGO Work

We were somewhat miserable coming back.

The biggest thing for us was that we saw so much poverty everywhere that every time we heard someone complaining about their first-world problems, it was hard for us to relate.

Audrey (my wife) started volunteering remotely for an NGO called Sundaraalmost as soon as we came back to Canada. That was her way of remaining connected to the world.

But it wasn’t enough.

That October, we went to Uganda to help with Sundara’s operations there. We had partnered with other NGOs there to provide them with water. Long story short, they had no access to clean water. People were dying from diseases and dehydration.

I helped bring awareness to the cause by taking photos (like the one above) and Audrey handled the operations and the outreach.

It was a life-changing experience.

The Turning Point

Then on November 11th 2016, we were sitting at the Foggy Dew Irish pub. We were talking about how we were not satisfied with our current situation in Toronto. At one point I told Audrey:

“Why don’t we just leave and travel again?”

That was our turning point.

We were so in agreement with this idea. Truthfully, I never thought she’d be up for it, but it turns out she needed that even more than I.

A few months later she applied for Doctors Without Borders. She got the job really fast.

In my case, I had applied for a competitive grant for Soul Reaper and got it. I could work from anywhere. My team was already remote, so it wasn’t even that big a change.

So with that, we left our jobs for real this time. We took a vacation in June and July 2017, and then we parted ways for her to do her first mission in Central African Republic, and for me to work as a digital nomad in Cambodia.

The Better

You will be more interesting

With all the places you’ll have seen, all the food you’ll have eaten, all the activities you’ll have done and all the different friends you’ll have made, you will have a repertoire of interesting stories to tell for years to come.

You will make new friends

The connections you make while traveling tend to be really strong. You share wonderful experiences that most people don’t get to live. When back home, you’ll occasionally meet like-minded people and the bonding will be that much easier.

You will have a deeper appreciation

A deeper appreciation for everything. When you see that people in other countries don’t have the things you take for granted, well, you don’t take them for granted anymore.

You will be more positive

When you are in new environments frequently, it’s stressful. You panic. You yell. You cry. Then you’re back and things feel so “easy”. You start thinking positive about every situation.

You will be more open-minded

You’ll have met people with all sorts of backgrounds. You’ll have eaten food you never even thought existed. Your prejudices will go away and you will start to appreciate everyone and everything for what they are.

The Worse

You will be less tolerant of meaningless problems

The so-called first-world problems become so hilarious at times. You’ll hear people complain about the most meaningless of things when you’re back home. Sometimes you’ll find it funny, but sometimes it will irritate you.

You will become really cheap

A lot of countries can be cheaper than home, depending on which country you’re from. When you’re used to paying little for meals, it’s hard to come back and pay 5–10x the price for less authentic meals. It’s the same for accommodation and other things.

You will lose connections

I mentioned that above. Your friends will have a different lifestyle. You won’t connect on the same level anymore. Striking a meaningful conversation becomes harder when you don’t have anything in common anymore.

You will annoy people

You will be interesting to some, but you’ll be annoying to others. You will be perceived as pretentious. You will be so excited about your wonderful journey that when you talk about it, people will think you speak in a superior tone.

If you watched The Big Bang Theory, it’s similar to when Howard came back from space.

You will not be understood

People will not have lived the things you have. A lot of your close family will not agree with your new lifestyle or ideas. This can be difficult.

Conclusion

Traveling long-term is an amazing way of life, but is not without its downsides.

Your journey will have its ups and downs.

It will shape the person you are and will be for the years to come.

It will change your life, sometimes for the better or sometimes for the worse.

Ultimately, once you go past the bad, nothing beats the good you get out of it in my opinion.

Are you considering a similar path?

Are you ready for the most amazing ride of your life?

You can do this!

Thanks for reading and sharing ! :)

First published here: https://medium.com/@danny_forest/traveling-long-term-changes-your-life-forever-for-better-or-worse-afadb4f5abd6

Everyone Seriously Should Visit Canada In Winter

Photo by  Owen Farmer  on  Unsplash

Photo by Owen Farmer on Unsplash

It’s 7pm, just 4 hours after my plane landed in Montreal. I just came back from an hour-long walk outside, in the dreadful Canadian cold.

Before coming back inside my hotel, I touched my beard, as bearded dudes do for no reason. It was covered in ice. And it’s not even that cold today. I think it’s -8 degrees Celcius.

Trust me, for February in Canada, that’s warm. Like… t-shirt weather!

I came inside and immediately the ice melted and I was wet like a dog. And I hadn’t showered for about 24 hours, so I probably smelled like one too. If there had been people around when I walked, I’m sure they would have spared a coin thinking I was a homeless person.

Anyway, I had to dry my beard with a towel.

This is kind of a shock to me. I’ve been away from Canada for a while so this is not normal for me anymore.

I don’t know where you’re reading this from, but I know this is not normal for a lot of people out there too.

I’ve traveled to many countries over the last 3 years, and I’ve never seen anything else like a Canadian winter.

Twelve hours ago, I was in a dorm room in an apartment in Málaga. It was 17 or 18 degrees. Fast-forward to 12 later and I was looking down by the window from the airplane.

All I saw was white. White everywhere! And it wasn’t even snowing, it’s just that it snowed a lot this winter apparently.

Gone were the palm trees, the beaches and the mountains.

I had to face reality.

The truth is, I didn’t want to come back. I was scared of the Canadian winter. Everyone is, outside of Canada.

I was afraid of the -30 degrees. The slippery roads. The prices.

But I had things to look forward to. Like seeing my family, my friends, and most importantly, my wife. Long story short, because of her work, we haven’t seen each other for 6 months. Kind of. She had a week off in between so we were together during that time.

But to my surprise, I actually enjoy it right now.

Canada is cozy.

Canada is different. Even the language is different, at least in Québec.

In my flight from Málaga to Montréal, most people spoke French. Yet, if you’re not used to the accent, you seriously doubt that it’s French they’re speaking.

It’s my native language yet I’m always taken aback when I hear it. I spoke Spanish and English for the past 3 months. When I travel, I mostly speak English. If I meet French people abroad, I tone down my accent so they understand me. And that my friends, is fucking exhausting. It’s much easier for me to speak English then fake a French accent I don’t have.

Truth be told, some of my new French friends don’t even know I speak French. It’s too much effort making them understand me so I speak English. Shame on me.

When you arrive at the airport, you hear music in Quebecois. You get in a taxi and you hear music in Quebecois. People listen to music from here.

Where else do you see such cultural identity. Everywhere in the world they just play top American music. Or reggaeton in Spain.

When you stay in your country for so long, you don’t realize the things that make it different, the things that make it worth visiting for an outsider.

People are scared of the Canadian winter, but man, it’s the best time to come. It will shock you. You’ll be born again. You’ll have experienced one of the harshest winters in the world, yet you’ll realize it’s not even that bad.

There are so many cool things to do in winter here.

Have you heard of snowshoeing? It’s awesome.

  • Dogsled?

  • Ski-doo?

  • Ice fishing?

  • Sugar Shack?

And the food too. Though not directly related to winter, have you heard of:

  • poutine?

  • smoked meat?

  • paté chinois?

And that, for sure you heard, but we’ve got Maple Syrup. Like a shit-ton of it in winter! It’s the main reason to go to the sugar shack I mentioned above.

Oh, and we give out free water at restaurants. Just saying.

But I confess, the reason I was walking for an hour was not to experience the cold, it really was just to find the nearest poutine place… not joking…

But in doing so I realized if you’re not from a Nordic country, but even then, there are tons of reasons to come to Canada, and especially in winter. It brought me back to my roots and suddenly feel proud of it.

So there you have it folks. Come to Canada before winter ends!

Author’s Note

Hey guys, I know this is a different style of story than usual, but I hope you still enjoyed it.

The lessons here are:

  1. dare go outside your comfort zone, and

  2. appreciate what you have.

Thanks for reading and sharing ! :)

First published here: https://theascent.pub/everyone-seriously-should-visit-canada-in-winter-2b333ffcc040

Story #1: The life of a nomadic indie (console) game developer

TL;DR I left a well-paid job in Toronto to roam the world while making an ambitious console game: Soul Reaper. It’s dumb but I would not have it any other way.

On June 1st (2017), I left my well-paid software engineering job in Toronto to focus on two of my biggest passions: traveling and building video games. “Dumb move” some might say and they would mostly be right.

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I don’t consider myself to be a good employee. It’s not that I don’t work well, it’s just that when you’re an entrepreneur at heart, you have the desire to create something bigger than yourself for a group of people you care about, and when you work for someone else, it’s hard to make that happen. For me, creating a super ambitious game for gamers like me who miss the way games were made back in the SNES and Playstation days is what I care about, and it’s definitely bigger than myself!

Now, I did say it was a dumb move. After all, until I release a game, I’m not getting paid. And I even pay people to do art for the game. Thankfully I was awarded a grant by the Ontario Media Development Corporation to work on Soul Reaper. But that money is not nearly enough and doesn’t pay for myself. Dumb indeed!

Traveling to save money

Good Nomad Cities

Good Nomad Cities

Now, that’s where traveling comes in play. For a lot of people, traveling is considered an expensive hobby. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Traveling is expensive when you’re moving a lot, pay for visas and expect comfort. The key is to find cheap visa-free countries that are comfortable enough and have great wifi. I traveled around the world from June 2015 to May 2016 and experienced amazing places to work from. Thailand (Chiang Mai and Bangkok) is very high on the list of great places. Cambodia (Siem Reap), Croatia (Zagreb) and Spain are also places I’m strongly considering in the near future. I’m sure other digital nomads have found other great spots as well. In Chiang Mai, I can live for $406 CAD / month with everything included including great wifi. And I’m sure there’s cheaper places. And there’s an awesome community of digital nomads there and is very comfortable. In Toronto, my rent was $1850 CAD, not counting utilities like electricity and internet. Oh, and I can eat for $2 CAD for an incredible dinner (it would be over $15 CAD in Canada)! So money-wise, being a nomad is pretty much the only way I can imagine being able to pull it off with limited budget.

Building for consoles while on the go

Soul Reaper is aimed to be released on consoles during Q4 2018. How do I heck am I building a console game with limited luggage space? It also doesn’t help that I’m an hobbyist photographer with camera equipment!

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Nintendo to the rescue!

In October 2016, Nintendo unveiled their next generation of consoles and they called it the Nintendo Switch. It was released on March 3rd, 2017. It changed everything… for the most part! As you may know, the Nintendo Switch is a hybrid console/portable gaming system. You can hook it to a HDTV or play on the go like you would with a Nintendo 3DS or PS Vita. And it works incredibly well! It’s as if it was built for me; as a gamer and developer. Plus they support the engine Soul Reaper is built on: Unity3D. Needless to say, I purchased a Switch and carry it with me everywhere. I’m currently carrying the dock and play on TV when my Airbnbs has one, but otherwise I play in my hands. And for those who haven’t held or seen one, it’s really thin and light! It takes up about 20% of one compartment of my bag. It would take less than 10% if I didn’t carry the dock and cables.

PS4 development

Soul Reaper was first designed to be released on a Playstation console (PS4). I don’t want to change that. I’m carrying with me my PS4 controller and only playtest the game using it. Carrying a PS4 is obviously out of the question since it’s too heavy and would take pretty much 100% of my luggage space! But it’s easy enough to test the game at 1080p from the computer or by hooking a monitor up. I just can’t test the PS-only features, of which there are none yet. We’ll see what I’ll do then.

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First published here:  https://medium.com/power-level-studios/story-1-the-life-of-a-nomadic-indie-console-game-developer-5ffd373f68a8