**Observations Feed

A Practical Guide to Transitioning to the Digital Nomad Lifestyle [guest post]

Town in Italy:France sm
If you're been caught by the travel bug, you might consider satisfying your wanderlust by becoming a digital nomad. This lifestyle allows you to live and work worldwide without being tied down to one place. According to research published in The Flexible Workplace, digital nomadism is on the rise, thanks to technological advances and greater workplace flexibility. However, before you pack your bags, it's critical to do your research and prepare

JourneyZing helps eager travelers like yourself figure out the practicalities of going abroad. This guide provides actionable tips for becoming a digital nomad

Figure out how you'll earn your money

One of the appeals of digital nomadism is that you can enjoy a higher standard of life in locations with a more affordable cost of living. However, you still need to earn money. If you're currently employed, consider talking to your boss about the possibility of remote work. Spaces Works explains that you need to clarify that you're planning to go abroad. Working from home is one thing. Working half-way across the world in another time zone is another.

Alternatively, you can start a freelance business. If you go this route, consider forming a limited liability company (LLC). This will help protect you personally in case of legal issues and is a streamlined alternative to more complex entities like corporations. Regulations regarding LLC formation vary between states. For example, in Iowa, you need to name a registered agent and file "articles of organization." An Iowa formation service like ZenBusiness can help you through the process, sparing you pricey lawyer fees.  [Although Victoria Herring, as a former lawyer, would advise forming a relationship with a lawyer so business issues can be promptly and efficiently handled after your business is formed]

Decide what to do with your current home — and find a new one

Some digital nomads leave home completely, selling all their possessions and property. Others prefer having a homebase to come back to. If you keep your house or apartment, you can rent it out. Guesty has a guide to listing properties on Airbnb that can be useful. Alternatively, you might ditch your place completely. Vox notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a boom in the housing market. If you sell your apartment or house now, you may be able to get a good amount of money for it.

You'll also need a place to stay in your target destination. Homelike lists popular options for digital nomads, including short-term apartment rentals, serviced apartments, and co-living spaces. When looking, make sure the property has the capacity to accommodate remote working, such as a decent Wi-Fi connection. Proximity to amenities like public transportation, grocery stores, gyms, and coworking spaces can also be useful.

Stay safe by investing in insurance and security measures

Ideally, you won't get sick or injured while abroad. However, you can't rule out the possibility completely. Make sure you have insurance wherever you are in the world. Visitors Coverage explains that if you're traveling for over a year, you should look into global medical insurance, also known as expat travel insurance. For less than one year of travel, travel medical insurance should be sufficient.

You might also consider getting insurance coverage for the tools you need to work, like your computer and phone. If these valuable goods are lost, stolen, or damaged, you won't be able to do the work you need to earn your living as a digital nomad. Allianz Travel provides tips for protecting your tech, like investing in an anti-theft backpack with a locking compartment to secure your valuables. Still, in case such precautions don't work, insurance is a plus. For example, if someone takes your entire backpack, the locked compartment won't help you!

With modern technology and greater openness toward remote working, it's easier than ever to become a digital nomad. The above guide can help you plan the transition to the nomadic lifestyle.

For more helpful travel planning tips and resources, head to JourneyZing. We are here to help you discover the world safely.

[with appreciation to our guest author, Eva Benoit, https://evabenoit.com]

Thought I would report back on my efforts, so far, to trim my email

A few days ago I posted about my plan to cut down on things which land in my email Inbox.  I have done this in the past, but not as single-mindedly as this year.

First, I have my computer[s] backed up of course and I also use a program [EmailArchiverPro] to regularly back up to PDF my emails.  So I've spent the past few days basically deleting as many emails as possible from my email program since I do have a copy of them also saved in PDF and easily searchable. [I also get rid of some of these PDFs as time goes on and I realize I don't need them.]

Second, in Mail I create a Smart Folder called "unsubscribe" which collects inside it every email/newsletter which comes in with the "unsubscribe" link - as of right now I have 70 emails in that folder - am unsubbing where possible but it's slow going because I really do want to receive some of these newsletters.  But am trying to be more dedicated to unsubscribing.

Slow going, but progressing and a good way to start the new year.

Year-end and Year-beginning Goals. . .

At the end of each year, I try to cut down on emails, newsletters and the like.  I didn’t say I was successful, just that I try to do it, and have for the past several years.  Basically I delete as many old emails as possible and unsubscribe to as many emails/messages as possible.  For some messages I do a backup before deletion, for others which I can find via Google search, I just delete them.  As I was researching this topic I came across this rather simple, straightforward and helpful article on backing up your Mac[s].   The day will come when your Mac/Device is lost, stolen, breaks, is destroyed - and if you don’t have a backup there is absolutely nothing you can do.  For that reason, one end of the year prescription is to Back Up your computer[s].  Then go on with your cleaning!
How to back up your Mac 2020 | iMore

Ideas for Positive Social Distancing....

I've been practicing it since 3/15 [we were on a trip and flew back and since then have remained indoors other than as below]

  1.  Stay indoors but if at all possible get outside each day for a walk, remembering to keep social distance = the fresh air is really a nice change.
  2. I am trying to follow the Pomodoro Technique:  set a timer for 25 minutes of focus, after which you get a five minute break.  During each break try doing a different exercise - anything that gets your body moving is good.  Full discussion of Coronovirus Work-from-Home Wellness Plan [highly recommended]:  Elemental Work from Home
  3. Use the opportunity to do some cleaning, maybe a room a day?
  4. Practice Yoga and/or Meditation [loads of apps to help with that]
  5. Read a good book, listen to music, create music, add some art to your life.
  6. Clean out your various email boxes - how much of that stuff do you really need to save?
  7. Go through your computer/iPad/iPhone or such and clean them out, delete apps. you don't need, back up and then clean off data if you don't need it.
  8. Phone a friend, audio telephone or video, renew connections.

Hope this helps....

IMG_9384 - Version 24K
from Trellis Restaurant

Quote from a friend --

The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created--created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them, changes both the maker and the destination. - John Schaar


[which reminds me of the Crisis/Opportunity quote by John F. Kennedy - 

“When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” —John F. Kennedy

Ideas for spending time at home...a few thoughts and suggestions

I'm following the CDC/etc. guidelines and staying home and, as I do so, trying to be creative in the use of my time [note I said Creative not Productive].  I gather we can go outside to catch the air/sun, but keep our distance and be sensitive to others.  The 'social distancing' idea is, after all, to help others and is unselfish in concept.  So, did a little thinking and research [which is a good way to continue to put off that ToDo List even further. . . ]

In addition to the ToDo list there's always household chores:  Clean out shelves, cabinets, closets and drawers [so called "deep cleaning"] and other worthy things, but for sanity's sake I was looking for ideas to keep the mind active [might be particularly relevant for kids etc., in a more kid-like format certainly].  The following are a few suggestions - 

Review and Clean out and Unsubscribe from emails, newsletters and other things which just multiply over time [I do this at year's end but it probably should be done twice a year given how many new offerings come in.  

There are books:  the paper ones you have, the audio books you have or can get [the Overdrive app, and others, can access your library account], the iPad/tablet ones you have, going through all your magazines and reading or recycling what you can.

There is, of course, a plethora of choices of streaming TV [we've exhausted Vera and Brunetti among others but are finding quite a few more offerings]

For your audio enjoyment as you tackle the ToDo list or household chores, there's radio, your music library [mine needs some culling anyway]

And for more visual entertainment - virtual tours of places you want to go to/see:


    [My search was ‘Virtual Tours’ and I’m sure others can do something more detailed or relevant]

Hope this is helpful... In the meantime, enjoy a view of nature far away:

Sintra-Cascais Natural Park  Portugal
     Sintra-Cascais Natural Park Portugal


Taking back your life, Part II. De/Un-cluttering in a way.

As I recently wrote, at the end of the year I go through emails, newsletters, subscriptions etc. and jettison that which I can.  It is now 1-2 months since I started that process:  so far, I have not re-subscribed and I have continued to de-subscribe.  So far so good, still too many emails [particularly in a political year] but fewer than in the past.

Another process I have started - especially since the snows/ice/fog tend to keep one quietly in doors - has been to go through and organize my various 'digital assets' and delete whatever I can.  I have now used some larger [2-3TB] hard drives as storage for [1] music [iTunes, downloads, CDs saved from disk, etc.], [2] Client items [no longer needed currently but securely saved for the required time], [3] Financial info, [4] general reading, etc.  Actually I'm focusing on getting the music onto a drive so it's saved somewhere and I can delete items if I don't really need them currently.

I did have an epiphany the other day, though - I have PDFs from various articles, readings, etc. dating back at least 10 years and, if I wanted to really search for them, perhaps farther back.  There is no way in heck I am going to EVER be able to read those PDFs!  So, I'm also in the process of [1] getting rid of duplicates [I do tend to duplicate items 'just in case', and don't regret doing that] and [2] re-saving the most interesting, pertinent, useful ones and trashing all the rest.  If I haven't had cause to read an article since 2013, saved in pdf to disk, it's obviously not needed now == it's rather freeing to be getting rid of things I will never read, much less find time to read them = and which are findable on the Internet anyway.

So, another suggestion - don't let these things pile up so you have to do what I've been doing and clean things out.  And for your pleasure on a grey, snowy day = sunset in the fall, Urbandale, IA.

IMG_5613 - Version 2 web

Taking back your life....a good way to end the year, each year.

This is something I have done each January but now I'm starting in December and hoping there will be positive results in the new year.

Basically, I go through all the emails I receive as they come in [and then work back through those which have piled up] and if they are from non-personal/friend&family sources, decide which I want to still receive in the new year.  I then unsubscribe to as many as possible.  After all, if I miss the newsletter I can always sign up again.

I have an app which is part of Mail [MailButler] which does much of the unsubscribing for me, but I also have used Unroll.me - a website that will do much the same thing.  There are no doubt other ways of handling unsubscriptions, but this is what I do at the end of the year.

As for snail mail, that's a different thing to tackle, and a separate post.  In the meantime, a little hint of spring to keep people smiling.


Blocking phone crap and feeling great about it!!!

CRAP CALLS - I now spend a fair amount of time at home, not just doing nothing but doing loads of different things [loving it!].  Of course, since I’m here we do get phone calls thru the day.  I don’t mind, so much, human beings calling - whether fundraising or politicking or whatever.  I’m willing and able to be kind to them. BUT I hate those machine people calls = the ones for the back braces, car warranties, health insurance, you name it.  [I am on the DoNotCall list]. The ones which try to sound like a human, “Hello this is Jennifer”..pause to allow me to say something, then move right along and try to make me think this is a human. BUT I’m having a great time with my call-blocking phone = I’m sure other manufacturers make them, but the one we have is a Panasonic and when one of those machine calls come in [I answer on speakerphone] I hit the Call Block button and even if they’ve spoofed some innocent Iowa area code and number, they are blocked totally.  I’ve noticed in the past few days calls have come in and either died on the vine or show “Call Blocked” on the screen and I punch it off.  Not having to receive these calls has been great — I just thought I’d report this small success in fighting the machines.


Happiness is good!

The Pre-Trip Happiness is Good for YouThe benefits of travel don’t come to you just during and after your trip. The excitement and anticipation of going on vacation can considerably lift your spirits. According to a University of Surrey study, people are at their happiest when they have already booked a trip. Such people are also more positive about their finances, health, and overall quality of life.  

A Cornell University study found that people rate the happiness of anticipating a travel experience over that of purchasing a new acquisition.

Tip: Download a countdown clock app to help stoke your feelings of giddiness and excitement before the trip. The closer you get to the date, the happier you will be.


IMG_6954-Wild Lines12x16horiz
Wild lines in Seattle

More from Catherine Workman, part 3

Travel Relieves Stress

Our day-to-day responsibilities may be time-consuming, and sometimes we totter under the burden of living hectic, busy days on repeat. Travel is a delightful way to escape the commitments and stresses of our daily life, introducing refreshing change and novelty in the form of new sights, experiences and acquaintances. The goal is to relax to the point where both the mind and body reboots, free from the strains of work projects and burdensome relationships, says Margaret King of the Center for Cultural Studies and Analysis.

For many, travel is not about discovering new places as much as escaping from old ones that are adversely affecting our spirits. Vacations sever the feeding channels of stress connected to the activities and places we dwell in for work.

Tip: Sometimes vacations to busy cities like London or New York, while exciting, may overwhelm your nerves a tad. During such big urban adventures, be sure to schedule some down time, like a calm picnic or massage.



Dorsoduro visit to Etta Lisa 115
Boat in Canal in Venice

More from Catherine Workman

With Travel.....

You Learn to Be Flexible

When travelling, especially in new countries, you step out of your comfort zone and are forced to adopt to new customs and societal differences. This challenge “opens” your personality more, noted a 2013 paper by Zimmerman and Neyer. New societal adaptation calms your emotional reactions to changes in the day-to-day and boosts emotional stability, their paper concludes. At the same time, you meet new people, expand the size of your existing social network, and fortify your sense of congeniality.

Tip: Charm the locals you meet by learning and expressing, from time to time, typical expressions and idioms of the culture. Punctuating your phrases with a word of curious note will endear you to them.


Bhutanese Dancer at Festival

A guest post from Catherine Workman of Wellness Voyager

From time to time I become aware of other's writings on topics relating to travel, both encouraging it and providing helpful suggestions.  Catherine Workman of WellnessVoyager has written on this topic.  She has a great view of travel:  "Catherine believes we should all leave our comfort zones once in awhile. She uses travel to boost her physical and mental health and shares about her experiences on WellnessVoyager.

So, here is one of her discussions and I'll publish others in the near future. 

Here are a few reasons why springing for a pleasure trip is a terrific idea, coupled with trip-maximizing tips:    

It Sows Creativity

Experts on neuroplasticity (how our brain is connected) say our brains are tremendously influenced by changes in experiences and environments. Studies conducted at Columbia Business School have found that creativity is stoked when cultural immersion is deep. Open-mindedness blossoms when you shift your habits and newly tailor your life to the customs of the country you’re visiting.

Tip: Practice more than one creative outlet – such as journal writing, or craft learning – when traveling, to stir your creative synapses.

Woman walking in downtown Aix

SkyTripping versus Do it Yourself - screensavers

My sister told me about an app on her office's conference room that showed lovely aerial views of wonderful places around the world with or without background music.  I found the app which can be downloaded and used on AppleTV.     Skytripping

It does cost about $4 a month, but on the other hand if you want something lovely to soothe your soul, it’s a great option.

On the other hand, I have now set up something in my home office - I got an open box Apple TV and using iTunes on my iMac selected a photo folder to use via home sharing, selected music to play on my iTunes, and as I sit here, it’s playing my music and showing my photos from the selected folder….not quite HD Aerial View but really pretty cool anyway = I love the music in my library and now I can see what my images look like on a TV screen.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Taking Amtrak between Iowa & Chicago, a great time.

I wanted to go to Chicago for a long weekend, to attend OpenHouseChicago, which is another story.  After pricing airfares [$350+] and asking our daughter about Megabus [$90; she warned me I might not like the bathroom], I researched taking the train.

To take Amtrak from central Iowa to Chicago you have to go to Osceola [an hour south of Des Moines] and get on the California Zephyr.  It is the cross-country train between Chicago and Emeryville, California which for the whole route takes a little over two days.  The route from Iowa to /from Chicago is about 6 hours, although it can be a little more time coming from the West. That’s because Amtrak travels on freight rails and has to give way to freight train traffic.  

But, it cost me $100 to ride round-trip, leaving about 9:30am and arriving about 4:30pm, and returning from 2:00pm to 8:30 pm.  That’s $10 more than Megabus, but you have more room, the lounge car is available [as is the dining car], and I’d rather take the train.

Those who complain about the train ‘always’ being late generalize unfairly.  After all, even though the flight takes a little over an hour, you have to be there an hour ahead and wait for baggage awhile on arrival and pay three times as much.  There certainly are good reasons to fly to Chicago or elsewhere, but if you want to relax, read a book, work on your computer, sleep or play video games, the train beats a plane any day.

I also discovered something new [to me] in Chicago.  I arrived at Union Station to leave about 4 hours later.  Amtrak has created a Legacy Club for its passengers for $20 for a day pass.  That can be money well spent - free wifi, comfortable seating, free coffee and snacks, Clue and other board games, a happy hour twice a day and a place of relevant quiet [it has TVs running which I don’t care for, but that certainly is fine for most people and I can hide in a corner and ignore them]. 

So, if you have time and want to maximize it and enjoy it, taking the train makes a lot of sense.


Amtrak Union Station Chicago
Amtrak Union Station, Chicago




Heard from a friend this morning in an email at about 3 a.m. - 

"I just realized a short time ago that I probably left my I-phone at Jordan Creek....  I know I was using it about 7 p.m. when I wrote a message to you.  Can't find it and I  can't sleep.  Of course, I did not set up the Locate My Phone function!"

Luckily she found it back home, but it goes without saying that there's no sense in having a Find my iPhone function if it's not used.  If you have it, you can send a message to the phone [a reward to the finder?], you can send a loud beeping noise to help you find it if you did leave it in your home, you can wipe the contents if it is out of your control, you can track it and let the Police know where to find the thief...but if you forget to set up the security, you're S.O.L.

So do it now!


Gas & Fuel apps

Both AAA and AARP have helpful apps but you can also try to find good fuel prices by using dedicated apps:  AccuFuel, GasBag and GasBuddy [which I’ve used most of the time].  It’s silly to drive way out of the way to find a gas station and save a few cents per gallon.  But at least being able to see how much higher the ones in your area are from the lowest might justify stopping and getting gas right there.


Maps & Helpful Apps

There are all sorts of applications to provide maps for locations, so I'll just focus on a few that I've used.  You might want to check with some of the review sites or articles as to which will meet your needs.  

I use the iOS Maps app quite a bit.  It provides everything I might want, or almost everything.  I especially love it when I'm traveling and can watch the little blue dot move across and down the streets or highways to where I'm headed.  I find I use Maps to plot my route, to find out where I am and to find resources [hotels, restaurants, etc.] in an unfamiliar area.  Another alternative is MapQuest, which I haven't used much.  One nice feature is that it gives you buttons at the bottom of the screen to hit and find some basic catories of places.  However, since many seem to be copyrighted images [i.e. Holiday Inn's "H"] that's probably how MapQuest is paying for the app, which is free.

I also have CityMaps2Go which allows you to find maps to cities and regions in many countries [incl. the US] all over the world.  You need to have an internet connection to download them, but then they reside on your iOS device and you can use them offline.  You can also decide to pay $3 to get WikiPlus for your map, which will provide even more articles, lists of attractions, and images for your map.  This might prove quite useful if you want the information handy.  I did note, however, that the downloaded [free] map included "POI" [points of interest] which at least gives you some guidance before you choose to purchase WikiPlus.

A similar map app which allows offline access to information is 700CityMaps. The price is also $3 per map for offline reading and includes additional information for each map.

I just found AllTrails which is free and looks quite helpful for when you're hiking and trekking out in the countryside.  There are a number of other apps which will provide trail guides and park information [I have Chimani which focuses on national parks - and each of those detailed apps was free on Earth Day, when I downloaded them all!]

Apps to help with Travel Recordkeeping & Tasks

If you need a place to hold  your travel materials [tickets, itineraries etc.], Trip Case is one such app as is Tripit’s [which has an online component].  You can also transfer to your iPhone or iPad documents in PDF for later use, either in preparation for the trip or while on it through FileApp, Air SharingDropbox or Evernote or such cloud resources.

Other helpful or even essential apps are those for Translations, Currency Conversion, Unit conversions of all kinds, scanning barcodes and QR codes, apps which give you a flashlight or other utilities.  For the latter especially I like AppBoxPro, which comes in a free edition [AppBox] and also a paid one, which I have and use.  There are plenty of fine free apps for these uses, though.

For conversions I've been using Convex which has all sorts of unit choices [radioactivity, speed, temperature, time and a whole bunch more] and which is great for the visually/graphically inclined.  Of course, my favorite [AppBoxPro] has all those functions as well as many others.  

[Again, search for the above names of apps to find them in the iTunes App store]



News apps for iPhone & iPad travel

If you want to keep up to date while traveling, using various iPhone apps to do so is simple and, usually, sufficient.  I also use RSS feed readers [mainly Feedler] on my iPhone and iPad, but going to the actual source sometimes is necessary.  For direct news sources, then, I’d suggest:  BBC News, CNN, USAToday, NYTimes and NPR, and the apps such as Flipboard and FLUD which will let you aggregate sources in a visual fashion.


Apps for Travel with an iPhone or iPad

I thought I'd do a series of comments about applications for the iPhone or iPad which relate to travel, either to the places we are going or to help with getting or being there.  So this is the lst in a series of such.  All apps can be found at the iTunes App Store for iPhone and iPad [I would imagine there are others for Android to be found, if need be].  I'll highlight the names and you can search on those names in the search box.

Passing the Time

Downtime is one negative about traveling;  waiting impatiently to get where you’re going or to pass the time while you’re traveling.  One way to control your impatience and, possibly your temper, is to find something else to do with yourself if you can’t or don’t want to pass the time in conversation with others.  

Reading is one obvious way of passing the time and there are loads of apps for both the iPhone and iPad which will help with that goal.  All of these can be found through easy searches at the App Store in iTunes.  There are many others and you can search them out in the various magazine reviews or app review sites.

My two main reading apps, on both the iPhone and iPad, are iBooks and Kindle.  Both allow you to read downloaded/purchased or free books, magazines, and PDFs.  There are other apps as well [B&N’s Nook, and other ereaders], but I don’t use them as much.  Also, you can buy digital magazines and materials to read through Zinio.com and you can also read them with your Zite app.  

Another app is Stanza, but it apparently doesn’t currently work seamlessly with iOS5, so you might look for an alternative.  And if you want to convert readings and materials into an epub [rather than PDF], you can do that Calibre, which will also assist you in finding books to read in a number of locations

Suggestions for Travelers

I have just returned from Turkey and was talking recently to a friend about their upcoming visit to Europe and thought I'd pass along some ideas to get more out of your trips, stateside or overseas:

Try to find books, movies and TV shows set in or about where it is you're traveling to;  better yet, find those which are actually made in where you're going.  

Go to iTunes and check out the Podcasts, iTunes U offerings, iBooks etc.  Rick Steves has both audio and video podcasts that provide loads of helpful information, as do many others.  Put the city or country name in the search field and see what you find.

Go to the App Store part of iTunes and do the same:  find iPhone/iPad apps that are travel guides or other helpful apps about the place you're going to.  I am sure Amazon has a similar feature for Android phones.

Put your itinerary details in PDF form and upload to  your Dropbox, Evernote account, or wherever you maintain your cloud presence.  That way, if you need the details but you've lost the papers, you can find and download them whereever you are.

Go to iTunes and find the Radio selections and see if there's music from the country for you to listen to.  Then you can buy and bring back a CD of the country's music if it strikes your fancy.

I'll go thru my iPhone & iPad and see if I can suggest specific apps I've found helpful, but this is a start, perhaps.