Absolute Faves || Sleep Masks (Not just for night time but for Naps too!)

Though they won’t appeal to everybody, I have found sleep masks hugely helpful in falling asleep faster and also staying asleep. My preferred use though is for occasional 20-30 minute naps where I couldn’t block out the light with curtains or a closed door if I tried.

If you have a problem falling asleep or are a light sleeper and occasionally wake up, sleep masks are definitely worth a shot.  You can usually tell within about two weeks if they work or not.  The first 3-4 days, they take a little getting used to or at least did for me.

I’ve tried a bunch of these and I settled on the Sleep Mask by Bedtime Bliss. It’s got about 10K reviews on Amazon and for < 15 bucks I found it paid for itself rather quickly.

The other one I’ve tried is the one that Tim Ferris and some other popular bloggers have recommended.  It’s about 10 dollars more:  Sleep Master Sleep Mask. This one is better made IMO, but a little heavier.  I think it’s all going to come down to personal preference.

As long as I’m typing I’ll weigh in on earplugs as well.  I don’t use earplugs for sleep.  I prefer to listen to audiobooks or podcasts to put me to sleep but I do occasionally use earplugs at cafe’s, on plane’s, and while trying to get work done during the day if it’s super noisy around me.

Like many others, I’ve found Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs to be the most comfortable that I’ve used and also have the best seal. The trade-off is pretty well known. There white and get a little dirty over prolonged use and they are a little sticky compared to the more traditional silicone ones.  Beyond that there all about the same to me.  You kind of get what you pay for here. (The little yellow ones work but after an hour they will start to hurt my ears.)

 

Absolute Faves || The backpacks we won’t travel without. Osprey and Deuter.

(This post is mainly for travel but my two backpack recommendations, Osprey and Deuter apply for hiking/camping as well)

If I’m stateside I usually use a suitcase like most people and I haven’t really found a huge difference between the major brands. I have found that I like the four-wheeled one’s a little better than the two-wheeled one’s but basically, they are interchangeable for me. I currently own a higher end Briggs Riley for three-day business trips and larger but cheaper Northface if I’m headed somewhere for a week to golf or snowboard. If either was replaced with a Samsonite tomorrow wouldn’t impact me at all.

Backpacks are an entirely different story. When my family goes overseas we use backpacks exclusively. And not just the backpacks that you’re likely to find next to the suitcases at your basic big box retailer or luggage store.

**We have learned through trial and error that actual camping/hiking  (what they call “technical”) backpacks are by-far superior to most of the stuff that is marketed to travelers where they are basically just throwing some straps on a rucksack.)

(You just about have to go with a backpack over a suitcase as soon as you travel abroad, or know that the trip involves possible terrain because you just don’t know what you’re likely to encounter.  Better to have BackPacks.)

Of course, it’s easier to roll than throw a bunch of weight on your back but more often than you would think you won’t be able to roll it.  The backpacks allow us to navigate stairs, public transport, rural area’s etc easily but you want to have the right one.

Trust me. I have had the bad ones!!  I have also had midpriced ones.   Done with that.  Save money elsewhere.  My family’s had the stitching come out, zippers break, straps come off, etc.  Have had to just duct tape them up before and carry on to the next stop.

I have also now traveled with many people that have had bad (basic) bags.  I’m talking about bags that don’t have suspension built in, can’t handle getting wet, and don’t have access to at least a few compartments. DON’T DO IT.  Spend the extra hundred dollars or more and just get a bag you’ll use for the next decade (probably the next two the higher end ones are made so well these days).

It makes a HUGE Difference the first time you get off a train or out of a car and have to walk more than a hundred yards.  Will save your back.

Beyond that, I realize that in theory, you are just stuffing stuff into them but unlike a suitcase that zips all the way open if you don’t have a pack you can access from multiple areas besides just the top you are going to hate life in a hurry.  You want pockets that allow you to quickly get to things as well to secure the pack if you have to.

There are plenty of places to save money when you travel.  This is not one of them. We’re literally talking about the thing that holds all your things.

Having said all that, I’ve used most brands and conversed with enough travelers and hikers to recommend two.  Deuter and Osprey.  My person bag is an Osprey Xenith 105 that has been all over the world and still looks like new.  I have had 70 lbs worth of stuff in it, and it felt as light as the 45-pound rucksacks I had to haul around in the army.

My kids have small Deuter packs, that are a little more basic but still very rugged.  Deuter has been making bags 1898, Osprey’s been at it about 30 years.  Both companies manufacture their bags in Vietnam usually these days.  They are the most well made, comfortable, I am aware of.

 

Absolute Faves || Book Recommendation (On Being Awesome – A Unified Theory of How not to Suck)

On Being Awesome:  A Unified Theory of How Not to Suck.

I just finished this book on Audible and it exceeded my expectations.  It was, pardon the pun.  An AWESOME Book.  I think this book would be particularly good for teenagers or college students to read but I definitely benefited as well.  It’s 224 pages and I listened to it over 6 hours on a flight and am still reflecting on a few of the things in it weeks later.

An  Amazon editorial review that summed the book up rather nicely:

“What is the opposite of an asshole?  It’s the ‘awesome’ person who goes off script in the usual interactions, creating new opportunities for creative expression and social communion. Nick Riggle’s fun book is ‘awesome’ by its own definition. But don’t miss its profound ambition, which is to show how philosophy unearths the structure of ordinary language, defines the meaning of life in routine business, and poses the question of how best to live.”
—Aaron James, author of Assholes: A Theory

Absolute Faves II Waterpik (Better than Flossing)

Today’s Absolute Fave involves dental hygiene.  Might sound boring but your dentist and significant other will thank you for it.  Yes, I’m talking about a Waterpik, those water flossers that have made a roaring comeback the last few years.

Unfortunately, I don’t get to use mine when I”m traveling.  It just doesn’t fit into the backpack, but back home it sits by the sink and if you haven’t used one of these things, it’s so much better than traditional flossing.  There fun, vs, Uggggggh with the floss, and your mouth has a different (better) clean feeling than when you just brush your teeth and gargle with some Listerine.

The one that Amazon reviewers consistently choose as the best is the Waterpik WP -660 Aquarius Water Flosser.  Mine’s an older version of that brand.  I don’t have the model number in front of me.  You might read a few reviews if you think this is something that would be worthwhile in your life.  I know my family loves ours.

Absolute Fave.

Absolute Faves || The Wallet Pen

I had one of these pens for years and years.  An Absolute Fave of mine, fit right in my wallet.  Took up no space at all, functional as hell.  Used it to sign for the check, take directions,  fill out the arrival paperwork when arriving in new countries and yess even occasionally used to make some very important notes on cocktail napkins. 😉 The pen’s so nice it’s actually a cool conversation piece when I did take it out to sign something.

Then someone stole my wallet.

The Wallet Pen’s not cheap, but if you are always looking for a great pen that you can actually always keep up with it might make an excellent gift for yourself or a significant other.  (They do great engraving on them as well.)

Not available on Amazon, there made by a small hands-on business in Vermont.

If your interested or want to learn more you can find them here linked below.

“Technology can be simple. The Original Wallet Pen® fits that empty space at the fold of every wallet. For those times you are using a pen these days, small is beautiful.  Pass yours to a friend to sign the check. The wallet pen always starts a conversation.

Chosen as one of “Oprah’s Favorite Things” a few years back, our sterling silver pen fits that space in the fold of every wallet, checkbook, Moleskin® journal, and purse. It fits the Hermes® Agenda as well.

Each pen is made by hand in Vermont of .925 sterling and comes standard with a spare refill and a lifetime warranty.”

 

 

Absolute Faves || Google Home and Amazon Echo

I was not an early adopter of these devices but I’ve now spent enough time around both Google Home and Amazon Echo that I can tell anyone reading this that hasn’t used one, they are quite useful!  I love stuff that pays for itself over time and both of them will save you time and that saves you money.

Which one is more useful to you is debatable but will likely come down to whether you are using Google or Amazon more.  I wouldn’t over think it, their usefulness has converged on most things, best I can tell.

We use Google Home ourselves but more of our friends are using Echo’s.  Our Google Home turns on the lights, tells the kids jokes, is our interface to Spotify, is the way I play podcasts in the kitchen, and so much more.  (adjusts the temperature, ads things to our calendar, rings a friend, etc).

Google’s assistant has added a lot of new things recently.  The things it can do is listed here.  Amazon Echos updates a lot of what it’s devices can do here.  Worth a look if you’re still on the fence.

 

Absolute Faves || A podcast recommendation. Hidden Forces

Am loving the Hidden Forces Podcast where Demetri Kofinas “looks at what drives the changes that we see in the world. What are the hidden forces that influence our lives? Markets, algorithms, the frontiers of physics, culture, technology, space travel, the human mind…”

 

The Episode Guide is here, I usually use either Overcast or Pocket Casts app to listen to them on my phone.

Absolute Fave

Absolute Faves || Book recommendation time! The two books i’ve gifted the most in the last year.

As you will soon gather if you scroll through this website over time or know me, I read, listen too, and gift a lot of books.  Two of my Absolute Faves the last few years are by the same amazing author, Yuval Harari.  If you have not read either of these two masterpieces, then this may sound like hyperbole but be prepared for two of the most thought-provoking, engaging books you may have ever read.

  • Sapiens tackles the biggest questions of history and of the modern world, and it is written in unforgettably vivid language.” (Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, Collapse, and The World until Yesterday)”

 

  • Homo Deus:Spellbinding… This is a very intelligent book, full of sharp insights and mordant wit… It is a quirky and cool book, with a sliver of ice at its heart… It is hard to imagine anyone could read this book without getting an occasional, vertiginous thrill.” (Guardian)

Both books I could barely put down.  Both books I’ve now read twice.  If you’d like a taste of what the books about check out the Ted Talk down below.

 

Absolute Faves || Take your Coffee game to the next level. Life’s too short. (Chemex)

I knew I wouldn’t get past my 5th post without weighing in with a coffee recommendation.  (made it to three).  I have a lot more to come but wanted to hit this absolute fave because I used it this morning so without further ado:

Espresso’s, and various versions of cortado’s, flat whites, and lattes are my go-to coffee shop drink the afternoon or evening if I’m still working but in the morning for whatever reason, I still prefer just plain (but delicious) pour over coffee. Can’t beat the Chemex for this.

(A digression on coffee beans:  I’m not going to make a recommendation here or probably ever because I’ve found its just incredibly subjective.  Everyone I know has a different favorite.  I like the dark and bold stuff myself, and don’t mind a little bitterness.  But I get it, some people hate that.

I will say I’ve tried literally hundreds of coffee beans/roasts at this point, including the famed Luwak Coffee in Bali last year. and IMO there’s a lot more variance with coffee beans than there is with say; microbrewed beer.  For myself, the taste varies immensely (as it probably should given the soil, climate, roast, even grind, etc). Also, I really enjoy rotating around a lot trying new beans and roasts even if I do occasionally swing and miss.

So if you’re locked into one particular brand/bean/roast, give some others a taste every now and then.)

Ok back to Chemex.  Regardless of your choice of bean here is what I have personally arrived back at for the best cup of coffee when i’m at home.

I use a Chemex Glass Coffeemaker and I pay a little extra for their pre-folded circle coffee filters.  (I’ve experimented with some cheaper options but to me, there definitely worth it).  I hand grind the coffee with a Hario Skerton Plus.  I’ve also had a Khaw-Free grinder that was great.  Both are whats knows as burr grinders.  Hand grinding is easy if its just for one or two people, but if you’re making a lot of coffee, yeah you probably want an automatic grinder.  Baratza makes the best I’ve seen but they are expensive and overkill for most of us.

**Lastly I just want to say, please if you have a choice of supporting a local independent coffee shop with your business rather than one of the larger corporate brands, please do so.  I have traveled the world over and I cannot tell you how much better the service, ambiance, and experience can be than the large multi-nationals.  Most of the owners I met, they’re not making much money, it is a labor of love for them.  So please support your local coffee shops!