Traveling “freelance” way in Central America

I am getting lots of questions regarding my travel, living, working in central America so here are few answers.

About my trip

I left Europe somewhere in November and head to Florida where I joined sail boat and sailed down to Guatemala. I am traveling on land for couple month around central America (Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, Cuba,..) and slowly returning back to boat to sail more. Right now I am in the middle trip and I need to extend my return tickets to extra 2-3 months (it is still cold in Europe 🙂

Language

Spanish is the language you want to know here 🙂 I didn’t know anything and starting getting into it 🙂 Google translator, your hands are your best friends 🙂

Security

Many people are afraid of security here (I mean those in EU or USA) but I didn’t had or feel of any security issues. Nothing get stolen, I am not being afraid of walking in the night. I have few rules:

  • Be nice to local people, they will be nice to you
  • Keep general safety rules like:
    • don’t walk in the night where is not light
    • separate your money and keep them in separate places
    • learn by observing – accept their habits and don’t expect your EU or USA standards
    • water only from bottle, but don’t be too much paranoid about it
    • ….
  • Be positive !  even if something bad happens 🙂
  • Be friendly !
  • Be thankful !
  • meditate / talk with God as much as you can – there is reason for what is going on in your life 🙂

Food

I like to eat local food. It is part of the culture you are currently in and it taste so good and most of the time it is cheaper. Some people don’t do it and want theirs restaurant’s food. So it depends on your preferences. You can get local food from $1-$2 USD (Mexico – tacos – something like “Doner Kebab” in EU for 0.5$) up to $30USD in restaurants. It is only up to you, your preferences and your budget.

Internet

Internet is everywhere but the stability is “shaky”. Best internet so far is in Mexico

  • Mexico – wifi 15Mb down / 4Mb up
  • Cuba – only wifi 2-3Mb down / 0.5Mb up
  • Belize – wifi 5Mb down / 0.5Mb up
  • Guatemala – LTE – 15Mb down / 5Mb up, but in peak hours (like evening) it drops to 2Mb / 0.5Mb

Work

This is hard question. I need internet to my work so  some places would not be as suitable as others. My current project doesn’t require reliable internet – so I am set well 🙂  Bigger problem is to find discipline and actually work 🙂 Sometimes I take few days off and work from hotel or bar next to beach or sometimes when I travel in bus I use this time to do my work. I take it easy 🙂

People – tourists

Generally there are 2 types of tourists you meet:

  1. Tourists who come here for few days
  2. BackPackers who are traveling for few months – (I don’t like much word “backpacker” – it sounds to me like you are something less which is not true but I wanted to distinguish those 2 types of tourists somehow)

ad 1) Tourists  – usually throw lots of money around them. They are here for few hours/days and they want the best before they have to return back to work. I understand them – sometimes I want luxury as well 🙂 But for some unknown reason they behave like snobs 🙂 couple examples:

  • If you say “Ola” and greet them, usually they don’t even responds
  • They treat locals kind of like a slaves – locals are here for them just to clean their rooms, to fulfil their needs (maybe word “slave” is too extreme but you get the idea) ,….

ad 2) BackPackers – Usually travel longer (several weeks, months, years). Very open for discussion and share their experiences and tips they have. Maybe just word “Sharing” describes them very well. They are very open. They don’t have to be cheap and going on low budget even though if you are traveling for few month every dollar you save means you can extend your trip 🙂 For few days you become very good friends.

Prices

You are already getting the idea how it works. You can live expensive way or you can live quite low. Really depends on your preferences and your budget. Many people thinks traveling for few months is extremely expensive. If you find place you like you can always try to search for job for month or two and extend your stay 🙂 Anyway here are few numbers to get ideas:

Cuba – seems like most expensive country on my trip:

  • bed – 20-35$
  • food – breakfast 5$, dinner 15$ – average I was spending 25$
  • transport – depends where you go, but in average 30$ if you travel (havana -> vinales -> playa larga -> cienfuegos -> trinidad -> havana)
  • diving – (in Playa Larga) – 2 dives 70$

Mexico – bigger variety of prices – are you where tourists go or where locals go

  • bed – 20$ hotel, airbnb has similar prices
  • food – from 2$ (street food) up to 30$ in restaurants (lobster cca 24$)
  • transport – 30$ (Playa de Carmen to Palenque)
  • diving – cca 85$ (2 dive tank) + 20$ rental

Belize – I stayed in Caye Caulker island

  • bed – from 15$ and up
  • food – from 2 $ (street food) up to 20$ (lobster cca 14$ restaurant)
  • transport – 25$ ferry, 50$ bus to get to Flores / Guatemala
  • diving – 8 dives for cca 500$ (including rentals) – one of the best dives ever

Guatemala

  • bed – from 10$ up
  • food – from 3$ (street food) and up (15$ chicken in restaurant)
  • transport – 18$ (bus Rio Dulce -> Guatemala City)
  • no diving 🙂

 

Picture of “street food” – breakfast for $2.5 USD in Cozumel/Mexico

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How is it living on boat

I had opportunity to spend month on Galaxy. Galaxy is 40 foot catamaran.  And during my period Galaxy was operating in Bahamas waters – Great Exumas Islands waters. Not many people realize that boats have to be like small cities, providing fresh water as well as generating enough electricity not only to make water, but to power all our toys (gps, noteboks, satelite phone, several iPads, our small cinema and few more ) as well as engines and many other things.

Galaxy at George Town, Bahamas

Living

So how is living on Galaxy ? I had my own small cabin where I slept. Literally I was only sleeping there. It was much much nicer to be outside and enjoy water and sun 🙂 In the middle of the boat there is “kitchen, dining room, living room” in one place together 🙂 Boat holds 2 another cabins (for kids and their parents) with 2 bathrooms. Don’t think of big luxury yacht with its own pool 🙂 Galaxy is just perfect size, small enough so you can get everywhere and big enough to cross oceans. Just perfect !!!

In the morning you usually wake up at 6:30am (that’s time when is weather forecast transmitted over radio and you don’t want to miss it ) and usually you go to bed after sunset. It’s said that sailor midnight is at 9pm 🙂 I was so surprised how quickly I have get use to is (of course I had jet lag which works very well with this setup).

There is one thing I have to note. Stars at night. It is so nice, so bright, so perfect, so amazing. Just sitting on deck and watching stars and enjoying your drink. Thinking about your past day, your future plans, your being, meditating with God, just enjoying that moment.

9X0A1012

Things to do

Galaxy is perfect, everywhere from sun rise to sunset we had “our own swimming pool” around called ocean. I haven’t seen sea with so great visibility anywhere else. Bahamas has one of nicest waters I have seen.  We spent lots of time in water (swimming, fishing, lobstering – diving & catching lobsters or spear fishes) but also lots of fun on the water (we participated in yacht race, snorkelling, explore several lone islands, including one closed research center). Visited several places so nice that several movies have been filmed there (Thunderbolt – James Bond, and others )  When you come from frozen country to almost summer weather you can imagine that I have enjoyed every minute on sun as well in water 🙂 Many people asks me whether I was bored, honestly I didn’t finish things I wanted to go through. I was working preparing few meals, learned and helped to clean boat bottom with hookah and of course diving, work with sails, when we were moving get everything ready (gps, maps, routes,…) get anchor ready for departure and many more things.

WORK

I like to travel and work in same time. It is kind of Nomad Lifestyle. But being in Bahamas on the boat, I thought that spending time closed in cabin with computer would be insane. I have pushed myself to go through few tutorials and read few books.  So this trip was rather full time vacations.

I mentioned above that usually we would wake early at 6:30pm. Because of jet lag I used to wake up earlier and usually started with doing my own things, reading, meditating and let the rest of crew to sleep. I hate waking up early, but I know how powerful it is specially if you want to be productive that day. So If I would be working that “sailors schedule” would work very much for me.

Internet – we had internet fro time to time. Galaxy is well prepared to receive and transmit internet from long distances, but still you have to have way to “steal” it from somewhere. (by stealing I mean getting closer to some yacht club, laundry office where is internet for free). Internet in marinas is not fast, but good enough. Not for meetings as we moved a lot, but rather tasked where you can work on them alone.

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Conclusion

World is so nice and specially Caribbean islands. If you can, visit them !  It was an incredible time spent with family, relaxing, having lots of fun, learning new things and enjoying beautiful weather and nature.


Flickr as backup for your pictures

After I have lost several years of my pictures I started to use Google Picasa – to get unlimited space you have to agree that your pictures have to have specific pixel size.

Few month back – yahoo, specifically Flickr – changed few “key” settings – specifically size for your pictures – now you get 1TB.

So I was thinking to use Flickr as second backup place and pictures can keep their original size – they don’t need to be shrinked.

What needs to be done:

  • have account on Flickr
  • change default privacy settings for your account
  • change privacy settings for search engines (I want to hide them from search engines)
  • now upload your pictures 🙂
    • If you got your pictures in Picasa, use picasa2flickr addon and sent your pictures to Flickr directly from Picasa

 


What lessons to learn from Mount Blanc and diving as software architect

In my previous post about exceeding my limits I have mentioned 2 trips from several I did in 2013. I would like to share lessons I learnt specially for development. You will see that there is not much difference in mistakes in software development as well in mistakes in diving or reaching top of mountains.

Let’s share some problems we have encounter:

During descent from Mount Blanc we (group of 3 people) decided we are not going to be tight together anymore, as it give us more freedom and we don’t have wait on each other. On the way back one of my friend felt over the cliff and by miracle was lucky to not fall down in gulf. We can’t say same about his DLSr camera. We have lost our best pictures from ascent and top of Mount Blanc, anyway my friend is still with us enjoys life like never before.

During my so far most deep dive, we swum almost all time against current and we have spent more air than we thought. On the way up, we had to use  extra safety air bottles we left in case of emergency, because we run out of air in our bottles.

These things I don’t share with everyone usually, because instead of learning lessons from my mistakes it scares them to actually not do anything.

And how it connects with development ?

  • If possible do pair programming and TDD – best exercise can be learnt on coderetreat
  • Never ever in name of “freedom, not enough time, not enough budget,…” write code without tests –  tests are your safety “rope” which holds your code together and can saves you life
  • Always count on unexpected events  (have extra hours, budget, resource hidden which you can pull on when needed) – this is like having extra safety bottles with air in water
  • Did you notice that both situation happened after “reaching  goal”  on the way back ? – Finishing your software and putting into production is our main goal, but be ready to expect the “real” problems when real users starts using it
  • Good preparation is the key for success – be tough on yourself – think about the most worst cases and expect even worse situations

These are just few things – happy new year 2014 and be ready to exceed your limits in next coming year.


Exceeding my limits in 2013 -52m –> 4810m :)

Year 2013 was great year where I had opportunity to exceed my limits above but as well at bottom 🙂

Ascent on Mount Blanc  4810 m

Preparations started about 6months ahead. It was tough, what ever I thought it takes in reality it was at least 2x harder. But it is worth it.

When you get there, you are full emotions – happiness, completely tired, feeling freezing cold and at same time enjoying shining sun on your face.

Your biggest enemy is weather and your physical condition. Here are few tips:

  • you can book bed in cottage no earlier than 30 days before ascent. Booking starts at 7:00am and usually ends at 7:10 am – So many people wants to book at same time.
  • To fight against weather good tip is to book whole week (every day) – when it gets closer, and you have better idea about weather for given days, you start cancelling your bookings
  • To fight against  physical condition, high altitude sickness ,…. – there was one thing I was telling to myself for 2 days. One more step , One more step. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, but you will get there.

 Here are few pictures and video from Mont Blanc

Descent to -52m in ocean

I love to dive. Very soon I figure out that normal diving  is “not enough” for me 🙂  In 2013 I have spent week on safari in Egypt. Everyday up to 4 dives. Last day I asked my friends I wanted to go down, deeper then usual 30m. I have to say, that my friends are technical divers (sometimes they do over -100m dives). So I did -52m in Egypt. 52m is not much, anyway when you so deep it takes you almost half hour to get properly in surface – that’s why maximum for non technical divers is recommended around -20m

 

It was very good year with many good things and few bad things as well, but these 2 shows that you can do always more than you thought. With good preparation you can manage many things, you can overcome fear, achieve more.


zamestnanec vs osvc

This article is concerning czech people, that’s why writing it in czech.

V posledni dobe jsem dostal nekolikrat otazku ohledne rozdilu zamestnanec vs freelancer neboli osvc (popripadne podnikatel, ale zde jiz by zrejme platili jine podminky)

Predne si musime rict, ze to zalezi na hodne podminkach – jsem zenaty, mam deti, zena pracuje nebo je na materske,…

I kdyz jsem se snazil vysvetlovat rozdily dle mych subjektivnich zmen, ktere vnimam, ze se odehraly v mem zivote (zodpovednost, samostatnost, flexibilita, …) tak musim priznat, ze tyto zmeny, ktere ja pokladam za jedny z nejdulezitejsich, nejsou zrejme ty nejdulezitejsi v ocich zamestnancu.

Podivejme se tedy na danou situaci jazykem penez.

Modelova situace predstavuje zamestnance s mesicnim platem 50 000 a stejne tak osvc, ktery vystavuje fakturu ve vysi 67 000 (jinymy slovy superhruba mzda zamestnance je rovna obratu freelancera). Nyni nebereme v uvahu rozdilne vydaje, ktere by mohli mit (jak casto chodi do kina/restauraci, za co utraci a koli, kde bydli atd…). To co ja povazuji za dulezite, je podivat se jake mam “fixni” vydaje jako zamestnanec a jako freelancer – v odkazu je nazyvam tzv. Danove naklady a obsahuji v sobe dane, socku, zdravku (neboli superhruba mzda – cista mzda v pripade zamestnance)

Vytvoril jsem jednoduchy google spreadsheet, ve kterem modeluji jake danove naklad musi vynalozit zamestnanec a freelancer statu.

Zde je odkaz (stahnete si kopii k sobe do sveho spreadsheetu, a tam si muzete modelovat sve konkretni situace)
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ar12q6OPfeNxdDl4OE9CNzczOXN2ZFl5RllCajdNUWc

Asi neni zadnym zazrakem, ze freelancer, ktery vyuziva 60% pausaly ma o hodne mensi zatizeni, jinymi slovy na konci roku ma o cca 270 000 vice.

Pojdme si rict jake vyhody a nevyhody zde cihaji:

Zamestnanec:
* relativni jistota, stabilita (vic jak 90% zamestnancu to dava na predni mista)
* nemuset se starat o administrativu – (osobne jsem rad, ze mam danovou poradkyni a pomaha mi optimalizovat me danove naklady a uprimne, tech par hodin za rok to stoji)
* nemusest nest zodpovednost – cely zivot neseme zodpovednost (v zivote musime byt zodpovedni za hromadu veci (za svoji rodinu, sve materialni veci, sve dulezita rozhodnuti, tak proc se nekdo tak vehementne brani prevzit zodpovednost i v praci)
* nemuset vkladat sve penize – pracovni “naradi” zajistuje zamestnavatel – (vyhoda i nevyhoda – jako freelancer mam svobodu co si koupim, to vetsinou jako zamestnanec nemam)
* placene volno – to je opravdu vyhoda, kterou jako freelancer nemate. pokud chceme opravdu sjednotit freelancera a zamestnance, tak bud si freelancer odecte 1 mesicni plat (je na dovolene) nebo zamestnanec si pricte 1 mesicni plat

Freelancer:
* svoboda (ale bez jistot 🙂 – ono v dnesni dobe je opravdu malo jistot – asi to muzu shrnout jen do 3: smrt, dane a vlepsim pripade (pokud verite v duchovni veci) vira v Boha
* vetsi vydelek (sice mate stejnou mzdu jako zamestnanec, tak jste schopen si ji lepe danove optimalizovat)
* flexibilita – moznost prejit z fyzicke osoby na pravnicky subjekt, nebo prenest sidlo sve firmy do jine zeme, ktera umoznuje lepsi danove optimalizace

nevyhody:
* prvotni naklady jsou velke – nakup pracovniho “naradi”
* mensi duchod – pokud nejaky bude ? – mensi dane znamenaji sice vetsi zisk, ale taky mensi zaplacene odvody na duchodove a socialni pojisteni
* vice prace okolo (administrativy) – jak jsem jiz napsal vyse – osobne to vnimam jako vyhodu
* ostatni kolem vas zacnou vnimat jinak (a zrejme se i zacnete chovat jinak nez ostatni kolem vas) a v nejhorsim pripade to muze skoncit tak, ze nektere pratelstvi budete muset ukoncit (je velka pravdepodobnost, ze se setkate s zavisti, pomluvami, vycitkami,…)
* stat vas narkne, ze ho okradate i kdyz platite vse presne tak jak je to narizene statem a vetsina zamestnancu bude na vas ukazovat, ze muzete za jejich problemy (maly plat, problemy ve statu, problemy s duchody,…)
* rucite veskerym svym majetkem v pripade freelancingu (i tato neprijemna podminnka se da obejit)

update: Kdyz jsem nad tim premyslel, tak jsem si uvedomil ruzne druhy pohledu na danou vec.
Zamestnanec a jeho rodina se vidi jako 36 500 “looser” protoze statistiky hovori, ze jeho prace by mela byt ohodnocena za 50 000.
Zamestnavatel a stat ho vidi jako velmi uspesneho jedince s platem 67 000. Obzvlast stat ho velmi rad vidi, protoze ho muze legalne “okradat” o jeho penize.

Hrube mzdy, ciste mzdy bych uplne zrusil, jedine co je relevantni je tzv. superhruba mzda (jak pro vypocet dane, socky, zdravky (proste stat a dokonce i zamestnavatel musi pracovat s touto castkou) – to je castka za kterou pracuje a ktera ho reprezentuje pred statem, zamestnavatelem a pred dalsimi urady). Pokud clovek si tento fakt uvedomi, tak dokaze velmi rychle videt, ze plat ma nad prumerny, a ze to neni zamestnavatel, ktery ho okrada, ale je to stat, ktery mu z platu legalnim zpusobem ‘ukrade’ skoro az 50%.
Pokud to nezaznelo dostatecne hlasite, chyba neni v tom, ze zamestnavatel malo plati – podivejte se na superhrubou mzdu – jste 70 000-tisicovy clovek (velmi uspesny s vysokym nadprumernym platem) – to co chci rict, zjistete, kde se ztraci penize – a zda zmenou formy pracovniho vztahu se neda optimalizovat svoji situaci.


02 a vypoved ADSL

Rozhodl jsem se ze dam vypoved a prejdu s internetem k jinemu providerovi.

Duvod je legracni – jednou jsem musel diskutovat s jejich centrem “pece o zakazniky” a tak me vytocili, ze jsem se rozhodl ze jiz jim zadne penize posilat nebudu.

To me dovedlo k tomu ze jsem patral po konkurenci a zjistil ze muzu mit ADSL u sveho mobilniho operatora za polovinu ceny, takze duvod k prejiti.

Dnes jsem volal – napisu jen velmi strucne – byly to 2 hovory (pry se jim zhroutil system, proto mi volala pak zpatky [verim ze overovala u jakeho operatora mam svuj mobil, jakou maji nabidku, a zda moje tvrzeni ceny konkurence je pravdiva]). Hovory trvaly asi neco pres pul hodiny. Slecna se zeptala za kolik mi to nabizi konkurence, ja na to ze 300 (bude to o neco vic, ale kdyz me nasr@li a chteji si me udrzet, tak at daji poradnou slevu). Pak jak volala zpatky (to jiz mela funkcni system) tak zacala s nabidkama:

  • 500 kc
    • ja: to je stale drahe, konkurence je levnejsi
    • ona: pak tu mam dalsi nabidku, jen pro vas, protoze jste nas dobry zakaznik 🙂
  • 400kc
    • ja: cena je stale drazsi. je tam nejaky zavazek ?
    • ona: ano 1 rok
    • ja: konkurence to ma bez zavazku a kdyz budu nucen se prestehovat tak je to pro me vyhodnejsi
    • ona: to neni problem, kdyz se prestehujete, tak vam preneseme i internet, pokud tam nebude linka, tak vam ji zridime, a pokud to nepujde, tak zavazek jednoduse zrusime
    • ja: tak proc tam vubec mate ten zavazek, kdyz rikate ze ho nijak nebudete vyzadovat
    • ona: to ja nevim, tak to mame nastavene
    • ja: stale je to drahe
    • ona: muzu jit pod 400 ale snizime rychlost
    • ja: konkurence to ma za 300, bez zavazku, bez snizovani rychlosti,…

 

Tak jsem ji zdelil, ze jsem rozhodnut prejit. Pak nastalo 20min vetsinovy monolog, jak je to pro me nevyhodne, ze nabizi skoro stejnou cenu a zavazku se nemusim bat. Ze nyni mi pobezi vypovedni lhuta az do brezna a budu muset platit celou dobu vyssi cenu, takhle by mi to ihned zmenila v systemu a mohl bych mit levnejsi internet….

No snazila se holka, to musim uznat. Uz mi zacali dochazet duvody 🙂

Co z toho vyplyva ? Pokud platis za internet vice jak 400 – 500kc tak neni problem tu cenu si snizit. Pozor na jednu vec, sleva by byla jen na 1 rok a pak by asi naskocila puvodni cena (to si clovek dokaze ohlidat – ale proc ?  kdyz konkurence nabizi je v tomhle uprimnejsi a neschovava to za nejakymi slevami jen pro “vyvolene”)