my best advice

Tag Archives for my best advice.

Must-Haves of Travel: Affordable Razors!

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So this is going to sound like an effing advertisement. And I guess it kinda is.


Yes, they are f***ing great

But. If you haven’t already heard of Dollar Shave Club, you should read about it now, they are all over, even the best beard oils reviewed mention and talk about them, they truly went viral.

That’s because they’ll ship you razors each month for really cheap. And they travel well.

What’s Dollar Shave Club?

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My Best Advice: “You Can Do Anything You Set Your Mind To”

I’m just read through an old scrapbook from 1991 to 1993. Yup, I still have some things from nearly 25 years ago.

My little brother hadn’t been born yet, and I wrote a lot of letters to my family. Once I learned how to address envelopes and send letters, I sat down and wrote all the time. And when I got a letter in the mail, I’d get so excited. I thought it was the best thing in the world – to get a letter in the mail.

I was lucky to have a supportive family while growing up in rural Mississippi. My Mom was always there to take care of me, and I still talk to her on the phone constantly.

This letter from my Gramma is over 23 years old by now, and I still have it

This letter from my Gramma is over 23 years old by now, and I still think about it

My grandmother taught me about positive thinking early on. I’ll never forget a phrase I read in one of her letters.

“You can do anything you set your mind to.”

It was the first piece of advice that really stuck with me, and it was a good one. The letter came on June 4th, 1992. I was seven years old at the time.

The law of attraction

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Must-Haves of Travel: Activated Charcoal

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Activated charcoal FTW

Activated charcoal FTW

After reading an article by fellow Brooklynite Jenny on Healthy Crush about activated charcoal, I had to try it.

Activated charcoal is made by burning something carbon-based, like wood or coconut shells to remove all of the oxygen. What’s left is a highly absorbent material filled with millions of tiny pores that trap and bind gas and toxins and can carry thousands of times its weight.

That’s really cool.

It comes in capsules and looks like this:

Activated charcoal capsules

Activated charcoal capsules

Uses for activated charcoal

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Must-Haves of Travel: Apple Cider Vinegar

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Now I’ve really gone off the deep end, and am suggesting that you pack a spray bottle filled with… vinegar?


I’ve written about traveling with coconut oil. I make sure to have a container of it with me every time I travel.

More recently, I’ve started taking a little spray bottle filled with apple cider vinegar.

Here’s why. 

Benefits of apple cider vinegar

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Is Living In Cities Worth It?

I recently discovered a blog called Financial Samurai that got me thinking. Particularly the articles about living in cities:

I’ve mentioned before that living in New York forever might not be in the cards for me as part of my path toward FIRE.

It’s simply a shift in priorities.

The Good Things About Living in Cities

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The 10% Plan: Save 10 Percent of Everything You Make

10% of everything!

10% of everything!

I’ve started a new savings routine that is blowing me out of the water. That sounds weird to say, but it’s true. It’s an idea I directly lifted from a book called “The Automatic Millionaire” by David Bach.

The crux of the idea is that you put 10% of everything you make into a savings or retirement account. Everything.

If someone hands you a dollar, you put a dime into savings. You make $1,000, well, $100 goes into your savings account. 10%, all the time. From the savings account, you can distribute the money in a few ways:

  • Leave it in there to serve as a cushion (it’s a good idea to have 3-6 months of expenses saved)
  • Transfer to IRA
  • Save up for a goal (down payment on a car/house, repairs/renovations, etc)
  • Pay down student loans or other debts
  • Simply save it for peace of mind

After I read “The Automatic Millionaire” I started putting this into practice. It’s been about 2 months by now, and I’m kind of amazed at how much I’ve already been able to save – automatically.

It also signaled a shift in my mindset.

Why 10%?

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My Best Advice: Form a Habit Loop

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Without a doubt, one of the best ways to earn points is to take advantage of category bonuses. Another way is to shop online through a shopping portal. But at first, you have to train yourself to always be maximizing.

My habit loop

For Cue–>Routine–>Reward, I have:

Point of purchase–>Card selection–>Extra points at the end of the month.

It’s insanely simple to learn, easy to apply, and effortless to keep up after you practice it for a while. But the hardest part, like making any new thing a habit, is starting up.

It takes about 2 weeks of focused effort to make something a habit.

Another way to think of “point of purchase” is “any time I grab my wallet/purse/credit card”.

For card selection, I think:

Where am I?

What category is this?

OK, use ______ card.

For example:

  • Grocery store / Groceries / Chase Freedom (this quarter) or Amex EveryDay Preferred
  • Staples / Office supplies / Chase Ink Plus
  • A Hyatt hotel / Travel / Chase Hyatt Visa
  • A gas station / Tas / Chase Ink Plus or Amex EveryDay Preferred
  • Restaurant / Dining / Chase Sapphire Preferred (will be Chase Freedom though April-May)
  • Local boutique / General shopping / Right now, the US Bank Club Carlson Visa or the Barclays US Airways MasterCard because they’ve both given me spend bonuses
  • Anywhere, when I’m meeting minimum spend / Doesn’t matter / The card I’m meeting the spend on – this one overrides everything else, as meeting minimum spend is the exception to all rules

For any online shopping, I do the same thing, except I check a couple of portals for the highest payout. Before I pull my card out, my habit loop is to both find the portal with the highest payout and to use the best card for the purchase (the Shop Through Chase and Barclays RewardsBoost portals have always been very good to me).



It all adds up. 

I find myself thinking, often, “Oh, it’s only a couple hundred points.” But for all the times I think that, those few hundred points start to add up to thousands. And with 5,000 Ultimate Rewards points, for example, I can really start to use those in a significant way.

Other habit loops

You can apply the same simple formula to literally anything.

  • Working out more
  • Waking up earlier
  • Eating healthier
  • Establishing a routine/time management
  • And even to earning more points

It’s amazing how much humans are creatures of habit. Something like 90% of our typical day is all things we’ve learned as habits. That’s why habits are so ingrained. But old habits can be replaced, and it’s really not that hard.

Identify the cue, alter the routine, enjoy the reward. 

With regard to our hobby, the reward is more points. More points equal more trips. More trips mean more memories. More memories lead to rich lives.

Bottom line

It took me a solid month when I was first starting out and filling up my wallet to set the intention to focus on which card I used.

My go-to was the Chase Sapphire Preferred for a long time. Then it was the US Bank Club Carlson Visa. Then the Amex EveryDay Preferred. I had to make a system for myself to avoid confusion, and within that system, I realized I had the tools to work smarter instead of harder – and to increase my points balances at the same time.

I enjoy healthy points balances while I am earning, then I burn them. It’s part of having a goal in mind.

For the master of habit loops, check out Charles Duhigg’s website and also his book, “The Power of Habit“.

What other habit loops are useful for travel? I would also love to hear about other internal systems and mental tools regarding our hobby.

My Best Advice: Stay Scrappy

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Stay Scrappy

Stay Scrappy


  1. consisting of disorganized, untidy, or incomplete parts.
    “scrappy lecture notes piled up unread”
  2. NORTH AMERICAN informal
    determined, argumentative, or pugnacious.
    “he played the part of a scrappy detective”

I’ve always liked the idea of a signature sign-off phrase. Something like, “Stay class, San Diego!” from Anchorman, but, you know, mine.

I’ve read a few articles lately about grit, getting gritty, and what gritty means. I like all of the concepts – mental toughness, determination, stick-to-it-iveness, but the word “grit” just doesn’t resonate with me for some reason.

A word that does is scrappy.

Get scrappy

This doesn’t mean combative or mean, but it does mean to stop letting people push you around – something that took me a long time to really understand. It means to stand up for yourself, and it means to live life with a certain willingness to make it through any situation. But how do you get it?

Like anything, you can teach yourself. It’s nothing more complex or simple than a mindset. It’s giving meaning to a word and then resolving to embody the meaning of that word. It’s imbuing intention into your actions. And it’s putting new actions into places to replace old actions – forming a new habit loop.

In the travel industry, and with regard to our shared passion for travel, it means so much more than that, though. Our common thread here – why you’re here, why I’m here – is travel. Being scrappy with regard to travel is a step beyond “go go go.” You must go to a place when you can, but when you get there, you must remain open to change. If you’re not changing, you’re not progressing. Progress, learning… it’s all change. A little bit every day.

Scrappy in this regard – what I consider it – is having the gumption to look out for yourself, to put yourself into situations that require real critical thinking, and to come out fighting (in a good way) on the other end. It’s prioritizing your travel goals and doing what it takes to check off items off your list.

Stay scrappy

Buy those mistake fares, burn those (Sky)miles, and be willing to rearrange your schedule to suit your decisions. With us, it’s choosing to put travel first, to make career and lifestyle decisions because of it, even to design everything around the intention to travel as much as possible. Those are bold choices, and anything bold will have naysayers. But us scrappy folk know when to listen and when to press on. That is an inherent quality of scrappiness.

  • It’s staying playful and exploring with a sense of wonder.
  • It’s having your own style of approaching new opportunities.
  • It’s staying cool when plans change.
  • It’s also being a little feisty and being willing to test new waters (like manufactured spending).

I love Urban Dictionary’s definition:

“Someone or something that appears dwarfed by a challenge, but more than compensates for seeming inadequacies through will, persistence and heart.”

Bottom line

I’m trying to focus on the positive connotations of the word “scrappy” and meditate on it a little. I’ve often come here to work out my ideas about travel, and this is another one that I’d like to continue working on.

However, even in what feels like a semi-formed state, it’s something that I do consider to be “my best advice”. And dissecting semantics is always such a personal thing, anyway. But whatever the word means to you, do that and be that. Or, if you need to, like me, find a word that has meaning for you. And then embody that word. For me, “scrappy” meant more than “grit.” And when I’m in a situation (that I put myself in) that requires a hard decision, diamond-hard toughness, or calling on my inner strength in a really big way, it’s become my mantra to myself.

So I’ll sign off with that: stay scrappy. And as always, thank you so much for reading.

Do you have a word or phrase that keeps you focused? Do you feel like travel pushes your boundaries as a person (and isn’t it great)?

My Best Advice: Go Go Go

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travel adviceSo I am starting today a new tag for my philosophical travel musings that really don’t fit into any other category called “My Best Advice.” It’s just that – what I have learned as a traveler and the mindsets that I’ve found to be powerful. I love hearing travel advice from others, so maybe mine will be welcomed, too.

Way back, when I was a lowly art student going to college in Chicago, I’d occasionally get invites from friends to visit their homes in other places. And every time I could, I said yes.

“Would you wanna come to middle-of-nowhere Indiana?”


“I’m going home to Iowa for a few days, wanna join?”


“Ever been to St. Louis? We could take the train?”


“Milwaukee for the day?”


I have nothing against Indiana, Iowa, St. Louis, or Milwaukee, but they weren’t exactly on my bucket list. But who cares? I got to see new parts of this huge country, meet new people, and see how other people lived, if only for a few days. And, in my opinion, travel is always worth it. In fact, I think it is the only thing worth going into debt for (please don’t, but suffice it to say I value it that highly).

There are many elements at play here:

  • You never know who you might meet
  • The place might end up being a gem
  • You might have a lot of fun, which would be terrible
  • Travel is something that builds you up as a person
  • It might change your outlook on life

When someone mentions Indiana, I like having a basis for that. I like knowing what Milwaukee is like. I’m glad that I went to those places.

Nowadays, I have the wonderful task of cherry-picking where I want to go next. Unless it’s a mistake or attack fare, in which case, I will most likely snap it up. It’s how I’m getting to Ireland in a few months, it’s how I went to Alaska for the first time, and to Munich for Oktoberfest. Oh, and add Iceland to the list, too!

It still happens from time to time though, that I get a random invite. These days, it’s usually for a wedding. I made it out to Westbrook, Connecticut this past summer, and I’m heading to rural Ontario, Canada in early June on the basis of a random invite. And each time something like this happens, if I can feasibly do it, I make the room in my life, and I go go go. Read More

Must-Haves of Travel: Coconut Oil

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Here’s my pie in the sky for weekend. And I promise I’m only a little bit crazy in recommending that you travel with a small measure of coconut oil.

Here’s why.

I have written about coconut oil before in how it relates to overall health, specifically with the practice of oil pulling, which I am happy to report I still practice religiously (today, in fact).

Benefits of coconut oil

Coconut oil does so many great and beneficial things – I basically want to turn into a coconut.

Here’s a short list of the health and beauty uses of coconut oil:

  • Make up remover
  • Moisturizer
  • Sunburn relief
  • Pre-shave and aftershave
  • Deep hair conditioner and split end treatment
  • Burn relief and scar reduction
  • Toothpaste (baking powder mixed with coconut oil)

Coconut oil is rich in antioxidants and helps enhance the lipid barrier on your skin to keep in as much moisture as possible. It’s a natural skin-softening moisturizer and contains emollient, which helps reduce wrinkles that have already developed. It’s also anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.

It soothes bug bites, speeds healing of burns, helps with rashes, gets rid of flaking skin, softens and shrinks wrinkles, protects against sun damage, keeps tans longer, etc. Seriously, Google it. You will be amazed by all you can do with it.

How to use coconut oil while traveling

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The Two Most Powerful Words in the Travel Industry

…or any industry. 

thank-youThank you. 

When to thank

People often ask me how I sometimes score upgrades on an airline, get my flights changed for free with no notice, get retention offers on credit cards when others have reported not having success, or get awards changed to better routings without paying a fee.

I’ve read the articles about wearing blazers and showing up early to the gate, the $20 trick, and how people say they will close their credit cards to a retention specialist to get more points from banks. Maybe they have some merit and maybe they don’t – but my approach is to be nice to everyone all the time, and say “thank you” with gratitude.

I believe the feeling of gratitude is one of the most powerful feelings a person can experience – more powerful than any negative emotion could ever be.

There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes in life – especially in the travel industry. There are many moving parts and much has to happen for everything to go smoothly. I am constantly amazed at just how cool air travel really is.

Sometimes things happen. There is weather, there are delays, flights get oversold. Every day this happens. Yes, it sucks, but you’ve got to roll with it.

Here is when I like to thank: I state my business, ask my question, tell them I appreciate them looking into it, and say thank you. Then I hush up.

Something like:

Hi, I see there is a flight leaving sooner than the one I’m supposed to be on. Would it be possible to switch onto that flight? I don’t have any checked bags. I’d really appreciate it if you could see if it might be possible. Thank you.

And then I wait.

I think of it as putting my wish out into the world, and then releasing it. I figure if I can get something better by simply asking a question, I am in a better position if I get what it is I’ve asked for, and no worse off if it doesn’t happen. So there is never anything to lose.

When thank you has worked for me

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My Best Advice: Can You Do It Softer?

That’s what I’ve been asking myself, anyway.

Living in New York can sometimes send my stress levels through the roof. It’s everything: time, crowds, expectations, competition for everything.

Lately, I’ve been using these two affirmations to check in with myself whenever I start to feel  my heart race (in a bad way):

  • Be OK in every situation.

This reminder has calmed me down so much. When someone cuts me off on the sidewalk, when I miss a walk signal, or I get to the subway platform only to watch my train speed away, I use this to remind myself that it doesn’t really matter.

I’m still alive, I still have my health and much to look forward to. A few extra seconds or minutes isn’t going to make or break anything. Plus, It’s probably a good idea to slow down for a bit. It’s all OK.

And then:

  • Can you do it softer?

That should probably be in quotations because that’s exactly what I’ve been asking myself lately, usually following “Be OK in every situation.”

“Can you do it softer?” Live softer, walk softer, be calm and manage energy levels.

No matter what’s happening, is there a way to change the energy I’m sending out? Can I convert that energy into something better? The answer is always yes.

But how?

Simply do it softer. “It” can be anything. Anything. Live with purpose, take calculated risks, be gentler, relax my muscles, step lighter.

After I remind myself that I’m OK, I push it that extra step. “Can you do it softer?” It’s wondrous.

Bottom line

These affirmations have helped me in the past couple of months.

And they are related to travel. Definitely. I also want to GO GO GO on a day of travel and hate getting in lines, especially when I think people are clusterfucking. This is why I love Pre-Check and Global Entry so much.

But on the off-chance that I have to wait in a line of any kind, I remind myself that it’s all fine. Even while traveling and getting all checked in at the airport – can I do that softer, too? Now there’s a challenge.

Do you have an affirmation?