A Reflection on Travel and Learning in 2016

A Reflection on Travel and Learning in 2016

From a travel and learning perspective, this was one of the best years of my life. I did a ton of travel which I never dreamed would have been possible.  I have always loved cities and I continue to love exploring them, but this year, I started to get out into nature more. I hiked a ton and snowboarded in Japan, Quebec City, and Colorado. I tried to study the flags and currency for every country I visited. I tried to study the people that are on their currency because it represents a country’s collective identity.

I went to Asia three times, Europe three times, and Canada twice, as well as San Francisco, New Orleans, Boston, New York, and a smattering of other trips. Adding up everything I flew about 90,000 real miles, though United says I flew 109,000 because of bonuses which made me Platinum for 2017 – I think it’s fun to have made that level once. I added seven new countries to my list and seven more flag stickers to my bag.

I have been tremendously lucky and I am very thankful for everything I was able to do, but from the picture of my bag, you can see how banged up it’s gotten – I am also a little banged up and I look forward to spending a little more time at home in 2017. I never thought I would understand why my friend James Labocki once said he didn’t really want to make Platinum again, but now I think I do. I am aiming for about 50,000 miles in 2017, I think that would be perfect 😉

I met a lot of people this year and I want to let every one of you know, that I really appreciated the time we spent together. I look forward to spending time together again and again. Next year the travel starts in Brussels and Brno in late January and early February. Here’s to another good year and I wish everybody safe travels!

The first major trip of the year took Lisa and I to Japan. We spent time in the following cities:

  1. Tokyo: We started and ended the trip here and the hotel was literally just like the movie Lost in Translation with Bill Murray. It was hilarious because I had just watched the movie on the plane ride. I burned a TON of miles and we stayed at the Ritz Carleton in Roppongi. It was simply amazing, we could see Mt. Fuji from our window. I had a Scotch in the bar and listened to a live Jazz band (like Lost in Translation). The days after New Years were amazing. Everybody was dressed in traditional garb and it was very tranquil and quiet. We saw so many parts of the city and really loved it. This was both of our first time to Asia, and I think starting with Japan was perfect. Also, a special thanks to Akira who very generously showed us around in Yokohama and found us vegetarian Ramen!!!
  2. Nagano: We took the train here, and the area is like from the movie Heaven and Earth. We got to see the Snow Monkeys and this was probably one of the coolest things I have ever done in my entire life. Here in Nagano, I learned how it felt to be a minority and definitely treated with some bigotry. Most of the hotels in the little town where we stayed wouldn’t even give foreigners reservations. We had to wear Yukatas and Geta the whole time and were scolded whenever we did anything wrong. It doesn’t matter, it was amazing because we got to experience so many hot springs called Onsen.
  3. Kyoto/Nara: This area is so tranquil and so old. Only after I visited did I learn that the United States was actually going to drop the first nuclear bomb here to kill as many intellectuals as they could and destroy as much heritage as they could. Many of the generals felt this was the surest way to stop the Japanese. The only reason that Kyota/Nara didn’t get destroyed is because the Secretary of War, Henry Stimson. Many say he did it because he visited here on his honeymoon and just couldn’t stand to see it destroyed.
  4. Osaka: This was a very business oriented area. It was hilarious because everybody wore blue, grey and black suits (even the women). I remember one day thousands of people in drab suits were all walking the same direction – it was pretty grey out and kind of depressing – then bopping along comes this 50 or 60 year old Japanese dude in a bright green shirt with dread locks walking the opposite direction cutting through everyone. It was amazing and so Japanese.
  5. Hiroshima: This was one of the heaviest things I have ever done. Visiting Hiroshima made me realize why we never, ever want to use a nuclear weapon again. I read so, so many tragic stories at the museum, but the saddest was outside the museum at one of the monuments. It was about the 20,000 Korean slaves that were killed by The Bomb. These people had been mostly farmers, many of their families were killed, and they were taken as slaves. They were brought across to Japan in boats and forced to work in the factories in Hiroshima. On that day, they were killed just like everyone else. What a horrible, horrible tragedy.

The second major trip of the year took me on the following string of cities:

  1. Cleveland to Boston to meet up with some of our specialist solutions architects and field product managers about the direction of containers at Red Hat.
  2. Boston to New York for a Red Hat event with the Financial Services. The event went great and I got to spend some time with some really good customers and colleagues.
  3. New York to Toronto to do a Red Hat Enterprise User Group with my good friend Michael Lessard
  4. Toronto to Montreal to do another Red Hat Enterprise User Group. I love Montreal, but it was a whirlwind of only hours, but I did get to take the train which I had never done before.
  5. Montreal to Quebec City to do ANOTHER Red Hat Enterprise User Group, then some well needed snowboarding at Mount Saint-Anne and Le Massif. I had never been to Quebec City and I really found it to be one of my favorite cities in North America. It reminds me of home with the same types of trees, stone and weather, but it’s like bizarro world with this French feel. Also, one night when I was walking on the boardwalk (called the Terrasse Dufferin) by the Chateau Frontnac, I heard this crazy loud noise that sounded like a cannon. I got so scared, I just started sprinting for cover. I never did find out what that sound was, but I ran like crazy. With all of the strange terrorism stuff in recent years, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  6. Quebec City to Cleveland to come home for some rest 🙂

In early March I was able to arrange a quick little trip through three countries. Coincidentally my friend Sasha was going to be moving from Thailand to Vietnam the exact dates I needed to be in Singapore for our APAC Sales Kickoff. This meant I could easily meet him in Thailand before my work event and in Vietnam afterwards. Here’s how it went:

  1. Thailand: I started in Bangkok and took a cab down to Pattaya the night I arrived. I had never been to Thailand and I admit I was a little scared. My cab driver pulled over in the middle of the highway and peed on the side of the rode. This is when I knew Asia was punk rock. I made it to Pattaya without any problems and had a great time with Sasha. We even got to see an Israeli and a Muslim get almost get into a fight at a McDonald’s. Sasha talked them out of it by highlighting that this would probably led to Thai prison which is not renowned for their luxury. Good times. I hiked up to the Big Budah and met a crazy Russian couple – after taking some pictures for them, the guy who was in his mid 50s asked where I was from. I responded, the USA. He responded with a grunt of enlightenment, “uuhhhhhhhh, Obmana bad….Putin good…” then gave me a thumbs up. I laughed, what else can you do. The next day, I rented a scooter from one of the guys at the hotel. I had never ridden a motorized two wheel vehicle ever in my life, and did not have a license, but figured, why not? After almost killing myself a few times, I figured it out and rode all over the place. I felt like I was 16 again and had my first set of wheels. It was awesome and that summer I ended up buying a motorcycle and taking a class on how to ride 🙂
  2. Singapore: After a couple of days, I flew to Singapore for the Red Hat Asia Pacific (APAC) Sales Kick off.  It was held at the Marina Bay Sands which is a hotel that I had only ever thought I would see on TV. It is an amazing structure with three buildings connected together. The event was awesome and it was a like some kind of United Nations conference and there was a bunch of lit up boxes stage right with translators speaking into microphones keyed into people’s ear pieces. In the break out sessions where I spoke, I learned made the typical newbe mistake and spoke way too quickly. You live and you learn but the experience was really cool.
  3. Vietnam: After I was finished with the conference, I headed to Vietnam. It was interesting entering the country. This is the first time I had had to apply for a Visa ahead of time. It was super simple, I showed them my paper and I was on my way. Had some good times. Went up the river on a boat, explored the Chu Chi Tunnels, fired a machine gun, and drank Ba Ba Ba beer (333). I saw a Communist Museum directly across the street from a Maserati dealership. Really makes you wonder what the point of the war was. Crazy trip considering my dad and uncle were there for a war. I really felt like I learned something very deep and peaceful by visiting there.


In August, I left for a major trip which took me around the world for the first time in my life. I went East because of the way events lined up, and I discovered this is more expensive and difficult than going West. This trip was really, really cool and took me through a lot of countries. I think I have to say, New Zealand holds a special place in the rank, but here are the highlights:

  1. Brussels: I arrived at BRU at like 7:30 in the morning and the sales manager, Stef Schampaert picked me up and little did I know, he had back to back meetings planned for me all day (that crazy, crazy man, lol). I barely had enough time to get a 2 minute shower, throw some dress clothes on and we were off. I remember the last meeting because there were like 45 customers in a room. I was blown away that they got this many people together for essentially what we would call a Red Hat User Group in the US. Also, had one of the best meals of the year. Thank you Stef & Bob and hope to see both of you again in 2017!!!
  2. Amsterdam: Now this was a cool trip. I met with a bunch of customers, had some time to hang out with my friend and colleague Eric Schabell, and had the privilege of speaking at the an event called Software Circus. The Software Circus people put on an amazing speakers event where we had a scavenger hunt that included finding a guitar player, and artist, and a man who restores old sailing ships. I learned that Henry Hudson was killed by his own crew in Hudson bay. The night concluded with rigging up a replica of Henry Hudson’s ship the Discovery and sailing it off the coast of Hoorn. Little did I know at the time that I would actually fly over Hudson Bay in a Helicopter later in the year. It…was…amazing.
  3. Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon: This was my second tour in Vietnam and I was glad to be back. I met Andrew Hatfield, who I have stayed friends with (crazy guy). I had a great time presenting six talks at the APAC Tech Exchange and really enjoyed exploring some live music and dancing afterwards. Great time.
  4. Hanoi: On this visit to Vietnam, I had the pleasure of meeting a man named Alan from Vietnam Motorbike Tours and arranging a two day thrashing in the jungle. He assigned me to an awesome guide named Tom and we rode like crazy. Up, down, through mud, across bamboo bridges, through rain, through small towns. It was as close to perfect as you can ask for. I hope to some day go back and if you are thinking about some motorbike trips, go talk to Alan, he is awesome!
  5. Sydney: I had never been to Australia, and I was lucky enough to rent a GS800 motorcycle to get around. First, I rode down to the Maritime museum and explored the HMB Endeavor which successfully noted the Transit of Venus from Tahiti in 1769 and discovered Australia. Coincidentally, they also successfully noted the Transit of Venus up in Churchill, but I wouldn’t know or understand that until later in the year. I was lucky enough to get out into the Blue Mountains – I did a little bit of hiking and got to see Kangaroos, Koalas, and some really cool small towns. I learned what a Ute was and I also learned that Australia is the most Murica place other than Murica!!!
  6. New Zealand: Ahh, the best for last. This place was amazing. I have never seen a place that is so scenic. It’s like a mix between Colorado and Switzerland, but on an island with 20M rabbits, and crazy glaciers and green lakes. The people, the land, the food, the seclusion. I will definitely go back to NZ. Too mickey bro.

This was a pretty serious adventure. I went through Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, and back to Germany in about 10 days. I hiked at two parks during the weekend and drove all the way across Austria from Vienna to Salzburg. I covered a ton of ground, but I really got to know the countryside which was awesome.

  1. Berlin: I started here for ContainerCon Europe 2016 and it was really fun. I gave three talks and had a great time with a bunch of Red Hat peeps. We visited the Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin Wall and walked a ton. Eerily, because my hotel was pretty far from the event, every day I walked through where the attacker killed people during the Christmas market. Seeing pictures of the clock tower really messes with me. I feel bad for all of the victims and their families.
  2. Dresden: When I was in New Zealand, I picked up my first hitchhiker, who coincidentally happened to be from…you guessed it, Dresden. We decided to try and meet up when I was driving through after the ContainerCon. I really wanted to visit Dresden after visiting Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. Dresden was also bombed very, very badly killing more people than Hiroshima. I visited the war museum and it was surprising because there really wasn’t more about the bombing. Mostly it talked about how Nazi Germany bombed other places. I never met up with my hitchhiker friend, but I am glad I visited Dresden because it provided the opportunity for me to get a cooler SuperDry Jacket than Dirk Herrmann 😉
  3. Saxon Switzerland National Park: This is an awesome park system that is south of Dresden on the border between Germany and the Czech Republic. The German side is called Saxon Switzerland, while the Czech side is called Bohemian Switzerland. The area where I went was called Bastei and it reminded me of a lot of The Gorge Metropark. It was on the Elba River and the views were simply amazing.
  4. Bohemian Switzerland National Park:  The Czech people really know how to build a park. At the top of a ten mile hike up a quasi mountain, they built an inn by the Pravčická brána. Cable cars take food and drink up to the Inn. The upstairs is now an art gallery and they serve wonderful fried cheese and french fries (Czech delicacy) along with beer. As I was hiking up this fairly remote trail, I kept thinking, there is NO WAY there is a restaurant up here. When I got to the top, I was starving, so I am so glad there was. The views were amazing, and this is something that you could only find by mistake. It is awesome!
  5. Prague: I stayed the night in Prague and walked around a ton at night. I got to see the Astronomical Clock ring on the hour. I stayed at the beautiful Boscolo Hotel. In the morning, I drove down to the Charles Bridge (1357) and hiked across before leaving for a meeting in Brno. The view was amazing.
  6. Brno: Red Hat has an office here, but I had never visited before. It turned out to be awesome.I had a meeting with like 20 or 30 engineers to explain to them what was going on with containers and what my team does.  I got to hang out with Radek, Adam, Josef, and Vaclav. Adam and I joked about stealing a cop car the entire night and there was much merriment. Looking forward to seeing all of you again in 2017.
  7. Vienna: After driving across the border into Austria, I arrived in Vienna. This was a special place for me because my mom was born here. I only spent a couple of hours here, but it was gorgeous. I called my mom while I was in the square and took a ton of pictures for her. I definitely plan on going back with her soon.
  8. Salzburg: I only spent a couple hours here because it was dark. I drank a beer, had some McDonald’s (because that was all that was open) and took some pictures. I definitely need to come back during business hours.
  9. Munich: At the end of the trip, I got to spend some time at the Red Hat European headquarters and meet with some customers. It was really cool to be able to hang out with Dirk Herrmann in the office and show off my new SuperDry Japan jacket which is a slightly better color than his 😛 Also, had a great dinner and lived mostly on Bavarian Pretzels.

This was my last European trip of the year and I was really only home from Munich a week before I left for this trip. I would have stayed in Europe the whole Month of October, but I really needed to recharge.

  1. Marseille: This was my second time visiting Marseille, and I walked a ton this time. I walked 10 miles the first night I was there. I found the hotel where Zig and I stayed in 2015 and took a ride on the giant ferris wheel that was set up downtown. I was a little sick, so I slept a decent amount. The work commute” to meet with the customers was awesome and took me on the Route des Cretes.
  2. Cassis: I stopped in Cassis because my sister said her neighbors love it. The view of Cassis after coming through the Route des Crete is breath taking. There is this huge cliff and the sea right in front. I really would consider retiring there. It’s like something from a movie.
  3. La Ciotat: This town is past Cassis, but was also really cool. The Red Hat customer I visited was here and I had a chance to walk around the downtown a bit. It’s sort of an industrial town with a lot of fishing and recreational boats docked in the port, but the view is amazing. To work and live in La Ciotat would be amazing.
  4. Barcelona:  After the customer meetings in La Ciotat, I decided to drive along the Mediterranean to Barcelona. A couple memorable things were, they sold olive oil at the rest stop as you arrived in Spain. I laughed and thought about Mike Panetta. Once in Barcelona we had a great time at OpenStack Summit. I gave a couple of talks, manned the booth and met with a couple of customers. I had a weekly one on one through a video conference while I sat at the beach and had some Cava at the end of the day. At night we ate, and even went dancing one night. At the end of the trip, I went with Brian Riordan, Ian Pilcher, and Tushar to see Montserrat. The weather was amazing that day and we got some really good shots. I remember spending a lot of time with Brian and Tushar that week and thinking to myself, we did not bicker even one time. For those that travel and spend days with people, you will know that it’s awesome when you meet people like that. Good times!

The final major trip of the year was not arranged by me, but by Mel Vye who is basically me in 30 more years. I traveled with Mel Vye, Thom Price, and Bruce Taylor. We were a four man crew, and even though I snored a lot, we were tight! Here are the highlights

  1. Winnipeg: This town reminded me of Grand Rapids, MI or Columbus, OH. It’s about a 700,000 people, but it’s in the middle of nowhere so it has to be the banking, cultural, sports, etc center for thousands of square miles around it. This city had a really cool vibe and the region was originally called, The Forks. I found out that it was a mix of French settlers, Metis which are a mix of French and Cree tribal people, and finally British. The French and British each built several forts and the city still has a French Quarter and French Schools, but everybody speaks English.
  2. Churchill: This town of less than 1000 people is literally in the middle of nowhere. At the time we visited, there was not a single road that led to Churchill. The closest town is 300 miles away through forest and swamps (mostly frozen in the winter). Churchill was originally  military base used by the United States and Canada, but is now a tourist destination for Polar Bears and Beluga Whales. I got a book on the history of the human/wildlife relationship in Churchill and found out that in 1958, the British almost tested 12 nuclear bombs in Churchill, which would have killed the polar bears. Instead, they did it in Maralinga (Australia) and probably killed Aboriginal people. Coincidentally, I had heard an article about this while I was in Australia – what a small world.
  3. The highlights of the trip were pretty amazing. During my first flight in a helicopter (fell in love with rotary winged flight) we saw a male polar bear eating a cub, I saw a white guy get a beer bottle busted over his head by an Inuit dude during a bar fight at the Tundra Pub, and on the way back a girl almost got kicked off the train for being naked in coach car. We took a ride on the Tundra Buggy, saw the crashed plane called the Miss Piggy and the grounded ship, the SS Ithaka. This trip was super legit, everyone we met on the train was really cool and almost all the people we met were experienced travelers.

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