145 FS Life as a Traveling Consultant with Neal Ford

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Neal Ford joins the discussion and talk to the Freelancers about life as a traveling consultant.

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[This episode is brought to you by Audible. Audible is the first place I go to keep my business skills sharp. They offer over 150,000 books on business, finance, planning and much more. They also have a great selection of fiction that keeps me entertained when I'm just not up for some serious content. I love it because I can buy a book, download it to my iPhone, and listen while running errands or at the gym. Get your free trial at freelancersshow.com/audible]**[This episode is brought to you by Code School. Code School offers interactive online courses in Ruby, JavaScript, HTML, CSS and iOS. Their courses are fun and interesting and include exercises for the student. To level up your development skills, go to freelancersshow.com/codeschool]****[This episode is brought to you by ProXPN. If you are out and about on public Wi-Fi, you never know who might be listening. With ProXPN, you no longer have to worry. ProXPN is a VPN solution which sends all of your traffic over a secure connection to one of their servers around the world. To sign up, go to ProXPN.com and use the promo code tmtcs (short for teach me to code screencasts) to get 10% off for life]****CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 145 of the Freelancers Show. This week our panel is myself. I’m Charles Max Wood from devchat.tv and we have a special guest this week that’s Neal Ford. NEAL: Hello. CHUCK: Neal, do you want to introduce yourself real quick? NEAL: Absolutely, I’m Neal Ford. I am a Director and Software Architect and Meme Wrangler for ThoughtWorks, which is an international consultancy and they have me on the road. I almost made a moon shot last year; it’s about 240,000 miles to the moon and I flew about 215,000 miles last year. I suspect that’s why you want to talk to me about this. CHUCK: Yeah, you mentioned – I think it was on iPhreaks, it might have been – no I don’t think we’ve had you on Ruby Rogues yet. NEAL: It was JavaScript. CHUCK: JavaScript Jabber? NEAL: Yup, yup. CHUCK: Oh okay. I can’t keep them straight. I knew we had you on the show. Anyway, you mentioned that you have been a travelling consultant for a while. NEAL: That is correct – just about ten years exactly – my anniversary with ThoughtWorks comes up in April this year and I was actually travelling consultant before that. So I’ve been doing this for a while; it’s not my first rodeo. CHUCK: Ah, so when you say travelling consultant what do you generally mean? NEAL: Well I have actually quite an unusual role within ThoughtWorks. I travel to client sites that can be that can be anywhere mostly in the US but also can in the rest of the world. I also speak in a ton of conferences that’s another part of my job in ThoughtWorks and that gives me traveling literally to all the major cities in the US once a year and a lot  of  international travel. This last year I’ve been to China, I’ve been to Australia a bunch of times. So part of it is being part of an international consultancy and part of it is I love travelling to new places and speaking at conferences is a great excuse to go travel places you’ve never been before. CHUCK: Very cool. So what’s the most exotic place you’ve travelled to? NEAL: I travelled to two new places this last year. One of the side effects of having been doing this for a while is I get to go to cool new places but I tend to go to the same places over and over again. So I go to London about six times a year or so, London’s an awesome place but you get some familiarity with it. This last year I went to Tallinn, Estonia for the first time, which is the northernmost of the Baltic state just below Finland and Recife, Brazil which is kind of unknown in the States. It’s right on the equator – if you look at Brazil and the part that juts out, that points toward Africa – just below that. It’s very close to the equator so it’s quite a resort-y kind of place but we don’t really know about it here because no one there speaks English – they all speak Portuguese. We have a bunch of offices in Brazil. We have an office in Recife and I was there for ThoughtWorks meetings then mostly just shuttled us around so we have someone for English speaking. Tallinn was also very cool – it’s a very old place, we got to see the old city including where the moat used to be and the old city gates. I actually got a really nice, very limited but useful travel tip to anyone who’s travelling to Tallinn, Estonia as a way to kick off the tips and things that I’m going to provide today. As I was in my hotel room, I could see there was a giant ferry that goes from Tallinn to Finland which is just across the body of water there. I mentioned that to one of the people in Tallinn and they said you’d never want to take that ferry and I said “Why?” He said – well it turns out that liquor is much cheaper in Tallinn than it is in Finland, so a lot of blue collar Finnish workers hop on the ferry on Friday afternoon and come to Tallinn and get a whole bunch of booze and then get drunk all the way back home, so apparently it’s not a fun place to be. CHUCK:**Oh wow [Chuckles].NEAL:[Chuckles] So there I go into places like that, places I’ve never been to before that have some sort of exoticness to them. I’ve been to China and that’s a pretty funky place to go as a westerner because – any place you go where they just don’t speak English at all. India – pretty much everybody you bump into speaks English and most of Northern Europe you could easily find people who can speak broken English, but when you go to places like China or Brazil it’s a much darker and it’s much harder. The logistics are much harder to deal with, so I guess that qualifies as exotic in my head. Two things probably – no one speaks English and you got to be careful about water.**CHUCK: Like drinking water you mean? NEAL:**Drinking water, but you also have to be careful about things like salads in restaurants that they might have washed off with tap water. Most of the places in the big cities in India like Bangalore that cater to Westerners, actually use filtered water throughout just to keep that [Inaudible 05:42] down. Actually going to India, I picked up one of my persistent habits. I’m a big drinker of sparkling water or club soda and I first started doing it in India and just gotten used to it. There’s a really good reason to do that in India, and the reason is you can’t fake bubbles. In India  you will see people selling bottled water – like in plastic bottles but there is a not too uncommon incident of people taking plastic bottles and filling them with tap water, and selling them for a couple of rupees as a way to make money. But nobody bothers to carbonate that stuff, so if you got carbonated water, you’re pretty sure it’s actually mineral water. So that’s actually a good tip if you’re travelling somewhere where you doubt the water, drink sparkling water everywhere with no ice and you’ve got a really good confidence that you’re getting actual mineral water and not something from a tap accidentally.CHUCK: Yeah, a funny story with that. I was a missionary in Italy for the Mormon church and my parents came out to pick me up when my mission was over. Most people there, they drink the sparkling water and if you haven’t had it – it has a funny after taste to it. So my parents, they flew in to Rome and they drove up to where I was which was just west of Venice, and on their way up they stopped at a convenient store and they picked up some water because they were thirsty. My mom took a – because she was really thirsty she took a big old swig of this carbonated water and then spat it out all over the ground and went back to the convenient store and she’s trying to communicate with them, “This water’s rotten!” NEAL:[Chuckles] It’s spoiled.**CHUCK: So finally they get the gist and they’re like “Oh gas, gas.” and she’s like “No gas” and they point out to the other one. NEAL:**That’s one of the things I learned to order in lots of different languages is sparkling water [chuckles].**CHUCK: Yeah, it does have a little bit of an aftertaste but that’s an interesting idea I never thought of. NEAL:**My niece actually calls it spicy water [crosstalk 07:43] spicy water around here.**CHUCK: There you go. That’s funny. So to be a travelling consultant do you have to work for a company like yours or are there other ways to do that outside of a company setting? NEAL:**There’s certainly a lot of travelling consultants and freelancers that – in fact if you look at the travelling conference series – the No Fluff Just Stuff conference series which is a big deal – a well-known conference series in the Java world. Virtually I speak on that conference series but virtually everyone there is just an independent consultant who travels on a regular basis to work on gigs. So any big consultancy will tend to do that and not just chalk work consultancy. Big financial consultancies like Mckinsey and Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, those guys are always on the road.  They tend to have to dress nicer than chalk work consultants do [chuckles]. Financial consultants probably have to wear a suit all the time; we can get by with jeans on most occasions.CHUCK:[Chuckles] Yeah, I have a tendency to tell my clients that I’m not really willing to travel and so I’m wondering am I missing out on something here?**NEAL: A lot of times depending on the kinds of things you specialize in. If you have a real hyper-specialization around something frequently, you can get really high hourly rates for it but you have to travel to where the work is. The reason I’m not independent, I could actually probably make more money as an independent but there are two reasons – I really like Agile Software Development and particularly things like peer programming and some of those kinds of engineering practices. If you’re an independent consultant, nobody will hire you to do things like peer programming. I don’t like the business side of software – like chasing invoices and drumming up business models that sort of stuff. I’d rather somebody else handle that and just let me deal with the geeky fun stuff, the technical stuff. It doesn’t sap the life out of me like the logistical stuff does. CHUCK: Yeah the invoicing and stuff is definitely less fun I think. NEAL: But what happened – what has happened over time since I’ve been doing this for the better part of 15 years now as I’ve built up a lot of strong opinions and a bunch of little tricks and hacks and other sort of things for travelers. I’ve actually thought about writing all these things down in a book but the problem is it’s not a great broad audience. In particular, I almost immediately lop off half of the population because women have much harder time pulling off some of these packing tricks and other things that I’m going to talk about than men do. Men can pretty easily get by with two pairs of shoes in most situations, but it’s different for women; they have to have more space, so that’s why I haven’t tried writing these things down. I think it’s a self-limiting kind of list CHUCK:**Yeah, [crosstalk 10:22] it really depends on who you are and what you feel like you have to have.**NEAL:**Yup, but there’s some really great tips that just about everybody can apply, but you have to go through a regular amount of travelling. So let me talk about a couple of what I call enablers to make a lot of other things possible. I’m a big, big advocate of never checking bags. There are only two kinds of bags in your hand or [inaudible 10:45]. If you always carry – if you commit yourself to always carryon you get a huge number of advantages – one is, inevitably if you travel a lot, there are going to be travel disruptions, cancelled flights at the last minute and all sorts of things. Every time this ever happened to me, one of the first things a gate agent asks me with a sad look on their face is “Did you check any bags?” and when you say “No” they brighten up because all other options just got much better and they got a much easier job. So it allows you to be way more agile about dealing with interruptions you never get lost luggage, you don’t have to wait on luggage. This is one of those things with people on vacation three times a year or something – waiting for checked bags is not a big deal but if you’re doing that two or three  times a week, that time starts adding up in a big hurry. I’m sure you saw the movie – if you haven’t, it’s worth seeing the movie Up in The Air with George Clooney which is about a travelling [inaudible 11:40] lawyer. It’s not a bad movie although I have a much better suitcase than that dude had in that movie, but he does an analysis at one point about wasting time waiting for baggage at baggage claim. He’s right, it’s a 15 minute – 20 minutes a pop and that amount of time adds up over time.**CHUCK: Yeah, I’ve had the fortune – misfortune where I’ve had bags lost just travelling to conferences and so that’s pretty much what I do. If it doesn’t fit into my backpack or my – I have a rolling duffle bag – if it doesn’t fit into those two things it doesn’t go because it’s a hassle. NEAL: You can actually make that work. So when I travel I have one rolling carryon bag that is exactly the size of an overhead compartment. You can go to the airline’s website and find out their official dimensions for their overhead and it’s all about the same. I’ve actually found a fantastic suitcase – I’m not getting paid for them, although I probably should – the Eagle Creek Tarmac22 is the suitcase I travel with. Actually, I own several of these things because they are awesome. They’re exactly the shape of an overhead bin and the genius thing about this suitcase is it’s very rigid in its height but it’s very flexible in its width. We call this the Tardis suitcase because its bigger inside than it is outside. What happens is, you can keep cramming stuff in it and it’ll just bulge on the sides but it never gets too tall to fit in the overhead, because their genius is observing that the limiting factor in overhead bins is the height and not the width. CHUCK: Right. NEAL:**So I carry that Tarmac 22 and my backpack all the time. Those are the only two things that I travel with and I’ve gone for more than a month with just those two things. To be able to do that you got to have some other kinds of things in tow as well. When you travel as much as I do, it actually behooves you to have a completely separate wardrobe that is specialized travel stuff. So for example, I get a website like – TravelSmith is a really great place to find these kinds of stuff. You can get underwear, t-shirts and all kinds of underclothes that are made out of this polyester wicking material. So the idea is if you’re going somewhere for three weeks, you don’t carry three weeks’ worth of underwear – you carry three pairs of these travel underwear. Tide and other manufacturers make these sink size packets and one packet is a sink’s worth of laundry. So the trick is you get to a hotel, and you can wash these stuff out and because it’s made out of these quick drying material, you wash it out and hang it up then it’s dry two hours later. I know people who literally travel with two pairs just so they’ve always got a pair that they can wear and one that is in process. That’s a little cumbersome for me, because the fewer pairs you have the more often you have to do sink laundry. So I typically carry three or four maybe five pairs with me just to cut down on the amount of sink laundry I have to do. So that means you’re now sustainable for the entire trip on things like underclothes. You can also buy travel shirts at places like TravelSmith that are also that same quick drying material and you can get pants and some other stuff too. The trickiest one of these is socks. The trick I use for socks is you can buy sock liners. These are typically used by outdoorsmen and hikers and folks like that. They’re real thin like polyester or silk and they actually wick moisture much better than cotton or wools socks do. So you put your sock liners on and then put your socks over them and virtually all the moisture ends up in the sock liner. You can use the same pair of socks over and over and over again without washing those because they take a long time to dry. The other thing that I’m a giant fan of that I’ve become addicted to these things over the last few years – TravelSmith sells a bunch of these [inaudible 15:30] one of the brands. These are these cotton shirts that are chemically treated to never need ironing.  They actually react to your body heat, so you can take one of these things and wad it up in a ball in your suitcase and put it on your back and ten minutes later it looks like it came out of a professional dry cleaner.CHUCK: You’re kidding. NEAL: These things are awesome. The technology has gotten so good on these cotton shirts it’s all I ever wear. People comment on these shirts sometimes like “Wow that sure looks really – it looks pressed, starched” and I don’t do anything with it except put it on. This chemical will wear out after like 20, 30 or 40 washings but it lasts for a really long time. So I just try to don’t over wash them too much and those things are great. I actually travel with those quite a lot because it looks really good, it looks really professional but you don’t have to do anything like wash it or anything crazy like that. The real trick to getting quick dry pants is trying to find some that don’t look like you’re trying to hitchhike up the side of a mountain with giant cargo pockets and weird zippers and that kind of stuff but increasingly, you can get actual pants that look like regular pants that are just in travel stuff. So I got travel underclothes I’ve got few pairs of pants I got – usually if it’s a really long trip I mix up these really nice cotton shirts and regular travel shirts. I have a pair of comfortable walking but close enough to dress shoes and then I wear a pair of sneakers. The other advantage of doing things like sink laundry is I can carry a single set of exercise clothes. What I tend to do is exercise in them once and then just rinse them out in the sink. When you’re rinsing stuff in the sink – this is one thing I learned recently that a lot of people who do proper sink laundry probably know. If you’re washing something out in the sink, it’s much better to fill the basin with water and put the garments in there and squish them around rather than just holding them under running water because a lot more will come out of it. So I just tend to wash them out one day and then the second day I’ll actually use soap. So, one pair of exercise clothes can last me indefinitely as well even if you’re really dedicated to everyday kind of exercising. Those are two big enablers the ability to do sink laundry. In fact one of the things I carry with me is cover flat rubber stopper in my suitcase in case the stopper in the sink in the hotel is broken or doesn’t work or something like that. That and always just having the carryon bag. Here’s actually a really good tip: most US carriers don’t really sweat too much the weight of your carryon bag. It’s so rare in the US for anybody to care about that but in a lot of European countries and especially in India, they care about that a lot and they have really, really ridiculous restrictions like eight kilograms for a carryon bag, which is about 15 or 16 pounds, which is just nuts – you can’t get anything useful in there. But here’s the trick: if you’re carrying a rolling suitcase and a backpack, put all the heavy stuff in the backpack cause they never weigh that. They always weigh the rolling bag but they never weigh the backpack and so you take all your heavy electronics and all that junk and cram it in your backpack just so that you can check-in to your flight. As soon as you walk away from the counter redistribute all that weight between the two bags. Both bags are going to get on the plane anyway and it’s ridiculous that they’re being so bureaucratic about this weight stuff, so there are a lot of little tricks you can pull like that. In fact at one point in India I showed up at exactly the situation she said “Your carryon’s too heavy.” And so I literally just in front of her took some stuff out of the carry on and stuffed it into my backpack put my backpack on and weighed the carryon, she said “Okay, you’re good.” CHUCK:[Chuckles]NEAL: Took the bag back, all the same stuff into it and rolled to my gate CHUCK:[Chuckles] Oh that’s awesome.NEAL:[Chuckles] So always put the heaviest stuff in your backpack if you’re in that situation because they never check the backpack they’re always just check the rolling carryon that looks like it’s going to be the heavier bag.**CHUCK: Well it burns less gas if you fly with it in your backpack. NEAL:**Exactly [Chuckles].**CHUCK: So I’m wondering – you said that you travel not just for conferences but for actual gigs you’re working. What kinds of jobs do you have to travel for versus maybe being able to work remote on? NEAL: Well – and this is one of those things that’s different in different parts of the world – most computer consultants in the US because clients want to smell your breath in the mornings for whatever reason. We still do very little remote work and its actually harder for us to do remote work because we are so collaborative, because all the stuff we do are on Agile software development. So that entails travelling – to put a team together, because very frequently if we have a project that’s going in like Atlanta which we have an office here in Atlanta but they’ll be a handful of people that come to that project from Chicago, from Dallas or somewhere like that just because of a  particular skill set or staff and restrictions or something like that. So we try as a company really hard to keep people in their home city but we also try to terrify them before their hired that we can’t guarantee it, but you may end up being flying to De Moines every week. That’s just part of the occupational hazard. CHUCK: Right, that’s something that I totally understand and I’ve seen in a couple of different thing but for the most part yeah I prefer to stay home. So I make my clients pay for me to travel and I travel and a lot of that cuts down on it quite a bit. NEAL: Yup, all our clients are paying time and expenses and including the corporate department and all. CHUCK: Oh yeah. NEAL: You don’t see our smiling faces but we try to cut that down as much as possible. There are some technology communities that have actually gotten away with more remote work just because – scarcely a talent like Ruby for example – a lot of Ruby developers who now work from home just because it got so tight getting Ruby developers in for a while willing to loosen the restrictions on whether they like to work at home or not. Or maybe work at home part-time and then travel every other week or something like that. We have a few projects that do that. One of the things we try do to mitigate the travel footprint we as a company that’s the worst part of the job and so we don’t try to be cheap about crappy hotels or things like that. We also try as much as possible to do four ten-hour days rather than five eight-hour days. In that way your away from home less time, it actually cuts down on some of the expense for the client because it’s one less out of hotels so that works really well in a lot of out projects. Particularly, like me, I live in Atlanta. We have direct flights everywhere so on many cases I’ve been able to take a super early flight on Monday and work late on Monday night and then ten hours Tuesday, Wednesday and then be able to fly home late Thursday and basically I have a three-day weekend every week. CHUCK: Yeah that makes sense, and I like that approach too. I have travelled a few times for clients.  Once when I was in college and they paid for my hotel and everything and then I had one client that they wanted me to come out for a week or two weeks at the beginning of a contract so they paid to put me up in a hotel, and then I just worked from home the rest of the time. I mean there are some situations where you definitely – they want to have you on site, they want you to meet in person. and to be honest it really does help the rapport – to be able to sit down with somebody. NEAL: There’s no doubt, Alistair Cockburn did some really interesting analysis of this in the Agile space about the Temperature of Communication Channels. He does a really interesting analysis that shows that face to face communication in front of a whiteboard is the richest kind of communication you could have about a technical subject and then as soon as you start introducing levels of indirection even video and audio the richness of that communication channel falls a lot. So it is really a good thing to be face to face even if it’s not all the time. I think being face to face is really important. And particularly one of the things we do are distributive projects where some people being Indian and some being in the US and it’s really tough getting to know people as disembodied voice over a phone. So I was on a project at one point it was Chicago, New York and Bangalore and I was the tech lead on the project and the guy who was kind of second in command was this guy named Zach. Zach was just a really, really passionate software developer that the only exposure anyone in India had to him was the two-two hour phone calls that we had between the technical team over the week. Everybody in India thought Zack was an asshole. Because he was really adamant about quality and seems like he’s always down on everybody. In fact, when I went to India they had pictures of everyone on the wall so that you knew people’s faces. They had defaced Zach’s picture with like devil horns and like beard and all that stuff. CHUCK: Oh wow. NEAL: Zach went over there as part of his rotation, because we like to rotate people around. They had a chance to have dinner with Zach and hang out with him in non-conference call situations and he became everyone’s best friend over there. In fact he got a lot of really useful stuff don over there because they realized, “Oh this guy’s not really an asshole; he’s just really passionate about this.” They were only getting one part of that channel through that speaker phone. Occasional face to face meetings is really important because humans are intensely social creatures. So much so that the worse punishment in prison is solitary confinement, think about that for a second, the worse punishment when you’re amongst all the criminals is to be separated from all the criminals, that’s how social we are. There are a lot of social cues and that sort of stuff that kick in when were face to face that you just can’t replicate otherwise. CHUCK: Yup, so as far as travelling goes, do you have any tips or tricks as far as choosing what time to fly or picking the hotel to stay in. NEAL: Yeah, so pick a chain and be loyal to it so you can start gathering points same for the airline. One of my colleagues at one point did a really deep analysis over what kind of bank for the buck do you get – do you get an airline credit card so you get extra miles, or hotel credit cards which chains do best, etc. This analysis is a few years old and the chain he picked – I got a credit card for that chain and every time I pay for my hotel I pay with that credit card which is you get double the points you normally would. Then the company reimburses me for it. So I can really double down on points and I try to stay as loyal as possible to this hotel chain which is not always possible but it’s not a bad idea to try to do that. CHUCK: I have to say though – when I go to conferences though, it’s so much more convenient to stay in the hotel where the conference is. NEAL: Well absolutely. Most of the time you’re not even going to get points for that anyway even if it’s your hotel because you’re not paying for it. That’s the thing about hotels, who pays for the hotels gets the points whereas in airlines who rides on the seat gets points. CHUCK: Yeah. NEAL: Some conferences will let you pay for the room and get reimbursed by the conference organizer if you’re trying to collect points. I actually work that out, several conference organizers are okay with that. You’re going to have to pay for it one way or another. They’re either going to pay you or pay the hotel directly. In terms of flight times if you absolutely positively want to make sure you get there, pick either the first flight in the morning or the last flight at night because every airline has a schedule. Even if they cancel a bunch of the intermediate flights they have to fly the last flight of the night because the next morning that plane’s supposed to be somewhere to start the next day’s schedule. CHUCK: Ah. NEAL: Don’t ever take the second to the last flight, because they’ll cancel that in a heartbeat, pushing everybody to the last flight. They can’t cancel that last flight without doing a bunch of logistical nonsense and by the same token, take the first flight of the morning because that plane has sat there all night so you don’t have to worry about that flight being delayed. CHUCK: Ah. I got you and then if they cancel it then, they have the whole day to move you through, to get you out there. NEAL:**Exactly, in general try to fly earlier in the day rather than later in the day because you got a lot more flexibility when shit hits the fan [chuckles].**CHUCK: So, do you usually fly out the day before then? NEAL: I try to, yeah. I try to fly out late the day before on most of the trips that I can and spend the night there and get up the next morning and not worry about all the – even if you’re travelling to somewhere on the day of – the hectic-ness of the travel. You have to get up super early and the delays versus just getting there, and getting a reasonable night’s sleep and getting up the next morning and being ready to sink into it. Here’s another really useful tip that I’ve told a bunch of people. Have you ever noticed when you get in an airplane and you get settled in you get drowsy? There’s a reason for that, the ventilation system on the airplanes is driven by the engines. So when you’re in the air, the engine is actually driving most of the ventilation system. When you’re on the ground, they plug a big fat hose up to the plane which runs the ventilation system but at a much lower volume of air. You’ll notice that sometimes they crank the engines on and then the air vents get all really excited and really start producing air? Well what happens is when they board a plan, as more and more people get on the plane the level of carbon dioxide builds up on the plane. It’s not dangerous in any way, but it will make you drowsy. That’s why when you get on the plane and everybody starts getting on the plan everybody starts getting drowsy. This is what I refer to as the carbon dioxide nap. I leverage this and take advantage of it. When I get on the plane I normally get on the plane first because I got status and first or near the front and I’ll sit there and read and as soon as I start to noticing I get drowsy, I’ll try to just drift off to sleep. It’s another thing I can do is I can sleep on airplanes like a champion. I can sometimes sleep on a plane and taking off doesn’t even wake me up. Most of the time, what happens is I’ll take the carbon dioxide nap and then as soon I hear the two chimes that indicates you’re at 10,000 feet that usually wakes me p and then by that time the air quality is great and now I can get out my laptop or my iPad or my book reader or whatever. So I’d say leverage that carbon dioxide nap. That’s why airlines have a rule that they can’t keep you on the tarmac for more than like thirty hours if they did, everybody on the plane would get a splitting headache because the air mix is not right. CHUCK:**Huh, didn’t know that either [chuckles].**NEAL:**You find out all kinds of things [chuckles].**CHUCK: Yeah, I’m sure. So one other thing that I’m curious about, you talked a lot about different clothes you can buy. By the way I looked at TravelSmith and a lot of the stuff on there is pricey. But I guess you’re paying for specialty stuff that does what you need right? NEAL:All travel stuff is more expensive than regular stuff but a lot of its pretty high quality, the manufacturers like Columbia and Inrow. You can also go to REI or like a sporting goods store and they also have a lot of that travel clothes. But this is why I say you really want two wardrobes, I don’t wear that travel stuff all the time I reserve it for trips that require that. So I really have two wardrobes which is hard to justify if you don’t travel that much but once you hit a certain level of having two of things – I have two electric razors so that I have a suitcase one and I have a home one, and I have four toothbrushes [chuckles]. I have extra toothbrushes, so I have a lot of duplication. I have more than one of those suitcases because they have a great policy if anything happens to it you can ship it to them and they they’ll repair and ship it back to you. But the problem is I end up breaking one and then while it was gone, I needed another one so I ended up buying another one. So now I have a spare one in case I break one, I already got one that’s activeCHUCK: Yup. Do you have any other tips for getting more into the suitcase? Because that’s not – I’ll pack whatever I need to get out there and usually my suitcase is full and on the way back I want to buy some stuff for my kids. NEAL: One of the things you could do in that situation is a lot of travel stores have these – get a collapsible duffel bag and put it in the bag on the way out and just have an extra carryon on the way back with all the extra stuff. One of the nice stuff about the slinky travel stuff is its actually less bulky than cotton because it’s made out of polyester typically. The very best thing you can do –and this is awesome, I do it all the time this is a magic trick go to an REI or container store probably have these, and get those vacuum bags. Not the ones you have to hook a vacuum up to but you just put it in like a giant Ziplock bag which is really thick and you can roll it and squeeze all the air out it turns out that the bulkiest thing in your suitcase is air. CHUCK: Hmm. NEAL: If you can get rid of all that air between all those garments you can get a whole lot more stuff in there. I will be willing to bet you can get a third more stuff in your suitcase if you take two or three of those bags and put all your undergarments in, and put them in there and roll them up real tight and strategically put them in the bag. You’ll get a lot more in there I bet. I’m a big fan of those things, and you can get a lot of stuff in the suitcase with those compression bags. CHUCK: Yup. NEAL: Another thing that I do, when I get to the hotel – there are couple of other hacks one is a lot of times you’ll end up in a room with an adjoining door and even of your not adjoining that door and the ways those work is that they both have door knobs so both people have to turn their key before it opens up. CHUCK: Right. NEAL: I’m always paranoid about these things and so I always put my suitcase right in front of that door. I always have a suitcase right there – I always put my suitcase directly in front of that so if somebody does manage to stumble their way through that door they’ll trip over my suitcase. But here’s the best trick I know of in hotels and I’ve discovered this recently and this was a revelation for me. It’s a small thing but it is important so really nice hotel chains have glass glasses in the bathroom but less expensive hotel chains have paper cups or Styrofoam cups. CHUCK: uh hmm. NEAL: Problem with Styrofoam cups is if you put your toothbrush in it, it’s top-heavy and it’ll just tumble over so it sucks. Here’s the trick – I saw somebody I’ll post a picture of this – flip the Styrofoam cup over and punch a hole in the bottom of it with your toothbrush and now you have a toothbrush holder. CHUCK: Oh nice. NEAL:**It’ll stand up in that inverted cup in the hole that you punched so you just pull it out and put it back in there until it is time to go. And now your toothbrush won’t fall over [Chuckles].**CHUCK: That’s slick. Do you have a routine when you get to a hotel? NEAL: I do. I unpack right away and get all my things in place.  I got a lot of junk in my backpack which is basically my office I don’t really have an office it’s all in my backpack.  I tend to listen to podcasts a lot when I’m walking around in airports – so I listen to podcasts while I’m unpacking and getting all my stuff stowed away.  I think it’s the only way to really be sane as a traveler is to maintain your own normalcy CHUCK: Uh hmm. NEAL: In places like hotel rooms so where your stuff is. One of my colleagues did what I consider a brilliant hack. She stays all the time at the Marriott hotel chains and the big chains like that you can actually buy an astounding amount of their furniture and their bedding and all that stuff. So what she did is decorated her apartment from the Marriott catalog so now she always feels like she’s at home. CHUCK:**Oh, that’s funny [Chuckles].NEAL:[Chuckles] Even when she’s on the road she feels like she’s at home because everything in her life looks like a Marriott. [Chuckles] It’s brilliant.**CHUCK: That’s pretty funny. So you actually unpack and then what do you do you just put your dirty laundry in your suitcase as you go? NEAL:**What I use, I always have one of those compression bags I put the dirty laundry in the compression bag that’s another useful thing for the compression bags is that it lets you segregate clean versus dirty. Because I’ll have some trips – two days here then [Inaudible 34:23] you need to keep those two things separate and know exactly what’s going on. In fact, a really good trick for that – every time you take off a bit of underclothes if it’s dirty, turn it inside out.**CHUCK: Oh yeah. NEAL: Everything inside out is dirty and everything right side in is clean. When I do sink laundry as soon as I pull them out of the water, the rinsing water, I turn them back around right side – not inside out because they’re now clean. So in my world anything inside out is dirty and everything that’s right side n is clean. But also segregate them by compression bags as well typically. CHUCK: Uh hmm. So, I’m also wondering if you have some tricks – when I travel, my wife and my kids we like to talk. So are there other certain things you find work better than others as far as staying in touch with home? NEAL: I think it’s gotten much better now, Skype of course works really nicely, FaceTime is really huge particularly if you have little kids who don’t really understand a lot of stuff about travel or why a parent is away. Getting FaceTime is really important because they can see you – that’s a much stronger connection to your kids. I think the real trick if you have different time zones is scheduling times you can talk to your spouse or kids it’s easy to let that slide. But I think it’s worthwhile to try to stay pretty diligent because even if you’re busy, it’s nice to be able to connect back to them the real world. CHUCK: Yeah, I’m on the same thing –the hardest part of it is just scheduling time and then we do FaceTime. I have an iPhone my wife has an iPhone and an iPad, I have my MacBook that I take with me and so just those things and being able to connect and feel like we can talk. NEAL: Absolutely that – I think seeing faces is a big deal. I think that’s more than just an incremental improvement in my experience. CHUCK: Yup so, yeah that’s I mean that’s kind of a handy thing. I’m trying to think of anything else that I can just think to ask/. NEAL: One thing that I keep in my bag all the time is a windbreaker, and a hat and a small pair of gloves cause you can never tell if you might end up in some place. San Francisco is a great example – I’ve brought there I think three sweatshirt in San Francisco in June cause you think “Oh its June, it’s the middle of summer” then you show up in San Francisco and its freezing. There are several things that stay in my suitcase at all times. One is a little first aid kid, which is never a bad thing to have around. Another thing is I was talking about doing sink laundry. The other thing I have are elastic clotheslines that you can stretch between two anchor points in your room and hang those wet clothes to dry. CHUCK: Uh hmm. NEAL: So those always stay in my suitcase, a windbreaker I have a really nice general purpose windbreaker, and then a hat and gloves that always stay in my bag. There’s a bunch of stuff that of course stays in my backpack all the time power adapters and I also got a little Bose mini speaker you see a lot of these now they’re like Bluetooth speakers. CHUCK: Uh hmm. NEAL: That’s nice so that I can listen to music in hotel rooms without having to put on headphones. Headphones can be a little fatiguing after a while so it’s nice. And this is the equation for me is the benefit of having it worth the weight it’s always about the weight and the trade-off between the weight. So I finally found a little Bluetooth speaker system that sounded good enough that I like the sound and that was light enough to put as part of my standard travel bag. CHUCK: Very cool. As far as hotel Wi-Fi goes do you find that certain chains have better Wi-Fi than others? Do you even trust the Wi-Fi or do you just tether to your phone and how do you handle all that? NEAL:**It’s interesting. it’s not about the chain, it’s about the price of the hotel within the chain. For example Hamptons and Courtyard Inns which are the mid-range price and a couple of big hotel chains all have free Wi-Fi, as you get to the upper echelons like the Marriott or the Ritz [Inaudible 38:21] and you have to pay for the net in those places its really more about the demographic of the traveler. The quality of Wi-Fi is widely variable – still all over the place, it’s getting better and more consistent all over conferences still have a murderous time with Wi-Fi because every geek that shows up to the conference has three or four IP addresses that’s slurping up and hammering on the Wi-Fi so that’s almost always bad. In fact I was at a conference not too long ago where they asked everybody to cut off their portable Wi-Fi because it was clogging up all the channels that are possible for Wi-Fi so nobody could get to the hotel Wi-Fi because everyone was clogging the all the Wifi channels with their own personal hotspot so even that’s not a [Inaudible 39:03] Wi-Fi used to be horrific in Europe but it has gotten way better there now, and in Asia the Wi-Fi you get in the hotel room is better than what you can get in your house.**CHUCK:**I’ve also heard from some people that they don’t trust the Wi-Fis in the hotels because they don’t control it – sniffing it’s [crosstalk 39:22] who understands security.**NEAL:**There’s always a certain possibility and there are people who set up fake Wi-Fi hotspots in places so it’s not a bad idea to verify at the front desk exactly what the hotspot is. Because if you’re staying at Marriott some nefarious person may have created a hotspot – this is Marriott guess when the actual hotspot is Nomadics which is a provider for people like Marriott so make sure exactly what the provider is and the usual kind of [inaudible 39:51] SSL and other stuff like that to make sure that nothing crazy like that is going on.**CHUCK: Do you use a particular VPN or anything? NEAL: We have a VPN that we use within ThoughtWorks which is the Cisco VPN Client so nothing special or magical behind that. I try to be pretty hygienic about that I don’t do anything in coffee shops. I just try to keep my sense about me but most of the times. The hassle trying to spoof into the Wi-Fi there are very few useful returns onto that for most people I think. For my experience it’s pretty rare. CHUCK: Yeah, I haven’t had any issues myself but I’m always curious when I hear people who would rave about “No, I would never trust that third-party.” NEAL:**If you want absolute security, never plug your computer into a network anywhere and you’ve got an air gap and you got security everything out beyond that is some level of compromise [chuckles].**CHUCK: Yeah. NEAL:**You have to pick your level of compromise [Chuckles].**CHUCK: yeah, I’ve also – I have a portable Wi-Fi it basically uses – so it has two antennas in it basically. One antenna connects to the Wi-Fi in the hotel and then the other one is the one that all of my devices connect to that helps in a couple of situations. One is that if they charge you per device which some of these places do, then they are only charging you for that one device. The other thing that it helps with is you can set up VPN  settings on it and so depending on how complicated your VPN set up is on the other end you can push all of your information to VPN or third party proxy that encrypts the data. NEAL: I used to do this all the time at an AirPort express and then several hotel chains started blocking those because they knew I was using it to get more than one device connected. That’s actually when they actually cared about the number of IP addresses – any hotel now will give you four  IP addresses for your room at least cause they know you got a laptop, and an iPad, and an iPhone. CHUCK: Yeah. NEAL: – To get a little stingy like that. And in fact if you got status in a hotel chain I never pay for Wi-Fi because I have status in my favorite hotel chain which is Marriott the Wi-Fi is always free for me. That’s some of the perk of status – it’s another reason why you want to pick a hotel chain and stick with as much as you can – just try to get them perks. CHUCK: Yeah, makes sense to me. NEAL: Uh hmm. CHUCK: Yeah I may have to go ahead and do that with a hotel. I fly Delta just because they’re the main carrier around of Salt Lake City. NEAL: Yup, I’m a Delta guy too, since I’m based in Atlanta. CHUCK:**Yup, I don’t usually have enough miles to get the completely preferred status but I mean if nobody else has status on the flight I do [chuckles]. That’s the kind of level I’m at a Medallion Status. Anyway it’s made a lot of difference and there have been a few times where I’ve actually gone to the airport and I have the little red stripe on my boarding pass that says I can go through the fast line.**NEAL:**Yup, TSA pre checks are [inaudible 42:48]**CHUCK: Yup, that’s one other thing I’m curious about do you dress differently on the days that you fly? So that you don’t have to completely undress when you go through the security check? NEAL:**No, most of the time now I’m [Inaudible 43:00]on TSA pre check which means you don’t have to take your belt off or take your shoes off or take your liquids out of your bags. I’m pretty slim down anyway and I’ve got the Routine down. I know exactly how to get my laptop and iPad and all that stuff out of my bag as quickly as possible I tend not to put a lot of junk in my pockets but I find the discipline is useful because I don’t want a lot of junk in my pocket anyways that helps keep the riff raff out of my pockets knowing I have to travel a lot.**CHUCK:**Yeah, I’m the same way I have four things that I have in my pocket all the time – well five things except when I fly and the fifth thing is a pocket knife which I definitely don’t take to the airport [crosstalk 43:41].**NEAL: the other real useful thing you can get at a travel place like TravelSmith and REI are sheets of soap they’re a little – it’s a little plastic thing and it has this little fabric sheets that are soap. So if you run in to a bathroom that doesn’t have soap you got that in your bag I always keep some of those in my backpack. CHUCK: Oh, that’s kind of cool. So what kind of tech items do you take with you when you travel because I mean I take my laptop and I got a whole bunch of stuff in my backpack – power adapters and batteries and extra batteries and thumb drives and stuff like that are there other things that people should consider that they wouldn’t normally take when they just head out of the house? NEAL:one of the things that I’ve done a lot and this really makes it easy to get through security in places like Europe is these little mesh travel bags that Eagle Creek makes. I tend to put all my adapters and wires and all that junk in Eagle Creek bags and put those in my backpack so I could just easily pull those off on mass and dump them in trays. I have a lot of wires and adapters and that kind of junk so keep them all together in one place I carry it and of course my laptop I have a bunch of presentation equipment a wireless clicker it just stays in my bag all the time the usual iPad and iPhone. I also carry an external charger that you can charge separately so you can give more juice to an iPhone or iPad –I have that little guy with me all the time. Nothing super out of the ordinary, I occasionally get weird looks from airport sec the volume of wires and electronic related junk that I put in my backpack because I travel with several external hard drives. So I occasionally get the evil eye from people but hey if I didn’t have all that junk with me then there would be no [inaudible 43:23] it’s not like it’s an option so they can just get over itCHUCK:**Yeah. It’s the same thing – they ask me to put – “Well, what’s that?” and what I’m pulling out is a big mess of wires. [Chuckles]**NEAL:**Yeah. [Chuckles]**CHUCK: then they’re looking at me like “Why do you need all this crap?” and I’m just looking at them going “geek, speaker.” NEAL: There are a few little weird things that are tough like for example – little cork screws are okay in the US but not in Europe. So I’ve got a couple of little plastic corkscrews taken away from me. Laser pointers are not allowed on planes in Australia, so I had to sacrifice a laser pointer in Australia because they wouldn’t let it on the plane CHUCK: Oh that’s funny. NEAL: I don’t know what you’re supposed to do with the laser pointer on the back of a plane, for whatever reason security there didn’t allow it. CHUCK: Yeah, well you might make the pilot chase it around the – shine it on the floor. NEAL:**I think it would be more dangerous outside the plane than in the back of the plane [Chuckles]**CHUCK: Yeah I’ve heard some stories that I don’t quite believe about people bringing down planes or helicopters because they’re –. NEAL:**It would take a lot of lasers power for a small plane to do that [Chuckles]. Yeah beyond that, nothing I do have a really, really nice travelling backpack from this company Booq, B-O-O-Q. In fact I got one of these things several years ago and just love it, and gradually all the speakers that I bump into all the time are gradually getting Booq backpacks because they’re really nice. Very heavy, they’re expensive but they are industrial strength and I think I am qualified to say [Chuckles] these things are almost indestructible. Big wide double stitch straps and the very important thing for a backpack is to have a waist belt for it, cause that takes a lot of pressure off your shoulders and that helps balance the weight of the bag a lot better if you cinch it around your waist as well. So it works really well for that laptop department.**CHUCK: And it’s just light, it fits under your seat just like anything else? NEAL: Yup CHUCK: I’ve got a pretty nice backpack and I’ll admit that I got it for free if you get a press pass to CES they give out backpacks every year but it doesn’t have that waist cinch belt thing. NEAL: Yeah, yeah that’s a handy thing to have especially if you need to jog through the airport. CHUCK: Yes. NEAL:**Being able to cinch in your waist keeps it under control [chuckles].**CHUCK: Yeah, I have a day pack that I’m not sure if it would fit under the seat of an airplane, it’s pretty close – it’s a little bit bigger than your run of the mill backpack and it has all of the things that you’re talking about. It’s very nice but huh, I’ll have to look into that as well. NEAL: Booq bags are not for the faint of heart because they are very expensive I’m talking about 300 dollars for the top of the line backpack but they are worth it. CHUCK: Yeah and I really want the one where you can thread your power cords through and have  a battery pack inside so you just hook all your stuff up when you put it in. NEAL: Uh hmm, I think probably they make some bags like that. They’ve got a pretty wide variety and every bag that there is I’ve seen has been really high quality CHUCK: Huh, definitely another thing to check out. So, one last question – when you’re working onsite for a client how do you usually get set up? NEAL:**Normally they will have machines there first if it’s a long term engagement, otherwise ill just use my laptops because if – a lot of the stuff I do not are things like technical assessments or architectural advice or consulting. So typically we just use our own machinery but in some cases they’ve got something set up for us [Inaudible 49:57].**CHUCK: Alright, well I don’t think I have any other questions. So uh are there any aspects of travel that I didn’t ask about? NEAL: Uh, I don’t think so. I think I covered most of my tips. You know travelling a lot is one of those things that when you first start doing it its awful and when you reach a certain level it gets better because you get shorter lines. One of the guys that I know he’s really well known consultant Bruce Tate really well known author . CHUCK: Uh hm. NEAL: I think he encapsulates this well because he used to be a travelling consultant he said – “the second happiest day of my life is when I finally achieve top tier status in my airline and the happiest day of my life is when I lost it again because I stopped travelling all the time.” So I think that’s probably true. It’s one of those things – it’s an occupational hazard for me so I don’t let it stress me out. Duly and because it is my occupational hazard it – try to be very Zen – go with the flow. I think a lot of people it drives them crazy just the out of control-ness of travelling so much but I’ve pretty much reconciled myself with it and very rarely do I get mad enough so that the vein starts sticking out of my forehead. CHUCK: Yeah, I think it really just depends on how you deal with it. It’s definitely not a lifestyle for everyone but it’s something – if I had the right client and I’d travel for them. NEAL:**Yeah, it has perks. I’m kind of a foodie so I take advantage [inaudible 50:21] for conference trips in Europe to eat at gourmet restaurants there so I got to eat at some super nice restaurants and didn’t have to pay the travel to get there just for the food itself. So that’s not a bad little perk.**CHUCK: True, that reminds me of a trip I took to Miami for RubyConf and it just worked out that we wound up going to a high end restaurant. So I bought probably the most expensive meal I’ve ever bought in my life and just had the most wonderful – it was like a local specialty crab and it was so good. NEAL: That’s one of the things that I got an epiphany about a few years ago – was one of the things you can only do in places is eat at the restaurants that only exist in those places. CHUCK: Yeah. NEAL: And that’s one of the unique local things there so I really try to embrace and find good local restaurants when I travel places. I’m a kind of adventurous eater anyway so I try to find the good local places try the local stuff you never can tell. And things that I’ve never heard of before are now some of my favorite food so I’m a big fan of – try everything at least once you don’t have to like everything but you have to try it really once because you never can tell. CHUCK: Well, the other thing is having lived in Europe I know that certain areas or regions have regional specialties. NEAL: Absolutely. CHUCK: So there are definitely things to try out there that you’re really never going to be able to get anywhere else. NEAL: Yeah. Spargel is a great example of that albino asparagus which is huge in Europe and every fall they have Spargel season. You could actually find it sometimes in the US. Its albino Asparagus and it tastes like Asparagus but the volume has been turned down on so it makes really good cream of asparagus soup because it has a very subtle flavor. I never would have found out if I haven’t been going to Germany. CHUCK:That just sounds like fun [chuckles]. Well, let’s go ahead and get to the picks I’ve got a couple of picks just things that we’ve talked about in the travel. So I have some mesh bags that I use for my clothing and things they’re really handy they come in all kinds of sizes. The ones that I’ve bought are the Rick Steves’ ones. He’s a travel guide writer person, he specializes in Europe but he has his own podcast he has his own PBS television show where he talks about different areas of Europe. I’ll probably pick his show and then I’ll also pick those. A few other things that I travel with are – I have a larger battery pack that will actually charge my computer and then it has a USB plug on it and it can charge my phone six or seven times before it runs out of juice. It’s rather large so I usually only use it in emergencies when it’s – okay I’m going to pull this honking thing out. But its small enough to fit in my backpack its smaller than my laptop but it’s a little bit bigger say than say the phone sized battery packs that you can get two charges of your phone out of. I don’t remember the brand but I’ll put a link to it in the show note. Then I also have an Anker that’s A-N-K-E-R battery pack for my phone. That’s also pretty handy so if I need to charge it up then I just plug it in. Usually in February my father-in-law takes us all down to the parade of homes – home show in St. George which is in Southern Utah. That’s where the people who’ve made their wealth in Northern Utah and Idaho retire to because it’s warmer. Just like the people who migrate to Arizona every year – during the year. So a lot of the homes you walk through are two million, three million dollar homes. So when we go down there I’ll have that battery pack and I usually wind up charging my phone, my wife’s phone and my sister-in-laws phone [Chuckles]. While we’re down there because we’re using it to navigate, we’re using it to get around, we’re using it to lookup restaurants and so the battery’s get run down and it’s just really handy. Because as I said, I could use it to charge up my phone and then I could use it to charge up each of their phones and that’s usually about all it’s got but just – handy thing.NEAL: We have a traveler’s mantra A-B-C – always be charging. CHUCK:Yes [chuckles] and it’s handy when I’m travelling all day in airports too which doesn’t happen very frequently to me but those are the times when it really gets run down. You don’t have enough time to sit down and charge it on your layover and they really don’t have it set up so you can charge it in the airplane and so having something like that is handy [crosstalk 54:46].NEAL: Increasingly now, the economy comfort seats in front of the plane have plugs so you can charge stuff but that takes a newer plane to get that kind of stuff. CHUCK: yea, alright. Well what are your picks? NEAL: I’ve been to TravelSmith that’s a really good site to go to there’s another great site called smartertraveler.com. An aggregation of travel stories, people put things like frequent flyer programs and changes to hotel policies and thing like that so it lets you keep your ear to what’s going on. And then the classic ultimate place to find out things about miles is Flyertalk which is a forum that – a lot of discussion forums about frequent flyer miles a formulation – you’re always curious about should I use frequent flyer miles for this flight or not? Am I getting a good deal with frequent flyer miles? Also Flyertalk will give you the dollar value for your airline’s miles so you can make calculations about should I use miles for this or not so that’s a really useful site. CHUCK: Yeah, very cool. Well, I don’t think I have any other announcements or anything like that so we’ll go ahead and wrap up the show. Thanks for coming Neal. NEAL: Absolutely, my pleasure. [This episode is sponsored by MadGlory. You've been building software for a long time and sometimes it gets a little overwhelming. Work piles up, hiring sucks and it's hard to get projects out the door. Check out MadGlory. They're a small shop with experience shipping big products. They're smart, dedicated, will augment your team and work as hard as you do. Find them online at MadGlory.com or on Twitter @MadGlory.]**[Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at BlueBox.net]**[Bandwidth for this segment is provided by CacheFly, the world’s fastest CDN.  Deliver your content fast with CacheFly. Visit cachefly.com to learn more]**[Would you like to join a conversation with the Freelancers’ Show panelists and their guests? Wanna support the show? We have a forum that allows you to join the conversation and support the show at the same time. Sign up at freelancersshow.com/forum]

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