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Setting off to no where in particular

A man, late 30s, with hair beyond his years and the fitness to match. This is me at the start of this chapter.

I sold my company two years ago, stepped down from the resulting job and now embark on a life that’s commitment free.

So… what next?

I’m continually asked by friends, family and colleagues, “What is your plan?“, “What are you doing next?”, “Where are you going?”

I have no plan and that’s ok. Not everyone is willing to accept that. I certainly wouldn’t have one year ago.

FAQs

Where are you going?

East sounds like a good general direction. From Dubai that means… India? Nepal? Thailand?

How long will you do this for?

When I get to North America I’ll need to decide: Stop here?

Why did you start this blog?

Imagine an empty box. A close friend asks you to look inside that box and you carefully, almost embarrassingly, show them inside.

Now imagine that friend becomes extremely excited for you and congratulations you profusely on your empty box.

When I started telling people “I really have no plan whatsoever” I braced myself for shock, horror and interventions. I did not expect passioned and excited shouts of “Wow, that’s awesome!”, “I’m so jealous!” and “Please keep me posted!”.

“Post-ed”. Hence, this blog.

I get it. Not many people have nothing as an option. But, perhaps you do. And, perhaps this blog inspires you to ask that question.

Why are you doing this? (the time off / travel)

It feels like the right thing to do. I don’t often go by feel but I will for now.

What will this blog focus on?

Focus? It will not focus.

Focus suggests I’ve got a plan and there is No Plan. I make no promises except to document the thoughts and patterns I go through.

What do you hope to accomplish?

Nothing. Ooh, I like the sound of that!

A live kid-friendly online Earth Day event

Hi there!

Here with something a little different… but time sensitive.

  • Do you have kids 11+ years old?
  • Do you know an educator or teacher who does?
  • Are you interested in documentary filmmaking, conservation or the work of eco rangers.

If so, I’ve got something you may find interesting.

Background

I met Kate Brooks one year ago at a yoga retreat in India while she was recuperating from the grueling work of releasing her documentary The Last Animals.

Now her foundation, along with Encounter Edu and the University of Michigan School of Environment and Sustainability, will be doing a live event on Earth Day – 22nd April 2020 – at 10AM EDT (check your timezone).

The event is family friendly, hosted by 17 year old British conservationist & youth activist Bella Lack and will consist of two 40-minute panels in which you can submit questions to be answered by experts in their respective fields. There will be age group appropriate reading and writing exercises around these lessons posted on Encounter in the next day or so.

I personally love the work Kate and her foundation are doing and the online forum Encounter Edu uses is perfect for STEM online resources during the times we are in today.

If you are interested, select one or both of the lessons below, click the ‘Book Now’ button and sign you or your class up for it. The lessons are free and the documentary is also available for a small cost.

Stay safe, stay healthy.

— Daniel

How this all came together – in Kate’s own words

Nearly one year ago Sarasota Military Academy and The Inspire Project began organizing the Project Earth Day. I was honored to be invited to screen The Last Animals and speak to the students who would be in attendance. 

Weeks before quarantine came into full force, we decided to prepare for a possible quarantine. Rather than cancel the event in response to the COVID 19, we decided that we would share the day with schools and students everywhere. On Earth Day 2020, it’s more important than ever for students to learn about and discuss the many consequences of wildlife trafficking, including zoonotic disease, and hear directly from people working to save our shared planet. 

Encounter and SEAS are creating conservation literacy exercises for middle grade and high school students which will be posted in the next few days. The Last Animals educational distributor is providing streaming licenses for participating schools. Individual homeschool licenses are available for parents to reach students in places where schools have been suspended. This panel will be open to any school or individual, but of course more meaningful with the perspective of the film. 

Encounter Edu specializes in open source education resources, which is why The Last Animals Foundation has partnered with Encounter. One of our primary goals is to raise awareness about wildlife trafficking and increase conservation literacy. Please check out this Earth Day live link: https://encounteredu.com/live-lessons/earth-day-live-2020  You will find details on the panels on the bottom of the page or can directly connect to them here: Panel 1 and  Panel 2 which will be hosted by British conservationist youth activist, Bella Lack  After years of working on these issues, the power and emotion of her speech at the IWTC in London in the fall of 2018 inspired me and also brought tears to my eyes. 

Please spread the word with educators, parents and anyone you feel may be interested in tuning into the live event, and perhaps watching The Last Animals in advance of the event as a learning exercise. For all those struggling with the practicalities of homeschooling during quarantine, Encounter Edu is a wonderful resource, now and always, to creatively educate the next generation. 

I am also pleased to share that The Last Animals Foundation has been supporting the construction of a new educational and community center in Garamba National park. For every dollar raised for this initiative, the EU has been match funding. I made a commitment to help the rangers and their families featured in the film, and I am proud to say that the foundation is honoring that commitment. 

All my best,

Kate Brooks

Day 1: Self isolation in Toronto

Summary: Checked-in, got settled and caught up with everyone on Whatsapp!

I arrived in Toronto, chauffeured to my hotel in Markham and checked in to the Hilton Suites Markham, keeping a lot of distance between me and the staff. I will do everything possible to ensure I am not the cause of anyone contracting Coronavirus, though as of yet there are no indications I have it myself. Coming from low impacted countries (India / UAE) I still feel there’s a low chance I’ve picked it up.

What has been lovely since arriving is the ability to Whatsapp call friends and family! So far I’ve video called family in Ontario, Jamaica and spoken to friends in the US and UK. The UAE telecom companies have starved the local population from connecting with the rest of the world and I feel that’s a crime. They should join the rest of the modern world by allowing open video communication.

Leaving Dubai, take deux!

A chauffeur to the airport, business class lounge and an Emirates business trip to Toronto. Now that’s the right way to leave Dubai!

Attempt #1 was a bit weird. 30 years in Dubai, a life of being Emirates staff and I ended up leaving through Sharjah on Air Arabia? No, that wouldn’t do. I’m happy I got back to spend a little time with some friends and leave the right way.

NZ plans cancelled, stay in Dubai or head back to Canada?

Current location: Dubai, UAE

The New Zealand government has begun deporting tourists who did not have sufficient self isolation plans. Despite the campervan company confirming their vehicles can be used for self isolation and that I think my plans would suffice, I don’t have to risk the long term consequences deportation would bring, and so I shall not.

This narrows options considerably: stay in Dubai on a 30 day visit visa or return to Canada.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has warned all Canadians overseas to return to Canada while flights are still available, and when doing so to go into 14-day self isolation.

This adventure has come to a halt before it really began. Decision time.

India shuts downs tourism, so on to New Zealand?

[13 Mar 2020 edit] When I saw New Zealand’s announcement I decided to move fast. Now enroute to Dubai.

After a lot of consideration about Coronavirus and the travel restrictions now being placed on travellers, I’ve decided to accelerate my plans to travel to New Zealand. I don’t take this decision lightly, there’s a lot to consider.

Why move on?

Five days after I arrived in Goa, India shut down the ability for any foreigner to get a visa, going as far as to even cancel pre-approved visas of anyone who didn’t arrive here before today – 13th March 2020.

This has had a catastrophic impact on tourist industry especially in places such as Goa who rely on a the tail end of peak season leading up to the monsoons in late April. Even the fabulous yoga retreat in Palolem that I’m staying saw 80% of its future reservations cancelled, forcing them to close earlier than expected. A nearby yoga teacher training centre in Agonda now offers 60% off to anyone who will join it’s next training course, hoping to grab some of the yogis who remain. This is a cataclysmic reduction of revenue to the region.

Sounds like a good time to be in India… no?

Well yes… and no. I’ve considered staying here as I’m one of the few that has the time, flexibility and – most importantly – visa to adjust plans and go explore India. I’m sure the Taj Mahal and other top tourist destinations will be far emptier than ever before and I could snap up tours at a discount. There’s definitely appeal in taking this time to knock off some bucket list items.

However… that would be opportunistic and short sighted. I didn’t come here to be a deal grabbing tourist and I didn’t even come to see the sites. I came to get out of Dubai, do some self reflection and work on my yoga practice.

The tsunami approaching India

I don’t think everyone here realizes it but I believe the Coronavirus will hit India in a massive way despite the commendable efforts made here by the government to flatten the curve. By doing all they can ahead of the storm they’re increasing the odds they can drag out the local epidemic and ultimately save lives. Regardless, I believe it will eventually spread around India quickly and that the health systems here will struggle to keep up. Also, more as a side note, when the numbers swell the government will be forced to cancel all public gatherings and start to close some of those same sites I would want to visit, neutralizing any reason to stay.

In the end I’m forced to ask myself, do I want to be here when that storm hits? I’m definitely young, fit and healthy enough to weather it and the risk to my age group is small but by staying I will restrict my future movement and that is my biggest concern. My real destination has been New Zealand for some time and the window to travel there will be closing fast.

So on to New Zealand. My preferred carrier is Emirates, especially after looking at the work they’re doing to keep aircraft clean. That means I’ll need to go Goa > Mumbai > Dubai > Auckland and sounds like I’ll be back in Dubai much earlier than expected.

The Coronavirus and how it impacts noplan

As of tomorrow, all traveller visas issued to India have been cancelled and no more will be issued until April 15th. I was expecting some travel restrictions but this one caught me off guard.

India’s doesn’t impact me directly, I’m already here, but it does mean that absolutely no foreigners will be allowed in to India over the next month. Where it does impact me, and potentially you if you’re planning to travel, is the lack of tourists will cause places to close. The resort I’m staying at is already discussing this, the slew of cancellations they got might cause them to close early this season.

Also to consider, more countries will likely follow suit with similar restrictions and places I do want to travel to, like New Zealand, will soon not allow travellers in.

That means… I’ve got three choices basically.

  • Hang out in India for a month or two
  • Leave now to New Zealand, get there before travel restrictions take hold then travel internally.
  • Hit pause on the whole travel idea and head to Canada to coast for a while, perhaps exploring the west coast.

While it would be a shame to not use this time for freely roaming the globe, the options are getting limited. Having no plan gives me the flexibility to not travel as well.

Thoughts? Comment here or email me.

A step into the unknown

Nothing quite prepares you for that moment you say goodbye and turn to walk away from that friend or family member. They’re returning to the world you know, you’re walking in the other direction.

I wonder if it’s different with a partner in crime. You both choose that initial place to travel to and leap together. Solo it’s just you, your doubts, some dreams and all the belongings you’re dragging along for the ride.

Surrounded by face masks, I step.

An experiment in Dubai altruism (Part 1)

In leaving Dubai I knew I had to downsize considerably. I needed to move from a two bedroom villa down to a backpack, but more importantly I wanted to know in leaving, I’d leave as small a footprint as possible. I wanted this to be positive for the people around me and for the environment.

First and foremost, I believe a move should not result in a pile of items in a landfill. While it might be the easiest approach, it’s both toxic to the land and a waste of potentially useful items or cash those items could generate.

Secondly, many of the items in my house had been simply given to me. I had benefitted from a great deal of kindness from friends in the past and I think that if you pay that kindness forward you’ll see a knock on effect over time.

So the question is: With a household of used items as your ‘only’ asset, how can you do some good?

Choosing who to help

First up, get clear on who you want to help and why. Make sure there are as few middlemen in the process as possible. For me these were:

  1. Reducing the suffering of dogs in the UAE by contributing to an animal shelter.
  2. Reducing the suffering of stray cats in Dubai by contributing to the vet bill of people I personally know that catch, spade/neuter and release stray cats.
  3. Reducing the suffering of people affected by job layoffs in the UAE (on a small scale)

Spreading the word

I wanted the good will and message to get out to everyone I interacted with so spreading the word was almost as important as raising cash. I encouraged other people to help by doing the following:

  • Everyone buying from me learned that the money was going to a good cause and not going into my pocket. This encouraged ~50% to not negotiate down the price and about ~10% to offer more money that they knew the item was worth.
  • I refused to sell anything to low-ballers who were obviously going to resell for a profit. Electronics and appliances were the main target of such offers and I’m happy to say not a single item went to someone profit seeking.
  • I did accept low offers from people in need. Maids or families with lower incomes did also benefit by getting items for very cheap or in some cases for free.

Helping to reduce the suffering of animals

The animal shelters in the UAE can be surprisingly easy to help and I would encourage everyone to think of this over using Take My J*** or other profit seeking companies. Many will gladly accept any item and then raise funds by selling the items from a warehouse or in a garage sale. The company I used conveniently sent a truck to pick up whatever I had left, including a king size bed, a leather couch and some other large furniture that was difficult to move. I also made sure I hung onto items the shelter could use such as towels / sheets and by refusing to accept low ball offers I ultimately kept more items for them.

Taking care of stray cats is a deeply difficult and selfless act in the UAE which few have the stomach for. The Arabian Mau (the common desert cat) can multiply extremely quickly and a single pregnant female can result in a colony of 50+ cats in just over a year. The strategy employed by many animal lovers is to prevent this rapid exponential growth of cat colonies by catching, spade / neutering, and then hopefully finding a home for them. If not a home, many are released back into the area which they were found to live their lives without creating a new generation of cats to feed. The challenge comes in that often these cats end up gruesomely injured and surgeries or medications needed to keep them alive can pile up. Many vets offer discounted rates to people who take care of animals but in the end someone has to front the bill.

To help these people, ask around. There’s almost guaranteed to be someone in your area who takes care of cats. Find out which vet they use and go directly to the vet to pay the bill.

In Part 2 – I’ll go through the process used to sell everything, tips for generating more money and the total raised.