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.

How to: Cancel your ‘Prepaid Plan’ with Etisalat (3 out of 5)

In Person trip needed? Yes.

They will tell you it’s possible to do this over the phone. I’m highly skeptical. When you call they say you’ll need to pay the exact amount of your final bill, including any phone calls you made just moments before. Doing so online or over the phone is not practical.

Tips:

  • Use your smile points to pay your bill from the mobile app
  • Call the cancellation number (8006665) on the way to a physical store. When you get there grab a queue number while you’re dealing with customer care on the phone.
  • Don’t leave any accounts active unless you want to keep the number over the long term. They all might have small amounts due.

My situation:

What I had going in:

  • One Prepaid line with a 250 AED subscription
  • Two Postpaid lines under my name. Unknown balances.

What I wanted:

  1. Maintain the same number: I’ve had this number since 2001
  2. Avoid the next monthly bill: it would be automatically charged on 1st March.
  3. Avoid any future fees / fines on accounts I’d forgotten about.

Dubai: All Wrapped Up

It’s curious when you hit that moment, all accounts closed, all frustrations with telecoms and banks at an end. No dirhams left except the ones in your wallet, no person left to say farewell to, no activity left unexplored.

You look back and wonder why you were here in the first place. Did you accomplish what you set out to do? Could you have done it faster or better?

Spend a moment on it, reflect. Note down what you learned if it’s relevant for your future, then turn your focus forward and discard the rest.

The feeling of adrift

I break into moments of sorrow and panic at being adrift.

I should have a plan. I should know where I’m going. I should research every country. I should know all the best activities I’d like to do.

I’m trying with all my mental strength not to succumb to this feeling. It’s terrifying, feels like I’m being judged by not just others but also myself. “You’re better than this, do better!”

But it’s experience that has taught me to lean into that uneasy feeling rather pull away. The same as an athlete recognizing good pain from bad, I realize that if I just push through I’ll learn from it, and that will make me stronger.

Uncertainty and fear of the unknown manifests itself many ways. Rebrand fear as excitement and break through.

Why dealing with used cars is so frustrating

Warning. This is a rant about used cars, proceed with caution.

Buying a “Certified Pre-Owned” car from the dealer should keep you safe and in the know, right? Wrong.

I’ve owned my car for just over a year and a half. No accidents, no damage. I’ve taken care of her like no other. Then I go to sell it and find out that one of the doors has been repainted. Painted before I bought the car… from the dealer. The same one who sold it to me with ‘full service history’ and walked me step by step through the entire history of the car.

This is what makes you realize in the used car market, everyone is out to make a buck. They do not have your interests in mind, they will withhold information so that they can move the car faster and make their commission.

In used cars, trust only people charging you a fixed fee.

In my case I used Dubizzle Pro who bless them found the repaint and – in keeping with their values – was forced to put it on my car’s inspection report. Had I bought the car through them, I would have known this up front.

Lessons for future.