Life, Smart phones, and YOU.

There are just over 7 billion people in the world.      4.5 billion people in the world have toilets.      6 billion people have mobile deviced. 
The average person spends 4.7 hours per day on their smart phone, or 1/3 of their waking hours.
Looking at your phone that long is equivalent to having an 8 year old child sitting on your neck all day
Myopia in the 1970s effected 25% of people in the USA. It’s 50% now.
In some Asian countries it’s up to 85%
Science: Playing video games 
Are they all bad?
What are smart phones doing to you?
The importance of taking a smart phone vacation

Finance 101: All age levels

Todays finance class for kids:

Q: IF A STUDENT starts with nothing at say, 20 years old.
The student then saves 15 dollars per day (latte, cocktail, whatever you choose)
The SAVINGS grow at 7% per year (LT stock mkt returns)
Don’t touch it, so don’t tax it.

Your savings stock account at the end of 50 years is?
$_, _ _ _, _ _ _ (see below)

Congratulations, you’re now in the wealthiest 5% of Americans. And in the world? Greater than all but .005%

Now, imagine if you’d saved more…or earlier?

A: $2,528,833.23

The most important asset all investors have is…time.

School’s out.

Off Piste Lux?

A reader asked how we travel. One actually thought we were flying in a private jet!?! Each day, brings some good, some bad. Here is a picture of todays shower, with Mom’s commentary.

Her text to me.

“Yes those are the mushrooms growing in our shower. Annika gets a pass and will shower in Siem Reap tonight. Meanwhile you and I should soak our feet in some cheap whiskey asap.

Who said we’re spoiled brats on a luxury trip? that’s some backpacking sh$& right there!”



A New Look at “PRIVILEGE”


My co-pilot Stacia, ever the astute and balanced observer of the human condition, noted one I’d never before considered. (She would have written this, if she weren’t so busy planning ‘operation Myanmar’.)

“Do you know how lucky we are, and every American  is, simply by having been raised speaking the English language? We could NEVER have been able to do this trip if we were not English speakers.”

*what Warren Buffet calls, “the Ovarian lottery”

She is right. We as Americans are very lucky (and Brits, Canadiens, OZs etc.). We have witnessed time and  again people from Italy, Russia, France, China and other Asian countries all struggle to get the simplest things accomplished. Really struggle.

But the world speaks English, in some form at least the following words:

“Hello, taxi, where you from, thank you, go go, no no, yes yes, more money, please, yes safe, goodbye, water is okay, toilet, there, football, good, very good, and… same same but different.”

And one more, “Do American people like my people from (insert country here)?

Think about it. The ENTIRE world speaks, wants to speak, tries to speak, or wants to learn to speak YOUR native language.

That’s privilege.

(Vietnamese students walking down town Hanoi on weekends, loads of them, in order to approach and randomly speak to ” real English speakers”)

*Buffet  characterizes something he calls the “Ovarian Lottery”:

Just imagine that it is 24 hours before you are born. A genie comes and says to you in the womb, “You look like an extraordinarily responsible, intelligent, potential human being. [You’re] going to emerge in 24 hours and it is an enormous responsibility I am going to assign to you – determination of the political, economic and social system into which you are going to emerge. You set the rules, any political system, democracy, parliamentary, anything you wish – you can set the economic structure, communistic, capitalistic, set anything in motion and I guarantee you that when you emerge this world will exist for you, your children and grandchildren.

What’s the catch? One catch – just before you emerge you have to go through a huge bucket with 7 billion slips, one for each human. Dip your hand in and that is what you get – you could be born intelligent or not intelligent, born healthy or disabled, born black or white, born in the US or in Bangladesh, etc. You have no idea which slip you will get. Not knowing which slip you are going to get, how would you design the world? Do you want men to push around females? It’s a 50/50 chance you get female. If you think about the political world, you want a system that gets what people want. You want more and more output because you’ll have more wealth to share around.

The US is a great system, turns out $50,000 GDP per capita, 6 times the amount when I was born in just one lifetime. But not knowing what slip you get, you want a system that once it produces output, you don’t want anyone to be left behind. You want to incentivize the top performers, don’t want equality in results, but do want something that those who get the bad tickets still have a decent life. You also don’t want fear in people’s minds – fear of lack of money in old age, fear of cost of health care. I call this the “Ovarian Lottery.”


Same same, but different (part deux)

One of the best parts of Off Piste School is not having to quickly visit notable attractions and leave. Our school locations are often planned such that a 5 day stay, with only 2 days of “activities to do”, allows for ample time to both get in all the school, but also experience the culture in such a way that we all really get an authentic sense of the people. Arthur has the kids using a “running culture” pad which chronicles their observations about each stop on our journey. No more “Asia this”, or “Africa that.” These countries are so so different in essentially EVERY way immaginable. And as always, certain commonalities transcend the humanity. Take football.

We were fortunate to randomly arrive in Hanoi the night of the U23 Asia football championships, just as Vietnam beat Iraq. Only one person was at the immigration booth until the game was decided by penalties.  Adrenaline RUSH. Then we watched Vietnam beat Qatar in the semis while at a bar, complete with polite, inquisitive, enthusiastic fans revelling, even to the point where the kids asked “what’s that funny smelling smoke in those cigarettes?”

Well after Vietnam won in the semis, and we visited Sapa up north, we returned back through HaNoi and happened onto the finals. Of course, the much anticipated match between Vietnam v. Uzbekistan!

The games even come with pop stars singing in rice paddies.

And today’s final was played in China, where it snowed the entire game by the bucket.

HaNoi stopped, streets empty, blanketed in pride.

At halftime, as always, it was a time for like minded fans to do high fives with those Americans. And once you start, the enthusiasm and picture taking is seemingly endless, if you want it to be. One picture invited more, and it goes on like a Bradley Cooper stroll down Broadway. Crazy.

But here’s the really nutty part. These two pictures above are part of the next 8 hours of partying, joy and peaceful merriment as if these folks have been bottled up for decades looking for an excuse to celebrate just anything.

And this picture above? It’s outside RIGHT NOW as i type this. It’s been going on for over 2 hours. Non stop.

After the final game. A LOSS!

The out matched Vietnamese finally met their fate, LOSING 2-1 in the waning 30 seconds of overtime.  To repeat, this is the under 23 year old soccer championships!

  • The joy is honestly like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The chanting is loud and non-stop.  Wearing our trusty red tee shirts with yellow stars of the Vietnamese flag,  and similar headbands, Stacia and I waded through selfie after selfie with people that were simply happy to share the moment with foreigners. With Americans. And will do so all night. Not drunken revelry, just pure joy. (I hope the kids, sick all day, will be able to fall asleep up on the 7th floor.) It’s so clear the Vietnamese people, so kind and warm,  want to be accepted, included, and loved.

Meanwhile, the chants continue…





I cannot help but wonder what it must have been like when the US withdrew from the war in Vietnam?

A lovely fan indeed.

Hòa Ló Prison aka HaNoi Hilton

“I looked through my binoculars at an American soldier weeping for a fallen comrade and realized for the first time that the Americans were just like Vietnamese.” – North Vietnamese Army veteran, posted at Hòa Ló prison

Propaganda poster about the serenity and comfort experienced by captured U.S. fighter pilots

Nicholas hoists Alexander in an attempt to escape, as Annika looks on.

Translation: Nixon you will pay with your blood



Same same, but different.

[Inventory check: USA, Indonesia, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam. With Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and India on the near horizon to complete the Asian theater.]

“Same same, but different”, seems to be a “thing” all over Asia. I think it derives from the huge amount of knockoff and counterfeit products sold here, but who knows.  Say, “Same same, but different”, and people smile. Always.

For 58 years, and certainly whilst living in France, visiting Normandy Beaches and studying the U.S. role as savior of the free world, I was proudly comforted knowing who was right and wrong. But a large part of our recent journey has been punctuated by an apology tour. When one digs only slightly into the decrepit logic used to inform pre-war, and in-war decisions, it is earth-shatteringly embarrassing. [To be clear, I will NEVER denigrate the enormous sacrifices of our young men and women who have either willfully or been co-opted, but all bravely served our country, providing the comfort and freedom we Americans enjoy.]

It is gravely obvious that we Americans have sometimes been some bad hombres in faraway lands. And the impact is both prominent, and lasting. From how nuclear targets were selected in Japan, to how early in the conflict U.S. presidents knew Vietnam was a rudderless pointless endeavor. Early on in the Ken Burns documentary The Vietnam War, of which we still struggle through portions each day, JFK stated,”if I withdraw now I won’t get reelected.” In 1963. Still before 57,000 young U.S. men and women died there.

Nearly a million lives, American and foreign, military and civilian, were wantonly sacrificed. For nothing. 

(Ironicaly, a Vietnamese boy plays ‘tank’ with a U.S. flag atop his toy on a warm Hanoi Sunday morning)

America as the invader is a title that is extremely difficult to swallow. But to read the victors tales here in Vietnam is exactly like reading the words we were taught of the American revolution in U.S. history texts as children. Exactly.

Lamenting the lives ruined, both here and with our returning servicemen and women, is tragic. The damage to the populations in these countries is criminal. And yet, in a just few short generations, we and they are back in business. Remind me again for what we were fighting? Oh yeah, the spread of Communism…

Whew. Glad that worked.

(An excerpt of a story from the Hanoi War Museum of a North Vietnamese mother who lost 3 of her 4 boys in one month. The 4th boy was maimed)

Now, as Nicholas aptly points out, one cannot know the result had unfettered Communism been permitted to proliferate back then throughout this region. But spread it has. Communist. Socialist. Capitalist. All rolled up in one. Hell, in my book, after a short time here, Vietnam might win awards for its industrious people and its high degree of Capitalism. And who are we to intercede in the wishes of freedom as defined by other sovereign nations?

Here’s the crazy part. Regardless of “political system”, everywhere we go people ask the same questions, about us, and about the U.S.  About how we see things here and broadly in our travels. And oddly, they seem to still have a very clear vision of what America stands for, EVEN AFTER HAVING INVADED, TREATED THEM AS INHUMAN SAVAGES AND INDISCRIMINATELY BOMBED THEIR COUNTRIES INTO THE STONE AGE. And strangely enough, in many cases their vision of America is clearer than that of our fellow Americans today, without having ever left their own shores.

Here’s what we’ve experienced:

People all over seem to like interacting with Americans… a lot.

They are curious, they love to learn, and they do not want to be afraid.

People still believe America generally stands for freedom, a greater good, and righteous ideals. (At least the youth. Elders are more skeptical and angry.)

People don’t hate. Amorphous constructs, like governments, ideologies and politicians breed hate.

We have yet to meet a single person who we even dislike, let alone hate.

People all over the world… Same same, but different.

(Bombs: Brought to you by the U.S. military industrial complex. Cleanup: Brought to you by Australia)

War is often just politicians trading the blood of our children in exchange for their own power.

“War, good god y’all…What is it good for? Absolutely nothing, say it again.”