Trelograms #21 — Why Is Doing the Dishes so Troublesome?

Soon after moving to Ukraine, i had the opportunity to meet and eat lunch with Folknery, a couple of Ukrainian musicians cycle touring around the world with their baby, who was born on the road — “but isn’t it troublesome?” — “it’s actually much easier than being at home with one,” replied Yaryna.

I can totally believe that, as i’ve been myself telling everybody who asks that cycle touring feels less troublesome across the board — it’s much easier dealing with the dishes after a meal, or finding a place to sleep, so why wouldn’t that be the case with a baby as well?

At this point many of you will dismiss my point by saying that the cycle touring process comes with its own burdensome routine, which is so true! But if that’s where you are, then you’ve completely missed my point — we all have our own dishes to wash, there’s no doubt about it — my point is simply that our choice of metaphorical dishes is much broader than we might be first led to believe 😉


All the content i create is made available to all, and for free. If you find value in it, then please consider becoming a recurring donor — it is the best way to help me continue doing it! You may also find alternate ways to contribute on the support tab.

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Trelograms is a series of short inspirational and/or inquisitive reads written in counterpoint to my chronicles and concrete travel advice on cycle touring, hitchhiking or in general. The series title is a word play between ‘telegram’ and ‘trĂ©los’ (Greek for ‘mad’). Follow the links to read more, and sign up for the Not Mad Yet mailing list to be notified when new articles go live and get other updates


Mad Already #1 — 3 Readings to Avoid:  Your Ultimate New Year’s Guide to Sanity

(last updated on January 7th, 2018)

The Internet is exhausting — it keeps showing you stuff to click on — it’s now shown you this, and you’ve just clicked on it — see how it works?

In 2018 i will continue to actively steer clear of three kinds of reading in particular: the news, self-improvement articles, and listicles. 

Here’s roughly why.

#1. The News

It’s no conspiracy theory that the news are designed with one key purpose in mind: to sell advertising space. Your newspaper costs a lot more to make than the $1–2 per issue or however much you pay for the online subscription — that’s not the business model — the business model is to get your eyes on that underwear ad right next to the story on Trump’s latest tweet.

I’m not saying the news are lying to you — they’re probably not outright lying to you, even if they do have an agenda on top of their ad revenue. I’m not saying the news are not interesting either — gosh, they’re so alluring! — nobody would read them otherwise. No. The biggest problem with the news is that unexamined reliance on them for information can harmfully distort your perception of reality — they draw a disproportionate amount of your attention to unusual facts and events such as the all too sad stories of people displaced or killed by Hurricane Harvey, while neglecting to adequately inform you about the daily disaster of malaria in the developing world. It’s not that those behind the news don’t care about people suffering from malaria — they simply know you wouldn’t pay as much attention to that as you will to the first hurricane to make landfall in the US in 12 years — and they want to sell that advertisement space right next to it!

If you paid any attention to the news, you might never want to go to Ukraine. However reality can not only be quite different but, to some extent, perhaps even unrelated to what you might have seen on the news, as i experienced in  my very first time in the country.

I eventually moved to Ukraine four months ago, and this is what i can confidently say so far: it’s a huge and diverse country under insanely complex circumstances.

You won’t be missing much without the news. First of all, you don’t need most of that stuff being advertised anyways, don’t worry — you know what you need — look it up — ask around — you’ll find it — you’ll even get a good deal for it! And concerning where to go to stay informed about current events, there is now a wealth of podcasts such as Sam Harris’ Waking Up (and some references therein) that are delivered as ad-free, transparent, in depth conversations with authorities on the topic of interest, discussing many of the very questions you might  be asking yourself about what’s going on in the world.

By the way, this piece of advice includes comedy news — stay away from them — they will eat your brain. It does, however, exclude The Onion — please keep reading The Onion — and keep listening to Reggie Watts, and such as, a lot:

#2. Self-Improvement

I’m mostly referring to the kind of article claiming in their very title to be the last thing you’ll ever need to read to become the next Elon Musk, or whatever.

To begin with, you probably don’t need most of that either.

If you do want to level up on any aspect of your life, then pick up a book by someone who spent a significant amount of their lives devoted to the feature of interest, and start working on it — follow the blog in which they regularly write about it, or join a meetup or online forum and start interacting with people pursuing the same path, or all of the above — or yet something else that involves taking some action.

Change is an active process — figure out what’s the first step towards whatever it is that you want to get better at or incorporate in your life, and get started — today — now! Acknowledge that by reading those articles you’re simply procrastinating that first step. Indeed, i’ll be far more likely to read and take the advice of an article that gives me a clear, manageable first step, so i can actually go out and do it, rather than an article with so many recommendations that they will require me to spend half an hour after reading it pretending that i can immediately redesign how i spend 10% of my time.

#3. Listicles

Listicles seem to be most often about something i wasn’t even interested in, but now think is the most important topic in the world to believe i’m learning something about. They’re designed to be consumed mindlessly, like cheese puffs — and also sell advertising space, by the way — and typically teach me nothing of substance about something i actually care about.

Wanna become acquainted with remote places on Earth? Play around with Google maps, or post a question on some travel forum, and get involved in the discussion of what being ‘remote’ even means! Is it remote in the sense that it’s super far away? — difficult to reach? — because it’s been culturally isolated for a very long time? — because it’s unknown? Read up the Wikipedia articles about the places you get referred to — perhaps there’s a well produced documentary or a well written book on them — maybe someone has visited those places, taken good photographs, talked to people living there, and written an engaging account of it in their blog! Don’t settle for the listicle — maybe an opportunity to go there yourself is not even such a long shot, as it was for me the opportunity to visit the Faroe Islands in 2016.

It’s not that i’ll avoid reading lists altogether — in fact, i like lists —  very much so! I just prefer the kind of list that helps me think about how they’re constructed, and teach me something about the underlying theme. If you’re interested in the intersection between ethics and entertainment, the Very Bad Wizards podcast is a good place to find such thoughtful lists — their episodes on their five favorite movies on the nature of reality or the more recent one on dystopias immediately come to mind — a passionate podcast by avid consumers of pop culture who also happen to be scholars in the subsuming fields of moral philosophy, psychology and neuroscience.

If you’re not interested in something, then don’t worry about it — and if you are, then don’t be shy to go all nerdy on it!

Oh, you noticed!

That’s right — this is (almost) a listicle — and essentially a self-improvement one at that — that’s two out of three :p

It’s OK — you didn’t know any better 😉

But now you do — so, share it, close the tab, and move on with you life!


This is the 2018 revised and updated edition of the article i first wrote on January 3rd, 2017 on Medium, and then published on this blog with some changes on January 15th, 2017. Featured photo courtesy of Nicolai Berntsen.


All the content i create is made available to all, and for free. If you find value in it, then please consider becoming a recurring donor — it is the best way to help me continue doing it! You may also find alternate ways to contribute on the support tab.

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Mad Already is a series of articles with concrete, tested travel advice written in counterpoint to my more “literary” chronicles and short reads. As such, it has been roughly divided into cycle touring, hitchhiking and general advice — follow the links to read more, and sign up for the Not Mad Yet mailing list to be notified when new articles go live and get other updates!


Trelograms #2 — Connected

What do you make out of this image? — people sitting next to each other seemingly lost in the world through their gadgets is a common sight these days, isn’t it?

Today i want to invite you to look beyond what the image might suggest and meet Daichi and Ryo Uchiyama, the people in it — when i approached them at a coffee shop in L’viv, Ukraine, introduced myself, and asked if i could chat with them for a little bit, they replied with excited interest, promptly closing the laptop and putting away the phone.

This friendly Japanese couple got married two years ago, and have been traveling together around the world on what they told me is their honeymoon ever since — 24 countries, and counting! In hindsight, i’m not surprised it was so easy to connect with them.

They take jolly, colorful pictures, some of which you can see in their Instagram  @tabiwalife — check it out!


All the content i create is made available to all, and for free. If you find value in it, then please consider becoming a recurring donor — it is the best way to help me continue doing it! You may also find alternate ways to contribute on the support tab.

read more

Trelograms is a series of short inspirational and/or inquisitive reads written in counterpoint to my chronicles and concrete travel advice on cycle touring, hitchhiking or in general. The series title is a word play between ‘telegram’ and ‘trĂ©los’ (Greek for ‘mad’). Follow the links to read more, and sign up for the Not Mad Yet mailing list to be notified when new articles go live and get other updates


Going with Plan A

Yet another friend of mine has just landed a sweet programming job.

I’ve been flirting with the idea of pursuing a career in programming myself for the past several years. For some reason i could never quite put my finger on, this has never panned out, at least not as smoothly as it seems to have been the case for dozens of my friends and acquaintances from graduate school or the effective altruism movement.

I believe i may have finally understood what’s going on — despite having taken several courses, used a fair amount of programming in my mathematical research, and occasionally enjoyed playing with an Arduino, i simply don’t think of myself as a programmer. I’m not talking fixed mindset here — on the contrary.

To me a programmer is more like the person who spends a whole month of their lives figuring out how to put this together — indeed, when i look close enough at anybody i know who’s eventually become a full-time programmer, i see a clear story arch under which programming is not merely instrumental to their interests, but rather the key interest itself.

What’s my narrative then?

Well, if coding won’t keep me up all night, planning a hiking trip in Iceland, researching visa requirements and weather patterns along the Silk Road, or checking out how to become an Uber driver and deciding whether that’s a plausible source of travel money will! Anything related to world travel and exploration will not only keep me up late, but also wake me up obscenely early — i’m an explorer!

I have a public confession to make: when i left Brazil in 2008 to attend graduate school in the US, what i was mainly looking for was an opportunity to live abroad. Unlike many of my friends’ families, mine didn’t have the means to send me on an exchange program while i was in high school. So, i continued to pursue my path to financial independence by going to college study math, which i had become quite passionate about, and understood to be a scalable degree which could eventually place me anywhere between a teaching or actuary job. But as soon as i realized that many of my professors in college had gotten their PhD degrees abroad — and with a scholarship from their host institution! — i knew that that was going to be my way out 😀

This is not hindsight bias — anybody who has interacted with me during graduate school can probably attest to this — i was pretty openly not there primarily for the degree — in fact, i couldn’t even relate to how seriously most of my peers seemed to take what they were doing! As much as i have enjoyed doing Mathematics, what interested me the most about attending Rutgers University, in New Jersey, was the priceless opportunity it awarded me with to meet people from all over the world, and have experiences i could have only dreamed about up until then.

Towards the end of 2013, i was about to graduate and, just like most of my peers also about to graduate, applying for academic jobs for the following year. A close friend of mine noted at the time, and i paraphrase, “dude, i really like how chilled you are about this whole process, everybody else is so stressed out.” I felt pretty relaxed indeed — not because i was overly confident about getting a job, but rather because i had a pretty neat plan B — if i didn’t get a job, i’d sell all my stuff, spend a year or so riding my ’96 Honda Rebel all the way back from New Jersey to Brazil, and take it from there.

I ended up getting a job, selling the motorcycle, keeping much of my other stuff, and moving to Denmark for a two-year postdoc instead. But when the next job application cycle came about towards the end of 2015, i started thinking very seriously about whether a proverbial motorcycle ride across the Americas shouldn’t actually be plan A that time around. So, after my contract ended, i packed my belongings into a few boxes in my landlady’s attic, hopped on the cycle touring rig i’d been slowly putting together for the past year or so, and set off from Copenhagen to Istanbul!

Along the way, i turned down an otherwise tempting offer for another two-year postdoc, and kept going. I arrived in Istanbul on November 24th, 2016, after 2 energizing and rejuvenating months on the road. I had not felt as alive and present since i was preparing to leave Brazil almost ten years ago!!

Yes, i could see myself back in academia at some point in the future. Most likely not as a researcher though — i feel like i belong much more in a liberal arts setting, as an educator, particularly somewhere with a large international student population. I’d love to apply my training as a mathematician and teacher, as well as the deeper understanding of people’s needs i’ve developed through my travels, to promote and facilitate the self-actualization of others.

But my global learning has barely begun and, for the moment, we go with plan A: first, i’ll go spend some quality time with my grandmother, family and friends back in Brazil; i haven’t been there for more than just a couple of weeks ever since leaving in 2008, and we all need that; but i’m then getting back on the road in the end of March, and we’ll just take it from there!


All the content i create is made available to all, and for free. If you find value in it, then please consider becoming a recurring donor — it is the best way to help me continue doing it! You may also find alternate ways to contribute on the support tab.

read more

You may find more adventure inspiration in my chronicles and trelograms, where i share my thoughts and emotions in reaction to recent experiences. You may also browse for concrete, tested cycle touring, hitchhiking or general advice. Follow the links to read more, and sign up for the Not Mad Yet mailing list to be notified when new articles go live and get other updates!