Wednesday, September 30, 2009

In Paradise

In Paradise

It seems the older I get, the less tolerant of heat I am. And as BAD luck would have it, I have managed to live in one hot place after another all my life. I grew up in the dry heat of Arizona and lived there mostly until I was 40, and suffered through chapped lips, cracked heels, bloody noses, and extremely dry skin. Then we moved to hot and humid South Florida, experiencing several summers when we lost power - meaning no air conditioning - often for weeks during hurricane season. My menopausal hot flashes were always embarassing and always no fun and lasted for more than ten long years while I lived there. I could take a shower and step outside and in minutes, I felt as though I needed another shower again. My undergarments would always be soaking wet from sweat - yuk! And now I find myself living in one of the hottest places on the planet, Saudi Arabia! It is so hot there that most women simply just do not go outside unless they absolutely have to. Of course having to don a long black cloak over your regular clothes in 116 degree heat, plus having to cover your hair and neck as well, tends to make the women there even hotter - at least it does me!

I feel doomed to live in hot places all my life.

Now everyone has their own idea of what paradise means to them. Many people think of heaven as paradise, but I'm not talking about heaven. Here on earth, my idea of paradise is a place with cooler weather and plentiful rain, lots of green trees and colorful flowers and friendly people, and near a body of water. I arrived in paradise yesterday. I have been here many times to visit family and I always have felt a sense of belonging whenever I come here. I am now in the state of Washington in the Seattle area, and this part of the country is my idea of paradise.

The weather forecast here for the coming week predicts not one day over 76 degrees. The lows will be hovering in the mid-50s. And this is July! I just spent a week in Florida, where the temperatures usually don't reach 100, but guess what? The week I was there, they had record heat, over 100 degrees! It was brutal. And then I was in Arizona for about ten days, and Arizona is nothing BUT hot in the summertime. And of course I had to be there during the monsoon season, which means that the swamp coolers in many Arizona homes (different from air conditioning) don't really function well in the humidity, and it's hard to cool down.

So to arrive here yesterday to a cool 60 degrees - well, it just feels like heaven to me. I love sleeping with the window open and feeling cold enough that I can snuggle under a blanket at night. I love being outside in the summertime and not sweating like a pig. I love this cooler weather!

The photos in this post were all taken at my brother's home in the Seattle area where I am staying. There are wild deer and raccoons that visit the grounds frequently looking for food. The dahlias are among the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen. And the view is undeniably spectacular! See why I feel like I am in paradise?



20 years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.

Sail away from the safe harbor.

Catch the trade winds in your sails.




Sitting at the Edge of Time: The Diomedes

Sitting at the Edge of Time: The Diomedes
The Diomede Islands are a place of contrast unlike any on earth. The small sliver of water between these two tiny islands, which sit in the middle of the Bearing Sea, is the precise point at which the Eastern Hemisphere meets the Western Hemisphere, where America meets Russia, and where today meets tomorrow at the all powerful international [...]

The Best Noise Canceling Headphones For Travel

The Best Noise Canceling Headphones For Travel
The Bose QuietComfort 15 compared

In a previous review we put to the test two of the most popular high-end noise reducing headphones—the Sennheiser PXC 450 and the Bose QuietComfort 3. Our verdict: the PXC 450 was the better.

Since that review Bose introduced a new member of its noise reducing headphone lineup: The QuietComfort 15. So how does it compare?

The Best Noise Canceling Headphones For Travel

The short answer is: incredibly well.

Counterintuitively, the Bose QC15 replaces the QC but compliments the QC3 in the QuietComfort lineup (thus ruining what had been the trend of the higher the QC number equating to the higher quality and price). In fact, the QC15 looks nearly indistinguishable from the QC2 save for a few chrome accents. The largest physical upgrade is to the included carrying case. In our experience the case that came with the QC2 was prone to opening spontaneously; the QC15 case seems to stay closed and provide better headphone protection.

Where the QuietComfort 15 has really been ungraded is on the inside. The biggest improvement is to the noise canceling ability. By improving the circuitry and adding a second mic inside the ear cup the electronic noise canceling is truly remarkable. Happily, Bose was not content with merely improving the noise canceling and created a better all-around audio experience too. As we noted in our previous noise canceling headphones review, the bass quality of the QC2s is rather disappointing. Bass notes on the QC3 sound rich and textured without being throbbing.

Clearly the QC15 is a step up from the QC2. Here’s how it compares to other models:

Compared to the Sennheiser PXC 450

Bose QC15 vs Sennheiser PXC 450Advantages of the Bose QuietComfort 15: We give the QC15 a slight edge in comfort and audio quality. The QC15 also weighs 1.1oz (32g) less than the PXC 450 and has more than twice the batty life (35 hours vs 16). But the big advantage to the QC15 is the noise canceling ability. As good as the noise canceling is on Sennheiser even the most casual of listeners would instantly hear the superiority of QC15. On an airplane trip it is almost eery how well the QC15 cuts out engine noise. Add up these advantages and you can see why the QC15 has replaced the PXC 450 as our favorite noise canceling headphones.

Advantages of the Sennheiser PXC 450: Both headphones require a battery for noise canceling but with the PXCs you can continue to get non-noise-cancelled audio after the batteries run out; not so with the QC15. Also, the PXC 450 is about $20 less.

The Best Noise Canceling Headphones For Travel

Compared to the Bose QuietComfort 3

Bose QC15 vs Bose QC3Advantages of the Bose QuietComfort 15: The QC15 is about $50 less expensive than the QC3. Perhaps more importantly, the QC15 is significantly more comfortable after prolonged use. This increased comfort comes from the huge ear pieces that cup over the entire ear. The QC3’s ear pieces fit on top of the ear, pressing down on the lobe and the top of the ear in a way that starts feeling uncomfortable to us after about 20~30 minutes and made the QC3s nearly unwearably painful after about 90 minutes~2 hours. The QC15 also has the somewhat superior sounding noise canceling, though we can’t tell whether this is because of better electronic technology or because the QC15’s ear-encompassing cups help keep noise out.

Advantages of the Bose QuietComfort 3: The QC3 is about one-third smaller and one-third lighter than the QC15—that might not sound like much but it makes a huge difference when it comes to portability. The QC3 also comes with a lithium-ion battery; it doesn’t last as long as the AAA batteries used on the QC15 (25 hours vs 35) but have the use convenience and environmental benefit of being rechargeable while inside the headphones (a wall outlet cord is included).

The Best Noise Canceling Headphones For Travel

Compared to the Dr. Dre Monster Beats

Bose QC15 vs Dr. Dre Monster BeatsAdvantages of the Bose QuietComfort 15: The Bose QC15 is virtually the same price as a pair of Dr. Dre Monster Beats but has the far superior noise reduction. There seems to be no official battery life listing for the Monster Beats but in our tests the QC15 batteries lasted about 6 hours longer—both headphones use AAAs and can’t be used without batteries. To us the QC15 also seemed a little more solidly built.

Advantages of the Dr. Dre Monster Beats: One very cool feature of the Monster Beats not available on any other headphones in this review: These headphones can double as a headset for a mobile phone or Skype! The headphones come with a special cell phone connector cable that includes a mic and an answer button—this system is compatible with most cell phones including BlackBerry and iPhone models. The Monster Beats also live up to their name when it comes to producing mind thumping bass notes. We found the bass excessive (and rather headache-inducing) when listing to audiobooks but rather amazing with rock and techno music. Read our full review of the Dr. Dre Monster Beats here.

The Best Noise Canceling Headphones For Travel


After years of suggesting Sennheiser PXC 450 noise canceling headphones we suddenly (and, to us, surprisingly) find ourselves switching up to the Bose QuietComfort 15. The noise canceling the QC15 offers is simply outstanding.

If you travel a lot—and have another set of headphones for home use—the increased quality of the Bose QuietComfort 3 probably makes more sense for you than the QC15s. If substantial bass and/or cell phone integration is more important to you than optimal noise reduction choose the Dr. Dre Monster Beats.

There’s no longer any compelling logic that would lead one to the Sennheiser PXC 450, not with a mere $20 price difference. If are looking for a good noise canceling headphones that are less expensive than the $300 QuietComfort 15s then we suggest the $100 Sennheiser PXC 300. The noise canceling ability of the PXC 300 is only about half that of the QuietComfort 15 (making the QC15 worth the extra money to us). Still, The PXC 300 has superior noise reduction compared to any other pair of sub-$150 headphones we’ve tried and, of course, they are infinitely better than not having noise canceling headphones at all.

For everyone else, spring for a pair of Bose QuietComfort 15s. You’ll be quietly, and comfortably, happy with them.


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Cool Travel Gadgets

The Best Noise Canceling Headphones For Travel

The Best Noise Canceling Headphones For Travel
The Best Noise Canceling Headphones For Travel
The Best Noise Canceling Headphones For Travel

The Bose QuietComfort 15: The Best Noise Canceling Headphones?

The Bose QuietComfort 15: The Best Noise Canceling Headphones?

The Bose QuietComfort 15: The Best Noise Canceling Headphones?

The Bose QuietComfort 15: The Best Noise Canceling Headphones?


The Best Noise Canceling Headphones For Travel

More Traveling Stories

More Traveling Stories
I recently wrote about listening to musicals on the road. Similarly, I just came across this new form of audio book via Cool Mom Picks, a blog about new finds for kids. No need to direct your child to “flip the page” from the front seat while on the road, as there is [...]

Billy Brown And The Frog TunnelI recently wrote about listening to musicals on the road. Similarly, I just came across this new form of audio book via Cool Mom Picks, a blog about new finds for kids. No need to direct your child to “flip the page” from the front seat while on the road, as there is no book involved.

Giddio introduces “audio adventures for your kids”, geared for ages 3-7. They deliver a story in a dramatic theater fashion with different voices and effective sound effects.

As Cool Mom Picks writes, the stories “hearken back to the radio program days”. A strong, friendly bear named Billy Brown, the main character is full of escapades to keep your toddler entertained.

No pages to tear and no page-flipping to cue, simply pop the CD in, and have 30-45 minutes of uninterrupted mom-time or peaceful driving time. Has anyone tried these out? I loved the audio download samples on-line and plan on getting my mom to ask our local toy store if they carry them.

via: Cool Mom Picks blog

To purchase: Giddio


Corporate Vibing to Manchester

Corporate Vibing to Manchester
So, since I have decided I am a corporate hippie (for more please see my Linked In profile), I have realized my Vibing expeditions can fall into two categories - the corporate or the hippie. For the most part my Vibes are spread over weekends when I have my favorite hippie outfits on (for those who do not know, outfits completely define who I am - even The Mitch wears outfits!). But sometimes my Vibes are spread when Rachel Carter PR bounces away in the Vibe for an adventure of the corporate variety. Last week was the most perfect example of this so I MUST share!

Two of the most respected people in the Vermont travel scene - Carrie McDougall of Cultural Crossroads and the former Stowe Area's Association PR Queen, Jo Sabel Courtney recommended me to teach two social media workshops at the Vermont Travel Industry Conference held at The Equinox Resort last week. What a vibetastic experience! And thank you Carrie and Jo!!!

I raced through the week leading up to get all of my client work in a row so I could take the time to attend the conference (hence no recent blog posts). With final touches finished and a willing-to-come-back voice (I was at rock concerts over the weekend), I closed up my Vermont PR firm for the week and vibed down Route 7 to Manchester.

The first super groovy thing that happened was after emerging from Rutland, finding myself reverting back in time along Route 7. By the time I was deep in Mount Tabor, I started to feel those wonderful mountain vibes only felt when in a natural energy vortex and couldn't wait to tell The Mitch how we'd have to get down this way again and Vibe around. Before I could finish that thought I drove by Emerald Lake State Park - where The Mitch and I have already booked five days over the 4th of July for our first of many Vermont lakeside vacations (one per year). I won't talk about it anymore because it will most certainly be a fantastic blog post come July, but, man - was I excited!

It is rare that the Vibe gets way down to Southern Vermont, but when it does, I always love it - will I find myself living in Southern Vermont at some point? I always wonder if that will be in the cards. I gawked all along Route 7A until I parked the Vibe at its two night destination - The Equinox. Back in my earlier days as Vermont's PR Mama (before I could be considered a mama), the Woodstock Inn & Resort was a client and to this day I have a love like no other for the Woodstock area. I think I can actually credit that work on the true origins of Vermont Vibing - I was always looking for all of the story angles I could find to share with media folk I pitched on behalf of the Woodstock Inn. As Woodstock's friendly competition, I was fully aware of, yet had never visited The Equinox. Until last week.

Kudos to The Equinox. I wish now I snapped some pictures of my room (this is from the press room). I felt like I was in a movie (one of my most favorite feelings!) - I worked at the desk on the computer, slept so well in the king size bed with delightful turn-down service, LOVED the glass door shower and bathrobe, played make-up lady with the mirror selections, and marveled at a view of the courtyard as opposed to the parking lot. I was also into the lacquered decor look - definitely not my style under my normal hippie circumstances, but when I get to be a Vibing corporate hippie? Most definitely!

The conference itself was terrific and my workshops went great. I think my favorite part was just spending time with people in Vermont's travel industry. They are real, fun, and quite frankly, the type of folks who "get it." Rock on!! I felt renewed, rejuvenated, excited for summer, excited for work, and excited for new friends all after one conference. Now THAT is what I call success!

I spent an extra day heading further south into the Berkshires to have dinner with my father who I referenced multiple times in my presentations followed by lunch the next day with my grandmother. The return trip to Vermont was on the usual 91 to 89. I was wishing my route could have taken me back up Route 7, but I know that trek is waiting for me July 4th weekend. Plus, The Mitch was patiently waiting for his corporate hippie to return home to the Charlotte Farmhouse where I knew he was making me dinner. I Love You Mitch!

I way prefer Vibing than the 91 to 89 drive, but timing so had it that most of my drive was in gorgeous blue skies with high floating clouds and a sea of red and purple on the trees - just waiting for the cold weather to diminish so they can snap into the most glorious foliage on the Earth (springtime in Vermont that is). I was again filled with elated feelings from the experience of the Vermont Travel Industry Conference, spirited tunes on the IPod, and a car ride to myself filled with reflection, compassion, and promise. And then the sun started to set. Besides two irritatingly irritating rednecks who threw three beer cans out in front of me (between exits 8 and 9), I was completely zen - something I am usually only able to experience hiking and gardening. And then I started snapping pictures. I went slow and when the cars would pass I would get real slow and shoot and then speed back up again. I know that is sort of bad, but it was also sort of sneaky (which is more fun than bad), and well, just perfect. Here are the results:

Thanks to all who helped create and manifest the experiences of last week and can't wait to see some of my new friends again soon!

Confessions of a Jet Setter: The courage to design the life you want

Confessions of a Jet Setter: The courage to design the life you want
I receive letters everyday from around the world for all sorts of things. This particular letter just really stuck out for me and I wanted to share it with you (with Billy's permission). Rather than making comments on the letter I decided to let it stand on its own and listen to your comments. As I believe this letter will resonate differently with different people. As Mike Myers in coffee tawk says - Discuss!

Follow Rob (and Kim) on Twitter here.

Mykonos Greece Belvedere Hotel

I receive letters everyday from around the world for all sorts of things.  This particular letter just really stuck out for me and I wanted to share it with you (with Billy’s permission).  Rather than making comments on the letter I decided to let it stand on its own and listen to your comments.  As I believe this letter will resonate differently with different people.  As Mike Myers in coffee tawk says – Discuss!

Hey Rob,

Just wanted to drop you a quick to say thanks.  I’ve watched your site for a while but resisted taking the plunge in making a change to my own lifestyle.

Read 4HR WW a long time ago and tossed it aside… In fact I noticed some of my employees all of a sudden putting “out-of-office” responders on and I lost it on them (my best line must have been does Bill @#% Gates have an auto responder on!).

Anyways I’ve been making high 6 figures for a long time, traveled the world on business, and have all the toys I get to look at in my garage when I left my million dollar home (very early) in the morning on my way to a job I hated.

I sat down about two months or so ago and read every single blog item you had on your site and pulled a Richard Branson and said “screw it let’s do it”.

I parted ways with my partners, left a big pay check behind, and have started my NR quest. Scared out of my freakin mind but determined to figure it out (and convince my family I am not nuts).

Anyways wanted to say thanks. I am a Jet Setter at heart, have a worldwide rolodex, and have partied and stayed in some of the coolest locations but none of it compares to the sense of excitement about building a real lifestyle for me and my family.

All these NR guy’s I’ve seen online looked like a bunch of hokey computer geeks flogging crap info products (I know… unfounded opinions on my part may I add), however I find you cool and inspiring.

See you at some jet-set location in the near future!




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New aidworkers and nonprofit blogs

New aidworkers and nonprofit blogs
Man in Cambodia

I have discovered four new aidworker blogs which are worth a read:
Roving Bandit: Lee in South Sudan
Kampuchea Crossings: Nathalie in Cambodia
In Development: Chris in Kenya
From Here to Finvara: Kelsey in South Sudan
I added them to my aidworkers blogroll (see the widget in the side column), which I treasure. These are my colleagues from all over the world. You MUST check them out regularly. Their latest posts, you can find in AidBlogs.
While I am on my soapbox, have also a look at Woody's blog. He works in DRC, and posts very short posts with pictures that always make me smile.

As you have noticed, my nonprofit and development blogs list just grew too big to put in the side column. I moved it to my Delicious list. There are 342 blogs in the list at the moment. I publish a snapshot of their latest posts on The NonProfitBlogs. Check also their posts on Humanitarian News.

Picture courtesy Kampuchea Crossings