SITGES
Jan 13 - Carnaval!

It's Carnaval in Barcelona! Yippee! Last night we went to a costume party in a club. Literally everyone except us was in costume. It surprised me how everyone was so into dressing up. This would never happen in Toronto, even during Halloween only a small group of people would dress up at a costume party. The party was fun and I danced with Felipe and our friends until the wee hours of the morning.

Today, our friends took us to Sitges an hour away to see the Carnaval parade. Sitges is a town well known for being a party place. Even in the cool month of February, they take the opportunity to have a party. For me, I had an awful hangover--and the road had curve after curve. I got so dizzy and nauseous on the ride there that when we finally arrived, I had to lie on the ground a good 10 minutes until the dizziness went away.

The parade itself began when the sun set and wound its way through a narrow street. Each group had a float with people dancing and enjoying the energy. The people smoked, got drunk, and danced like it was their last night on earth. It was fun!

 

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NUMBERS 15.01.13 SEVILLA
ATM exch rate: C$1 - EUR$1.42
taxi, airport to Madrid: E$30
train, Madrid-Sevilla, last minute: E$63
train, Sevilla-Madrid, early buy: E$30
apt casco viejo, 1 month, airBnB: E$927
airBnB fee: E$84
club de remo, 1 month: E$55
club de remo, 5 private lessons: E$135



BARCELONA / GIRONA
Feb 1 - Art Coming Out Our Ears: Gaudí, Dalí, Picasso, and more!

Barcelona is chock-full of art everywhere.

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NUMBERS 15.02.01 SEVILLA
bike rental, 6hrs: E$6

BARCELONA / GIRONA
Feb 4 - Hanging Out

It was great hanging out with our Barcelona buddies. They were awesome!--even if I couldn't understand them all the time. Lol. At least Felipe could translate when I blanked out during the conversation. Thanks guys!

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BARCELONA
Jan 13 - Living In Barcelona for 1 Year?

Last night our friends from Barcelona asked us if we would live in Barcelona for an entire year. Almost without thinking, I told them "no". It surprised me how easily and quickly I responded to that question. I began to explain the reasons, but in the end I didn't really have any reason that made sense. Barcelona has seemed like a very livable, walkable city with lots of beautiful sights. It has museums, bars, beaches, pools, gyms, markets on every corner, and a ton of restaurants with a wide selection of international food. With all this, why wouldn't I want to live in such a nice city for a year?

Today I thought about the reasons that escaped me last night. I realize that the truth is if I had a choice right now, I wouldn't want to live in a single place for more than 3 months. At this limit, I'm on the line between being a tourist and a local. I realize that I love living in Toronto and I don't want to start another life in another city. For me, this revelation is a bit of a surprise, but it feels like the truth.

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BARCELONA
Jan 13 - Working Virtually: The Internet

This trip has opened my eyes. I'm surprised by how easy to work in any corner of the world because of technology. But sometimes it's not so easy. I have had lots of problems during this trip that has taught me tricks and tips to help me live in a virtual world. Probably by the end of this entry, the technology will have already changed! But I want to documen the trials and tribulations of my year working virtually.

At the start, I should clarify that my work is not like a journalist or writer who may just need to access the internet a few times a day. My work is completely dependent on the internet, 9 continuous hours a day. I need to make phone calls to clients, write emails constantly, have long meetings with my colleagues and clients, share my screen with others, conduct trainings sessions to clients in countries across the world, access my computer at the office to run complex tasks. With regards to my work, the internet is my life.

On the other hand, there are things in my job that let me work virtually. I don't create real things. I help develop and move knowledge. I don't need to see people face to face to do my work. In reality, the majority of my interactions with clients is by email and phone calls. I've really realized the flexibility of my job with this trip.

So, I prepared a lot to work virtually. I began the trip with my work stuff ready:

1. My trusty laptop
2. My trusty computer in Canada
3. Information to connect to my VPN network (password, username, settings for VPN)
4. Skype with a global phone number
5. Microsoft Lync and GotoMeeting to have internal and external meetings
6. Headset with microphone
7. Lots of hope!

During the trip, I worked in a lot of different places around the world. In Bolivia, Buenos Aires, Colombia, and now Spain. Each place came with different difficulties. In Bolivia, the internet is horrible--super slow and unreliable. Even in apartment rentals and hotels I had problems with the internet. The speed never exceeded 2 Mbps and the connection would frequently drop. For example, during the World Cup games, the internet speed in the entire city would slow down to a point where I couldn't even type a single letter on my VPN connection. I worked an entire month from an internet cafe--what a nightmare! Imagine have a web-meeting while latin music plays in the background, kids laugh while playing video games, and the cafe owner watches a movie at maximum volume with the requisite gun fights and car chases.

This was the worst case. Really (as long as you are not in Bolivia) there is a wide gamut of options to get reliable internet. The best option has been renting an apartment on AirBnB--the apartments are furnished and have full internet. Actually, we only had problems when the apartment where we stayed did not have internet for some reason. Other than AirBnB, there are other options that each present their own set of problems.

The internet cafe is possible, but it's always the last option. In Buenos Aires, I used the internet in Starbucks for over a week--it was surprising that it actually worked, but the noise in the background was always a constant. In Spain, I bought a mobile modem. I learned that I use approximately 350MB in 9 hours of VPN. The biggest problem is that Vodafone didn't allow VOIP on its temporary contracts and it's pretty much impossible for me to work like this. I looked into an option for a temporary office with coworkingspain.es that seemed really useful. But thankfully, my friend from Barcelona gave me access to his own contract plan which didn't have these dumb restrictions on VOIP. Without this, I wouldn't have been able to use Skype, Lync or GotoMeeting. Nevertheless, it cost me $250 to $300 to get access to the internet in Spain for only a single month! How crazy!

One thing I learned in Bolivia and in other countries is that I really don't need much bandwidth to work. With only 1 Mbps, I could do telephone calls of mediocre quality (with moments of bad reception), I could see my VPN with a few seconds of lag but this was all I needed to do a ton of work from my computer in Canada. With 2 Mbps, people hardly notice that I am working in the middle of nowhere. And when the speeds reached 5 Mbps, I was in heaven. Keep in mind that the *minimum* you can get with a plan in Canada is a whopping 10 Mbps!

Really, with our own place in Canada we are blessed with fast and reliable internet. In less developed countries, the speed varies from place to place. It's like a game of roulette. In more developed countries, the phone companies penalize anyone who wants temporary services. Because of this, getting internet is difficult in either case. So every time I changed cities, I was ready for problems and a bit of chaos. I tried to stay calm, but it was difficult to keep my composure sometimes.

So this has been my experience working virtually. I have had problems and complaints, but in the end the experience has been incredible. With this freedom, the world has really changed for me. I have the option to live in other countries whenever I want. Techonology is amazing!

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