Archive for September, 2010

27th September
written by Randy

For the past two weeks I’ve been lightly experimenting with going phoneless, and I think I’m ready to make the commitment. I’m going to give up my cell phone.

First, some background.

I’ve been making very heavy use of Skype this year. I know it works. I’ve also been a heavy user of Google Voice for close to two years. And recently, Google Voice added the ability to make phone calls from your computer, right inside of Gmail. I’ve tried it, and it works well.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, all of this is free.

That got me thinking and wondering to myself, Why am I paying $100/mo for my iPhone, just to be stuck with a service that can’t make phone calls as well as these free services?

And that’s when I got the idea to get a new Google Voice number, and experiment with giving people that number instead of the one to my phone. I played with it for a few weeks and found that I it’s not bad. In fact, it’s better than my cell service, both at home and at work — the two places where I spend the most time.

So I decided to make an experiment of not using my phone, except when it’s possible to do so over WiFi. And that has been quite liberating.

On buses and trains, while everyone is standing with their heads down, looking at their phones while they text or tweet or read Facebook, I feel like I’ve broken away from the Matrix.

In business meetings and social gatherings, I’m more focused on the people I’m with, no longer tempted to sneak a peek at my phone. And I don’t have to interrupt the company I’m in, in order to answer a call.

Without a phone in my pocket, my pants fit more nicely and more comfortably, and there’s no need to pull it out and set it on the table or bar when I sit down.

It’s still too early to say, but I also expect the leg tremors to stop. You know, those little muscle and nerve vibrations you get in your leg that make you think your phone is vibrating, so you have to pull it out and check?

So I think this is going to be a very positive development, and if I have success with it, maybe I can convince a few others to join me and make the move toward a less connected life!

17th September
written by Randy

I’m 34 years old, and believe it or not, before this year I had never been outside of the United States. I love to travel, and I had been all over this country, but I had never been to another. I love learning foreign languages and had already learned basic speech in several other languages, but I had never gone somewhere where I had to use any of them. I even went through a frustrating process getting my passport (name spelled wrong the first time) in 2006, and in four years I hadn’t managed to get it stamped a single time.

Being a 34-year-old who had never been out of the country is embarrassing. When all your friends and colleagues talk about Spain, or Germany, or wherever they’ve been, it’s embarrassing. And when you have a reputation for being “the language guy”, it’s even more embarrassing.

There’s always been some excuse. I didn’t have a passport. I didn’t have the money for travel. I didn’t know how to get a visa. I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t have anyone to visit. I couldn’t take the time off of work. I had too much debt, too many responsibilities, blah blah blah.

This year, that changed. One of the interesting things about starting an awesome language blog, is that with hundreds of eyes on you, you’re no longer just letting yourself down. If I were to pass up opportunities to do amazing things, I would lose all the credibility I was building with my blog. So when an opportunity to travel arises, my first instinct now is to take it.

In just the past five months, I’ve been to Germany, Uzbekistan, Canada, and Spain… and there’s still time left for more! I’ve already got my sights set on Mexico this winter, and possibly Argentina. Who knows what will happen?

I’ve always wanted to be a world traveler. (After all, you don’t learn several languages just to sit around and act smart!) I’m happy to say that among the many things that have made this an amazing year, one of the most exciting is finally having been to other parts of the world. But rest assured… in spite of how much as I’ve managed to do in the past few months, it’s just a start. I’ve got much bigger plans ahead!

11th September
written by Randy

In 2008, after two years of incredible irresponsibility I had almost $50,000 in credit card debt, in addition to another $15,000 I still owed on a car I didn’t even have anymore. Irresponsible doesn’t come close. I had spent two years living recklessly and overindulgent.

I decided to buckle down in 2008. What’s more, I lived very modestly, in a small room in the basement of my cousin’s house. I decided to go completely carless. And I made elaborate spreadsheets detailing the balances on each card and the associated interest rate.

I started with the highest interest card and worked my way to the lowest, paying off as much as I could, and after one year I was able to cut my total debt almost in half.

Progress was much slower in 2009 thanks to a series of unplanned expenses, and I made almost no progress for the first 8 months. Still, I managed to get back on track at the end of the year, and some big overtime pay helped a lot, too. I ended the year owing just over $11,000.

Among all the many things that have made 2010 an amazing year, one of the most significant is that I paid off all of my debts this May. I do not owe any bank or creditor anything. I am happy to be 100% debt free.

Now I still use one credit card, but I pay the entire balance each month. So now I pay no more interest or monthly fees, my credit rating is impeccable, and thanks to my rewards program it’s as if the bank is paying me to use their card!

Over the past few years, I’ve learned very well about the prison of excessive debt. Having debt makes you a slave. Owing money often means taking jobs you don’t like out of fear that you won’t be able to pay your debts.

And more importantly, you can’t start saving and building a buffer when you’re always trying to catch up from behind. Now that I am 100% free from all debt, I have begun saving money. I have a positive net worth, and that means the freedom to take risks in search of happiness, rather than always playing it safe to avoid pain. That difference in motive is really a difference in lifestyle, and its value is immeasurable.

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5th September
written by Randy

Wow, what a year. This has already been an amazing year for me. It’s not even over yet, but I’ve already accomplished so much!

When this year started, I was coasting along at a new job I had only been at for a little more than a month. My girlfriend had just moved out the day after Christmas. Life was kind of stalled. Sure, like anyone I had a lot of dreams and desires, but my life didn’t have much of a direction or a plan.

New years have a funny way of getting people to commit to things. I personally have always hated the idea of a “New Year’s resolution”, because most of the things people decide to do in their year are things that don’t take a year to complete. Setting a resolution gives you plenty of padding so you can put it off until later, and never accomplish it.

This year, several of my friends chose learning a new language as their resolution. In high school, I studied Spanish, German, and French, and learned some Tagalog (Filipino) then as well, and since then I dabbled in Portuguese before becoming a fluent speaker of Spanish and then Russian, so needless to say, I’m known as “the language guy”, and after spinning their wheels for a few weeks, my friends turned to me for advice on how to learn a new language. That’s when everything changed for me.

I didn’t want to answer the same questions over and over, and I wanted my advice, resources, and help to be some place where other people could find and use them too. And that’s when I started my blog Fluent Every Year. (It’s now called Yearlyglot, like me!)

I think the best way to teach someone is to show them how you do it. I put out a vote to all my friends on Facebook and the language that got the most votes was Italian, so in February, I decided to learn Italian in one year. Actually, since I decided in February, I had less than a year.

But the most significant detail was that I decided not to stop there. I will speak Italian fluently when this year is over, and then I’ll start again with a new language next year!

Since making the decision to start that blog, I have been lucky to have hundreds of readers and Facebook fans and Twitter followers, and I still can’t believe that so many people are so interested in what I have to say! I have made many new friends all over the world, some of whom I’ve even had the chance to visit and meet in person.

Being the guy who learns a new language every year has already changed my life… and I haven’t even finished the first official year! It gives me something interesting to talk about with new people I meet, it goes over really well on a job interview, and it also gives me a reason to do many of the crazy things I’ve always wanted to do.

I’ll tell more about how amazing this year has been in future posts, all leading up to the end of this year, when I’ll choose my new amazing adventures for 2011!

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