Sunday, September 26, 2010

Have Passport, Will Travel

I've spent a bit of time on the road lately, and I'm glad to be home for some time. Here are some things I learned the last few months that may help you out with international travel
  1. Unlocked GSM cell phone. In most places overseas, you can pick up a pre-paid SIM, and the convenience often outweighs the cost. My rule of thumb has been a two week minimum stay if it requires any effort. If you really like your GSM phone, you can unlock it so you don't have a learn a new phone interface. I was able to get my HTC Aria unlocked by the folks at (Quality Product Source). I think you can find cheaper unlock codes on ebay.
  2. Capital One credit card (or credit card that doesn't charge international fees). Make sure you pay it off monthly as the rates are horrible.
  3. Spare passport photos. This one is a bit less important, but some places require passport photos for the simplest of things - like getting a SIM card in India. Far easier to get them done ahead of time.
Bon Voyage!

(removed HSBC account, which charges 3% on non-Premier accounts.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Catching up...

It's been a while since I posted to this site, so I guess I should catch everyone up to date.

May, Gulf Coast Road Trip:

From Gulf Coast 2010

Back in May, P and I rented a car and drove out to Panama City Beach, Florida, so I could do the Gulf Coast Triathlon and do some diving. It was a long drive out there, and we made the 12-13 hour drive in one go. We meandered our way back to Austin stopping in Pensacola and New Orleans.

We dove the Oriskany, an aircraft carrier sunk off the coast of Pensacola. The visibility wasn't great that day, so we couldn't see the flight deck. However, I did swim through the flight control room and through the smokestacks. In the New Orleans, we stayed in the French Quarter and just walked around during the day. Food highlights of the trip:
  • PCB: J Michael's. Good fresh, local seafood.
  • Pensacola: Blue Dot Burger. Best burger I've ever had.
  • New Orleans: Couchon Butcher. Best Banh Mi I've ever had. I think the Head Cheese set it apart from other Banh Mi.
  • Baton Rouge: Coffee Call. Beignets and beignet fingers. Can't really go wrong here.

June, Round the World:

I'm a product manager for a global transactional tax system. If you make a purchase from the company and see taxes, the system I work on may have calculated the taxes. (I say *may* since we're still working on the global part.) Before this summer, I've been able to do my job with a lot of late night/early morning calls and a yearly trip. With the onset of our India launch, all sorts of issues come up and I'm summoned to Penang, Malaysia last minute. I'm also summoned to London for another workshop, so I decide to make it all in one go.

The Penang meetings go well, we figure what we need to do, and I head off to Hong Kong for the weekend. As a coincidence, Regan's (my college roommate) brother was vacationing in Hong Kong from DC that weekend, so it wasn't difficult to convince Regan (who's an expat in Taiwan) to also fly in. It was good to hang out with him and to eat some really good food. It's a given that food tastes amazing there. I also managed to do a morning run by Victoria Peak - nice to get back to nature and solitude, just minutes away from an urban jungle.

Before the London workshops, I took the train over to Brussels to watch Stage 2 of the Tour de France. (Cancellara was in yellow that morning.) Also stuffed myself on chocolate croissants in Brussels. The London meetings didn't have the same urgency as the Malaysia ones, but they're good for direction going forward. Got to run around Hyde Park a couple of times.

July, India:

Nineteen days in India. The launch happened, and straightaway, there were high priority issues left and right. It was a lot of work and stress. There were some down times, and the people who could, drank. Most of my memories involve working, calls in the middle of the night to work on an issue, and more work.

August, Brazil:

This globalization thing is happening faster than I thought it would, so on the heels of India (gratefully with three weeks at home), I head to Brazil to gather tax requirements. Awesome meetings - great brain dump of the taxes we charge and why. I've come to the conclusion that countries with federated states with taxing authority have the most challenging taxes.

Great country, good food. I got food poisoning on my first night, so I wasn't able to pig out at the churrascaria. It was a bummer to get sick in a hotel room away from home, but when the stomach cramps were bad enough to call a doctor, the hotel got some EMT folks to come and fix me up (with an IV) in no time. I also got to see my first Brazilian football game with the local team, Gremio. The hardcore fans do an "Avalanche" (above) when their team scores a goal.

September, France:

I head off this afternoon to Montpelier to support a big launch and to do some training. I'm scared of the scope of the launch, so we'll see if it's all work or if I get a breather and get to see some of the city/countryside.