These past few weeks I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel it when I went to San Francisco for a couple of days before my flight to Hong Kong. And for some reason I didn’t feel it while in the air for the 13 hours it took me to get to Hong Kong or during the 6 hour layover that I had before my flight to Haikou.
I’m not talking about the feeling that’s the magic of traveling. That’s different than this and happens much more often. The magic of traveling is something that comes along with going to a new place, many times knowing that you’re going to eventually come back. This feeling I’m talking about, on the other hand, is something a bit more. This feeling actually surprised me.
The final flight to Haikou — this was happening
It actually didn’t even hit me after I had waited in line for 15 minutes while someone checked my passport and stamped my boarding pass. Or when a smiling and well-dressed woman working for Cathay Pacific scanned my boarding pass and handed it back with a very friendly “Thank you.”
But, as I walked toward the opening of the gate that would lead me to my final flight to Haikou it happened like some sort of subconscious reflex. It’s what I’m calling the feeling of it being real. I was moving. To China. Also, with me being one of three non-Chinese people getting on a plane taking off from a small, satellite terminal that required a shuttle to get to, I also realized that I wasn’t going to one of the usual places.
I wasn’t headed to Beijing, Shanghai, or any of the other cities that most foreigners travel to. Nope, I’m going to a city on an island off the southern coast of China that I’ve never been to or not really even known existed until just a few weeks ago. My mind had gone from calm to freaking out in just a short walk from getting my boarding pass scanned to walking through the jet bridge and stepping on the plane.
Landing in Haikou with a couple I couldn’t talk to – time to get used to it
This feeling is an interesting mix of “Oh shit, what am I doing?” with “Oh my god, I’m actually going through with this thing I’ve been talking about.” It popped up when I least expected it and I guess it’s there to let me know I’m doing something that’s not normal and that this is my last chance to back out.
I can remember this moment also happening during my first flight to Manila as well as the first time I walked off a plane onto the tarmac of a different island in the Philippines. I also felt the same thing the first time I stayed in a hostel with my man Calvin over in Singapore just a week or so after I moved to the Philippines. I even experienced it the first time I walked onto a Greyhound bus in Indianapolis to kick off a 12-hour overnight adventure into the south.
The first time I felt this I thought I might have made a huge mistake, but at this point in my life I know this feeling is telling me that I’m exactly where I need to be. As I now lay here in my new bed, in my new home, and with so many unknowns around me, my mind has now realized that this is happening. Soon Haikou will be my new normal, but getting to that point for me is one of the best parts of the adventure. Goodnight, Haikou — I’ll see you in the morning.
Hello, Haikou — it’s nice to finally meet you
Also, on a side note, I’m currently listening to Moby’s memoir on Audible (it’s so good) and this post reminds me one of his songs called ‘Feeling So Real’.
One of my goals when it comes to traveling is somehow getting my parents to come visit me while I’m living in another country. In their 70+ years living on Earth they’ve never ventured outside of the U.S. and it would make me so happy to give them the experience of taking in another culture, no matter where that might be. I’ve talked to them multiple times about how we can actually make this happen and nearly every time they ask me the same thing, “How long is that flight?”
They’re not the only ones though, for some reason flying over the ocean is not only a little scary, but spending that many hours on a plane seems to be a lot of people’s worst nightmare. I could see why spending 14 hours on one flight might seem like too much to handle, but for me it’s not as bad as it sounds and if you know how to handle the longer flight time it can actually be enjoyable.
Flying economy vs. first class
When you’re flying to a destination that’s across the world like Hong Kong or Manila it’s much different than any experience you’ve had on a domestic flight – especially in the U.S. First of all, these planes are huge and can seat several hundred people, with the economy class having rows of 9 people across with two aisles and tons of overhead storage. There are also several other levels of seats that range from getting a little more leg room to being able to lay down flat inside of your own little first class pod of expensive awesomeness.
Even on economy flights there are two tasty meals — this was a traditional Chinese chicken porridge breakfast
Most of the time I fly economy since I feel like spending $4,000 for a flight is a little crazy, but I’ve had a chance to fly in some of the upgraded seats and I’ve also had the nearly mind-blowing experience of practically laying on a bed while flying my way over the Pacific Ocean. Not only was I able to sleep like a baby, but the food and drinks were non-stop to a level that I found to be a little overwhelming. I don’t need to have access to that much excess — I’m cool with the two meals I get in economy and the free beers that come along with them. With all that being said, flying first class did make me feel like a badass as the rest of the economy chumps walked by me to their seats.
How to minimize jet lag and handle long flights
Another thing I get asked about a lot about long flights is jet lag and how I feel once I land in one place or another. At this point I don’t really have an issue with jet lag, but there are still ways that I try to avoid it as much as possible.
First, and most importantly, I try to line up with the time zone of where I’m flying to regardless of the time zone I’m leaving. For example, my latest flight left San Francisco super late at 1am and landed in Hong Kong bright and early at 8am and it’s a 13 hour flight to get there. While most people give into the late night and end up sleeping as soon as they can after eating their first meal on the plane, I do it a little differently so I can feel better when I land.
So many movies, so little time
I stay up intentionally for the first half of the flight usually writing and watching movies, then drink a few beers, and after that with about 7 or 8 hours left in the flight I do my best to get in at least 4 hours before staying up for good. As long as I hit the coffee once I land and then stay up for the full day, I’m usually all good and don’t have any jet lag.
How to make longs flight more comfortable
If you’re like me and end up in economy for the long haul, you’re going to be sitting in a regular seat that barely leans back. This means the long hours you’ll be sitting in it aren’t going be comfortable, but there are ways to make it bearable. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way.
Keep an eye on the exit rows because on most international flights they cost more to buy initially, but are for the taking if they go unsold and end up empty. As the doors are about to close, ask the flight attendant nicely if you can move into one of those seats and most likely you’ll be stretching out your legs in no time.
Move around every couple of hours so you don’t get stiff. I used to see people doing this on my first couple of flights and I thought they were weird, but now I get up and move around multiple times every time I travel over a few hours. Once you’re in the air there’s plenty of room to stand up, walk up and down the aisles, and even stretch a little bit back by the bathrooms. Don’t worry about looking stupid, getting up out of your seat for a few minutes is totally worth it.
A sleep mask should be standard on long flights and adding in some ear plugs is next level. Once again, I once thought that sleep masks were stupid, but now it’s crazy to think about getting any sleep in the economy section without one. Some people use earplugs, too but I usually just put in my headphones and listen to some chilled out tunes.
Get to know your flight attendants. You’re going to be on the flight for a long time and the flight attendants are your key to not only getting a better seat, but also unlimited beer and anything else you might want along the way. Flight attendants on international flights are usually amazing and super easy to talk to, so introduce yourself and let them know thankful you are for the work they’re putting in during the flight.
Introduce yourself to your seat mates. I’m also a believer in introducing myself to the people sitting around me, especially on these longer flights. You’re going to be hanging out with them for a while, so the friendlier you can be, the better things will be during the flight.
It was hard not to say hello to this flight attendant. This is how we took off and landed 🙂
The traveling is all part of the fun
I’ll close with this — don’t be afraid of a longer flight or get annoyed with it once you’re up in the air. Until we figure out how to beam humans from place to place these long flights are all part of traveling to far away places so they’re here to stay for a while. For me, I actually enjoy the time I’m in the air and it’s a good way for me to chill out a bit and reflect on my upcoming trip before landing in a completely new place. At this point I’ve come to appreciate the traveling just as much as the arriving and it’s helped me turn even the roughest trips into something fun and enjoyable.
The feeling I get when I’m finally saying goodbye to wherever I’ve been and traveling to where I’m going is magical. I don’t know how to call it anything else and it’s a feeling that’s hard to describe. For me, it’s a mix of feeling giddy and having butterflies in my stomach like when I’m about to kiss a girl for the first time mixed with the excitement that I used to feel right before playing a basketball game during warmups. Like I said, magical.
Just like when I’ve taken off from San Francisco other times, this time is unique. This time around I’m not traveling over to Manila to start working overseas for the first time. I can still remember how I felt during that first long flight over the Pacific and how I knew my life would never be the same. I had always wanted to travel over to another country and having the opportunity to work while I did it was like a dream come true. I had no idea what to expect and I packed way too much stuff due to the unknown, but I soon figured things out and learned to love the Philippines and the people there.
The first time I traveled to Manila I only thought that I would be there for a little over two months, so I pushed it hard and traveled every, single weekend that I could while I was living there. Of course, those couple months ended up turning into a couple years of living my life over in Manila and the traveling I’ve done both in and outside of the Philippines has been an experience that has changed my life in so many ways.
With my limited exposure to the world, I used to see myself as just a guy from Indiana. Then, after living in San Francisco for nearly 8 years and being exposed to so many different types of people I saw myself as a fairly well-rounded American who had a decent understanding of several different cultures and lifestyles. Now, after traveling around to so many countries and having had the opportunity to spend a good amount of time with different types of people in their own countries, the borders of being just an American have opened up and expanded to the world.
This new outlook on my place in this big world comes with a different type of excitement when I travel. The way I’m feeling this time around when compared to my first trip is totally different, but it’s still magical. I’m no longer a first-time, long-term international traveler and all of the time I’ve spent flying and riding from one place to the next has prepared me for this next chapter. This time around there’s no job and no major restrictions on my time will take away from getting the most out of where I’m living. My goal is simple, learn Mandarin and as much as possible become part of the local community in Haikou.
I’m excited to get started and to once again feel the magic of stepping on a plane in San Francisco and walking off of the plane in another world that I have yet to experience. Speaking of my flight, it’s boarding already and if I don’t get moving I won’t be experiencing anything. Next stop, Hong Kong.
As I finished up my travels in the Philippines and other countries around Asia last year I started to realize a couple of important things about myself. The first being that from here on out, traveling is always going to be a big part of my life. There are several reasons why I feel this way and have chosen to pursue this type of lifestyle (which I’ll go into more later) but spending time in foreign cultures energizes and challenges me. These don’t have to be foreign cultures outside of the United States, but the more out of my comfort zone I find myself, the more alive I feel. So, traveling and exploring that which is unfamiliar to me is here to stay and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
All packed up and ready to go again
Second, the longer I’ve traveled and the more places I’ve seen, the more I’ve been drawn to going deeper into just one culture longer-term. This means not just living and working in an unfamiliar place as an outsider, but putting in some focused time and effort into truly becoming part of the local culture. For me, this means first and foremost learning a second language, which is a top priority for me this year. I got my first taste of learning a new language and the impact is has on life in another country while spending time in the Philippines and to me it felt magical. The time I spent learning Tagalog and the ability it gave me to communicate with all different types of people while living there made me feel more connected to everything and everyone around me. Even with the limited vocabulary and understanding that I had, it was still a game-changer and unlocked parts of the Philippines that I would have never been able to experience otherwise.
I’m moving to China to learn Mandarin
I haven’t traveled all over the world at this point in my life, but from where I’ve visited and spent some time the country that caught my attention the most was China. It’s a country that’s changing fast and while it’s major cities are booming and nearly everywhere is fast-tracking it’s way to being fully developed, China is still like the wild west in many ways. To me, this transition is fascinating and something I want to experience for myself and be part of, so I’ve decided to make China my home permanently for the time being. It’s something I’ve thought about quite a bit and as really started digging into how I wanted to make my long-term move happen things started to fall into place and now I’ve got a plan that will take me at least through the rest of 2017.
The main reason for me living in China will be learning Mandarin, the most widely-used Chinese language, which isn’t going to be easy. But, I’m excited to take on the challenge and will have a full-time class schedule to make sure I’m setting myself up for success when it comes to learning one of the hardest languages going. I’ve researched several schools that could help me conquer the tough task and after talking to people from some solid options in major cities like Shanghai and Beijing I’ve decided to go another route and learn in a smaller city called Haikou. Even though it’s home to over 2 million people (around the population of Chicago), Haikou is still considered a second or third tier city in China, which for someone learning Chinese is actually better since there will be far less English speakers running around. This will force me to speak more Chinese day-to-day, which will be tough as I’m learning, but should help me become conversational quicker.
Hainan is known as “the Hawaii of China”
Haikou is located in a unique spot in China, as it’s the largest city on Hainan, the country’s only tropical island. It’s located south of mainland China near Vietnam, which means the weather is warmer and more similar to what I was used to in the Philippines and, as a bonus, the air quality is some of the cleanest that China has to offer. Boo yah.
The Hainan Premier Language School in Haikou, China
I’ll be taking my lessons at the Hainan Premier Language School, which I happened to find while digging through the depths of the internet to find a place to call home in China. While I found some really good options for schools in both Beijing and Shanghai, I wasn’t feeling super excited about any of them. They were in bigger cities, seemed to be more impersonal, and thanks to the high cost of living in both places they were also pretty expensive. But, as I kept searching I happened to find what I feel is the perfect place for me and I’m super excited to get this party started.
I feel good about the Hainan Premier Language School for a few reasons. First off, the weather is awesome and after spending a few ridiculously cold winter months in Indiana I’m ready to go back to a place that’s consistently warm year-round. The city of Haikou has an average temperature of around 68 degrees °F (20 °C) with highs of 85-90 °F (29-32 °C) and lows of 60-65 (15-18 °C). That’s what I’m talkin’ about.
Loving this weather and no air pollution!
Also, the school is all-inclusive, so my room is included and they’re even hooking me up with a private room, private bathroom, and king-sized bed. For someone who hasn’t had their own room for over a year, this is going be a nice, little upgrade for me. Having my accommodations all taken care of will also make it a lot easier for me to focus on my classes while becoming a Chinese-speaking phenomenon.
Finally, the school is managed by a local family that seems to be super nice and very accommodating, which also makes me feel good about spending most of my time there. I also happened to meet a woman who lives in Haikou while staying in a hostel in Hong Kong over a year ago and after chatting with her she had nothing but great things to say about both the school and the family who runs it. From what I can tell, they’ve built a great community around their campus and I’m super excited to be part of it for the next year.
Answers to some questions you might want to ask me
Now that I’ve shared this news with several of my close friends and family, I’ve noticed some common questions I’m getting about my decision to learn Chinese while living in China. Here are a few of the ones that came up the most as well as the best answers I can give you at this point.
Will you be working while you’re in China?
Well, yes and no. I won’t be working a full-time job, but I will continue to work on finding ways to create some sort of consistent income while working remotely. This will most likely include things like writing online content, managing work-from-home teams in the Philippines, and any other opportunities I can work on while living anywhere in the world. But, with all this being said, my top priority will be learning Chinese, which will take up a lot of my time.
What does “going to school full-time” mean?
I’ll be taking classes at the school every day, Monday through Friday, from 9am-noon. I’ll also be spending plenty of time on some 1-on-1 tutoring and practicing my Chinese skills on unsuspecting strangers around Haikou.
Is China safe?
I know that there’s a lot of negative press about China, especially with the government and how crazy it is over there. But, from my own personal experience, I’ve always felt really safe while spending time there and it’s not something I’ll worry about. But, just like with any other city, there are things I’ll need to look out for and people who will try to take advantage of me and other foreigners. But, this is all part of the adventure for me and not a big deal.
Can I come visit?
Absolutely, but you’re going to need a Chinese visa, which costs around $100+ and the flights aren’t the cheapest, but if you’re all good with that, then you’re more than welcome to come over to Haikou and soak in the local scene.
Will you be coming back to the U.S. at all over the next year?
At this point I’m not sure what my future travel back to the U.S. will look like, but I’m sure I’ll be back at least once or twice to visit in 2017.
Do you really think you can learn Mandarin?
Yep, I do and I’m going to put a lot of time and effort into learning it over the next year. I know it’s one of the hardest to learn, but I love learning languages and I feel good about my odds at this point. But, let’s see how I feel a few months from now. 🙂
Does this mean you’re going to buy more clothes?
What, you mean that one pair of jeans isn’t enough? I haven’t really put much thought into this, but for now I’m going to keep things simple and hold off on adding to my minimal wardrobe.
Do they have hummus in China?
I’ve never eaten hummus in China, but that’s probably due to the fact that I was usually occupied with eating all of the delicious dumplings, noodles, and veggies. But, if I’m there for a year I will definitely need to find a place to get my hummus fix. I’ll keep you updated.
My classes start in February
Well, this is my plan and my classes will officially start on February 6th, so I’ll be speaking some Chinese in no time. If you have any other questions about what I’m up to and there will be no shortage of stories from this adventure, so I’m sure you’ll be hearing from me soon.
On January 15th it’s my homie Marc’s birthday, so I thought I would tell a funny story from when we were just two young and clueless kids hanging out in Ptown. I’m not sure how old we were when this went down, but I’m thinking we were 10 or 11. Enjoy and happy birthday Marc, you old bastard.
Hup heard something and he knew Marc did, too. This was verified by the look in Marc’s eyes after Hup ran over and smacked him on the chest, just to make sure they were both awake and in this together. As they both pulled off their blankets, their tighty whities nearly glowed in the dark.
“Dude, what was that?” Hup attempted to yell while still whispering just only inches from Marc’s face. They were sleeping in Marc’s living room, which was dark except for the alternating strips of light shining onto the carpet through the blinds from the street lights outside. Ptown had lots of street lights — probably too many, but I guess you can never feel too safe walking down the street at night in this town (which no one ever did).
“I think someone’s in the back porch,” Marc whispered back cautiously while motioning his head over to the kitchen. It was pitch black inside it’s opening to the living room as they both sat frozen in time, staring it’s way, waiting to see something they wouldn’t know what to do with.
“Throw this in there,” Marc said quickly while shoving a toy duck towards Hup. After throwing it into the darkness there was a loud noise, which was more than enough evidence for the both of them to know that there was, in fact, someone in the house. They held eye contact with each other for a few moments through stares of disbelief as it started to sink in. Neither of them blinked for what seemed like days.
To them, this realization meant they needed to find a quick way to defend themselves and after a quick scan around the living room their weapons of choice were right next to the fireplace. They inched quietly toward the set of tools that, given their short amount of prep time, seemed to be the best options.
Hup grabbed the poker and pulled it out from the other metal poles as slowly and quietly as possible. The fire poker had a wooden handle on one end and something sharp on the other that, in Hup’s mind, could potentially inflict harm on whoever came at him. Marc ended up getting stuck with the ash rake and while not his first choice, it was still way better than the brush — good luck doing any damage to anyone with a stupid brush.
Sketch by Marc Ryan
Before anything or anyone could show itself from the shadows of the kitchen and after hearing a few more noises coming from there, Marc made a decision.
“Let’s get out of here,” he said to Hup, still trying to be quiet.
“Where are we going to go?” Hup asked back, not letting his eyes leave the opening of the kitchen.
“Just follow me,” Marc responded confidently as he motioned to Hup to move closer to the front door. He started unlocking the deadbolt and whispered aggressively. “Come on!”
Once the door was open the two boys, who didn’t have any time to put on pants, shut the door behind them and ran across the driveway towards a neighbor’s house. Scared and without any other options, Marc thought the bushes in front of it’s wrap-around porch would make a perfect hiding spot until the coast was clear.
Marc went in first, squeezing his skinny, shirtless, and only underwear-covered frame between the concrete wall at the front of the porch and the sharp, pine-needle filled branches that weren’t quite willing to share their space. Hup followed closely while trying to avoid as many scratches as possible by clearing a path with the fireplace poker he was still holding. It didn’t work very well and once he made it to where Marc was standing the branches had definitely gotten the best of him. But, at least they were safe.
“Shhhhh!” Marc held up a finger to his lips towards Hup as he clumsily settled into their makeshift hideaway. “Let’s just wait here for a little bit.”
It wasn’t too cold, but it wasn’t exactly warm either and for the next two hours in the middle of the night that’s where Hup and Marc stayed. Standing completely silent and scared in the bushes, wearing only their tighty whities, while holding their weapons and hoping that whoever was in the house wouldn’t still be there once they decided to go back.
Eventually they did make their way back into Marc’s house and thankfully the person was long gone, along with some Nintendo games and other things that were stolen from his back porch. They never found out who it was, but luckily they were ready and willing to do whatever it took to make sure everyone was safe. Ok, maybe they just hid out in the bushes like two scared-ass kids, but hey — it’s still a great story and something that Hup and Marc still talk about over twenty years later.
Anyone who knows my dad also knows one simple truth, he’s always got jokes. I bet you that he’s told me over a thousand in my lifetime and nearly every time we spend any time together he somehow has another one in his arsenal.
I used to think that he was part of some underground joke organization that was always coming up with and distributing new material. But, over time I realized that my dad, just like a few other friends of mine, has built up a network of other people who love jokes just as much as he does.
Storytelling is the key to a good joke
Of course, knowing the joke and being able to tell it the right way are two very different things and the storytelling is what separates the pros from the wannabes. This is that my dad has mastered over the years like a carpenter who has mastered his tools, able to cut and sand any piece of wood to his will.
My dad will tell it as it’s supposed to be told, pulling you into the story and playing the roles within the joke as if he’d been practicing for months. Timing is also important and as he finally gives the punchline his laughing alone is enough to make you think it’s funny (even if it isn’t).
Telling jokes adds social value and creates connections
Over time I’ve also realized the social value of always having jokes to tell — especially when it’s expected of you. My dad has become that guy, the guy who always has a joke ready and whether you like it or not, he’s going to tell it to you. Some are good, some are bad, and some are a little offensive, but it’s what my dad does and I’ve grown to appreciate it as something that makes him unique and interesting.
I’ve tried to tell jokes like my dad does, but it’s just not my thing. I can never remember the stories and the punchlines end up falling flat. But, I’m sure being constantly exposed to his storytelling over the years has something to do with why I love writing and sharing stories, too. For my dad, telling jokes as a way to connect with other people works and I’m sure it could also work for others who are looking for a unique way to hop into a social situation and add value.
The photo below is of my dad laughing after he finished up telling me a joke at Bob Evans. I didn’t think it was that funny, but no matter what he still somehow gets a laugh out of me. What can I say, the guy’s a pro.
For over a year and a half I’ve been attached to Steve, which is the name I’ve given to the ridiculously large ganglion cyst on the top of my wrist. Steve has become bigger and bigger over that time and he finally got to the point to where he was causing some pain in my wrist — especially while I was doing pushups during my workouts. This meant it was time to say goodbye to Steve.
I ended up calling my ganglion cyst Steve because he was always a hot topic of conversation and it was only a matter of time before someone noticed him. Honestly, having a huge growth on my wrist didn’t really bother me aesthetically and it was actually kind of fun to tell people about it, but as time went on Steve just kept on growing and I worried pretty soon that I would end up being just a growth on Steve if I didn’t do something about it.
Anyone who has a ganglion cyst basically has two options of how to get rid of it. Well, three if you consider smacking it with a book as an option, which believe it or not has been a way to get rid of them for years. Even when I went to the doctor to get Steve drained the nurse told me about how she smacked her ganglion cyst with a big medical book and it’s never come back since.
So, that’s an option if you’re up for some excitement, but if your cyst is big like mine or if you’d rather let the professionals handle it you have two options — either drain it, which is called aspiration, or cut it out completely through surgery. Me, not really wanting to have surgery if I don’t have to, decided to to the aspiration route first to see if that could take care of Steve without having to go under the knife. If not, surgery could possibly be in my future.
Ganglion Cyst Aspiration Procedure
As I said, draining a ganglion cyst, or aspiration, is a piece of cake. Almost any doctor can do it and if you’re not too scared of needles it’s quick and painless. Steve, my ganglion cyst, was about as big as they got on the top of a wrist and it still took less than five minutes to drain it and besides a little prick of a needle it was completely painless.
Draining the Fluid
The basic order or operations, which you can also see in this video I made, went like this. First, the doctor wiped the cyst with some iodine antiseptic and shot me up with a little bit of local anesthetic through a small needle. Then he took a larger gauge needle and stuck it directly into Steve and started draining the thick, clear lubricating fluid that he was filled with. I had a lot of fluid in my cyst, so this took a few minutes. The doctor then removed the larger needle and squeezed out what was left of the fluid (and a little blood) just like you would squeeze a pimple.
Once he was finished he had a half-filled syringe full of Steve’s fluid and put a gauze pad on top if it to soak up any blood or fluid that was still draining out of where he stuck in the needle. A nurse then came in and wrapped it up with some flexible tape to add some compression, which I wore for the rest of the day and night until I took a shower before I went to sleep.
While I’m writing this Steve is almost completely gone and he’s gotten smaller every day since he was drained. From what I can tell the tissue and fluid that was left over from draining my ganglion cyst is still being absorbed into my body and it’s going to take a few more days for it to finish up.
As of now, I feel like I don’t need to drain Steve through aspiration again, but there is always a chance of him coming back again. If that happens then I’ll need to decide whether or not I want to have him surgically removed. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that, but I’ll just have to wait and see.
See ya Steve, it’s been real and I really hope you don’t come back.
Now that I’m writing on my blog again (it’s been nearly two years) it means that I’m also going to start playing around with WordPress. I’ve always loved WordPress and it’s been a way for me to continue to dust off my coding skills and put them to good, practical use. Yes, I know how to code, it’s just that I haven’t had a lot of time to dig into it over the past couple years. A job in ops will do that to you.
When using WordPress, it’s always a work-in-progress as it’s one of the most adaptable and customizable content platforms out there. This not only means that there’s always a way to make it better, but if there’s something wrong with it there’s a good chance that someone else has already run into the issue before. With just a few searches and some patience almost anything can be fixed or upgraded.
But, funny enough, I had an issue today that seems small, but took me at least a couple of hours to fix, so I thought I’d post something about it. The issue is that for some reason I was getting some conflicts with the <title> tags and how the titles were showing up on my blog, but also how the titles were showing up on Facebook whenever I posted something there.
Ideally, my post titles would show up like this:
The Title of my Post | RyanHupfer.com
But, it was showing up all kinds of crazy thanks to my new Breeze WordPress theme and Yoast SEO plugin. When I looked at the source of my posts I was seeing two title tags that were conflicting and the titles would end up looking like this:
RyanHupfer.comThe Title of my Post | RyanHupfer.com
or like this:
RyanHupfer.com – The Title of my Post
Here’s a screenshot of how my WordPress post looked like when I posted it on Facebook. You can see it’s not how I like it, and the description was all messed up.
I was getting super frustrated, but thanks to a couple of things I figured it out. Here’s what happened.
Using The Facebook Developer Debugger
One thing I learned about through all of this is the Facebook Developers Open Graph Debugger (say that all at once – wow). What it allows you to do is see how Facebook sees any URL and the different Facebook Open Graph properties, with the most important being the og:title property, which tells Facebook what to use as the main headline for your WordPress link when adding it to Facebook. You can’t edit this once it pulls up on Facebook, so getting it right is important.
This tool let me keep track of how Facebook sees my URLs and if I made any changes all I had to do was click the “Scrape Again” button on the debugger to have Facebook pull the latest update I made to my blog. This is a super handy tool to know about and it really helped me figure this all out.
Searching For Help
So, now I knew what the issues were, but I was still getting some errors of two different titles showing up with both the HTML title tags as well as the Facebook og:title property tags. So, after searching a little bit I decided to take off the Yoast SEO plugin and that ended up getting me back to the original title structure of:
RyanHupfer.com – Title of my Post
It also removed the duplicate og:title tag, which was good. It was still wrong, but it wasn’t doubled-up, which is progress.
Figuring It Out
After searching through the WordPress Codex and getting deep into the rabbit hole, I found this page that told me about a simple setting on the Breeze WordPress theme that was created by Bluthemes. It told me about an option I didn’t know about in the theme that allows any SEO plugin (like Yoast) to control the title structures and meta data of the blog.
Of course after trying to figure this out for a couple hours I finally find this option, check it to let Yoast do the SEO heavy-lifting and then flip it back on in the plugin settings.
When I did that it let Yoast take control and automatically switched it to force rewrite titles, which is an option that’s available when you enable the advanced settings (which you should do).
Once I learned the proper order of operations on all of this SEO plugin and title stuff, I made sure that all of the post and homepage structures were setup how I wanted. After that everything looked perfect and the titles were outputting the right way on both the blog and on Facebook. Here’s what the Facebook Developers Open Graph Debugger looked like when when I was done:
Well, one issue figured out and now it’s onto the next one. If you’re having issues with seeing two doubled-up titles with your Breeze WordPress theme (or any other one) and it not looking good when you post it on Facebook, hopefully this helps.
I’m attempting to bring my blog back from the dead and wanted to kick it off with talking about how I’ve minimized my life through 2016. This photo is of my basics, which I lived off of for over 3 weeks in Atlanta and New Orleans.
Lots of Interest in Minimalism
I’ve written about a lot of different things in 2016, but the topic that seems to come up the most in conversations with people is that I’m living out of a backpack. Minimalism, which is apparently a popular thing, has become something that I just naturally started doing thanks to traveling. But, the more I’ve thought about it, minimizing has always been in my life and something I wanted to do, I just never really listened to it until I had to.
It’s Not Just Getting Rid of Everything
The most important thing about minimalism that I’ve learned over the last year while traveling around is it’s not about just about getting rid of stuff, although that’s what it’s most known for. Minimizing is actually more about getting rid of things that don’t add any real value to your life, which maximizes your ability to think about other things that are much more important.
In my case, I don’t have to worry about paying for a car anymore, which also means I don’t have to worry about parking it, keeping the plates updated, paying for insurance, and anything else that goes along with it. Getting rid of my car not only freed up money for me, but it also freed up my mind to spend time thinking about other things I actually cared about.
Killing the What-ifs
Minimizing also means getting rid of the things that fall into the “I might need this if…” category, which I call what-ifs. For example, I didn’t really need a car when I was in San Francisco, but what if I needed to take a weekend trip out of the city or had to buy groceries at Trader Joes? It’s these types of use cases that I didn’t actually do very often that kept my car around as long as it was. For some reason they provided enough what-ifs to make me feel like I just had to have a car, when in fact I would be fine without one and could have saved a lot of money and worrying.
Now, giving up these what-ifs can also create some situations that might seem uncomfortable, but in reality they’re not that big of deal. Not having a car meant that I would have to find other people who were going out of town on the weekends if I wanted to do that. It limited my independence, but actually helped me get closer to my friends and got me out of my bubble, which was nice. Not having a car also forced me into walking more and riding bikes around San Francisco, which I really enjoy even if they took a little more time. Me, like most people, just liked to always be in control and getting rid of my car took some of that away. A little shocking at first, but in the end, not a big deal.
Minimizing in 2017
In 2017 I’m going to continue to minimize and I’ll be talking more about that here on my blog (which I’m actively trying to bring back to life). I can tell that it’s a topic that many people are curious about and it’s fun for me to write about my experiences, so why not? If you have any specific questions you’d like to ask, feel free to let me know in the comments below or on Facebook. It’s always a work in progress for me, but I’m happy to share what I’ve learned so far.
It’s my mom’s birthday today and instead of sending her a card I wanted to tell one of the many stories of how she has impacted my life. This story is from a long time ago but is still something I remember and talk about often. I love you, mom (and don’t worry, you look amazing holding that Bud Light!)
It’s not easy being the youngest kid in a family of amazing basketball players, especially when you love drawing cartoons more than shooting hoops. I was in the 5th grade, my hair was long and I spent more time on a skateboard then on a basketball court. At this point my oldest brother and sister were two of the best high school basketball players in the state and my youngest sister was tearing it up in middle school. If there’s one thing the Hupfer’s know, it’s basketball.
Me, on the the other hand, most days I chose to stay inside during recess so I could have more time to doodle who-knows-what. I carried around an entire bag full of art supplies — paint, pencils, pads of paper, kneaded erasers and anything else I could get my hands on. I guess I liked basketball, it was all around me and I’ve played it all the time but it wasn’t at the top of my list of priorities. I was an artist and that’s all I could think about.
Enter my amazing mom who, even though I’m sure she was a little worried about my lack of interest in the family sport, was all about be bringing out my creative side. Until my interest grew in drawing and painting I had no idea my mom even had an artistic bone in her body. But soon I found out just how talented she was and I can still remember being amazed at the drawings of Disney cartoon characters she could whip up with little to no effort. You name it, she could draw it. I swear the woman can do anything.
Back then I had a bedroom with a pretty sweet walk-in closet that was turned into a room where all of my toys were stored. I didn’t go in there much anymore since I had outgrown most of my toys but when I was given a drawing table for Christmas it changed the game. Toy box was out, drawing table was in and I felt like I was finally going to have a place all to myself where I could really explore my creativity.
It’s also worth noting that also around this time is when the Super Nintendo was launched and it was pretty much the most amazing thing, ever. Every other friend of mine got one for Christmas. But, unlike most other parents my mom wasn’t about to buy me one. Instead she decided to buy me the drawing table and I was totally cool with it. I can still remember the feeling of raw excitement when thinking about getting it setup in my closet.
Just when I thought the drawing table was the best thing that could ever happen in my life my mom then drops another bomb on me. She bought some white paint and told me we’re painting the walls of my newly christened drawing room.
“You going to help me paint the walls?”, she asked.
“Why are we painting it?” I wondered.
My mom looks at me, smiles and says, “How else are you going to be able to draw on them?”
How could I say no? We quickly painted the small room and when it dried I had a bigger canvas than I could have ever imagined. It was all mine and I couldn’t believe it. My mom was actually going to let me draw on my walls. I thought it was awesome then but looking back now it’s pretty much the most amazing thing, ever. Once we moved the table in the fun began.
For the next year or so I covered the walls with every cartoon character I could find. Tiny Toons, Loony Tunes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Bart Simpson were drawn, painted and showcased right there in my own little space in the world. In a time when she could have easily worried about me not following in my family’s basketball footsteps, my mom supported me and fed my creativity and imagination.
This is one of the many reasons why I love my mom and a small glimpse of how important she’s been in shaping who I am today. I’m not sure how I got so lucky but I’m really glad I did.