I think that everyone should visit Kiev! It’s a beautiful city with a great history, and if you have Euros or Dollars, it’s all very affordable. One of the nicest perks of Kiev is that it’s a fairly centralized city. All of the things I’m about to list are within walking distance. Or if you prefer to hitch a ride, a taxi should never cost more than a couple of bucks. Finally, I love travelling in Ukraine, and I have lots of cool Kiev photos (Odessa and Lviv too) that I definitely think you’ll like. Alright though, let’s get to it!

1. Rodina Mat

Rodina Mat in KievIf you’re going to travel to Ukraine, this massive statue is a must see! At 102 meters, Rodina Mat is truly impressive, especially as she holds up her sword and shield to the river. In Russian, Родина Мать, is bit awkward to translate, but it comes out as something like “Mother of the Country” or “Mother of the Homeland”.

Under the base of the statue is a comprehensive World War II museum that’s filled with interesting relics from the war. You’ll also find some items from the significantly more modern struggle in Donbass. On top of helmets and pictures, there’s also a captured Russian tank. It’s parked out right out front and has been painted in Ukraine’s national colors (blue and yellow).

It’s also worth noting that if you take the metro to Rodina Mat, you’ll get off at Arsenalna Station, which is the deepest metro station in the world. Getting from the Metro car, up to the entrance of the station, takes more time then trying to pick a movie to watch on Netflix! If you visit Kiev, you can’t pass up this opportunity.

2. Maidan

Maidan in KievIf there was an award for most transformed public space, Maidan would surely take first place. This telling photograph illustrates how bad things got, and how nice it looks now. Maidan is one of Kiev’s main attractions, and the whole area is a wonderful place to hang out. The protesters are long gone, order has been returned, and there’s only hints of what took place there in 2013.

One of my favorite things to do in Kiev is take the metro to Maidan, then “гулять”. This is a Russian verb which doesn’t have a definite English translation. Strolling comes close, but it sounds a little bit too whimsical.

Regardless, at Maidan you can “stroll” around and discover a large, underground shopping mall or one of the many restaurants nearby. If you’re not sure where to go, I suggest Park Shevchenko, which is a 15 minute walk away, and directly next to Kiev’s elite National University (which happens to be painted bright red).

3. St. Andrew’s Church

St. Andre's Church in KievWhen it comes to Kiev sightseeing, you have to check out St. Andrew’s Church! I say that for two reasons. First, the church itself is beautiful. A magnificent work of art. The blue spires give way to gold, which is all complimented by the beautiful white body of the church. You can stand next to it and see far off into the distance (Kiev is a very hilly city).

The second reason that you’ll want to check out St. Andrew’s is the area. All around it is a large park which will offer you various opportunities to find some tranquility, or get your picture taken with a great background of the city. Those will be some some Kiev photos that you’re happy to have later on.

4. Kiev Opera

Another one of the Kiev’s attractions is the opera house. Situated less than ten minutes from Maidan, it’s right downtown. The building is old and it has a visually imposing appearance. It sits in a large, open square which defies the traffic and buildings all around it. The opera in Kiev is also nice because it’s affordable. Tickets can run somewhere around $15, although you will need to buy them in advance (and in person, I’ve heard their online system is nearly useless).

5. Petra Sahaidachnoho St.

Chilling at the Fiji LoungeThankfully, you don’t have to be able to pronounce the name of this street to find it. You can do a quick Google Maps search and find out right where it is. This street makes the list of top 5 awesome things to do in Kiev because it’s jammed with some of the best bars and restaurants in Kiev. There’s the Fiji Lounge Bar, which may be my favorite place in all of Kiev to hang out with friends. They have great food, cheap drinks, hookah, and there is a hidden club in the basement that can get crazy on Friday and Saturday nights.

Another good spot to check out is the Shooters in Kiev. They’re located a minute or two from the Fiji Lounge Bar, and it’s a popular place for tourists to visit. Good drink specials and lots of local party goers means that everyone ends up having fun. Regardless of your tastes, you’ll definitely find something interesting on Petra Sahaidachnoho St.

Where to Stay in Kiev

If you’re going to travel in Ukraine, you’ll want to find a good place to stay. As far as I can tell, there are four major hostels in Kiev, and I’ve stayed at three of them. The hostel that I always recommend to friends is The DREAM House hostel. This place is freaking sweet! It’s only a year or two old, they have a cafe / bar directly built in, the beds are super comfortable, there’s a big common area, the staff are nice, it’s only two minutes from Petra Sahaidachnoho St.

Some people prefer Kiev Central Station though. This hostel has a totally different feel. Staying here, I frequently felt like I was living in a college apartment. It’s laid back, it’s on a quite street, and there is a fridge full of beer in the common room. Whichever hostel you choose though, you’ll still only end up paying about $8 a night. Kiev is a very affordable destination, and one that I recommend everyone check out. To learn more about Ukraine, and see video reviews of the two hostels that I mentioned, be sure check out my YouTube page.

Traffic Jam in HanoiI arrived at the Hanoi airport sometime around midnight. By the time I paid my $45 for a Visa, cleared customs, and made it to my hostel in a taxi, it was about 1 am. Looking out the window I lamented the location. I was depressed because the empty roads and deserted streets seemed to indicate that I was in an unpopular part of town. So naive, so young. That was a week ago and it’s the last time I’ve known tranquility in Vietnam.

Hanoi makes New York City look like a Buddhist retreat town during the off season.

What’s been most shocking to me are the scooters. They’re everywhere. The road, the sidewalk, inside restaurants, outside of restaurants, outside of my hostel, inside of my hostel. If it’s physically possible, a scooter can and will occupy a space at some point. They’re the universal powerhouse of the city. I’ve seen people carrying hundreds of beer bottles, trees, dozens of gallons of water, and entire families on a single scooter. It’s humbling really.

The Attitude Towards Tourists

Scooter Traffic on the Streets of HanoiUnlike Ukraine, I can’t blend in here by just keeping my mouth shut. Anywhere I go it’s obvious I don’t belong. As far as I can tell though, most people don’t seem to care. I don’t catch people staring at me or even treating me any different. I’m as likely to die in a scooter related accident as anyone else. That attitude goes further too. I took a taxi ride on the back of a scooter and the driver ripped me off for 50,000 Dong! Of course, losing $2.50 is no biggie and I’m coping with it fairly well.

I definitely feel like I could stay in Vietnam a while. Despite the taxi guy, and some lady selling bread who I’m pretty sure charged me triple the non-tourist rate, I feel very welcome. Everyone seems nice and very friendly. The other day I was sitting in a park and staring at a church. A 16 year old kid named Sunh approached me and we talked for 15 minutes. That may be the first time something like that’s ever happened to me in my life, and I thought it was awfully neat.

The Food

A night picture of the city view cafe in HanoiI eat out every single night, and never in the same place. Hanoi is a city of restaurants and the food is awesome. However, it’s been difficult for me to figure out what the hell to order. For instance, I tried to order eel today. The waiter looked confused, and then he went to get the English speaking manager. She explained that they only sold whole eels. Fresh, whole eels, and that surely it would be too much for me. I agreed, and ended up ordering two fish that stacked together would the size of a smartphone.

One of my favorite dishes here isn’t a dish at all. It’s a treat called brown coffee. It’s basically fresh brewed coffee sweetened with condensed milk and other mystery spices. Freaking delicious. I have trouble only ordering one when I go to the cafe. The fresh smoothies are mind blowing too. I ordered two of them the other day. I felt like a pig but it was worth it. In the coming weeks I look forward to eating at more restaurants, and hopefully figuring out a few dishes that I really like.

Plans for the Future

Famous Temple in Hanoi VietnamI’m staying in Hanoi till next Thursday. I paid for a private room in a hostel which has been nice. However, it’s proven difficult to meet people to hang out with. Unlike other countries, I found very few Couchsurfing events, and my hostel doesn’t have a common area where people hang out. So at my next hostel I made sure to book accommodations in the dorm. That means it will be harder to sleep but easier to meet people. I’m really looking forward to it though because my hostel is 2 minutes from the beach. I love to swim and I plan to take advantage of it.

When I touched down in Hanoi I had no plan. Now, after a week I’ve begun to formulate some ideas. Next week is the beach town of Da Nang. Then after, the beach town of Nha Trang. Then I’ll hit Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). However, what I’m really aiming for is Phu Quoc Island. This remote piece of real estate is mostly a national park, which means I’m expecting to find some awesome, untamed beaches there. There’s also rumors of motorbiking up through the park. If I have the chance to rent a dirt bike and ride it through a national park, I don’t care how much it costs I’ll pay it.

While that’s the skeleton of the plan, the plan lacks timing. If I like a place, I’ll stay. If I’ve seen enough, I’ll move on. Working online provides me with this lifestyle. Even though I’ve been out enjoying the city, I’ve also been working my ass off. In the last week I’ve written 10 articles and I’ve gotten about $250 for my efforts. I’ve also found myself getting a bunch of repeat customers. The more I write, the better I get, the more people want to hire me. It’s a high coffee lifestyle, but it allows me the freedom to more or less do whatever I want.

If you want to find out how you can work online and travel the world, check out my introductory post: how to make money online.

Mosque in DubaiDubai was amazing, it’s a must hit for any person who has some time to travel. The city is a marvelous blend of old and new. Everywhere you look the ancient Arab culture mixes seamlessly with the new Western influence. You know those crazy cities in Star Wars? That’s what Dubai felt like to me. I’ll begin this post by listing all the reasons that I loved the city, and then I’ll give you a few resources that you can use if you’re planning a trip. If you just want to see some pictures from the city, check out my photo gallery.

1. The Food is Awesome

Three minutes from my hostel I found a restaurant that didn’t serve anything made without eggs. Every morning I ate at a vegetarian place called Swades. Close to the metro I got to experience some of the best chicken I’ve ever had. The list goes on. The cool thing about Dubai is that there are so many restaurants serving so many different ethnic foods that you’re bound to find something you love.

2. Most People aren’t From Dubai

According to Wikipedia, only 10 to 15% of Dubai’s population are native Arabs. That means that 85 to 90% of the population is from somewhere else. Most people are from Asia, but there’s enough Western expats that you don’t stand out. Why is this cool? Because you don’t get treated like a tourist. Dubai’s incredible diversity means that you canblend in and be taken for a local on your first day there.

3. Everyone Speaks English

I never had a problem communicating with anyone in Dubai. While most shop signs are written in Arababic, as soon as you go inside you’ll find out that you can easily communicate with all cashiers and waiters. The flip side of this is that if you speak another language (Russian, French, Hindi, Arabic, Mandarin, and so on) you’ll almost definitely be able to find someone to chat with. I never would have guessed that I’d use my Russian in Dubai, but I ended up speaking every day.

4. The Attractions are Breathtaking

Sky View of the Dubai FountainsI came to Dubai to see the Burj Khalifa and ended up being more impressed by the Mall. Most of The Mall is four stories, although some places are only two or three. There is a shark tank, an ice rink, a theater (where I watched Sicario), and more shops than you could possibly visit in a day. The most fascinating part of The Mall is the way it changes shape and character. Some areas are plush and luxurious, other areas have a strong Arabic influence, and a couple of places are dark and modern. It felt like walking between different continents.

Another interesting feature Dubai has to offer is The Palm. This man made “island” is unnecessarily large, and yet totally awesome. Unfortunately, The Palm is best accessed by car. I was lucky enough to meet Konrad who had a rental car. However, if you happen to be in Dubai you can rent a super car for the day (if you’re over 25), which would be a great way to see this stunning island.

Planning Your Trip to Dubai

At the Base of the Burj KhalifaI spent four days in Dubai and I think I spent about $200. For that I got four nights at a hostel, fantastic food every day, a t-shirt from the Dubai Mall, a ticket to the top of the Burj Khalifa, at ticket to the Dubai Mall Cinema, several gallons of bottled water, a cab ride in Lexus from the airport to my hostel, and about half a dozen metro tickets. Not a bad deal altogether.

As for accommodations, I stayed at the BackPacker Hostel and I enjoyed it. It’s close to the metro, there are tons of restaurants around, the room was comfortable, and the girl running it was from Belarus so I got to practice my Russian. A hint though, if you want to book this hostel do it through Airbnb. On their website they advertise a bed for $32 a night when in reality I only paid $20 a night.

Standing next to a green Rolls Royce in DubaiYou’ll also want to buy your ticket to the Burj Khalifa in advance. I bought my ticket 10 days in advance and paid $35. Later on, I took several women from Moldova to buy a ticket (acting as their translator) and the cheapest option was $120 per person. You can buy your ticket in advance here.

Other people have suggested dune bashing which does sound awesome. Unfortunately I ran out of time and wasn’t able to do it. That, along with checking out the Dubai Marina, will be for next time. I had so much fun that I’d really like to go back again for a week or two. Definitely during the cooler months though. It was 90 degrees every day which is fine as long as you pound the water. 115 degrees in the summer though, forget it!

Learning Russian has been the most rewarding experience of my life. It’s about so much more than just the language though. I’ve learned that through hard work and consistent effort I can accomplish anything I set my mind too. That’s an incredibly powerful feeling, and it’s going to serve me for the rest of my life. Here are a few other things I’ve noticed about learning a second language, and some of the benefits that you may find on your own journey to fluency.

Learning a Second Language Teaches You..

How to Learn. Seriously though, people just aren’t that good at learning. Loads of people never work hard enough to get a decent result, or they expend all their energy in the wrong areas. They focus on the details instead of looking at the big picture. When you learn a language you figure out pretty quick that you can know words but not understand the meaning. To get past that you have to think creatively and study with a purpose. Once you figure out how to do this you can apply it to any new skill you want to learn.

That persistence is instrumental to success. The first couple of hundred hours of learning a language kind of suck. You can’t understand movies, music, jokes or regular conversation. This is a bitch, but the unshakable truth is that if you don’t stick it out you WILL NEVER learn to speak another language. I wonder, when people give up in the beginning, do they fully realize that they’re giving up any possibility of ever becoming fluent? Do they realize what’s at stake? In order to succeed anywhere in life you need persistence.

About a different culture. I’ve written about this before and I’ll write about it again. When you learn a second language you get to learn about a new lifestyle. Customs, beliefs, holidays, names, food, history, and so on. You can read about this in a book or watch a movie, but when you experience it through the language, it’s different story.

A picture of an old white lada on the side of the road in Kiev, UkraineAbout your own language. Without a second language to compare English against you literally cannot draw a comparison. It’s like if the only cars on the road were Ladas, you’d swear it was the best car ever made. In reality, a better illustration of a Lada’s value is this joke.

How do you double the value of a Lada?

Fill it up with gas. 

I’m not saying that any language is better than another one. Although Pirahã (the hardest language in the world) does seem to be rather unnecessary. What I’m saying is that without a comparison, you’ll never be able to fully understand the upsides and downsides of English (or whatever your native language is). 

That learning is forever. I’ve learned more in the last 14 months then I learned in the last eight years of school. Even though I’ve probably spent 1,000 hours studying Russian by this point, I’ve only just scratched the surface. I realize that I can study this language for the rest of my life and I’ll die with a book of material still waiting to be learned.

I think that most people who read my blog understand that you don’t stop learning after school gets out. If you already get this, a second language can really help you to cement this idea in your head. It’s why I’m shifting gears. Realizing now that I could easily study Russian forever, I’ve decided to invest my energy elsewhere and learn German. I think it will have more practical applications for me, and I’ll be able to talk to my Grandma in her native tongue. I’m looking forward to that day so much! But until then, I’ll remain a bilingual American. Which in it’s own right is fairly impressive. There aren’t a lot of us out there. So I’ll end this post with a video I shot the other day of me speaking in Russian. Check out my book to see how you can learn to do the same.

The second you stop learning is the second you die. Are there any other benefits of learning a second language that I missed, anything you want to add?

Travelling alone is awesome and there are lots of cool benefits. However, the major drawback is that you usually don’t know anyone when you go to a brand new city. It can be especially difficult if you’re travelling in Europe, so many languages! That’s why I used to worry about meeting new people to hang out with. However, I’ve come to realize that 90% of the time it’s really not that hard at all. Here’s how I make new friends in every city that I go to.

1. Stay at a Popular Hostel

If you’ve traveled before than you already know that this is the easiest way to meet people. Hostels are awesome social hubs where friendship is easy to come by. You’ll probably never see any given person again in your life, but you never know.

Staying at a popular hostel is also awesome because it’s so, so easy to score an invitation to hang out. All you have to do is say hi to the people in your room and ask them what they’re up to that night. 75% of the time they’ll tell you and then invite you to hang out with them. If you’re staying in a smaller room or you don’t like your roommates, go to the common area.

2. Take a Guided Tour

In general I’m against all things that label me as tourist. However, an occasional guided tour is a good way to meet some new people. After the tour is over you can always see if someone wants to get a beer or some dinner at a nearby cafe.  These tours are also nice because if you take one in English then you know that everyone else there will speak English as well.

3. Ask Your Friends on Facebook for Hook Ups

A Friend in VietnamThis can be totally hit or miss. It really comes down to your friend group. If all your Facebook friends are from your hometown then this won’t work. However, if you’ve done some travelling before then you’re in the perfect position to do this. Create a Facebook post and ask for people to tell you about one of their friends in the city you’re going to. You may be surprised at how well this works. Not to mention that if you meetup with this new person you’ll instantly have something to talk about.

4. Use InterPals

InterPals is a website that has people from across the world. Ostensibly it’s for practicing languages. It works great in that regard, but lots of people also use it to meet friends in new cities. You should plan ahead though. If you know where you’re going, write some people a week before you get there. If all you want to do is hang out you should be upfront about it. Some people are only there for language practice and you don’t want to waste their time or yours.

5. Go to Couchsurfing Events

Me with MaxSave the best for last. Going to Couchsurfing events is by far the best way to meet people in any given city. The events are free, they’re usually in a cool local pub, bar or park, and the people are usually friendly and welcoming. I’ve been to dozens of Couchsurfing events in Moscow, Odessa, Kiev and Dresden. On average I’ve enjoyed myself 4 out 5 times. That’s a good percentage in my book!

Even if the event ends up being a bust, you’re still guaranteed to meet a few people. Exchange numbers and offer to hang out the next day. Just like that you have a new contact in a city where you didn’t know anyone before.

Do you have any other ideas about how to meet people while travelling? Post them below, I’d love to hear about them!

If you get a job straight out of college I think you’re making a mistake. As soon as you start your first work, you’re heading down a path that ends in a lifetime of stagnation. Before you have time to think you’ve got responsibilities, people who depend on you, things happening, and you can’t leave it all behind. Fuck, even just getting a dog can ruin your plans to travel.

That’s why if you’re reading this, and you still have enough leeway where you can quit your job and travel, you have to do it. Travelling is a unique experience and there is no replacement for it. And for all you Americans out there, travelling in the USA doesn’t count. Save some cash and go to Europe or South America. Here’s why.

1. You Meet Awesome People Travelling

Four of Us Having FunWhen you travel you meet awesome people who you instantly have something in common with. You’re both in a foreign country, and you’re both probably there for a reason. Unless you’re my friend Zhena, who picks countries based on the cheapest plane ticket.

Even if you meet other people from your own country, you’re still going to have more to talk about than if you met them at a bar back at home. That means relationships are more solid. Even though I’ve only been travelling for a few months, I already regularly talk to more people I’ve met in hostels, than I do from the first twenty-two years of my life.

2. Learn Something New

I’ve been doing research for a company, and I’ve read fifty personal bios of bloggers in the last few days. One man said that he’s lived in the same fifty mile area his whole life. For a vacation, he goes four hundred miles away, once a year, to the same fucking spot. Every time.

What kind of life is that?

He doesn’t know anything about the world. Reading is great and watching movies is fun, but to actually learn something you have to get out the door and go experience it first hand. When you step off that airplane, bus or train, and breathe in the air of the new city, you always learn something new.

Do you know what Moscow smells like? Or Berlin, Kiev, Miami, New York, Krakow or Prague?

3. You’ll Regret it Later

CrazyStuffIf you don’t quit your job and travel, I promise you that you’re going to regret it later. Money is only cool for so long. Once the charm wears off, you’re left in a house. With a car. And a job that you don’t like. Who knows, maybe you travel and then you get all of that stuff anyways. But at least you’ll have stories to tell.

Don’t subject yourself to a life of servitude. Don’t trade your time for money when you’re young. Get out and do something awesome! There will always be something waiting for you when you get back. But if you don’t go now, if you don’t quit now, you’re going to be forty someday and you won’t be able to. You’ll have kids, a wife, a house, a mother-fucking couch. Once you have it, it’s tough to let it go. Make it easy for yourself. Quit now, buy a plane ticket and just go.

No matter what happens, no matter who you meet or where you go, you won’t regret it.

If you’re going to travel it makes way more sense to take a backpack than a suitcase. Backpacks are lighter, more versatile, more attractive, and they’re definitely cooler than lugging around your parent’s old suitcase. Finding the best backpack for travelling can be daunting though. There are so many different brands and sizes on the market that you might not know what to pick.

In this post I’ll show you the backpack I bought, tell you why I made a big mistake, and then show you what I consider to be a way better choice.

The Osprey Aether 70 – Mistake

Aether 70When I was in Russia I did some research and determined that Osprey is the best manufacturer of hiker’s backpacks. After locating the sole retailer in Moscow, I took the Metro there and bought the Aether 70 (73 liters of storage space). I chose this large sized backpack because I just didn’t know any better. I knew that I would be living for several years from it, and I thought that I would need all the space I could get.

That was a bad move. It turns out that I don’t need all the space. Nor do I need all the fancy gadgets that come with it, including: sleeping bag straps, ice axe loops, a water pouch section, pouches on the sides of the support straps, and so on. That’s great if you’re hiking, but unnecessary in most modern airports.

The worst drawback of this backpack is that it’s too large to carry onto the airplane. This means that every time I fly, I’m giving the airlines a free pass to lose my backpack. I don’t know what the statistics are, but I feel like this chance is even larger since I often fly to precarious places, like Ukraine and soon Vietnam.

The Porter 46 – Smart Choice

Porter 46In my experience, a 45 to 50 liter pack is the ideal size for most people. It’s large enough to hold more than a week’s worth of clothing, and yet small enough to carry onto the plane. When I traveled through Europe last month I even saw lots of girls using this size of bag. Taking it even further, when I was in Kiev in June I talked to a guy who had been travelling for months. He had a 45 liter pack and thought it was too big!

That’s why if I could do it all over again, I would choose the Porter 46 from Osprey.  With a 46 liter capacity I feel that it’s the best travel backpack ever. I’d probably have to get rid of a few shirts and a pair of basketball shorts, but I wouldn’t even miss them after a week. If you’re just travelling for a few weeks, you’ll be able to fit more than enough into this pack to be comfortable. In Kiev I talked to a guy on a three month Euro tour and he said he loved this pack and it gave him plenty of room. The price is fair too. At $140, it’s about $100 less than I paid for my backpack.

Comparing Backpack Features

It’s only fair to point out that while my backpack is too large, it’s still an awesome piece of equipment. It’s incredibly light, very comfortable, it looks attractive, and the quality is brilliant. In the end though, it’s just not right for me. The Aether is designed for climbing a mountain, not travelling across Europe by train. So to help you pick the right pack, here are a few common features to watch out for

Damn1. Size, often measured in liters. Your average school backpack is about 25 liters, which is fully one third the size of my massive 73 liter pack.

2. Hip straps. These are really, really nice for carrying your backpack long distances, but completely superfluous if you’re just going from the airport to a hostel.

3. Water pouch. Unless you’re planning on actually doing real hiking, this is an additional feature you won’t need.

4. Assorted hiking gadgets, too many to list. There are so many different straps and hooks on my backpack I don’t know what half of them do. That’s what’s so attractive about the smooth, sleek appearance of the Porter 46. After all, unlike this guy, odds are you aren’t going to the airport ready to film global warming in action..

5. Brand. Osprey is the best, why buy anything else? With some basic maintenance this backpack will easily last for a lifetime.

My father’s grandmother and grandfather emigrated to the United States after World War Two. When they left, Germany was not doing well. There were few job opportunities, the country was still being rebuilt, and the future looked bleak.

When you walk through Germany today, none of that spirit remains. Germany is a vibrant country with a lot to offer. The public transport system is top notch. The streets are clean, the people are wonderful, and the beer is reasonably priced.

Getting Around

What struck me most was the fantastic public transit system. Trams and buses are an omnipresent sight. They are clean and quite. A far cry from the trams in Ukraine, which simulate the experience of driving a car down a brick road. Also, a world apart from the buses in my home city of Buffalo, NY. Inviting would not be the first word you’d use to describe them.

At most bus stops there’s a little board that tells you when to expect the next tram or bus. This is brilliant! The extra million dollars that this must have added to the budget is money well spent. Why can’t America do the same thing?


While in Dresden we stayed with my friend Zhena. She’s studying in university and has an apartment ten minutes from campus. Her place is one of the cooler apartments that I’ve ever been in, and I was surprised to learn the price. Every month she pays 180 Euros in rent.


When I was in college we had $200 dollar apartments too. Typical problems included: a leaky roof, former tenants were crack addicts, broken windows, no running water, holes in the wall, bedbugs, poor heating, no insulation, general look of deathly disrepair. That’s loads different from Zhena’s modern, inviting apartment.

This trend of affordable rent holds true in Berlin was well. While touring around Berlin on bicycles, we encountered a brilliant neighbor called Kreuzburg. I fell in love immediately. Fantastic clubs, bars everywhere, lots of young people, right on the river, a general feeling of youth and vibrancy.

The New York City equivalent would be SoHo. However, unlike the ludicrously priced SoHo ($3,500 a month for a studio) an average person can afford to live in Kreuzburg. At 900 Euros a month it’s not cheap, but it’s not prohibitively expensive either. In fact as soon as I’m earning $2,000 a month online, I plan to rent a place there for a few months.

The Culture

CheersGermanyBefore going to Germany I asked my friend Sergej to give a rundown on the culture. Anything I shouldn’t do, any norms that I should be aware of? He thought about it for a second, then shook his head.

“Germany is a lot like America, you’ll be fine.”

While that’s a gross simplification, I understood his point. The difference between Germany and America isn’t that great. That is, as compared to America and China, or America and Russia.

While there, the thing that took the most getting used to for me were the bikes. Like cars, they have a right away. They often have their own lanes. At large intersections they sometimes even have their own stoplights. You have to be careful with them. In Germany a person riding a bike has a right to use the road, and you have the right to get the hell out of their way.

That’s different than America. I’ll make a disclaimer that I’ve never been to a bike friendly city like Oakland or San Francisco. However, in New York and Buffalo, it’s a bike rider’s responsibility to avoid you, not the other way around.

Transitioning from the healthy to the unhealthy, I really love that you can drink in the street in Germany. Is there anything really so wrong with sitting in a park, or in a public square, and having a beer? Germany doesn’t think so, and neither do I.

It’s illegal to drink openly in Russia, Ukraine and America. However, in the Russian speaking countries people just do it anyways. Nobody cares, it might as well not even be a law. On the other hand, you can get a ticket for doing it in America (I’ve verified this law twice). I think that’s silly and annoying. As is America’s irrational belief that you must be 21 to drink. A blog post on its own could be written on this.

Germany and Me

Six months ago I didn’t know what second language I would study. The choices were: French, German or Swedish. Thankfully, Germany made the choice easy for me. I’m going to study German!

In the short term I’d like to spend a few months in Germany. I think that as soon as I have the cash to back it up, I’m going to rent an apartment in Berlin. My visa will limit me to three months. In that time, I hope to find out whether Germany is a country that I’m interested in for the long term.

I think it sounds poetic, like the ending to a cheesy B grade movie. Grandparents leave Germany to pursue a better life in America. Two generations later, grandson returns to Germany, pursuing a better future in a fascinating country.

Here’s to you Germany, prost!

Today, walking around Berlin hopelessly lost, I snapped some pictures of cool apartments. If you have the cash, I definitely think Berlin would be as cool city to spend some time in. Everything is super clean, the people are nice and there are lots of cool sights to take in.

So with that in mind, which apartment would you choose to live in?

Leave a comment below, I’m interested to find out!

I’ll accept debate to as whether this is a home or an office. I call it The Hoffice


If you can’t live in the penthouse, why bother?



If you live here, you’ll never have to worry about people peaking into your windows (slats).



Plainer than others, but all the balconies on this building look out over a cool river.Plane Jane


I can’t even imagine how much this penthouse must cost.Penthouse


Sort of boring, but I’m a sucker for the color scheme and design.

Orange and White


Black and white, or is it white and black?

Black and White


This building is offices.. But I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the world’s largest slice of cheese.



Top floor for the wind, and for the sun.

Red Brick


I don’t think I can afford to live here just yet.



What’s the point of having a sick ass apartment if you can’t drive to it in a 458?

Black on Black

I’d like to introduce you to Benny. This is exactly how he looked as his flight home was taking of from Kiev’s international airport. You may notice several things, like the filthy shirt and the somewhat haphazard manner in which he’s sleeping.

What you can’t see are the lack of a wallet, telephone, and impressive facial reconstruction courtesy of several unknown fists. After a heavy night of partying Benny was mugged, and as Benny himself pointed out;

“This is going to be a good story to tell in a month or two.”

The Party Animal

Benny checked into our hostel on Monday night and as soon as it got dark outside he left. The next morning he came back sometime around 7, which set a pattern for the days to come.

After he woke up in the evening, I took him out for steak and then we ended up going to a few bars around Kiev. When we came back to the hostel at midnight I was ready to call it a night, but despite partying till past sunrise the night before, Benny wanted more.

So he went to the club and I went to sleep.

This story continued to repeat itself. Benny would party till sunrise then sleep till 6 pm. He would eat something and go out again. He never once actually woke up early enough to go see anything in the city nor did he ever allow his liver a chance to recover.

After the fourth day in a row of this he felt sick, couldn’t eat anything and looked pale.

“I ate some bad soup” he said to me. “Dammit, why do I always get bad food at restaurants?”

“Maybe it’s just that you’ve been getting drunk every night and your body hates you?” I asked pleasantly.

“No, I don’t think that’s it. I’m pretty sure it’s the soup..”

A Last Chance Resolution

Sunday afternoon, his last day in Kiev, Benny resolved to do something cultural and enlightening. He reserved a ticket to the opera and left sometime around four. Well the next day rolled around and at 7 am, his usual return time, he still wasn’t back.

8 came and went.

9 came and went.

The owner of our hostel suggested he just took off without paying. “Sometimes people just go and all we find is a crummy backpack with some bad clothes.”

Curse you Benny! I thought to myself, while secretly at least slightly pleased that I would get to keep his beat up copy of The FountainheadBut then we looked at his things and saw his British Passport. That was a clue something was amiss.

“He’s in jail!” I said in Russian to my friend.

Benny Returns from the Dead

10 was just about to come and go, when I walked down the stairs to the common area and there was Benny, stumbling drunk and looking like hell. His shirt was wrecked with dirt, his face had been worked on, and I had trouble imagine the amount of alcohol that this seasoned drinker must have taken in to be walking like Ernest Hemingway at an open bar wedding.

“Worst night of my life!” He said to me in his English accent. “Worst fucking night of my life!”

He got himself seated on the couch, then he broke it down.

“I went out and I was at the bar. Then after that I saw these homeless guys and I thought yeah, that’s cool you know. So I bought them three bottles of vodka and we all drank together. And it was all chill you know. But then one guy asked me for 50 Grivna and I said no. Then something happened and he punched me, and I punched him. And it was like crazy! But he had this really big friend and he came and punched me. And then there was like a million guys punching me and it just sucked! But I showed them though. When they were going for my phone I didn’t let them have it.”

At this point he mimed picking up his phone high in his hand..

“I took it up and smashed it on the concrete so they couldn’t use it, and then before they could take my wallet I bent up my ATM card so it’s useless. They still took all my money though, so I guess they did sort of win in a way.”

Minutes after this he went into a vodka induced coma from which we were physically unable to rouse him. I have a video of us trying to get him to wake up but I’ll keep that to myself.

Needless to say, Benny did not make his flight back home..

Curse you Kiev!

You can blame who or what you want, but I think the root of the problem here is clear..

What kind of city sells beer for a dollar at any bar anywhere in the city!

Obviously whoever created this policy didn’t take into account that some people come from places where alcohol is expensive. When they arrive in Kiev they simply don’t know how to conduct themselves.

What is for some of us a blessing is for others a curse. Benny was in Kiev for a week and I don’t think he ever saw anything besides the inside of bar. We have no idea if he ever made it to the opera or not.

Earlier in life I wasn’t a soup guy. I liked the stuff my mom made but that was about it. Now though, I’ve found a dish I could eat every day for the rest of my life. Borsch is a fantastic blend of vegetables, spices, and magic.

This recipe came from Mama Luda, who grew up in Norther Ukraine and learned how to cook from her mother. She was nice enough to cook it with me one morning and allowed me to write down the recipe.

Remember though, if you decide to make it, you have to eat it with a dollop of sour cream. It’s tradition and it’s delicious.

Ukrainian Red Borsch


-7 to 10 medium sized Potatoes
-2 Small green onions (regular onions will do too, one medium sized onion is sufficient)
-2 to 3 Carrots
-3 to 5 Beets (plus the leaves too if you can get them)
-1 to 2 Tomatoes (tomato sauce will also work)
-Half head of cabbage
-A teaspoon or so of sugar
-A little bit of fresh dill
-Salt and Pepper optional


1) Cut up the carrots and beats into small pieces

2) Cup up potatoes, onions and beet leaves into small chunks and add them to a big soup pot with about 1.5 liters of water. Set this pan on a high heat to boil, and then when it does boil turn down the heat to low

3) Fry carrots in a bit of oil and after several minutes add the beets, tomatoes, and a touch of sugar. Fry the lot of it till the carrots and beets begin to brown then set aside

4) Consider what life must have been like under communist rule

5) Cut up or shred the cabbage into inch long pieces

6) When the potatoes in the pan are soft and ready, then add the cabbage to the mixture

7) Continue to cook on a low boil and add water as you see fit (perhaps another half liter or so, depending on how it looks)

8) If you don’t have tomatoes and are using sauce, you can add it to the boiling water after the cabbage

9) Wash your dill in cold water then warm water. After that, cut it up into very small pieces

10) Several minutes after adding the cabbage, add the beet, carrot and tomato mixture to the boiling water. Put a little bit of water into the pan you fried that all in then dump it into the soup pan, ensuring you don’t leave any delicious bits stuck in the pan

11) Stir, add salt and pepper if you so desire.

12) Once the cabbage, beets, and carrots are cooked and soft, then add your fresh cut dill. Stir it into the soup thoroughly then turn off the heat.

13) Make mental note to buy more vodka as you only have one bottle left and you may want to get drunk tonight

14) Let stand ten minutes and then serve with sour cream on the side (this step is incredibly important and must be obeyed at all costs)


You have now made traditional Ukrainian Borsch!

Being in Ukraine right now is incredibly good for my business spirit. I’m surrounded by people who are making do without a lot of money. However, it’s not a permanent state of mind.

One of the worst curses of poverty is the state of mind that goes with it. People in poverty often believe that they cannot change things. Even if there is an opportunity to better their situation and make a positive change, a person with a poverty mindset won’t see it.

Fixing Poverty

People toss around statistics sometimes.

“With X Billions of dollars we could get rid of poverty in the United States.”

I disagree. Even if you bought every person in poverty a new apartment, and gave them job training, and made sure they had enough food, it would do nothing to change their underlying mental thought patterns.

It can take years to radically change the way you view your environment. Most people don’t have the gumption to switch to a new way of thinking. Thus, most people either have it, or they don’t.

Ambition and Action

That’s why I freaking love it here in Kiev. Even though many people are surviving on a very small salary, they have exactly the opposite of a poverty mindset. Most of the Ukrainians I meet are hustling to make more money and improve their situation.

One guy I know has invested money in an online business and has started earning a return. Another is taking programming classes. I just met a guy my age who founded his own English language school with some friends, and they’re expanding the business right now.

This spirit is infectious!

I’m working towards developing a monthly income from online work at the moment, and I feel like a Ukrainian. I’m proud to say that too. Admittedly I haven’t really been that many places, but I definitely identify more with Ukrainians than Russians.

Living Carefully

Another thing I’ve noticed is that people here are careful with money. They don’t buy something new if they can fix the old thing. They don’t eat out when they can cook at home.

I think America should take lessons. We are so quick to throw out our stuff and buy something new that we have lost touch with our roots.

Almost a hundred years ago America was in a depression and people were hustling. Food was a question not a guarantee. Today, our waistlines prove that this is no longer the case.

As do our landfills.

We’ve lost touch with what it means to economize and hustle and jump for opportunities. That’s why I think everyone could benefit from some Ukrainian spirit. This is a fantastic country that’s on the rise. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for all the hard working Ukrainians I’ve had the pleasure to meet!