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New month, new goals!
Here’s mine for April 2013:
Brief explanation of each:
1.) NevBox out:
From my Neville Letters experience I learned that a lot of people subscribing were at varying levels of life and business….and something that was worth $1,000 to one person, was worth maybe $40 to another.
But I still want to send out a physical box of stuff for anyone trying to learn copywriting better (even small improvements in your writing can result in ridiculous improvements in your business life….so it’s a pretty damn great deal).
I’ll be making about 200 of these letters (actually it’ll be a physical box with several letters), and sending them out this month.
Dammit…..now my new apartment is gonna be covered in packing material :-/
2.) Make $ Vid on Kopy.tv My latest kopy.tv video is one on how exactly I make money. This is a common question I get from family and friends…..and even after I explain it, they have NO CLUE what the hell I actually do.
When I show people through a computer how everything works, they totally get it. So for this reason I’m putting together a vid explaining it all (mainly so I can just say “uuhhhh…..just watch this YouTube video” when people ask what I do) ;-)
3.) Kopy switch
I’ve got 11 digital products out now….all of varying subjects. They’re getting too damn un-related to each other. So I’m making a shift based on a simple formula:
Does it relate to kopywriting? (If = no) = (“don’t do it”).
So those are my April 2013 goals.
…..got yours yet??
One of the best investments I’ve EVER made in my life was a small book called:
This is Earl Nightingale.
by Earl Nightingale.
It was published in 1969, and I have an original copy I bought on Amazon for maybe $15.
I’ve obsessively read books since I was younger, and so many of them are phenomenal….but this is THE ONE BOOK I would grab out of my house if it was on fire.
I’m not a very religious person, and I consider this book, the closest thing I have to a Bible.
BUT NEVILLEEEEE….WHY IS THIS BOOK SO GOOD??
The book is just transcripts of a 5-minute radio spot Earl Nightingale used to do in the 1960’s.
He did over 5,000 of these small radio shows about various topics (he was like a blogger back in the day, but his medium was radio).
The book contains about 80 of these transcripts. Each being an average of 3 pages each.
Theoretically I can read each chapter in about 30 seconds. However every damn time I pick up this book, I read one or two chapters, and it literally takes me 10+ minutes or more.
The reason is each chapter is so incredibly thought-provoking, and mind-shifting, and new-idea-giving that they make me sit there and THINK.
THE WAY I USE THE BOOK:
It’s pretty damn simple:
If I’m confused, pissed off, sad, or lazy (or in some similar state that is not desirable)….I pick up this book and open a random chapter.
Within a few minutes of reading, I generally have a paper/pen out and am jotting out the quickest solution to my problems.
It’s almost like a sure-fire way to make me feel better since it gets me thinking RATIONALLY about an issue I may have, rather than just “oh poor me complain complain complain” shitty circular thinking that gets you no where.
I HOPE YOU ENJOY!
I have no affiliation with Earl Nightingale. Or am trying to get anyone to buy the book for any reason whatsoever.
Just thought I’d share what I consider to be one of the greatest investments in myself I’ve ever made.
Reading the book over tea in Kerala, India.
I refer to this book when I have a problem. It’s like a Bible, except without all the fiction.
I love this book. Such a tiny investment has yielded huge results.
A sampling of some of the chapters. I randomly open the book and start reading. Never fails.
You see, last Friday night in Austin, I spent a nice evening with a special someone. We took her dog out for a walk around the Capitol building, and just 5 steps from home, a random dog runs out of the alley across the street and starts attacking.
In one second, the night transformed from a pleasant evening out, to breaking up a dog fight. This random pit bull started tearing into the chocolate lab we were walking…..instinctively going for the jugular.
The pit bull had a dog harness on, but no leash attached. Whilst he was in full attack mode, I grabbed him by the harness and pulled him off the other dog.
NORMALLY this would be enough to break up a dog fight, but BOTH dogs came with the pull. This meant the pit bull had latched on so hard, the other dog got dragged by the neck.
I tried my best to break the pit bull off. I tried to choke it, hit it, gouge it’s eyes out…and eventually wrestled it to the ground in a choke-hold with it’s locked-down jaws just inches from my face (in hindsight, that wasn’t smart).
After roughly 45 seconds of watching this pit bull randomly started attacking our dog, we got it to briefly let go and got our dog out of his grip…..but the next thing I know MY hand is fully in his mouth!
I recall him chomping down for about 5 full seconds before somehow getting him off.
Lots of cursing was involved. Apparently that didn’t help much.
The dogs owner appeared from the same alley, awakened by the quarrel, and got the dog on a leash.
By this time my right hand had a bunch of holes in it, including one where I could see bone through the top of my hand.
I grabbed the camera in my pocket with my left hand, and made damn-sure I got video evidence of what just happened.
Here’s that fucker and his dog:
So immediately an ambulance is called, and within 5 minutes I’m being taken to the hospital.
I could tell the paramedic on duty almost thought my little “doggy bite” was comical compared to what he’s probably seen already on a Friday night. But my hand felt like it was on fire….and more importantly, I just got bit by a dog that sleeps in an alley and has a homeless owner.
This means potential RABIES (100% fatal once you get it).
At the hospital they cleaned my wounds by shooting saline directly into the wounds and letting it bleed out. Someone told me, “There’s a realllyyyy small chance this dog has rabies, but there’s a 100% chance it has bacteria on it’s teeth.”
For this reason I couldn’t get stitches on any of the puncture wounds (only one of the punctures actually needed it). Instead they have to sit open, because animal bites apparently have a HUGE chance of getting infected.
The pressurized saline cleaning hurt like hell, so they drugged me up, and gave me topical anesthetic which was injected directly into my hand around the wounds.
I also got another shot in my arm. I have no idea what the hell that shot was.
Here’s the main bite hole that I could see my bone through:
The police came and filed a report, the hospital drugged me up with pain meds, anti-biotics and sent me home. The girlfriend lovingly took care of me and her dog for the next few days since I couldn’t do basic things like tie my shoelaces or put on my watch (not to mention the pain meds made me a useless lazy ass).
Come Sunday I went for a checkup and to get a rabies injection.
LEMME TELL YOU WHY YOU’LL NEVER WANT A FUCKING RABIES INJECTION:
Apparently all you gotta do is “…get a few shots.”
It goes like this:
1st Injection = 1 injection + 1 vial of anti-globulins directly into the wounds.
2nd Injection = 1 injection in arm 3 days after bite.
3rd Injection = 1 injection in arm 7 days after bite.
4th Injection = 1 injection in arm 14 days after bite.
No problem with the followup shots (other than the fact I was gonna be in India for them). They are regular shots and easy to take.
The main problem was on the 1st injection day, when the nurse told me, “We just have to give you this…” and she held up a vial of medicine.
Whatever. No biggie.
But then this lady comes back with FIVE FULL NEEDLES OF MEDICINE. Apparently “one little vial” fills up five needles.
Then to top it off, this anti-globulin medicine has to be DIRECTLY INJECTED INTO THE WOUNDS.
This means if the bites go into your skin, the medicine has to be injected alllllll around the INSIDE of the wound.
This. Was. Fucking. PAINFUL AS SHIT.
Sorry for all the cursing, but it was nothing compared to what I was yelling as the doctor stuck my (already incredibly sensitive) hand about 10 times with a needle.
It felt like I was being tortured.
Compared to what injured war veterans go through, or people with true illnesses….this must have been nothing. But until this point in my life, I can’t recall anything that hurt so god damn bad.
The pain meds wore off the second that needle hit my hand.
SO HERE’S SOMETHING INTERERESTING AND KINDA FU**CKED UP:
1st hospital visit including ambulance ride = $661.
2nd hospital visit for 1st rabies injection = $7,500 !!!
Now I’m fully health-insurance’d up. But $7,500 to get some shots??
I asked the lady for a breakdown of costs, and apparently the vial of anti-globulin stuff (they injected directly into the wounds) cost $7,000!!!
Plus I still had to get 3 follow-up shots that cost $315 per shot.
Already this damn dog had cost me $9,000+ …..the dog he attacked had to be treated and put on rabies quarantine (another $1,000+).
And this includes NON of the cost of inconvenience…..including me not finishing a product I could’ve promoted through AppSumo to 700,000+ people before I left for India.
I HATE THAT DOG.
Then it took about 3 days of jumping through hoops, calling doctors, and calling the state health department to find similar medications I could take in India.
Each followup rabies injection in the U.S.A. cost $315 to get.
In India….the same (but generic brand) vaccine cost me $7, and $3 to have a nurse inject me.
Granted the quality of medical facilities and procedures is different….it’s still shocking to know this 2-week rabies injection series could have been given in India for about $100 vs. $9,000+ over here.
If I didn’t have full coverage, it would’ve made more financial sense to buy a ticket to India, stay here for two weeks and get the injections!
Alright, enough complaining.
But if you’ve been wondering why I haven’t updated or responded to an email in a while, it’s because:
1.) Of this stupid dog + rabies injection stuff. (if you DO get rabies, it’s a 100% fatal disease….so I was taking this pretty seriously).
2.) I’m in India for the whole month. WiFi is still hard to come by here.
Have a great day, and don’t getting bitten by a homeless guy’s un-tagged, un-vaccinated, aggressive pit bull.
P.S. Stupid dog.
P.P.S. I’m in India where the bathroom situation is a “bit different” than what I’m used to. Let’s just say I’m right handed, but can only use my left. I’ll leave it at that and let your imagination do the rest. Gross.
**This is a re-post of an email I sent out. However it was long and marked-up with words like “make money” so my email client didn’t like it. Posting here so people could see it:
I don’t know how to explain this easily, so I’m going to start with a very personal example…..maybe you can relate:
Sometimes whenever I’m seeing a girl, and start “liking” her more and more…..and she likes me back…..I’ll occasionally start thinking of all these horrible situations in my head like:
–”the last text message she sent didn’t have a smiley face or exclamation mark…..is she pissed? I bet she’s playing games or being weird…”
–”what if we go to this party together and she starts making out with another guy?? I bet I would walk out and tell her I never wanna see her again…..”
I’m not an insecure guy….but these kind of weiiiirrrddd ass thought scenarios play out in my head from time to time. And don’t lie and say you’ve never done it either!
The craziest damn thing is:
Soon after thinking this stuff and getting all worked up…..the girl will call or text something sweet and I’ll feel all excited and giddy.
I know none of those scenarios are very likely if things are good…..so why does the brain torture itself with this shit?
AND THAT’S JUST RELATIONSHIP DRAMA.
When it comes to practical things like growing a business, being better at your job, or getting out of a horrible living situation…..this same kind of negative thinking happens.
You might be in the shower, and start thinking negatively like:
–”I can’t compete with those other guys….they’re so much better than me…”
–”I’m pretty sure I might get laid off soon….then what? What will I do? Where will I get money? What will I tell friends?”
–”I hate living here….but I don’t have enough money to move….and I don’t even know where to move…..and I don’t even know what the financial criteria to live somewhere else is.”
……and you’ll ask yourself these negative-based questions in the shower, or laying in bed at night, or while driving. And it depresses the hell out of you and give you ZERO solutions.
SO WHY THE HELL WOULD SOMEONE DO THIS TO THEMSELVES??
FIRST.) It’s normal to occasionally have weird thoughts like this….but only temporarily.
SECOND.) You’re asking yourself shitty negative questions in your head that go nowhere.
But don’t fret….I’m not gonna tell you the solution is to “think positive and be grateful!!!”
LEAVE IT FOR THE HIPPIES.
I’ve never been a fan of this “Just be grateful” crap. I’ve tried being “grateful” for every damn thing I have…..but in the end simply “being grateful” doesn’t get you real solutions.
Lemme give you a real solution…..
The way to stop this is to:
Ask constructive questions that poke your brain into thinking differently.
Apparently the trick is not finding the right ANSWER…….but finding the right QUESTIONS that will get you to the answer. (read that one more time and let it sink in).
There’s too many problems in life to know the answers to everything, but we can construct sets of thoughtful questions that will nudge us towards the best answer.
(my mind was blown when I came to this realization)…..
SO LET’S JUMP ON SOME EXAMPLES OF WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT:
Instead of asking your brain:
“How can I make more money?”
(this question will just spin your wheels on wacky biz ideas).
You can instead flip the question into:
“What can I do for other people, so they WANT to give me money?”
(this question will instead identify real ways of providing value & service to others…..which in turn will equal money).
Instead of asking your brain:
“I wonder why he’s mad at me?”
(this question will make you start thinking about all sorts of crazy scenarios and just work you up & make the problem worse).
You can instead flip the question into:
“If he did to me…..what I just did to him…..how would I feel??”
(this question will reverse the roles, and make you think more empathetically than selfishly. It might also help you understand that you WERE in fact wrong, and owe someone an apology….not the other way around).
SO UNDERSTAND THIS MY YOUNG & DUMB FRIEND:
When you flip the question around, you will get totally different answers.
But this is just ONE of many (about 10) brain hacks I’ve found that get me out of “Shitty Thinking Mode” and into constructive thoughts that give me real answers.
I originally made a document on my desktop that outlines each of these methods….and every time I have a problem, I’ll open it and scroll through the questions to.
I’ll apply my problem to just one or two of the brain-poking questions…..and within seconds it’ll spark thoughts and solutions in my head, and get me on the right track to solving the problem. JUST FROM A SIMPLE DOCUMENT ON MY DESKTOP.
But since I’m a greedy capitalist I decided to put out a small product that can be used anytime to solve problems.
OH WAIT….let me re-word that last sentence to be more constructive!
I’ve absorbed toonnss of advice over the years that I’ve distilled down into 10 brain-hacking questions…..which “poke” my brain into finding the answer to nearly every question I have. Now I want to share these with the world.
I do have a document I use like this, but it’s kind of useless for most people (since it was originally meant just for me).
SO I WANT TO KNOW IF YOU WOULD LIKE IT.
I’m currently working with my assistant to make it all nice-looking and helpful, and want to know what questions you have all the time you need might want assistance with.
It can be business stuff, personal stuff, relationship stuff….whatever.
Can you take a quick moment to write even just ONE tough question you’ve asked yourself lately? Just fill out the one-question form (2nd question is just there in case you wanna add comments):
Everyone wants ANSWERS, but the right QUESTIONS are what you need to be asking…..in order to find the best answers.
Lemme know what’s troubling you….and I’m gonna do my best to make a quick doc you can leave on your computer desktop that will help you solve it.
Thank you :-)
Neville – A kopywriting problem solver
P.S. Make sure to send me question(s) you often ask your brain. Enter them on this form.
P.P.S. Hope the above examples already jogged your brain into thinking A LITTLE differently already. Just ONE tweak of a question can launch you down a whole new path…..so don’t underestimate the power of this stuff.
BAH….I looked at my blog in January 2013, and realized I still had December 2012 goals up:
Now this doesn’t seem like a big deal….but if 22 days into January I’m JUST noticing this, it clearly means something’s off.
And there has been.
The end of the year always gets a bit crazy….and in 2012 I totally embraced it by kind of “stopping work” for a while.
I was so busy going out of town, going to weddings (I was invited to NINE weddings in 2012!!), distracted by birthday festivities (including an unforgettable trip to Cuba), that I literally did nothing some days, and didn’t care.
But then 2013 finally swung around, and it was time to work again.
Unfortunately, “starting to use your brain again” is a lot like going back to the gym after taking 2 months off. IT’S HARD TO GET BACK TO WHERE YOU WERE.
I believe it was Epictetus who said:
Books are like the training weights of the mind.
I vividly remember hearing that quote for the first time, and suddenly realize the brain is very much like a muscle….if you train it well (consistently), it will perform well. If you don’t, it will rot away.
Well my brain kind of rotted during that time, and the result was lazy ass days.
You can probably relate…..I would wake up in my apartment, it’s cold outside, maybe a little gloomy…..and the draw off just “sleeping a little more” in my warm bed is WAY better than waking up.
When I would finally wake my lazy ass up:
I’d have some tea or a smoothie, go to the gym (conveniently inside my apt complex), do some household chores…..and then TAKE A NAP. Take a nap?? From what effort?
It’s like laziness begets MORE laziness. Here’s what a worthless lazy-ass looks like:
OK OK OK ….enough complaining about being lazy, and onto the solutions.
Clearly I was lacking something important: ACCOUNTABILITY.
I often use this blog as a way to keep accountable, but unfortunately there’s no consequences to NOT accomplishing goals. So I did a little Googling, and quickly found an Accountability Coach.
Now this isn’t necessarily a life coach, or a business coach….this is someone who makes sure I accomplish major things each week.
The trick to this, is to NOT find someone who will simply yell at me for not doing something. That kind of accountability fades when the person isn’t around….and after a while you just grow annoyed and resentful.
I wanted someone more like Adam of MyBodyTutor who changes your habits based on talking about why you want them, your goals….yadda yadda. This method worked really well during my six-pack experiment, so I figure it’ll work again.
So now I have an accountability coach. It’s already got me back on track….and gets me nervous when approaching a deadline I set, and haven’t done it. GOOD!
……the second part of this is I hired a personal trainer.
I’ve never felt I needed one, but an experience a friend had was pretty damn great, so I’m giving it a shot.
The reason is:
I (sort-of) know how to exercise, but in my head, I’ll only push hard as I “think” I can go. The right trainer will push me WAY harder. They’ll also take me out of the comfort of the same-old exercises I’m used to.
EXAMPLE: The first time we met, he made me do all these weird poses and bends that were purposely designed to find where I’m weakest. Turns out flexibility in my back is crappy, and some of my vertical shoulder movements are stiff.
I already knew I’m not very flexible in those areas (it becomes obvious when I do Bikram Yoga), so I always do exercises that don’t push on those areas too much. BUT THE TRAINER DOESN’T CARE.
So the first time we actually did a full workout, he purposely had me doing “seemingly simple” exercises…..but when performed correctly, they directly focused on my weak areas. They would get so tiring, I would’ve normally given up….but since there’s someone with a close eye on me and pushing me…..I kept doing them.
ANYHOW, so here were my January 2013 goals I wrote out in December 2012, and I’m finally posting them:
Here’s some goals for 2013 I plotted out on the 7 foot tall mirror in my living room with dry erase markers (didn’t feel like writing it on a small piece of paper):
On a closing note…..here’s a great interview with Conan O’brien (being serious) and Jack White talking about Jack White’s work habits. When he finds himself too comfortable, he gets ZERO done…..so he sets up obligations that he must meet, so he actually gets his work done:
Make a professional-looking video-intro for my Kopy.tv videos.
The problem is I don’t know how to make snazzy little video clips like that. However in my head, I SOOORRRT OF knew what I wanted.
This required I hired some outsourced person to do it for me. Now for most people this kind of task intimidates them, and they’d spend way too much time “storyboarding” their idea or drawing it out.
But I’m lazy….and tried to spend the least amount of time possible on this….so I made this quick YouTube video describing what I wanted. Look how ghetto it is:
I made this with Camtasia screen capture software in less than 5 minutes.
Notice how I didn’t even really have any font suggestions or anything. After all, I was paying a designer to make those decisions for me (what the hell do I know about fonts)??
So with JUST THAT VIDEO as direction, I went to look for a designer on eLance or RentACoder……but then remembered a guy named Samuel Pitcher because he made this AppSumo animation for us because he liked AppSumo.
I was impressed because he took our static logo, and made it into an animated video…..without asking him. We now use that animation for EVERY AppSumo video!
I decided to give Samuel a try before going elsewhere, and sent him the above “specification” video for the Kopy.tv animation, and within 2 days he came back with this:
PRETTY DAMN GOOD EH!!
I was blown away. It was short, super-clean, and looked amazing.
That’s the benefit of a great designer…..they just “do it” without asking too many questions. You’re essentially paying them to make your creative decisions.
It’s nice to give them SOME direction so you’re both on the same page….but notice how easy that was in the specification video I sent. Not hard as some people make “outsourcing” seem.
SO TWO THINGS LEARNED HERE: 1.) When outsourcing something, it’s often good to make a video explaining it.
You can see a video Noah and I did about outsourcing tips here.
You can see another example of my outsourcing here.
2.) If you need a great graphics or animation designer….hit up Samuel Pitcher (at least bookmark his name in your contacts):
BY THE WAY:
Please don’t hit up designers asking for free work. The good one’s won’t do it, and you get what you pay for. Even though an animation maybe short, if it’s going to be seen in ALL your branding, it’s worth getting it done well!
For the 1st part of my 30th birthday, I went to the F1 races, then Noah threw me a surprise party that night.
For the 2nd part of my 30th bday, I went to Cuba (actually Noah planned this whole trip too…..that was damn nice of him eh!)
Cuba was appealing because it’s this weird “time capsule” of a place. The United States has an embargo against Cuba, so Cuba has very little importing options….not to mention it’s a communist country (well….I guess technically it’s “socialist”). This means the government can strictly control the imports, exports, the currency….and thus, the people.
For example, for the locals of Cuba:
…they are not allowed to leave Cuba.
…they are not allowed to use the internet.
…they are not supposed to get close with any tourists.
…they are not allowed to openly talk bad about the government.
…all sorts of other stuff.
There’s also not a lot of industry going on in Cuba….this means most of the local population is quite poor, many of them making something like $13 to $18 U.S. dollars A MONTH. That’s right, A MONTH.
A doctor in Cuba, even a surgeon, gets paid only $40 A FREAKIN’ MONTH.
Almost hard to believe.
The way they survive on this small sum of money is because Cuba has two currencies (both of which outside of Cuba are worth nothing).
FIRST CURRENCY is called the Cuban Convertible Peso, and is roughly 1-to-1 with American dollars. Tourists use this currency, and prices everywhere are pretty decent with this currency. We could eat a nice lunch, complete with beers, for 6 people, for about $30 to $45. Not bad. Unless you’re eating at the really nice tourist-y places, you probably won’t spend a crazy amount on food.
SECOND CURRENCY is the Cuban Peso, and is for locals only. Tourists aren’t supposed to use it, and the locals aren’t “supposed to” accept it from tourists (notice the “supposed to” in quotes). This currency is 250 per 1 American dollar. My friend heard that you could buy things RIDIIIICCCULOUSLY cheap in local areas if you somehow get a hold of this currency.
He found a place that would let him get some, and he decided to change just $20 U.S. Dollars. The lady at the front asked him, “Ummm….are you SURE?” He agreed, and got a HUGE STACK OF $5,000 IN LOCAL BILLS. It was like a giant strip-club stack of $20 bills!
Whenever we went to local places that accepted this currency, this is what we spent:
4 bowls of ice cream at a sit-down ice cream parlor (4 scoops per bowl) = $0.20 USD total
Bottle of rum + mixers = $2.90 USD
Personal pizza = $0.15 USD
After paying with local currency at every place possible (sometimes convincing is needed), my friend still had $10 USD in local currency left over!
However almost everyone we spoke with about Cuba told us the local currency was useless for tourists. It worked well for us because 3 of us were brown, and my friend using the currency spoke very fluent Spanish.
However this local currency only worked in certain places, definitely not everywhere. I still ended up spending about $2,000 in six days (about 20% was skimmed off each money exchange, and much of it was to pay for the big penthouse condo we rented).
One of the greatest parts about living in a society that’s “slightly less than 1st world” is bribing (well…presuming you’re rich in that country….otherwise it sucks for you)!
Anytime there’s a long line at the airport, it “can be solved” with some monetary lubrication.
Anytime you need a table at a restaurant with a huge wait…..no problem.
BEST JOBS IN CUBA:
In a perfect society, I’d think doctors, teachers, and businessmen should make the most money…..HOWEVER, in Cuba, we found out one of the best jobs to ever have is a bartender in a touristy spot!
The bartenders sling drinks all day, and get tipped in Cuba Convertible Pesos (about 1-to-1 with American dollars). This means they can rake in $150+ a day. And when you consider the average Cuban peasant makes something like $13 to $18 a MONTH, that’s a helluvalot of money.
The next best job is a taxi driver. The government “owns” the taxis, but the drivers get to keep much of their tips. Someone shuttling around tourists all day can make decent tips, and support an entire family pretty well on that job.
It was interesting yet kinda sad how a bartender or taxi driver make literally 100x what a doctor makes.
The country actually felt VERY safe. I have a reasonably good “Spidey Sense” of what situations will get me into “fake” trouble (ex: security guard telling you to stop doing something), and what will get me into “real” trouble (ex: going to jail in a communist country).
….and I gotta say, Cuba was pretty safe. Since their criminal justice system is so harsh on crime, there is very little of it. I heard pickpocketing and petty crimes are reasonably common, but serious crimes are not.
Actually in Mexico and China I’ve felt MUCH stronger security presences than Cuba. I really expected to see armed guards everywhere around Cuba, but alas hardly saw a single one. Even the police officers seemed chill and nice, and about 80% didn’t even carry guns.
Pretty much everywhere we went, the vibe of the country was “super chill”. It was very safe.
GETTING INTO THE COUNTRY FOR U.S. CITIZENS:
Pretty much any other country in the world can openly travel to Cuba with no issue. However Americans can’t legally go “just like that” because of the embargo we have against Cuba since 1962. But there are many options to go:
GETTING A VISA:
American Citizens can go to Cuba legally if they have family members there, going for diplomatic reasons, going for foreign aid reasons……and the most common is “cultural” reasons. This is for students and tourists. There are many tour companies that will charge you money and get you a “legal” visa to Cuba…..but I’m almost certain some of these are scams, read the next way of entering the country:
U.S. citizens can “try” this little stunt if so chosen:
Get a flight to some country such as Mexico, Belize, Guatemala …wherever. Then fly to Havana, Cuba from there. Your passport will get stamped on the way out of the country, however, Cuba stamps only the Cuban visas (which any person can buy at the airport for $25 each). This visa is just a piece of paper that’s NOT affixed to your passport.
This means for Americans, they stamp the paper on the way into the country, and the way out of the country. So your passport is untouched.
For example, one could “just hypothetically” do this:
Go to Cancun, Mexico.
Buy a flight to Cuba.
At the airport, find a place to get Cuban visas. They’re $25 each.
Fly to Cuba, have a good time.
Fly back to Cancun.
Fly back to the U.S.
From what I understand through research and talking to many people who’ve done something similar, the U.S. no longer takes the Cuban embargo ultra-seriously.
THE TIME-CAPSULE EFFECT:
One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Cuba right now, is the “time-capsule” effect the American embargo has on the country. Essentially they have a bunch of old cars from the 50′s rolling around, no internet and very limited cell phone use.
I can go to a rural farm in India, and the farmer will be text messaging his kids. However in Cuba I hardly saw ANY locals with a phone. The only phones I saw being used were carried by hustlers, tourists, or students.
It was also almost wholly “brand-less” when driving around. No billboards, no overt advertisements except inside the actual establishments.
You’ll definitely need to know some Spanish if you visit. However you can make it around the tourist-y areas ok without it. All 6 of us on the trip spoke and understood at least A LITTLE Spanish. Two people with us spoke damn-near fluent, so that helped a ton for using local currency, getting information, and exploring areas where tourists don’t go.
CULTURE & MIS-INFORMATION: Initially I thought we’d see propaganda everywhere, kind of like I’ve seen in China….but to my surprise it was shockingly little. Instead the people are left relatively ignorant of the outside world through not being able to leave the country, no internet, and mainly: Very little access to outside information.
Their bookstores only sold American literature if it was something like an old classic novel (Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway etc). There were a lot of books about Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. But completely absent were any new releases.
Almost no Cubans have ever left the country. Almost no information about the outside world is easily seen.
THE CONTINGENCY PLAN:
After researching Cuba, it turns out things were pretty safe. So here’s how I rationalized it:
98% chance things would all work out completely fine and we’d all get home safe.
1% chance of us getting stopped for questioning….perhaps get a small fine.
1% chance that I somehow end up in a Cuban jail with no way out.
In the REALLY OFF CHANCE that I (or someone in the group) were to end up in some really deep-shit trouble whilst in Cuba, I made a small document called “The Contingency Plan.”
I sent the document to two close friends who I trust, and also know my family & friends well enough to get things in motion.
The document contained certain contact information, and also instructions on where to find a small envelope which contained some bank account information. This bank account had immediately access to $200k in cash…..so if by some REMOTE CHANCE I didn’t arrive back home from Cuba…..the contingency plan would kick into gear and be well funded.
After going on the trip and seeing how safe the country actually was, I probably wouldn’t deem a Contingency Plan necessary for the next trip……but it was nice to know I had backups coming for us in case something happened.
SCREW ALL THIS WRITING, HERE’S SOME PICTURES!
Here’s some video highlights of the trip (me and my brother bought a $60 guitar in Cuba and made VERY good use of it)!
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