Category Archives for "Travel"

Travel tips, thoughts

Travels: Zurich, Switzerland

Destination: Zurich, Switzerland

Dates of travel: 1-6 November 2018
Reason of travel: Facilitate Startup Weekend Zurich

Zurich is great! I highly recommend adding it to your European visit list. You may not be able to afford too much of it due to the high costs of nearly everything, but it is a well thought out city with great people and amenities.


This is a hard one; Europe doesn’t really have a good taco scene and Zurich isn’t immune.


Zurich, like many other European cities doesn’t lack on bakeries or baked items available in grocery stores or kiosks that are about the town.  No cream cheese danish worth writing about.


THIS IS AMAZING! Zurich has public water fountains nearly everywhere. These aren’t the typical sterile industrial water fountain with a turn handle but rather art installation that continually flow water for you to drink directly from or to fill your water bottle. Water fountains are also listed as a searchable item in the Maps.Me app. My favorite app CityMapper hasn’t made it to Zurich yet.


Amazing public transit for the size of the community. Trains, trams and Ubers are clean and efficient. Transiting from the airport is simple. For about $9USD at the time of writing you can get a 24 hour daily pass from any of the kiosks around a transit stop to move about up to 2 zones in the region on any form of transport. Very convenient and effective. The Swiss have done a great job at digitizing the transit schedule and there are ample signs telling you the upcoming trains and trams; however the only item that was hard to get used to and confusing is that the common clock is analog but all the signs are digital — even on the digital screen. You don’t swipe any transit pass for on/off privileges but if stopped by a transit authority you must show proof of purchase.

Transit App: Of course you can use Google Maps (easily download the area for offline viewing) or Maps.Me for your data Download the app SBB Mobile for Switzerland based transit instructions. Pay attention to the Touch Timetable where you can put your top 13 destinations or frequently used stations and do a quick point A to point B drop and the app gives you transit information. This is really, really slick and appears to be powered by ubique ( and makes me wonder if there’s a way to use this touch timetable for a dating app.

Airport: The airport is modern, clean and easy to navigate. Signs are in German and English. Plenty of digital signs abound for updates on your flight schedule. Passengers on inbound international flights are quickly processed through normal customs and doesn’t take too much time and is not fear inducing from customs officers.  To use the wifi you have to scan a boarding pass at some of the information kiosks or have a local phone number for a confirmation code.  Why you can’t scan your boarding pass on their website is beyond me.

Purchases: nearly every shop or kiosk allows card payment, so it isn’t even necessary to have the local currency. Make sure to top up your prepaid international card or have your touch/paypass card ready.

Switzerland SIM & Wifi Data: This trip I didn’t purchase a local SIM because I have 2 more destinations after this and not all are covered under the plans and the cost is high, about $70USD for a 30 day plan. Wifi is available at all the train stations (Wireless name: SBB-FREE) and most chain stores, restaurants and cafes. Some may require you to subscribe with a Switzerland phone number so they can text you a confirmation code. This is a flaw in their system, for a pure data only use and no text messaging you’ll have an issue getting a code. However you can use the wifi login instructions and submit it and if your usual carrier allows international texts you’ll get the code. People like me that use Google Voice can’t get the confirmation code until later, but most of the time the code is good for 6 months and is attached to the number entered. If I had it to do over again I’d look into a year long SIM with text messages provided from somewhere cheap like Hong Kong for quick data of getting the text then turn the texting feature off.

Food: Food is expensive in Zurich but is high quality. A lunch set will cost $20-25/person. A cup of tea ranges from $5-8USD, depending on where you go and how big the glass or small tea pot provided. Drinking water is $3USD/person for unlimited still/tap water. Tip: keep filling your own water bottle at the public fountains. Fondue is a common item there and although good is very heavy. I estimate that a fondue set for a group of 4 people was about 2 pounds/1KG of cheese and served with small bread. That’s it — no fruit to dip, just bread. Locals will dunk their bread, swirl it around, scrape the bottom and eat it. Since it was my first time with fondue and how heavy the cheese is I had about 1/3 of the cheese on my small bread compared to others. The idea of sitting around a communal pot of cheese and eating is great for conversations and was delightful.

Lodging: The typical mix of lodging options exist from hostels, hotels to AirBNBs (add AirBNB referral code).

People: Zurich is an international city — there’s a difference from the locals to the international population. Language wise most people are at least bilingual and the spoken language by natives is Swiss-German a completely spoken version of German but isn’t written. Swiss-German sounds nicer to a nonspeaker where German speakers in Germany often sound (at least to me) angry in they speak and their diction.

Other: Incomes in Zurich are high, it would be great if you could earn a Zurich salary but live in Thailand or some other country that had a lower cost of living.

Innovation In A Backpack

April 2017 I started a journey to Australia for a role in rural and regional Queensland as an Entrepreneur in Residence under the RAPAD umbrella.



Since then I’ve had the opportunity to continue travelling the world with some trips for fun others in the innovation and entrepreneurship.

Before you leave the USA or your home country be sure to:

  • Setup a Transferwise account if you plan to have a USA bank account while abroad (keep your existing bank account, you may need it) . DO NOT pull out your USD and get a cashier check for deposit in a foreign country because you’ll be delayed 2-3 weeks in the transfer of funds and pay too much for currency conversion a sub midmarket rates. Taking a physical check to a foreign country is a lengthy process and doesn’t make much financial sense.
  • Renew your library subscription so you can download digital items while away. Most libraries have you renew every 2-3 years, so do it your last week in town and ask for their longest extension.
  • Set your old cell phone to a prepaid plan with an extended date of return if you want to keep your phone number. AT&T was really helpful with this and extended my old post paid plan to a $0.25USD/min plan with an account balance and a next activity date a year from departure. Verizon, Sprint and others my have something similar if you ask.
  • Setup a virtual phone number via Google Voice so you can have access to USA based texting just with a data connection.
  • Setup WhatsApp to your USA number before you disconnect text messaging on it and can get the confirmation number via a text message.
  • Get a VPN that works on your phone and laptop. I purchased an unlimited and multi-device via Keep Solid.
  • Get Global Entry – for $100USD it gives you quick entry back into the USA and avoid the long lines when entering the USA from abroad. Global Entry also provides for TSA Precheck to speed up departures at USA airports too on either international or domestic TSA security lines. Quite possibly the best $100 I have spent in a long time.
  • Check your electronics and see if they require just the 110V or can also operate at 220V. You’ll notice this on the back of the unit and will usually just say 110V-220V as the operating range and can handle any voltage. Select few items won’t have the ability to use both 110V & 220V.

Here’s my packing list

  • Osprey Porter 46 (via Amazon or slightly smaller Osprey Farpoint 40)
  • Osprey daypack (via Amazon)
  • Klean kanteen (Wanderlust) water bottle or similar with sports (via Amazon)
  • Powercube with 2xUSB and elastic cable ties
  • Converter (more than an adapter — it can handle multiple voltages)
  • Macbook Pro with charging cable & display adapters (at least HDMI, maybe VGA)
  • Cell phone with ability to change out a sim or dual SIMs
  • Headphones with travel pouch
  • Sonicare toothbrush and charger; I just wish it had a USB charger
  • Trimmer
  • Glasses & sunglasses in a case (if you wear them)
  • Towel
  • Shaving kit filled with
  • Clothing soap bar
  • Plastic spoon
  • Silicon collapsible container (via Amazon)
  • iPad with case that doubles as a stand and the following apps
    • Switcher Studio with 14 day free trial
    • Amazon Kindle App & eBook public Library subscription
    • Netflix
  • Shoes
    • Athletic/gym like FiveFingers
    • Boots
    • Sandals
  • Clothing
    • Merino wool shirts
    • Merino wool underwear
    • Merino wool socks (Darn Tough is my go-to brand)
    • Shorts (casual khaki)
  • Gym attire (shorts & wicking shirt)
  • Jeans
  • Belt
  • Lacrosse ball for self-massage and relieving muscle tension
  • Eye mask & earplugs
  • Swim Goggles (if you swim)