Tag Archives: life choices

Non-alcoholic wine bottles

The Non-Alcoholic Year In Review

On 10 January of last year, I decided to do a little experiment. I decided that I wouldn’t drink for a whole year. The logic was simple: I’d just been to Las Vegas, and found that drinking didn’t actually make things any better. Not drinking for a full year should make it obvious whether drinking actually makes me happier in any way, or not.

It’s almost a year later, and I’m ready to call the experiment complete. I’ve gone through all of the major events for a year without drinking, including Reveillon (New Year’s in Brazil). The conclusion is: I’m much happier not drinking, but other people aren’t. The actual act of drinking alcohol has nothing but negative effects, but the social implications are the problem. I rather liked not ever having a hangover (other than lack of sleep) and never having to worry about driving or flying. My overall happiness at events didn’t seem to change much: I either liked being with people or didn’t, the alcohol didn’t seem to make much of a difference.

Interestingly, I was right about this in a way too. If I say something like “I don’t feel like it right now” then I don’t have any problems. The moment there’s even a suggest that I don’t drink at all, people get all defensive and look at me funny.

Given that I don’t need to abstain but also don’t see any point in drinking, this suggests a middle path. In social company in which I’d like to, I’ll order a drink, cheers, have a sip, and then drink nothing more. Or nearly nothing. I’ll make sure to also have water on hand, since that’s really my preference.

That said, I’m still keeping my zero-tolerance policy for driving or flying. Doesn’t matter much in Brazil, since I don’t have a car, motorcycle, or airplane, but it just makes the decision easier.


Becoming a snowbird

I mentioned yesterday that I really can’t stay where I’m living now. The question becomes: where do I go? Before answering that, I need to take stock of what criteria to use for this decision. As will likely become a theme in this blog, the question really is “What’s important to me?”

  • Warmth. The whole point of this move is to escape the cold, otherwise I wouldn’t be moving.
  • Stable government. Much as I love my family in Egypt, there’s no way I’m moving there right now.
  • People and a community I can connect with
  • Good infrastructure, including a decent internet connection

That’s really about it. Everything else can be figured out.

Before we go too far, let me address the obvious answer. The US is not the right choice for a variety of reasons. They’ve become increasingly less hospitable to foreigners, even Canadians, just by their policies alone. While some people in the US are wonderful, there’s a lot of wilful ignorance. In particular, the parts of the US that would be the best choice are also the ones I’m least likely to want to live: Florida, Arizona, and the Southern States. California is about the only place in the US I would consider, but it’s expensive and also the farthest from here.

Where else? Well, there’s a variety of places I could consider:

  • New Zealand is lovely and the gliding is amazing, but expensive and very far from family. Also, jobs there are difficult to find.
  • Australia is also nice, if you don’t mind snakes that eat crocodiles and basically everything can kill you. Also, very far from here.
  • Europe: the parts that are warm enough don’t usually have the right jobs, and expensive
  • South America: lots of turmoil, also far and difficult to find jobs
  • Mexico: possible, but dangerous, unstable
  • Caribbean and Central America: a possibility. Climate can be good. The trick is finding a stable country with good enough infrastructure. Also: somewhere that doesn’t get destroyed by hurricanes on a regular basis.

While that’s by no means an exhaustive list, you can see where I’m going. A full search would be quite difficult, but I’ve done some quick surveys followed by some more indepth checking of the more viable options. So far, I’m leaning towards Costa Rica. Conveniently, that’s also where I took a “vacation” earlier this year – actually more of a scouting trip. Here’s a few of the reasons why I’m liking Costa Rica:

  • Stable democracy, No military = zero chance of a military coup
  • Good infrastructure, including internet connections at a reasonable speed
  • People are friendly and helpful
  • Temperatures in the central valley are exactly in the comfortable range (around the mid 20’s ºC) year round. It’s hotter on the coasts, but then you can just jump in the ocean if you need to cool down.
  • Year round fresh vegetables
  • Almost the same distance as San Francisco to Toronto, basically the same flight time
  • Within an hour time difference
  • Having a friend who lives in Costa Rica really helps to open doors, and probably biased my decision a little bit.


  • Probably need to find work that I can do remotely, means being limited in what I can take on as roles
  • Occasional earthquakes
  • Have to learn Spanish. No wait, that’s kind of a plus. (remember what I said important to me? I’d actually love the chance to learn a new language, particularly Spanish!)

The good part is that I don’t necessarily have to move to Costa Rica in one shot. In fact, I’m likely to start with a few trial periods. I’m not sure as yet whether I’m going to move permanently or just become a snowbird over the winters. Here’s my current plan:

  1. Establish myself as either a freelance developer
  2. Take a 2-3 month trip to Costa Rica this fall
  3. If that goes well, do another 3 month trip in January 2015
  4. Keep my apartment and everything here until I’ve decided exactly what I’m doing.

The nice part about this plan is that I always have the option to return here if things don’t work out in Costa Rica.

Another good part: I’m hoping to have places for people to stay if anyone wants to come and visit Costa Rica while I’m there. 🙂

Update: some people have asked why I haven’t considered the UK. Simple. It isn’t warm enough. I’m also not a huge fan of the UK. Before you all lynch me, the UK is a lovely place. It’s just not somewhere I want to live.

People have also pointed out that Australia and New Zealand would be perfect climate wise and have their own tech scene. This is true. Living there would be awesome. The problem is that either place requires a solid commitment and a long time to get there. Working remotely from is going to be much more difficult, and finding a job then becomes the requirement. Immigration to either country is quite the process. Given that I have an option that lets me try this out first and then fall back if needed, leverage the connections I already have, and keep family ties, that seems like a much better plan.

Raynaud’s Phenomenon, or why I have to leave

I suffer from primary Raynaud’s phenomenon. In case you haven’t heard of this, the short version is that my hands turn white and lose sensation when they get cold. Before you tell me to put on a sweater, know that my core temperature doesn’t matter. I can be wearing multiple warmth layers, thick gloves, and sweating while outside and still my hands freeze up.

This winter has been particularly harsh, and my hands are now freezing up several times a day. That’s not only uncomfortable, but it’s a serious health risk. If I get stuck on the roadside or anywhere without the ability to rewarm my hands, I could lose the use of my fingers. It’s also a quality of life problem: going outside at all these days is problematic, and it basically means that I don’t go outside for any real length of time.

I’ve talked with my doctor about options, and the only thing beyond behavioural management (“keep your hands warm” and “try to relax”) are drugs that are normally used for lowering blood pressure (calcium channel blockers, specifically amlodipine). My blood pressure is usually in the normal to low range (120/80 to 110/60), so there isn’t exactly a lot of room there to move. They’re also unlikely to completely solve the problem just make it more manageable, and they do have the potential for side effects. That said, we’re going to try it anyway and see how things go.

This has made it literally painfully obvious that as much as I love my home in snowy Waterloo, with all of my friends and the tech scene here, I really can’t live here in the winter. I deal well with heat: 32ºC is a lot more comfortable to me than 3.2ºC, let alone anything colder. The good news is that moving is very much a possibility for me. The flipside to my current situation as being unattached both professionally and romantically is that I’m in the perfect position to make changes. Call it “lifestyle design” or “conscious living”, the idea is the same: I get to decide right now what shape I want my life to take.

So where do I go from here? That’ll be the subject of more than a few posts here as I figure that out. Everything fits together like a jigsaw puzzle, with all of the parts contributing to overall happiness.