Technology Speaking Tour of Northern South America Kick off

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STP-LogoI’m happy to announce the Sharing the Point Crew is headed out once again to connect with folks in under served parts of the world.  We are headed to Northern South America.  This “Tour” will take us across the islands of Trinidad and Tobago where we hope to connect with isolated SharePoint folks, to the only English speaking country in South America in Georgetown Guyana and from there to Caracas, Venezuela and on to popular SharePoint city of Bogota, Colombia (home of Communidad SharePoint Colombia sharecol.com) and our final stop in Quito Ecuador.  As far as I can tell, no other US SharePoint speakers have ever spoken in these cities. It’s a great opportunity to unite the global community, and build new communities.  Our success is based on getting the word out.  Please help us!  Please share with your social networks!

Fechas de Gira/Tour Dates

STP Georgetown, Guyana                  9:00am on Tuesday, 3 September
STP Caracas, Venezuela                     9:00am on Monday, 9 September
STP Bogota, Columbia                       9:00am on Tuesday, 10 September
STP Quito, Ecuador                           9:00am on Wednesday, 11 September

Gratis SharePoint Formación De Los mejores altavoces de SharePoint!

Spanish:

Sharing the Point South America 2013 es una iniciativa conducida por las comunidades de SharePoint diseñada para ayudar a educar a usuarios sobre el potencial de la plataforma de SharePoint. El mejor grupo de evangelistas y expertos de SharePoint estarán en esta gira que presentara los usos prácticos para SharePoint en el mundo real.

Ofrecemos este * libre * formación y subvencionamos personalmente el entrenamiento para ayudar al crecimiento de la comunidad de SharePoint y ayudar a proporcionar oportunidades a las personas.

Special Thanks to Elias Mereb, MVP and Andres Rojas for helping us on connecting with the community and logistics in Colombia and Venezuela.  Andres is helping us look into doing a bigger event in Bogota with additional speakers and tracks.  If interested please coordinate with myself and Andres.

Ricardo Munoz, SharePoint MVP from Costa Rica is planning on helping us this time around as he did in Southern South America.  He translated our sessions last time and has plans to help us out.

Please Share the word!  We really want to connect with folks who have NEVER been to a SharePoint event, and our desire is to launch communities in all of the cities where there is no established user group or SharePoint or IT community.  All this training is free.

We are still looking for sponsors if anyone is interested please contact me.

For sure those who have put forth resources willing to sacrifice time and funds to go are:

Michael Noel

Michael Noel (Twitter: @MichaelTNoel) is an internationally recognized technology expert, bestselling author, and well known public speaker on a broad range of IT topics. He has authored several major industry books that have been translated into over a dozen languages worldwide. Significant titles include SharePoint 2010 Unleashed, Exchange Server 2010 Unleashed, Windows Server 2008 R2 Unleashed, ISA Server 2006 Unleashed, and many more.
Currently a partner at Convergent Computing in the San Francisco Bay Area, Michael’s writings and extensive public speaking experience across all seven continents leverage his real-world expertise helping organizations realize business value from Information Technology infrastructure.

Paul Swider

Paul J. Swider (@pswider) is the CTO of RealActivity an organization focused on improving collaboration, compliance and fiscal responsibility in healthcare. He has two decades of proven software and healthcare experience and is involved in many community and philanthropic efforts including a founding member of Sharing the Point, an international effort which offers free training opportunities in emerging markets. Paul is an accomplished technology entrepreneur straight from a barrier Island near Charleston, SC where he occasionally gets to chase the tides and winds as an avid boater and sailor.

Joel Oleson

Joel (@joeloleson) Joel was the first dedicated SharePoint Administrator ever. He’s been working with SharePoint nearly 13 years. SharePoint Evangelist & Managing Director at Salient6. Checkout his popular SharePoint blog at http://sharepointjoel.com and his travel blog at http://travelingepic.com

Ricardo Munoz

Ricardo is the SharePoint Consulting Manager at LatinShare, and a Popular SharePoint MVP and speaker in Costa Rica and Chile.

Registration Links (en espanol) :

Can’t join us because you’re in Spain?  Find us at the Iberian SharePoint Conference in Madrid on October 10.

Traveling Marvelous Minsk Belarus

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It started with a tweet from a would be friend and an invite to speak in Minsk.  Would I?  Oh wow.  Minsk conjures up ideas of the old communist soviet world.  Now while still very iconic in communism I have found it very charming, and a mix of old and new.  The soviet symbols are very alive in Minsk where in many capital cities of the old soviet empire they have been removed.

I met with several Belarussians a couple of times before my visit to Minsk.  They were all very intelligent, Belarus on the map of Europeconsiderate and faithful friends.  One friend helped work out all the logistics for a friend and I to meet him at the border, and we’d meet up with other friends at the airport.  Minsk should not be underestimated as a very important country in Eastern Europe with nearly 9 million citizens.

Minsk Library

I see a bright future ahead in the area of IT for sure.  The people I met have very bright minds and a hope for bridging gaps to join Russia or the EU.  Soviet BuildingBelarus appears to have lingering thoughts on the heydays of the former empire and has held onto memories more than many of it’s neighbors.  Many of the soviet style communist buildings old and new rise high in the city of Minsk.  A city of industry and power, it is a fascinating place to visit.  The western world appears to have little knowledge of the fascinating place that Minsk is and how important it has been in history.

The hammer and sickle appear on many government buildings and even in the tube.

hammer and sickle

Across the street from our hotel was the famous KGB building.  It reminds me of days past where CIA vs. KGB and MI6 was something from a James Bond Movie.  While those days of distrust may be mostly behind us. I have found great friendship and hope that we can move past that and continue to progress toward an open and peaceful world.  The development community in Belarus is a powerhouse.  In my experience they are very well versed in the IT field and as well are great partners.

I believe a lot of this distrust comes from misunderstanding and something that politicians and diplomats have yet to fully bridge.  Wandering the streets of Minsk you’ll be sure to see the symbols of a powerful working class.  You can’t blame them for wanting to take care of the poor and removing class, but the power in the hands of the wrong people creates corruption.  I had the opportunity to drive across a few hundred miles of the lush and green Belarussian countryside.  It’s beautiful.  Minsk is up and coming.  Beautiful shopping centers, tall apartment buildings, and it offers a lot to its people, with hopefully more freedoms and global diplomacy to come.Victory Square Minsk

Today most non belarussian folks… westerners especially, require a Belarussian visa that expires within 90 days or a year.  There’s still some distrust, but I believe the rising generation is very interested in connecting and bridging the old ways and looking at new ways to move things forward.  Belarus has a lot of history and pride and it doesn’t like to be told what to do.  It will require a lot of patience, but I pray it’s coming around.

We would do good to try to understand that history, and continue to create friendships and bridge our world.

For me, I spent the evening in a banya (spa) in Minsk…creating friendships that will last a lifetime.  I have a better appreciation for the Belarussian people, and a strong desire to return.  Thanks for the amazing tour of your beautiful country.

Lalibela Ethiopia and the Famous Rock Hewn Churches

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8th wonder of the world Unesco Rock Hewn Churches

In our world there are few places shrouded with as much mystery, culture, and history as Lalibela the second holiest place in Ethiopia.  Designated as the 8th wonder of the world, and a UNESCO world heritage site.  These rock hewn churches made in the 16th century are an ancient treasure built by Angels.

St George in Lalibella Ethiopia

Lalibela starts with the story of a King that as a baby was shrouded in bees.  The bees weren’t bees at all, but angels.  The angels took him up to heaven and showed him how to make tools and how to carve churches from rock.

Megalithic Rock Hewn Church

The story doesn’t end there.  King Lalibela shared the ideas of the tools that were ahead of their time, and the humans took the day shift and the angels took the night shift and together they built amazing churches that are built with deep symbols of early Christianity.  Rather than pilgrimage to Jerusalem at a time when the Christians had been kept from safely visiting Jerusalem and the other holy sites of Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and the life of Jesus.

Narrow valleys carved into the rock can take you from church to church, each with it’s own story.  The largest megalithic church in the world is found among the 11 rock hewn churches in Lalibela.  All of them are within a couple of miles, and easy walking distance.  You can easily spend a day or two.  Loyal Christian orthodox priests act as guides for a negotiated price.  I was trying to explain that these churches were a lot like the church caves in Cappadocia, but our guide wouldn’t have it.  These were literally carved by Angels.  It was great to have a guide who was so loyal.

Coptic Priest

At lunch we stopped at a little place.  We were told it was Friday and so we couldn’t order the lamb.  It’s fasting day.  So we ordered the fasting food.

Injera

The Ethiopian fasting food is made up of various veggies. The food is designed to be eaten with your hands and is designed to be a social family experience.  Beets, potatoes, lentils, cabbage, tomatoes, amazing food.  It’s served on a traditional injera which is not only edible, but is how you eat the food.  Rip off some injera and wrap it around whatever you’d like.  Sometimes it comes in a roll so you can rip off a little and have plenty to eat a nice big pile of food.  There really is a lot of variety in the food, served on large platters.  Ethopian food really grew on me.  I had some in Zanzibar and a few years ago in Capetown.  It’s really a fun food.

Tukul Village

Ahead of time I did a little research and came across the Tukul village hotel.  I *really* enjoyed it.  They were cheap enough, around $50-60 that both Paul and I got our own rooms.  The nicest rooms in town.  We had hot water 24×7, plenty of power, and free wifi and it almost reached to our room.  I say 24×7 cause some say they have hot water, but it’s only on in the morning.  One also said they had wifi, but it was a hard wire in a room behind reception.  Across Ethiopia this was our favorite city and favorite hotel.

The rock churches were about a mile or two walk from the hotel.  When we’d walk around, a group of kids that would grow as we’d walk would tell us stories about their lives.  They were from the countryside.  In a sort of boarding type situation.  Groups of kids put together sharing a room.  Most, basically all, don’t have money.  Part of the story you hear from the kids is that they are going to school and need supplies.  Notebook, dictionary, and more.  If you’re around long enough you hear about how they are months back in rent and will get kicked out of their place.  Some don’t have shoes.  In some places I wouldn’t believe the stories, but I was convinced.

Lalibela Festival

After a day of walking through the rock churches, I overheard some amazing traditional music and as we got closer found what looked like the whole of the 15,000 of the village gathered to watch the dancing in a festival.  I was offered a prime seat, but instead found a spot next to some young kids.  One of the children was a blind boy, and his faithful friends who he held onto, one behind and one in front.  They filled me into what was going on.  None of them had parents around… they too were from the countryside and were here in Lalibela for school.  They told me about their need for notebooks and that they would struggle without them.  After hearing the price and seeing the sincerity I walked with the boys to the little store and purchased a pack of 10 notebooks which they shared.  Word got around, and we saw some kids that we’d seen earlier in the day, so we went back and decided we’d buy them out.  70 more notebooks, but this time the story was more sincere.  The 3 of us will share.  Ok.  I’ll get a notebook for all the children, there can’t be more than 70 around here.  I was warned by one of the older children that the kids will fight over the books.  Paul and I weren’t sure how to take the advice we were given of giving him all the books and have him distribute them.  Images of him running off, or only giving books to the older kids concerned me.  We gave him a pack of 10 and committed him to promising to share.  Then another and another and then Paul and I each took 10 or 20 to distribute to the growing crowd of children.  To my surprise, it was as if we were handing out food to a starving crowd who hadn’t seen food in ages.  Fights broke out, emotions ran high, as older kids pushed and little kids tried to find a way to get close to us.  I was nearly in tears as I saw the thirst.  As I saw one notebook ripped to shreds I put the rest under my shirt and said no!  I wasn’t going to waste these.  The needs were too great.  We were beyond sincerity.  This meant their ability to learn.  One child then explained to me that 3 kids could share one book.  I appreciated his willingness to share and gave him a book.  Another tried to line up and smile.  Those that were surrounding me reminded me of what I had seen earlier in the evening before all the amazing cultural dancing.  It totally reminds me of chickens fighting.

Ethiopian children dancing

At the beginning of the festival a sort of sacrament or communion moment was happening.  It was loaves and fishes Ethiopian style.  A large platter with a large loaf of bread was split among the elders of the group, then to the guests like myself and other adults.  I shared my ripped off piece with the blind child and his friends, really felt the spirit of what was going on, that is until it never made it’s way to the children, and others were chastised for grabbing at the loaf of bread.  I needed to find a way to distribute the books in a way that wouldn’t result in ripped up pages.  As I walked away to see how Paul was doing I secretly pulled out a book at a time with no one looking and gave it to the children who seemed heart broken.  It really lit them up.  Paul had given out his books and had a similar experience of kids fighting over them.  We were both really shaken by the experience and knew we’d never forget it.  Paul vowed to buy a dictionary, which he did, and ended up giving away wads of local currency to the children we walked with.  Hoping that they could buy some shoes for the boy with no shoes.  We don’t know how it worked out, and if the dictionary purchase was a ploy.  That one to me did seem that way me, but we both hope that it ultimately would be used for good.

Lalibela is in my top places of the world.  It has has special place in my heart.  I was only there for a couple of days, but it did change me.  It also makes me consider the wonders of our modern world and make me wonder what we’re contributing to our future.  How will they judge us based on our megalithic buildings propped up around economics.  These walls will fall much sooner than those in this little town of Lalibela, Ethiopia and they won’t mean as much as these either.

Are You Losing Frequent Flier Awards without Knowing?

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I spent 3 weeks in a Starwood property in Nashville a few years ago.  It was a long but fun consulting engagement of life in a hotel.  I was very careful to make sure I was collecting the Starwood preferred points and tracking them with a number that I wasn’t going to let go of… I was imagining free week on an Caribbean island.  A couple weeks ago I was booking a hotel room in Puerto Rico and looking to use points.  Little did I know that when I was ready to use them… from over 120,000 points to 5000… GONE! What happened?!!

Baby Monkey in Bali
Baby Monkey in Bali

 

(Pictured: Monkey in Bali – photo by Joel Oleson rights reserved)

Sure enough many programs have expiration dates on frequent flier programs for flights and hotel guest point programs.  In the case of Starwood’s preferred program the points expire after 1 year.  Doesn’t matter how many times you stay in their rooms… What does this say?  Use your points as you get them.  It also says… KEEP TRACK!

Wake up call… Your Airline miles may be expiring!  Have you booked your travel?  Do you ever misplace your free companion ticket or voucher… all of those are bound to expire many last only a year or 18 months and some need the paper it was printed on… if you can believe it.

With United and American both, your points will carry over as long as you continue to fly at least once before they expire.  On United you may get an expiration notice with a cost you can pay push off expiration for another year.

Delta and Alaska don’t expire… That definitely solicits loyalty for me.  I love the rollover miles toward awards on Delta as well.  If they could only get me upgraded on international flights.

I have been looking at my Alaska miles.  I was wondering if I could get to Alaska for a domestic set of points where it would be a lot more elsewhere.  Sure enough for 15,000 miles I can go not only to Anchorage (a $900 round trip flight, but all the way to Nome or Borrow a $1400 ticket!  Note it does take me planning the dates, but for miles I’m finding that program is very attractive despite the fact I’ll have to fly out.

So how do you track your miles?

I go pro with tripit.com I have a single web page and I’ve got the iPhone app where I have my numbers with me at all times.  I also get the expiration details for the various programs.  Unfortunately some of the older hotel programs get out of sync and I assume I’m good.  That’s not always the case.  I should have had nearly a week on Starwood, but instead I had 50% of one night.  They let me pay half miles half on my hard.  I decided to use it anyway.  Why not?

So I guess the moral of the story is track it, make sure you aren’t just collecting points so you can see how high they go… I’m guilty of this.  I was trying to see if I could get up to a million miles across the programs.  Now that I’m looking at expiration dates and a less travel on airlines outside of my hub city, I’m finding round robin of airlines just to keep my miles active is a waste.  Much better to use my miles on expiring programs and then start using loyalty on airlines that serve me best and will pay on multiple levels of service.

Good luck… Hope that reminder helps… I may put together a chart at some point if I don’t find one out there.

Look for messages like this… (Note this list may be out of date… check with your airline program)

American AAdvantage

AAdvantage miles will expire if there is no qualifying activity in your account at least once every 18 months. Qualifying activity is defined as any AAdvantage mileage accrual or AAdvantage award redemption.

Continental OnePass

Miles currently have no expiration date; however, Continental Airlines reserves the right to impose expiration limits or terminate the OnePass program, plus terminating your ability to claim rewards. If you do not have activity in your OnePass account for a period of 18 months, Continental Airlines may close your account.

Delta SkyMiles

Currently, miles will not expire.

(Joel: But when does the program expire due to inactivity?)

United Mileage Plus

Any member who fails at any time to engage in account activity for a period of eighteen (18) consecutive months is subject to termination of his or her membership and forfeiture of all accrued mileage as of the last day of the 18th month. Activity includes (without limitation) flying on United or earning or redeeming miles with a Mileage Plus partner (as defined in Rule 12), redeeming miles for award travel, buying miles or transferring miles. In cases where mileage is for any reason removed from an account, as for the redemption of awards, and later returned, the return of the mileage to the account shall not count as account activity.

US Airways Dividend Miles

Active membership status is based on having earned or redeemed miles within a consecutive 18 month period. With our new Mileage Reactivation Policy, Dividend Miles members have an opportunity to reinstate their Dividend Miles accounts to active status for an additional 18 months for a $50 processing fee and reactivation fee of $.01 per mile. If members do not extend with this reactivation option, the Dividend Miles account will be closed and all miles forfeited.

Travel is the Business–The Secret to Creating the Time and Money

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I made a goal for myself to go to a new country every year, about 8 years ago.  I travelled to over 100 during that time.  When you combine your passion and your career, what is stopping you.  I believe I can do whatever I want to, as long as there is passion to match the desire.

Question: I am curious about how you finance your trips, though that may be too personal a question to expect someone to explain–maybe instead, ways to travel within a budget….I am also curious as to whether you ever saw a “non-optimal” age for your kids to be traveling.

Joel: In the past nearly all of my trips are paid by my employer.  It started back in 2001.  I was invited to speak as a uniquely qualified expert in a new product that would be called SharePoint.  I was the only one who knew the product in Microsoft IT, and the European field was getting together for an event in Paris.  My manager wanted to go, but my director chose me.  He asked me to travel with him and to get a passport.  It was a unique opportunity or so you’d think.  It’s been repeated hundreds of times for me, but in this instance I had something… knowledge.  That was the difference.  So I packed my bags and got a passport.  My first real trip outside the US, Canada, and Mexico.  I was impressed with the crazy driving, and just about how everything was so different, the food, the culture, the people.  I couldn’t get enough.  I was afraid I’d make someone upset, so I only booked the time of the conference.  It wasn’t until I was headed home, and most of my traveling companions were staying for the weekend that I realized I had missed out on a secret thing known as extending.  There was no taboo for staying over and getting the flight on Sunday evening and spending the whole weekend in Paris instead of an evening or something like that.  I would never make that mistake.  I would always learn to incorporate a bit of adventure into every trip.  It’s the research… You can find out how I plan to travel: Top 10 Way to Prepare for Epic Travel

Now I find I don’t even stay in the city, I’m incorporating multiple events and multiple adventures.  The companies incentive is to support that because it costs less, and they get more out of a single trip.  If I hit London, Paris, and Prague, it’s only 200-300 for the side trips and 600-800 across the pond if not more.

When I was at Microsoft in IT I would get the Marketing product team to pay, I became an exception as someone uniquely qualified to share real world best practices from Microsoft for the field.

When working for Quest software there was value in putting together customer events around the locations I was interested in visiting.  With SharePoint (the product I am an influencer in,) it really is everywhere, and the power of community and my experience of networking and blogging has brought the world very close.  The community is extremely global.

One quick experience: I had made a connection in Egypt. I wanted to see the pyramids and speak at the user group.  I was speaking at a conference in London, and was willing to pay out of pocket to go.  The flight from London to Cairo was around $200-300 and I’m sure I could get a cheap hotel.  Instead I sold the value of speaking to the user group and $400 to reach a new community was worth it.  For me there was huge value in making connections all over the world.  Marwan the user group lead has been a great contact, and I’ve had incredible engagements with him.  He’s since moved to the UK.

That isn’t always true though.  I did pay out of pocket to fly my family to Barcelona and drove to Rome and to Pompeii.  That’s just watching flights to London and Barcelona.  It’s often cheaper to fly to London, and then fly on a discount European airline.  We did that to Morocco and Hungary and drove to Prague.

In Asia as well, I priced out flights to Bangkok one of the cheaper Asian hubs, and we spent most of our time in the mountains.  I often look at the main location of the event and see where I can fly for $300 or under per person.  It’s amazing what you can see in any region for just a little bit more.

Question: How do you make time to go on these adventures? Is your job really lenient and do you have to spend a lot to make these trips? I love to travel but I feel like I won’t be able to if I get a job and so I’ve been trying to research jobs that travel but that was a fail. What’s your strategy? (I’m a recent college graduate and I want to travel!!! Start my own adventures!!!)

Let me take this with each of my jobs.  While at MS, I would be working while traveling speaking at the conferences, and when the event is over each night or on the weekends I would be in travel mode.  I would also occasionally use vacation time or work while on the road, that was the more common thing while at Quest.  When I was at Quest software I’d be on the road for weeks at a time going from event to event, and often there would be lunches, or dinners or events and lots of filler time when I’d be doing email, working on strategies, and what things really turned to was anytime I was spending with my friends who were influencers became gray area.  Work and Play became a very thick gray area.  Now I have a hard time speaking to my arrangement because it’s one that I arranged with my boss.  There was more value to MS and Quest, and while now at the LDS Church, I believe the value is in me as an influencer and keeping connected with the community.  It doesn’t matter whether I bring a Book of Mormon with me, as that’s a different department.  I appreciate the flexibility I do have, and try not to abuse it.  Essentially I fit in extreme travel a few times a year, some of it is vacation time, and some of it is “training” or admin time.

Even if money was no object, then it’s time.  I have found that as long as my family has a big trip they are looking forward to, I can get away with some pretty incredible trips.  That’s a secret.  We’re planning on a southern Caribbean cruise, so my trip to Africa doesn’t seem as big of a deal.

Question: I also discovered Joel’s blog on yahoo and i think he is just a millionaire spending his fortune travelling the world…or maybe as he says he has some strategies that i would kindly ask him to share with us so that we can all share his experience of travel around the world or shall i say reading the full length of a book from page one to the last..

Let’s take one of my recent trips.  SLC->Frankfurt->Athens->TelAviv/Ramallah->Cyprus->Thessaloniki->London->Berlin->Tallin (Estonia)->Riga->Lithuania->Minsk->Kiev->Odessa(Ukraine)->Vienna->Bled(Slovenia)->Ljubljana->SLC

That trip happened in less than 2 weeks included 3 events that each helped cover the flights.  I shared hotels in a number of cities with friends, and ultimately spent about as much on food as I would at home. My other secret is I spend my blog sponsor/advertising money on community travel, so that’s hotel rooms, food, and expenses.  It’s all part of my business and offsets the taxes for my business.  My business is travel.  My SharePoint blog has done so well, that the ads do more than $1500 / month, and the reviews I do make more than that.  It’s a nice supplement for my travel budget, and ultimately the family cruise this summer will be paid by blog money. 

Travel tip: If travel becomes part of your business & work… the flights, hotels, and so forth become tax deductible.  Make your blog or writing, or pictures into your business.  Truth is I find that blogging, photos, videos (thanks penguin) and gathering the memories and networking is extremely valuable.  Traveling all over the world is more enjoyable connecting with people before hand through blogs, facebook, twitter and so on provide opportunities that otherwise would not be available.  No reservations is definitely how things happen.  I am a very risk taking kind of guy.  I’ve stayed with friends in Jordan, Israel, and stayed in $6 hostels in Cambodia and Indonesia.  (Not when I’m with my kids.)

Question: I just discovered your blog through yahoo’s post of your penguin vid, and since I’ve always had an interest in traveling, I subscribed via email. My very first question is the same as Sam’s – financing travel. That is the single my dreams of travel haven’t come to fruition. I look forward to reading your blogs, but I especially look forward to reading that particular blog when you write it.

Speaking at conferences as suggested above, it’s not big money, in fact the money will help you cover your main expenses and that’s if you’re a great speaker.  In the beginning I’d negotiate with the speaker manager and sometimes just get the flight covered and then work out sharing a room, or pay that part out of pocket.  To get started you speak for free, and network like crazy.  You find out who the influencers are and get to know them on a personal level.  The speakers in my community are a very tight group, we end up all connected to each other, so reputation and clout are huge.  Don’t burn bridges.  We help each other, including helping out those who run the events.  I am always disappointed when I don’t get invited, but rather than stew… I make sure the event manager knows I am interested for next year, and make sure I’ve got well prepared very early submitted sessions.  A bad reputation for doing a bad job, sticks around a long time.  A lot of that world is about timing, and who you know.  I don’t think that’s much different between industries.  My job is knowing who is doing what, and making sure they know where I stand.  Speaking in Bulgaria or Slovenia, or really anywhere on the planet is the trick.  There was an event in Bangladesh, and I was so upset I wasn’t invited even though there wasn’t anyone outside Bangladesh that was there.  I reached out to the coordinator and said, hey… I would like to speak at your next event.  Even if I can’t make it, I will make an effort.  It’s on my list of places I want to visit, and even though they couldn’t afford my flight, I may be able to find a sponsor that would want me there, and I may be able to work it out with my travel schedule.  My schedule being something that provides balance with family life, my 9-5 world, and my passion for travel that is always there.  I’ve found that my travel junkiness starts wearing off after 2 weeks of constant travel.  3 weeks without my family and I’m spent without some serious stimulation.

If you read my post on frequent flier miles, you’d see that getting the flight in coach doesn’t mean you’ll fly in coach.  There are strategies of getting status and keeping it, and leveraging those miles when you need to.

At this point I do believe I could fly free to anywhere in the world, because I know someone in that area that would have connections to vendors or events in that area.  I have a short list of places I’d like to visit and connect with people on twitter in my community in those areas.  It really is a Win/Win.  I get to visit the area and connect with the community to really understand the culture.

Lesson:  My business is speaking at conferences, money paid for sponsors on my blog/product reviews, social media consulting, I’m hoping to build not just the technical blog, but my travel blog to where I’m working with the National Geographic and Discover, and Travel Channel or vendors like ScottVest and whether it’s videos, pictures, articles or whatever, I’m partnering in that world and doing what I love.  I Love Travel and I love SharePoint which equals enterprise social networking, collaboration and Intranets… it’s awesome, but I like putting eggs in a couple of baskets, and I welcome more engagement in travel and money making ventures with vendors through this blog as the audience grows and is engaged in my trips.

My advice to anyone reading this would be to get involved.  Start a blog, start sharing your photos, videos, and begin networking.  SEO goes up with engagement.  That’s what the Google Penguin is asking for and that’s what the baby penguin delivered.  

This is what I’ve lined up for the rest of 2012:

  • I’m doing the Southern Caribbean in August including nearly a week in Puerto Rico. – Family trip, but I’ll likely be hooking up with a friend in PR.  I’ve been there once before on a speaking engagement (paid travel) that was a giveaway.  Great story for another time… a post on Puerto Rico. 
  • I’ll be doing South Africa, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, and that region including a hike up the mighty Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Sponsorships are coming together…
  • I’ll be doing Slovenia, Tunisia and Malta and possibly Gaza – I’ve got a sponsor for the long haul and for Gaza.  Looking for sponsors to help me get to Tunisia and Malta.

Viral Baby Penguin Travel Video Goes Mainstream

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In my previous post, I shared how my traffic on my baby penguin video started to take off.  I was getting requests from various people asking them if they could use my video, and others looking for rights.  Analyzing the traffic was fascinating.  The 15 minutes of fame as one commenter mentioned continues as the baby penguin video really takes off.  I knew this was going big when I was getting requests from ABC Good Morning America and Yahoo.  What I didn’t know was when it would end and I sure wanted to make sure I didn’t do anything to make it end early.

It was this morning, that I got a tweet from someone saying… they came across my video not only on Yahoo, but on their home page!!  I was super excited.

One thing I’ve been careful about it making sure to have them include this, my travel blog http://travelingepic.com in the credits.  I’ve been traveling for years, and have visited over 120 countries since 2008.  Many recent comments ask how that’s even possible.  Five years ago I left Microsoft to pursue more travel.  I was traveling once a quarter or so during that time mostly to Europe or Australia, and about once a year to Asia, but I was very anxious to see South America and more of Asia.  I left Microsoft and started at Quest Software where during the first two years there I was on the road over 200 days and travelled outside the U.S. during about half that time.  As a software evangelist, I would speak at over one hundred conferences of my choosing including nearby SharePoint user group communities. (SharePoint is the product I have built expertise in, and have been working with nearly 12 years.  Hence the name of my technical blog http://sharepointjoel.com, rated the best SharePoint blog recently by the community.)

The requests keep coming in.  Being on the homepage of Yahoo this morning was huge for me.  I was really hoping that the ABC World News Diane Sawyer would go through, but I’m sure some more important news bumped the penguin video.

I’ve been working on a new Video that I hope you’ll enjoy.  If you like Baby Penguins, you might like Wild Baby Monkeys from Bali.  Would you guess he jumps on my head?

This cute baby monkey surprised me by jumping on me and trying to take my camera

Here are a few other places where my baby penguin video has been showing up…

Serious Mainstream Press: CBS, ABC, FOX

including a few places in the UK.  ITN actually added music and voice over, the stories themselves have been getting richer and richer.

I’m really pulling for the Ellen Show or Tosh.0, if they are listening.  I’m in love to tell my story!

Antarctica the Ultimate Final Frontier in Travel

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Baby Penguins
Baby Penguins

As a global traveller, on this planet there is nothing more remote than Antarctica.  It is way bigger than it looks on any common map.  That place is just so vast. 14 million square miles and 1.5 times the size of the U.S. and is 98% ice and 2% barren rock.  In fact we learn that the largest countries in the world are Russia, China, Canada, but actually if Antarctica was a country it would be #2! See largest countries by area.  According to the CIA’s World Fact Book there is a population of 4,400 in summer to 1,100 in winter, with an additional 1000 in research boats off the coast.  In January, I had the chance to visit Antarctica on a research and speaking mission.  I wrote about the background details of this trip on my technical blog in a post called – Sharing The Point Antarctica.  We stayed on the Antarctic Russian base right next to the Chilean base and small Chilean village Villa Las Estrellas, and visited the Chinese base “The Great Wall” station, and saw the Uruguayan base.  It was an incredible experience as you can imagine.  Ice and barren rock sounds pretty boring, but this was anything but boring.

Villa Las Estrellas

The recent 100 year anniversary of the race to the south pole, and the Russian drilling at lake Vostok with 400,000 year ice history that may have been burried in ice for 15-25 million years, have put Antarctica in the media.  In 2012-2013 the Russians want to put a robot in the massive lake under the ice.  The lakes in Antarctica are recognized as the most ancient and inaccessible ecosystem. Exciting times! (Villa Las Estrellas  Chilean Base and village with blue roofs, grey buildings in the back is the Russian station)

If you’re planning on going to Antarctica there are a few ways to do it.

1) Cruise – There are a number of cruises that cruise around Antarctica.  The best way to reach Antarctica is by small-passenger cruise ship. Many tour companies run Antarctic cruises and expedition programs, providing a wide range of Antarctica travel options, ships, itineraries, dates and prices.  Pay particular attention to the excursion options.  Some, especially many of the large cruise companies do NOT include the ability to go to the mainland or even stop at the Antarctic islands, but just allow you to see it.  You want to look for Zodiacs that shuttle passengers from ship to shore and provide scenic tours or helicopter shuttles or flight-seeing… just depends on if you want boots on the ground. There are various options from Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, and Australia.  Antarctic Peninsula trips usually start from Ushuaia, Argentina. That’s the worlds most southerly city, known as the end of the world and is a great destination in it’s own right.  There is a limited number of visitors to Antarctica to help preserve it.  Something to be aware of is the Drake Passage can be pretty choppy. Those that don’t need the excursions may like the bigger boat.  Just do your research, so you’re not disappointed.

STP Crew
STP Crew

Our STP Crew on the gravel runway in Antarctica (l-r): Mark Miller, Dan Holme, Paul Swider, Ricardo Munoz, and Michael Noel

For our research and speaking engagement we chartered a 6 person jet with the help of our sponsors: AvePoint & fpweb

2) Plane – There is a gravel landing strip on King George island at Frei Base, Teniente Rodolfo Marsh, which houses the Presidente Frei Meteorological Center, one of the main meteorological and navigational stations in the Antarctic. In our research we went with Victory Adventure Expeditions which offers both cruise and fly options.  We were doing a number of stops in South America and decided the overnight option would give us the most flexibility and keep our entire trip under 2 weeks.  You do really have to plan ahead.  The plane we went on had minimum and maximum 6 passengers. The step up from that was min 33 max 70.  As well, there is a narrow window of end of Nov to early March for trips and they fill up. There are day trips as well as overnight.  We did the overnight option.

Antarctic Ice Field
Antarctic Ice Field

The scenery, fauna and marine life are the main attractions for the tourist; this place is one of the few in the world that has remained untouched by men, this is why it constitutes one of mankind’s most important biosphere reserves.” I agree.  The animal life is wild.  Mind blowing in terms of the diversity and how protected it has been over the last 100 years.  I hope it does continue for many generations and forever.

Really, we just laid down and these imagebaby penguins came right up to us.  On day 2 we visited a penguin colony with 3 different types of penguins a very rare occurrence. (Gentoo, Chinstrap, and Adele)

As well, we visited the other side of the island where we ran into a herem of elephant seals.  One male and 13 females.  Apparently that’s it goes.  We thought we’d join in the fun.  It was interesting to see that only the male had the major long elephant snout.

Curious little baby penguin

The penguins were amazing.  We went around in Zodiak’s and would see penguins swimming along with us and jumping out of the water like dolphins.

For me it was seeing the animals in their habitat and walking around on Antarctica which felt like being on Mars.  Not that I’ve been on mars, but definitely felt like another planet.  There aren’t any trees or bushes, just liken, moss, and strange grasses.  While some would describe it as a barren wasteland, the reality is it’s some of the richest fauna on the planet.  Tons of different kinds of whales, various seals and sea lions, elephant seals, various sea birds including various cormorants,  sea eagles, and we saw a huge albatross.

The conditions were great while we were there.  While we were glad we brought our snow clothes, the wind wasn’t too bad.  Our Chilean guide brought us to a couple of different glaciers.  For the zodiac rides we wore these orange Life suits that apparently can float.  They did give us the suits and we wore our normal clothes under them.

Zodiac Rides in Antarctica… Unreal

It was like a cartoon.  We rode past massive glaciers with penguins following us jumping out of the water at one point we had 40 of them jumping along.  As we approached one small glacier we saw two penguins perched on top.  We even witnessed one of the large glaciers calving.  The sound we first heard was this very deep moan and cracking sound.  It was a bit freaky.  Then we all started looking and finally large chunks busting up into the water which then created a pretty good swell which reached our boat.  Our guide knew how far to stay back.  He was smart.  I really wanted to get closer, but he knew the safe distance.

The biggest surprise to me was the flora.  I knew there were penguins and different types of whales and seals.  Tons more than I imagined, but what I didn’t know is that 2% of Antarctica is currently rock.  What is exposed during summer isn’t just barren.  There is green!  The plants are extremely hearty, these plants aren’t much of plants anyway.  They are liken, moss, and algae.  There is moss that even looks like grass!

This incredible penguin colony looks like they are hanging out in grass.  What I found fascinating was these baby penguins.  They haven’t learned to be afraid of humans.  There’s been so little interaction that it must feel like what Darwin experienced when he went to the Galapagos and studied birds of different islands coming up with “the origin of species.”

Baby Penguin sleeping on me
Baby Penguin sleeping on me

Interesting to be talking about Darwin as on this same trip I’d visit the Beagle Channel and see all sorts of birds and nests that have been in the same area for hundreds if not thousands of years.  This little guy and I would check each other out including having him jump on my chest.  In the course of the exchange I’d have his baby fur up against my face.

Life in Antarctica… can you imagine?  What would life really be like? A Bank, a post office, a cafeteria, a school.  Yes to all of these, the Chileans have really built a village that the other stations use. We saw a couple of Chinese Great Wall Station workers come and barter with the Chileans.  Apparently they don’t stay isolated.  Despite the fact that these are different countries, the lines are very blurry when it comes to Antarctica.  The Antarctic treaty keeps the peace, it doesn’t solve any of the disputes.  We visited the monument that marked the nations that signed the peace treaty including Russia, China, U.S., Britain, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and more.  Michael provides more detail on this.  A link to his blog is at the end of this post.

We all sent post cards from this post office. My kids got my cards in the mail… 3 months later.

I built a series of videos to answer some of these questions… What is life like in Antarctica. (Most of these are less than 1 minute.)

One night, the one we had, it didn’t get darkish until around midnight.  Michael and I both were thinking, come on this is the place to take the polar plunge.  With all the ice in the water, this has to be the ultimate travel challenge of either pole.  We did it.  We both encouraged each other and ran into the water and dunked and threw water all over ourselves and ran back into camp half dressed or less.  One tip for you if you visit the stations and bases.  Bring gifts.  Michael had all the Russians we met getting really friendly.  He brought vodka.  One of them had mentioned we could use their Banya.  This was the perfect moment to jump in the banya (spa) and warm up… Unfortunately our directions weren’t as clear as we thought they were and we were afraid to knock on too many doors to cause suspicion.  What an incredible moment it was though!  I feel more like a man.

As I wrap up this post I reflect on the Titanic and it’s media mentions and fanfare.  Have we advanced as a society in relation to water travel?  I have to think it’s very ironic we had a cruise ship go down this past year when our cruise ships are unsinkable.  I think it’s important to reflect on our infalibility.  We have weekness, we do stupid things.  The captain and his men failed to correct.  I don’t know the whole scenario of either incident, but I do know we must learn from our mistakes or will we repeat them.

Penguin Skull
Penguin Skull

In conclusion. Antarctica is truly a life changing experience.  You really do leave life as it is, and look back at it from another perspective.  Travel does that to people, and Antarctica, the final frontier does that to the extreme.  Many ask how to top a trip like this… space? the Moon? Mars?!!  I definitely felt like that after this trip.  All trips will be compared from a nature perspective for sure.  I went to extremes to the ends of the earth and I came back a changed man.  I think you will too.

Enjoyed my post?  I recommend reading these other posts on this fantastic trip.