On Vikings that Winter Elsewhere and Digital Nomads


In 840 AD, the Vikings had established settlements along the coast of Hibernia.  The settlements also gave them a home when they wish to spend the winter months there, rather than in their Nordic homelands.

They quickly realised that Irish winters were much milder than those of their northern homes.  Source.

I find it very fascinating that centuries and eras later, we would do something similar.  But rather than rely solely on plunder, looting and warfare we have a number of modern tools at our disposal.  We have AirBnB and a number of accomodation-related platforms (both established and new) to aid us in seeking shelter.  We make the use of Bitcoin, PayPal, electronic banking, and the currency exchange markets as innovations to the barter and coinage systems .  We have LinkedIn, Twitter, email, Slack, HipChat, Tinder, blogging, Facebook, Snapchat, and more for communications. Encryption, passports, customs and border control to safeguard movements (electronic and physical).   Our transport is aided by engineer (planes), customer relationship management (frequent flier miles) and technology (flight metasearch engines to scour the best deals).

But, it’s all the same really.  How are you going to spend the winter months?

Trips of note during my 1.5 year stay in Canada

This is another 2016 round-up entry but this entry is more focused on travel.  I also realized that I have been really quiet in keeping up to date with my travel blogging.  I don’t have a personal Facebook or Instagram account and I have steered clear (for the most part) sharing anything remotely personal on Twitter.  In this case, I’m just going to do a round-up post over the past 1.5 years.

Below is a notable list of trips since I moved to Canada (May 2015 to October 2016):

  • New York 1 – for the 2016 fashion week and to catch up with my sister
  • New York 2 – art fairs
  • New York 3 – even more art fairs
  • Boston, Mass – for a conference at MIT
  • Miami, Florida – checking out the art scene, bought a bit of the local art
  • Las Vegas, Nevada – for a conference
  • Seattle, Washington – for a conference
  • Somewhere in Washington state – for the 4th of July celebrations!
  • Waikiki, Hawaii – week-long holiday
  • Vancouver, British Columbia – lived here for a short while
  • Toronto, Ontario – lived here for just over a year
  • Kelowna and Okanagan Valley, British Columbia – checking out the wine region
  • Sun Peaks, British Columbia – holiday
  • Niagara, Ontario – the falls!
  • Wasaga Lake and Simcoe County, Ontario – first time I’ve encountered the great Ontario lakes! And yes there is a beach on this massive lake.
  • Stratford, Ontario – went for a Shakespeare festival and their high street/downtown core reminds me so much of the town that I grew up in!
  • St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador – all day layover
  • Dublin, Ireland – helloooooo Europe!

I didn’t go to the other main Canadian cities (Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City) since I have already visited in my first great Canadian trip of 2010-2011.

I was also going to visit Chicago for an art fair and even had my accommodation (not flights) booked, but decided against it.

In the end, it has been an interesting time.  I wish that I was able to experience more of the Canadian lake areas during the spring and summer.  Cottages are a pretty big deal in Canada!

Another activity that I didn’t do was anything to do with snow like skiing.  The last time was in Whistler several years ago and honestly, I haven’t looked back since then.


Anyone with a working holiday visa for Ireland – take note of the new GNIB system

I try my best to research as much information as I can online, but some details escape me.

Ireland has a new online ticketing system in place for the GNIB card. Everyone that enters Ireland (or even re-enters, depending on who you are) they must have a GNIB card with them.  Rather than waiting in line to queue up and get a ticket to go into another queue, they will need to go online and book an appointment.


So, I went ahead and booked my appointment on October 17 thinking that I’ll be able to get something in the same day.  One item to keep in mind is the availability of appointment dates. Even if the website says “You cannot book an appointment more than 6 weeks in advance” you may end up having to book more than the 6 weeks if there are no places left.  I actually decided to re-register online, and lo and behold, I was able to get an appointment at a slightly shorter timeframe.  But still, it was several weeks.

In addition when you enter Ireland you will be stamped and you will be given a date.  This is the timeframe that you are given in order to book and appointment and register with the Gardaí.  Your appointment may happen after this stamped date.  I have been trying to get answers for this situation and this is what I can find (as part of an automated reply):
If your query relates to a renewal of your existing  immigration permission
and you cannot secure an appointment to renew your immigration permission
before your current immigration permission expires, this office will treat
any gaps as a grace period and it will not have an adverse effect on your
immigration history.

For those that need to get their expenses in order – take note that not only will you be paying €300 for the Gardaí.

I have three checked luggage bags since I flew in from Canada. It’s a good thing that I currently don’t have major issues in terms of the (already competitive) rental market here but for anyone who has their rentals already sorted out pre-arrival, or already has plans in place that require the GNIB card, be prepared for this new system and that you will not receive your stamp for some time.

After sending an email, I received an automated reply stating that I should check back to see if any new appointments have been released into the system.  When I re-registered again, I was able to find earlier dates (in November 22), but still not much of an improvement in availability since it was still more than six weeks out:


Compared to organizing my final documents for UK and Canada, I was able to get things done within a day in Canada and a bit moreso for the UK to get my IN mailed out.  I was very surprised to see that it’s going to take weeks for me to continue on with obtaining the GNIB card and anything else that I need to set up in Dublin.

I am sharing this online since I haven’t come across any entries about what’s involved in getting the GNIB card underneath the new system.  Hope you find this useful and good luck!

Planning for Unplanned Work

Previously, I wrote about a pacing out reactive work and burn down spreadsheets.

The one item that I did have in mind, but did not write down, was the concept of unplanned work and how one deals with it, how one plans on dealing with it.

Unplanned work needs to be taken into account.

Those in IT will know about this, as it comes from scrum methodology.  The Phoenix Project is a great book if you read more about this from a storytelling type of perspective.

I imagine that in my next sprint (one sprint = one fortnight), I need to prepare for unplanned work.

Pacing things out and burn down spreadsheets

As an introduction, I have been experimenting with running a ‘burn down’ spreadsheet.

If you are familiar with agile environments and methodology, you may be familiar with the ‘burn down’.  It could be in the form of a burn down chart or a burn down spreadsheet.

Last month, I created four iterations of the burn down spreadsheet.  Each iteration addressed a particular problem or scenario. Let’s infer, these are hypothetical and not all related to me, that Scenario A details a one-year full-time graduate school pathway, Scenario B details a six-month travelling, six-month internship-in-a-new-field-in-a-new-country plan and Scenario C is continuance of an existing career but with an exit plan of a vertical-upwards/horizontal move in the organization.  While these scenarios are different, we can infer that Scenario B is the one that is the most volatile or dynamic, Scenario A is the most stable and Scenario C is somewhere in-between.

So in the burn down chart for this current sprint so far (let’s say, 2 sprints per month so that a fortnight long spring), I would make a comment that I am making high velocity progress utilizing a good amount of effort.  The timing, not so much. I think that I have underestimated myself.  I thought that I would only reach 10-20 velocity points (5 points per reply) but it turned out that I am completely maxing out on 50 velocity points (1o replies).  I am maxing out, either because I’ve underestimated how much velocity I can actually drum up…..or how I am timing things is really bad.

I would measure Career Zoo as a 50 velocity point activity (researching companies, researching roles, following up with people, networking), which means that, I am not sure if I can take on board any new activity in the next few days and maybe rest of the month…


Why Live Paycheck to Paycheck

Last week, I sold a couple of items.  More like half-sold.  They were only able to pay for one item, then decided to wait for the next paycheck to pay for the second.  I gave them the second item anyway because I trust them.

It baffles me that if one wanted to purchase two items but had suddenly, the following day, run into financial restraint that they suddenly cannot pay for the second item…

More than half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.  And yes, it sounds like this guy is on that half.

I have several months living expenses from Canada.   In Australia, I also have savings and I even have an extra surplus on my credit card.

I have both an RRSP (Canada) and superannuation (Australia) pension fund set up.

I have no further assets directly to my name though (maybe that is normal if you are in your 20s and have been travelling around since your early 20s..).  Which is a bit worrying (nonetheless!).  So right now, most of what I have is liquid.  I am working on building the assets part.  Once I am able to, I will continue to allocate as much as I can from my savings into some sort of investment account.  And I also want to allocate a portion of this into charity or a good cause (ie Joy of Tech).

Not having to live paycheck to paycheck gives one a lot of freedom. And, with a bit of work and discipline, you can get yourself out of this cycle.


On Tech Fuelling Growth in Ireland


While there was a slowdown in growth in some significant luxury markets throughout the world like New York and London, other markets (the “underdogs”) such as Dublin and Detroit performed extremely well. -Dan Conn, Christie’s International Real Estate

I believe that the professional class that is being employed by the tech industry is, and has been over the past few years, fuelling the continued growth in underdog luxury retail markets like Dublin, Ireland.  This is identified in the Christie’s International Real Estate “Luxury Defined” white paper for 2016:

Dublin is a hotbed for tech investment and is attracting top industry employees from around the world.

I started getting a gut feeling about Dublin for about a year now.  I still follow news in the EU, even after moving to Australia then Canada, so stories like Google’s multimillion dollar investment in a second data centre in Ireland has caught my eye.  In December 2015, I started making queries with the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ireland about beginning my visa arrangements into Ireland because I am sensing this growth also.  In 2015, Christie’s also calculated an 11% growth in sales for Dublin and factored it two main indicators – economic growth and the tech sector.  There has been a slow and steady growth of population back into Dublin according to Reuters.  I am wondering if the growth is set on the arrivals for the tech sector? Most likely already experienced in overseas markets and also educated either in Ireland or overseas.

A stronger demographic trajectory also suggests scope for a potentially faster pace of economic growth in coming years. — KBC Bank Chief Economist Austin Hughes

My own personal experience confirms this.

The one, main thing that Dublin requires is addressing the current housing shortage, especially around the areas servicing the tech sector.

I imagine the following to happen within the next five years:

  • Plans for the growth of multi-use residential property (aka condominiums) to come into fruition.  Now, I am saying ‘multi-use’, which is not necessarily ‘high-rise’.
  • Debate surrounding aforementioned plans as it threatens the low-level charm of the city.  I totally get their concern.  I personally am not a fan of the condo high rises myself.
  • Possible innovation that can tackle the need of housing that can also meet the need for cultural and historical preservation with Dublin being seen as a low-rise city.
  • Noticeable increase in sales and pricing on residential property. If I was holding real estate, especially in cities with tech investment, I would take on a long position.

When I think of growth propelled by outside forces (ie tech sector workers moving into a new country, non-Irish tech investment), I think of volume and momentum.  In this case, I’m seeing growing volume and momentum towards overall growth in the Irish sector.


“Do you offer an employment visa?” and a bit of advice for visa first-timers

This was the first question that was asked of me when I started delving into expat consultancy services.  Since I already spend a bit of time on online communities I was coming up with ways to monetize this, even if for a short while, hence dipping my toe into a consultancy for budding expats.

While I definitely do not offer employment visas, let alone assist in any visa queries since this outside of my domain, I was slightly taken back by the sheer directness of this question.  Not only that, but it was the first question offered to me.

It’s like the visa version of “Look, we’ve never met but would you like to offer your hand in marriage?“.

In addition, isn’t this the wrong way to go about getting one’s first relocation job?

First of all, they will need an actual job offer.

And, in addition to the job offer, the employer will most likely need to obtain some sort of labor market impact assessment test.  This is to prove the powers-that-be (The Government) that an employer must look outside of the already willing and able local labor force to satisfy the skills gap.  Exception to that rule may include the person having critical employment skills as is the case with certain roles and industries.

And, last but not least, there is still the required paperwork and documentation that is still required to obtain such a visa.  Police checks.  Educational assessments.  Language proficiency tests.  Maybe even a savings check to determine that you have enough to support yourself initially without resorting to public resources.

In the end, it really is not the employer that offers visas.  An employer can only offer you a job.  This is one of the first steps, out of many for you to take, to obtain that visa.

My response to him is that no, I do not offer employment visas.  The main advice that I have for them is to obtain the job offer first, to plan out what documentation and other items that they will need and to also conduct a bit of self-education and to learn more about what the potential pathways are.

I also had an additional question from the same person as to whether or not I can help secure employment for them.  Which is a clear no.  Headhunters do seek out people for employment but the relationship is reversed – meaning that, the headhunter’s client is the company requiring their service and not the job seeker.

The expat consultancy service that I am conducting (under the ExpatGenius umbrella) has been a bit of an interesting ride. I’ve found myself saying no quiet a few times, simply because the requests that I am getting would require the services of a registered migration consultant or lawyer.  However, in cases which involve enhancing your profile and relocation strategy, feel free to contact me on ExpatGenius.


Home search in Ireland, some reflections on housing in Canada, Australia and the UK

Home around the corner near my old flat in Primrose Hill, London.

I am embarking on searching for rentals on my fourth country (Ireland).  I know what it’s like in London (UK), Australia (Brisbane, mainly and a short while was seeking in Sydney), and Canada (Vancouver and Toronto).  Going through this process can be exciting, tedious and stressful all at the same time.  It’s exciting because you are imagining what the end is going to be like and you relish the novelty of living in a new place.  It’s tedious because you have to figure out an entirely new locale, whether or not it meets your requirements and all the details that need to be considered.  It’s stressful because you are out to meet that basic Maslow hierarchy of needs requirement – physiological and safety – while dealing with other stresses and constraints such as time and budget.  I am getting all these feelings now searching for a place in Ireland!

On the way to Camden Town, I look over the bridge and see this...
On the way to Camden Town, I look over the bridge and see this…

Anyway, while waiting on a few responses and paperwork to arrive, I just thought to have a think about what the rental ‘scene’ is like in all the other countries that I’ve been in…



Brisbane and Sydney, Australia

I went to university in Australia and worked in the industry for two years after.  During university, I rented a house with friends – the first one was those typical Queenslander-style homes and the second one was built by the owner who was an architect.

After university, I rented in a condo (or apartment) which was right in the CBD (central business district) and overlooked the river.  I could even spy someone from my window working at his office desk!  It was a bit of a weird sight because since I was on the ground level, the outdoor pool was also on the ground level and if I sat upright from my chair, I could see people dive into the pool.

Now, if you were searching for properties around Sydney and look at Google Maps, you will see that Sydney has a very unique natural setting.  I haven’t lived in this city, my sister has and she lived in Bondi Beach where you can see a glimmer of the beach and ocean from the apartment.  When I walked outside during summer, I seriously felt like I was in some sort of resort city. When I look out of the window of the airplane and see the harbor, it is absolutely magnificent seeing the boats on the harbor and the Sydney Opera House.  Make sure to grab a seat by the window!

London, United Kingdom

London is hands down THE best city in the world.  And if you can lock in that rental property in the right part of London that suits your needs, you will guarantee that the rates pay themselves off.

When I first arrived, I was renting temporarily right in the heart of London – Barbican. You can see the brutalist style architecture in Barbican as well as the arts centre.  It’s quiet amusing that my place didn’t have a laundry so I had to go to the outside laundromat. On one hand I was living in the area well-known for the prestigious arts centre but at the same time I had to go outside to do the laundry.

If you wander the streets of London, you can easily run into so much history in the place all juxtaposed with new developments.  

Cute houses at one of the streets in Primrose Hill
Cute houses at one of the streets in Primrose Hill

After Barbican, I moved to Primrose Hill.  I was only there for about six months until the landlord decided that he didn’t want tenants to do renovations.  Primrose Hill is an absolute dream.  Just walking across the Primrose Hill Park (when you walk up the hill, you can see the CBD) from my work at Regent’s Park to my flat just put a smile on my face.  I chose this area because it was walking distance to and from work and because I wanted to live near a park.  I secured a viewing while I was travelling in Dublin and didn’t even realize how beautiful this area was until I arrived.

Cafe Rouge, St Johns Wood
Cafe Rouge, St Johns Wood

When it was time to move, I was at St John’s Wood and I lived in those historical red brick apartments. I chose this area since it was also near a park and within walking distance to and from work.  For the first week or two, I was mourning over the fact that I was no longer in Primrose Hill but eventually fell in love with St John’s Wood.  I loved the flowering trees that bloomed, the High Street, the houses and mansions and Regent’s Park.

St Johns Wood High Street

The three areas that I’ve lived in London was perfect for me.  But, there are so many other choices that it really didn’t matter too much because those choices were great anyway.  I had a flatmate that moved to Old Street, another at Brick Lane, co-workers in Brixton, a friend who semi-squatted in this artsy type of commune living space in Hackney.  At the same time, I have seen some pretty depressing places when compared to its asking price since the need for property in London is always high.

And, living in London is always so interesting and since the connections to travel to Europe, the Middle East and North Africa is fantastic.

However there is one thing that bothered me while living in London.. and that was the lack of seeing blue skies because of the weather.

Vancouver and Toronto, Canada

I really only took one look at the rental market in Vancouver when I decided that it really was not for me. This is further supported by the real estate price bubble driven up by foreign property investment that the city is being addressed.  However, Vancouver has a beautiful backdrop with the mountain skyline always in your view, even if you are way out of the city.

Toronto had more choices, but the one main item that I couldn’t wrap my head around until I arrived was the concept of the GTA, or the Greater Toronto Area.  

My rental experience in Canada was not the same as before.  It was more a reflection of my thought process rather than a comment on the state of the rental market in Toronto.  I decided not to live nearer to the downtown area and opted for living in a house way out in the suburbs and it has been years since I last lived in the suburbs.  If I were to repeat this process, I would have done a bit more research into all the different areas in Toronto and I would have stuck with characteristics that makes a place turn into a ‘home’ to me.

In terms of culture, Toronto is a multi-cultural city and I was exposed to completely new cultural groups such as the Caribbean, Central and South American influences.   In contrast, you get the suburban Walmarts and the plaza malls.

In terms of Toronto and Vancouver proving its livability (as promoted by those Top Cities To Live In guides), there were some glimmers of it.  But, for the majority of the time, I didn’t really experience it in the same depth as something like London.  This was especially pertinent during the Toronto winters when, at some stage, the temperatures had gone down to -26C.

On the other hand, there are other absolutely beautiful areas outside the major cities.  For example, you have the absolutely beautiful Kelowna region in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.  If circumstances permit, I would opt to be in these regions.

Now on to Dublin and Ireland!

The last time I was in Dublin was in 2012 for a three week trip from late May to early June.  Something close to Primrose Hill or St John’s Wood would be the most ideal!