Author Archives: loganch

Politics and Money

Small rant on politics and money, just to show my “core belief system” and the way I think of things. I’m someone that doesn’t really know anything about economics and therefore don’t really know what I’m talking about. Please tell me about stuff I have wildly wrong.

Money and spending

The way we should think about money on a national and government level is different to the way we think about money on an individual level. When money is spent, it does not disappear. It just changes hands. It can be spent again and again and again. Each time money is spent, “work” gets done (to some arbitrary definition of work).

GDP is a measure of the movement of money. Our economy is thought of as doing better when money moves around at a faster rate, and more stuff gets done.

Interestingly, if each money transfer is taxed, then government income is greatest when the economy is doing best and the most money moves around.

The more money someone has, the lower the proportion of it they tend to spend. Therefore money moves around faster when there is a more equal distribution of wealth.

I’m not convinced excessive government spending is actually bad. A thought of mine is that more borrowing means more inflation down the road, which redistributes wealth, which is actually a good thing.

Note: I’ve kind of made a blanket judgement of wealth as “amount of money”, and ignored assets completely. This may change things.

Ideology before economics

I believe that arguing about the economy can be used to justify just about anything. But I like to take money out of the equation completely in a little thought experiment. I like to ask do we have the resources to do amazing things in the country. These resources are things like food, raw materials, knowledge and people.

I believe that we need to put very little effort into doing things in order to have good fulfilling lives. We don’t need to put much effort into food production and I kind of wonder what the country really spends all its time doing. It’s not that I think people are lazy or that people should be pushed harder or anything – I just think that we don’t have much focus.

I think that if you had a load of keen dedicated and interested people working on scientific endeavours, we could do amazing things. I think we could work against ageing – by this I mean we could reduce the long decline that the elderly experience (and that takes up a lot of health care resources).

I think that we could build road systems whereby every car was electric and needed no driver (incidentally I think the best way to do this is to change the roads to make them easier for machines, rather than pursue driver-less cars as is currently being done).

I believe we could have basically unlimited free energy. I think we could have ready access to free education resources. I think we could do amazing futuristic things, if we had focus.

Certainly I think the basic challenges like food, shelter and security are very easy challenges in a differently designed system. I think it’s despicable that the current system leaves people that way. I think the current way politics and economics work is cruel.

Now I’m not saying that we can live without money, and I’m not saying that I know how to achieve this utopia. I just wish there were more people that thought about what was possible, and tried to design a system around it, and fewer people who look at the system and try to work out what’s possible around that.

Basically I like to look at the big picture first. I like to look at romantic ideologies first. The real world second.

p.s. related – I like this story: http://www.marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm

Back to reality

I tend to have rather extreme left wing attitudes when it comes to politics. I’m not really trying to convert anyone, I just want to show my thought processes. I know they’re quite far from reality sometimes.
But for what it’s worth this is what’s most important to me in the upcoming election – staying in the single market, and for this reason I’ve never wanted the Tories to lose as much as I do now.

Shoebox Scam

I got scammed today. I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I don’t feel like a lost a lot of money, and I feel like I helped a community. Still, the way I did this was by falling to a systematic scam.

My aim of today was to get the trekking permits I need in order to hike the Annapurna circuit (I leave early tomorrow morning), so today I was walking towards the Nepal Tourist Office (which is still a little way away).

Walking along the street (which in Nepal are crazy), a local man starts talking to me. He asks me where I’m from. At this point, this is just a guy making polite conversation. He tells me he’s a shoe maker, and that his name is “Sunny”. I notice that he’s wearing trainers. I wonder whether a “shoe maker” should be wearing nicer shoes, but I figure it’s not that important. He asks me where I’m heading, and I tell him I’m heading towards the Nepal Tourism Office. He says he will show me a shortcut.

At this point, Sunny is just a friendly guy showing me directions, and I’m not worried. He says “I’m not a guide, I don’t need money”, and I believe him at this point. I think he’s just helping. After a while I realise he’s taking me all the way to the Nepal Tourism Office and my guard goes up – I’m starting to think he has motives. He takes me via a temple briefly to show me and talks about how he believes in “good karma”, and that money is not important to him. He tells me that he’d love me to have lunch with his family after I get my permits.

I’m trying to work out which of the two is going on here:

  1. He’s trying to scam money out of me.
  2. He’s just a friendly guy who likes having me around so that he can practice English.

 

One of the first things I noticed about Sunny is that his English was really good. I have expectations that outside of the tourism industry, people do not speak good English, but this is only my first full day in Nepal, so I haven’t had time to work this out. I ask him how he learn English. He tells me that he learnt it through his job of shoe shining (a clarification).

When I get to the Nepal Tourism Office, I realise that I’m not getting rid of the guy easily, and my guard goes right up. I tell him that I’m going to be in the office for quite a while, and he says that this is ok and tells me to take my time. I relax a bit (mostly because I feel that it’s more useful that way). I take my time and fill in the paperwork. Sunny follows me throughout this process. I realise that he’s taking me to see his family. I realise that I’m probably going to have to give him money, but I feel still kind of in control of the situation at this point. I feel that I could just walk away at this point. Still I feel that everyone in the room, including me, senses that I’m being played.

I get my trekking permits. Sunny is still there. I figure that I don’t actually have that much to lose from seeing Sunny’s family, and he seems a friendly guy, so I agree. Along the way, he asks if I want to see a temple (“only ten minutes, sir”). I say “sure”, and I quickly find myself in a taxi with him.

This gives me some time to analyse the situation, and think about the amount that Sunny is trying to scam me. To start with, I’m worried that he’s got me, because I’m in a taxi. I wonder if the taxi driver is a friend of his, and was just planted there. I didn’t have the time to make sure that a price was agreed on before hand. I’m also trying to think about all the things that Sunny has said. I doubt he learnt English from just shoe shining. There was something else that didn’t quite add up, but I can’t remember now.

At the temple he takes me to, I end up paying the taxi driver 300 rupees (£2.34). Phew, this is actually a fair price for this taxi. Ok, he wasn’t trying to scam me here.

Sunny’s English seems to get worse during the day at his convenience – but he’s good at this game. If it wasn’t for my memory of surprise at him being so good at English at the start, I probably wouldn’t have noticed the deterioration, so subtle and slow it is.

He takes me around the temple and then into the slum where he lives. Here is his wife, step-brother and children. His step brother looks/acts ill. What I notice here is that no-one looks surprised to see me (including the children). This is a give away that he does this all the time. The children give the game away. If this were unusual, the children would show it. But also the level of poverty around me is shocking to me. His whole family live in one small dirty room, with one bed. Dirty water comes out of the wells. He tells me that the earthquake devastated his home and family (believable, but possibly false). He tells me that he’s been out of work since the Earthquake.

His wife gives me tea and food. Here’s the thing – at this point I kind of want to help the guy. Even though I realise he’s gaming me, the level of poverty is real. I kind of feel that something like £20-30 would mean a lot more to them than it does to me. In reality it’s not that much money for me. I realise I’m being gamed, but this whole thing is also an experience, uncomfortable and raw.

Sunny asks me if I could buy a Shoebox for him so that he can get back to work (I knew that this was coming). Given his poverty I tell him that I will help him, but don’t agree to outright buy the shoebox (Shoebox turns out to mean “complete shoe shining kit”). He tells me that he just wants a second hand one. How much can a shoe box cost?

I do try to call Sunny’s bluff a bit. I tell him I don’t believe that I’m the first tourist here and that no-one is surprised I am here. He tells me everyone is happy to see me (this is probably true. White guy = walking pile of money).

We go around the corner, and his friend (kid from his community) is trying to sell me the Shoebox, in good English, for 25,000 rupees (£195). I feel this is ridiculous. I tell him I won’t give him more than 2,500. I tell them that this is a game they’re playing, and that it’s rehearsed. He looks hurt, tells me that he won’t take my money, and the kid slowly lowers the price of the Shoebox (still to ridiculous levels). I won’t budge from 2,500 rupees.

After I refuse, he looks upset with a tear in his eye, and tells me he’s not a cheat. He asks me to buy groceries for him, and I agree to that (how much can groceries cost).

Turns out the grocery shop is also in his community. He goes to buy a small number of things, and the woman in the shop is trying to charge me 4500 rupees (£35). This is a ridiculous price to pay for groceries. I’m not buying this game. Ok, 4300 rupees she types on the calculator. Ok, I’m willing to give them 2,500 rupees, so I take the calculator and type 1,500 (they’re going to raise it anyway).

After he removes some things and argues some more, the woman types 2,500 (£19.50) rupees on the calculator. I know the groceries don’t cost this, but I feel that this is giving money to a community that needs it, give them the money and walk away.

I just wish it hadn’t been through a systematic scam.

It seems I’m not the only one:

http://holeinthedonut.com/2010/10/27/walking-tour-kathmandu-nepal/

I don’t feel bad about losing £20. I feel the community desperately needs it. They really do live in poverty that’s unimaginable in the west. But I don’t like being cheated.

So I’m so confused about how I should feel right now.

 

 

Let’s turn it up to 16! Part One

Every so often I like to celebrate the awesome things in life. Or, in other words, every so often I like to create a little shrine to climbing. For me the 2016 climbing season has just finished – because I decided to fly back to the UK for the Christmas period.

Let’s be fair about climbing in 2016. It’s pretty much all I’ve done. Let’s see…

Normal life plan:

  • Buy a house – Nope, I abandoned the place I was renting and moved into a van. (although this is probably for the best with the world’s worst housemate).
  • Career progression – Failed. Quit job and fucked off to Spain.
  • Relationships, marriage, children – Haha.
00_first_night

First camp after leaving the UK.

 

I wanted to write a blog post about my time away and travelling. I want to write about what it all means. I want to share the amazing experiences I’ve had. I want to tell stories, and I want to be able to look back here and know that life is pretty good. I’ve realised, however, that all the experiences are currently one big unorganised string in my mind, and it’s going to take several posts to fully unravel. 9 months can easily feel like a lifetime – afterall, it’s about 9 years worth of holidays back to back in one hedonistic power run. This is an overview.

I think over time on the road you learn to accept a new “normal”. Within a month, sitting out in nature and cooking food as a group over a fire seems the most natural thing in the world. Likewise, sitting down all day in front of a computer began to seem like some perversion of human existence. At this point life is infinite freedom. I could do this forever.

Over time it was normal to be without refrigeration, water and toilets. Over time my body adapted to not showering for two weeks. Normal also became being self sufficient and learning to put myself out there a bit more. To arrive in a place and not know a single other person. It was normal to drive down a forestry road to find a pull out. Or it was normal to keep a knife by my side while sleeping for fear of the wildlife outside. It was normal to sleep diagonally because I’m a tall person sleeping in a car. We even went from mocking someone for “I don’t mind just pooping in a bag” to pooping in bags and packing it out within about 2 days (You have to do this in some desert environments, or on big walls (but I haven’t big walled)).

Right now I’m briefly back in the UK. My desire to be back for Christmas was larger than my psych for going to Joshua Tree or Mexico over the winter. I’ve been on the road for quite a while now – coming up to 9 months. Obviously I’m being questioned by my family. “When are you going to get a J…J…Job?”. I’m not sure, but I’ll probably be UK bound soon. Hopefully still a nomad living in a van. Before then I’m really going to fire off the afterburners, and finish off this funemployment in style. Screw keeping a lid on my finances, I’m going to Patagonia and Nepal.

I also don’t care:

  1. I’ll chance to have the warm satisfaction of an adventurous life well lived coursing through my heart, a tear of “fuck, that was amazing” in my eye and the memories of rugged craggy mountain landscapes, desert cracks and steaming rivers etched in the back of my head. For that I’ll happily lose every penny I have and sleep out rough in a cave for the rest of my life. Rather that than normal. Fuck normal.
  2. When I wrote the life goals above I realised how little things like owning a home (without wheels) mean to me right now. For me it’s not a tick to validate myself in life. It’s not a race against anyone else, or an indication of success. Neither is a constant career or money. (I realise the need for the ability to be able to get a reasonable job though, but if I never earned more money than I did in the past I’d be happy. I realise I may only be able to say that because I’ve been lucky in life, coming out of Cambridge and working in the technology sector). But basically the important goals are avoiding deathbed regrets. I don’t ever imagine that these will come into it.

I like to think that as I roam and as I have roamed, the intensity and magnitude of the experiences will reprogram my brain and wear down at my inhibitions. I’m naturally a shy person who cares too much what other people think. If I’m honest, trying to break out of who I am is a large motivating factor for me to continuing to travel. I’m not sure to what extent I’ve succeeded at that. I think I’m still the same person, but I like to think that I’ve become a little more hardened to the world and a little more open.

I’m more comfortable pushing myself out there. I’m about to travel by myself (probably) to the furthest reach of the Earth without really knowing what I’m doing there, and without speaking a word of the local language (this could be.. interesting.. I don’t think they speak good English down in Argentina). But Patagonia is pretty and it’s out there – so I know I’ll have a good time.

I didn’t start off like that. Sure, I didn’t really know what I was going to do or where I was going to go. But I had a better framework, and I had friends that I thought I would be travelling with. I knew that I would start the journey with friends in the Sierra Nevada in Spain and then go to El Chorro. I knew that I would meet up with Joe in the Verdon Gorge. I had prepared to go to Iceland and trek with friends and go to North America and travel with Andrew. Turns out that Andrew ended up in Singapore when he went to leave his job instead of actually leaving. But that’s ok. I was quite in my stride by that point.

It’s all for the best. If I had known I would travel alone at the beginning of the year, I would never had gained the courage to leave my job.

Coming up are the places and stories that proved that I would always somehow land on my feet. In the meantime, some pictures:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I remember my life by the scenes within it :-).

A Tribute to the Climbing Season

To me the end of October marks the end of a 7 month climbing season – which I have somewhat artificially defined as the period of British summer time. During this time I have likely spent more weekends climbing than not – and probably procrastinated over doing any other important things in my life.

So now it’s “winter”, it should be time to get fit and strong, ready to head back into the mountains in spring and reap the rewards. Except I’m broken at the moment. So I thought I’d take some time to reflect on the 2015 climbing season.

Ok, so I actually failed this. But it's my favourite photo of 2015.

Ok, so I actually failed this. But it’s my favourite photo of 2015.

I want to explain briefly what climbing is to me. I feel this is hard, but I’ll give it a go.

There is something quite other-worldly about life on a climbing trip. It appeals to something deep and primitive in me. Sleeping in a tent in the hills around good friends seems like a way of… breathing. It feels like a way of getting in touch with who we really are. You take away the buildings, the cars, and the smog and you’re left with nothing left on your mind but shelter, food and sleep. It’s a release; a way to erase all the unimportant facets on modern life from active consciousness. And it’s a way to feel in touch with the environment around us.

This is all before actual climbing begins. Climbing is a delicate art. I like it when it’s spicy, but I try not to let it burn me (and actually I say that like I’m climbing hard – but mostly I’m just a wuss). It’s my favourite thing in the world to be in a strenuous and exposed position, with gear a little further below me than I’d like, but with a calm head. A head that tells me I know this situation, one that tells me that I can hold the position for quite some time. My head tells me that the little crack above will perfectly seat a number 3 runner, and my body proceeds to place it with little error. This is when I feel on top of my game. Climbing is about controlling my fears and about managing risk. It’s getting to know myself and the environment around me. It’s a chance to be strong, a chance to get fit. It’s the chance to be in the worlds most beautiful and most secluded places. It’s a chance to meet some of the most relaxed and understanding people imaginable, and to be part of a great community.

And it’s great fun.

Walk out, Kalymnos, Greece

Walk out of a climb, Kalymnos, Greece

Near Ailefroide, French Alps

Near Ailefroide, French Alps

Rachel with our climb in the background, Lake District

Rachel with our climb in the background, Lake District

2015 has been memorable. I’ll remember training through the winter, discovering a beautiful crag by the sea in Kalymnos, eating lunch on top of mountain pinnacles in the alps, doing multipitches in the Wye valley, and long and stunningly located via-ferratas in France and Switzerland.

I’ll also remember taking a large fall in Bosigran in Cornwall, thugging up painful cracks in Hen Cloud in the peak district, angering a seagull after Joe took a whipper in Swanage, helping a party below us on a slimy and wet multi-pitch in North Wales and discovering some grubby recently developed sport climbing crag in the forest in Gower, South Wales.

And I’ll definitely remember having to self-rescue off a multi-pitch on Telendos. I’ll remember walking down a mountain at night with no food left after doing a multi-pitch trad climb and then descending a glacier. And the lightning storm – I’ll remember that until the day I die. Running to lower ground in my pyjamas at night with the sky lighting up like day every couple of seconds and bolts of lightning going off all around.

Then there’s the time spent chilling at a campsite or in a pub, the times cooking food out of a can on a gas stove, the times sleeping in the car because we failed to find anywhere to camp, the times we went for a walk in the rain because the weather didn’t agree, the times we rushed back from the crag to get to the tea rooms or the meadery.

Joe abseiling, Swanage

Joe abseiling, Swanage

me_climbing_kaly

Joe climbing something

Joe climbing

Aaron likes climbing into holes.

Aaron likes climbing into holes.

On top of mountain pinnacle

On top of mountain pinnacle

Rachel in the mountains

Rachel in the mountains

In rained, we drank wine in the car

It rained, we drank wine in the car

I have left out so much. I’m not very good at actually taking photos, and very few trips actually have them.

So thank you to everyone who climbed with me in 2015. Thanks for catching me when I’ve fallen off. Thanks for laughing when everything’s wet and we spent the night cowering in the back of a van. Thanks for shouting at me to man up. Thanks for putting up with me when I’ve been difficult and stubborn. For keeping up the motivation to train, for days spent at the Castle, for enduring long drives across the country on a regular basis, for drinking with me around the imaginary camp fire. Thank you for sharing my obsession.

Let us greet 2016 with a little more focus. Let us be that little big stronger. Let us be that little bit bolder. Let’s get out there a little further away from it all, and remember that the painful epics looming are just the cherished distant memories that we still have yet to come.

rach_kaly

me_kaly_2

mark_kaly

Rachel, and a glacier

Rachel, and a glacier

IMG_20150729_112332663

erm.. bouldering?

erm.. bouldering?

Mordor

Mordor

See you in the mountains!

2014 in Review

Note: I started writing this on New Years, but never published it. Thought I’d publish it as I found it: Unfinished.

Usually at this time of year I tend to complain (at least to myself) about how much the previous year sucked. But actually 2014 was a pretty awesome year, so here’s my place to boast (because I don’t talk about things I do much on Facebook).

This year I’ve spend about 45 nights sleeping in tents, spent a lot of time rock climbing, I’ve abseiled off a mountain in Spain in the dark and nearly got stuck there on Easter Sunday, gone skiing in Scotland, gone on numerous walks in North Wales in the rain, spent 10 days homeless, lost $120 in a single roulette bet in Las Vegas, ran part the way down the Grand Canyon and nearly died of heat, slept under the stars and seen a sunrise in Monument Valley, (and more from Trek America: The Narrows, Angel’s Landing, Mist Trail in Yosemite, San Fransisco Bay) got stuck in a load of Bracken near the Brecon Beacons, done the three peaks challenge, started cycling stupid distances with lots of hills again, and successfully finished a night time orienteering event before midnight.

I thought this would be a good place to share some of my favourite pictures from the year

North Wales

Spain

P1000326

Swanage

DSC_4976ed

Wye Valley