Category: blogs

My Guest Appearance on the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

My Guest Appearance on the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

There are many things I love about taking cruises, but there are also three things I really don’t like:  Getting off a cruise, having to wait until the next one, and the worst being the whole “having to pay for them” thing!  It’d be nice to be able to cruise for free (someday, right? #goals), but thankfully credit card points can help ease the burden, if even just a little bit.  This week, I was graciously invited by my good friend Matt Hochberg over at the Royal Caribbean Blog to cohost his latest podcast episode in which we talk about the Royal Caribbean Credit Card and its points and perks, as well as a few other options.

You can check out the podcast episode here:  https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/podcast/episode-209-using-credit-cards-save-cruise-vacation

You can also check out past episodes of Matt’s podcast here:   https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/podcast

Matt has a lot of great info there – I highly recommend checking out the content.   He also does Facebook Live sessions on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and Periscope live streams on other days of the week.

I’ve been dabbling in the credit card points and miles game for a while, and have certainly learned a lot in the process. I’ll be putting together some content about that in the coming weeks here and on my YouTube channel, so be on the lookout for that as well.

Enjoy!

Going On A Cruise After Having Weight Loss Surgery

Going On A Cruise After Having Weight Loss Surgery

Getting weight loss surgery was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made. It’s improved my life immensely, and it’s been an incredible tool to help me with living a healthier lifestyle. I’ve been able to experience things I never thought I would be able to do before, and cruises were my perfect opportunity to try things previously impossible.

Back in February, while on Majesty of the Seas, I climbed a rock wall.

Never in my wildest dreams would I ever think I’d be able to go rock climbing!

On this most recent trip on Anthem of the Seas, I tried the Flowrider for the first time doing some bodyboarding!

It was so much fun!

I also participated in a scuba “Try Dive” experience on Anthem, in which a PADI-certified instructor taught another gentleman and I the basics of diving with scuba gear. After a brief orientation, we put on all the equipment (tank, weight belt, and all) and swam laps underwater in the ship’s pool for about 20 minutes. It was such a great experience, and I didn’t even think I’d get past the stage of putting all the gear on. I thought I’d be too big and wouldn’t be able to proceed, but everything fit, and I even had room to tighten some of the straps. I finally felt like a normal human being. 

Before I started my journey toward being healthier, I would often stand on the sidelines and think “I’m too big to do that.” I then would take pictures of a lot of these activities, as a way to kind of live vicariously through those participating, but I just didn’t want to do that anymore without having those fun experiences for myself. It’s time I “YOLO’d” because after all, as the saying goes, you do only live once.

There are some unavoidable considerations though that those of us with smaller tummies will have to keep in mind:

1. There’s food everywhere.

If you’re easily tempted by a little cupcake here, or a piece of bread there, your temptations may very well have a field day with you on your cruise. But, don’t let that get you down. Always remember that being on vacation you can still follow your budget, and if you want a cookie or two, have them, but don’t have them at both lunch and dinner, for example. Let yourself enjoy food within reason, and be sure to account for it in your budget. Also, you’re going to be doing a lot of walking on ships since they’re quite big, and you’re burning off calories just getting to and from your stateroom!

2. Crew may not be sensitive to those of us who don’t eat as much.

Most crew members may not even be aware of weight loss surgeries, how they work, what they involve, and how it changes all of our lifestyles. To them, we’re just average-looking people who appear to not have much of an appetite, and then are baffled as to why our plates are still mostly full when we tell them we’re done. Don’t let that get in your way; I found the best approach was I would tell servers when they pushed, that “I don’t eat very much.” Most of them understood, and let it go after that. However, be prepared to hear it more than once. In their defense,  most of them may interpret a half full plate as coming from someone who didn’t enjoy their meal. I found that making it clear (and sometimes borderline overdoing it) helped to ease the tension there.

3. Provide feedback (don’t complain) if you don’t have a good experience.

This is a big one.  No change can, or will, be made unless those making mistakes are informed that something is wrong. If a server makes a comment, or does something inappropriate, provide that feedback to the head waiter. Bear in mind the difference between a complaint and feedback; you always catch more flies with honey. Feedback is constructive, where as a complaint is simply stating a problem and expecting something in return.

Complaining really doesn’t get anywhere at the end of the day.

I’d like to share something that happened on my last cruise. This is a paraphrased excerpt of the feedback I provided to Royal Caribbean via their survey:

“Except for dining in the buffet, whenever I had a waiter waiting on me, they would always interrogate me as to why I had food left on my plate when I was finished with my meal. I’d had stomach surgery, so I no longer have the option to eat the same amount as any normal person. I decided to do this for the betterment of my life…I chose to be happier and healthier rather than be able to stuff myself. The crew should be more sensitive to situations like this, and if a passenger says they are finished, they should not be continually pressured to eat something else, as it made for some very uncomfortable situations. In one of the dining rooms, my waiter told me I could eat anything I wanted because “He has a big kitchen.” – I’ve been a big person my entire life (weighing almost 400 lbs at my worst)… I am used to people making comments, but I shouldn’t have to deal with or hear things like that when I’m on a vacation. I’m simply going to dinner to order what I want and enjoy it, and I should not have to explain my situation to someone, or hear their commentary on how big the kitchen is. Statements like that are just unnecessary and inappropriate. I know a big part of going on cruises is enjoying foods one may not be accustomed to eating, but food is not the be-all/end-all part of a cruise experience. It would be nice to see crew be more attentive to and respectful of people when they’re done eating. Even if they take one bite of their food and say they’re done, we’ve all paid the same price for our cruise an we should be able to eat as much, or as little as we choose.”

4. Enjoy yourself: You deserve it.

Cruises are very much a vacation in which you’ll get what you put into it. If you want to go on the ship and sit by the pool while drinking an ice-cold glass of water (who are we kidding…I meant an ice-cold margarita!), do it. If you want to go on and do every activity under the sun, do it! There will always be plenty of choices for activities, and foods as well.

You may have to explain your situation to those unfamiliar with weight loss surgery, but it’s not their fault they’re untrained or unfamiliar.

I recently made a video about this very subject over on my YouTube channel which I’d highly recommend checking out. (Feel free to subscribe if you enjoyed it, as I have lots of other content there and coming soon!)

The most important thing I can say is this: Don’t let anything detract you from taking part in experiences that may have been impossible for you in your old life. You deserve it. You put in so much hard work; weight loss is a lifelong war, not just a battle. A battle can be fought and won (or lost), but a war is ongoing. Think of this as one of many battles in which you were victorious.  Go, and celebrate your victory!

I. Hate. Texting.

I. Hate. Texting.

I need to vent.

I’m 36 which means I grew up in the age where people still actually spoke to each other. We weren’t glued to our phones, and we didn’t hide behind words on a screen as an alternative to having a real conversation. We had something to say to someone, we found a time to talk, and then discussed it. Why has that fallen by the wayside? What’s happened to the art of genuine human communication?

It’s slipping away in an agonizingly slow painful bleed to oblivion.

I remember when texting came out; it was originally called SMS – which stood for Short Message Service.  The keyword there– short.

I remember sending little texts to people I was meeting up with…

“Running late, be right there.”

“Want me to bring anything?”

Stuff like that.

For some reason, though, now it’s exploded into this form of communication where people have entire conversations over texts, without hearing anyone’s voice.  This opens the flood gates of misinterpretation, which for me is extremely frustrating. I always choose my words carefully and intentionally, and have often been praised for communicating in a clear and concise way when I speak with people. There’s a reason for that; because I want to be understood. Then again, don’t we all? I don’t want to leave anything up to misinterpretation, and I expect those with whom I’m speaking to mention if they need something clarified, and I will gladly do so. That’s how conversations work; at least, that’s how I think they’re supposed to work.

The biggest flaw of this form of communication, is that it completely eliminates the human element; it’s just a collection of words, instead of a true conversation. Text-based messages going back and forth is not the same thing. It’s just letters that happen to elucidate a message from one person to another. The actual intent of the message, and the meaning behind it, it’s inflection, etc… are left up to the reader for interpretation, or in most cases, misinterpretation.

Now, I’ll admit, in most cases, this isn’t that big of a deal. In the “Running late” example, it really doesn’t need any interpretation. It’s a factual message. The person sending it will not be arriving at their destination on time, so they will be late. Asking what time a show starts, or the address of a meeting place, etc. You get the idea; these are fact-based answers.

The problem lies with asking questions that deal in feelings, and not -fact-based information. There is a major benefit to hearing someone’s voice, and having that genuine human connection. You can hear inflections and tone, and whether or not many realize it, these can drastically change how something is coming across. Things like these are what keep conversations human.

Dying or not, I’ll always be someone who prefers to talk than to text. I’ll gladly exchange texts if need be, but I’m most likely to turn the conversation toward when we can find a time to talk on the phone and have a real conversation. Human interaction doesn’t have to die in the name of convenience. Yes, texts may be more convenient, but let’s not forget about keeping human interactions…human.

 

Some Things Look Better On Paper :-)

Some Things Look Better On Paper :-)

When I plan trips, I always like leaving as early as possible on the departure day. This lets me get to my destination as early as possible, so I’ve got the full day to explore and enjoy it. I plan every trip the same way, and, like clockwork, I always second guess myself as the day approaches. I have those moments of thinking “What the heck was I thinking booking a flight out at 6:30am in the morning???”

I usually have these thoughts the day before, specifically the night before when I’m trying to go to bed at an ungodly early hour. I love to travel, and can barely contain my excitement before a big trip. I have yet to try the whole “staying up all night” approach, but since I can’t sleep on the plane (I’ve tried) I find myself trying to get even an hour or two of sleep before I leave.

Let’s take a look at this picture of the start of my itinerary; you can click on it to see a larger version:

 

 

I’m very granular when it comes to planning travel, because travel is supposed to be fun. I’d rather get as much planning done as possible in advance so I can just focus on enjoying it.  I use an app called TripIt for planning all of my travel, since it allows me to share my itineraries with family and friends. It’s extremely useful.

I’m due to drop off my car at 5:15am, which will give me enough time to get to the airport and through security. My flight doesn’t leave until 6:30am, but I’d rather be early than rush through and risk being late, or even worse, missing my plane entirely. Anyone who’s traveled through Austin-Bergstrom International Airport knows security lines can be hit or miss, regardless of the time of day.

Dropping off the car at 5:15am means I have to leave my apartment by about 4:30am or so. I should probably get up around 4:00am to have time to get a shower and quick bite in before I leave. This means that, to get enough sleep (I’m good with about 6 hours on an average night) I need to go to bed by 10pm. I can already say that’s not going to happen.

Maybe I’ll be in bed by 11:30pm, but probably be too excited to fall asleep. I may drift off to sleep by about 1, then be woken up by my alarm just 3 short hours later.

On the one hand… What was I thinking?

But on the other hand…and, I think, the bigger of the two proverbial “hands”:  I can’t wait, and I look forward to losing sleep at the expense of what looks to be a really fun upcoming trip.

I’ll be streaming live from Bermuda via Periscope, so be sure to download the app for iOS or Android and follow me on there (@iamjohnbamber).

I’ll be posting live blogs here as well, if you want to just see the current cruise postings you can do so at johnscruise.live or past cruise stuff at johnscruises.blog.

 

I Flew A Plane For The First Time

I Flew A Plane For The First Time

Yes, you read that correctly. I didn’t just fly in the plane, I flew the plane!

I’ve always enjoyed playing flight simulator games, and have done so since the early days of the first versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator on Windows 95! Fast forward to today, and I’ve been a big fan of a simulator called X-Plane on my Mac. It’s so realistic, the company who makes it offers a professional version or use in actual pilot training.

One of my friends from work, who also shares an interest in flying, suggested I do a “discovery flight” which is exactly as its name implies: a way to “discover” if flying is something you want to get involved with. So, yesterday I did just that.

It was incredible.

I put a video together for my YouTube channel talking about the experience, which I’d love for you to check out below:

I also uploaded a full unedited version on my YouTube channel  if you’d like to experience the entire journey for yourself. The audio isn’t great, because I didn’t have a way to record the onboard audio at the time, and I had only one camera feed. Still, you can get a feel for what it was like!

I wanted send a quick shout out and thanks to my friend Nate for the suggestion to do this in the first place, and for taking some great pictures while I was flying:

I wanted to send a special thank you to Mike and the gang at Above & Beyond Aviation, for giving an incredible and unforgettable experience! Since they also offer flight training, I know where I’m going if I decide to pursue my pilot’s license.

If you have any interest in aviation, be sure to sign up for a discovery flight at your local airport! It’s definitely a great experience, and one I highly recommend!

Keep It or Lose It?

Keep It or Lose It?

The fact that I am not smiling in the picture is quite intentional…

 

It all started a few weeks ago when I went to visit the dermatologist to have something taken care of on my face. Well, I’ll just call it what it was: I had warts on my face. How they got there, I have no idea, but needless to say they needed to go.

Thankfully, the treatment was fairly easy. As the saying goes, “there’s a first for everything”… I can now say I’ve been sprayed in the face with liquid nitrogen. It was cold, and it stung, but it wasn’t unbearable. I felt it more on the drive home than I did during the actual procedure, but the stinging feeling was gone after an hour or so. I’d honestly rather sit through that again than what I’m dealing with right now.

One of the doctor’s orders was that I couldn’t shave the area of my face for a few weeks while waiting for the treated area to heal. Other than trying some facial hair in the past, I’ve never worn anything as far as that goes. I have always preferred the look and feel of a clean-shaven face. Interestingly enough, no men in my family have facial hair, and being the first to break that tradition really isn’t high on my priority list. Perhaps I should look into getting my face zapped so I don’t have to grow facial hair ever again… that’s a thing, right?

I’ve gone a few days without shaving, and it’s no big deal, but this is a whole new level of “unbearably annoying.” I love the feel after a nice shave… my face is nice and smooth… I am literally dying for a shave right now because my face does not stop itching!

Friends of mine with facial hair have all told me that the feeling of discomfort and itchiness will eventually pass, and others have told me that my… “stuff” on my face actually looks good.  Hence, I’m torn. There’s a part of me that can’t wait to get rid of it, and there’s a part of me that is mildly curious to keep it for awhile and see if it changes anything.  I’ve been looking for ways to get out of my comfort zone in some areas of life, so maybe this is one I can add to the list. It certainly meets the requirements of pushing the boundaries of what I consider to be comfortable, because comfortable this surely is not!

Iamjohnbamber…dot com: My Blog’s New Home

Iamjohnbamber…dot com: My Blog’s New Home

Notice anything different?

I’ll give you a hint: Practically everything is different, except for the content that’s been here.

I’ve decided to move my blog over to a new website, and change things up a bit.  Earlier this year, I wrote a post called “Going Public: My Social Media Update” in which I talked about unifying my various usernames on different forms of social media.  I now have the name “iamjohnbamber” on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Periscope, Google+, and now (where it should have been all along), my blog!

I’ve gone for a simpler design as far as the site goes, but there is more happening behind the scenes that will help my blog be visible to more people. To those who have signed up on the old site, I thank you for doing so. Your signup is still valid over here. If you’re interested in signing up to receive my blogs via e-mail, you can always sign up here at this link.

As always, if you enjoy my content and like what I have to say, please share my blog with your family and friends and encourage them to sign up to my e-mail list. I don’t do the spam thing, I just do the “good content and fun stuff” thing.

What’s the address? Just like all of my social media handles, it’s iamjohnbamber.com.

Welcome to my new blog!

 

 

Can I Ask A Quick Favor?

Can I Ask A Quick Favor?

I promise, it’s quick, and will cost you nothing. You’ll be done before you know it.  It’ll actually take you longer to read this (hopefully short) post than actually do what I’m asking. 

If you couldn’t tell, I’ve dusted off my blog over the last few months and have gotten back into it. I really enjoy it; I love creating content. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to only make YouTube videos, or only write blogs, so I’m doing both. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to write about or make videos about, so I’m creating my content on just about anything that comes to mind. I have many interests, and am using that as my basis for creating whatever it is I’m creating.

I’m creating this content because I deeply enjoy sharing my knowledge and experiences with anyone who wants to read about them or watch my videos. That being said, I want to make sure that I’m getting as much exposure as I can, and sharing my material with as many people as possible. The truth is, I can’t do that alone. 

All I ask is that you share my blog and YouTube channel with your friends and family; anyone you think might enjoy what I have to say. I cover a wide range of topics: Taking cruises, Photography Equipment, Life Experiences, Weight Loss, Product and App reviews, just to name a few. One of the reasons I love having a wide variety of material, is it will give my readers and subscribers a chance to see things they may not be familiar with or aware of. 

So, that’s it. I’d be eternally grateful if you could share this post on your social media network of choice, and encourage your friends and families to do the same if you like what I’ve got here on my blog and YouTube channel.  You can find me on all forms of Social Media with the name iamjohnbamber – I couldn’t think of anything else to use, but since this is all about things that interest me why not just be…well…me!

A Review of My Apartment

A Review of My Apartment

I was originally going to post this on Yelp, as I typically would for a business that’s either gone far above or far below the line of good customer service. But, after reading it, I’d rather just share it here instead. Why? A number of reasons, the most important being the management company seems to be extremely “sensitive”, and considers even the lightest of remarks as “slander”, for which they’ll slip a note under your door expecting you to remove it from social media as a violation of the lease. (Observed from someone else’s post… I don’t know if that’s true or not…)

I don’t even know if that’s legal, but since I don’t feel like being evicted, or instigating drama,  I figured I’d share it here instead: 

(Apartment Complex Name):  Mediocre Living, at Its Best

I’ve been living here for about 2.5 years; I don’t love it, and I don’t hate it.  

Management:  Used to be better, has been declining since I moved in. Then again, this seems to be a trend wherever I move. I’d like to think I’m not the one bringing bad juju to every apartment complex I move to, but it seems like this is a trend within the industry. Perhaps it’s because rules and laws are getting stricter, or profit margins are down so it’s harder for rental properties to be profitable… I don’t know. There must be some reason for management decline over the years, and here at (Apartment Complex Name) it’s no exception. 

When I first moved in, the office staff knew me by name. Everyone was super friendly. Now… not the case anymore. I’m just a number. I’m known only by my apartment number, and that’s it. Someone has to look in a computer to learn about me, and by “about me” I mean my payment history and whether or not I’ve been delinquent on rent.  There’s more to me (and anyone else living here) than just my/our financial obligations… 

Property:  Overall, is very nice on the outside…except for the gates that they can’t seem to keep working. People seem to crash into them, forcing them to be left open 24 hours a day. Also, the gate entry system doesn’t make any sense… you press a button and both sides open at the same time. How is that safe? Some bad guy/girl could just wait by the opposite gate, and let themselves on to the property when someone comes in the opposite front gate. 

A gated community? No. More like…a community with decorative gates, providing no actual security. I brought this up to the management once, and they told me there were many CCTV cameras. I work in the tech field, so I know how to spot one… I have yet to find any. If they have them, as they say they do, they’re hidden very well… but I’m not holding my breath. 

Maintenance… Ah, the biggest measure of inconsistency. They either want to help or they don’t. It all depends on who’s working. 

I’d had HVAC issues for most of last summer, and it took the better part of 5 visits for them to be resolved. I then asked the property manager if there was any kind of compensation I could get for my inconvenience… previous places I’d lived, if there were a problem with the unit, they’d offer a discount on a month or two’s rent just to say “Hey, we get that you’ve been a good on-time-paying tenant, we own up to dropping the ball, here’s our way of making it right.” — I’m not expecting a free month’s rent, but some kind of concession would be appropriate. I was told, very coldly and without compassion by the manager, “We don’t do rent concessions.” – I was then offered a carpet cleaning, which I have yet to have done since they don’t ever seem to remember this. 

All of that aside… those are relatively minor gripes, in the grand scheme of things. 

The apartment is…for lack of anything else…fine. It’s a roof over my head that keeps me safe from bad weather, it keeps me warm in the winter and cool enough in the summer ( it’s comfortable, and (other than insufficient closet space) it’s got enough room for me to live. If I knew what i know now when  was looking for apartments, I wouldn’t have chosen it. Do I regret it? Not really, because nothing catastrophic has happened to me as of yet. I’m hoping that if something like that does come up, though, maybe management/maintenance/etc might be on the upswing of improvement to where it won’t be as bad as some other peoples’ reviews up here. 

Would I recommend moving here?  Yes and no.

YES if…
– You’re an easygoing, calm, patient, and professionally-behaving person
– You don’t mind things taking a long time to be fixed
– You don’t mind not having a personal relationship with the office staff
– You don’t need that sense of security living in an actual gated community (which this isn’t)

NO if…
– Minor imperfections in service/etc would prompt you to complain.
– You want the office staff to know you by name, and how you take your coffee.
– You have no patience…for…anything at all. 

Based on another poster’s review, the management may see this as “slander” or a means for me to deface their reputation. That’s not the intention of this at all. I’m doing my due diligence to write an objective and honest review as a tenant of 2.5 years. This apartment complex isn’t for everyone, but it is for you if you align with what I’d described above. I think this place COULD be so much better. It used to be. I think there’s tremendous potential for this to truly live up to being as luxurious as it’s advertised to be.  

Come in and have a look around, and make the call for yourself, but don’t forget about other neighboring properties.

As you can see, I’m fairly easygoing, despite my reputation as being overly critical of customer service. I’ll admit, I’ve become a bit more picky when it comes to customer service, but I have basic expectations that I don’t believe are unreasonable. I know when it’s appropriate to sit back and wait, and I know when something just isn’t right when it comes what “should be.” 

What do you think of this review? Would you give my complex a shot based on this review?