Archive for Travel

3 Steps to Planning Your Corporate Blog

In my first post on this subject, I described how I re-organized my life to become a world traipsing corporate blogger. It’s forward looking as I haven’t flown the coop yet, but soon I will be in France writing for my clients back here in Vancouver. How is this possible? Research, planning, communication.

I need to get up to speed on disability claims and liability in an area where I know little. How am I going to do it? Here is what I’ve learned so far:

  1. Get connected – there are lots of online resources I can draw from. For example, LinkedIn has great groups on the very subject I’m suddenly interested in—legal blogging. I’ve joined a few groups and I’m reading the content and making notes about what I find.
  2. Get organized – this is no place to be disorganized. I’ve used my standard timetracking software to track my time and plan ahead. I use Excel, but you can try Billing Boss, because it also allows you to invoice your clients.
  3. Set up subject matter alerts – there are a few questions here, but what you need are some keywords that you can use to create some effective news alerts in Google. When you know the best words (I’ll blog about that soon), go to Google News and enter them. At the bottom of the results screen, click Create an email alert for [your keywords] and follow the prompts.

Lest this blog get to be too dry, here’s an inspiring quote for all concerned: “Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul; the blueprints of your ultimate achievements.”
— Napoleon Hill

My New Book: “How I blogged my way through Europe”

Currently, only my friends know that I’m going to be working in Europe this winter. “How?” they ask. “Savings”, I say. Well, savings and ruthless cunning.

I took the summer off to quiet down and think about my future. I did little other than teach my technical writing courses at BCIT and study jazz clarinet. Under the placid surface, though, I was trying to figure out how I could work in Europe. This went back and forth for a while and it looked like I’d just have to go there first and start talking to people and perhaps plan on a miracle.

I was also talking with people in Vancouver about various types of work and I’ve been finding a bit of a perfect storm in which my technical writing and marketing copy writing meet as a powerful sales tool. Did you know there’s a large market for corporate bloggers with technical writing skills and a handle on social networking tools?

I’m now attracting companies that need to make their blogs and web sites look like, well, like someone’s home there. That’s where I come in. I write. And I research a lot about industries I never imagined I’d have to know anything about. The coolest part is I can do this writing from home. And, I reasoned, if I can do it from home, why not from the south of France?

And that’s just what I’m doing in a few short weeks. Living in France and blogging about companies in Vancouver. So you ask, “how did you do it?” C’est si simple, n’est-çe pas?

Oh, and savings helps too. I’ve been stowing away funds in my ING account and have amassed a small fortune.  Since signing up four years ago, I’ve earned $423.72 in interest alone?

If you haven’t switched to a no-fee, high interest bank yet, why not?

Lord love a Canadian

What is it with Canadians and their maple leaf fetish? Everywhere I went in Europe, I could spot Canadians by the little maple leaf tags sewn on their back packs. I know the reason for the identifiers, but who really cares if I’m mistaken for an American? It’s not like Americans are everywhere (well they are, but more in a military/industrial sense than as tourists in Europe). Most the tourists I encountered were European and were not necessarily a more pretty lot than the Americans. Perhaps, the scourge of the ugly American tourist has passed or everyone else has come up to speed making all tourists equally vulgar. What gets me about the Canadians is, who are they trying to impress their Canadian-ness on anyway? The doorman at their hotel? Their waiter? Who cares what a doorman or a waiter think?

Behind the Opéra Garnier, I went to a multi-media show on the history of Paris and found myself sitting next to a couple resplendent in T-shirts, wristbands (wristbands??!!), and baseball caps all with maple leaf motives. I’m sure they were a very nice couple, but there was enough foliage on these tourists to qualify as camoflage gear! Also, they are sadly misinformed about how pre-occupied Parisians might be about the nationality of these two (I’d say, not a bit). I was really tempted to lean over to them and say, “So, what part of Michigan are you from anyway?”. Naturally, the first thing I did when I returned to my hotel room was rip all the maple leaf tags off my luggage.

Now I’m back in Canada and having a reverse laugh at Canadians and their quaintly self-conscious ways. In the bank today, I overheard an American tourist trying to get some money from an overly helpful teller. The American tourist told the teller that he was from Los Angeles and she chirped, “Welcome to Canada. I hope you have a wonderful stay”. That impressed me because I couldn’t imagine a European bank teller being that friendly. Polite yes, but not so singsongy about it. I was also struck by the farm-folksy way she asked the American if he would like his cash in “loonies and twoonies“. I couldn’t believe that she, a bank teller, would not know that “loonies and twoonies” don’t really constitute Canadian currency and that our little pet names for our money are not known universally. Not surprisingly, the American just sputtered, “I have no idea what you’re saying”. Vive le culture shock, eh?


It was only after I got up extra early, ate a good breakfast, packed some water and trail mix that I realized I was using my Whistler skills to negotiate my way around the Louvre. You see, the Louvre is huge—it’s really huge—it’s bigger than Whistler and Blackcomb combined (even including Creekside!). And the similarities don’t end there.

When you enter through the glass pyramid, there are four ‘lifts’ that, once you show your pass, carry you up to the galleries. Colour coded maps are provided to make it easier to find your way around, and a smart art connoisseur knows to take lunch early in one of the museum restaurants or face huge lunchtime crowds. To take the metaphor just a little further, I would re-organize the Louvre in the following fashion:

All paintings that are not French or Renaissance would be classified as Green run (Colline de Lapin). These would include Flemish masters, any prints and drawings, and all art from the Middle Ages. Add to this, works from Mesopotamia, Persia, the Levant, and anything ‘oriental’ that is not Egyptian.

Blue runs would include Greek, Etruscan, Egyptian, Roman sculpture, French paintings of the 18th and 19th Centuries with the possible exceptions of works by Delacroix and Jacques-Louis David which would be classified as Blue-black.

Black Diamond runs would include the Venus de Milo, The Winged Victory of Samothrace, anything relating to Napoléon I as well as the Napoléon III apartments. The reigning Queen of Mogles would be, of course, the Mona Lisa. Only experienced art lovers could be expected to make their way through these galleries and anyone able to view all in one day would probably be Olympic material.

Mona-Lisa-At-The-Ski-LodgeAfter all the jostling, photo taking, gawking, and the like, the fun part would begin Après-Louvre when everyone would descend from the galleries down to the surrounding cafés, put their sore feet up, order rounds of beer, slap themselves on the backs in a congratulatory manner, and swap stories of their art-bum adventures.

Je suis desolé, mais…

Some French words that look like English words can be very misleading. Take for example, “Je suis desolé”. I really hoped I would never have to utter those words in French. They sound so last-ditch. I could perhaps imagine myself saying I’m desolated that I smashed my rental car into a tree, but it would be very difficult using those words if all I did was step on someone’s foot or bounced a cheque. Perhaps this explains why the French would sooner shrug than apologize – evidence of a shortcoming in their language.

Europeans are so much more conscious of saving energy than North Americans. In public places, such as restaurant lavatories, lights are on timers giving you a couple of minutes to do your business illuminated before having to fumble in the dark. This is also true of hallways in hotels, which is a bit of a hazard given the uneven floors and stairs. As I was leaving my hotel room I bounded down the stairs in the dark (hey, I’m practically a native now) only to miss a stair. Had I not been quick, I might have pitched down a couple of flights, but as it was, I grabbed the handrail using the same hand I was using to hold my plastic key card and caused the key to nearly crack in two. The remaining four flights gave me the time to compose my best French so I could explain to the concierge what had happened to the key. “Excusez-moi monsieur, mais j’ai tomber sur les escaliers et cette clé est cassé.”

Then the heavens parted and I got to say it… “Je suis desolé”. I half expected the concierge to look at me like I was mad, but he just smiled and said that it was not a problem and the key could be fixed.