Posts Tagged ‘Bali’

Backpacking in the News: Google CFO Quits Job to Go Backpacking

Saturday, May 16th, 2015

Patrick Pichette, former Senior VP and CFO of Google

I wanted to blog about this when the story broke two months ago but life got away from me.*

Confirming my previous statement — to truly be free to fuck off and travel for an indefinite period of time, you must either a) just finish school, or b) quit your job — Google CFO Patrick Pichette chose Option B.

On March 10, the 52-year-old Pichette posted a resignation letter of sorts to Google+, saying he simply couldn’t tell his wife it wasn’t “their time” any longer. The experience that set this realization into motion was a recent trip he and his wife, Tamar, made to Tanzania. While watching the sunrise atop Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tamar asked him why they wouldn’t simply keep going, on to other parts of Africa, and then East to India, the Himalayas, Bali and beyond. His response at the time was that he wasn’t ready.

“I could not find a good argument to tell Tamar we should wait any longer for us to grab our backpacks and hit the road.”
– Patrick Pichette, Former Google CFO

“It’s not time yet,” he wrote, in hindsight. “There is still so much to do at Google, with my career, so many people counting on me/us: boards, non-profits, etc.”

A few weeks later and back at work, the Montreal-born Pichette says he couldn’t shake his wife’s question. Their kids are grown up: two are in college and another already graduated. He realized he’s been working for 25-30 years straight. He also pointed out it will be his and Tamar’s 25th wedding anniversary this summer.

“Allow me to spare you the rest of the truths,” he wrote. “But the short answer is simply that I could not find a good argument to tell Tamar we should wait any longer for us to grab our backpacks and hit the road — celebrate our last 25 years together by turning the page and enjoy a perfectly fine mid-life crisis full of bliss and beauty, and leave the door open to serendipity for our next leadership opportunities, once our long list of travels and adventures is exhausted.”

He goes on to gush about his peers at Google and wax philosophical about balancing family and a career (*the irony that I delayed blogging on this topic because I was too busy is not lost on me), only to end his frank and endearing letter with two words: “Carpe Diem.” Yep. He fucking wrote that. I mean, good for you, man. But come on.

I hope Patrick and Tamar don’t get matching Carpe diem tattoos on their anniversary, but they probably will. It’s a mid-life crisis after all.

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22. Scooter accidents

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Something didn’t seem all that safe about renting a two-wheeled motorized vehicle to cruise around on, for five dollars a day*, with no prior training or experience in operating such vehicles. Often tourists to hot destinations ride scooters with no helmet** while wearing shorts, a tank top and flip-flops. Most backpackers, being broke, forgo travel insurance*** as well.

scooter2bSo it should come as no surprise that The Times (UK) reported last week (Aug. 25) that motorbike accidents are the main reason why Thailand is the deadliest holiday destination for Britons. Out of an estimated 860,000 British tourists who visited Thailand last year, 269 were killed, according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The majority of the 324 reported hospitalizations in Thailand were due to motorbike accidents, the FCO added, noting actual numbers are probably higher.

*About road worthiness: “Some vehicles are not road worthy. The FCO says that many of the motorcycles and scooters that are available for hire in beach resorts are unregistered and cannot legally be driven on a public road. This could invalidate any travel insurance policy should the driver wish to make a claim.”

**About helmets: “The Thai law that states safety helmets must be worn is widely ignored according to the FCO, which contributes to the high number of deaths each year. On average 38 people a day die in motorcycle accidents in Thailand.”

***About travel insurance: “The (FCO)  report found that financial pressures are causing many British holidaymakers to forgo travel insurance in a bid to save money.”

A few other reasons why scooter accidents are so common among backpackers, especially in Thailand:
scooter11

  • Limited experience. A couple of years ago, I was in Ko Chang and my friends and I were about to rent scooters. The scooter rental shop was near the beach, a short walk from the town. As we arrived at the turnoff of the main road, a British guy and his girlfriend were driving toward us, also turning in. The guy slowed down and turned in without a problem. The girl slowed down, began turning and immediately sped up, lost control and smashed into a pile of construction debris – aluminum siding, scrap wood and metal. It would have been hilarious if the girl hadn’t been shrieking with her foot cut open (she was wearing flip-flops), leaking blood all over the metal, sand and grass. The problem was clear: Not knowing how to drive the scooter, she accidentally hit the gas instead of braking, panicked and revved into the garbage pile.
  • Gravelly, dusty roads. I was in Bali with a bunch of Chilean guys I’d met and we were ripping all over the island on scooters (see video). All was well until, in a hurry to catch the sunset at Uluwatu, I took a gravelly corner too fast and bam! I wiped out, scraping up my palms pretty badly. I had to drive to a nearby clinic, blood running down my wrists, where a nurse scrubbed my wounds with hydrogen peroxide and used tweezers to remove pebbles from the flesh of my palms. Good times. 
  • Sheer cliffs and mountainsides. Driving a scooter on winding, narrow roads, devoid of guardrails, makes one wonder how many backpackers have lost control, fallen down slopes and died (see above statistics).
  • Wildlife. Monkeys and elephants pop up at any time.
  • Garbage. Garbage litters the roadsides.
  • Unyielding local drivers. People don’t care if you’re “farang.” Get out of their way.
  • Unyielding local driving habits. In many developing world countries, red lights are often considered optional. Proceed with caution.
  • Alcohol and recreational drug use. ‘Nuff said.
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