Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Guatemalan Adventure

I recently returned from an adventure in Guatemala. I spent 12 days relaxing and enjoying the culture of the Mayan People. The interesting piece is that often my girlfriend and I were the tourist attraction because we were the visual minority in many of the towns. It is quite an interesting experience when you are not used to being in the minority. In one town, my girlfriend and I were the only 'white' people for more than 24 hours. It actually felt that maybe we were in a 'Twilight Zone' episode and that were transported here by mistake where the Mayan Race was so predominant. Great learning experience!
Normally when I vacation, I try to see as much as possible because I know that there is little chance of me returning to country - since there are so many countries I want to visit before I die. This time, however, I found that although my girlfriend who was travelling with me wanted to go on a trek with a heavy backpack climbing up a volcano to freezing weather, I chose to return to lake Attitlan where I spend my days at an outdoor cafe, with the lake lapping at the shore, my coffee and breakfast brought to me at my table, while I sat under a grass hut enjoying the warmth of the sun and read my book and diarized. I came back to Toronto feeling re-energized and at peace.

The biggest challenge we had in Guatemala is trying not to get 'ripped off'. Although I am lucky and have fairly dark skin, my girlfriend is as white as can be and we automatically got identified as 'gringos' who can afford to pay sometimes 5 times the price of what the locals pay.

At one point we took a boat across the lake. Normally, we had paid 20 quetzales. This time, we had missed the boat and after much negotiation, the head honcho agreed to take us across privately for 30 quetzales each. Knowin that this would save us an hour wait, we decided to go. As we pulled away from the dock, the boat returned to the dock and picked up 8 more people. When I aksed the local how much he was paying, he said it's 6 quetzales - 80% less than what they were charging us.

When we got to our destination, I argued with the head honcho for over 10 minutes. He insisted that we pay our agreed upon 30 each and when I said that the locals were paying 6 he insisted that they paid 20. I called one of the locals to back up what I said and the navigator tried to get the local to pay the extra that we were supposed to pay. After much haggling, he took 10 quetzales each but neither of us were happy. I felt I needed to make a point after knowingly being cheated over and over while in the country.

The truth is that the difference between what he wanted and what I paid was only $3.50. Was it really worth it? In retrospect maybe not, however, as we walked away, one of the workers on the boat yelled at my girlfriend 'What's wrong with you, you gringo's can afford to pay for our gasoline!'

Alas, that is often the reality of traveling in third world countries and the perception of the locals of what people in first world countries can afford. The truth is that we can afford it, and we should be willing to pay.

The point is that I should be 'choosing' to pay rather than being tricked into paying. Funnily enough, that was the highlight of the trip and one of my 'fondest' memories.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A time to look forward, a time to look back

Happy New Year!

This is a common time for entrepreneurs to make New Year's resolutions and create new business plans and goals for the upcoming year. I am going to ask you to do something different today. Today I want you to look back on 2007 and complete the following 4 steps:

1) Write down all that you have achieved over the last 12 months
2) Compare your lists of accomplishments with the list of goals you created in January 2007
3) Write down the obstacles or blind spots that got in your way of achieving every goal
4) Make a plan of what will you do differently this year to make sure that you achieve all your
goals this year.

A successful business is not about achieving all your goals. If you achieved all your goals you proably played it safe when you set your goals. A successful business is about vision and planning. When bumps and obstacles get in your way, you need to find solutions to overcome those problems so that they don't interfere with you achieving your goals for the next year. There is nothing wrong with running into obstacles. I want you to run into obstacles and problems because that means you are playing a big game!

The bigger your goals, the bigger your problems!

Go all out this year!
Learn about the obstacles that get in your way!
Plan how to overcome those obstacles!
Set even bigger goals!

Have an awesome 2008!