Robert M. Coles

Author, World Traveler, Public Speaker

Category: thoughts

5 Travel Brands I’m Currently Promoting (And Why)

As you know by now, I cannot seem to travel enough. Seriously, it’s in my DNA. I have wonderlust. And I’m only able to travel as much and for as long as I do with help from various brands that make products that just enhance my experience and make it easier for me to enjoy the adventure. So, here are five travel brands I’m currently promoting, and why you should, too!

1. Tiplr – Travel App for Tips and Local Secrets

I know you’ve heard me feature this app before when I talked about the must-have apps in any traveler’s toolkit, but it needs repeating. This app has gotten me through several trips now, both in the planning phase, and the “saving my life when I can’t seem to find anything fun to do” phase. This app features tips on how to live like a local in any city, and it’s all user generated content. That’s half the fun. The other half comes from creating tips and collections yourself for others to see and experience the world like you. I personally am enjoying creating different tips everywhere I go and am getting “hearts” from people telling me they’re enjoying the place, too! It’s gratifying knowing I made someone’s trip a little more fun! Download Tiplr here!

2. Eagle Creek

This is your one-stop shop for all things travel gear. From backpacks, to luggage, to accessories, they have it all, and I’m in love with it all. I currently use the Mobile Office Backpack for travel because I work on the go. It’s great to organize client files, my computer, hard drives, notebooks, and office accessories in one location that I can grab and go. While their packs can be a bit pricey, I guarantee you’ll find the value after your first trip with any of their gear.

3. The Container Store

You thought they were only for organizing your closet, didn’t you? Nope. The Container Store has taken the travel industry by storm in recent years by offering a full line of travel accessories. I’m obsessing over my Reisenthel Multi Dot Hanging Toiletry Organizer (in black!) which keeps everything nice and neat. I’m not much of an “unpacker” when it comes to settling into hotel rooms and AirBNB’s so this keeps everything in one convenient place.

4. AirBNB

Not only do I travel with AirBNB, but I host with them, too. I’m not going to go into too much detail here because we’re all familiar with the way things work, but consider putting your apartment or home up for rent when you’re gone. It’s a great way to cover some of the expenses of traveling!

5. Tempur-Pedic. 

Trust me. Do not go on a long flight without a Tempur-Pedic neck pillow. It’ll save your life and your neck. The wrap around neck comes with an optional clasp to keep it in place (it’s a bit like wearing a necklace with really big, fluffy jewelry on the back of the necklace!) and the padding is firm, yet contours to your neck.

There you have it! My current list of travel brands I simply cannot get enough of right now. What are some of your favorites?

How I Unintentionally Bypassed Airport Screening and Accidentally Smuggled In A Bottle of Water

I recently took a weekend trip to New York City to meet with some clients, catch up with friends, and spend some time in the city that I love so much. It was a very fast trip only putting me in the city for less than 3 days, but a great experience none-the-less. I’ve been a traveler for most of my life. My family would take trips most every summer, venturing to Wyoming for one vacation, another to Maine, and of course the beach. As an adult, my travel has grown more to mean working trips with vacation fit in on that “extra day” where the company or client has already paid your flight and you splurge on extending your hotel. One thing is for sure, in all my travels, I’ve hated going to the airport.

I am by no means a small man. I am of average height, but am a bigger guy and sometimes that can be less fun to travel by plane. You always read the blogs and posts about the people complaining about the fat guy sitting next to them. Well, I am that guy. The flight doesn’t normally bother me as much as going through airport security. I already suffer from mild claustrophobia and standing in that tube with my hands in the air while someone looks at my junk on a TV screen doesn’t necessarily make me happy, but I do it because we live in a post-9/11 America, and safety in flying is a big concern.

On Sunday, December 7th I was traveling from Newark, NJ back to Nashville, TN and walked into the airport calmly, fully expecting my security stop anxieties to begin any minute. I approached the line with boarding pass and driver’s license in hand and saw that things were quite a bit backed up.

Let me stop here for a moment and say that I have never gone through the TSA pre-screening process. I have often thought about it, but never actually done it, but will probably do it soon as travel is starting to pick up. But, it’s important for you to know right now that I’ve never done it.

I walked up to the person standing in the front of the line assigning people which pathway to take. The couple standing in front of me had just been informed that one of them could go through the TSA pre-screen line, but the other could not as he did not complete his paperwork and did not have the proper documentation. I walked up to him, he looked at me and said, “Are you traveling alone?” to which I replied, “Yes,” and he pointed for me to go through the lesser of the two lines. I thought I had struck gold. For the first time this trip traveling alone had paid off in a big way.

I walked through the line and stopped with only two people in front of me. The gentleman standing at the entrance of the security area took out a swab and whipped down the lady’s hand in front of me looking for explosive residue. It’s good to note here that she was carrying a 1 year old strapped to her back… I walked up to him and held out my hand, he motioned for me to move forward, and mumbled something to the effect of “You’re good.”

I walked up to the conveyer belt and started to take off my belt and shoes. The lady standing there said, “Sir, please do not remove anything unless asked to,” so I left everything on and placed my bags on the belt. I told her that I was traveling with 3 laptops (long story involving last minute project deadlines and failing computers) and she said that was fine and to leave them in my bag. So I laid it on the belt and walked through the metal detector. It started to beep. She did nothing. So I asked her, “Do I need to do anything?” and she replied, “No. You’re fine.”

The weirdest part was that I watched my bags go through the scanner with no one watching a screen to see what was inside.

After I got through security I opened my bag to get out my wallet and realized I had accidentally smuggled in a bottle of water. My fault for accidentally bringing it into the airport? Or the TSA’s fault for not catching what could have been a bottle full of lighter fluid? You decide.

So, that’s my story of how I didn’t go through Airport Security, right under their noses, and smuggles in a bottle of water. I expect the FBI to arrive to arrest me at any minute.

End Game

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My Rambling Thoughts On The Writing Process

So, I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately (other than the writing that I have to do for work and the book I have coming out in February) and for the first time in a long time, I think I’m going to push a fictional novel through the pipeline. Maybe I can “accidentally” send a draft to my publisher instead of the files for my other books. I’ve never been much of a novelist, but this one seems to be flowing through quite easily.

I’ve been noticing that I fall into a certain pattern with how I actually write. I’m curious to see how things turn out, and this is probably the first project in a few years that I’ve felt very strongly about because of the message I’m trying to get across.

Essentially, the story will be quite controversial. I’m writing about the after effects of a traumatic event, but I’m focusing on people that don’t exactly cope well. It’s sort of a story based on my experiences with people I’ve met mixed with some of the conspiracy theories I just can’t resist reading about. While I am by no means a conspiracy theorist, I still find it fascinating what people will say (and post on the internet) and find that there is more than enough information out there for anyone to spin anyway they want.

Back to the point of this post, my writing process has changed greatly in the last few years. It’s gone from forcing myself to sit in front of the computer looking at the blinking cursor and wondering when something was going to hit me that was worthy of being written (especially when I’d write poetry or short stories) to more of a fluid process. I find that now I have to peel myself away from the computer because the story is flowing out of me, sometimes to0 quickly my fingers cant keep up with my thoughts.

People ask me all the time if I know what my ending will be to this current novel. There are a core group of friends that I trust enough to give the entire story to, and I always stop at a particular point, but the fact is that I don’t know. I know my characters (there are 12 characters that play a key role in the advancing of the present day plot, and 7 characters that play a key role in advancing the past plot) and I know what they want to say. They want to say everything I want to say. Everything that I would say if I was in their situation. Everything that I would want to say, and everything I couldn’t say.

The fact of the matter is that I have no clue how this story is going to end. I know the point of where the story will get close to ending, and I know ultimately the message I want to get across, but I feel it will happen when it happens. It isn’t something I’m going to be able to force. It’s something that is going to have to happen naturally.

I’m hoping to post a short section of the book on here sometime in the coming weeks. Until then, I’m interested to know about the processes other authors use when writing. Do you find that you have to force yourself to sit down and do everything at once? Do you know the outcome before you start? How do you get to know, and develop, your characters? I’d love to hear from you, so sound off below.

Stop and Smell the Roses

My thoughts on passion projects and finding inner happiness in a world of struggles and stresses

fortuneThere’s a strange thing that happens when I open up a fresh word document, or open a brand new notebook. I somehow loose myself and forget all of the struggles that have plagued me as of late. Whether it’s the fact that I basically haven’t had any alone time in over a month, or that I’ve worked 60+ hours a week for almost a year. Maybe it’s that I’m publishing a book in February and a text book in the spring. Any combination of these could cause the normal person to stress.

But I’ve got words, and they never fail me.

I’ve been so tied up in projects that are going to bring me closer to my long-term life goal that I’ve forgotten to stop and smell the roses for the past few months. I’ve forgotten to take time to write for pleasure, instead of for purpose.

That stops today.

I live my life on a very regimented schedule. I work a normal day job doing what I love, then teach acting to my students every day, which I also love, but I’m lacking the free time to work on my passion projects. So, I’ve developed five life goals that will allow me to complete my passion projects.

1 – Make time

There’s always going to be an excuse. There are a million things that have to get done, and that’s never going to change. Projects get piled on top of other projects, and just when you finish one thing, another one pops up. My new goal is to make time, and it should be your goal, too. I use Google Calendar for everything these days, and I love it. I’ve started to plan out my day according to my writing hour (first thing in the morning) and my project hour every evening.

2 – Stick to the schedule

I love living a flexible life, but sticking to the schedule is the key to maintaining balance.  I’ve decided that nothing comes before my passion projects and my fun writing times; not even the writing time for work.

3 – Have someone hold you accountable

I’ve got a group of writing friends that keep me on track with my books, but I’ve got another friend that keeps me on track with working on projects that I love. It’s not about them telling you what to do, it’s about them checking in on you to see if there’s anything they can do to ease up the time to give back to you. Just make sure that you do the same for them. I’ve been fortunate enough to gain friends that share common interests and help me when needed, and I help them.

4 – Silence the outside world

I’m one of the most connected people I know. Face to face interaction, phones, texting, email, and social media have gotten us all more connected than ever, but during your passion project time, you’ve got to shut the rest of the world out and dedicate yourself to what you’re working on. It’s you time to the extreme, and it happens daily.

5 – Forgive yourself if you break the schedule

You’re bound to falter. Maybe you’ve set your passion project hour to first thing in the morning and you’ve got to get that extra hour of sleep because the night before was rough. Maybe you’re going on vacation for a while. Whatever the situation may be, forgive yourself if you miss a day or two, but don’t let yourself fall out of the habit. It takes 21 days for something to become a habit. Don’t break it for too long.

Whatever you do, take time to stop and enjoy life, and do what makes you feel good. That’s the ultimate purpose, isn’t it?

What are some of your tips for making time to do what you love?

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