Looking for a Sublet in the Bay Area in June


Totally not a serial killer!

I’m looking for temporary housing in the San Francisco Bay Area from June 1-30, 2014.

I am a clean, conscientious, and outdoorsy guy who would be happy in a room, house, cottage, apartment, or Airstream trailer—whatever works! While I prefer to have my own space, I have lots of experience living with housemates.

Please drop me a line if you know of something: yourstruly@blakeboles.com

Preferred areas: San Francisco, Marin County, Sonoma County

Desired features:

References available upon request.

10 Ways to Meet People, Have Fun, and Not Go Broke in Europe

I recently finished a three-and-a-half week working holiday in Amsterdam. I went there knowing no one except for a college friend, and I ended up having a great time without spending much money (compared to typical travel expenses).

Here’s my advice for planning your own low-cost, high-experience trip to Europe.

  1. Go with another person. I convinced my college buddy Matt to join me. Everything is cheaper (and usually more fun) with a friend!
  2. Spend the $$ necessary to get a great rental apartment. We used Homeaway to find our place; AirBNB is another popular option. Split it with your friend. Having privacy, your own kitchen, and a good location are vital.
  3. Buy groceries and prepare most of your own meals. Doing this saved us more money than anything else. Also, don’t go out for drinks when you can invite people over to enjoy them (at supermarket prices) at your apartment.
  4. Search/ask your Facebook network for friends who live in the area. Our (one) friend-of-a-friend introduced us to her friends, with whom we enjoyed many home-cooked meals and evenings out. They also lent us their museum passes so we could visit  the Van Gogh Museum and other famous places for free.
  5. Connect with like-minded people at like-minded organizations. For me, that was Knowmads, where I met a lot of cool people interested in alternative education. It helped that Knowmads had a coworking area where I could do my writing and other laptop work.
  6. Use Couchsurfing.com to find interesting-looking people who live in the area. We met many! Couchsurfing also has weekly meet-up events in most major cities—look on the city’s location page.
  7. If you’d like to go out on some dates, our Dutch friends told us that—as of early 2014—everyone uses Tinder. (We didn’t use it.)
  8. Don’t do touristy stuff. Just because you’re visiting a new country doesn’t mean you have to “do everything” in that country. I mostly spent my time in Amsterdam writing, working on my computer, drinking coffee in cafes (here’s my Amsterdam favorite), relaxing in my apartment, going for runs, and exploring the city on foot or bike—stuff that I do at home in the USA, too. I didn’t force myself to go to a million museums or visit every high-rated restaurant. I felt relaxed.
  9. Do your social networking at the very beginning. Investing lots of time in meeting new people in the first week paid us steady social dividends for the next two and a half weeks.
  10. Invest in mobility. In Amsterdam, that meant having a bike. Luckily our apartment came with free bikes. If we didn’t have bikes, we probably would have purchased unlimited access tram cards (or asked our new friends for lender bikes). Being able to go anywhere in the city, at any time, was highly liberating.

Photo: Stuck in Customs via Compfight cc

Minimum Viable Personality

In the tech startup world, there’s something called MVP: Minimum Viable Product. It represents the idea that, instead of trying to create a perfect new product, just get something out there and see if people actually like it.

Fake Grimlock―an anonymous “giant robot dinosaur” who shares startup advice on Twitter (@FAKEGRIMLOCK)―has another definition. To him, MVP means Minimum Viable Personality. You can’t just have a good product: you need a compelling personality behind the product. No personality = boring product = no one cares.

How does one acquire a personality? In this video, Grimlock explains.

“After a long life, and thirty years in the public school trenches, I’ve concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress our genius only because we haven’t yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.”


John Taylor Gatto

What I Learned at Summer Camp

When I was 11, I went to wilderness summer camp for the first time. I didn’t brush my teeth for two weeks. It was fantastic.

Next summer, I made a camp girlfriend. She was 14. I told her I was 13. We held hands for one steamy week. Then she discovered that I was actually 12, and I learned that lying to make someone like you doesn’t work.

A few summers later, I went on the camp’s most challenging backpacking trip. I helped plan the route, pack the food, and lead the group. We hiked to a high elevation river, played on natural water slides, and ate orange drink mix powder straight from the bag. Life was good.

Then, as I did every August, I went back to school―and life seemed to lose its color.

I did well in school. But that didn’t make things better, because camp and school felt like two totally different worlds.

At school I learned how to memorize a fact until Friday, alter the margins on an essay to create a higher page count, and study as little as possible for a test.

At camp I learned how to figure out what I want, take the initiative, conquer my fear, own my victories, and learn from my failures.

To my teenage sensibilities, the annual ratio of camp to school didn’t make sense. Why didn’t I go to camp most of the year and then head off to school for a couple months to learn grammar or algebra or whatever else camp couldn’t teach?

Fifteen years later, my sensibilities haven’t really changed. I still love working at summer camps, and I’ve designed a life around running my own multi-week, camp-style education and travel programs for teenagers.

But the biggest lesson I’ve learned? School isn’t necessarily the enemy. Life isn’t about school versus camp. It’s about seeking the engagement, excitement, and pleasure of camp-style, self-directed learning—as much as possible. With this as your mission, school becomes merely an asterisk.