Bypassing Geolocation …

By now we all know that it is pretty easy to bypass geolocation blockage with a web proxy or vpn service. After all, there is over 2 million google results on “bbc vpn” … and I wanted to do just that to view a BBC show on privacy and the dark web.

I wanted to set this up as cheaply as possible but not use a service that I had to pay for a month since I only needed one hour. This requirement directed me towards a do-it-yourself solution with an hourly server in the UK. I also wanted reproducibility so that I could spin up a similar service again in the future.

My first attempt was to route my browser through a local SOCKS proxy via ssh tunneling, ssh -D 2001 user@uk-host.tld. That didn’t work because my home connection was not good enough to stream from BBC without incessant buffering.

Hmm, if this simple proxy won’t work then that strikes out many other ideas, I needed a way to use the BBC iPlayer Downloader to view content offline. Ok, but the software doesn’t have native proxy support (naturally). Maybe you could somehow use TOR and set the exit node to the UK. That seems like a poor/slow idea.

I ended up routing all my traffic through a personal OpenVPN server in London and then downloaded the show via the BBC software and watched it in HD offline. The goal was to provision the VPN as quickly as possible (time is money). A Linode StackScript is a feature that Linode offers, it is a user defined script ran at first boot of your host. Surprisingly, no one published one to install OpenVPN yet. So, I did: “Debian 7.5 OpenVPN” – feel free to use it on the Linode service to boot up a vpn automatically. It takes about two minutes to boot, install, and configure OpenVPN this way. Then you download the ca.crt and client configuration from the newly provisioned server and import it into your client.

End result: It took 42 minutes for me to download a one hour show. Since I shut down the VPN within an hour, I was charged the Linode minimum, $.015 USD. Though I recommend Linode (you can use my referral link if you want), this same concept applies to any provider that has a presence in the UK, like Digital Ocean who charges $.007/hour.

Addendum: Even though I abandoned my first attempt, I left the browser window open and it continued to download even after I was disconnected from my UK VPN. I guess BBC only checks your IP once then hands you off to the Akamai CDN. Maybe you only need a VPN service for a few minutes?

I also donated money to a BBC sponsored charity to offset some of my bandwidth usage and freeloading of a service that UK citizens have to pay for, I encourage you to do that same. For reference it costs a UK household, $.02 USD tax per hour for BBC. (source)

What’s new?

Ahem, let me dust this this off…

For those keeping track at home, it has been over 7 months since writing on this thing. Yup, new job, new car, new apartment after I got back. That was fun, and “settling” in again has kept me busy. I’ve also been enjoying the [short] summer that we have.

The most common question that people ask me now is “When are you leaving again?” – I guess there must be something in my eyes when I tell the travel story…ha. Nothing planned.

As far as tech goes, I’ve been digging into Chef for my IT automation needs. I simply can’t imagine a workplace without automation these days. I would show some github stats here but, (said every Ops engineer that I know,) most everything is behind private repo(s). I’m learning new technologies I haven’t used before and wearing many hats at a startup. I know the breadth of skills can only help in the long run. I haven’t worked on Gentoo Linux in awhile. I’m trying to find something there that interests me but after your tech belongings have been commoditized/optimized for lightweight travel, motivation is lacking. Keeping up with emerging tech is still fun, though.

RTW Recap/Reentering FAQ

I’m writing this because there are more incoming questions now that I am home than there was before I left. 14 countries in 14 months. Not super fast pace, but I did spend 8+ months in Australia.

Q/A Session:

Q: Where was your favorite place?!
A: This is the most common question. If you really want me to sum up my favorite part of the past 14 months in a sentence …. bah. Every place was my favorite in some way, the Viennese Christmas markets, watching the New Year fireworks over the Parthenon in Athens, shopping in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, teaching English in Sri Lanka, my mates in Aussie, I could go on.. If you really need an answer, I rank my favorite places by where I want to go back to right now, Prague & New Zealand. That does NOT mean all the other places are not worthy! There is just so much in this world to see!

Q: How much money did you spend? Did you work? How can you afford being unemployed for so long?
A: Little known fact, traveling CAN be cheaper than living in a static place. Fun observation, I spent only $1,200 on lodging for the entire trip, or $85/month. I kept meticulous logs of my money so I knew when it was time to come home. Yes, I did save up money before I left. No, I am not in debt. Yes, I have less savings than I did before I left (of course). Yes, I worked on the road, bartender and skydiving instructor. Yes, I was couchsurfing sometimes.
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There are other cool stats, but it’s not so important. Just know that it is completely possible to travel on less money than you think. If I had a one way ticket and only a few hundred dollars, I would still do it. There are many travel bloggers solely writing about traveling the world on $50/day or even less (shoestring).

Q: How did a career break effect your resume/job hunting/career?
A: I accepted a job within 4 days of landing in USA. Of course, I was job searching while I was abroad once I knew my return date. Also, I was always looking for opportunities. The initial interview after a career break is fun, in my experience, over half of the interview is talking about traveling. A fun one was “Why the heck am I video interviewing you in Australia for a job in Minnesota, USA?” “Well, here is the story… (30 minutes later, we were talking about the job again)” — A great icebreaker. So, I definitely recommend adding a career break to your resume! On the flip side, I was rusty with the knowledge/skills that use to be on the forefront of my mind, that may have hurt me for one interview. Also, a tip, your old employer may hire you back if you left on good terms.

Q: Previously, stated that you might never need a phone again? True?
A: Mostly, I can definitely manage with a Google Voice phone number and utilize the abundance of wifi networks here. There is more free wifi in the USA than most other countries, in my experience. It is annoying to miss a “connection” because you can’t call but it is a simple lifestyle change that my friends have already gotten use to “leave me a message, I’ll see it later” (sounds like voicemail, doesn’t it?) With all that said, I need a 24×7 phone for work now.

Q: Why did you come back in the coldest day of the year? in December? Do you like being back?
A: Yes, it is cold, -20F (-30C) the second night I got back, but I’m Minnesotan and we are tough! Haha, seriously, life doesn’t stop when it gets cold. I came back in December because I couldn’t stand another holiday away from my family, I missed 2x Thanksgivings, 1x Christmas, birthdays, etc. Yes, I like being back.

Q: What is the biggest change/your biggest fear?
A: The “new me” is mostly the same, but I do have different views and different thoughts. I feel like I’m much more independent now and a better person for experiencing at least some other cultures. I have less fears so I don’t know how to answer that question.

Q: Where/What is next?
A: Who knows? I’m going to settle here for the foreseeable future, advance my career, and set up some more open opportunities that I can use in the future.. I have my paperwork complete to get my Australian permanent residency. I have wanderlust to visit Central & South America.

Q: What is the hardest part of being back?
A: Well, honestly, the hardest part is talking to the people who don’t truly care but say they do. It was emotionally hard for me the first few days but I have modified my speech now by making the other person ask lots of questions, accepting compliments, agreeing when people say that they can never do it, etc. That may sound mean but it actually works and it seems that some people like it better that way, instead of arguing. I’ve also eliminated some anxiety by participating in local meetups with travelers. The only place where it is ok to be unemployed and celebrated to be homeless (nomadic). Don’t get me wrong, there ARE plenty of people who do care and are interested, to them I love talking.

—->>>> The RTW space here will be growing quiet, I’m not offended if you unsubscribe. Back to tech and software!

Japan, Dec 2013 – RTW Trip concluded

The LAST LEG of my 14 MONTH RTW trip was in Japan. I don’t know what to think of Japan, it is a magnificently crazy place (Tokyo – biggest city in world), a majestic countryside (Kyoto, Nikko, Fujisan, Nara, etc) and everything in between. I’m glad I went there because I have no background history with “eastern countries” and their culture. It was a humbling experience to got Hiroshima, for sure. The sushi and fish was great (naturally). I think I tried the most new-to-me foods there, such as beef tongue, pig intestine, raw squid/octopus, & eel off the top of my head. The best part of Japan was that I got to see my older cousin for the first time in 8+ years and meet his lovely girlfriend for the first time ever. The weirdest thing I did in Tokyo was goto a maid cafĂ© in Akihabara. If you are interested, I have pictures of Japan, here, (but not the maid cafe, ha). I made it back to USA soil for the first time in 424 days on December 8, it has been a whirlwind of the past two weeks (more on that later).

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“Nara, Japan: where even the wild deer bow to you.”

NZ trip, Aussie, what’s next?

Wow, I’ve been away from home for a year. Time runs quick, I remember being nervous to leave, now I’m nervous to be in one place for too long.

New Zealand was totally rad. It was exactly what people say regarding seeing all aspects of the world (nature-wise) in one little island, sooo primo. It takes quite abit to get on my list of places to come back to because there is so much to see in the world, but I’ll go back to New Zealand. I was there for 4 weeks, I stayed in Christchurch for a week. In Christchurch, I did an equal amount of skiing and skydiving (props to Lee at Skydiving Kiwis). Then I went to a speedriding event where I learned to speedride and skied for a week. After that week of epicness, living on the ski field for 9 days with 40 other crazy fun people, I took about 7 days to do a mini road trip around the north end of the south island. I worked my way to Queenstown and stayed there for a few days. Queenstown is a magic seasonal tourist city where the mountain peaks cascade down to the lake in the city and you can walk around the city in all of 30 minutes. In Queenstown, I went Bungy jumping and whitewater rafting for the first time. Epic.

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New Zealand Pics

Then, I came back to Aussie on my travel high and hung out in Maitland for a few weeks, “working” and having fun. Then I was off to a skydiving event, the West Coast Sundowner in York, Western Australia (a 5 hour flight from Sydney). Skydiving with some awesome people and meeting some new and old friends. That brings me here. Now.

Next…

I’ll be on my way to visit my cuz in Japan in the later half of November and back to Minnesota in December. Anyone know of some short term jobs, preferably computer related? :)

Road Trip Over, NZ up next

My road trip up and down the east coast of Australia ended in August, a fair few weeks ago. I drove 9000 kilometers and spent over $1000 in diesel (yikes). I was on the road for two months. I saw some cool stuff along the way. I basically drove 300-400kms per day and stayed “somewhere” for the night. If I was to do it again, I would go with someone else to split fuel costs and make the driving bits more exciting. I was planning on going farther on the road but some opportunities came up and I didn’t trust the van in the outback with hundreds of km’s between towns and no cell phone coverage. There is still much to see in Australia but that will have to be another time. So, I ended up back in my home base (Maitland) and worked at the dropzone. Up next is New Zealand, specifically the South Island. I’ll be there for a month to ski, speedride, skydive, and sightsee. Excited…YUP. After being in Australia for 6+ months, this is a holiday within a holiday, haha. Then I’ll come back to Australia and figure out what’s next on the agenda but I can’t think that far ahead yet! (Some ideas: Japan to see my cuz, SE Asia, dare I say…homebound (??) )

On the road (still)

A month on the road isn’t so bad, eh? So far, I’ve been living in my van & finding car parks to sleep in by the ocean mostly, it is a tough life! Haha.

Notable so far:

  • In June, I set up camp at Skydive Ramblers and made 30 skydives over a few weeks. That was fun, good dz there with nice people. It was an awesome break from “working” at a dz.
  • Took a short paragliding course at High Adventure and figured out how to get the wing over my head and run down a slope. You will see the motivation for this below.
  • Ran north to escape the New South Wales rain/cold (winter).

Just today, I spontaneously decided that I was going to drive 500km to Cairns and go for a 3 day scuba liveaboard trip! I made it, though my van tried to stop me. Slight overheating once I got to the tropics. The next 11 days are filled with scuba and skydiving! After that, I’m not sure where I will go. I’m leaving for New Zealand on August 29th, the plan is to go winter skiing and speedriding! So excited for that, even though it probably did cut my road trip short. How good is life?!

Road Trip Ready

I’m leaving my home base in Australia, Skydive Maitland, and venturing off. It all started with an idea, and this:

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I took the seats out of the van, put a bed in the back and now I’m ready to go.

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My grand plan is to go all the way around Australia. Some people tell me it is 25,000km or so. I have no real time commitments (as always), so for now I’m heading “north” – to where it is warmer. I think I’m the only guy chasing mild winter on my rtw trip, no more! I’m leaving Maitland with new friends to visit again and I did about 250+ jumps in the 3 months I was working there, good times.

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