12 Multi-Function Items You Should Never Travel Without

Multifuction Items for Travel

Whether you’re planning a four hour road trip or catching a flight to the other side of the world, you have limited space in your suitcase.  So pack these practical, space-saving, multi-function items and you’ll always be prepared without the hassle of lugging around additional gear.

1.  Smart Phone with GPS – A smart phone is an information and communication portal that will likely save your rear end someday.  My smart phone has certainly saved mine a time or two.  Here are some of the basic functions of most modern smart phones:

  • Phone
  • Maps and GPS
  • Internet access (Google, email, etc.)
  • Camera
  • Can be used in the dark as a flashlight
  • Clock (with an alarm)
  • Calculator
  • Note taking (voice recorder)
  • Music and movie player (for entertainment)

2.  Hand Sanitizing Wipes – In my mind, hand sanitizing wipes are essential tools that prevent me from infecting my body with germs on a daily basis.  They have several practical functions:

  • Clean hands and other body parts
  • Disinfect small cuts and scrapes
  • Clean various surfaces (public toilet seats, gas pumps, windshield, etc.)
  • Remove small stains from clothing, upholstered furniture, etc.
  • Remove makeup

3.  Spare Wallet with Identification and Cash – Let’s recite the Boy Scout motto: “Always be prepared.”  If you lose your primary wallet when you’re hundreds of miles from home, it’s nice to have a back-up plan.  Find a safe, hidden place to stash your spare wallet when you arrive at your destination. While this isn’t a multi-function item in the traditional sense, it can save you so much grief when disaster strikes that it’ll seem like the most functional item in the world.  There are four things I keep in my spare wallet:

  • $100 cash
  • Spare photo identification
  • $100 prepaid visa
  • Emergency phone numbers (just in case I lose my phone too)

4.  Credit Card Size Survival Tool – It’s the size of a credit card, made of rugged stainless steel, and has several practical functions including:

  • Knife edge
  • Screwdriver
  • Ruler
  • Can opener
  • 4 position wrench
  • Butterfly screw wrench
  • Saw blade

5.  Large Zip-Lock Bags – A large zip-lock bag has hundreds, if not thousands, of practical functions when you’re on the go:

  • Keep leftovers fresh
  • Keep dry things dry when you’re around water (wallet, electronics, etc)
  • Separate dirty, smelly clothes from clean clothes in your suitcase
  • Lunchbox
  • Organize things like socks, toiletries, small electronics, etc.

6.  Rubber Bands – Rubber bands are simple, functional and versatile.  There is an endless list of practical uses for a rubber band including:

  • A simple wallet replacement – Just wrap a rubber band around your cash and cards and stick them in your pocket.
  • Keep any wires or small objects in your suitcase organized and untangled.
  • A bookmark
  • Use a rubber band to strap an injured finger to a firm stick or piece of cardboard until it can be properly casted.
  • A safety strap for eye glasses

7.  A Bottle of Water – Water is essential to life, so it’s probably a good idea to keep some with you wherever you go.  And similar to an empty zip-lock bag, water has hundreds, if not thousands, of practical uses:

  • Drink it when you’re thirsty
  • Cleaning/rinsing agent (lots of possibilities here)
  • Pour it into your rental car’s cooling system if it’s overheating.
  • Put out a small fire (non grease or electrical).

8.  Leatherman – It’s the all-in-one multi-tool you should never leave home without.  These little tools can handle a plethora of different jobs.  When traveling, I try to keep my Credit Card Size Survival Tool on me at all times (except in airplanes) and my Leatherman secured in my suitcase just in case I need it.  I personally own the Leatherman 830039 (linked above) and I love it.  Here are a few of it’s functions:

  • Screw driver
  • Bit driver
  • Pliers
  • Wire cutters
  • Knife
  • Scissors
  • Wood/metal file
  • Ruler

9.  Multi-Use Car Charger – Because a cell phone with no battery juice is useless when your car breaks down on the side of the road during a long road trip.  My multi-use car charger (linked above) allows me to charge up to four devices at once.  This unit turns one auto cigarette lighter port into two, has two USB charging ports, and provides a heavy-duty 20 amp capacity.

  • Charge your phone
  • Charge your camera
  • etc.

10.  A Lighter and a Candle – It’s always a good idea to have the capability to create fire just in case you need it.  This one is simple:

  • Light
  • Heat
  • Cooking

11.  Large Ace Bandage – Lots of practical uses including:

  • Compression on a injured limb
  • Bandage for an open wound or burn
  • Tie things together
  •  Scarf
  • Makeshift glove or grip

12.  Small Roll of Duct Tape – Duct tape solves everything.  😉  If you’ve tried using duct tape and you’re still having problems, you just haven’t used enough of it.  Duct tape may very well be the second greatest invention after the hammer.  I’m not even going to attempt to summarize the extensive list of practical applications for duct tape.

Do you think we left an essential item off of the list?  Let us know about it in the comments section below.

Photo by: Pragmagraphr

The Only Problem Standing in Our Way

The Problem in Our Head

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind
of thinking we used when we created them.
– Albert Einstein

Never Forgive Him

She showed up at my front door before work at 7AM this morning with the most troubled, despondent expression on her face (which is not typical of her disposition).  “I’m sorry I didn’t call,” she said.  “But I haven’t slept all night, and I really need to talk to someone.  I just need some advice.”

I invited her in and poured her a cup of coffee.  “So, what’s on your mind?” I asked.

“Last night, my husband told me something about his college years that he never told me before,” she said in a shaky voice.  “And I completely disagree with his actions.  It’s horrible, really… and I just can’t stop thinking about it!  I don’t know if I will ever be able to forgive him.”

“Well, before you tell me anything else… Why do you think your husband confided in you?  I mean… Why do you think he told you?”

“I don’t know,” she replied.  “I guess he finally trusted me enough to tell me.”

“Did he commit a crime?”  I asked.


“Was anyone physically hurt by his actions?”

“No, not really.”

“So, how do you feel about him right now?  Do you still love him?”

“Of course I do,” she replied.

“And whatever he did back in college, do you think he learned his lesson?  Or do you think he would do it again?”

“Oh yeah, I’m fairly certain he learned a big lesson,” she replied.

“Okay, so let me get this straight… Last night your husband finally felt that he trusted you enough to tell you about a dark secret from his college years.  And although somewhat unsettling, he didn’t hurt anyone, and you think he learned his lesson – which means he grew emotionally from the experience.  And to top it off, you’re still completely in love with him.  So what exactly can you never forgive him for?”

She sat in silence for a second, made a crooked half smile, and then shook her head.  I mimicked her facial expressions and shook my head back at her.

Then she started laughing.  And so did I.

More About Us, Less About Them

Sometimes the problems we have with others – our spouse, parents, siblings, etc. – don’t really have much to do with them at all, because these problems are actually about us.

And that’s okay.  It simply means these little predicaments will be easier to solve.   We are, after all, in charge of our own decisions.  We get to decide whether we want to keep our head cluttered with events from the past, or instead open our minds to the positive realities unfolding in front of us.

All we need is the willingness to look at things a little differently – letting go of ‘what was’ and ‘what should never have been,’ and instead focusing our energy on ‘what is’ and ‘what could be possible.’

Because, as my friend discovered this morning, sometimes the only problem standing in our way is the one we created in our head.

Photo by: Phil H.

29 Semi-Productive Things I Do Online When I’m Trying to Avoid Real Work

Productive things to do online when you are bored and lazy

You don’t always have to work hard to be productive.  Productivity can simply be the side effect of doing the right things.

So here’s a list of 29 semi-productive things I do online when my mind is set on avoiding ‘real work.’

  1. Check delicious popular tags like ‘useful,’ ‘tutorials,’ ‘tips,’ ‘howto,’ ‘advice,’ ‘entrepreneurship,’ etc. for interesting, educational articles to read.
  2. Watch one of the thousands of educational videos streaming at TED.com, Academic Earth and Teacher Tube.
  3. Read an online book list and find a new book to grab next time I’m at the library.  Here’s another list.  And another.  And another.
  4. Read a classic book online for free at Project Gutenberg, Planet eBook, or the E-books Directory.
  5. Research a new Do It Yourself project at DIY Network, Instructables, eHow, or WikiHow.
  6. Add to, delete from, or just generally sort my ongoing to-do list at Remember The Milk.
  7. Create a cool graphical mind map of some of my recent ideas at bubbl.us.
  8. Email a close friend or family member I haven’t spoken to in awhile.
  9. Share my favorite mp3s, photos, videos, etc. with friends and family using Dropbox.
  10. Backup my recent photos, documents, and other important files online using Microsoft’s free 25 gig SkyDrive.
  11. Use Wikipedia’s random article function to pick a random article to read.
  12. Touch up on my math and science skills over a the Khan Academy, MIT OpenCourseWare, or LearningScience.org.
  13. Send a paper greeting card directly to a friend or relative at enGreet.
  14. Start learning a new language online for free at BBC Languages or Livemocha.
  15. Watch one of the insightful 6 minute and 40 second presentations at Ignite Show.
  16. Use Memorize Now to memorize a cool joke, or poem, or whatever.
  17. Use Media Convert to convert video files I have on my computer into a format I can view on my iPhone or iPod later on.
  18. Listen to an educational podcast over at Odeo or via iTunes on iTunes U.
  19. Read one of the academic journals at the Directory of Open Access Journals.
  20. Get a free college education online using this guide from Lifehacker (or read one of the other useful articles on Lifehacker).
  21. Inspire and spark my creative mind by looking at a rolling slideshow of the highest rated photos on Flickr for the last 7 days.
  22. Catch up on a short history lesson at HyperHistory or The Internet History Sourcebooks Project.  Or find out what happened today in history.
  23. Take a fun, educational online quiz at Quizlet.
  24. Play an educational online game at Lumosity, Sporcle, Games for the Brain, or Math Run.
  25. Add a little gentle rain to my environment using RainyMood.com and then simply meditate and relax in my computer chair for 10 minutes.
  26. Sell old stuff I no longer need on eBay and make a little extra cash.
  27. Find a new musical artist to listen to based on music I like at Grooveshark, Pandora, last.fm, or Deezer.
  28. Find out what’s happening in our world from quality international news sources like BBC News and Reuters.
  29. Write a blog post like this one.

Oh, and ever since I bought my new (super sexy) Apple iPad, I’ve been enjoying all of these sites on the go and catching looks from almost everyone who passes me while I browse.

So what kind of semi-productive things do you do online in your off-time?  Please share them with us in the comments section below.

Photo by: Colorblind Picaso Party Casino

Less than Perfect is a Perfect Start

Less than Perfect is a Perfect Start

Her First Subscriber

“How did you do it?” she asked.  “In a sea of blogs that never make it, how did you start a personal blog that attracted the attention of 10,000 subscribers?”

I chuckled.  “You know, I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around that one myself.”

“Come on, Marc,” she insisted.  “I’m being serious here.  I’m getting ready to start my own blog and I’m nervous about failing.  I want to cross all my T’s and dot all my I’s – I don’t want to start it until I know how to do it right.”

I stared at her for a moment.  “Well, one Sunday evening a few years ago, I made a decision to write an article about something that inspired me, and then I published it on my blog.  And every Sunday evening since, I’ve made a similar decision.”

“That’s it?” she asked.  “No launch plan?  No design tweaks?  No marketing?”

“No, at least not initially,” I replied.  “I did a little tweaking later on down the road, but by then my blog already had a catalog of articles up online.  And most of the tweaks were based on reader feedback and analyzing visitor stats to see which articles were attracting the most attention.”

“So you think I simply need to start writing, right now… about the things that inspire me?”

“Yeah,” I replied.  “The only way you can fail is by not writing – by waiting around until you have the perfect plan before you start.  Because ‘perfect’ doesn’t exist.  It isn’t human.  It isn’t you.

She smiled and said, “Thank you.”

Later that afternoon, she emailed me a link to her first published blog article.  And I became her first subscriber.

What’s the core purpose?

The hardest part, I have found, of creating something new – a website, a product, a technology – is simply the act of starting.  We let our creative minds get so caught up in planning and designing idealistic requirements and prerequisites for our new creation, that we drastically hinder the actual process of creating it.

What stops most people from starting with a less than perfect plan or product is the fear of failure.  There’s a common misconception that if you don’t get it done exactly right the first time, your creation will fail and all efforts will be lost.  That without this feature or that tweak, there’s no point at all.  Nonsense.

The truth is that every successful creation or innovation has a foundational core purpose – a tiny essence that justifies its existence.  Any tweak or feature above and beyond the scope of this core purpose is optional.  When my friend decided she wanted to start a blog, she spent all of her energy trying to map out the perfect plan and design, instead of simply writing her first few blog articles – which is the core purpose of a blog.

So the next time you decide to create something new, back yourself into a corner, cut out the fluff, and release your core creation into the wild ASAP for others to experience and tinker with.  Less than perfect is a perfect start.  The need for intelligent tweaks and adjustments will arise naturally as time rolls on.

Photo by: Vu Bui