I think I’m starting to realize that being debt-free can be hazardous to your wallet. Ever since we paid off our mortgage I’ve been on a spending spree. First it was an expensive celebratory trip to Costa Rica and now this – I bought myself a shiny new smartphone. There are lots of temptations when you have $5,000 in extra cash flow to play with that used to go straight to pay the mortgage note every month!
Actually, I’m just joking around. Travelling is one thing I enjoy greatly and I don’t plan on stopping spending money in that category anytime soon. As a matter of fact, several years ago when I was sitting around thinking up strategies for annihilating the Death Pledge I promised myself that I will try to spend more money on travel once the half a million ball and chain was removed from around my neck.
I’m happy to report that it looks like we’re on track to exceed our previous average spending in the Travel category this year. And just to make sure that 2016 is started on the right track my friend and I have begun planning our off-road motorcycle adventure to commence somewhere warm in January. We’re thinking about going to Panama and renting a couple of dual-sport bikes for 7 days. After picking up the motorcycles we plan on riding around with a very loose itinerary in mind and just a backpack each.
All I could think about while driving in Costa Rica was how cool it would be to jump on one of those single tracks going up a mountain. Of course our little 4-door rental sedan couldn’t handle any of that so it was not to be. Oh, and I had our toddler to worry about too… As the saying goes – one day I will come back to Costa Rica and go where the road ends.
But for now I’d like to put a new pin on the map of the world that hangs in my home office. I want to explore the different cultures in Central America and there are still many countries left to visit. How else will I know where I’d want to spend a couple of months living like a local with my family once we are close to FI?
Judging by the pictures, Panama looks as cool as Costa Rica and I really wanna see the Panama Canal which is considered one of the 7 wonders of the Industrial World. After perusing a few posts on www.advrider.com a light 250-400 cc dual-sport bike seems like a perfect tool for what we’d want to see in Panama so the search is on!
I enjoy travelling light. No checked bags makes everything easier. All I need is a backpack with carefully chosen contents and a smartphone. Some t-shirts, socks, underwear, shorts, swim trunks, jeans, sneakers, sunglasses, toothbrush, razor and I can be on the road for weeks picking up other necessities as needed locally. It gets a lot more complicated than that now that we’re travelling with our toddler so this is my chance to go back to the care-free days and leave all the stuff behind.
Minimalist travel on a motorcycle. The ultimate escape.
On our travels I usually bring a mini laptop/tablet which came in very handy in Costa Rica. I relied on it for things like making free calls over wireless, booking airbnb, making reservations, looking up directions or researching the best of whatever. At less than 2.5 pounds it’s definitely one of the easiest ways to bring a powerful full-featured machine on the road.
But I still needed to bring my phone for navigation. Besides, when I’m on a motorcycle travelling off-road the last thing I want is a delicate computer shaking in my backpack to pieces. One small fall (a likely event while having fun on a dual-sport) and the computer is toast.
I bought my current smartphone 5 years ago. It served me very well and to this day it works fine. As a matter of fact, I will be selling it on eBay because it has a ton of useful life left. But the technology marches on and I noticed that my phone couldn’t handle some of the new apps that I wanted to use. It would freeze up, throw errors and generally behave like it was ready to quit until I uninstalled the offending app.
I’ve been thinking about upgrading for a couple of years now but couldn’t pull the trigger because I had other priorities, like that pesky mortgage. Well, no more! I finally talked myself into buying a new phone rationalizing that I could use it in Panama to travel light bringing just 1 electronic gadget instead of 3 – a camera, a computer and a GPS all in one. Oh yeh, and a phone!
So what did I end up getting? After lots of reading and watching YouTube comparison videos I ended up picking up an LG G Flex 2. I do cost benefit analysis at work so this is something I like to do anyway. LG G Flex 2 was a flagship model released to take on the iPhone 6s and just a few months ago it was selling for $800. Of course all you have to do is wait until something slightly better comes out to pick up a powerhouse of a phone at a 70% discount, which is what I did.
The specs on this phone are top-notch and should stand the test of time for a while: 5.5″ HD resolution screen, quad (!) core processor, 13 Megapixel camera, slim design with a super comfortable and innovative curved shape… It was like going from a 486 chip computer to a Pentium III – all the nerds will know exactly what I mean.
I’ve had my G Flex 2 for two weeks now and I find it hard to put down. The camera takes amazing pictures, the screen resolution is absolutely stunning and the phone feels faster than any computer I’ve ever used. It runs anything I tried throwing at it including running multiple apps at the same time. No drama, just raw power.
There were a couple of hiccups. When I first got the LG Flex 2 it would heat up while playing videos or multitasking. The battery would barely last a day. I’ve read about these issues with LG G Flex 2 and knew that there was a simple fix – upgrading the operating system from Android Lollipop 5.0.1 to 5.1.1.
The LG G Flex 2 version that I got was AT&T branded but it came with a network unlock code. I researched and found out that the only way to upgrade (without going into the whole jail-braking mess) was to get the phone activated on AT&T plan for a month so that it could get the Lollipop 5.1.1 upgrade pushed by AT&T. This is a bit inconvenient and expensive since I’m on a $10 per month Airvoice Wireless plan, meaning I would need to get an AT&T SIM card and double pay for one month of service.
Luckily I found a much simpler solution! My LG G Flex 2 came with an AT&T SIM card that wasn’t activated. Despite online recommendations to the contrary, I decided to activate the SIM card with AT&T’s pre-paid Gophone plan but not actually purchase any airtime. Activation is free and takes just a couple of minutes on their website. I left the AT&T SIM card in the phone and after a couple of days, right when I started to lose hope, a message showed up on my LG G Flex 2 asking if I wanted to download a software update! After a 5-minute automated process my phone had Android Lollipop 5.1.1 and it’s running better than ever. No overheating, super fast and great battery life.
As soon as the update was confirmed I put the Airvoice SIM card back and I’ve been enjoying my iPhone6s-killer phone bought at a fraction of the price while paying just $10 per month for service. The best part is that the unused balance rolls over every month. Since I make most calls over Wi-Fi without using any minutes, I now have $70 in credit which allows me to turn on data whenever I want. Voila – a $10 monthly plan with plenty of data!
I hope to get another 5 years out of the new LG G Flex 2. I have friends who upgrade their phones once every year or whenever the new iPhone comes out. To me that seems just silly. I love technology but one year is just not enough time for it to change that much. A 5-year upgrade cycle virtually guarantees that your mind will be blown with your new toy, instead of some incremental enhancement that’s mostly a marketing gimmick (3D Touch anyone?)
But I’m most excited not about a new toy, but about what finally pushed me to get it after all the waiting. This phone is just a tool for enhancing our minimalist adventure experience in Panama.*
*At least that’s my justification for opening up the wallet and I’m sticking to it!