Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

Hi, I'm Blake.

I run this joint. Don’t know where to start? Let me show you around:

As seen on CNN, NBC, ABC, Fox, Wired, Yahoo!, BusinessWeek, Wall Street Journal

Skepticism educates. Optimism wins.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference and importance of both skepticism and optimism.

For example, whenever I ask someone if they’re a pessimist or optimist, the latter will always embrace the label. But the former will almost always reply with, “I’m a realist,” or “I’m a skeptic.” They do this, I guess, because pessimism has a negative connotation.

Although I wholeheartedly consider myself an optimist, I fully embrace skepticism, however, when it comes to educating myself, asking questions, reporting the news, or examining a complex or controversial topic.

In other words, “consider the source.” Don’t just accept something you hear as fact. Challenge it. Probe it. Make sure it holds water before believing it. Ensure the person delivering the news is in an objective position to give it. If not, be skeptical.

In that regard, we can all be realists and skeptics when it comes to seeking the truth. And similarly, we can all be hopeful optimists when it comes creating and striving for a winning future.

In defense of Post Malone, a self-destructive and “culture vulture” musician from Texas

Courtesy Post Malone

I like Post Malone. A lot. Even though I can’t relate.

He’s a young twenty-something rapper with face tattoos that openly indulges in substance abuse and destructive relationships.

I, on the other hand, am a middle-age, clean-cut, ink-free family man who wants to live to 100 over burning the candle on both ends. Continue reading…

BOOK REVIEW: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Toole is an American masterpiece

My wife is reading America’s 100 most beloved books and recently stumbled upon this masterpiece, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Toole.

Written in 1962 while Toole was stationed in Puerto Rico on military duty, the novel has been described as “Don Quixote meets the French Quarter,” which is a total abortion. In truth, protagonist Ignatius J. Reilly is much more likable, hilarious, and compelling than the former. His misadventures through New Orleans with an ensemble cast of nearly a dozen charismatic characters are a joy to read, as is Toole’s exceptional writing, satisfying storytelling, and clever dialogue.

In short, I could not put Dunces down and cannot recommend it enough. Sadly, the Pulitzer Prize-winning work wasn’t published until 1980, this after the author was rejected by multiple editors who called his writing “pointless,” which partially caused him to succumb to depression and later suicide in 1969.

Thankfully Toole’s mother and an a university professor re-pitched the book posthumously until it was finally published. I’m so glad they did and wonder what could have been had its genius author lived to tell another tale. “Just wait till they hear all that originality pouring out of your head.”

Rating: ★★★★★

Recent writing: Utah skiing, breathtaking buildings, rafting with family, waterproof gear

Excluding my non-bylined commercial writing, here’s what I’ve written for news media lately:

Thanks for reading and sharing.

Smartphone rules for kids: What I made my child agree to

After years of asking, I finally caved into giving my oldest child a “smartphone” for her 14th birthday. I say “smartphone” in quotes because we really just bought her an iPhone without a carrier plan (aka the latest iPod touch).

To use her phone and send and receive calls and texts from a virtual number app, she must be connected to wifi. She’s happy for now, although this is likely only a two year stop gap until she starts driving and we start teaching her full smartphone etiquette before she leaves home.

But for now, we’re all happy. Especially since my daughter has agreed to obeying the following rules, as outlined in my book: Continue reading…

Long reads: WeNotWorking, Ballon Boy, unstoppable Amazon, trailer lottery, millionaire complacency

Courtesy Medium

I really enjoyed the following long-reads recently:

10 frequently asked questions for a self-employed writer

Me at my desk courtesy Lindsey Snow

I’ve been a professional writer since 2005 and a full-time writer since 2007. I moonlighted for a couple of years before transitioning to a full-time freelancing journalist, a “calling” I continue to this day.

Since then, these are some of the most frequently asked questions I get from aspiring writers or otherwise curious email inquires:

How do you become a self-employed writer?

My advice: write everyday and ask 50 people if they will publish your best work. If they all say no, ask 50 more and so on. This never fails but most writers will never do this and therefore go unpublished and unpaid. Usually I don’t even have to ask 50, but in two exceptional cases, I asked over 100 before someone said yes: My first story for Wired Magazine about college footballcomputers and my first travel column for Paste Magazine. Both were huge wins for my career and would have never happened had I quite after asking just 50. The harder you work, the luckier you get. (See also: How to succeed: Don’t quit until everyone in the room tells you “no”)

Is it actually possible to make a decent income at home and support a family by being self employed writer?

Yes. I’ve worked from home for the last 15 years, make a good income, and have six mouths to feed (wife and five children). In my experience, successful self employment requires persistence, low overhead (i.e. low maintenance lifestyle), extra emergency savings, and a willingness to sell your craft in addition to the craft itself. Self employment isn’t for everyone, but it can be done and is remarkably rewarding.

Continue reading…

Why America lost its religion (while still praying more than most)

Great writing from Derek Thompson for The Atlantic:

“As America’s youth have slipped away from organized religion, they haven’t quite fallen into wickedness. If anything, today’s young people are uniquely conscientious—less likely to fight, drink, use hard drugs, or have premarital sex than previous generations. They might not be able to quote from the Book of Matthew, but their economic and social politics—which insist on protections for the politically meek and the historically persecuted—aren’t so far from a certain reading of the beatitudes.

“Most important has been the dramatic changes in the American family. The past half century has dealt a series of body blows to American marriage. Divorce rates spiked in the ’70s through the ’90s, following the state-by-state spread of no-fault divorce laws. Just as divorce rates stabilized, the marriage rate started to plummet in the ’80s, due to both the decline of marriage within the working class and delayed marriage among college-educated couples.”

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Published travel: Wellness retreats, Aspen, midwest standouts, Seattle’s waterfront

Here’s a roundup of some of my latest travel writing:

Thanks for reading and sharing.

Want better relationships? Avoid these 6 common “love busters”

Knowing the 5 love languages has greatly improved my marriage and other relationships. Since first being introduced to it many years ago, my wife and I have significantly enhanced our communication.

I didn’t learn about the 6 love busters until last night, however, while attending a local charity meeting. They are as follows: Continue reading…

This is what a workaholic, internet addict looks like on his 30th birthday

Courtesy Snow family

That’s me 10 years ago on my 30th birthday. Sunburnt. Pudgy. Elsewhere in thought.

I don’t mean to overstate my “condition,” but if you look at photos of me from 2003–2009—the workaholic, internet-addict years—you will see that my eyes rarely, if ever, smiled. I wasn’t depressed or miserable, per se, but I was in a perpetual funk. Wheels spinning without much forward movement. A prolonged period of FOMO which prevented me from thriving in the present with the three, happy cuties you see pictured beside me.

Back then, I neglected my family, my health, my spirituality, my social life, and my hobbies. Ironically, my self-absorption also hindered my work, because my efforts were so short-sighted. Hard working, yes, but with less purpose, focus, and fulfillment than I’ve experienced in the years since.

“We didn’t do as many fun things as a family and you rarely initiated anything,” my wife told me today. “You were always working nights, fixated on your phone, and brought your laptop to bed with you.”

Gross! A couple weeks after that photo, however, I would abandon that stagnant period of my life though a life-changing “Montana Moment,” which I wrote about in my book, Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting. I’m so grateful for that experience and the decade that followed.

Obviously, we each learn different things at different times. But if my story can help anyone else in even the smallest of ways, we all win. Offline really is better. Fall down seven times, get up eight.

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How excessive screen time hinders adults and children

When I first started writing my book Log Off, I was surprised by the lack of research on excessive smartphoning, internetting, and social media. While there was some (mostly negative), there are still a lot of unanswered questions on how the behavior affects the quality of life in both children and adults.

To that end, I’m launching a nonprofit research foundation this year to study, promote, and lobby for the real-life effects plaguing so many. In the coming months, I hope to start conducting national surveys and educating the public beyond what my book started.

Until then, here’s a roundup of the most concerning research to date:

Continue reading…

REVIEW: Riders of the Purple Sage is a pioneering ★★★★☆ book

I know I’m a good writer and author. But then I read something masterful by Laura Hillenbrand, David Foster Wallace, Norman Maclean, Bill Bryson, Mark Twain, Gay Talese, Alexander Dumas, Leo Tolstoy, or H. G. Bissinger and I begin to doubt myself.

After finishing Riders of the Purple Sage this week, I would add Zane Grey to that honorable list, especially since he was a dentist by trade, a semi-professional baseball player, and only wrote his popular adventure novels on the side!

But not only is Grey a great writer, he was also a pioneer. In fact, Riders invented the Western genre of storytelling when it was first published in 1912. Gun fights, southwestern backdrops, life and death on the American frontier.

But don’t let that genre or any misconceptions of it deter you. Riders is really two love stories in one, starring both a heroine and two heroes. It’s fantastically descriptive and emotionally engaged. I only dock it one star because there were a few times where Grey’s prose goes confusingly off trail, which forced me to re-read and decipher some paragraphs for clarity.

Nevertheless, it is a wonderful read. ★★★★☆

These were my favorite passages: Continue reading…

Long reads: Death of a missionary, aging gracefully, big.com, golden airline ticket

Courtesy John Chau

I was recently moved by the following five long reads and hope you are too:

Recent published works: Chichen Itza, cactus capitol, all-inclusives, cruising Europe

Tucson courtesy Shutterstock

Excluding my non-bylined or ghostwritten commercial work, here’s what I published recently:

Thanks for reading. 

MOVIE REVIEWS: Yesterday, Peanut Butter Falcon, Blinded By Light, Arctic, Hostiles, Once Upon a Time…

Courtesy Universal

Yesterday is my favorite movie of the year so far. So long as you can suspend your disbelief for an hour and a half, it’s a wonderful, heart-felt, and fist-pumping story about music, chasing your dreams, honesty, distraction, and following your heart. 4.5/5 stars (in theaters)

My other favorites of the year are as follows (Updated):

  • Peanut Butter Falcon: An excellent journey/friendship movie all the way through. 4.5/5 stars.
  • Blinded By The Light: A wonderful story and message with some uneven directing and acting, if not a tad melodramatic. 4/5 stars.
  • Arctic: An excellent survival film. 4/5 stars (streaming on Prime)
  • Hostiles: A complex drama of Indian-American relations. 4/5 stars (streaming on Netflix)
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: Not Tarantino’s best but still enthralling. 4/5 stars (in theaters)
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ONE WEEK ONLY: Log Off now 25% off (starting at $6.99)

Courtesy Lindsey Snow

Over the last year, my book sales have spiked during year-end holidays, new-year festivities, start of summer, and back-to-school. I suspect that’s because my book is an introspective experience, so it’s only natural that readers increasingly reach for it during introspective times of the year.

Whatever the reason, for a limited time you can buy the book for 25% off ($6.99 ebook; $8.99 paperback; audiobook also available). If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll consider it and share it with friends, family, or someone in need.

Although a little thing, Log Off had a big impact on my life, and I hope it can for yours too.—Blake Snow

Don’t believe the hype: These 5 ingredients make “tech” companies

As a long-time tech journalist, I’ve noticed an interesting trend over the years. Companies who aren’t really tech companies will call themselves that anyway.

This is because “tech” is a lot like “new,” “free,” or “sale.” These words get people’s attention. So a lot of companies say they’re “tech” for the free publicity.

One such company is WeWork, a real-estate company that leases short and long-term office space stocked with free beer, cool lighting, and a community-for-hire for remote workers like myself. Continue reading…

How congestion pricing might fix over-tourism

Bloomberg reports, “Unfortunately, there will come a point where over-tourism makes travel both logistically inconvenient and much less enjoyable for everyone. The problem can be ameliorated by spreading tourists around to less crowded destinations, as Japan is trying to do. Some destinations, like Amsterdam, are cutting back on advertising and self-promotion. But eventually there will be no choice but to start charging tourists a fee… Trips to premium destinations such as Venice will eventually become things only the well-off can afford.”

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After seeing this movie, I’m never complaining about air travel again

To paraphrase Louis C.K., “Aviation is amazing and nobody’s happy.” That’s the argument Living in the Age of Airplanes succeeds in making.

Because we’ve commercially enjoyed airplanes for half a century, however, we now take them for granted. We bemoan their 20% delay rate. We ignore an accident rate of LESS THAN one in a million (safer than driving). We overlook the wonderful places airplanes take us, the game-changing experiences they enable, and the beautiful things they deliver (including flowers).

Not anymore.

After seeing this movie, I’m gonna bask in their awesomeness. I’m going to treat airports as speed portals to this big round ball. The next time I pick up a two-day package from Amazon, I’m gonna pour a little out for the flying metal tube that brought the world to my doorstep. Seriously, not even monarchs had it this good. Continue reading…

Doesn’t hurt to ask: 7 things you can get for free on your next flight

“It doesn’t hurt to ask,” is one of the many sayings I live by. While there are some exceptions to this rule, it is mostly true and has served me well.

This is especially true when flying. Some passengers keep to themselves for fear of troubling flight attendants. But most flight attendants want you to have a good flight, which makes their jobs easier.

That said, you can often get the following seven things for free on your next flight. You just have to ask. Continue reading…

Blood and Thunder is riveting history on the half truths of the American West

I recently finished Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides and was mightily impressed.

Not only does the book demystify the Wild Wild West, of which only half of what you heard it true (although the other half is still amazingly true!), the book clarifies the always complicated Indian-American relations as the nation expanded west to California. That understand is powerful enough.

On top of that, however, Blood and Thunder is an epic telling of the heroic Kit Carson, who scouted the west for early pioneers and settlers to eventually follow. For its well researched, balanced, and shocking reporting, I award it five stars out of five.

These were some of my favorite passages:

  • From an early age, Carson learned an important practical truth of frontier life—that there was no such thing as “Indians,” that tribes could be substantially and sometimes violently different from one another, and that each group must be dealt with separately, on its own terms.
  • The trappers murdered Indians in countless kill-or-be-killed scenarios, and some made a practice of hammering brass tacks into the stocks of their rifles for every native dispatched. But their greater slaughter was unwitting: As the forerunners of Western civilization, creeping up the river valleys and across the mountain passes, the trappers brought smallpox and typhoid, they brought guns and whiskey and venereal disease, they brought the puzzlement of money and the gleam of steel. And on their liquored breath they whispered the coming of an unimaginable force, of a gathering shadow on the eastern horizon, gorging itself on the continent as it pressed steadily this way. Continue reading…

5 things that made my summer

Courtesy Sara Snow

My family and I have had a memorable and adventurous summer so far.

In addition to a remarkable rafting trip, we’ve sustained two emergency room visits (broken elbow, large fishing hook removal), gotten lots of extra sun (without any burns), and planned one more road trip before it’s “back to school.”

Although I’m a big believer in buying experiences over things, the following five products have undeniably delighted our household this summer: Continue reading…

In search of greatness: How structured specialization hinders our children

I recently watched In Search of Greatness and learned a lot.

The documentary makes a convincing argument that structured specialization prevents our children from achieving greatness, especially in athletics, but also in other disciplines.

After interviewing and examining the upbringing and work ethic of over a dozen all-star athletes and musicians, the movie concludes that if you want your child to be great, raise them on a well-rounded diet of interests and physical activities. Do this until at least late high school or even college in some cases. Only then should children focus and devote the majority of their time to one pursuit.

Although it seems counter-intuitive, the filmmakers argue that this strategy allows our youth to play by different rules and see things differently. And there’s strong evidence suggesting this cannot be done if aspiring athletics, musicians, and others are strictly raised on only speciality from a young age, which is increasingly the norm now. That’s bad because youth specialization stifles their creativity and innovation and prevents them from developing other muscles and talents that can have a positive crossover effect on their primary passion.

I buy it. Four stars out of five.

See also: How children succeed: 5 things to know

Death of print: Responding to reader mail was more rewarding than it sounds

I’ve worked a number of different jobs since first entering the workforce at the age of 16. (Before that, I unofficially worked as a lawn mower, paperboy, and child laborer from time to time.)

In order of appearance, I’ve worked as a fried chicken cook, warehouse manager, youth soccer coach, cell phone clerk, corporate travel agent, web designer, blogger, and (for the last 13 years) a writer-for-hire.

That last job really feels more like a calling than work, however, and within that category I’ve written a lot of different things. One of my favorite things was answering reader letters at a now defunct print magazine called GamePro. (Fun fact: I started writing as a game blogger before transitioning to tech, trade, and travel journalism.)

At the time, I was their news editor, which meant I mostly produced and managed a small team of three daily writers, myself included. The managing editor then took the best of said news for republish in the monthly print edition. Continue reading…

8 exotic spots for U.S. passcard holders

The Pitons of St. Lucia courtesy Shutterstock

Since its release 10 years ago, the U.S. Passport Card has been issued to more than 17 million Americans, or around 10 percent of all passport holders, according to the State Department. Although half the price of a Passport Book, which grants full access via air travel to nearly all of the world’s 200 countries, Passport Card holders can only access 10% of nearby international countries and are limited to land or sea travel.

In other words, Passport Card holders can travel by car throughout North America, or by boat to the Bahamas and much of the Caribbean. More specifically, they can legally enter and exit the following countries: Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, The Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Caribbean Netherlands (Bonaire; Sint Eustatius and Saba; Curaçao; Sint Maarten), Cayman Islands, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, the Grenadines, and Turks and Caicos.

For Americans with only a Passport Card, what’s the best foreign place to visit? Of the 19 countries allowed, these are the top-rated destinations, according to online traveler reviews, media rankings, and my own personal experience. Continue reading…

Why you shouldn’t work on vacation

Courtesy Shutterstock

More than 80% of American adults own a smartphone, reports Pew. Consequently, an equal number are more than capable of conducting office work at all times of day and from anywhere.

Because of this, a concerningly large number of employees voluntarily work on vacation, nights, and weekends. It’s so easy that many of us simply fall into bad habits, thinking that the act will get us ahead.

In truth, it doesn’t. Here’s why working on vacation is a bad idea, according to the overwhelming research contained in my book, Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting. Continue reading…

Bang for your buck: The two best-values in smartphones today

courtesy pcmag.com

Smartphones have gotten ridiculously expensive. In the last couple of years alone, premium handsets have nearly doubled in price to over $1000. It’s enough to make even the most loyal iPhone fans switch to better value Android phones or upgrade to older but cheaper models instead.

Two new smartphones released this summer are bucking the trend, however. My favorite is the $400 Google Pixel 3a (pictured right). Its camera is not only stunning, but the best of any price range (really!). It has a gorgeous OLED screen, a battery that lasts for days, and a headphone jack. My only quibble is it’s a tad tall and not waterproof.

If you want the fastest phone on the market with the nicest screen and an equally good 4k camera, the OnePlus 7 Pro (pictured left) is also fantastic. Although a little big for my pockets, it’s loaded with a nifty notchless screen and software features that outpace nicer Google or Samsung phones. In short, the OnePlus 7 Pro is basically $1000 phone for less than $700.

Granted, the pesky green text messages of both aren’t as reliable or as good as Apple’s best-in-class iMessage. But outside of that, both come highly recommended with unlimited free photo storage.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

How I cheated Christmas in 1988

Though I dabbled with Atari in my nascent years, I was raised on Nintendo. I have so many fond memories of the console because I spent so much of my childhood with it. Don’t get me wrong: I think gaming today is just as good (if not better) than it was back then. But one generally enjoys reminiscing about the past. I am no different.

Allow me to indulge.

The year was 1988. Christmas was quickly approaching. My brother and I had heard really good things about this game called Tecmo Bowl, so we asked our mom to buy it for us. About a month before Christmas we spotted the first gift under the tree that was the size and shape of a game cartridge box. Being the busy woman that my mother was at the time, plus the fact that she had to track presents for six total children, my brother and I couldn’t help ourselves. So we prematurely unwrapped the present after school one afternoon without her noticing.

Sure enough, it was the much-anticipated and sought-after Tecmo Bowl, starring the untackle-able and greatest athlete of all-time, Bo Jackson. Of course, we started playing immediately. Once the first play session was over, we re-wrapped the gift and slide it back under the tree at night. Next day, rinse and repeat. Pretty soon we started inviting friends over to play as we were the first ones on the block to get the game. By the end we were so brazen, we didn’t even care when my mother approached our room, opened the door to see a group of boys playing “some video game,” and just assumed it was a title we already owned.

On Christmas day, my none-the-wiser mother handed me and my brother a tattered, repeatedly-tapped, re-wrapped present, and with a sweet smile asked which of us wanted to open it. It was no use. We had all grown tired of the game after playing it daily for a month straight. I hope our feigned faces still had enough smile on them to show our appreciation for the great gift it was and will forever be.

Thanks, Mom!

This story first published Dec. 12, 2005 on Infendo, a video game blog I founded and later sold.

These recent long-reads are fascinating


Please enjoy:

10 largest American cities without a professional sports team

Long Beach, CA

I visited Austin and Tucson earlier this year and was surprised by their size and subsequent lack of professional sports, which hurts their notoriety and familiarity in an otherwise sports-crazed nation.

Meanwhile, Green Bay, Wisconsin—home of the well-known Packers—is the smallest city in America with a pro sports team (just 100,000 residents).

What other large cities might fly under the radar, then, due to a lack of professional sports?

This is what I found—the largest U.S. cities without a pro team: Continue reading…

How this movie scene changed my life

Courtesy Disney/Pixar

Many years ago, Disney released a Pixar film that had a profound impact on the course of my professional life.

At the time I was a full-time video game critic for several online magazines. I had a knack for raking mediocre games and announcements over the coals. I gained a reputation for publishing smart but scathing copy. Back then, I felt it was my job, if not duty, to critique everything I touched as if the orbit of the Earth depended on it.  Continue reading…

Your success depends on withstanding rare but nasty rejection

Me hiking the Inca Trail

Here’s something you might not know about my work as a writer: 30-40% of my time is spent asking people if I can write for them, while the remaining 60-70% is spent on actually writing.

In other words, I’m either a writer who knows how to sell or a salesman who knows how to write. Consequently, I would’t have survived the past 15 years if I hadn’t asked thousands of people each year to let me write for them. I would have wilted long ago had I listened to the few rouge naysayers that rudely tell me to get lost sometimes.

Case in point: of the hundreds of emails I send on a monthly basis, the vast majority are ignored. Continue reading…

Recently published: The Colosseum, origin of Japan, best of Belize, lasting digital detox

Excluding non-bylined commercial writing, here are my most recent media clippings:

Thanks for reading and sharing. 

How “rocking too hard” can sometimes be a good thing

Courtesy Michael Buckner/Getty

Prior to graduating from college, I played drums in a trio band. We mostly played Killers, Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, and Led Zeppelin covers in our bassist’s basement. We maybe played once a week for a month or so and didn’t even have a proper name. But we still wanted to rock.

Anxious to play a live set, we caught wind of an “Acoustic Battle of the Bands” to be played at BYU’s 22,000 seat capacity Marriott Center. I remember thinking, “Who says we can’t rock that? It says ‘acoustic,’ not low energy or slow tempo.” So we traded our electric guitar for an acoustic/electric and proceeded to tryouts that were being held in some small theater room in the English building.

Upon arrival, we were clearly out of place. As we lugged our full drum kit, half stack bass rig, and guitar amp down the hall, dozens of Dave Mathew wannabes practiced three chord love songs in squeaky voices to admiring girlfriends. My opinion of humanity worsened a little that day. But I digress. Our name was called, we entered the room and setup stage.

Continue reading…

Listen up! Best new music so far this year

Music has remained an everyday part of my life since first being exposed to the Beach Boys, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Abba, and Technotronic as a young boy and later Metallica, Nirvana, Green Day, Snoop Dog, and The Prodigy as an adolescent. In my late teens, I took a liking to classical, jazz, country, Elvis and much in between.

To this day, I enjoy listening to pop with my kids and dance music by myself, even dabbling as an amateur recording artist, cover artist, “battle of the bands” reject, and bedroom DJ (both house and dubstep) at times. Next to cinema, I consider music the greatest form of art.

Usually I’m too busy enjoying music both new and old that I fail to promote the best of it beyond those within immediate earshot. Today I hope to remedy that, at least according to the many airwaves that have reverberated in my home, eardrums, and car recently. They are as follows: Continue reading…

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Recent long-reads: Surviving tree falls, Rick Steves, the raisin mob, 40 year-old rookies

Courtesy New York Times

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Apple CEO: “iPhone alerts are bad for you”

Turning off all visible and audible notifications (unless from your spouse and kids) is the first step for anyone wanting to spend less time on their phone, argues Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting. It’s the antidote to FOMO.

Even Tim Cook, CEO of Apple and the most addictive phone ever invented, knows this. In a recent interview, Cook said, “We’re all using [our phones] too much, especially parents.”

He added, “It is clear that there are certain apps that people can get in the mindset of just scrolling through mindlessly and continuously picking up their phones and looking to see what is happening this second. Do I really need to be getting thousands of notifications a day?”

Continue reading…

After reviewing dozens of energy bars, Zing won on taste, texture, and nutrition

Courtesy Zing Bar

I reviewed over a dozen different brands of energy, protein, granola, or otherwise snack bars this spring for a story I’m writing on the best travel foods. Although they’re not as easy to find as others, Zing Bars were the best overall in terms of taste, texture, and nutrition. I also liked RX Bars (which are probably more durable as a packable food) but they’re a tad pricey and the texture too chewy for some. As for best value, my family enjoyed Nature Valley protein bars. I’ll still reach for raw foods where available, but all three are conveniently packaged snacks I’d buy again.

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See the movies at 5 famous film destinations

Courtesy Paramount Pictures

You are bound to encounter a noticeable number of people in life who don’t watch TV, avoid books, or ignore performance art and sports altogether. But you’ll probably never encounter someone who doesn’t watch movies—they’re that universal.

Because of this, film tourism (or “location vacations”) are a big deal. Indeed, an untold number of scenic or otherwise interesting places might not have entered our collective radars had some movie director chose to shoot somewhere else.

Of those immortalized backdrops, few trips are more iconic or deserving than to one of these. Continue reading…

What bad fishing taught me about good business

On a recent fishing trip with friends, in which we purposely neglected to pack in food, in order to make our catch really count, I went empty-handed after two full days of fishing. Thanks to my more-skilled-than-me buddies, who generously shared, I didn’t go hungry, however.

After serious bouts of self-doubt and nearly giving up on the third day, though, I decided I wasn’t going to quit until I caught at least one keeper. After empowering myself with that mindset, I actually ended up catching five that evening—enough to feed me and my friends, who coincidentally failed to catch one on that final day (really!).

On the return hike home, I thought a lot about dependency, perseverance and the power of determination—in life as much as business. Here’s what that experience taught me.

Continue reading…

7 new long reads that will make you smarter

Hope you enjoy the below as much I did recently:

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The pros and cons of electric car camping

Courtesy Chevrolet/Barry Staver

A strange thing happened to me recently. I started getting invites from consumer goods companies to attend travel-related press trips. For instance, a deodorant company built an epic treehouse in Tennessee and wanted me to stay in it, even though it’s not available to the public. A razor manufacturer wanted to fly me and a guest to the Bahamas under the guise that I’d mention their name while writing about the completely unrelated resort.

Why are companies doing this? Because people don’t watch ads anymore. That and up-and-coming generations increasingly value experiences (such as travel) above things (such as consumer goods or even cars). In any case, I had previously declined these invitations. That is until Chevrolet offered to let me drive their new electric car through Rocky Mountain National Park. Since both of those interest me, I begrudgingly said, “Yes!” Continue reading…

Please enjoy: The best things I published recently

Excluding undisclosed commercial work (i.e. the bulk of my work), here are the best things I’ve published recently:

Thanks for reading and sharing the above. 

How money often prevents us from seeing the big picture

Geoff Livingston

Geoff Livingston

A businessman was standing at the pier of a small coastal village in Mexico. Just then, a skiff docked with one humble fisherman inside. His boat contained several large yellowfin tuna.

The businessman complimented the fisherman’s catch and asked how long it took to reel them in. “Only a little while,” the fisherman replied. The onlooker then asked why he didn’t stay out longer to catch more fish. The fisherman said he had enough to support his family’s needs. “What do you do with the rest of your time?” the man pressed.

“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, stroll the village each evening, sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos,” the fisherman replied. “I live a full life, señor.” Continue reading…

What’s in a name? What I learned staying in Trump’s #1 rated hotel

Before taking office, the vast majority of U.S. presidents were lawyers. President Trump, on the other hand, was a real estate developer, TV star, and hotelier of 14 properties—some of which by name-only.

One of those properties is Trump Waikiki. On a recent trip to Oahu I stayed there because at the time of booking and during my stay, Trump Waikiki was the number one rated hotel out of 84 in Honolulu, according to TripAdvisor.

That alone piqued my interest, as did the political novelty. But the real reason is because I was being hosted by the hotel in the hopes that I would write about it. And here we are. Not because I was contractually obligated to. In my capacity as a travel writer, I never guarantee coverage, meaning if I feel something doesn’t deserve your attention—even shiny freebies—I don’t write about it.

Why am writing about this shiny freebie then? Continue reading…

Map of the day: Where in the world have I been?

I feel fortunate to have visited 33 countries (plus territories) on six different continents so far.

And yet I’ve only scratched the surface—just 13% of the world’s 200 countries. Furthermore, the above map is grossly skewed. I’ve only visited 70% of America’s states. I’ve yet to visit mainland Asia, the Middle East, and 90% of the rest of Africa. And I’ve visited just one state (New South Wales) of the USA-sized Australia.

Granted, I have no intention of visiting every country on Earth. It doesn’t take that many to realize we’re all the same and that we live on the most beautiful rock in the observable universe. That and I still have a lot I want to do in my own backyard and on repeat trips abroad.

But I do hope to visit all seven continents someday. Not only does distance makes the heart grow fonder, but a change in geography is good at keeping us on our toes.

Love you, Earth.

PS—Airplanes are amazing and travel is overrated for the following reasons.

5 things I learned after visiting New Zealand

There’s solemn appreciation whenever I tell someone I’m headed to New Zealand. “Oh, wow!” they say. “My [insert relation] has traveled the world and that’s their favorite place.”

That reputation isn’t lost on me. But I wanted to know for myself—what’s so special about this two-island nation near the bottom of the world?

For one thing, it’s a long way away. Up to 10,000 miles for most people. In my case, it was 14 hours one way by jet. But after visiting both islands this month, I’d travel twice that number to visit New Zealand again. Here’s why. Continue reading…

Fake news: How excessive internetting increases groupthink and stupidity

The following is an excerpt from Log Off by Blake Snow


I believe excessive internetting divides and might someday conquer us.

In fact, it already spoils teamwork and our ability to have intelligent conversations about controversial topics, such as climate change, immunizations, nutrition, and politics. It does this because the unlimited amount of information and opinion found online actually heightens our susceptibility to confirmation bias, the cognitive disorder that most of us suffer from in which we tend to only listen to information that confirms our preconceptions and worldview rather than challenging us toward progress, compromise, and trade-offs.

Put simply, it increases hive-mindedness and groupthink.

Further, excessive internetting increases our susceptibility to information bias and the ostrich effect. The former has proven to weaken our decision-making since access to less information often results in more accurate predictions and decisions. The latter relates to the above. Since we can indulge and decide which worldview we choose to see now by filtering out things we don’t like to confront, it’s easier now to delude and shield ourselves from complex and uncomfortable realities. Thus, excessive internetting solidifies cognitive dissonance. Continue reading…

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Published works: Colorful Colorado, web reruns, Cliffs of Moher, net zero buildings

Cliffs of Moher courtesy Visit Ireland

Excluding non-bylined commercial stories, here are my most recent published works:

Thanks for reading. 

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How Disney turned me into a travel writer

Not long ago, I wrote a seemingly simple story that forever changed the amount of adventure I’ve been exposed to ever since.

For years leading up to that moment, my wife pleaded with me to take her and our kids to Disneyland. Although I went there as an eight year old boy with my family, I remember enjoying nearby Huntington Beach better than I did the actual park. So I told myself in the ensuing decades that Disney was a tourist trap and the great outdoors were the place for me.

Turns out, both man-made and natural wonders are for me. I probably wouldn’t have learned that truth, however, if it weren’t for my wife’s sage approach in tricking me to give The Happiest Place on Earth a fair shake. “Blake,” she said. “You could write about your experience—review it, report on how much you hate or love it.”

That’s all I needed to hear. Continue reading…

Recent long reads that will make you smarter

As curated by yours truly. Enjoy.
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YouTube videos that make you feel crummy about yourself

I’m genuinely happy with my life; who I am, the love I’ve found, the family and friends around me, a job that doesn’t feel like work, and the lifestyle choices I make that add to my fulfillment.

Nevertheless, I stumbled upon a YouTube video recently that made me feel inadequate and insecure. The video was cut by a young, good-looking couple with glamorous clothes doing glamorous things in exotic New Zealand.

“I’ve been to New Zealand before,” I defensively thought to myself, “But I was wearing ordinary clothes and didn’t look like a model while doing similar things.” I clicked on another video, showing the couple taking their kids snowboarding. “I’ve taken my kids snowboarding before, but we didn’t look that good while doing it.” Continue reading…

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Recent travel stories I’ve published for CNN, NatGeo, USA Today, LA Times, and more

Over the last four years, I’ve written and published hundreds of travel dispatches for CNN, National Geographic, USA Today, LA Times, Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, Orbitz, Frommers, and Paste Magazine. Below are some recent favorites:

  1. Cliff-jumping The Atlantic: Ireland’s best coasteering spots
  2. Japanese zen: Hiking one of the oldest trails in the world
  3. Top 10 cycling cities
  4. 7 takeaways after cruising the Mediterranean with my kids
  5. Video: 6 ways to overcome your fear of travel
  6. Is Newfoundland the next Iceland?
  7. Which Utah National Park is right for you?
  8. Everything you need to know before visiting Machu Picchu
  9. What coasteering feels like
  10. Staying in President Trump’s #1 rated hotel
  11. Hiking the Alps: 10 days, 3 countries, 1 epic mountain
  12. Critic turned fan: My Disneyland conversion story
  13. What 10,000 miles from home feels like
  14. Went skydiving today. Didn’t die.
  15. Why Americans don’t travel abroad
  16. 5 reasons travel is overrated
  17. What I learned hiking Patagonia with National Geographic
  18. Why a monotonous view is better than none
  19. What I learned crossing South Africa by train
  20. 5 things I learned after visiting New Zealand
  21. The best of Australia
  22. 5 reasons cliche Costa Rica is still “Pura Vida”
  23. What it’s like crossing America’s Loneliest Road
  24. The greatest mountain wilderness you’ve never heard of
  25. My very best travel columns (so far)

Thanks for reading and sharing with anyone that might be interested.

5 ways to get kids off their phones

The following was presented last week as part of my book event series 

A year after publishing my best-selling book, Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting, the most popular question I’m asked is, “How do I get my kids off their phone?” After speaking with many psychologists, researchers, parents, and tech experts, in addition to testing said advice on my own household, I’ve found five convincing answers to this timely and challenging question.

But why are so many people asking this question? The short answer is parents love their kids and know first-hand how addictive said devices can be, especially for developing minds. The long answer involves stark evidence that smartphones: a) complicate childhood, b) increase exposure to bullying and sexual content, c) impair sleep, and d) increase both anxiety and depression.

Because of this, most psychologists, medical experts, and even tech executives recommend delaying or waiting until age 14 for basic voice and texting phones, and then up to 16 for smartphones and/or data plans. “There is no reason that a teenager really needs a smartphone,” says one Silicon Valley psychologist. “They are not taking care of a family, nor are they running a business. Therefore, a basic cellphone should be adequate for their needs.”

When you consider that these devices can be just as powerful as (or more so than) driving a car, it’s no coincidence that the ideal age falls within legal driving range of 14-16 (depending on the state). Nevertheless, the responsibility lies upon parents, guardians, teachers, and our collective villages to teach and instruct children on how to use and get the most from this powerful tools while avoiding the negative heads-down behavior they often cause.

If you’re hoping for a silver bullet to rid your children of their bad phone habits, I cannot help you. But if you looking for proven advice that’s easy to understand but often difficult to master, consider these five effective ways, according to the latest research: Continue reading…

The time I hiked Patagonia with National Geographic

It took the world a long time to discover Patagonia, the trendy adventure area shared by both southern Chile and Argentina. While other mountaineers had been hiking and climbing the Alps and Rockies for over a century, Patagonia wasn’t explored much until the 1980s. In fact, the recreational area didn’t become mainstream until the 21st century, when more accessible transportation, lodging and tourist amenities were finally added.

What’s all the fuss about? In between knife-like mountains, this is arguably the best place in the world to see moving glaciers. It is also a great place to meet gentle but playful people.

Last month I had the chance to examine this hauntingly majestic land up close on a guided tour with National Geographic Expeditions, the society’s official tour operator. Spoiler alert: it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here’s what I witnessed hiking to what some call South America’s greatest “national park.” Continue reading…

Spinal fusion: 10 things I learned surviving a scary-sounding and life-altering surgery

blakefusion

Frankenstein back with 28 staples (credit: Lindsey Snow)

Life isn’t fair.

I was born with an 80 year-old back. Not exactly 80, but old. It first broke when I was 29. After surgery, it worked again, but only for another six years. It teetered and failed again late this summer in the same spot — a re-ruptured L4/5 disc. The thing was so decrepit, my surgeon had to remove the remains and fuse my spine.

Now I’m resigned to a life of low impact and light lifting. I can’t even hold my youngest brown-eyed boy in his final months of baby-dom, let alone lift a gallon of milk for a month. I can’t return to full activity for six months until the vertebrae fully fuse. And after that, I’m advised to give up running, basketball, soccer, and maybe wake boarding or else.

It sucks.

But it’s not all bad. In fact, I’ve got a heck of a lot to look forward to—a lot more to live for. While having my body deteriorate ahead of schedule and the long recovery are both humbling, I also feel inspired by the experience. Here are 10 things I learned post surgery:  Continue reading…

Traveling well: 5 ways to rethink your bucket list

Buying experiences is more fulfilling than buying things. That much we know. Which is why many of us have bucket lists. With so much to see and do in this wonderful oyster we call world, you’d be crazy not to keep a list of things to experience before kicking the bucket.

At the same time, there is no bucket capable of holding everything life has to offer. And more than one person has surely died focusing on what they didn’t accomplish rather than what they did. That’s a shame, because from the top regrets of the dying, “wishing I had traveled more” didn’t even make the list.

Not to get all schmaltzy on you, but the trick to planning adventures is not to plan too much. Here’s how you can do that and back into unplanned encounters more often, while still enjoying the anticipation, financial savings, and day-dreaming perks the bucket list affords. Continue reading…

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Recent long reads: Protein bars, science of miracles, paid to do nothing

I learned a lot reading the below recently. Hope you do too:

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Be extra kind online to these 7 minorities

Six years ago, I published one of my most popular blog posts entitled 8 people you should be extra kind to. If you haven’t read it already, I suggest you do. If you have, I encourage you to read it again as a refresher. It can make the world a better place.

Although it’s a fact that today’s world is healthier, wealthier, more peaceful, more welcoming, and overall better than ever before (more proof here), it’s also undeniable that online comments are nastier, ruder, more divisive, more hateful, more emotionally charged, and more intimidating than ever.

With that in mind, USA Today recently published a nationwide survey of harassment in America. These were the seven groups that reported the most hateful comments, and consequently the ones you should be extra kind too: Continue reading…

How dopamine loops ruin our smartphones

The following was taken from Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting

Remember that time you went online in search of a simple answer, only to find yourself, two hours later, clicking on links that had nothing to do with the original answer you sought?

That’s a dopamine loop. It’s the scientific reason we end up online more than we plan to. It explains why we can’t put our smartphones down. It explains why some people neglect real life in favor of virtual life. And it leads to compulsive disorders, similar to those who are addicted to chemical stimulants and depressants such as cocaine, caffeine, methamphetamines, nicotine, and alcohol.

“Dopamine starts us seeking, then we get rewarded for the seeking, which makes us seek more,” explains Dr. Susan Weinschenk. “It becomes harder and harder to stop looking at email, texts, web links, or our smartphones to see if we have a new message or alert.”

Worst still, research shows the dopamine system is bottomless. Since it doesn’t have satiation built in, dopamine keeps demanding “more, more, more!” And it goes absolutely bonkers when unpredictability is introduced—say, an unexpected email, text, or app alert from who knows what and who knows whom. Surprise! It’s just like Pavlov’s famous and classically conditioned dogs, for those who remember your introductory college psychology course.

“It’s the same system at work for gambling and slot machines,” explains Weinschenk. “Since dopamine is involved in variable reinforcement schedules, it’s especially sensitive to dings, visual alerts, or any other cue that a reward is coming, which sends our dopamine system raging.”

And so we stay online and on our phones longer than anticipated. We forgo our offline lives. It’s science.

Continue reading…

Making headlines: The best things I published recently

Courtesy: Blake Snow

Thanks for reading and sharing the below with anyone who might be interested: 

14 fantastic long reads that will make you smarter

As you may have noticed from previous posts, I’m a big fan of in-depth journalism. After reading several dozens over the last two weeks, these are the ones I recommend spending time with:

  1. How content management software will shape the future of media
  2. Remembering U.S. Soccer’s most improbable triumph
  3. Nothing can stop Google. DuckDuckGo is trying anyways.
  4. I cut Google out of my life and it screwed everything up
  5. The empty mason jar of the influencer economy
  6. A private court investigator and his controversial methods
  7. The quest to live to 180—is any of it legit?
  8. The enduring fight over the first Ironman triathlon
  9. The murky ethics of the “ugly produce” business
  10. The hard-to-believe conditions of air-traffic controllers
  11. Creating music while clean
  12. Can a bar feel like a bar without booze?
  13. How to suck at business without even trying
  14. Frank Sinatra has a cold (one of my all-time recently re-read favorites)
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John Williams is the world’s last great classical composer

My wife recently commanded Alexa to “Play John Williams.” For the next several hours, our household was treated to harmonious hit after hit after hit.

I’ve always considered Williams a genius composer since I was first exposed to his music as a boy. But I’m still in awe of the dozens, if not hundreds, of moving themes he wrote and even continues to write, such as this one: https://youtu.be/65As1V0vQDM

Like nearly everything else Williams touches, the above is remarkably regal. And like all of his contemporaries imply in the excellent Score documentary, Williams is the most prolific classical composer still alive.

10 things you might now know about me

Me standing tall in Kyoto, Japan

I was recently interviewed by a local magazine about my work as a bounty-hunting journalist, writer, and author. This is what I told them:  Continue reading…

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6 long-form stories I hope you’ll read

Some of my recent favorites:

Why NOW is the most important time

Leo Tolstoy courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Leo Tolstoy courtesy Wikimedia Commons

This issue of the Offline Newsletter is brought to you by Leo Tolstoy.

It once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to listen to, and whom to avoid; and, above all, if he always knew what was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything he might undertake.

And this thought having occurred to him, he had it proclaimed throughout his kingdom that he would give a great reward to any one who would teach him what was the right time for every action, and who were the most necessary people, and how he might know what was the most important thing to do.

Several learned men came to the King, but they all answered his questions differently (e.g. advance planning, multi-tasking, mentoring, high-ranking people, science, warfare, religion).

All the answers being different, the King agreed with none of them, and gave the reward to none. But still wishing to find the right answers to his questions, he decided to consult a hermit, widely renowned for his wisdom.  Continue reading…

3 great untruths to stop telling kids (and ourselves)

I’ve been reading Jonathan Haidt lately and find his work fascinating. From his latest book, he debunks the following three myths that make our kids and ourselves worse off:

  1. Children are fragile—what doesn’t kill them makes them weaker (which is why so many parents coddle now)
  2. Always trust your gut and seek out confirmation bias (which is how we quickly dismiss opposing ideas and evidence)
  3. Life is a battle between us and them and black and white (which is why we verbally fight as much now as we used to physically)

Haidt is quick to point out mounting research showing that we live in the most physically safe, peaceful, and prosperous time in history, despite our very real problems. But believing in the above only makes the world more offensive than it really is.

For a more fulfilling and less aggravating life, we must roll with the punches, look for disconfirming evidence, and treat most of life’s tragedies as the complicated gray messes that they really are as opposed to always looking for a villain to place blame upon.

The best long-form stories I’ve read recently

Romrodphoto/Shutterstocko

I read, learned from, and seriously enjoyed all of the below over the holidays. Hope you do too. 

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Year in review: My 3 favorite books by genre

I read a lot of good books this year, but these were my favorites (all four stars out of five or higher):

Children’s

Fiction

Non-fiction

READ ALSO: Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting by Blake Snow (wink)

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NEW BOOK REVIEW: “Blake Snow’s Log Off is this plug-in generation’s playbook for true social networking emancipation”

I’m flattered by the Midwest Book Review’s endorsement of my book and “Reviewer’s Choice” award to the syndicate libraries and media outlets it contributes to.

The concept of “offline balance movement” is genuine and Blake Snow’s Log Off is this plug-in generation’s playbook for true social networking emancipation. Exceptionally well written, organized, and presented, Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting is a well timed ‘how to’ manual for social media emancipation and control that should be a part of every community, college, and university library collection. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers that Log Off is available in paperback, digital book, and audiobook formats.

Thanks, James, for promoting my book.

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Roma movie review: Men suck, life is bleak, music has no place in this world

Courtesy Netflix

For its disjointed story, distracting dong shots, artistic cinematography, impressive set production, and a few emotionally gripping moments, I award Roma—the highest-rated movie of the year—3.5 out of 5 stars. Cynics will love it!

P.S.—Currently streaming on Netflix, Roma is better than the similarity overrated Boyhood, but the former still underwhelms. Next!

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7 tips for putting down your phone this holiday

The following first published in the Deseret News in support of my new book.

Turkey, ham, presents and Santa are no longer the only staples of the holiday season. Smartphones — and more specifically family members staring wide-eyed at screens around the dinner table — have become a common holiday sight.

Utah author Blake Snow wants to see that change. His book, “Log Off: How to Stay Connected After Disconnecting,” chronicles his divorce from a life in front of screens. Having spent time as a tech blogger and a freelance writer, Snow knows putting the phone down for good isn’t an option in today’s world, but he’s learned to find a balance that allows him to use his phone as a tool rather than allowing it to become a way of life. His book — a “self-help memoir” — aims to help others tackle that seemingly impossible task.

“I want to take advantage of these powerful devices and tools,” he said. “But I want to set boundaries with them, rather than have them hinder or distract me from doing the things I love.”

Snow spoke with The Deseret News to share his best tips for putting down the phone during the holiday season and how to sustain minimal phone usage long after Christmas dinner is over.  Continue reading…

RECENTLY PUBLISHED: Cliff-jumping Ireland, quitting news addiction, best cycling cities, logging off, better content

Courtesy Ireland Tourism

Excluding my non-bylined commercial work, these are the best things I’ve published recently for mainstream media:

Thanks for reading and sharing the above with anyone that might appreciate it.

NEW: Give the gift of “Log Off” this season

Dear, readers:

I’m happy to report that my book, Log Off, became a best-seller this year. I know it’s a little thing in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a big deal to me.

Recently a few family, friends, and work colleagues asked me about buying the book in bulk to give as personal or tax-deductible work gifts this year.

To that end, I can order author’s copies for $10 each with free shipping. If that fits within your gift-giving plans, please email books@blakesnow.com to place an order. E-book and audiobook copies are also available.

Thanks for considering this.

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8 ways to get people to like you

In the lifelong pursuit of love, acceptance, friends, and opportunity, the following eight habits have served me well:

  1. Smile. If it’s good enough for one of the most popular books ever written, it’s good enough for you.
  2. Follow the golden rule. They’re not the fastest “sprinters,” but nice people always win “marathons.”
  3. Admit your mistakes. Doing so is not only the right thing to do, it speeds learning and exposes your vulnerabilities, which makes you more personable and humanizing, which makes you more likable.
  4. Share. FACT: People who share have more friends and money than people who don’t.
  5. Create results. Earn your keep with merit, not just connections.
  6. Be interested, not interesting. Instead of trying to impress, take an interest in people you meet. You can always learn something from someone and should always try.
  7. Be honest. Don’t tell people what they want to hear. Tell them what you think. Be considerate of their feelings, but don’t let those feelings lead to dishonesty.
  8. Sympathize with everyone. If they’re human, they’re worth learning from, serving, and sometimes even listening to (depending on the situation).

SEE ALSO: How to influence more and be persuaded less

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What 10,000 miles from home feels like

On Earth, 12,450 miles is the farthest anyone can get from home. Take one more step in any direction, and you will have started your return journey from the halfway point.

Until I visit one of these places (aka 45° meridian east), I came as close to that point as I ever have last month. The distance from my home in Provo to Durban is over 10,000 miles, where I began a life-changing journey through the motherland.

I should have grasped this impressive separation sooner than I did. Upon booking airfare, total flight time read over 22 hours across three flights. “That’s a long haul,” I passingly noted, before moving to other travel arrangements.  Continue reading…

7 good reasons to read my book—Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting

It’s been invigorating to watch my bestselling book make waves throughout the year. As we enter the holiday season, I’m excited for its ability to connect with readers during an especially introspective time.

After all, I conceived Log Off, wrote the bulk of it, and even published it during the holidays, so I’m excited to see how it’s received during its first full Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year season.

To the hundreds that have already read the book, thank you. I’m honored. For those who haven’t already, here are seven good reasons I think you should.

  1. It’s on sale now, currently 20% off the cover price
  2. It averages 4.6 out of 5 star ratings, according to collective reader reviews on both Amazon and Good Reads
  3. It was reviewed by the LA Times, Psychology Today, Deseret News, ThrillistSmallBizLady, and more as a notable book of 2018
  4. It’s been well received on nearly two dozen radio shows this year, most recently this one
  5. It’s a quick and prescriptive read and can help you get off your phone so you can get on with your life
  6. It’s available in your favorite format—hardcopy, ebook, or audiobook
  7. If you’re still unconvinced, you can read two sample chapters here and here

Thanks for reading. If you know anyone who might be interested, I hope you’ll consider sharing this page with them. 🙏

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My childhood will mourn the death of Sears, even though I haven’t shopped there in years

Shutterstock

After Sears filed for bankruptcy (and likely its ultimate demise) last month, a part of my childhood died with it.

Long before I was born, Sears served as America’s first Amazon, allowing the entire country (especially rural parts of it) to mail order just about anything from a fat catalog. They didn’t offer two day shipping, but they delivered at a time when no one else did.  Continue reading…

Recently discovered: 7 terrific longreads that I think you should… um, read.

Shutterstock

As seen on Long Reads, Digg, and my own web browsing:

  • Is more democracy always better democracy? Yes, argues The New Yorker, especially since party primaries determine the leading candidates.
  • What happens when notoriety kills something? Here’s your answer in a terrific story titled I found the best burger in the country, then I killed it.
  • Missing the story. Rebuilding public trust starts by including more voices in the media and diversifying (or at least offering empathy training) to mostly white newsrooms, argues The Columbia Journalism Review.
  • Believing without evidence is always morally wrong. Or so convincingly argues Aeon.
  • Inside the booming business of background music. Why retailers and sports teams are spending big money on music design, according to The Guardian.
  • Why saving the world is crazy hard. According to a hard-to-read personal account of third-world atrocities by The Walrus.
  • How $3000 elite teams are killing youth sports in America. Expensive travel leagues siphon off talented young athletes and leave everyone else behind, reports The Atlantic. (Which is partly why my wife is starting a non-profit competitive league next year—go Lindsey!)

Even worse than we thought? New research on phone addiction

Courtesy Shutterstock

I spent nearly 10 years researching and experimenting with healthy connectivity habits for my book, Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting. The book contains dozens or reports and studies from “real news” outlets and distinguished universities from around the world, all of which conclude that excessive internet, social media, and/or smartphone use make us miserable. More specifically, overuse makes us more isolated, less confident, prevents us from experiencing the more stimulating analog world, and even dumber.

But recent research suggests that digital abuse may be even worse for us than originally thought. In an eye-opening expose this week, The Atlantic reported on the rise of sexual recession, in which young people are engaging in fewer intimate relationships than ever before and marrying less. Excessive phone use shoulder much, if not all, of the blame, the magazine reports.  Continue reading…

The ’90s according to CNN’s solid documentary on the decade

Earlier this year, I was enthralled by CNN’s excellent and Tom Hanks-produced miniseries on modern history, so much so that I binged them all during two long haul flights.

The first one I watched, The Nineties, was about my adolescence and it did not disappoint. In only seven sentences, this is how the documentary summarized the decade:

  • TV: The decade starts with “The Simpsons,” ends with “The Sopranos,” and MTV permeates Generation X eyeballs with “reality TV” while cable news sensationalizes everything.
  • Music: Nirvana releases “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Generation X finally feels heard. Women become the “latest trend in rock” and gangsta rap takes over.
  • Politics: Bill Clinton rides into the White House on a wave of hope, but his presidency is soon weighed down by scandal and staunch Republican opposition.
  • Globalization: The Soviet Union collapses and world leaders attempt to shape a New World Order. Nelson Mandela is freed and Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait.
  • Information Age: Computers go mainstream and the Information Age begins. Microsoft takes over everything and a new thing called the internet connects the world.
  • Terrorism: The radical right gains steam, with extremist elements carrying out acts of domestic terrorism. The Unabomber terrorizes the country.
  • Division: Racial issues erupt across the country. The police beating of Rodney King sparks the L.A. riots. The O.J. Simpson trial captivates the nation.

Not a bad recap for a fast-moving documentary about a forward-thinking decade. 4/5 stars.

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Recent reading: The best things I’ve published elsewhere

Credit: MoDOG/Shutterstock

I’ve recently published a lot of interesting reports for commercial clients, but all were either ghostwritten or NDA’d, so I’m not at liberty to share them. I hope to share some upcoming public ones soon, however.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these—a couple stories for mainstream travel media and a couple involving my book.

Thanks for reading.

12 questions with the author of Log Off (that’s me!) about offline success

Lake Bennett, Canada—courtesy Lindsey Snow

I was recently interviewed by popular author Melinda Emerson, aka SmallBizLady, for an upcoming podcast about my book Log Off. This is what I told her.

Why should I read your book?

I believe we live in the most distracted, bottomless, demanding, opportune, and noisiest time in all of human history. That makes finding offline (or digital) balance very hard indeed. It’s a great time to be sure, and we’re all empowered with more life-changing tools than ever before (i.e. internet, smartphones, work from anywhere). But we must deliberately harness these powerful tools with measured boundaries, otherwise they can dictate how we live our daily lives rather than consciously choosing how we want to. But offline balance isn’t just about good health—it’s the key to greater income, growth, fulfillment, freetime, and lasting relationships. That’s what my book puts forth in a short and prescriptive 100 pages.

Why is online addiction a growing problem?

While online addictions certainly existed in the desktop and laptop computing days, they didn’t go mainstream until the smartphone era about a decade ago. To compound the issue, the more information and entertainment that gets digitized, the easier it is to get lost in the bottomless search for distractions.

How does too much internetting negatively affect our lives?

The last decade of research shows that excessive internetting, smartphoning, and social media make us miserable. There are two reasons for this. First, online abuse stifles our individual and collective creativity and productivity. Secondly, it keeps us from bonding and connecting with others in more meaningful ways. That is to say that social media is mostly the illusion of relationships. True relationships develop largely offline, though facetime, human touch, body language, and shared presence and experiences. While social media can sometimes facilitate that, it mostly isolates us. In fact, in-person meetings have dwindled in the social media era, as opposed to being boosted by it. This all matters because all of us want to contribute and all of us are social creatures.  Continue reading…

I was recently interviewed by The LA Times about my book, Log Off—this is what I said.

Catharine Hamm from The Los Angeles Times, the nation’s second largest newspaper, recently interviewed me about my book, Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting.

Her story titled Travel may be key to ending your unhealthy love affair with electronic devices is really good. You should read it. Not only because I’m quoted in it, but because it offers an excellent explanation on the difference between bottomless distractions and those with and end, as well as sage advice on gaining offline momentum.

Hope you enjoy it. Thanks, Catharine, for including me and my book. 

How an overlooked state park cemented my love for hiking the world

Cheaha Overlook, Alabama courtesy Jim Vallee/Shutterstock

Over the last 15 years, I consider myself lucky to have hiked half of America’s national parks and many of the world’s top 10 hikes on six different continents. None of that would have happened, however, if it weren’t for the unassuming beauty of a little state park in eastern Alabama.

I didn’t grow up hiking. My parents took my siblings and I on vacation to Yellowstone, theme parks, and several beaches instead. There we mostly sightsee’d, thrill rode, and relaxed.

That all changed after I enrolled in college. On a whim one weekend, some friends and family members decided to hike Cheaha State Park. Just a two hour drive from my hometown, I went for the company, but stayed for the view—specifically Cheaha Overlook (pictured).

Truth be told, I had never seen anything like it. After a moderate walk through the woods, we arrived at the rock around sunset and I’m sure I uttered something like “Wow!” Looking over a valley that big made me feel small. And I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since.

To this day I prefer wide open spaces over the alternative (i.e. caves kinda bore me). What’s interesting, though, is I didn’t set out to be a hiker that day. Nor do I necissarily identify as one today. Hiking the outdoors is just something I enjoy doing, especially as a vehicle to explore new places or witness the seasons change in my own backyard.

In that sense, hiking Cheaha for the first time was one small step for me, but one giant leap for a hobby that has filled my life and taken me around the globe. I’m forever grateful I tagged along that day. Itchy feet, keep itching.

Write-ups of some my favorite hikes to date: Patagonia | Mont Blanc | Western Brook Fjord | Canyonlands | Monument Valley | Gravity Falls, Costa Rica | Bryce Canyon | Kumano KodoHigh Uintas | New Zealand | Cheaha | Machu Picchu | Zion Narrows/Angel’s Landing—both top 10 hikes that I inexplicably have yet to write about

Best road trip songs: Fall 2018 edition (with links to streaming audio)

Courtesy Over The Edge

My family and I just returned from an unexpectedly awesome and relaxing road trip to Fruita, Colorado. With weather in the low 70s, we swam the Great Divide Villa, hiked Colorado National Monument, and mountain biked Kessel Run while the kids were on fall break.

But that’s a story for another day. Today I wanted to share my favorite songs while making the seven hour roundtrip drive. From most righteous to least righteous, with links to streaming audio, they are as follows:  Continue reading…

Three books that changed my life


I was recently asked which three books changed my life. This is what I said:

  1. A Short History of Nearly Everything. How did we get to where we are today? Bill Bryson spent three years asking dozens of experts that very question to produce this awe-filled masterpiece of everything we know and don’t know about the world. Unlike other “science” books, Bryson turns astronomical numbers into metaphors you can not only understand, but gain inspiration from.
  2. Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage. I literally gulped and grasped for air while reading this gripping true account of bravery, loyalty, and beating all odds.
  3. Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting. I’m biased because I wrote it, but the explanations, principles, and lessons contained therein changed my life and can for anyone else who struggles with digital obsessions. At just over a 100 pages, the helpful advice can be read over a weekend, if not a few hours.

Honorable mentions: Thinking Fast and Slow—a tad dense a times, but also the most empowering research on how to use your brain more wisely. The Book of Mormon—also dense at times, but waaaaay better than the Bible if you want to understand the doctrine of Christ, which also changed my life.

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Recommended reading: The best travel listicles I published recently

Courtesy Sam Dean/Visit Rapid City

Excluding non-bylined commercial work, here are my recent published works for news media:

Thanks for reading.

A short history of technophobia: Why it matters

Since writing Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting, I’ve been interviewed many times on how to break away from addictive technology. Today I was interviewed by a talk radio show in Phoenix on the subject, more specifically on the history of Luddism and technophobia in general. Here’s how I explained the issue to them, starting with some basic definitions.  Continue reading…